Posts Tagged ‘Arts’

Letters, Old Habits, and Lost Art

July 16, 2011 3 comments

“Please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise not to follow it.”               ~Edna St. Vincent Millay

 “A few weeks after the worst day, I started writing lots of letters. I don’t know why, but it was one of the only things that made my boots lighter.”
— Jonathan Safran Foer

My friend Andrea and I have started writing letters back and forth. I think the last time I had a pen pal was when I was seven. And, being seven, that didn’t last long.

I have Amy Brown stationary that I love, but never used. I’m using it. I even had to order more. Because some things should be said on pretty fairy paper in purple ink. Even if it’s reminiscing about passing notes in high school — or complaining about the story I have been working on.

I’ve written out cards before – brief notes. But letters? Not in a long time. This is fun, exciting, and really rather refreshing. Because it’s not instant. In this world of fast food, instant coffee (gross, but will do in a pinch), and minute rice – it’s NICE to have to wait for something.

It reminds me of something important: anticipation. How often do we lose that in today’s world, emailing instead of calling? Texting instead of talking? I wonder, honestly, how badly our communication skills will suffer. In fact, the other day I read about schools that will no longer teach cursive.

What…? *blinks* That’s crazy. As a person, you still need to WRITE things. You need to sign your name. Surely, cursive isn’t a lost art. In school, I hated learning cursive. I was TERRIBLE at it. I have the world’s worst handwriting short of an epileptic doctor. (Sorry, Andrea.) I couldn’t understand how to make my writing neat and flowery. I looked at my friends’ handwriting, and I felt like I was writing things out with a pen in my teeth. But I was always glad that I learned it. It was a rite of passage. I was a grown up (ha!). I could write in cursive!

Now, I know the truth. Well, truths. 1. I will never really be an adult. (Says the person who is frantically searching for My Little Ponies on tv.) and 2. I don’t want to be. (Growing up, completely, is for suckers! Cake for breakfast! Cake for all! Thank you for flying Church of England – Cake or Death?) and 3. I have grown too dependent on things like spellcheck and typing.

Halfway through my last letter to Andrea, my arm began to cramp up. There was pain, like an overused muscle. I realized, as I was trying to write the last paragraph, that I wasn’t used to writing that much at once. The letter was not extraordinarily long: a page, front and back. I should not be in pain from that.

I was appalled. It was a lot like being a marathon runner, only to come to find that running around the corner caused me to be winded. I was ashamed of myself, as someone who used to write entirely by hand. (Now, I only write poetry by hand. I can write that on the computer, but I like the feel of writing it out. In pencil. Only ever in pencil.)

I don’t want to lose the art of letter writing. Yes, I can write a damned good email. I will make you laugh. I will tell you that you’re being a twit. I will reassure you. But it’s SO much more fun to do that on fairy stationary, damn it, in purple ink. With PURPLE stamps. I also have fairy address labels, and I love them.

So, if I have your address – and you want a letter – let me know. It might take me a while (and I may have to ice my hand), but I will send you one. I will also apologize in advance for my ridiculous bad handwriting. (And Andrea, your letter goes in the mail today. It was ready yesterday, but I left it on the table when I went out. Drat it!)

What is a skill that you find less prevalent? What art forms do you miss?

The Dark Enquiry, Deanna Raybourn, and What An Author Needs

July 5, 2011 6 comments


I’m currently reading Deanna Raybourn‘s The Dark Enquiry, the latest book in her Julia Grey series (I still maintain that Silent in the Grave has one of the best opening lines, ever. Don’t believe me? CHECK IT OUT.). I’m attempting to read through the novel slowly, which is like giving me coffee one drop at a time. Sure, I’m enjoying it, but I have a tendency to want to gulp it down.

The book, of course, is divine. Raybourn writes with such wit and beauty. Even if you’ve never picked up a mystery novel, or a work of historical fiction, you’ll love her writing. It’s poetry and intrigue blended together with deft skill. (I’ve even got my mother hooked on her novels. We exchange books quite often, and she’s just going to have to wait to get her hands on TDE. My precioussssss. *ahem*)

On a serious note, though — first, congratulations to Deanna for becoming a NYT Bestseller. At the risk of sounding madly conceited, I knew it would happen. Because she’s just that good at writing. And no, that’s not me blowing sunshine up anyone’s existence. It’s fact.

