So, I am waiting to hear about revisions and projects and all sorts of random stuff and this puts me in what I call Writer Waiting Mode.
I am not really good at waiting, so I am trying to write an adult mystery/suspense thing. It is ridiculously fun and sort of freeing.
It's made me wonder what other people do when they wait to hear about things work or personal-life related.
And now get ready for:
A BIG TOPIC JUMP
My daughter has really delicate sneezes where you actually hear the sounds "Ah-choo." I sneeze like I'm being murdered. I do not think this is fair. Also, how pathetic is it that I am envious of her sneezing noise? Bad mother, Bad.
And now get ready for:
A RANDOM PET PHOTO
Scotty is terribly bored by this post. He can't even read the whole thing. You can tell by his tight jowled expression and closed eyes.
It was my birthday this weekend and I was in Seattle presenting at the AWP Conference. Seattle is a long way from Maine.
And this birthday? This birthday is a long way away from my first one. I am a grown-up now and I don't have to wear diapers (Yet - at least. I am not that old). But it was bigger than that. This was my first birthday with no living grandparents and no living parents and since I was in Seattle away from my dogs, there was also no dog fur.
I was kind of freaked out about it, the way you get freaked out when you realize that most of your family is dead. And I was kind of freaked out about it because I felt like this birthday would be meaningful in its loneliness somehow. Only… it wasn't lonely.
I went out to dinner with awesome people and had one of the best dinners ever. I also made sandwiches with one of my friends and gave them out to random people on the street who looked like they needed sandwiches. Most of these people were super cool. There was the lady who didn't need a sandwich but offered me a slug of her Johnny Walker. There was the older man who couldn't stand up by himself and was so grateful for the boost up my friend gave him that the sandwiches overwhelmed him. There was the man who screamed about people chasing him. He was sitting still. He didn't need a sandwich.
And it wasn't about giving stuff to people and making myself feel good because honestly I didn't feel good because I was giving food to strangers. I kept thinking about how that food was not enough to make a difference in their lives and when you think that? It's hard to feel good about giving out sandwiches and crackers.
What did seem cool however was making the connection, hanging out and talking to people, even if it was just for a minute. There was one guy who said, "You don't know… Just you not fast walking by… Just making eye contact. That means something, you know?"
And I do know. We walk by so many people in our lives, not making eye contact, not interacting, not taking the time to wonder about their stories and lives and pain. I'm not talking just about transients or the homeless or whatever label you want to use. I'm talking too about people in the grocery store line, people rushing out of convention halls with lanyards around their necks, people who are our neighbors, people who are not.
This world is a great big community and part of what takes the pain and the loneliness away can be connections. Writers like Libba Bray become warriors with every truth they write, every story they sing out. All of us humans are really just fighting for connections, for self worth, for a way to fill up that hole inside of you. Libba writes about this hole:
Other times, it’s as if a hole is opening inside you, wider and wider, pressing against your lungs, pushing your internal organs into unnatural places, and you cannot draw a true breath. You are breaking inside, slowly, and everything that keeps you tethered to your life, all of your normal responses, is being sucked through the hole like an airlock emptying into space.
I don't know how to fill up other people's holes. I don't even know how to fill up the gasp inside of me, but I do know that we need to recognize the sorrow and joy in other people's lives, respect them and love them despite their flaws, despite their sadness or even because of that sadness. What being human should be about is caring and connections. We need a world that cares that up skirting should be illegal, that cares that people go hungry, that wants to stop people being killed for just speaking their political views or for loving who they love or for being a certain religion or race or ethnicity, we need a world where politicians don't make excuses for rape. We need a world and a community that isn't about judging but is about ascending. We need more people like Libba, more people open and honest about their truths. We need more people making connections. That is what I learned on my birthday this year. I hope I don't forget it and start fast walking again. I hope I learn to take the time to communicate with others in a way that's more than a status update or a tweet.
I am not supposed to say what I make a year. My agent told me this and I'm totally okay with listening to him because:
1. He is my agent
2. I love him.
3. He is like the knight who battles the industry on my behalf, taking his paltry 15% as he jousts over contracts and attacks people who steal books on the internet and listens to me cry.
However, it is hard not to talk about it because lately all I've been seeing is posts about publishing the old school way (traditional, the publisher pays you, your books are in print with ebooks secondary) and publishing the new school way (self, only digital, you might pay an editor and cover designer).
And it is all sort of cranky. I think it is meant to be helpful - all that data - all that opinion - and for some people it probably is helpful, but for me it is soul crushing.
These posts about income and money and the "business" of writing make me hyperventilate. Seriously. When I see average salaries and negative posts about writing and money and the end of eras and dinosaurs and anything that includes the words "predictions," "dire," "evil," or "money," I pretty much shut down and think, "HOLY CANOLI POOPSCAPE, HOW WILL I EVER MAKE MONEY WRITING?"
*I don't really think "poopscape." I am trying not to swear.
And I've been trying to figure out why I have this reaction when I actually do make a living writing.
