I’m talking to you, New Zealand.
That’s me holding 2013* at a picnic table in a park adjacent to a beach on a harbor nestled between mountains.
There is no New Zealand without zeal! (and prepositions!)
Six months in, I finally feel settled, and I love it. LOVE IT, as in I would not be returning to the States if staying in NZ were an option. We found an amazing school for 2008. I spent the dwindling days of summer with 2008, 2010, and 2013 at the beach, and spring is beckoning us back to the beach already.
I have a lot to say about New Zealand (and it features prominently in my newest manuscript!**)
For now: hello!
*Oh yeah, 2013 is cute. She keeps me up nights, but she’s sweet, so we’re keeping her.
**Yup, finished the first YA manuscript, too. Well, the first public draft. It’s in the hands of my early readers, and the next YA manuscript is underway.
Remember how I’m having a baby in February? To make things extra special, we’ve decided to move to New Zealand. . .in January.
When 1977 was young, he spent two years living abroad, and we’re thrilled at this opportunity. I am especially excited about our destination, because for years I have wanted to visit New Zealand.
And now we’re going. . .for years!
Don’t panic; there’s a spreadsheet, and it already includes 150 items. Things to buy, things to sell, things to give away, things to do!
(Almost) needless to say, I won’t be blogging for a while. Perhaps I’ll blog from New Zealand. But, you know, don’t hold your breath. There will be a newborn and two other children and schools and beaches and mountains!
I imagine any writing time will be dedicated to the actual manuscript, but we’ll see.
This is merely a sabbatical. If I don’t blog from NZ, expect me to be back in autumn 2014.
Everyone I know (and quite a few people I don’t) are asking questions about the querying process.
Querying is like pulling teeth: You have to do one at a time, every one is painful (Did I cite the right reasons for querying this agent? How was my wording? Is it really time to hit send?) and the pain lingers long after the query gone.
I think you should know about that pain, but here’s another metaphor.
Querying is like the world’s most difficult dating scene. Unlike a job interview, where a company must fill a position within a short period of time, agents can choose to hire or not. I don’t have to be the best candidate, I have to light a spark, and make them want my work when they don’t necessarily have to take on new work at all.
While I’m not dating a slew of agents, I am trying to get a date with many of them--a finite number, as it turns out. Our interests must match. She--for most often I am querying women--must be taking on new clients. My writing must appeal. And even then, we will have to connect on a more personal level, one where we decide whether we’re a good match to embark on this professional journey together.
Sometimes, my query goes on a blind date and the agent doesn’t respond. Ever. (Yes, the query is sometimes insecure.) And sometimes I get a second date--a request for a partial manuscript or more. Then things get exciting. Someone is holding my manuscript in her hands. Or, more likely, on her eReader.
And she is wondering whether she wants to marry me. For rewrites and typos, for bestsellers and bombs, in ebooks and in print, until retirement does us part.
I always hated dating. Querying is worse, and the spreadsheet is much larger, but the payoff could be (almost) as great.
I’m reading more than usual and researching unfamiliar authors (Hi, agents!) It’s quite an exercise, actually. Years ago I might have spent hours perusing the library shelves before toting home an armload of books in my genre, reminiscent of my writerly voice and in the same thematic vein as the manuscript I’m sending to a targeted list of agents.
Not today. I can easily find time to write, but finding time alone during library hours is nearly out of the question. I’m doing the full-court press thing here, so I ran to the library, excel spreadsheet in hand, and checked out everything on it.
In 55 minutes I checked out 49 books. This was particularly difficult given the lack of reusable bags in the car. (Thanks, 1977!)
It took three trips to haul them to the trunk, and now I’m reading.
Now, I am not yet an author, but I do consider myself a full-fledged writer. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. But can I judge another author? (Hint: I’m about to.)
These authors are CRAZY. The last four books I’ve read have included chapter titles. It took me months to paste a title on my manuscript, and some authors are crazy enough to find the (often perfect) title for each chapter? In a book of three dozen chapters?
Crazy or brilliant? I cannot decide. Either way, my hat’s off to them.
(Full-court press aside, this querying process has brought several brilliant new authors to my shelves. Om, nom, nom.)
A woman who read my last manuscript said, “I had no idea you were an artist!” Over my vociferous objections, she reiterated, “You’re an artist.”
I am not an artist.
I am a writer. In my world, an artist paints or sculpts or creates beauty with his hands. Writing is a skill--perhaps a talent--but not an art. Not for me.
I can spin a tale and turn a phrase. At times I’m witty or hilarious (note: rare on the hilarity) I have a LOT to say and several manuscripts in the queue waiting to speak. Yes, I have thousands of notes, dozens of plot outlines and spreadsheets bulging with details, but I can’t really make art.