Second, I was reading this interview a little while ago, and it is a good (fun) one. However, as a writer myself, I might’ve cheered out lout a bit (embarrassing? Yes. True? Also yes.) at this:

And my husband has been my biggest champion—whenever I moaned about the lack of money and said I needed to go and get a job his response was always, “You have a job. You’re a writer. You’re just not published yet.”

That made me happy. It also reminded me of Virginia Woolf and A Room of One’s Own, but the Woolf bit is ancillary. Having that kind of support is priceless. It can be damned tough to toil for years (with, I’m sure, people asking, “Why haven’t you published anything yet?” or “Why don’t you publish something?” as if things like that grow on trees or can be found at Wal-Mart) without being able to point to a bookshelf. Having folks around you (family, friends etc) to champion your art and hard work? It is invaluable. It is nice to see that kind of support, too (if you read the entire interview, you’ll see that it DOES take a village to raise a writer, which is great phrasing). I’d be remiss if I didn’t confess to wondering if Deanna’s husband has a single brother. What? You were thinking the same thing, admit it.

This is a lesson, folks. It takes TIME and hard work to learn a craft. It also takes a certain level of tenacity — of not giving up. Because, hell, if you give up writing — you are standing in your own way. Deanna Raybourn has mentioned, before, that it took her 14 years to get a publishing contract. That is dedication, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I admire that greatly.

So, again, Deanna — congrats! And to the rest of you, read her novels. You won’t be disappointed.

When You Judge, Just Wisely or Not at All

June 5, 2011 3 comments

Lately, I’ve seen a large influx of strange articles. Things written by journalists or people supposedly in the know. People who are (in my humble opinion) spouting strange ideas. I find myself increasingly annoyed, because it’s just another example of people fearing what they do not understand. Or what might not suit them. We all view the world through our own lens. It becomes dangerous, however, when we think that only OUR lens is the right one.

Let me explain. No, too much. Let me sum up. Grab some coffee. Go on. I’ll wait. (Pause.)

Okay, first there was the NY Times article about the television series Games of Thrones. The basic gist of the article was that women would only watch the show for the explicit sex scenes AND that it was merely “boy fiction.” Last time I checked, one did not walk into a bookstore or library and peruse the Boy Fiction section. Likewise, I never logged into to search for “Girl Fiction.” I like my books like I like my coffee (no, Eddie – not hot and with a spoon in it, although…): however I feel like drinking it. There are days where I’ll read Neruda’s poetry. Others where I’ll pick up a book by Stephen King. The next day I might reach for something by Holly Black or Neil Gaiman. The important thing is that you really can’t pigeonhole readers, no matter how much someone might WANT to. Harry Potter was, initially, meant for children, but how many adults do you know who read them? Chances are the answer is “a lot.” (Nota Bene: the author of the novels that Game of Thrones is based on comments on the whole debacle here. Interesting read.)

Next up we have Life Coach who claims that romance novels are as addictive as porn. Not crack, mind you – or cigarettes. PORN. Because nothing says “shock value” like religious person pointing a finger at pornography (the author is a LDS). The general premise is that reading romance novels will kill your marriage (if you’re in one), and if you’re not, WHY AREN’T YOU OUTSIDE TRYING TO CATCH A HUSBAND?!? Clearly, there is nothing worse than being single – and *gasp* READING. The author goes on to say that romance novels lead to impossible standards and crazy expectations. Because we women cannot distinguish fiction from reality. So, the next time a man smiles at you in the frozen foods aisle of the grocery store, it should be quite certain that he’s an FBI agent whose partner was just shot, and he’s on the lam until he can clear his name. Giving him a place to stay, surely, is the ONLY option you have.

…seriously? I cannot fathom why someone would assume that women cannot distinguish a romantic hero from real life people. Especially if the novel’s historical fiction. I’m certainly not going to read a romance book set in Camelot – and then decide that I’m Lady Guinevere. (Hint: that’s called psychosis.) Also, it is supremely offensive for the author to advise a romance reader to “[f]ind a hobby or other activity you could do instead of reading romantic books.” Reading IS my hobby. One of them, anyway. What would be an “appropriate” hobby, anyway? Shuffleboard? A sock-darning circle? Playing bridge? I don’t know. I don’t care. I’ll stick to my books, thank you very much.

