Filling time

Lately, (and by lately, I mean, since Wednesday) I have been faced with a dilemma. Patience is a virtue I am usually bankrupt in. It is also something I must do as I wait for feedback from early readers of my manuscript, including an agent friend of mine. The first couple of days I felt like my skin was being picked at by tiny, flame fingered trolls. I could still feel my narrator inside, running parallel with me, screaming that I couldn’t leave her that way. I know this sounds insane, but truthfully most writers are a little bonkers.

I also began to balk at the idea that this book I had written with ambitions for publications and widespread distribution (lofty goals in this market) was being read by very close, and trusted friends who wanted me to succeed. There reaction will be real, but they are kindly invested in the future of my work. (I hope, I don’t generally run with backstabbing b*tches.) How will it be for me when others with no care for my well-being or knowledge of who I am, read this.

I know what you’re thinking, “You will suck it up and be thankful they read it at all.” I think you’re right. If you aren’t thinking that, and are giving me a virtual edifying kiss on the cheek, I would like to thank you for the sentiment and promptly cry on your shoulder.

In the whirlwind of writing my manuscript I have often been captured by the narrator, drawn in as prisoner by the world she lives in and the fight she fights. Now that the bulk of the work is behind me — unless the consensus is that my book is not worth reading  at all, a reality writers are faced with everyday — the next step will be much different than the last. There will be times when I will have to actually participate in my life without thinking about my book.

It’s been nine months of solid work. Some authors work years on a manuscript, some spend a decade writing one huge story arch (see JK Rowling), while others still pine away on unfinished projects with no hope of an end. In the grand scheme, this experience so far has been relatively smooth. Though from the inside it felt very messy.

So…what am I doing to alleviate the stress of being patient in earnest?

  • Reading
  • Blogging
  • Gathering knowledge about my genre
  • Watching movies! Finding TV shows on Netflix and harping on about how nothing on TV is as good as Mad Men.
  • Playing with Sam — he has had to endure a lot of Zombie-Mommy since I began writing my book. He has handled it with great grace and piles of new superhero figures.
  • Crying. This is involuntary and not at all helpful.
  • Relaxing. Getting brows necessarily waxed, toes painted, back massaged, hair highlighted. All things I let fall during the mad dash.

Now I leave you, but not empty handed. You can ponder with me the cuteness of this pig. (Where do I get one and how can I sneak it past my landlord? ) Also, what makes a person wear stilettos? And should we petition for Pluto to be a planet again? (Ah, the things I think of when I am not working…)

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Confusion Querying

The time has come for the next step — the Query step. I will not pretend this step will be any easier than the step of constructing the manuscript. This step could be the part that induces me to drink. To see a riotous breakdown of what writing a query letter on gin looks like, follow this link. The first time I read this, back well before I was going to write a query letter, I laughed so hard a little coffee came out of my nose.

The internet is ripe with tips on querying. What to do. What not to do. How to look like an amateur. How to look like a pro. How to be a pretentious snob no one will ever want to work with. There are different styles, different do’s and don’ts, some incredibly helpful, others complete nonsense.

It’s actually amazing how much contradicting information you can get on one subject, but then, isn’t that the problem with researching on the internet in the first place? My sister-in-law and I just had the same discussion about pregnancy advice. One article said yes to chamomile tea, the other a firm no. I told her valerian root (which is found in Sleepytime Extra) is a no-no, but I drank chamomile through my pregnancy and never heard any different from my doc. My son did come out a little sleepier than expected, but what the hell?

Apparently, writing a Query is harder than drafting a novel. Some even describe it as an art form. I don’t really get that. It’s a letter. It requires that you can compellingly summarize your novel in a few concise paragraphs. OK, this is harder than it sounds. To summarize, as defined by the infinite wisdom of Webster, means to give a brief statement of the main points. This should not be too hard for the author, but authors are notorious for being fluffy headed and wordy. Those qualities make summarizing a lofty goal.

There’s also the mysterious question of do you or do you not compare it to other books on the market in your chosen genre. This requires a skilled hand, a dose of humility, and a knowledge of the many possible books you could be compared to. As a YA reader, I know a few, but since I have been writing my own novel, I have been remiss is my duties as reader. This leaves me wondering what the hell to compare it to and if that is a good or bad sign that I can’t?

Finally, the author bio. Some say you must absolutely include a brief history of you as a writer. Others think this is superfluous as they are hiring the book, not you. I say, let my material speak for itself. Plus, I’m unpublished, so I have very little bragging rights. Unless I can include this pic of my son:

 
But I don’t think that is the kind of accomplishment they are looking for.
So, therefor, the choices are endless and the likelihood of being rejected even more vast than that. (More vast than endless? Hyperbole.) The choice is mine as the writer, and the right is theirs as the agent to say no. Ok, bring on the gin, and lets get crackin’.

