Observations from my writing desk: Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Location: Cold, little sunroom with the electric heater turned on high; cat purring a little too loudly from atop of her cat castle (yes we have one; yes she loves it; yes it’s adorable); sitting on an IKEA chair in my work clothes, slippers and a bathrobe. Basically, the most luxurious conditions one could desire.

 

Hilarity = when firmly entrenched in an imaginary world of one’s own making (aka rewriting a chapter in the third draft of a novel in progress), my husband comes into the room and asks if I have a minute to talk. What were the topics of conversation, you ask? Oh, just the essentials: the tub drain was augered with all 20 feet of the auger, so it should finally drain despite the nests of hair that accumulate in the tub each time I shampoo my head; the carcinogenic rating of my organic, frou frou shaving cream; “healthy” shaving cream options to order and the discount one can achieve by purchasing them on a specific website; and the great price on a wine I’ve recently been partnering myself with. By partnering myself with it I mean I drink it in my cold, little sunroom while wearing a bathrobe over my work clothes, talking to my cat in her tower.

 

Life is good.

 

Also, just over a week until the Muse conference. I’m thrilled and anxious. I don’t mind that combo, though.

Observations from my writing desk: April 4th, 2017

Location:


Looking over my query letter and 20-page submission before clicking send. Felt like I should document the first time I query an agent.

It’s been slow progress on this book: I started it for NaNoWriMo 2012, worked on it for months, then let it simmer because I got married, moved, left my job, and started two new jobs. It simmered for a long time; I picked it up off and on while working on two other manuscripts and a series of short stories, but it was otherwise considered “shelved”. Inspired by recent global events, I felt I had more purpose in working on the book again, and a real urgency to, so I picked it up again for NaNoWriMo 2015 to do a major overhaul. The first completed NEW draft (which was very little like the previous) was finished on New Years Eve 2015/2016. I printed it, put it in a binder, and worked through the whole thing. Then I felt overwhelmed and stepped away again, working on other things. Then I picked it up again during NaNoWriMo 2016 (which is not the way to NaNo, as I understand it; I think working on the same thing for three rounds is not considered the goal of NaNo, but I wants what I wants). I made more major revisions, ones that I felt much, much stronger about, and continued working on the draft through the winter. I think the last draft was printed out over my February break, and I carried it around with me for a while, taking some time to let the dust settle before I ventured back in. More changes were made, but it’s amazing to watch it strengthen with each draft. It feels more and more like I’m finding the story that was always there. It’s exhilarating. It’s difficult. It makes me happier than any other pursuit.

So now I sit in that chair, my cat watching the rain out the window beside me, seagulls cawing in the air above the house, getting ready to click send.

Observations from my writing desk: April 3rd, 2017

Location: The corner of my couch, curled on top of the unfortunate crease between the chaise and the long side of the couch, covered in an old green blanket that once lived on my husband’s childhood twin sized bed.

Teacher life is tough. I don’t know if I’d recommend anyone take up the profession. At least, I wouldn’t recommend a person become an English teacher. The sheer weight of the bags I brought home, full of things to finish grading and things to enter in my gradebooks before grades close tomorrow at midnight, was enough to set of the seat belt alarm in my passenger seat.

It’s a good job. I’m lucky to have it. I love my students and the things we talk about. My coworkers are among the best I’ve ever had. But I forget what it’s like to have a Sunday or evening where I don’t have to do hours of work. Teacher burnout is real. It happened to me once before, and I’m determined not to let it happen again, but it’s hard.

Work has been so busy that I haven’t had much time to write, and I really, really need to write. Not just because of this impending deadline, but because I don’t feel quite myself if I’m not writing. It’s 9:11 as I write this, and I should be getting ready for bed, but instead I’m determined to get some writing done. I sleep better afterward. What’s with that? My brother is a musician, and he feels similarly when he doesn’t have time to compose. Are creatives doomed to be dissatisfied?

I’m being a bit glum, and I apologize. The end of grading periods is the worst.

The good news is that the sun is staying up in the sky late each day, and it beams through the living room window at just the right hour between the time I get home from work and cook dinner. I love that time of day. The cat loves it too, which is what really matters.

Observations from my writing desk: February 12, 2017

Location: In front of the big window in my living room, sitting in a green leather, studded wooden chair, my back supported by a pillow that looks just like my cat, with my feet propped up on the lower level of a 5-foot cat condo.

Hello again, my twice-yearly visited blog. You have been resuscitated because I have a deadline: In May, I’m attending a three-day writer’s conference, and during the event I will meet with an agent who will have reviewed the first 20 pages of my novel. This is important because I love deadlines; I cannot function without them. With no accountability, I will transform into a slug: naked, slimy, and doomed to be annihilated by excessive salt. Pretty picture, huh?

