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A blog about my creative life... writing, knitting, and the kids that get in the way.
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There is no such word as superconscious. I checked. There is:
hyperconscious — acutely aware
subconscious — operating beneath or beyond consciousness
semi-conscious — not entirely aware
unconscious — not aware
If you try to find superconscious, an online dictionary might suggest “collective unconscious” but there’s not really a definition for that either. It’s more of a theory developed by Jung about the collective unconscious mind of a group.
But superconscious has to be a thing because I have actually used it–twice! I think you guys know that I have been revising a novel, and that my agent suggested that I change the name of my villain and the title of my novel. I decided to take the advice of my betters (like Sharon Chreech) who take power naps when they’re stuck. I set myself the task of coming up with a new name, and a new title before I went to bed. The first time, it worked immediately. I woke up with the name in my head, as if I had whisked it out of a dream. The second time, I woke up with nothing, but after sitting down later that day with a pen and notebook, the name jumped right out at me, the third title in a list I hadn’t even finished writing.
It almost made me worried how good the names were and how easily they came once I knew how to summon them. It was almost as if my brain was mocking me with its super power.
You think this is hard? Honey please.
I highly recommend trying it to see what your mind can come up with while you’re sleeping. Imagine the breakthroughs! Imagine the creativity! Can world peace and a cure for cancer be next? What can’t the superconscious do? (Don’t ask. she’s rolling her eyes.)
It’s the bane of many writers. We tell rather than show. Editors hate it, of course, and will use its mere presence, even in brief, as their automatic out. This week, I’m working to revise a battle scene in my most recent novel. It’s an eleven-page series that my agent thinks is too passive. I tell what happens to the kids. I don’t show them doing much of anything. If I have any excuse at all, it’s that I cringed at putting these characters in danger. I did not want to dwell on it too much. I wanted to merely observe from a distance, with my hands over my face and only one eye peeking out. Well, you can’t write that way.
Passivity in its best form. Ghandi was active in his pursuit of passive resistance.
I’ve been thinking about passivity in another way too. I have recently waged a battle that some would say I lost. (I simply walked away.) The fact was, I didn’t want to be fighting in the first place. I mistakenly believed that fighting on the right, ethical, true side of things would bring me an automatic win. But it turns out that the side of bad, unethical, and lies, uses all their underhanded methods to achieve their aims, and this is especially true when those who are watching the whole thing take place, are passive. Passivity is lazy. You want something to happen, but you want someone else to take care of it. It’s apathetic. You see, but don’t think you can do anything about it. It’s wrong. It helps the bad guys win.
Yesterday everyone was changing their profile pictures to red to support marriage equality on Facebook. Me too. I did it. But what does that really mean? Does that make us less passive about equality because it took two clicks to change a picture? Not really. I’m watching this one on the sidelines. I changed my picture, but did nothing else. If I really want this to change, I’m going to have to get off my ass.
The thing about being passive, in life and in literature is this: you get what you work for.
If I write a passive scene because I’m too afraid or lazy to get down and dirty, the reader won’t either.
If I am passive about a cause and right does not prevail, it’s my own fault for not doing something about it. There are people who are out there, doing things, protesting. But they need support. Based on what I just experienced, I know. There is a lot of pressure and strain in fighting, but it’s so much more difficult when you’re fighting alone for people who are sitting around waiting for you to get it done already. It’s enough to make a person stop and ask “why am I doing this?” And then with no champions leading the charge, what happens next is this: the bad guys win. And it’s your own damn fault.
“How important it is to take the time to read literature, to look at art, to go to concerts. If all parts of your brain aren’t nourished, you become really limited–less sensitive. It’s like food. You’d get pretty strange if you ate ice cream all the time.” — Kent Nagano, orchestra conductor
Last Monday, my husband took me to an all-women’s jazz concert at The Schomburg Library in Harlem. I didn’t want to go. I never do. But I’m so glad I did. Not only were these ladies amazing, but just being in their presence made me remember what it is I love about what I do. The creativity. The spirit. The wild abandon you can have when you know all the rules and feel just damn fine bending them. There’s also something about jazz that ignites the soul. It’s so kinetic. I came home itching to write. And that’s the point of art, isn’t it? To make us feel, to make us want to act.
What art have you been enjoying lately?
[Image from the New York Public Library: http://www.nypl.org/locations/tid/64/node/199287?lref=64%2Fnode%2F132394]
Someone reminded me of that this morning for my birthday. It’s not something I think of often. I am hard on myself. But today I gave myself a present. I walked away from something I should have a long time ago. There is corruption in the world, and bad people, and there are plenty of petty little minds. But I have to pick my battles. Cancer. That was a battle worth fighting. Petty people’s nonsense is not. (It has been 2 years since my diagnosis, btw. A coup!)
