Monthly Archives: August 2011

Operation: Writers Conference!

When I was a little girl, I was always being asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

At first I told them, “I want to be a dolphin.” Later I told them, “I want to be a writer.” Both of these choices were seen by “grown-ups” as being equally impossible.

Still, here I am, firmly set on at least one of those career paths (the dolphin thing didn’t work out, sad to say. I can’t hold my breath for very long at all). I’ve honed my craft, completed many a manuscript, and been kindly rejected by almost every single literary agent on Agent Query (“Great, but not the right fit for me” is my standard level of rejection. It’s not too bad, considering). I’ve analyzed the market, self-published a novel never meant for mainstream, and really, truly clarified what I want from my writing and my career as an author. Have I “made it?” No. But I’m on my way.

And how do I know that? Because making a living by sharing my stories with the world is my dream. Because writing is the most magical, powerful, transformative thing in the world to me, and if there is anything worth devoting my time and energy to, it is writing and my career as a writer. If there is anything I have faith in in this universe, it is my ability to tell stories and my absolute love for doing so.

As when writing a story, I base a lot of decisions about my career on my gut-feelings more than logic. Recently, my gut has been telling me to do something new,  something rather unexpected for me: I’ve had a strong and sudden compulsion to attend a writers conference. Not the kind where you get together and learn craft–I’m not above a writing workshop, but I have never had a good experience with one–but the kind where you get together with agents and editors and learn about the business of querying.

Long story short, I’m looking to go back to searching for an agent. I’m never going to turn my back on self publishing, and if I can’t sign with an agent on my next book don’t worry, I will still publish it. My heart is not set on traditional publishing, but it’s not devoted to indie publishing either. I’m devoted to writing the stories I love and trying to make a living from it, and that’s what I am going to do.

Which brings me to this: I’ve found a conference that looks not only feasible for me to attend, but also something that seems incredibly worthwhile. The Backspace Writers Conference is two days of workshops focusing on query letters and opening pages, and involves no-pitch meetings with agents, which means the pressure is off. (Me likey.) The interaction with agents is the main focus of this conference, which is really what interests me. Even if they aren’t going to sign you, you get 4 different agents giving you honest feedback, and I will finally have the chance to ask them what exactly they mean when they say “I love your work, but it’s just not the right fit for me” because that’s been 95% of my rejections over the years after partial and full manuscript requests.

So. The conference is in November, in Manhattan. Lucky for me, I have a brother who lives in Park Slope who is happy to have me crash there during the conference, and I do have a $150 credit with Jetblue that will hopefully cover the cost of my roundtrip flight. So all that’s left is the cost of the conference itself, and the cost of the food I will have to eat to survive.

The price of the conference is $475, and lasts two days, so that’s 6 meals. I can pack protein bars for snacks. Including a little extra because NYC is just more expensive than I’m used to, I’d estimate $40/day (if Rachel Ray can do it, so can I!). So, the total I need to go is $555.

I’ve got some money in savings, and my parents have offered to help a little with some advance-Christmas gift action since it’s a career-oriented expense. But the more money I can raise, the better (my parents have helped me out so much in my life, I hate to continuously rely on their generosity). Things are a little tight with the whole soon-to-be-homeowner thing, and also a bajillion first time payments like homeowners insurance, etc., on top of an unexpected extra month’s rent that we may or may not see any amount of refunded.

Now, I’m not asking for donations, but there are other ways you can help, if you’re so inclined…

  • Buy my stuff :) I’ve written a novel called The Poppet and the Lune ($3.99 ebook, $11.69 paperback, on sale!) and two short stories ($.99 ebooks) that are available on amazon.com. If you haven’t read them, maybe you’d like to? Or if you have, maybe you want to give them as a gift to your friends or family? :D
  • Hire me! I’m also an editor by trade, and I would love to work with you on you own creative projects. If you’ve been thinking about hiring someone to edit your work, now is a great time to invest: I’m available, and for the purpose of this fundraiser I’m offering my services at 25% off (just mention the fundraiser when you contact me).
  • Review my stuff… if you have read TPaL or my short stories (“A Lover and its Ghosts” and “Robot Pony“), please consider leaving a review for what you’ve read on Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, or BN.com. Or, if you do book reviews on your own website or blog, consider posting your review there! Any word you can spread is helpful.
  • Tweet/Facebook/Google+/Tumblr about my stuff… social networks are the fastest way to spread the word about pretty much anything on the internet. If you would like to help out, you can post about this entry, or about my editing services and the current sale price, or about my published works.