Lastly, there is the Wall Street Journal article that rallies against contemporary fiction for teens, citing that it is all simply too dark. Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but the teen years are kind of difficult. It’s not all kittens, rainbows, and braiding each other’s hair. Life is not a Disney cartoon. Things happen. They aren’t always pretty. The idea is that there are realistic teen novels out there – novels that *might* be part of the fantasy genre, but still reflect real-life teenage issues (cutting, sexuality, fitting in, sexual abuse, difficult parents etc). Take Cassie Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series or Holly Black’s Tithe. Both novels skillfully tackle a lot of the aforementioned issues. The things teens face every day. Writing about those issues doesn’t make them more pervasive; it validates real life struggles. There’s nothing wrong with that. Consider, also, Speak – the often controversial book about a teenager who is raped. But WHY is the book controversial? Because it deals with an issue people would rather not face or acknowledge, which is twelve shades of wrong. That book gives a voice to something that’s often voiceless. That should be applauded.

What’s even more mind-boggling in that article is the apparent advocacy for book banning, making the comparison to “the parenting trade” labeling it “ ‘judgment’ or “taste.” Really? I don’t think so. For one thing, banning a book point-blank completely circumvents the idea of parenting. It takes AWAY a parent’s right to decide if his/her child should read a certain novel. Also, I’d agree with the idea of judgment, but not with the inclusion of “taste.” Taste indicates a certain preference; judgment isn’t about preference, but instead about appropriateness.

There are many more things about that article I’d like to talk about, but this is already a long enough post. My final point is that I just don’t get it. I don’t understand the tendency toward censorship or book labeling. I don’t get why these things are in print. Yes, they have a stance and a clear-cut angle, but I feel as if controversy is the goal. Not honest, non-inflammatory opinions. It always feels like there’s a pointed finger, a black hat, and a villain. But you have to wonder about a book being a villain – or a tv show being “boy fiction.” As a teenager, for instance, Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet) is usually part of the English curriculum. That’s pretty damn messy, isn’t it? There’ s a fickle man (Romeo) who falls in love with a rival family’s daughter (that has all the making of a mob movie, doesn’t it?). Mercutio and Tybalt fight – and that ends in a bloody mess. Juliet basically cheats on her fiancée with Romeo. And then they both freakin’ DIE. BY SUICIDE.

Pretty? No. But so far, I’ve yet to see anything claiming that Shakespeare shouldn’t be taught in schools because teens might kill themselves. And if that IS out there, for the love of coffee, don’t tell me. I’m already annoyed enough.

Finding Your Fairy Godmother: Researching Agents

March 1, 2011 4 comments

(Note: This is a repost, and this was originally written about a year ago — but it was never posted on WordPress. This advice is not set in stone. It’s just my personal thoughts, through trial and error.)

Agents are like fairy godmothers: they help you get where you want to go. They’re supportive and nurturing of your dreams, and they want you to land that ultimate dream: a weekend alone with Johnny Depp. Er, no. That’s the wrong dream. (A good one, though.) No, the ultimate dream is a book deal. *cue a rousing chorus of Angels*

Now, agents just don’t fall out of the sky. At least, I hope not. If it’s really raining men, something is greatly amiss. Sometimes, someone gets lucky enough to have a few connections, and you can secure an agent that way. Honestly, connections aren’t everything. Knowing someone gets your foot in the door (someone will read your novel, or part of it), but that doesn’t guarantee admittance. Ideally, you’d like to have all your limbs inside. It’s not an easy process. But what worthwhile thing is easy? That’s right: nothing.

The first step is easy: figure out what kind of book you’ve written. Is it a mystery novel? A non-fiction book? Fantasy? (It’s NEVER a fiction novel. EVER.) Once you’ve determined that, the work begins.