So many people wished me happy birthday today. People I love. People I like. People I’ve never even met in person, but have had great times with online. I didn’t need presents today (don’t tell my family that). The warmth from all of you has been tremendous. It’s really all I need. A new buddy I made at work took me out to a slightly fancy lunch. So sweet. My daughter took money out of her piggy bank to buy me a book that she knew I would like. It’s ART2-D2′s Guide to Folding and Doodling. She knew I would like it because I bought her all of the Origami Yoda books last year, and I have another book on doodling that I keep near my bed just for fun. Such an amazing present! I mean her. The book is too. But what a kid I have! My son offered to loan me his Lego R2-D2 as well. If you know my son, you know that is Big Generosity. It is love with a capital L.
Tonight, while it’s quiet in the house (the kids and my husband are at family night at school), I’m going to meditate. I haven’t done that in a long time. I pray a lot, but I can’t tell you the last time I’ve meditated. That’s going to be my next present to myself. Just time with myself and nothing else. I could easily watch t.v. or write or read a book, but I deserve a little time for me to be with me. After all, I am good people. And good people are good company no matter how many or few of them there are.
Thanks for all the birthday wishes guys. I love you all!
I met Rochelle Jewell Shapiro at a book launch where I literally knew no one, not even the host. I arrived late, after Rochelle had finished her reading and moved on to the Q&A portion of the afternoon, which included a little psychic fun. I sat in the middle of a circle of women who meditated and then called out things that came to them about me. Of the responses, I thought Rochelle’s actually was the most spot-on. Of course it was. She’s the psychic.
Rochelle’s novel, KAYLEE’S GHOST, follows a phone psychic named Miriam whose family does not always treasure her gifts, and her clients, who don’t always value it. Miriam’s struggles to please the family while still be true to herself is a familiar dynamic that kept me intrigued. And though psychic, Miriam doesn’t have all the answers, and makes several mistakes of her own.
I asked Rochelle to answer a few questions about KAYLEE’S GHOST…
1. Your first novel was also about Miriam, and became an award-winner. Did you intend for KAYLEE’S GHOST to be a sequel to MIRIAM THE MEDIUM? And if so, does Miriam have more stories that readers can look forward to?
Kaylee’s Ghost can be read all on its own, but, it does feature Miriam Kaminsky, a phone psychic like me, and her family. But characters grow just as people do. In Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004) Miriam is the mother of a rebellious teenage daughter, Cara, and in Kaylee’s Ghost (RJS Books, 2012) Miriam is a grandmother and Cara has a daughter of her own. The clashes continue, but the stakes are different. In this saga of five generations which Kirkus review called “an intriguing mix of family drama and contemporary fantasy, the dead are still quite opinionated about how the living should live. I already have 175 pages of a first draft of a third novel involving Miriam. As in color field painting, when the artist puts a red square on a green canvas, it has a completely different effect than on a blue one, different parts of Miriam come out when she’s faced with new characters and new situations.
2. I know that after working with a traditional publisher (Simon & Schuster), you decided to go indie for your second novel. Can you tell us what were the benefits and pitfalls to this change?
Frankly, I think it was a grief reaction that made me decide to go Indie with Kaylee’s Ghost. My first agent who sold my novel left the business. It took me time to get another agent. The one I landed turned out to have her own ideas about what I should be writing, such as a non- fiction book about being a dog psychic. “It will sell,” she assured me, never mind that although dogs often pad their way into my visions, I am not a specialist in communicating with dogs. “Woof, woof.” So I got another agent, the best in the world, I thought. A top New York agent who owned his own agency and was fun-loving and encouraging and had umpteen years in the business, representing tons of bestselling authors. “Everyone will want to read Kaylee’s Ghost, he’s said. Three months later, he died, leaving me bereft and with a manuscript to peddle to yet another agent. I had just turned sixty-five and said to myself, Enough already! The pit falls of self-publishing for me is that I’m not tech-savvy. Oh, I can do a lot, but there’s so much I can’t and although I can find biblical and Freudian symbolism in the work of Henry James, for example, when I read tech material, my eyes glaze over. I would love to find an Indie publishing consultant. “Hello, anyone out there? Hello?”
3. You’re also a working psychic, and when we first met you mentioned that people sometimes try to get free readings from you. How do you handle the lack of respect for what you do?