Space

There are some moments I hope I never forget. Tonight, Samuel gave me one. We were watching Despicable Me — a truly genius animated movie about a super villain who finds love through adoption — before bed. The main character, Gru, has a flashback to watching the moon landing as a child wearing a cardboard space suit. He tells his mother that he will one day go to the moon. His mother degrades this dream.

Samuel turned to me and said, “I want to go to the moon. To be an astronaut.” I turned and smiled.

“You have to go to NASA.”

“You can come, we can go to the moon together.”

“I think the opportunity for me to be an astronaut has passed, but you still can.” He nodded and looked back at the TV.

Despite the obvious tenderhearted sweetness of wanting to take me to the moon, this moment surprised me with it’s clarity. My son could be an astronaut, this is not a fantasy but a reality because his whole world is laid in front of him unformed. I really could not. I never could have been, even if I’d wanted to (I have a recurring nightmare about floating in space above the Earth. I’m serious, one of my worst and deepest fears. That and the vastness of the ocean. And bugs in food. Not bugs as food, bugs in food.) and that is truly OK with me. That possibility will never be.

We spend a lot of time wasting away in a future we could never have had, or one we believe we could have, had we made a better turn somewhere. Right now, at 27 years old, I am finally tapping the well inside that had been waiting to give water. I could regret not realizing it sooner. Or, at the very least, doing things in an order that makes a little more sense. But, alas, that is not the route I took. I took the route where there are certain dreams that will never be, and certain ones that will be better than the dreams I lost.

When I was pregnant with Sam, I went to NASA with my family. I love NASA. My grandfather worked for them as an engineer during the Mercury and Gemini programs. But it also holds a certain darkness for me too. My grandfather died young, an alcoholic, destroyed by this weakness with much unrealized potential hanging from him like shackles. My mother talks about him, not as the man who died, but as the guy to lived a dream. She doesn’t romanticize his disease, or pretend he didn’t make the choices and walk the bad path, but she doesn’t ignore all that he was or could have been either.

We all need that I think, especially when we examine our lives and wonder what the hell we will ever have to show for it. If you are lucky, you will have more than one thing, more than one dream realized. And likely, more than one dream let go.

Later, when I went into labor with Sam, I was wearing the t-shirt I had gotten on that trip. It wasn’t consciously premeditated, but when I think back on it now, it was slightly serendipitous. Samuel will most likely do something that has nothing to do with space (though, in our family, science fiction is held in high regard as the only true form of entertainment available) and he is absolutely free to do that. But I will never forget a moment where he decided to go to the moon, or what that decision meant to me.

Sample Writing

As I have said, I am working on a Young Adult novel. It’s going so well right now — even though I’m sleep deprived (more on that later)— that I felt compelled to share a little bit with you. It’s not a deeply revelatory passage, but I love it, have edited repeatedly, and love it still.

Lately, my son has not really been sleeping much without my input. This is not something I have ever really responded well too, and I think it’s because I refuse to nap. Even when Samuel was a newborn, napping for me was nearly impossible. I could have been falling asleep at the kitchen counter whipping eggs, but still, no nap. I blame my brain. My brain says, “Night is for sleep, not day.” So, even now, I find myself sitting on my couch in front of the computer writing to you all, and not sleeping an extra wink. That’s OK, that’s what coffee is for.

Now, without any more rambling, here is my little sample. Have fun reading and, as always with a blog, feedback is greatly appreciated:

I look down the long, narrow room and out the window. Earlier this summer,  I helped my cousin cut and haul wood from the surrounding acreage to feed the stove in the basement that heats the entire house. There’s no other heat source since electricity was banned, which makes my room maybe the coldest of all. I hate this job more than milking the goats because it means being alone with him, and being alone with him is generally something I try to avoid.

 My first time into the woods with him was only a few weeks after arriving on the farm. He walked in front of me, taking long strides that I couldn’t keep up with, an axe hung precariously over his shoulder. I kept stumbling over the unfamiliar ground, and I swear I saw him chuckle once or twice. Finally, we stopped and he dropped the axe to the ground. It hit the rocky earth with a thud, sending a tremor of protest through it.

“You ever cut wood before?” he asked, still not meeting my eyes. I shook my head. He lifted the axe, bringing it to the tree with such force I stammered away.

“Eventually you’ll be doing this on your own.” His voice was solemn. I nodded again as a reflex, knowing I would never do it alone. Knowing I would always wish I could.

