Monthly Archives: October 2011

On Being Awesome

(This isn’t necessarily about writing and publishing, but I think it’s relevant on this blog, and to anyone going after their dreams.)

The word “awesome” is something that has been thrown around haphazardly but consistently for the last fifty years or so. That new band you discovered? Awesome. That sandwich you had for lunch? Awesome. That dog that barks “BATMAN”?  Awesome. The feeling you got while watching a meteor shower streaking across the heavens? Actually, that’s kind of what awesome was originally reserved for.

I’m not going to even touch the subject of whether or not we’ve watered down the original meaning of the word, or whether or not we throw it around too frequently, because it is what it is. And guess what? Awesome people don’t bitch about dumb shit.

And no, I’m not saying the evolution of language isn’t important (I think it’s fascinating, actually!). What I’m saying is, we pick our battles. We pick our concerns. And the only thing an awesome person is really concerned about is… well, not much. Have you ever met someone who was worried and anxious and a little neurotic and thought, “Man, that guy/gal is awesome“? That is because awesomeness, like the word “awesome,” is fluid. And that is something you don’t often hear about in the ubiquitous “how to be awesome” blog posts all over the interwebs these days. But this is the truth:

You will never be or feel like you are awesome all the time,  and you will never meet someone else who is or feels like they are awesome all the time.

You will meet plently of people, or hear about plenty of people, or maybe even be one of those people who you think are pretty fucking awesome. And maybe those people even feel pretty fucking awesome most of the time. But you know what? They will have their less-than-awesome days. They might face the world with their same “yes I’m awesome” demeanor, but on those less-than-awesome days they will feel pretty fucking shitty.

But that’s okay. We all have those days–sometimes weeks–maybe even months or years. No one expects you to be awesome all the time. And besides, without the lows we wouldn’t know what high is. Those terrifying slips that send us back down the mountain serve to train us–they give us the strength to climb to those soaring heights we enjoy so much.

And when we find ourselves slipping, we’re reminded that to stay at the top–that place where we feel and we know how awesome we really are–we need more than just strength and determination. We need balance, and faith, and we need to not fear slipping again.

Because you will slip, again and again. There is just no avoiding it. But when you stop fearing it, you’ll find you can catch yourself quicker, before you fall too far from the top of your mountain. When you begin to wobble, you’ll learn to look for things to ground you instead of turning around to stare down the dizzying drop.

When you stop being afraid of falling, then you will have mastered one of the biggest tricks to longer, more thrilling, more awesome stretches at the top.

I’m working on that. How about you?

Things Never Said

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.  ~Meister Eckhart

I was inspired by a post on twitter that my friend Sarah Diemer made about writing to her old college professor, the one who helped her to believe in her writing. It reminded me of the people in my life that I have wanted to thank for a long time, who always believed in my writing even when I couldn’t find a way to believe in it myself.

Two of those people are dead, unfortunately: my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Gauger, and my paternal grandmother, Florence (to whom The Poppet and the Lune is dedicated). My grandmother always knew I’d be a great, best selling, prolific author someday (I’m being patient), and I didn’t get to thank her for her confidence in me before she died. But I loved her and would miss her for so much more than just being my cheerleader. And besides, I like to think that she hears my gratitude now even better than before.

For a long time after I got over my massive creative block (after high school), I wanted to write Mrs. Gauger a letter, but I hesitated. She had retired the year after I’d been in her class, so we weren’t able to stay in touch. And, to be perfectly honest, I have a lot of awful memories associated with my middle school and high school (a lot of it contributed to that massive creative block mentioned earlier) so I never wanted to contact them. I would occasionally Google her name, or look in the phone book, but that never yielded anything useful. I sat on it for a while, every now and then feeling really bad about not being able to contact her. Then, finally, I just wrote the letter.

It was short and sweet and honest, and everything I wanted to say just poured out onto the page. I hand wrote it. Who hand writes letters anymore? I thought she’d appreciate it, since she taught me how to write in cursive (I know, fifth grade is late for that apparently, or so I’ve been told). I talked about how she had taught me to appreciate good stories, to explore genres, and to believe in my love of telling stories, and my talent for it. (She was so impressed with a short story I wrote back then that she read it to all of her other classes, and actually called my parents to tell them what an excellent writer I was ;-;)

Fueled by my overwhelming gratitude, I finally mustered the courage to call my old middle school and ask them what I could do to contact her. They said they had her last known address, but they couldn’t give it to me. They could, however, mail the letter for me if I dropped it off in a stamped envelope.

So I did that. I went back to the school, went into the main office, was startled by the faces that seemed completely unchanged from when I was fourteen years old, and handed my letter to the receptionist who was expecting me.

A week later I got a phone call from the school. They were unable to deliver the letter for me, because unfortunately, Mrs. Gauger had passed away six years prior. “Would you like to come by for your letter, or should we recycle it?” she asked me. “No,” I replied after a moment. “Yes. Please recycle it.” I felt that, if the words were just out there in the world, they had a better chance of reaching her.

I have to admit I was a little heartbroken. The part of me that lives in stories imagined a lovely correspondence unfolding between us, getting to know each other better, me now as an adult, she now as a friend instead of a teacher. Now, not only would that never happen, but I would always carry this feeling of unfinished business between us. I don’t think she knew she was my favorite teacher of all time, that without her I may have always wanted to write, but I might have never really believed I was any good (teachers don’t have to tell you nice things about your writing, unlike friends and family, and it is an early writer’s natural inclination to mistrust all compliments).

I’ve come to terms with it, now. I do believe she knows how much I loved and appreciated her in life, but still. It makes me realize how important it is to tell the people in your lives what they mean to you, even though a lot of times that can be an awkward, blush-inducing experience.

