Sunday, March 20, 2011


Aerial work and Dark Dark Dark
This photo was taken during an art installation in the Netherlands by Tod Seelie; the Miss Rockaway Armada traversed the globe with their traveling art barges and wooed the masses with circus magic and street art.

Sometimes I think it'd be nice to do something like that.  I imagine that was the thought those folks had just before they actually went and did it.  It's similar to the thought I had when I decided to actually send out my last book to my friends for some feedback.

Sometimes just asking to be recognized as who you are feels reckless and brave, which strikes me as backwards.

The one friend who did read it said he loved my book.  "Nancy Drew at Monster High School!  Brilliant!"  It made it a lot easier to believe that they are worth sharing--I can't help but write them.  It's that second part that's tough.

But I think I would've loved my main character when I was her age.  The summer between eighth and ninth grade, when I was fourteen, I was mad for adventure.  I see the girl in that photo above dangling somewhere between heaven and earth, and remember my best friends and how much we laughed and did ridiculous things just to do them--dancing in puddles while it rained, scrambling up trees, taking photos of each other swinging high on the plank bench in the back yard--and I want them to find Rainey, who's currently in a different but similar kind of limbo.  Not as elegant as tissu work, but the effect is the same.  

Deep breath.  Re-write time.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On Publishing

I've been doing a lot of thinking.  Scheming, in fact.

It was hard to write that first line without finding something punchy and funny to put after it, because I'm embarrassed (still!  Why!?!) whenever I write about this writing thing like it's a thing.  It is so, so hard not to constantly be self-deprecating, just because that's so, so much easier than being vulnerable to disappointment.

So.  Scheming.

I have found that I have no interest in pursuing traditional publishing.

A lot of indie writers sound, in some ways, as if they are justifying this position by having a miserable history with the entire traditional trajectory--query, rejection, to the milliontieth degree, until finally, agent, contract, advance, published!  You know what?  As I think I covered in the first paragraph, I don't need all of that rejection in my life.  My willingness to be needlessly punished and to prove my valor through humbly submitting to said punishment is done; I mean, I went to grad school.  That's the last major deposit in to the internal pain bank I'm willing to make when people I love aren't involved.  But for many writers, particularly successful ones, it seems like explaining their litany of failures is necessary to justify their (incredibly lucrative) lapse into self-publishing.

In other lines of work, self-employment is valued as the kind of American, wholesome enterprise our collectively capitalist butts are trained to love.  I was once a self-employed contractor; I've worked for them as hourly help many times.  It was way better than anything I ever managed to achieve as a dutiful cog in a major consumer business model.  And by 'better,' I really mean 'freeing,' 'empowering,' 'meaningful,' and 'satisfying.'  In fact, I gave the corporate consumer business model a try a couple of times, and it sucked in every suit.  There is a lot to say about these things, but they'll have to wait--I want to get back to how this generally relates to the business of writing.

Now, is a monster consumer business.  So is Smashwords, or any of the big vanity presses currently making millionaires out of dreamers in the writer-scape.  But being an independent contractor working for a monster still manages to be freeing, meaningful and empowering in ways that dealing with the traditional publishing model is apparently not.  Along with the successful writers saying how many times they were rejected, there are traditionally published successful writers warning noobs on all their blogs that getting paid to write is really hard, don't quit your day job, etc.  So how do I avoid the rejection and the shame and still share what I've made with that fourteen year old version of myself?

I avoid traditional publishing.

Former jokes aside, I didn't want to become an occupational therapist to become rich, and I didn't start writing as an elementary school kid to do that either.  The fact is, like many stubborn people that haven't fit well in any corporate model previously, I wasn't a good bet to go through the process to begin with.  I love deciding what I'm going to do with myself each day.  I play well with others, but not when they want to take my personal power away.  No thanks.  Not into it.  So I don't want a list of rejections, or the feeling of vindictive satisfaction when I succeed anyway, or the bitter satisfaction when I don't that if I'd only found the right heading for my query, if I'd only...Nah.

I just want to find readers.  That's it.  And I don't need them to do it any more.

There had to be a reason I have nine books and not a single draft of a single query--I just kept putting it off, and wondering why.  This must've been it.

Good to know.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Dr. Amy Lehman was profiled in The Daily Beast a while back, and when I read her story, I was immediately enthralled with her crazy, amazing, ambitious, tattooed mission.

I am generally wary of falling in love over the internets, but I kinda lurve her anyway.

Her story is intriguing also because it involves the recreation of self after a major disappointment, which all of us can relate to, I'm sure.  Her right arm was damaged as a child by a neurological disorder, and she is unable to perform surgery; as a thoracic surgeon, however, she's more than qualified and capable of fueling a new dream across the Atlantic Ocean and into Lake Taganyika.  She's created a whole new level of awesome by fusing the power of her imagination with reality.  As a writer, I gotta love it, and as a human being, I can't help but be a little bit in awe.

This photo was lifted from here, which is also a recap of The Daily Beast's Women in the World Summit.  Some of their speakers I find shrug-worthy, but others are definitely going to find their way into a future post as heroes I unwittingly swoon over.  Not sure how they'll feel about it, but that's kinda what blogs are for.  If someone is magically patrolling the internets and sees this, today is the last day of live broadcasts from the summit!  Check it out, it's a lot of awesome at once.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Is pretty rockin.  I'm still trying to get used to navigating the format there--I goofed up and didn't mark Cleopatra as "currently reading," so I had to go back and figure out how to change that--but I like it.  I like the trivia function, and I love all the book lists.  Wow.