When I started writing, I expected to make no money and honestly I was pretty cool with that. The opportunity to write stories that people actually read was pretty freaking amazing to me. Back then all I heard was:
1. It takes 10 years to publish.
2. You will be rejected a hundred times.
3. If your book is not perfect you will not get published.
4. If your book is not hip, you will not get published.
5. If you are not hot-as-swear-word, rich, know editors in the business, your dad is not Rupert Murdoch, you will not get published.
And then there were these lovely nuggets:
6. You will never make a living. Ever. Unless you publish with the big publishers.
7. You will never feel safe financially. Ever. Unless you are J.K. Rowling, Meg Cabot, James Patterson, and possibly John Greene.
8. You can not switch genres. People (reviewers) hate that.
9. You can not write about sex, gay people, human-sized pixies.
10. You will never ever ever make a living. Ever.
And every time I read any of that? I pretty much felt my heart turn to ash. Luckily, my heart is a kick-ass phoenix and rebuilds.
I was super lucky. I proved a lot of that stuff wrong.
1. It took me a year to publish.
2. I was rejected, but not 100 times. I still get rejected. I am like that goober girl at the seventh grade dance who asks EVERY SINGLE attractive person to dance to Blurred Lines until someone finally says yes.
3. I make a living (right now) writing even though I have written across genres and I am not hot or rich and my dad was a truck driver.
And I think the reason why I make a living right now writing is that:
1. I do ask everyone to dance and when they shudder at the thought I am totally okay with that.
2. I practice my dance moves constantly even between rejections.
So, what I'm trying to say here is that if you want to write, write. If you want to make a living writing, write as much as you can and work on your craft and don't obsess about marketing and how to publish, just write a story that makes you happy or that thrills you or that you must tell. If you chose this as your career, try to enjoy it. Write for fun and for craft and for truth and for money last if possible. Write and write and write and blow off everyone who tells you that you can't unless you do x and y and z.
And I realize that I can say this because I am currently making a living writing, but I have also realized that I can also say this because I am used to being poor. Before I was a writer, I was a newspaper editor (@$24,000/year) who also freelanced articles and taught gymnastics at the Y to get by. My dad never made more than $22,000 a year, I guess. It might have been $23,000. Making money is kind of crazy to me. So, I feel blessed and lucky to make a living writing. But if I didn't? I wouldn't stop writing. I would go back to being something like a dispatcher for police departments or beg people to hire me as a reporter or whatever. Because that's the thing about stories. If you want to tell them, you tell them. And yes, it is a business, but the business part of it can take the truth out of your stories and the joy out of your soul. Don't become overwhelmed with those posts about making money and not making money and how to or how not to. Just write. Okay? I want to read your stories.
I apologize for the language above, but it is left whole to show a rather ugly point.
So: My ask box is closed now.
And I’m doing something very, very, very rarely do, and my friends have been begging me to do about this whole thing since day one: meet it head on.
The above ask was sent in by my stalker. This is why my ask box remains closed.
Maybe it is time to show what stalking really is and does.
Imagine getting messages, the type of which make the above seem mild and sweet (add in sexual threats, death threats, and vows to be up to this forever), any time you have any ability for anyone to contact you.
Every day. At times multiple times a day, sometimes in a stream of messages that clog your inbox.
And when you never once address that, they start contacting your friends, your sister, your parents. Your brother in law. Your infant nephew/godson.
Threatens them consistently. Sends them packages. Sends them postcards. Looks up their private info and parades it in front of them.
For 5.5 years.
Things that thus far haven’t helped: An arrest. An international warrant. International attention. Stays in mental health facilities. Nothing deters this behavior.
Stalking is one of the crimes that takes the victim out of the equation, because of how likely it is that being in it exacerbates the situation. And if we do nothing and let the world exist like this, we are enabling a kind of malice that could threaten the very positive
and at times powerful ways we exchange ideas and connect to each other.
The Internet is the wild west, and at some point the cavalry’s gotta come in, here.
The FBI has been amazing but are limited by a foreign nation’s wish to completely ignore a situation that has been proven many times over to exist.
I can only be so defiant in private while balancing the need for my and my family’s safety.
You may think, “I’ve seen her at LeakyCons, she’s not affected by this at all!” Never make an assumption by the strength someone is able to project that they are unaffected. And never assume that someone who doesn’t give her life over to something negative completely - disappear from the internet, etc - doesn’t deserve just as much peace and justice as those whose lives lose major functions because of this activity. There is sometimes a paternalistic rise in compassion that rises to meet the level to which a person has been affected. If we start judging that way, we forget that no matter the victim and no matter the effect, the crime is the same and it must be stopped.
So there you go. A glimpse into my life.
If you wish to stand against stalking, please reblog; and as a bonus, please add your own thoughts about the necessity that a country’s law enforcement agency (in this case New Zealand’s) starts to take this seriously.
THIS IS THE END OF THE ORIGINAL POST.