I’ve learned to chuckle over it. I say to myself, “You can’t blame a girl/or a guy for trying.” Listen and you’ll hear guests at wedding receptions trying to get free legal advice from some lawyer who just wants to eat his stuffed derma in peace. You’ll hear parents asking eating disorder therapists what to do about their daughter’s vomiting while the therapist is working on a mouthful of chopped liver. It’s human nature. But it is frustrating when a reporter calls purportedly to ask me about my novel and instead wants to know if he’s going to become editor –in-chief and when? Or when I agree to do a radio show about my book and the host only wants to know which college her
daughter will get into. I earned my chops as a writer. I’ve been writing and publishing since 1985 and I even teach writing at UCLA Extension. So please, after you ask me if you’re going to sell your house by April, please ask me about the structure of my novels, how the plot comes to me, or whatever else you might ask a writer. Thanks so much. . .
4. Do you have any advice for people who want to try to access the more spiritual and psychic parts of themselves? Meditate! Meditation allows you to hear the contents of your mind and possibly the contents of someone else’s. I meditate at least once a day by sitting still and paying attention to my breathing, letting thoughts drift in and out, in and out. Uh, oh, is that the wind I hear or someone else breathing?
5. Finally, what question haven’t I asked that you’d like to answer? I wish you had asked if I do book clubs. The answer is YES. There are challenging and fascinating discussion questions in the back of my book. I do them by phone. You can make arrangements and we can do a conference call by contacting me at my website at http://rochellejewelshapiro.com.
In Kaylee’s Ghost (RJS Books, 2012), Grandmother Miriam, a phone psychic like me, is thrilled that her granddaughter, Violet, seems to be psychic, and wants nothing more than the chance to mentor her the way her own Russian grandmother had done with her. Kaylee’s Ghost is a family saga of five generations where the ghosts are quite opinionated about how the living should live. But it’s also a story of how a psychic’s mind works, how visions arise. Miriam’s daughter, Cara, a modern businesswoman remembers all too well the downside of living with her psychic mother, digs in her heels about Violet being her grandmother’s pupil. As things become more fractious in the family, Violet is torn between her mother and grandmother, until Miriam’s gift backfires, bringing terrible danger to those she loves. Can Miriam put things right in time, or is it already too late? Like Miriam Kaminsky, all of us want our children to be gifted. I once saw a cartoon in The New Yorker of a teacher behind a desk in the midst of a parent-teacher conference. As the teacher studies the student’s records, he tells the parents, “I’m sorry to inform you that your child is definitely on the charts.”
Kaylee’s Ghost is not only a story about life here on Earth and the Hereafter, it is also a story of how all of us need to forget what others want of us and discover and claim our own identities.
Rochelle Jewel Shapiro is the author of Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004) and Kaylee’s Ghost (RJS Books, 2012.) She has chronicled her psychic work in The New York Times (Lives) and Newsweek (My Turn.) Articles have been written about her gift in Redbook, The Jerusalem Post, The New York Times Long Island Section and in the Dutch magazine, TV Gid. Aside from her psychic practice, she teaches writing at UCLA Extension. http:// rochellejewelshapiro.com
KAYLEE’S GHOST is available on AMAZON and Nook.
Rochelle Jewel Shapiro http://rochellejewelshapiro.com
I am learning to let go
I am learning to stay out
of those dumb
I am learning to stand up
Even though sometimes I
I’m surprised at my moxie
I wasn’t sure that I had it
We all deal in language, us writers. We are limited by the alphabet, by punctuation, and the curve of the font. Yet, some vowels, commas, and deckle-edged pages come together in such a way as to produce magic. Spun gold that leaves the rest of us wondering if some people are working with better materials than others.
You might argue that artistry is about innovation. And that’s true. But isn’t artistry also about availability? You have to work with what you have, but what if you don’t have everything you need to elevate? To wit:
I came across this image today. It’s fly larvae that made cocoons out of gold leaf and precious stones that were provided by a forward-thinking artist. Ever thought fly larvae interesting? Me either. But suddenly….
I realize there is no way to literally gild writing. But writers sometimes short-change themselves of the most precious of all commodities: time. We rush, we waste, we stall, and all the time, that material is slipping through our fingers.
Among the notes my agent gave about my current story, was encouragement to change its title. I did not. Not for a lack of trying, mind you.
Titles are tricky. They’re used to market the book, and to give readers a hint of what’s inside. The title of my first novel, ANGEL’S GRACE is a pun, only you don’t realize what the pun is until you get to the end of the story. I thought Simon & Schuster was going to change the title, but it turned out that they loved it.