Not as in love with the kindleboards, but only because when I post in a thread I get bumped back out into the main board--why not just take me back to the thread?  Why you gotta do me like that, Amazon?

And all I can think of to tweet is ominous threats while I picture Tina Turner; maybe I need to listen to some of her music and get it out of my system.  What's love got to do with it, anyway?

Okay, bad example.  (Everything is the answer that popped up in my head.)

I've had evaluations to write all week, and my Pre-K and developmental groups to plan, and all this means no writing.  Which is tough.

I'm chewing on my paws to get my first draft back from one of my beta-readers.  There are already things I know I want to change but I don't want to start until someone says whether or not it's worth it with that draft at all.  I love the concept, but I'm not afraid to throw away major parts if they don't work for the reader to begin with.  I just want to start.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Why

I thought maybe I would talk a little bit about why I started writing YA books.

Not that I'm talking to anybody, necessarily, but it is a strange sort of relief to talk about writing at all, to whomever.

I didn't really read very many kids' books when I was an actual kid.  The summer between fifth and sixth grade, I read Presumed Innocentthe Godfather, and Lolita.  The Christmas before, I'd found my parents' modest collection of Kurt Vonnegut novels.  Of the batch, I'd say it's fair to judge Nabakov and Vonnegut as among my most influential writers from this period, although I also made stops along the way to visit Ken KeseyMr. Burgess, and ye olde Wolfe.  It would be super cool to say I was precocious, but really this is just what my folks read, so they were all laying around and easy to get to...which is kind of the opposite of precocious.  It's a lil bit lazy, point of fact.  Anyway.

I did read some kids' books, but I don't think most of them have very much to do with why I write now.  And I'm not really touching on all of the mystery writers I devoured, either, love them or hate them, or even the things I wished I'd read.  The real point of the matter is that I'd never heard of YA until the advent of the Twilight Juggernaut, and by then I'd been teased for years about my Harry Potter addiction; YA, when it appeared to me, was literally about young adults.  Specifically, the young mothers who worked at the same place I did--women between the ages of 19 and 29--that devoured Edward and Bella at rapid rates, leaving their Parenthood magazines in the dust.  I had to know what they were on about.  After I'd surrendered to reading a 'kid's book,' (the Pots, so we're clear) and lurved it, with all my heart, I wasn't much of a snob any more, so I went to the book store and bought some Meyer.

Now, I'm not going to say my books are good, let alone as good as an international bestseller's (and I'm talking about Mrs. Meyer here, because it would be just blasphemous to talk about being able to do what JK Rowling has done.  And tomfoolery.  And kinda delusional, even).  But...the concepts are simple.  The idea of world-building actually seemed kinda fun, if time consuming.  And I have all these people talking at me in my head anyway--what if I made them stop cussing at each other?

But more than this, I wondered what post-fifth grade but pre-high school me would've thought of Bleh-Cob.  I think I would've barfed on it, if I'd bothered to finish reading the first book.  I'll write about why some other time, and it's not me cracking on the author; at that age my world was full of frightening miracles and heretical questions about why humans do what they do.  I was a gushy romantic, in lots of ways, but I was really invested in my independence, the development of my self, in the greater sense, and what I was going to be and do once I was fully unleashed on the world at large.  Twilight wasn't written for kids like me (although the adult in me liked it fine).  So, I wondered, were there any books that were?

Short answer: yes.  And in spite of the genre name having initially mislead me, 'Young Adult' is a pretty flexible umbrella with literally hundreds of titles I would've lurved when I was, in fact, a young adult.  I saw whole new sections of the book store I'd never noticed before--but the ache to create a story for that ghost self was now there.  The fissure was open.  So I reached into the crack in my chest and started pulling out characters, and eventually whole worlds.  I had to name them, and then they started talking to each other (they always do), and now I have a couple books and a lot more to go before I feel like these folks will be satisfied.  Like I--that tiny fractured bit of the self I was--will be satisfied.

God bless Mr. Konrath for his incredibly helpful and insightful blog, and in particular for naming this cycle by giving B. V. Larson, author of Mech, a platform for this wisdom:   "But I will tell you my guiding light: writing is all about the reader. I never sit down and start out thinking about “what I’d like to write.” I start out with what I’d like to read."

True that. It makes sense to my heart to bring this thing full circle. And I've found that this conversation--the dialog between past and present selves, between different writers, readers, within and outside us--and the massive overlap is fulfilling for me. I suspect a lot of adults currently knee deep in YA first drafts probably feel the same way.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Taking a cue from the greats...

I'm following in the footsteps of Amanda Hocking and creating a blog early on, to try and keep track of what, how much, when and why I write...with the hope that some day these words will help somebody else the way reading her blog helped me.

I've always written fiction.  Always, always, always--I was a fanfic nerd backinnaday, really, because the first thing I ever made was a giant illustrated adventure of my My Little Ponies that I got a day-care worker named Heather to transcribe for me.

Wow, maybe that is not the way to kick this thing off ;)

Whatever!  I'm totes a nerd.  I said totes.

My goal right now is to crank out another three thousand words on my second Bad Magic book.  I want to try and finish the Raya series by summer (first drafts, only--I'm not that crazy), and have the first three Bad Magics completed.

It was really hard getting that sentence down somewhere other folks could potentially (maybe, perhaps, it's possible) see.  Deep breath.

Okay, back to writing.  It's a rainy Sunday, so it's the perfect day to do this anyway :)