I have been stalked in different ways, in varying measures in my life. This is Carrie talking, not Melissa, the writer who is going through the above and who has gone through it for over five years. Stalking can be profoundly harrowing and it is never okay. Her ordeal needs to stop. Please reblog if you can. xo- Carrie
I wrote this blog post a long time ago. A lot in my life has changed since then, a time when I was married, a time when I ran for state rep and lost. I am happy about the losing actually and I like the man who won. He was and always is nice to me.
Anyways, while I was running I highlighted a few local people who I thought were heroes. Larry is one of those people. He died on Saturday and there are a million people who were much closer to him than I was ever lucky enough to be. But like a lot of people in my area (and beyond) I was lucky too because I got to know him, got to benefit from his kindness. I can't do much to give comfort to his family and friends after his loss, but I can repost this old blog and add a couple links so that maybe some of you all can be inspired by how great and kind someone can be.
When I was a little girl I would hunt for treasure in my house. I’d search everywhere, in my mother’s underwear drawer, behind the couch, downstairs in the creepy cellar in the wardrobe full of dusty, old coats. I found the brown box full of ribbons and medals on the top shelf of that rickety wardrobe one rainy Saturday.
Triumphant, I clutched it to my chest and ran up the stairs. Sneezing from the dust, I showed my step dad.
“Daddy! Look! Look what I found! Treasure!” I sneezed again and handed him the box.
He sighed and opened it. “Treasure, huh?”
“Uh-huh, look.” I pointed out what I thought were the coolest pieces. “Do you know where it came from? We could probably sell it and make millions!”
He smiled. He touched a fancy bar of colors. Then he closed the box and handed it back to me. “You keep it. Okay?”
“Where did it come from?”
“They’re mine. They’re from the War.”
I didn’t know a lot about World War II back then. I knew about concentration camps. I knew about genocide. I didn’t really know a lot of the details. And I didn’t know anything about what my step dad did, only that he was in the Navy, only that he saw his friends die.
“Are they your medals, Daddy?”
“Yep. They’re my medals, Carrie.”
“Do they have stories?”
“They have stories.”
“Will you tell me?”
“Sometime,” he said, scruffing up my hair. “I’ll tell you when you get a little bigger.”
But he didn’t. He died when I was almost in sixth grade. He took his stories with him.
My husband’s father, Ben, was in the war too. He was an officer stationed in Europe. All I know about it is that he saw horrible things and that his men once accidentally shot a horse because they thought it was the enemy.
“We were kids, then,” Ben said after he told the story. “Just dumb kids.”
That’s the only war story Doug’s ever heard from his dad.
“He doesn’t talk about it,” Doug says. “It’s like pulling teeth.”
I saw Larry Poulin in a line at a funeral last week. He stood sandwiched between John Partridge and some other people. He smiled ‘hello,’ and we talked as he waited to give his respects.
“How are things going at the VFW?” I asked him.
He looked down at the carpet of the funeral home. He looked back up again. Our eyes met. “There aren’t too many of us left.”
The line he was standing in moved a couple steps closer to the urn and the widow.
I told Larry about how my stepfather and Doug’s dad never talked about what happened in the war.
“A lot of the guys are like that,” Larry said.
He said they came home and they wanted to focus on the present, on their girls and their freedom. They wanted to focus on the good and leave the war behind.
Larry joined the navy right after he graduated high school. In an article by Stephan Fay that was printed in the Ellsworth American’s series “The Greatest Generation,” Larry said, “I was a scrawny little thing. Five feet short and about 105 pounds.”
They wouldn’t let him in.
He tried again when he was 18, eating pounds of bananas trying to weigh enough to pass the physical. He made it and served for almost 31 months.
We talked a little bit about that while we stood in line. People murmured behind us. Some spoke about their daughter’s dreams of being a writer. Others talked about pension issues. Some hugged each other, shook hands, looked into each other’s eyes, a community of people gathered together in mourning and respect.
While we stood there, Larry mentioned that there was another war, now, more veterans being made. He wondered how it would have turned out differently, if the United States and the Allies had lost World War II.
For just a second, I closed my eyes and though about what Doug’s father saw in Germany, what my step-dad saw in the Pacific, about the things they wouldn’t talk about, the hearts and stars and medals they had hidden away, the stories they kept inside.
“It would be different now,” I said to Larry.
“Yeah?” He gave a little nod. The line moved up a little again.
“Absolutely,” I said.
He ran his hands against the sides of his pants.
“It would be worse,” I told him. “I know it would be worse.”
There are heroes all around us. They shop at Hannaford’s. They stand in funeral lines. They work at the fire station. They drive their cars past us on High Street. They are the people who fought for our freedom.
They are also the people still fighting.
It doesn’t matter how you feel about the causes or the motivations of this current war. The truth is that there are heroes being made all the time.For the last five years, we’ve been in a war. For the last five years, American fathers and mothers have fought on other continents, leaving their families behind. And their families? They’re the heroes too, living with worry every day, functioning, missing their loved one.
Larry was a hero not just because he went to war. He was a hero when he came back and created an amazing family full of love and service. The links below are to his obituary and an old article about him. Bangor Daily ObituaryEllsworth American Article