You have to find agents who handle your specific type of book. This is kind of a daunting task, and your first worry is going to be where to look. (Again, this stuff doesn’t fall out of the sky.) The Yellowpages just won’t cut it. So, here three things that are helpful: This is an excellent database with a fairly large list of agents. One caveat: after you do a search, the system will time you out after a relatively short length of time. Then it’s do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly back to the search query page. Pay attention to the page number that you’re on, so that you can just click back to it. Also, sometimes, their information is a bit out of date. Bear that in mind. This is also a good, and reliable, database. Click ‘search members’ if you are looking for information on a specific agent. Click ‘browse members’ to look through a list of agents.
Agent’s blogs. These are very, very helpful. And often amusing. You can find some on the menu bar to the right.

Next up, it’s list time! Yes, it’s not just for groceries, anymore. You’re going to need to start a spreadsheet. Not only will this help you keep all your information safe (trust me, if you write it in a notebook, you will lose it or destroy it; it will just skip off into the Land of the Doldrums, never to be seen again), organized, and in one place. But best of all? It will be searchable, which is definitely helpful when it’s three in the morning and you can’t remember who you queried at what agency…and you’re starting to forget your own name. Not that I know anything about that…*whistles innocently* Include a column for the agent’s name and contact info (I also include their submission requirements in that column), the date sent, the type of response expected (email, snail mail), the waiting period given (if any; I loathe that option, but it happens), and a column for the resulting response. Here’s an example:

After you compile a list (usually, I do these ten at a time), you’re going to want to visit the website of the agency each agent works for. Why? Double-checking. In real estate, their mantra is usually location, location, location. Yours has now become preparation, preparation, preparation. Savvy?

When checking your info, make sure that the mailing information you have is accurate. Otherwise, the Universe will eat your query letter faster than Chunk will scarf down a Baby Ruth. Next up is to confirm their submission requirements. Some agencies have standard submissions guidelines, but there are many instances where each agent has different preferences. Make sure you’ve got your facts straight, and if there’s a discrepancy between the agent’s website and what you found at, go with the agent’s website. However, there’s an exception to this rule. (Isn’t there always?) Let’s say that an agency only gives standard guidelines for the entire organization (“To query one of our agents, please…” or “All queries should be…”). You might be able to find a specific agent’s preferences on Publishers Marketplace. If that happens, follow the instructions give there. (Are you dizzy yet? Because I learned this the hard way, people.)

If you can, jot down a blurb about the specific agent. Some agents say something like, “I’m looking for a novel that can make me laugh until milk comes out of my nose!” (Ew. I know.) When it comes time to write, or tinker with, your query letter, that will be helpful. You could then say something like, “Given your affinity for novels that make you laugh until milk comes out of your nose, I think you’d be a perfect fit for [insert title here].” This says several things to the agent: 1) you’ve done your homework (Good for you! Gold star!), 2) you aren’t sending out the same carbon copy of your query, and 3) you are willing to go that extra mile. [Note: I’ve read a few things, recently, that state some agents don’t like stuff like that. So, when in doubt – TALK ABOUT YOUR BOOK. Skip the fancy stuff.]

Never query, or sign with, an agent who wants money up front. Otherwise, he or she will eventually try to sell you Manhattan. That’s just not reputable, and whoever they are, they’re out to scam you.

Barring personal connections or recommendations, there’s another great way to find an agent: Google. Do you know the name of your favorite author’s agent? Google it. See what kind of books they handle. Check the introduction, forward, or author blurb in a book. There’s a good chance that a writer will thank his/her agent. Bingo! Score. You’ve got a name. Hopefully by now you know what to do with it. And if you said ‘shove it up your ass,’ you’re wrong. But snarky. I like snarky.

For the most part, the days of a writer working directly with a publisher are gone. And, really, it’s often to an author’s benefit. Agents know things that you do not know. They want you to succeed, so that they can succeed. They love what they do, and they love books just as much as you do. You want an agent who is just as excited about your book as you are. You want an agent who can spell your name right. You want an agent who will go to bat for you and because of you. And, yes, you want someone who can make things happen.

That agent—whoever he or she may be—is your fairy godmother/godfather. If you stick with it, you’ll find one who will make you an offer you can’t refuse. (Hopefully, one that doesn’t involve a severed horse head.)