This new story doesn’t feel that clear-cut. I keep waiting to have a moment like Madeleine L’Engle had when her mother lifted the title A WRINKLE IN TIME from a line in the story. My story involves jumbies, Caribbean spirits, but there’s already a YA book out called THE JUMBIE. My original title was eleven words long. And while I loved it, it had some problems (besides the fact that it was eleven words long).
Those that I’ve shared my current story with seem to like the title, but my agent feels it’s too generic. I see her point. But I haven’t been able to summon up something better. So how do you title a story?
You could go epic, using the name of the character, like PERCY JACKSON AND THE LIGHTNING THIEF. You could go with something more subtle, like WONDER, leaving readers to wonder what it’s all about. You could go with something very obvious like ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE, or something really vague like THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING. Personally I like simple, like FRANNY AND ZOOEY. But none of that has helped me so far.
The title search continues.
It’s not news that I don’t like Valentine’s Day. In a word, it’s dumb. But this is the first year that I remember Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday being neck and neck. It’s interesting that all the denial associated with Lent starts up right before a day when people go to unnecessary excesses to prove their love, or their worthiness for love, or perseverance in the face of a cruel dating scene, or whatever the hell it is Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about with all the candy and overpriced roses. I know, I know. My husband’s a lucky guy.
Anyway, while others are embalmed in syrupy goo, I am thinking about what I’m going to give up for Lent. A friend of mine is giving up Facebook. I would too, but I get a lot of editing clients through Facebook. I considered giving up bitching, but a friend insisted bitching was essential therapy. Then, while trying to track down a Prabal Gurung jacket at Target, it hit me. Shopping. I’m a bit of a shopaholic. Not a deep-in-debt shopaholic, or a whiny but-I-deserve-it shopaholic. Just an average, oh-isn’t-that-pretty? shopaholic. So can I go 40 days without buying something that isn’t food or groceries?
Okay willpower. You’re on.
I see the light.
This weekend was devoted to finishing edits to my novel. A novel that I started maybe ten years ago. One that I spent the last six years or so trying to raise from the muck. I had wanted to write this story for such a long time, but I never seemed able to start it, or when I did, to get it quite right. I had plenty of encouragement from some editor friends, and from my own book-loving pals. I thought I was there, but my first agent was lukewarm about it. We parted ways. I continued working, then sent it out to a few agents. Several asked for partials and fulls. One asked for edits. I was game. The edits took me several months but when I returned them, I got a polite no. I did another round of changes, sent queries again, and got similar responses. The third time was the charm, though by then I felt completely burned out. In all, I had 21 rejections. Then I found Marie, who believed as I did that this story was something special.
But she too had some changes in mind.
I got her notes on December 12th, but didn’t start working until January. Today, I finished typing up the last edits.
It’s not over yet. I still need to do a final read and there will certainly be some tweaking. But I see the light at the end of the tunnel. And boy am I glad to see it.
For years, I’ve been telling people that they can make time to write. Even with the full-time job, and the full-time parenting, and everything else that they do, it’s possible. But I had been working from home, which is far less exhausting than commuting an hour into the city and back, dealing with energy-sucking co-workers, and then arriving home to help two children with homework, make dinner, and then summon up the energy to be creative. It turns out, I could do it, but writing while exhausted is good for nothing. It’s not good for me, and it’s certainly not good for my books.
So the first thing I’m going to do is apologize to anyone who may have felt awed, or floored, or cowed by my seeming ability to juggle 8 million things at once. Working an 8 hour day is quite different without the exhausting commute and succubi.
But I’m not giving up. I have a plan. And that plan is to make the most of my weekends. I have been spending my Saturdays running errands and driving the kids to their extra-curricular activities, but for the next couple of weekends, I’m making that my husband’s job. He will do the running around for groceries, etc. Or the kids just won’t go to their extra-curriculars. Sacrifices must be made, after all, and I am going to be ruthless in my need for TIME TO WORK. It’s the only way it’s going to happen.
With the publishing world moving at the speed of a glacier, you have to be prepared for a whole lot of waiting before things happen. Good things, bad things. If you’re impatient, publishing is not your field. You could wait months for a response to a query, even when you have partials and fulls requested, it could still take months for a response. If you’re waiting to be happy until you get the actual book deal, you’ll be waiting a hell of a long time.
