Sunday, July 29, 2012

Crashing to earth

Wow, what a depressing title! What emo kid came up with that one? Yeesh...

So it's been almost a week since I finished my novel and blogged triumphantly about its completion. Songs were sung, feasts were had, accolades were proclaimed (by me, for me). I even kept the momentum going by immediately beginning my next project. I am already 27 Word pages into a brand new story. I sent my first novel off to a batch of amazing friends who agreed to test read for me and give suggestions. Now I just sit back and wait for revisions, right?

But then what?

Today I was supposed to be cleaning cleaning cleaning. My cousin is coming to stay for a week, and she would probably appreciate a spot to sleep and a clean bathroom. Instead, I found myself exploring the world of finding a literary agent. I have been told again and again how hard it is to become published. That I should consider self-publishing as an ebook, which is not out of the question. But I really want to try the old-fashioned route first. I have tried to remain optimistic, saying that if I don't try, then I definitely won't be published! Which is true. But...

This is freaking scary! Everything I read and research tells me over and over that getting published is a numbers game. Of course, if you do your research, find an agent that has worked in the genre, write a professional and clever query letter, your odds increase. But still, agents receive tens of thousands of query letters a year! How do I compete? And even if I get a partial manuscript request, there is no guarantee. And mostly it's a waiting game. Putting my dreams in someone else's hands. Giving them the ability to crush them.

Okay, getting dramatic here.

Here's the thing. I have been fairly successful in my life. I'm happy, in general, with how things have gone. I did well in school, got my master's degree. I'm working in a job I love (most days). I'm even trying my hand at teaching a college class starting in a month. I won't say any of those things came easily, because I have worked hard, but everything I've done up until this point was safe. Safe because I knew I could succeed. Safe because my ability to succeed was in my hands and no one else's. Safe because while I have enjoyed what I'm doing, nothing I've yet accomplished could necessarily be considered my "dream."

And now there's this writing thing. A dream I have held close to my heart for a long time. A dream that I procrastinated over and over for fear of failing. Writing, being published, being able to share my stories with scores of people, that is a Dream with a capital D. Something I have longed for since writing about Jenny the Tooth in third grade. The scariest part is that this Dream, this sacred thing that means the most, is the one thing that I am going to try that may realistically never come true.

Oh sure, I joke about being on the New York Times Bestseller list, and making my books into movies, but realistically things like that don't happen to just anybody. I'd like to think that my writing is good enough for that, but there are hundreds, probably thousands of others out there with just as much, or more, ability, all headed for the same goal.

I plan to continue to dream big. I hope that I can navigate these waters and deal with whatever rejection and difficulty comes my way. I know that I will be discouraged, and that's where you, my friends, come in. You don't need to tell me that I will definitely make it as a writer. I know that's not true, and unless you have developed phenomenal cosmic powers of future telling, you can't say that it's true either. All I need is support and encouragement. And maybe a friend to cry over ice cream with from time to time ;)

Laugh on, and keep dreaming!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What a novel idea

Three years ago, at 12 am, November 1, 2009, I wrote the first word of my novel. Tonight, at about 9:45 pm, July 24, 2012, I wrote the final word of the first draft. Yikes, that's a long process! I wrote 50,000 words in that first month as part of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Aspiring writers from all over the country band together to make the 50,000 word goal, which is a short novel or a pretty good start on a longer one.

So it took me 30 days to write the first 50,000 words. And almost 3 years to write the last 31,000. I have issues.

Writing is an interesting thing for me. I love it. I really do. I love coming up with just the right word to convey an idea. I love painting a picture, setting a scene. But I'm also a procrastinator. I can sit and think about my novel for hours, but when it comes to actually getting the words down, I stink.

I have always been a writer. When I was in 3rd grade, I won a writing contest for the state of Iowa for my story about a wayward, cognizant tooth named Jenny. I wish I had kept all my writings, because I can think of many short stories I've written that I'd like to revisit. This novel that I just finished wasn't even my first start on a novel. I have several starts, one pretty decent one.

I don't know why I can't seem to get things down. All those stories running around in my head. And as I got closer to finishing, it got even harder. Plus, I would spend time psychoanalyzing why it was so hard for me to sit down and finish my novel. Because the hardest part is yet to come. Letting people read it, revising, rewriting, and (gulp!) possibly trying to get published! Preparing for criticism and rejection after baring a very private part of myself.

I guess this is what strippers feel like.


Anyway, I am super excited about the prospect of being rejected by a bunch of publishers ;) Right now I have a good group of people test reading for me. Hopefully they'll be honest about whether it's even worthy of trying to be published. But no matter what happens, I'm pretty sure I can add "novelist" to my career list. As long as one person reads it, it counts.

Even if it's just my mom.

Laugh on :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: What it means to me

Now that the title of this blog has put some good background music in your head, let's talk a little bit (just a little bit, uh, just a little bit) about the lost art of showing respect.

I have one of those jobs where I go to work every day pretty much expecting to be disrespected. I mean, hello, I work with kids. Chances are, at some point throughout the day, they're going to be disrespectful. I accept it, because part of my job is teaching the kids how to be more respectful. I'm not even going to say it's all parents' fault that their kids don't know how to show respect either, because that would be generalizing, and kids learn a lot of it from their peers and society as well. Plus, they're kids. It's what they do. They're stubborn, obstinate, oppositional, and terrific.