As always, stay away from Mooby’s (I here Loki’s on kind of a rampage), remember that screws fall out all over the world, that is how they measure pants (in PRISON), and Empire Records is open until midnight.

Great Gleaming Plot Hole of Doom

January 28, 2011 4 comments


I didn’t intend to blog today. Yet, here I am – four cups of coffee consumed, a self-made mcmuffin eaten, and my patience severely frayed.

The short story about the mostly dead girl? I’ve stalled. The ending isn’t quite right, and it needs something more. But what? I can’t quite see how to fix it, only that something is wrong.

In the middle of trying to fix it, I received a rejection from a literary magazine. It is the 6th one this month. That, of course, means I’m trying – and I’m a little bruised. No one likes to hear/read, “Thanks, but no.”

The rejection smarts, as they do. It’s par for the course. Sometimes, that course is full of alligators. The smart people get out of the ponds. The stubborn people stay.

I’m stubborn.

Yes, rejections are no fun. They always bring with them a small offering of doubt, which smells of fear and middle school gym class. (Really.) But caving into fear, or doubt, or whatever – it keeps you in quicksand.

And by you, I mean me. Doubts are made to be shoved aside, so I’m shoving – and I’m going to fix this damn story. Maybe not today. Maybe tomorrow. For now, I’m going to put it aside, make a cup of tea (yes, coffee, I’m cheating on you with English Breakfast tea), and work another short story I wrote last week.

I’ve found that Great Gleaming Plot Holes are evasive things. If you stare at them too hard, almost willing them to be righted, they scoff. Like watching a pot on the stove, nothing happens. You can’t look words into submission. People? Sure. Words? They are made of stronger stuff, I’m afraid.

When something won’t work, don’t force it. This is advice for life, as well as writing. A relationship can’t be willed into functionality – no matter how much you wish. There are great gleaming holes abound. Make peace with them. Or eat chocolate. Either way. They simply ARE. Only time and patience will change them.

Also, on a completely unrelated note, holy frakkin’ hell – it is SNOWING. Again.

The Unexpected Story

January 27, 2011 8 comments

The other day, I wrote a story that turned into something I didn’t expect. At all. In it, a formally dead woman wakes up in a graveyard, has a talk with a few crows, and gets a little bit of revenge. There’s more, but that’s the gist.

I’m editing it right now, with my lilac colored pen. And I realized something: I can’t leave humor out of my writing. I’m a wisecracker. I’m of the Buffy Bunch. I wanted to be one of the Scooby gang, damn it. So, I quip. I mock. I put characters in slightly crazy positions, because it’s funny. Except, I didn’t mean to write this story in this way. It works. I think.

It’s totally outside my realm of normal. A few bits required research. I added Old Norse. I then had flashbacks of an undergrad class where I had to read out loud in Old English. If anything in my college career made me want to cry, it was that class. Old English might as well be greek with a bit of nonsense thrown in. I am really bad at phonetics, too, which did not help me.

But my point…I like it when characters surprise me. I like humor, when and where it will work. That’s pretty much my approach for life, so it makes sense that it’d seep into my writing.

For years, I resented short stories. Most of the ones I had to read in school bored me. I would breeze through them as quickly as possible, and pray for that unit to pass as quickly as it could. Gradually, as recently as a few years ago, I came around. I found short stories that absolutely amazed me. In short, I got over it. And I started writing them with regularity. (I’d written a few, but they were–if I’m being honest–horrible. They should’ve never seen the light of day, let alone the poor editor at a press who I tortured with it. Who, by the way, was kind enough to write back with a personal note.)

I have a slight phobia with the short stories I write. I do not yet feel totally comfortable writing them. I always harbor a fear that it’s not done. That the ending sucks. Or that I have no business writing them. I started out writing poetry. I’m more comfortable with that. But I feel like I’ve learned so much — and that I’ve improved.

Stories often surprise you. Characters, too. They should. To me, if something unexpected occurred, the story is organic. I believe that instinct should lead, not some pre-planned piece of plot. What I believe in the most, though, is that it’s necessary to push yourself. Don’t limit yourself to writing only one thing, even in terms of genre. You learn by trying, by doing. You learn by surprising yourself with the unexpected story.