I used to reserve my happy to the end. And then I realized, there are plenty of happy moments along the publishing road. Granted there are no bigger happy moments than making the sale and getting an award after it’s published, but you can be happy in smaller increments for some many other things leading up to the big one. Among my favorites:
- finishing a first draft
- editing a first draft
- feeling that a story is done
- writing a damn good query
- getting a request for partial or full
- getting a bite of interest
- reading good reviews
- getting nice fan e/mail
With all of that to celebrate (and much more), what’s the point of waiting? Be happy now.
Having trouble? Let Bobby McFerrin, Mr. Noodle, and Mork show you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU
One of the scariest villains in literature, Medusa was just a woman done wrong by a goddess.
As I steadily made my way through some edits my agent asked for, I came to a note that asked me to reconsider the villain’s name. “It seems dowdy,” she said.
Vera isn’t the most modern of names, but the book takes place nearly a hundred years ago. Still, I never loved it. Even though I agonized over the protagonist’s name, changing it three times, and soliciting help from blog readers, I didn’t give that kind of attention to the villain. I figured I didn’t need to love her name. She’s the villain!
But today, as I considered a change, I decided to look up bad gal names, and came across this yahoo.com post from 2010. I knew about Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction, and it feels like a fit since it’s a Caribbean story, and there are plenty of Hindus in the Caribbean. But I also like the name Callie, which sounds the same. Eris seems like the next best choice, but I’d have to use Eris’s in the book, and that’s the kind of thing that will trip kids up. Deyanira? No.
Then I considered the Disney/obvious route and using a name that begins with Mal, like Malificient. Even Rowling got in on this with the Malfoy clan. But there are plenty of great young Mal’s out there like Malala Yousafzai and Malia Obama.
Last night I thought of something between sleep and wake. Today, I discovered it’s been done. Back to the drawing board! If you can think of anything that’s creepy but still pretty, throw it my way. I’ll happily take suggestions.
In the meantime, check out this list of the 50 greatest literary villains. (Voldemorta? Nah!)
[Image from morguefile.com]
My mother isn’t on Facebook. She never will be. She comes from a generation when people kept things “close to the vest.” Is it a Caribbean thing, or generational? The new world of social media and tweeting who you just saw on the subway, or uploading a picture of yourself complete with a red-flagged map of your location to your Facebook friends is like a foreign land fraught with pitfalls.
“They” will use it against you, she tells me. I ask her what they will use, and how they will use it. I don’t bother to ask who “they” are. I know. It’s everyone. She asks me if I haven’t had enough trouble already. I have. But I live in a world where people give me a thumbs up when I say I’ve gone to Magnolia Bakery because I’m having a horrible no good very bad day. I live in a world where a tweet can let me know that a revolution is happening half-way around the world. In real time. I live in a world where there is so much noise from everyone saying everything at once, that the real trouble is filtering it all out. I read more than I say. I do keep some things “close to the vest” but they are quite different from what my mother would filter out. She would tell you nothing. I would tell you that my body feels maimed by scars from cancer surgery that hurt like I was cut yesterday, that my writing career feels directionless and pitiful, that I often wonder how I made it to be this age knowing so little.
Maybe I shouldn’t tell you these things. But I don’t know if I can help myself. I’m a writer, after all. I’m all about the telling.
[Image kr062008_09.jpg from morguefile]
I read Goodwin’s Team of Rivals when I was researching a book about leadership that involved Barack Obama. I did not know that Speilberg used it as well to pen his biopic Lincoln. or that Lewis initially turned him down to play the role.
If you’ve ever gotten a rejection letter, you’ll like this post by Kathy Temean.
Rejection is Everywhere.
I came across this meme on Facebook over the summer, and saved it to my desktop. Every now and then, I take a look at it. As you know, recently my family has dealt with breast cancer, layoffs, and (along with everyone else) a lagging economy. However, I have been feeling blessed and fortunate, and because numbers appeal to me, this meme really stuck.
On January 19th, President Obama has called for everyone to participate in a National Day of Service. I don’t care whether you like the president or not. Volunteering to help others is good. I am considering signing up to give blood and platelets at Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC. Someone else’s blood and platelets made a huge difference in my life toward the end of chemo, and I’d like to give back. But I haven’t signed up yet because I absolutely hate needles (despite the many that I’ve endured since the diagnosis) and volunteering my arm is not easy for me to do. I’m sure I will do it, I just haven’t quite been able to click that button yet.
If you are interested in volunteering click here to find an opportunity near you.