Luckily, I have this deadline, which means I will absolutely, positively, without any sliver of doubt complete a comprehensive draft of this book. I’m already on draft #49567, but the current draft resembles only about .04% of its first incarnation. Amazing how that happens. And as I complete the final chapter of this draft, I’ve already begun researching and taking notes on what changes I’ll make to the next draft. I also have to do my full time, paid job when not working on my flights of fancy. But the two cannot exist without each other at this point in my life.

This meeting with an agent does not guarantee anything but useful feedback, and that’s what I desperately need. Should I continue with this book? Should I make some major changes? Is it ready to be shipped off to agents for consideration? Should I bury it in my parent’s backyard will all of the fish I had growing up? (RIP.)

Not to mention the many workshops and lectures I’ll be able to attend that weekend. I can’t wait. It feels good to keep moving forward, to keep feeling like I’m getting closer to one of my biggest goals in life.

Life goals for me are basically the following:

  • Help and love my family
  • Be healthy
  • Write that book. Love it no matter what happens.

 

 

Observations from my writing desk: 4/19/16

Location: New couch in living room, wedged between a number of pillows who didn’t ask for this and crowded with this week’s dog-sitting clients: two Yorkshire terriers and a wiry haired, sweetie pie mutt from Puerto Rico.

Instead of continuing on with the draft of my second novel (another malformed Work-in-Progress), I’m going to write something in here. On here. Under here? Through here.

I’m on spring break, which means I sleep a little later than my usual 5:30AM wake up time (#teacherlife), and spend the morning watching cooking shows and thinking about everything else I could be/should be doing. I don’t know if this happens to other teachers, but when given extended time off, I find that the sudden release from endless to-do lists, with no responsibilities clouding my vision today or even tomorrow, causes me to regress to the state of the prehistoric millipede, recently slithered up onto land for the first time from the swamp and trying to figure out what the hell to do with itself. What happens to an overtaxed mind when it isn’t called upon to be used? Cooking shows. Endless cooking shows.

Like the ancient millipedes that earned the honor of being the first life forms to crawl elbows-first onto land, watching cooking shows turned out to be quite a fortuitous journey for me as well. It reintroduced me to the person I equally love and fear the most–Martha Stewart.

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I love Martha. And I fear her. I don’t know when it began, but something about her perfectly enunciated words and her unabashed love for all that is rich and decadent has made her a figure of aspiration for me. To be specific, one of my long-held life goals is to one day be invited to her home in Maine for a weekend getaway, complete with an itinerary that begins with a vigorous 6AM hike fueled by homemade granola bars, and followed by fresh egg omelets from a variety of chickens clucking around the expansive porch, as well as (I hope) Bloody Marys made with tomatoes from her garden. Why do I want this? I don’t know–because every kid needs a dream? But I know that she’ll never invite me as I am today. I need to accomplish more, to complete my goals as she has completed hers. I need to have some more work under my belt.

Martha taught me that in order to succeed,

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Thanks, Martha. ❤

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Observations from my writing desk: December 28, 2015

Location: The saggy but well-traveled couch in my living room, currently shared with a three-legged Siamese cat from Arkansas and a goldendoodle who lunges instead of walks and enjoys burping in human’s faces while making uncomfortably close eye contact with them.

 

Time and time again, I’ve been encouraged to “develop my writer’s platform” by creating and maintaining a blog & Twitter.

Time and time again, I’ve tried to get this thing going, but then I feel like a narcissist and abandon the whole thing. What do I write about in this thing? Who even cares? Shouldn’t I be doing something more productive, like exercise?

But no, no, I shouldn’t be doing exercise. A lot has changed, once again, since I last wrote in here. The last 15 months has been the most productive writing period of my life, and I have a few quality short stories to show for it, one published, and one nearly-completed draft of a novel (plus another that’s been shelved, but I’ll get to that someday. maybe). This novel is one that I started three years ago then abandoned during one of my “everything is useless and I am nobody” phases, but I’ve been working hard to quell my nihilism and have produced quite a lot as a result.

So now this blog will take a different turn, especially since I can no longer use the subtitle “The ramblings of the unpublished” BECAUSE I’M PUBLISHED, SON. I’d rather focus on the process of finishing, revising, and submitting a finished novel to agents. I expected it to be a painful process, but also thrilling since I’ve never been this close to finishing something so big before. This feels bigger than my 13 years of public school, 4 years of college, 1 intensive year of graduate school, and all of my working years since. Even bigger than the dog sharing the couch with me, mounting my $50 Crate&Barrel pillow.

This week I’m on winter vacation from school, and this week I’m finishing a shitty first draft of a novel that I care very much about.