 

I appreciate any time you can spare in helping  me spread the word and raise funds for this. I know it’s not an epic thing like “I need to pay for surgery” or “I’ve been laid off and have to make my mortgage payment,” but it’s a stepping stone on a very important path for me… and I have a really good feeling about this particular conference. Not necessarily that I’ll meet my agent there, but something amazing will come of it.

I’m very excited about all of this. :)

Late Summer Musings

Summer is coming to an end. Yeah, we’ve still got a month until the Equinox, but you can feel it in the wind: a cold that reaches more deeply into your bones than a summer breeze should. And you can see it in the light–just a few degrees of a different angle to the sun’s arc across the sky turns it’s shine into something cooler, more crisp during the day, and thicker, like honey, in the evening. The greens of summer are past overripe, taking on their darkest hue before autumn drains the green and sets the foliage ablaze.

It’s a strange time of year for me. I love fall, love the magic of the season, the bounty and beauty. A million ideas come to me at once, for stories and creative projects, personal goals and life maps. It’s a high energy season, but one that has me constantly on the edge, always about to topple. I feel it sometimes in the cold, when my bare feet refuse to give up sandals and tread across cold hardwood floors. I feel it after long car rides and too-early sunsets. Fall is lovely, but when it comes, winter is not far behind. And winter is my point of exhaustion, the long gray days where I sometimes wish I was sick so that I could stay home and do nothing, days where I wish I was a kid again just so I could have someone take care of me, bring me water, stroke my hair, make me laugh even though I’m miserable. It’s the other end of the pendulum, for all the months in spring and summer and fall when I can’t seem to sit still for fear of wasting my life and my time. I don’t want to sit still in winter, either, but it all catches up with me then, every year. Every year I say it will be different–either I will work through it, or I will embrace the dreamtime, or I will just see what happens. But every winter is pretty much the same.

Summer for me has always been a time of rejuvination, of preparation. I harvest the sunlight, store it away in my cellular memory for the long winter (and here, it is long–we can reasonably expect snow from late October to April), try to soak up enough of its penetrating warmth to keep me from freezing up too early. I used to go on long walks every day, when I was unemployed and still in school. I would walk for hours in the blazing sun, sweating and browning and loving every second. I never did get sun burned. I’d bring a backpack full of notebooks and manuscripts, walk across town to whatever park I could find, sit and work for a while, and walk back. I spent days doing that. Weeks. I saw more of my city on foot than I have in a car. I got a lot of work done with that method.

But I don’t get to do that anymore. I work like a real adult, with a real mortgage and a real family. So now it’s the end of summer, and I haven’t gotten my fix. I’ve been busy working 9 and 10 hour days, packing to move into our house, trying to scrape together enough energy and time in the evenings to write, but all too often failing (but still, doing better). So now I find myself realizing how few warm, sunny days we have left, and I want to use my single day of vacation accrued so that I can just lay in the sun for a day and not think about anything. I wonder, even, if this might be something necessary, so that I don’t reach that point of unconsciously making myself sick so that I can take a (real, total) day off.

But more than wanting to hold on to a summer I somehow feel I didn’t have, I want to be ready to embrace the fall. I want to be able to bask in it, to let its magic course through me as it has already begun. I don’t want this resistance, this all-too-Taurean part of me sneaking out because it hasn’t glutted itself on sunshine just yet.

So, I didn’t want this to be a brooding introspective post. I meant to talk about how I’ve been drawing a lot lately (and actually been really proud of it, for a change, even though it’s all with pencil and crayons and bic pens at work), and have a massive desire to learn guitar again, how I’ve been craving the feeling of strings under my hands and music thrumming through my fingertips. Those things are still true. But this is what this time of year does to me. It makes me think long and deep about my life, my patterns, my plans, what I can do to fill my stores before the dark season comes.

And I guess it takes over my blog posts, too.

But even if I took a day off to bask in the sun, I think I’d get antsy. I’d want to write, or practice ukulele, or pack/clean the apartment. Maybe the lesson here, all these years, isn’t that I need to overcome winter or make better use of the other three seasons–maybe the lesson is that I need to be okay with just staying still for a while. Maybe that stillness, contentedness, is what I’m really craving. I feel like I’ve entered a time of my life when that’s hard to find, being constantly wrapped up in beginnings and endings, rarely having a spare moment to adjust to some kind of “normal” before something else begins or ends and turns things on their head again.

But there is never a dull moment, that’s for sure. I guess one of my next projects will have to be to make one.