Yesterday, my writer buddy Deborah Batterman posted a link to this New York Times article extolling the joys of writing first thing in the morning. I have heard praise heaped on early morning writing sessions since I was a wee little baby writer with dreams of bundling up my manuscript in brown paper like Ellis Bell.* And I have tried this early morning writing thing. Sometimes I make it one day. One cranky, back-achy, why-are-you-looking-at-me-like-that day. Sometimes I make it to two. (Two is monster-ugly, and not describable in polite company.) But these early morning sessions always start the same: with the vision of a fresh, clear mind parting through the muck of tired prose, straight as an arrow to the good stuff. You know, the crap that wins you awards.
So inspired by this lovely little piece, I got my behind out of bed at 5:30 this morning, showered, dressed for work, scarfed down some breakfast, and sat at the dining table with my manuscript, a pencil, and my razor-sharp mind to work until 7am when the kids needed to get up and I needed to get on the bus into the city.
Know where I got in my manuscript? Page 5. FIVE.
Five pages of thoughtful editing isn’t bad. But somehow I had expected more. Ten maybe. Especially since it’s now 7:30pm and I’m basically a zombie. All for a half hour less sleep. Clearly this girl needs her six hours minimum. And obviously, I’m not a morning writer.
[*Kudos to anyone who knows who Ellis Bell is without looking it up on the Interwebs.]
The end of the year makes us feel wistful for what we had, and hopeful for who we can become. No wonder end year lists are so popular. We want to look back and see the best of the past, get as far away from the worst as we can, and start planning for all the good stuff the universe owes us for getting through it all.
I haven’t worked out all of my personal goals for 2013. There will be something about not being so hard on myself, and something else about not getting caught up in other people’s nonsense. I would also like to be more kind, though that seems to come at odds with the other people’s nonsense bit, since to do that, my first thought is to tell people where they can stick it. So for now, I’m going to focus on the career goals.
Last year I wrote a treatise on what I would do every month of the year, and by March, it was clear that a lot of it wasn’t going to happen, because a good chunk of what I wrote was dependent on things happening that I had no control over. It was still a successful year, but this time I’m keeping the goals simple:
- Pick up 2013 publishing marketplace books
- Send New Year cards to my editing clients
- Finish edits for my novel and send to my agent
- Send two picture books to my agent (hope she loves them)
- Revise pricing structure and company focus for Fairy Godauthor
- Figure out how to schedule blog posts and tweets (!!!)
- Identify three non-fic subjects for middle grade chap books
- Do preliminary research and spec one of those stories
- Identify non-fic children’s publishers and query
- Review and begin revising sequel to GM
- Read at least 20 award-winning and acclaimed books
Happy New Year, everyone!
So far, my method for getting ready for NaNoWriMo has been:
Stage 1: Hubris. (I’m absolutely going to come up with an idea this month AND organize it.)
Stage 2: Fear. (Why I got no ideas?)
Stage 3: Adrenaline. (I got an idea. Look! It’s so good! See how it squishes into Scrivener perfectly. If I keep waking up to work at 4 a.m. I will have an actual outline in days!)
That pumpkin is mocking me.
Stage 4: Hubris revisited. (Yeah I got this. I got it so much in fact, I don’t even have to outline anymore.)
Stage 5: Fear. (Oh crap. November is next week?)
I believe there will be a stage 6. A candy-eating stage. Good thing the night before NaNo is Halloween. I hope my children won’t mind if I eat their stash.
It’s day 27 of NaNoWriMo, and I stopped writing somewhere around day 5, with only two days of writing because I skipped days 2-4, and then all the others after it. Why? Well, it’s the new job. More specifically, the new commute.
This isn’t quite my commute. But I kind of wish it was.
That 3 hours a day really takes it out of me, and I haven’t figured out how to combat the exhaustion yet. The funny thing is that for the last six years, people have asked me how I find time to write. I’ve been home. It’s been pretty easy to find that time, even when my day is extra crazy. My desk is about 10 feet away from my bed. Plus the door to my office can close, and everyone knows if the door’s closed, not to bother me. They’ve had 10 years to learn this. People found it pretty amazing that I could carve out that time, ignore the distractions like laundry and bubbling pots, and ballet schedules. I can sometimes. Not always. But now, carving out time is even more challenging because there really is so little of it.
This is week three of the new job and I haven’t figured out how to find that time yet. Even blog posts have taken a backseat. It’s going to get interesting because I’ve been asked to do some revisions of my novel, so I’m going to have to figure out the schedule thing. And I’m going to have to figure it out fast.
In the meantime, a writer friend shared a link to famous writers’ schedules. Look at Ben Franklin’s. That’s pretty regimented. Others are enviably loose.
