Monthly Archives: August 2009

Summer is Over and School is Starting . . .

I have been in a black mood for days. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for it, except that I feel lost. I’m in between projects, and I’m still trying to summon the courage to send out those queries. My excuse is that I haven’t written the perfect query, not yet, but when I do . . .

I’m also waiting for a box of books and school materials to arrive via the big, brown jolly truck. There’s something exciting and even satisfying about a package, even if I know exactly what’s inside it.

I know; I know. I’m supposed to work on my new book while marketing the last. It’s not that I haven’t started a new book; I haven’t started marketing. After 11 pages into the new manuscript, I stopped working on it and thought about marketing Franklin’s Ladder. Why am I always so afraid? Why can’t I just do it?

Meanwhile, I’m reading Atonement and wishing I could write as well as Ian McEwan.

An hour and a half later, I’m adding that the New Mexico sky is capable of dissipating any feelings of frustration, black moods, etc. Throughout the first three days of this week, clouds and drizzly rain dominated the desert. On the fourth day, what felt like a coastal wind washed over the cactus and mesquite, and then, the sun and heat took control once again.

The sky, here, is enormous. The blue is so intense, and I can’t imagine any sky being as blue, though I haven’t traveled many places. The usual desert wind, dry and hot, is blowing my tomato plants and rippling the carrot tops, and the drooping sunflower heads are so heavy that they simply nod.

I love feeling the sun burn my skin, and I love to look up at the sky. A housewife’s (as well as a writer’s) life has cyclical phases of extreme busy-ness, and then it will slow to almost nothing except daily activities such as feeding children. I should learn to appreciate the laziness, rather than allowing it to aggravate me.

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Fantastically chiastic: otherwise known as the reversal of fantasy

I have no other words to describe my book but as a fantasy. Ultimately, though, all works of fiction are fantasy, and mine is the opposition to the genre. How could that be? Well, it is fiction, and dragons do crop up in the text, but they aren’t friendly by any means. Nobody rides them or talks with them by mind reading or otherwise, because wisdom is for those who mind their words and deride the body of obscure knowledge known as crypto-zoology.

And, in other chiasms:
To understand the master, you must first master standing under him.

Of course, I admit it that I haven’t arrived at the level of Dr. Johnson, who left lovely gems, such as:
“Your manuscript is both good and original;
but the part that is good is not original,
and the part that is original is not good.”

I’m willing to bet that editors and agents think the same about most manuscripts they view.

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Dissapointment and Desire

I had determined to put writing out of my mind this week. I had other things to do, and I’ve accomplished them–mostly. I now have 12 quarts of applesauce in my cupboard, and I’ve hemmed in my unruly garden by weeding and pulling up the stray carrots that had planted themselves, from last year’s seeds, in between my rows. I’ve cleaned my house. I’ve done the shopping and banking and cleaned out my in-box and paid the bills. And in the middle of it all, the letter arrived informing me that I was a winner in the SWW writing contest. I was elated!

And then, just as quickly, I was deflated. When I looked for more info on the contest website, I discovered that I was one of three winners in a category that had only three entries. Of course, the other categories had more competitors–the SWW contest has always had a fair amount of competition, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of thousands. Obviously, the number of entrants has gone down over the years, leaving me in the position of wishing I could feel satisfied about something–satisfied because of all my hard work. Instead, I find myself imagining that I’m third, the lowest of the low. I won’t actually find out until after the 19th of Sept., the day of the award ceremony, which would actually be worth attending if I thought I was a real winner–not simply a winner by default. Run with the money, I keep telling myself. Because only three people entered, I will automatically get a check, plus a free critique. In case you’re wondering, only winners get free critiques from the judges; everybody else has to pay for them.

So much has changed over the years in the SWW organization. Gone are the days of the critique-included-with-fee contest; gone are the days when the contest was associated with the yearly writers’ conference, and the judges were the agents and editors invited for pitching and hobnobbing in conference sessions. About eight years ago, I entered and won in a short story category (yes, there was actually competition, many more than three entrants, thank you very much), and I found myself sitting next to the editor for Harper’s magazine at the award ceremony. He had picked my story, you see. I sigh at the memory–I really thought my writing career was about to take off, back then. I wasn’t ready, though, and even I knew it, deep inside somewhere. That’s why, when the editor of Harper’s suggested maybe doing a serial based on my story, I didn’t pursue it, nor did I send in my book to the mystery editor whom I had a pitch session with. She asked for it, as all editors do, but I wasn’t ready, and it would have surely been rejected.