 

Current Projects Update

So a while back I finished a final-ish draft of The Hierophant and handed it over to my editor for a good once-over. I’ve been occasionally re-reading parts of it at the office when I’m bored, and I’m very pleased to say that I still love it. I haven’t fallen into the post-partum hatred that a lot of writers tend to get for their work when the finish. Instead I’ve thrown myself into the sequel, The Tower, and for the past few weeks that manuscript has been blossoming with a color and depth I could have never imagined at the start. I am so happy with it, where it’s going, how deeply spiritual and moving it has become. Sure, these are technically YA books… but they are so much more. I can’t even begin to express how much I am in love with it.

I would say that writing books like this remind me just how much I truly love the process of wrting, how much I would rather write the stories I love than do anything else in the world… but all my novels have made me feel like that these past few years. The Hierophant was just the beginning, a fast-paced love-affair that left me rejuvinated and exhilirated. The Poppet and the Lune was a different kind of love, a long-lasting, deep-rooted magic, like unconditional love. And now The Tower… it is something new. I can’t quite explain it yet. Maybe it’s too soon.

Anyways, I use a series of dream sequences in this book, and before you wrinkle your nose at the over-used device realize that a great deal of the main character’s evolution comes from intense internal struggle, exploration, and transformation. Also, eff you man I love reading/writing dream sequences. They’re tough to write, to get just that right level of dreamy weirdness without losing coherency, and I really appreciate when an author writes a good one. Plus, they’re like totally meta [insert hipster scoff].

So, anyway, now that I’ve defended my preference for this particular literary device… as snippet:

It’s warm. October warm. Blanket warm. The sun falls on me, golden droplets on my shoulders. I stand planted in the shore, gunmetal waves lapping at my toes. I’m staring at the churning water curling back on itself even as it pushes forward. Every now and then it washes a little higher, over my feet, about my ankles. It pulls a little sand out from under me when it returns to the sea. 

I sink. The waves get higher. My shadow lengthens in the sun.

Somewhere behind me a shadow lurks that I cannot see.

“You brought it with you,” my mother tells me, standing at my side, watching the shadow instead of the sea. She’s young, and pale, and beautiful. A beauty among the dead.

“I can’t get rid of it,” I admit. I want to look at her, but I’m afraid she’ll vanish if I do.

“What would you do with yourself if you did?” 

Her question prods at me in a way I wasn’t ready for. (Yes you are, Ana. You are ready for whatever comes your way.) “Nothing.”

The waves rush at me, spatter me with sea-spray, salty foam sticking to my calves.

“And if it stays?” My mother wonders.

This time when the sea exhales upon the shore its inhale is long. Too long. Getting longer. Where the water is swirling away from us there is a deep ocean-blackness somewhere beneath, sucking in the shore. I think there is a hole in the world, swallowing it up.

“I can’t get rid of it,” I say a second time, feeling the wet sand around my ankles slithering towards the whirlpool, tugging me along with it as the world begins to tremble and shift. When its pull becomes too strong, I stumble, sliding into the water, reaching back for my mother, risking her disappearance.

She catches my hand and holds tightly, as solid and real as the roiling maw opening before me. And then Karenina tilts her head forward and stares down my arm and into my eyes. 

“Then you will have to give it what it wants,” she says, and lets go of my hand.

:)

Stuff and Nonsense

Here’s some random news!

-I’m gonna be an auntie! My LLHB’s wife is about 12 weeks along, and the doctor says all is well. I think “Aunt Madeline” sounds so elegant… now how can I corrupt this child from accross the country?

-We bought a house, and we’re moving at the end of the month! Packing has begun. I am intimidated by the amount of stuff we have in our little 2 bedroom apartment. I’m hoping to use this move as an excuse to get rid of a lot of it. Good Will, expect many an over-stuffed bag in your drop-off bins these coming weeks.

-But more importantly, I’m picking out paintchips! Purple orange and green for the first floor. Cringe all you like, you will love it when I post pictures in a month! We’re also doing the bedroom a really really dark purple, and I’m painting my office shades of teal. Mmmm colors.

-I’ve been faithful to my WRITE EVERY DAY IF YOU WANT TO WRITE ALL THE THINGS philosophy/determination. I’m freaking in love with this book, even though it’s dark and hard and complicated. Writing The Hierophant was pure joy, and writing its sequel, The Tower, is a totally different kind of joy. It’s like the satisfaction of a long-term relationship versus a fling. Kind of fitting, because I wrote The Hierophant after I broke up with my last boyfriend, and I’m writing The Tower while I’m happily married to my soul mate :) I love it so much, I might be at that point where I feel like posting snippets for you to read ;D

-Speaking of marriage, it’s our first wedding anniversary on the 21st, and I have NO IDEA what to get him/do for the event. He told me he’s writing a poem for me, which is like the sweetest thing in the WORLD because he is totally a blocked a writer and claims he hates to write. Anyway, as it is we’re spending that weekend in Pittsburgh because it’s also my brother’s birthday that day and we usurped it last year when he turned 30 (and we got married). It’s the paper anniversary, too, so I want to find something within that scope… I’ll figure it out. Hopefully.