I have a lot to be thankful for this year: a new job, my husband’s new job after a particularly untimely layoff, some momentum in my writing career, two very happy kids, and best of all, my health, which I’m particularly grateful for after last year. I probably should also be thankful for the zombie apocalypse since it produced some good writing from me. Another couple of posts from that will follow the roundup. So let’s get to it.
Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp, the parent company of HarperCollins.
You probably already know that Penguin and Random House merged to form the super mega Penguin Random House. But you probably had not heard that now Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins are in talks to merge. What does this mean for authors? Probably fewer contracts. What does this mean for publishing? Hopefully, the smaller houses will pick up the slack. I suspect that all of this positioning is as a result of the Amazon factor. With the store producing and selling electronic books, and with a platform for authors to upload and sell globally even if they don’t go through Amazon’s publishing house, traditional publishers are unsure how to deal with the millions of Kindles with their convenient “buy” button. They probably figure pooling resources will give them a better chance of holding their own in an uncertain market. But as individual indie authors have shown, smaller and nimbler also works very well. A longer analysis is here.
As we wind down the year, here’s a list of PWs best books of 2012. (Is no one published in December?) And in children’s books, Kirkus has a list of the best children’s books of 2012. Have you read any of these Parent’s Choice Award books? There are lots of good ones on here. The best illustrated picture books according to the New York Times are listed here.
Pictures and reports from this year’s National Book Awards! Congratulations to the winners.
Books and education go hand in hand. And with the current push toward using the Common Core State Standards, writers of literature for children have an opportunity to promote themselves by looking at where their books align with Common Core. This post by Jill Corcoran tells everything you need to know to do that.
So, lots to think about. And with that, I’ll leave you to your thanksgiving prep work. Have a great holiday everyone. But before you go, enjoy a couple more posts from the zombie apocalypse.
Day 7, zombie apocalypse: Strange sounds
The night is so still, that the children have learned to pick out the sounds of specific foraging animals, prowling zombies, and the occasional faraway siren. Last night there was an additional sound: the carbon monoxide monitor going off. Seems the generator that may be saving our lives may also be killing us silently. Oh dear. We quickly opened the doors
and windows and bundled the sleeping children as best we could, but the freezing temps outside made the drool freeze on their faces.
Sidebar: the icicle drool was so captivating, I thought it would make a precious Christmas card, if people were still doing such things; if postal trucks weren’t largely abandoned all over the place and the zombies hadn’t taken over post offices for their base of operations. Oh well. Just in case we don’t make it to Christmas, let me extend my holiday greetings right now. Huh, would you look at that. Looks like those Mayans might have been right about 2012 after all.
If anyone’s out there: send punch a creme.
Day 7, zombie apocalypse (evening): Good news!
The big kid has lost another tooth! This adds one more link to the baby-tooth necklaces the children both wear, which seems to be a zombie-deterrent. Whether it’s that the zombies don’t care for the sound of jangling baby teeth or they’re deathly afraid of the tooth fairy is hard to tell. But now she can go out and hunt at night without fearing a frontal attack. From the back is another matter. But these days, we take what we can get.
If anyone’s out there: send a shiny new coin to put under her racoon-fur pillow.
…that hurricane/superstorm Sandy knocked out my power for several painful days.
…that I began writing posts from the zombie apocalypse.
…that in the midst of all that, I was offered, accepted, and started a new job.
…that the last few weeks have been a little overwhelming (not horrible, but definitely extra-stressful).
But you might not have heard that after all of that, with me still trying to struggle through the week and the hour (or two) daily commute, children in after-care, a brand new babysitter…whose car broke down a day before she was supposed to start picking up the kids, finding a last-minute replacement to pick up the kids for two days, a new job (where ARE the staplers?), board meetings, parent teacher conferences, a broken down bus, Lincoln Tunnel traffic, and crazy bus riders, I actually ended the week with some amazing news. Unfortunately, I’m not yet at liberty to share. So as compensation, I will leave you with the first two of my zombie apocalypse posts. And as soon as I can share the news, I will. Stay tuned.
Day 6, zombie apocalypse: Adaptation
Seems the family is adjusting to their new lifestyle. Darryl went out with a rifle this morning to “bag us a deer” and the kids have made a bow and arrows (the girl) and slingshot (the boy) from fallen trees, vines, and car tire rubber from the abandoned cars of Jerseyans… I mean zombies who have given up the hunt for gas. At some point last night I heard one of them say, “Don’t bother to run m*er f*er” to a squirrel. I’m not sure which one of them it was, as I was screaming in my head at the time. But we did have squirrel for dinner, so there’s that. If anyone’s out there: send ketchup.
