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Archive for May, 2012

House Keeping

Hello there!  We interrupt this blog to bring you a few announcements.

I’ve updated my News section (feel free to check and send it to all your New England friends!) but I wanted to let you know where you can find me this summer.   On June 30th I’ll be at one of my favorite farmers’ markets, which is in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. They have such great vendors that it is a pleasure to be hanging with them.

Then on July 19th, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be visiting the Preston Public Library as part of the Connecticut Authors Trail. My daughter read her very first library books here, and somewhere in the stacks is a book about a cat that we bought for the library with her name on it  because she read it so many times– I’m hoping the fabulous staff (who watched her take some of her very first steps) will help me dig it out so I can take a picture to show her.

In August, the beautiful Cromwell farmers’ market at Covenant Village has invited me back for a Q&A on writing. It’s a gorgeous spot, and I can’t imagine a better location to while away a summer afternoon.

And finally, on September 13, I’ll be at the Mohegan Sun for the final event of the Connecticut Author Trail.  I don’t usually gamble, but I’ll hit up the slots if you promise to come!  See you there?

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Last week, as I faced off against my ever cocky teenaged fencing opponent, it occurred to me: I was going to lose.

Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve been graced with this epiphany. I have never been the speediest turtle, nor the most coordinated.  Because I am old and crafty and gifted with decent stamina and taller than everybody under the age of 10 in class, I’ve been able to hold my own for the first few months.  But now, the little ones are improving and gunning for me.  The older teens, the ones who have the agility of Spiderman and the reflexes of Flash, have been killing me since day one.  And the middle group, the ones who make me work for my wins, are catching up.  Last week, I got skewered badly enough that my husband, who after seeing me kicked across the barn by my temperamental TB tends to be pretty blase about my daily injuries, actually noticed the bruise.

So, as I stood there staring across the blade of Mr. Teenaged Superhero, I realized I needed a new strategy, one which, even if I couldn’t win, would allow me not to lose. Preferably a strategy that did not involve being shish-kabobbed.   So no more mad dashes forward.  No more desperate attempts to land a hit. No more leaving my vulnerable side exposed as I charged across the floor.

And you know what?  It mostly kind of worked.  I emerged unscathed from my first match, and got hit only once during my second. (Granted, these were short practice sessions, not full-on matches, but I was pretty happy.) Of course, I didn’t score any points, and not getting hit sometimes involved throwing myself backward in a distinctly ungraceful way as opposed to the fluid footwork my instructor prefers, but hey, you can’t have everything.

Writing is a little bit like fencing a superhero.  It’s a business which, if we’re not careful, will stab us in the heart every time we let it.  We get a form rejection from our dream agent. The editor who bought our best friend’s book won’t even glance at ours. Our contract is for a miniscule amount, not the six-figure check we’d hoped for.  We sell a single book, not the three title series we’ve worked on for years.

If we see each setback as failure, there’s no reason to keep at it.  Instead, we need to change how we see the game.  The form rejection is a chance to hone our query until an agent can’t refuse us.  The editor who turns down our novel is telling us the writing’s just not ready and giving us a chance to improve. The small advance gives us room to grow. The single title takes the pressure off during the writing process.  If nothing else, we can focus on one chapter, one page, one sentence, on making those words as perfect as we can, one word at a time.

I don’t fence because I expect to be in the Olympics.  I do it because, even when I’m losing, it’s fun.  Or it’s supposed to be, anyhow.  It’s only when I lose sight of my goals, when I focus too much on winning, that it becomes unpleasant.  And, ironically, the more I try to win the more I leave myself open to mistakes.  So if I can just focus on enjoying the game, and on not losing, I come out ahead.  It’s the same with writing.

At the heart of things, writing is supposed to be enjoyable, and it’s far too easy to lose sight of that fact.

I’m a Penguins fan (the cartoon, not the hockey team).  And as Skipper says, “That’s not failure.  That’s redefined mission objectives.”

Happy writing.

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Apparently I need this t-shirt!

This was originally a snarky post to the driver who almost sent me into a ditch when I was out jogging this weekend, but cooler heads have prevailed. (Lady in the tan SUV, you can thank my husband. In the meantime, back away from the accelerator!)  While I calm down, I’m sending you over to Vaughn Roycroft’s blog (Did you know Roycroft means Royal Craftsman?  Neither did I, but he’s certainly well-named) for a post that compares house building to writing.

And when you get back, I am sending you right back out to buy Last Will, by Bryn Greenwood.  I have quietly stalked Bryn’s blog for years, and whenever she posts a bit of what she’s working on, I can’t get it out of my mind.  So when I had a chance to win this book, I couldn’t resist.  And I won!  And now I can’t put it down.  It’s quirky and odd and funny and not like anything else I’ve read lately. So go buy her book, darn it.  Particularly if you are a woman who drives a tan SUV.  Because lady, after what my husband made me pull off this blog, you owe me.

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Wild Things

When my babies were little, they loved Where The Wild Things Are.  On rainy days like today, we’d sometimes turn the living room into a forest, with topsy-turvy chairs and blankets to hide beneath, and stage our own Wild Rumpus.  Max was baaaad, they said, and delighted in his misbehavior, and in the fact that when he came home, some one loved him enough to have a dinner waiting that was still hot.  And included cake.

Rest in peace on this rainy Tuesday, Mr. Maurice Sendak. And I hope, when you get where you are going, there is a joyous wild rumpus, and that someone has remembered the cake.

 

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A writing board I am on is asking tough questions these days. Questions like ‘Why do you write?’ and ‘Will you stop writing if you don’t get published?’ (Usually the questions are more like ‘Does anybody want to meet for drinks on Friday?’ and ‘Who is hotter, James McAvoy or Daniel Craig?”) A few of the writers on the board have their work out on submission to agents and editors, so the questions have a renewed sense of urgency.

I write because I am an extremely internal person, and writing things down helps me to process them. It’s a way for me to work things out. I tend to have the self-awareness of a starfish, and oftentimes I don’t realize a problem is bothering me until it shows up on the page.  And then I’m all “Hey, I wrote about X today.  I wonder why that came up?” And my husband just shakes his head.

I write because I am a storyteller at heart, and I always have been. As a child, I told my sister sweeping sagas about a little girl who looked just like us but lived on the moon.  I tell those same stories to my children now. I kept journals for years, well before I’d earned a byline. And when I have been too busy or too tired to write or make up stories, I’ve retold classics like The Wizard of Oz, adding elaborate embellishments.

I would write and tell stories even if I was never published, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be.  But for me, writing a whole novel with the single goal of being published is off-putting.  It’s too big of a journey, with too large of a disappointment at the end if it doesn’t work out. I can only write the way I write, one page at a time, with the goal of a cohesive whole at the end.

Looking at publication directly is too blinding, like staring at the sun. I can only look at it with soft eyes, at the peripherals that surround it: Crafting a readable story with a viable plot and characters that hold my heart. If I do that, if my work is the best it can be, I’ve done everything I can do.  Anything else is beyond my control.

Why do you write?

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