A Bookish Christmas

December 29, 2010 4 comments

I received a number of books for Christmas. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Without books (and coffee), I’m fairly sure I’d turn into the Madwoman in the Attic—but don’t go calling me Bertha (or Antoinette) just yet. (Whoever guesses both those references wins my undying love for a whole week. *wink*) I certainly have enough books to tide me over.

I prefer books to DVDs. There was a time where I liked both equally, but “I’d rather have books” has apparently become my mantra. I should probably amend that to good books, but that’s entire subjective, unless the author’s name is Snooki or Paris. Then I can safely say, Shakespeare has rolled over in his grave.

But I digress. Let’s talk about books.

I’ve just read The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines, and it was a really fun book. All the characters were clever, distinctive, and amusing. The plot kept me turning the pages. I didn’t want it to end (now, I just have to get my hands of the rest of his Princess series). I never would’ve stumbled across Hines, if it weren’t for Kat Howard and her awesome blog (unintentionally, she’s responsible for the bulk of my Christmas book haul). I found Kat via something Neil Gaiman posted at some point, thus proving that the Internet is fantastic place for the Creatives. Which should never be confused with the ROUSes or the Borg, if one might be so oddly inclined.

Bear with me. I’m tired, and this coffee appears to have been made by stingy monkeys who failed to add enough actual COFFEE.

Now, I’ve begun reading Deanna Raybourn’s latest installment in her Julia Grey series, Dark Road to Darjeeling, which is fantastic. If Deanna’s written a book, it is always good. Except, I suspect, the ones left in the attic. But anyone who has written anything has manuscripts that resemble Frankenstein’s monster. If you don’t, you either need to readjust your ego—or you are Shakespeare reborn, in which case I expect novels and plays starring three witches, Inverness, and a magical fairy named Puck. GO. (Note: I am being silly and projecting a bit. My point, which is buried rather densely, is that Deanna is a brilliant author–and I relish reading what she’s written. This current novel plays a bit on my admiration of peacocks, and now I’m afraid I’m going to have to find a dress in peacock blue.)

The rest of the To Be Read Pile is as follows:

  • On Writing by Stephen King – I’ve been meaning to read this for years. I’ve read excerpts. I want to learn.
  • Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King – I’ve heard such good things about this novel. I’m very excited.
  • The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. By all accounts, a fantastic series, and I’m so looking forward to it.
  • The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman. I read Practical Magic years ago, after seeing and LOVING the movie, and I’ve been meaning to read something else by her. Now, I can.
  • Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. A vampire novel published 25 years before Dracula, and one of his sourcebooks. This one was a surprise from my brother. I suppose I really should try my hand at another vampire novel. (Yes. Another. The first one is in the attic.) I promise: no one will sparkle or be named Edward. Or Reneesme.
  • Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. I had to copy her last name directly from the book, because I can’t even begin to recall the spelling on my own. I’ve heard excellent things about this novel (*cough* Andrea *cough*), and anyone who references Blake is fine by me.

It was a wonderful, happy, book-filled, food-filled Christmas. There were also video games, which is something of a tradition in my house.

I hope that everyone had a great holiday.

Learning How to Be a Writer (Or Dealing with Awkward Silences)

November 11, 2010 2 comments


There are conversations I don’t like having. These conversations usually begin with an innocuous seeming question. This is merely a clever disguise for a lightning sand conversation, which then brings the burst of fireswamp fire, and if luck is not with me, the ROUSs.

Things like, “Are you seeing anyone special?” or “What do you do?” or “Why aren’t you married yet?”

These things are the Gateway to Awkward. But the “What do you do?” is a flaming hoop that bounces, and I usually try and jump through it as quickly as possible – the conversational equivalent of, “Chug it! Chug it!” Hold your nose, and swallow the medicine. As fast as you can. There is no sugar for it.

“I’m a writer.” [blank, or possibly curious look] Then I’m usually asked, “What have you published?”

 At this point, I try and hide. Or I pretend to choke. Or I mutter. Or I just talk very fast in the (vain) hope no one will understand me – and no follow up questions will be asked. (This rarely works.)

 I’ve had a few poems published. A couple of articles. I’ve written two books. None of my short stories have seen the light of day, yet. I’m shopping the second book around, and I’m still vaguely hopeful about it. Because I like the story. I had fun writing it. And I think the characters are interesting.