Who are the people in your life that you want to thank? Who has encouraged or inspired you to become the person you are? Let them know. And if you can’t because you’re too shy or you don’t know where they are now, just write them a letter anyway. You might be inspired to find a way to send it. You might be inspired to tell the people who support you every day how much they mean to you. Don’t be afraid to tell the world you are grateful.

Re-start

 So you may have noticed a change in the name and layout of the blog. I decided to get back to the roots and original point of it: this blog is supposed to capture my journey as an author, the ups and downs, the lessons learned, the way my life changes and re-forms as I pursue a career in publishing.

I mentioned a while back that I might not be updating here very often any more, but I think that if I go back to these roots–and my own personal roots–it isn’t so. I want to capture this journey, the highs and the lows. I haven’t been faithful to that desire, because I have worried about the face I present to the public at large (if I admit I don’ t know what I’m doing, won’t people think I’m stupid? etc.). But I remembered, recently, “all the f**ks I do not give,” to quote a currently popular meme. So getting back to basics here, I kind of want to re-start–to reintroduce myself and where I’m at in all of this.

So: my name is Madeline. I’ve been a storyteller forever, and a writer since I was old enough to hold a crayon. I’ve been writing novels since I was 11, and trying to get novels published since I was 20. This past winter, I finally decided to take back the reigns of my writing career and stop waiting around for other people to approve of the marketability of my work. Using all that the internet and my experience and education had to offer me, I self published my novel The Poppet and the Lune, an original fairytale about a patchwork girl and a boy who cried wolf. It has magic and adventure and danger and love, and all the good things a fairytale should have.

I haven’t been “successful” as a self published author in the way you may look for evidence of success. I haven’t broken the top 10,000 on Amazon in any category, on any list. Most people have no idea my book exists, because marketing for me has been a great challenge (I work full time and have little to no access to the internet/social networking during that time, except on good days when the boss is gone and phone reception exists). But, of the few hundred people who I have reached, not a single one has given me a bad review.

In fact, all of my reviews have been quite glowing. Pretty flattering, actually.

I sell a small average of books every month, but that’s okay. I’m working on the marketing side, and hoping it picks up steam. But in the meantime, I’m also trying to put out more content. Still, I’m a slow writer–I’ve come to accept that I probably can’t write, edit, revise, and publish a whole novel in under a year, especially given the fact that my novels tend to be between 80,000-150,000 words.

I have not given up on traditional publishing. However, I have raised my standards about what I’ll accept when the opportunity comes around. When I’m done with my current WIP I’ll be submitting it to the agents that I like best after some thorough research. If they decline, then I’ll self publish it. Simple. I’m not in this for fame and glory and money, even though I would like to make a living from telling stories. I do not write to make my stories sell the most, or appeal to the largest audience. I write because I love it, and because I’m driven to write, and because if I don’t I fall apart inside and out.

Personal things I know I need to work on:

  • consistent content (here, tumblr, etc.)
  • marketing without shame
  • creativity in marketing

Current published work:

 

So that is me, and where I’m at as an author and in my publishing career. Nice to meet you!

I’m looking forward to this new blog beginning ;)

Countdown(s)

We’re over halfway through October now, and do you know what that means? We have less than half a month until National Novel Writing Month!

I’ve not only participated in NaNoWriMo for the past eight years, but this is also going to be my fifth year acting as a municipal liaison for my area. Each year my co-ML and I put together a scheme for the month, including parties, write-ins, pep-talks, etc. We’re glorified event planners, basically. Or maybe not so glorified?

Anyway, NaNoWriMo is a bit of a controversial event for a lot of writers: some think it’s a huge waste of time, and others think it’s awesome. No one is right or wrong. NaNo is great for some and not for others. So let’s move on.

What I love about NaNoWriMo is that it is a huge reminder about a why I write. I don’t write because I want to sell millions of books, or a manuscript to Simon and Schuster, or because I want to be the next [INSERT FAMOUS AUTHOR NAME], or because I expect perfection to flow from my pen. I write because I love/have to. Because it’s fun. Because I have many stories to tell.

And when I’m writing, I should not expect my first draft to be anywhere near perfect. And I should write every day. And I should stop listening to the inner editor, and listen to the creative voice inside who, when I ask “But what is the POINT of this scene with the lobster cage?” responds with “Who cares? Just do it!” (Because that actually happened to me once, and yes that lobster cage became integral to the plot.)

Post NaNoWriMo also helps me remember that sometimes we must kill our darlings. Sometimes we must write only for fun, and sometimes we must cut those scenes, no matter how tragic or moving or beautiful, because they just do not serve the story.

Anyway, moving on, again.

The other countdown indicated above is to the Backspace Writers Conference in NYC! It’s on November 3rd and 4th, and I am going! My first writers conference ever. It’s a no-pitch conference where we work in small groups with two agents in the morning on our query letters, and a different two in the afternoon on the first two pages of our manuscript. There’s also a few panels with editors and other agents, and an evening YA query letter worksop.

So, I’m excited about that. Also, my fabulous friend and editor is finishing up her edits on THE HIEROPHANT, which is the manuscript I’ll be bringing to the conference. I’m so excited to see what she’s done to it–my best friend/her wife has hinted that the changes are GOOD. XD

And that’s the writing-related news from my world!

(In non-writing-related news, my best friend from high school got engaged on last week, AND my older brother just got a job in LONDON–AND IS GETTING MARRIED to his girlfriend–who I <3–who is going with him to a different law firm! *throws confetti*)

Okay! Back to work. :)