A few days ago we ventured a little deeper into the woods— as close to the sign post as we could get without touching it. My cousin was lost in thought as we walked, his body not swaying with its normal swagger, his pace easy for me to keep up with. Then he suddenly stopped, slumping his shoulders and turning his eyes to the sky. I watched his face, the scowl he always wore was absent, and I wasn’t sure if I should remind him that we had a job to do. Then he pulled his eyes away from the sky and trained them on my face, searching it slowly.  I saw the hint of a smile light the irises as they met mine. It was so faint that I spent the next days wondering if I had actually seen it at all. 


So, even though I look like this—

Yawn.

I hope you enjoy this post.

 

The Value of a Job Well Done

Something I think about a lot as a writer (mom, twenty-something, wife, Sci-Fi fan, etc.) is how much pressure we put on ourselves to produce something valuable, and just what we allow to quantify value in our lives. When I was younger, I was mostly content with just thinking my writing was good, but not great, and assuming that no one would ever want to put their money behind my words. When I was younger, I had felt that time was a lot more infinite and that achieving ones goals was better left to truly ambitious women—like Nobel Laureates, or Oprah.

When I was in my early twenties I began working on my first ever full-length project. I say “full-length”, because it wasn’t a short story, novella, or poem. It was a screenplay, one I was fairly certain no one would ever put to film, but it was nonetheless a project I deemed worthy of countless hours of my life. My screenplay was the first time I just wrote a story because I loved it. I loved the heroine. I loved her battle and her drive. I loved the secondary characters and the sleepy, eerie gloom of the imaginary town where they all lived.

She was my first ever voice in my head that I couldn’t silence, and it was riveting. As time passed though, from the initial first draft to the fourth or fifth rewrite, I began to wonder what it was all for. Why had I put pieces of me into this work, pined for it, dreamed about it, only to just have a screenplay on my computer that no one would ever see made into a film? Part of the problem was I didn’t quite know what to do with it once it was finished, and part of the problem was I never really felt finished. There was always a better way to word a scene, a more compelling image. There was always edits.

I continued to work on my screenplay after our move to New York, until finally — one night while sitting in my old nursing chair that was serving as the best seat in the house while we waited for our couch — I looked up at my husband and friend with a smile.

“It’s done.” I said, hitting save again for good measureAnd it really was. Those characters existed somewhere in a fully-formed state. They were going on with the lives that I created for them. They were happy. This was a wonderful feeling, but also a deeply confusing time. I had been with them for so long that being away felt like a break-up, and even more, that screenplay’s unfinished state had protected me from having to create something new.

In the end, I still look at my time with that project as deeply valuable, even if no one ever takes it from my hands into the next stage. The value of it isn’t monetary, it’s so much more because it’s a finished work, even if there are still flaws. Every piece of writing is that way, even great works. The value in something you create is more about what it does for you as it’s author. Sure making money would be nice (*amazing*), and having your work read or seen is even more rewarding (*terrifying*) but that is not what makes being a writer (or any title for that matter) worthwhile.

I spend many hours in my day wandering Brooklyn with my son and dog, and even more hours trying to convince him to put shoes on, clean up cars, eat his broccoli, whatever. I spend this time not because I am being paid to, but because his life and his world are valuable to me. The reward is in the process of doing and in the fact that you can do it well if you remember that.

Valued.

This blog is about Writing (Or whatever I want, cause it’s mine.)

You may think my name is a pretty lame title, but consider that this blog will hopefully carry over into my splash as a published author, and then it may make more sense. Most of what you will read here will be about the process, which can be daunting, of getting a novel published. Though, there is no guarantee that I will not write about my son, Sam.

Or my dog, Samson.

But mostly I believe it will be about writing. Writing bleeds into everything I do, filling my world with ideas and voices I sometimes wish I could silence. One of these voices became the heroine of my first novel, and others sometimes find there way into the cracks and crannies of the narrative I’m trying to construct. Sometimes I have chats with them, which prompts my son to ask me who I’m talking to, and sometimes I just let them stew inside. I marinate them.

So, if you are a writer, or a reader, or a person who thinks children, yorkies, and Brooklyn, NY are interesting, then you may find this blog a welcome distraction. It may also be a useful tool to draw from, or a source of amusement. (If you think someone rambling on about YA romances or the crazy shit her son says is humorous.)Whatever it becomes, I hope we can learn from it together, or laugh at it together, or triumph in it together.

Alright, that said, I really must get back to work, and you probably should too since I’m posting this in the afternoon on a Monday. Enjoy your day, wherever you are, and remember to look around you. Inspiration is literally everywhere.