What I can't get over sometimes is the parents that show little respect. Seriously. I shouldn't just expect that certain parents won't follow through. They should know better! Every day this summer I have wasted time sitting around in my office, waiting for people to show up for scheduled therapy sessions, twiddling my thumbs and wondering what I could have done differently to get people to come.Blaming myself for not being worthy of their respect. While I was on vacation, apparently one of my clients came in with their parent, not realizing that I wasn't there. The client had only shown up one time previously during the summer, and not for several weeks. Their comment? "She could have called to tell us she was going on vacation!"


Perhaps if they'd come to sessions in the couple of weeks before my vacation, or even done me the courtesy of calling me, I might have thought to call and let them know, as I did with all my regular clients. It seems to be on everyone else's agenda with so many people, not just my clients. We are so ego-centric that we forget that other people are actually people, with their own lives, own thoughts, own agendas.

This has been a pattern throughout history, but it seems like it's gotten worse with technology and the internet. We no longer need to be face to face with someone to spew vitriol in their direction. We don't need to deal with the aftereffects of what we say, because we can simply turn off the computer after completely shattering the self-esteem of someone half a world away. We go through our lives "interacting," with people, but not really as people. We treat others as if they are simply vessels to help us get to the next thing on our agenda. The store clerk who has been having a rough day is moving too slowly for us, and needs to be put in her place. The person driving slowly on the interstate because of car trouble slows us down, earning honking and vulgar gestures. The person honking and waving their middle finger at us on the road because they are terribly unhappy in their own life is the focus of sulfuric thoughts and potentially dangerous impulses.

I am guilty of many of these things, and have lately been making a concerted effort to truly interact with people, and to brighten their day if possible. Can you think of a time when someone took a genuine interest in you? When a complete stranger sincerely wished you a good day? How did you feel? Lighter? More peaceful? I know that's how it affects me.

It is exhausting, sometimes, to be the light instead of spreading darkness. When people who have mistreated me turn it around and try to play the victim, it is difficult for me to hold back from trying to shoot laser beams from my eyes at them. But instead, I must take a deep breath and interact with them with love and respect, even if I don't receive either of those things in return. I know I will make no progress fighting disrespect by giving it back, but there is a chance that if I turn on the charm and sweetness, people will be surprised into returning the gestures, and hopefully with enough practice it will become habit for them as well. Cross your fingers for me, friends, because it's certainly a bumpy ride!

Laugh on.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Last night I went on a road trip with my sister and brother in law to pick up my nieces from my brother's house. It was a spur of the moment decision to go and spend 3+ hours in the car just for the joy of spending an hour or two with my family. I hugged two month old, Brinn, spent most of the night with 4 year old Siri in my lap or my arms or hanging on me in some way, joked around with 6 (almost 7!) year old Lyle, and danced with 4 (almost 5!) year old Allie and 7 year old Maddy. Cutest kids in the world.

On the way home, my mind was occupied with little things. My nieces and nephew are always devising ways to marry me off, and talking about wanting more cousins. My brother in law had heard about this new dating site, Geek to Geek, and he and my sister were encouraging me to give it a shot, despite my less than stellar attitude towards online dating. So I went home, filled out the info, and looked through tons of profiles of guys that just weren't "quite right." I am extremely picky and unwilling to settle. Despairingly, I texted my sister that this was stupid and would never work, and she reminded me that I didn't have to find a bunch of guys, just one. I went to sleep praying for that one guy, or for continued peace in my single status.

I woke up to the horrific news of a shooting at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. A man dressed in riot gear came into the theater, threw tear gas, and started shooting about 30 minutes into the movie. At least 12-14 are reported dead already, and over 50 wounded, including a child as young as 6 years old. This is why I don't watch the news. Normally I can absorb terrible news like this, think about how sad it is, and move on with my day. Today I cannot. Waiting for a client this morning, I looked up some of the news stories, and I was actually grateful that the client did not show, since they would have found me in my office with tears streaming down my face. What kind of world do we live in where someone would even CONSIDER such an act of violence, let alone carry it out? This was clearly premediated, and took plenty of planning. At any point did this guy consider what this would mean for himself, his family, his victims, or the millions of others who are surely at the very least emotionally affected by this? And did he hope for that? Hope to go down in history as SOMETHING, even a villain?

I can't answer the why. I wish I could. I work with terrible situations daily, with people who make choices that don't seem to make sense. That won't turn out well for anyone involved. And I still have no answers. I have no insight. Just a sad, hollow pit in my stomach.

I keep thinking of the victims. Those who probably planned for months for this movie, who were SO EXCITED to finally be there. There is a unique atmosphere to midnight screenings of movies, almost addictive, a palpable excitement that stays with you. I'm sure there were also those who hadn't been sure of their decision, who were thinking of being so tired at work the next day, who came for their friends or simply for the experience, to say they had. So many different reasons to gather.

What now? Will those victims be able to attend a midnight showing again? Go to a movie theater at all? Watch that movie without reliving the horror? Some will, some will not. I wish I had the answers. I wish there was an easy answer to smooth things over, to take away the pain of such a senseless act.

Last night I was focused on two different things. One was family. I almost didn't go with to my brother's house. I almost decided that sitting at home in front of my computer, watching old episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark? was more important than precious moments with my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephew. I think I made the right choice to go. I created special memories. But this also puts some things in perspective. Why waste so much time thinking about what I DON'T have? Why spend time worrying about what life will be like if I never get married? It will be as wonderful as it is now. I am so blessed. It could all end tomorrow.

What are you focused on? Is it adding to your life, or just contributing to your habit of existing?

Life is too short.