 But will it sell? I don’t know. That is not, however, the current point.

 As a writer, I often walk around feeling vaguely fraudulent. Like I have adopted a clever disguise, and I’m playacting. When I tell someone that I haven’t published a novel (yet), I usually get asked, “Why not?” as if agents and publishing contracts are something you order from a catalogue or off of the television.

 “I’m in the process of looking for an agent” is often met with, “Weren’t you doing that last year?”

 Er, um. Yes? But here’s the thing: I haven’t found one, yet. It can be about as difficult as finding a job in this bloody effin’ mess of an economy – which, by the way, affects everything, from agents to book-buyers.

Being a writer takes time and talent – and I have at least one of those things. (Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be here all week.) It has never once occurred to me to give up, which either means I have tenacity, faith in myself, or I am incredibly stubborn. (Possibly a mixture of all three, but I won’t tell you the proportions for that particular cocktail.)

I am, however, lucky in a lot of respects. I have family and friends who believe in me, even when they suspect I might be crazy. There are people in my corner, so I’m less likely to pull a Hemingway every time I get a rejection notice. (If I can find it, I NEED to share with you the worst rejection I ever received, with the name redacted of course. It was traumatic and childish all at once.)

I’m also lucky that I have people in the writing world that I consider friends. People who have been through the trials, tribulations, and trenches – and have emerged victorious. (No name dropping, but you all know who you are. One of you has purple streaks in her hair. Another has fabulous taste in clothing and shoes. And I owe another a long-deserved drink.) This means if I start to panic, or I’m worried about something, I can ask a question. And I do.

There is a sense of camaraderie. (This is the very first time I’ve been able to spell that word correctly, EVER.) There is a sense of, “I’ve been there. I know what you mean.” I’ve also been at this a while that I know a few things, so I can advise others (minimally, in my opinion, but still).

So, I’ll deal with the awkward silences. They’re par for the course. A right of passage, I suppose. Until I can point to my novel, and go – Look, Ma! Top of the world!

Well, that might not be exactly the words I’d use, but still. Without the awkward silences, how could one appreciate the (future) thunderous applause? Or, in more realistic terms, without the error, I can’t learn. Without the difficulties, I would not appreciate the eventual wins. Let’s face it – if everything came easy, and everyone got exactly what he/she wanted without having to work for it, what fun would that be? It would be boring. And we’d all be very bored.

Plus, every writer I know does not write because it is his/her job. He/she does it because of love. Because it’s like breathing. It’s necessary for life. The same goes for every other artist. A painter paints. A sculptor sculpts. A photographer photographs.

We see what we see. And we want you to see it too.

The Price, Neil Gaiman, and a Project

November 7, 2010 3 comments


I’ve slowly been making my way through Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors, which is (according to the tagline) a collection of short fictions and illusions. Like all things, some illusions are founded in truth or reflect it.

“The Price” is no exception. It is loosely based on an occasion where Gaiman had taken in a stray cat. Being a person who has done that her entire life, that warmed my heart a bit. This was, of course, no ordinary cat. I won’t spoil it for you, if you haven’t read it. (Pssst, Rosebud was a sled.)

But I will tell you about a project. A man named Christopher Salmon wants to make an animated version of this story. Neil Gaiman blogged about this (and no, he is not gaining anything personally from this). And that’s where you come in. Yes, you. And you. And the other you, back against the wall. (What are you wearing? Is that a bowler hat?)

The project is being funded through something called Kickstarter. It’s an amazing thing where artists can get the funding that they cannot get anywhere. It’s where YOU become the backer. You have a hand in something. A few months earlier, Amanda Palmer used it to fund an amazing piano talent’s, Tristan, first record.

You can read Neil’s blog entry here. If you can, donate. Even if it’s five dollars. Even if it’s two. Spread the word around, please. I’d really like to see this get made.

On an entirely unrelated note, does anyone have an idea when Boston Review is going to post the winner of the poetry contest? It was supposed to be on the 1st. I can’t find the winner anywhere. Not that I’m expecting to win. But I’d like to know.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I am in desperate need of more coffee.