Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hideous, Emotionally Exhausting, Completely Unavoidable

Anybody remember Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Day? Yeah. It's been like that lately. With slightly less whining and foot stomping, but also fewer understanding moms, absence of coddling moms being a hazard of growing up, getting a job and moving to California. 

I've been submitting queries for my co-written novel, though by submitting I mean I've been letting my co-author send out queries, get the rejections and then tell me about it. I tell you, it makes opening my email file an adventure in stomach tricks. Those aren't butterflies in there. More like agitated Green Horned Worms. 

And now it's my turn at the query wheel. My co-author took the first round of query only submissions. I'll handle the ones that want a query plus some random assortment of first pages, synopsis, blood sample/ability to spin straw into gold. So now I get to be the receiver/harbinger of email doom. 

Sometime in the coming month I have to get myself in gear to do it all over again for my own solo novel, Winter's Dawn. And if I'm really, really lucky and succeed as an author, I'll get to keep doing this periodically for the rest of my life. 

No wonder people fear success. Failure is faster and requires less effort. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why we journal

Those of you who know me might be surprised by the title of this post. Journaling, to me at least, connotes writing in the journal every day, logging your thoughts and daily life. I cannot bring myself to do that. I've tried and it just feels too self-absorbed, even for me. Not to mention boring. Life just isn't always exciting and I can't bring myself to record all the small doings of every day, even in the interest of future social historians.

Having said that, I am rarely without a notebook in my bag.  Somewhere on me at nearly all times are writing tools and a blank book, even when I'm carrying my laptop.  This is where I jot down everything from street addresses, to story ideas, to new recipes, to poems. I take notes at conferences in my journal and doodle in it. The journal becomes an archive not of my whole life, but of moments that merited being written down.

Yesterday, as I dug in the back of an upper cupboard looking for a glue gun, I found one of these previous journals. In a sentimental moment, I flipped through it. Perched on the top of a step ladder I found a poem, not too bad. Notes on Aemilia Lanyer, taken 2 years ago at the CCL. Advice on moving a plot forward from Faith Hunter. (Kill someone. Works every time.)

And the first draft of my grandfather's eulogy, written on the plane to his funeral. "He did so much of his grandfathering in the background that I have a thousand images of him, but no stories. Grampa coming up from the cellar with sawdust coating his green work pants. Grampa patting my shoulder with a hand like seasoned oak. Grampa carrying frozen rhubarb and homemade bread because he never, never came to our house empty handed.  Grampa working for hours with Dad on one ancient, beat up van after another. Grampa putting six heaping teaspoons of sugar in his tea.  Grampa telling me to clean my plate. Grampa devouring the sight of his grandchildren opening their Chrismas presents.  Grampa, was like the Vermont rock.  Permanent, immovable, solid. A fact. There was no arguing with, around, or through him. There was no changing him. There is no replacement for him."

The eulogy is sandwiched in between a scene from a YA novel I haven't decided to finish yet and a grocery list. And that's why I keep a stack of old journals tucked in the back of a cupboard, never to be thrown away. Others have picture albums. I have my journals.

What's in your journal? What makes you smile or shake your head or shed a tear as you flip through those old notebooks?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Green Eyed Monster or For anyone who has ever thought Why NOT me?

If you don't know the Dear Sugar column over at (one of my favorite literary blogs) you are missing out on something beautiful. Sugar writes an advice column, often dealing with literary matters, but that's like saying the Pope offers occasional theology tips. She's the one who coined the phrase, in response to another young writer, "write like a motherfucker." (I want that needlepointed on a sampler and hung in my office.)

This week's column is titled "We're All Savages Inside."  It's her response to a young writer who asks, essentially, how do I cope with my jealousy over other writers' success?  Her response is lyrical, compassionate and beautifully insightful. It's also a much needed kick in the pants to all of us who feel or have felt that way.

She tells the young writer to, in so many words, get over herself. But she does it so kindly, with so much good will that it doesn't sting. And she writes about why we write, and how money does and doesn't matter in the artist's life. So consider me to be grabbing you by the hand and dragging you along, shouting "You have GOT to go read this!"

Best Reference Book EVER!

Okay, possibly I exaggerate a touch. But really, what would you call The Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi? It lists everything from Erebor, the Lonely Mountain where Bilbo met Smaug, to Zanthodon, a prehistoric world miles beneath the earth. Entries go all the way back medieval sources - the oldest reference I've seen so far is from Geoffrey of Monmouth.

What's Not to love?