If I could only sit at the award ceremony with my judge this time around, I would fork up the cash and go. Honestly, I only entered because the judge happened to be the one agent that I would love to work with. I had only recently finished my book, and I had to rush through intense revisions on the first twenty pages just to send it in on time. Ha, ha ha! I laugh now. This is what happened: I’d given my book to a few test readers in its original form. All of them, when they read the revised beginning, said something akin to what was wrong with the original beginning and I liked it better before. So I reverted to the original and had my husband do some last-minute line editing. Oh, well–such are the predicaments of the writing life. I may have destroyed my chances with the coveted agent by sending in a wretched beginning, but we shall see. I do have her critique to look forward to.

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Writing in the Midst of Life, the Universe, and Everything

Yesterday, I decided to set my computer aside and not even look at it, not think of writing and editing and marketing for one blessed day. Instead, I went to church, napped, and had friends over for dinner. Admittedly, I attend church and invite friends over reguarly–usually, though, my mind is elsewhere, on what I need to edit, how I need to change my query letter, etc.

I haven’t thought too much about writing matters today, either. I took the children to the library, ran errands, paid bills, and made plans for the week. I have applesauce to make from a box of windfall apples; I have a wild garden to tend. My garden has a drip system, and I only use kitchen compost in it, so the weeds haven’t taken over–I haven’t even seen any wild mustard–I’ve beaten down the hollyhocks–and the bindweed has not crept up to my rows of vegetables and wrapped its insidious tendrils around my basil and parsley and carrots. Still, my garden is looking ragged from the weeds that have rooted themselves here and there in the rich, composted soil.

I suppose an unedited book is like an untended garden–full of weeds. I’ve edited my book until I want to cry from frustration, and I’ve finally let it go–that is, I’ve given it to a writer friend who is a fabulous editor. When he offered to edit it for me, the great clenched ball inside my abdomen released itself. I was beginning to think I would soon implode into a black hole–I’ve been feeling so compressed inside–a burnt-out star spinning itsef into nothingness. So, there you are–my writing life compared to a ragged garden and a blackhole. Wow, I must admit that my poetic side seems to have disappeared lately.

I have so many things to do, though–so many things. I’m going to teach myself and my children to play the piano, I’m going to start speaking to them in Spanish, and I’m going to teach my youngest girl to read, and . . .

The image above is of bindweed. Isn’t it lovely with its trailing tendrils and flowers that resemble morning glory? Don’t let it fool you; it snakes for miles underground and chokes the life out of a garden.

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The Necessity of Aloneness

I’ve finally done it. I’ve sent off my first query letter. It was a test of my bravery, and now we shall see. Soon, I’ll compile a list of agents and send out about 25 more queries, but I’ve conquered my fears and sent off the first.

And now I want a vacation. Don’t I deserve one? I have this great lonely feeling inside that’s telling me that I need to be alone. It’s a little ironic; I understand that. I can’t help what my nagging loneliness does to me. Then, of course, I can’t really help that I feel lonely when I’m surrounded by people all the time. I am, too: children, husband, parents, dogs, cat, friends.

I need a potted meat getaway. This is an impossibility right now due to economic factors, which I’m certain won’t surprise anyone. So I’ll dream–and plan. I’ll make a packing list for my trip.

-netbook
-full-sized keyboard
-1, no make that 2 bottles of Merlot
-3 cans Libby’s corned beef
-3 tart apples
-3 potatoes for baking
-1 container hummus
-1 package brown rice crackers (due to wheat allergy)
-1 box Earl Grey tea
-1 book of Yeats’s poetry in case I get stuck
The Rape of the Lock for inspiration
(must get back from friend who stole it)
-box of Emergen-C to prevent carpal tunnel
-cod liver oil (in caps) for same as above
-1 light jacket for walks in any weather
-sandals
-corduroy pants
-favorite t-shirt with image of Tejano acordionista
-toothbrush and tooth powder (aka baking soda)
-cold cream

It has occurred to me that I would like to be lonely on my potted meat getaway–at the loneliest place on earth–the Oregon coast. Why is it lonely there? It rains 64 in. a year. Can you imagine? I used to live there–though I grew up in Portland, where it rains over 40 in. a year. Despite what people say, it rains more often in Portland than in Seattle. It rains more in Portland than in London, Cardiff, or Dublin. The Oregon coast, Coos County specifically, is wetter by double than London.

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