-We’re planning a trip to the West Coast! I think we might just take a whole week off, because we want to visit Jared’s grandfather in Las Vegas, and my brother in San Diego, and if it’s possible meet up with my friend Heather who lives in Camarillo, at some point. We’re looking at mid-October, probably before or after Columbus Day weekend. I’m excited, it’s my first time out there aside from the week I spent in Arizona a few years ago. Travel, hooray!

Everything is exciting. I love this time of year. I love this time of life! Everyone who says on your 21st birthday “It’s all downhill from here!” is full of shit, because my life has only gotten better and better and better, pretty much every year since then. 21 was a terrible year for me. It was the end of a long run of terrible years. And here I am now, 26, and good riddance to all those terrible years I say, because life is awesome, and only gets awesomer.

Yes, that’s a word. Because I said so.

Wake Up.

“When you wake up, you wake up the world.” – Corey Tevan (a muse in Rockport, MA)

 

This past weekend my friends and I went on our fifth annual trip to Salem/Gloucester/Rockport, MA. As per usual, it was an empowering, inspiring, and subtly life-altering experience.

In Rockport, there is a man with an art gallery we visit every year, and more than the soft, dreamlike works of art we go for the conversation. Corey Tevan, the artist, plucks unspoken thoughts from our heads and presents them to us in ways more perfect than we have thought before. The quote above is from this past weekend. It… well, it’s changed me, and changed how I’m seeing the world.

You’ve got to look beyond the obvious meaning to an artist to get how deeply it affected my world-view. I think you can do that. Do you see that part where it hints at dreams without mentioning them? Where it suggests that our awareness is so much more than “reality?”

Another thing also happens when we go to Massachusetts. I come back burning with the desire to write more of my Lotus Children books. It’s a series of books I began when I was younger, and reinvented over and over until I had a solid outline for the 6-to-7 book series. My pride and joy. My Books. Of which all drafts have been lost, save for a single paper draft of the first book in the series, thanks to a hard drive crash a few years ago.

The problem has always been that I loved these books too much, and I was too self-aware, realizing that I was not ready to write them yet, that I was about to become so much better as a writer that it would be a waste to write them when I was younger. But now, I’ve got several good novels under my belt (some lost, one published, one coming out in a few months), and my heart continues to turn back to My Books. I know I’m ready now.

But there are two more books in the series I’m currently working on that have to be written. And in the meantime, I’ve got a full time job that is wrecking my life with long hours, we just bought a house, and the time to write just seems to be so little lately that it’s utterly demoralizing.

But I want to write my stories. More than anything.

So I decided this morning, I’m not playing by the rules anymore. I can’t get into the details here, but my job has some vague policies that have been ruining my life, preventing me from doing simple things like buy groceries and do laundry and get enough sleep, and I’m not going to let it happen any more. I want to write. I want to have clean clothes. I want to write more. I want to pack so we can move. And more importantly, I want to write. So I decided, I’m not working more than my usual schedule. I’m not salary, so they aren’t hurt by it.

And then I saw this post by Shawn Hutchinson, author of The Deathday Letter.

And I can’t help but feel like stumbling upon this post is just the universe’s way of saying yes to all my powerful, wild desires to tell these stories now. But how?

There was another thing Corey said over the weekend, something that came up in my Tarot card reading as well (it’s an annual tradition also): that our greatest challenges in life often hold within them the potential to become our greatest gifts. I know what my challenges have been since I was young: discipline, and time management.

I have a plan. A few months from now, I have a plan for going back to part time, so I have more time to write and market and be an indy author. But before that, my plan for right now, is to conquer those challenges before I have even more time to write. Because if I can do that, just imagine how much more productive I will be when the time is actually there…

There is always time, always scraps somewhere that can add up to quite a lot. Morning seems busy, but what if I got to bed a little bit earlier, woke up a little bit earlier, and made sure I wrote 500 words before I went to work even (since it is my topmost priority)? What if I brought my laptop to work so that I could write immediately after, before the 25 minute drive home that leaves me sleepy and officially DONE for the day?

There are solutions, especially while the days are still long. And now, more than ever, I feel that I’m able to find them, and face these long-standing personal challenges and turn them into my strengths.

And… I’m really kind of excited about that.