Day 6, zombie apocalypse (evening): Connectivity
Oh dear. Seems we have over exceeded our data limit for the month. Who knew that still even existed in this post-apocalyptic wasteland? To entertain ourselves (and try to find out what was going on in the world) we tried to talk to a non-zombie neighbor who mentioned something about “celebrity weddings” and an “election.” After they launched into a
tirade about the merits of someone named Kardashian and the terror of an electoral college dead heat, I eyed Darryl (who was still packing btw) and decided to smack this person upside the head with the skillet I now carry everywhere for protection. (Really, we can’t afford to waste the bullets.) The upside: no more infotainment talk. The downside: I’m not sure how to get the blood stains off the wall. Maybe I just call it art. If anyone’s out there: send a gilded frame.
Blog: Knitting with Pencils
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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know the following things about me:
1) I am already a published author
2) I have been struggling lately with a few manuscripts (and publishing in general)
3) I work like a m*er f*er
4) My life (due to health) has been crazy complicated of late
What you may not have known is that I have been looking for a new agent for a little while. So you may be really surprised to hear that this week, I signed on with a new agency.
Frustration and Validation
Sometime in the summer, I was feeling totally frustrated with my efforts on behalf of my latest manuscript. This was a story I had been trying to write for years, and I finally had developed it to the point that I thought it was in fantastic shape. The problem was, no one seemed to want it. I had gotten lots of very lovely rejection letters from agents that said things like they “admired the quality of the writing,” “it’s very nearly there,” “this is beautifully written” but still, no takers. I’m not sure I have ever been more frustrated about something in my life (and I’ve had cancer). I read my story again. I love my story. I did not want to give up on it. So I did some research and came up with a new list of agents and agencies. I sent out queries. And waited. Fulls were requested. More waiting. Then Marie called.
It was near the end of my first week back at a regular full-time, city job. I was exhausted from the commute, and overwhelmed from the number of things I was trying to understand about the project. My cell phone rang. The person on the other end said that they were Marie Lamba from Jennifer De Chiara Literary. It took me a few moments to understand what was happening. Before my brain fully caught up, she said that she loved my story. I was floored.
Now, my mother loves this story. And my husband loves this story. And my dad loves this story. But they are my mom and my husband and my dad. It’s totally different when a stranger, an agent, says that they think your writing is “wonderful.” I wanted to cry. If I was any more sleep deprived I would have. For me, that validation–that I had written a story that was good, and worthy–was everything.
In the next 26 1/2 minutes, Marie and I had chatted about the book, her thoughts about a revision, where she thought she might send it, and what I was looking for in an agent. In 26 1/2 minutes, I felt certain that I had found a partner who understood me and my work, and who was going to advocate for it in this crazy new publishing world.
Marie is an associate agent at Jennifer De Chiara Literary, which is listed as one of the top 25 agencies by Writer’s Digest. Marie is also a YA author, like me, who felt a bit bowled over when publishing started to change dramatically about 7 years ago. She also has a blog where she gives great tips on what she’s looking for as an agent, as well as her own writing news. Most importantly Marie is really nice and seems to understand my work style!
What I Meant
Over My Head
I’m excited about this new member of my team. And for me that’s what it is. A team that helps me to realize my goals. All of you who read this blog are part of that. No kidding. You all help me in ways that I can hardly express. So to you, and to Marie, I say thanks.
A mathematical wink
A prompt to say,
“Here’s what I did at 12:12 today”
Simple series of numbers
(Almost) universal joy
Is it the rarity?
Is it the symmetry?
Or is it simply…
We wisely love the little things?
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This evening on the bus I finished a book that I started about two months ago. It’s an itty bitty book that got shoved into my bag to be read on my afternoon commute, and that got shunted in favor of knitting, especially in the days close to Christmas because I was busy trying to finish this knitted doll for my daughter.
Today, too, I made a few personal decisions about cutting out some needlessly stressful things in my life, without regard for how this “looks” to others. Screw others.
In the last couple of months I’ve gotten far afield of my goals for myself as far as my writing and editing career (despite having signed with a new agency last month), and most of it is because I’m dealing with things that have nothing to do with my personal goals or needs. No more of that. Time to get back on track.
The little things can be good…finishing books and knitting dolls. Or they can be bad…other people’s pettiness that cause unnecessary stress. Here’s to more of the good little things, and fewer of the bad. Here’s to ending the year on a less stressful note.
For the record, my reading stats for this year: 15 books. I meant to read 50. Well, they both have fives in them.