Last week, 2008 had many questions about the uterus. Here is what I drew:
On the left is a child’s body with a uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. On the right is a woman’s body (see the hips?) with a tiny baby that will grow and grow. Obviously the picture is not to scale.
I swear to you, that was my best effort. As I said: not an artist. I will stick to words.
Make time now or make time later; you still have to do it.
No one has enough time. No one. About two years ago, when 2010 was born and I realized my free time was virtually nil, I took stock of my life and the many requirements of being an adult.
I started consistently making time for writing, because that’s what I wanted to do. Most of my time belongs to family, but I still make time for writing every day.
My house is perpetually cluttered (clean, yes, but cluttered with toys and kidstuff) because I choose to write during nap time instead of tidying the toys.
My back yard resembles a jungle. If I can be outside, I’m playing with my children or teaching them to garden.
I go to the salon when Brandi-not-her-real-name can fit me in at the last minute.
So, I make time for the important things, and figure everything else will fall in line, or it won’t. I’m not sure how this happened. In my 20s, I thought I was a superwoman with infinite energy and impeccable time management who could conquer the world in a weekend. Now, I am a mother, and I am a writer. I can’t make any more time to wear a cape.
Your dreams will become your reality, in odd ways.
Until my early twenties, I dreamed of becoming a politician--a big one. I would be Governor of Ohio, or a U.S Senator or perhaps an ambassador to an exotic locale.
After years of government work jaded me beyond interest in politics, I am exploring the presidency through writing. I wish I could poll everyone here: what do you want in a President? What traits should forever prohibit someone from earning the office? How can we preserve the integrity of the office while maintaining the coveted title of Most Powerful in the World?
I love exploring this. Once again, my worlds collide.
Not only did our family’s relaxing summer begin this week, but other awesome stuff is happening--and it’s only Wednesday!
A friend offered me her copy of Jessica Khoury’s debut novel, Origin, which isn’t due out until early September. Yes, please! I’ll report back.
McSweeney’s ran a funny article, Jamie and Jeff’s Birth Plan, which will sing to anyone who’s ever expected a natural birth (or who knows anyone who’s ever expected a natural birth):http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/jamie-and-jeffs-birth-plan
Folks at Harvard identified an anti-aging protein in mice that might have similar effects on humans:http://www.livescience.com/18593-anti-aging-protein-extends-life-span.html
I missed that the first time around, and with good reason. I’m not sure anti-aging appeals. I wear my grey hair proudly and yes, those were my knees popping.
The gymnastics Olympic trials begin tomorrow, which excites our house to (almost) no end. This week, 2008 has declared that she will be a gymnasticker [sic] when she grows up.
We’re finally easing back into our normal family routines, and everyone is sleeping. (This is rare in my house. Cross your fingers that the trend continues.)
Inspiration struck again, and I am off and writing. I couldn’t be happier.
You needn’t worry about your writing.
Now back from our mammoth vacation, I realize I shouldn’t have worried about writing. I’ve mentioned before that I freak out without time to write. Turns out, if I’m solo parenting on a really long road trip, and if I’m sleeping with the kids every night, and if lots of other kids and their moms are involved, I’ll be too tired to write.
That’s a new one for me. I was too tired to WORRY about not writing. And I returned with lots of new ideas. Who knew?
*Fortune Cookies are migrating to Friday, because Fortune Cookie Friday sounds better.
I am experiencing anxiety over our annual road trip. The second leg of the trip comprises ten days with my oldest friend and our (five!) children. My husband will be home in Illinois, and I fear that solo parenting as a houseguest won’t leave much time for writing.
I write every day. Every day. In his memoir, On Writing, Stephen King admits that he has lied to fans for years: He doesn't take off on Christmas, birthdays or Fourth of July. He writes every day. I'm like that.
Writing, for me, is as important as water or food or air: I need it. If I try to skip a day (for vacation or a child's birthday or, yes, Christmas,) I get a little twitchy. If the stars have not aligned, or if I spend the baby’s nap on Reddit instead of writing, I freak out.
Hours past my bedtime, I will sit on the sofa penning at least 1000 new words before I can go to bed. [I'm not a slacker; a thousand words is my bare minimum. 2500 while editing. 9000 on final edits.]
That won’t work out for me on vacation, because once our children are in bed, my friend will be right there with wine. And 11 months of stories to share. By the time we’re done talking, I’ll need to hit the sack. When my children wake up at 5 a.m., as they surely will, it’s on me.
So, yes, a little panicked over here.
I blog rarely, because I'm busy writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: