writing

A Gripping Conversation to Rival Dialogue in Newsroom

We’ve been watching "The Newsroom" and I sat there and I thought, “I’m not quite smart enough for this show” and “These characters have the best dialogue exchanges ever. Does anyone really talk like this?” Then I thought what would life be like if Kealoha and I had rapid-fire conversations that twisted and turned and then slapped you in the face. (After all of this thinking, I had to ask Kealoha to go back a minute in Newsroom so I could re-watch where I’d drifted.)

newsroom3

On Thursday, I made Kealoha walk with me around Reed’s Lake. It’s a 4.5-mile walk and I knew we’d have great conversations, and possibly dialogue sequences that would rival the smart characters on Newsroom, West Wing, and, heck, even NPR!

Errr……

Not so much.

Kealoha sang snatches of “Under Pressure”. He said it should be our ‘thing’, the couple thing that we do at parties in front of people. He said I could be Freddie Mercury, but then he sang all the Freddie Mercury parts and I told him maybe he should do the duet by himself.

Then we talked about having a Taco dinner night and I said I didn’t want to smell like a taco and then we both giggled because I repeated, “I smell like taco”.

Our heart to heart rapid-fire conversation continued when we discussed the millionaire who moved his mansion two hundred feet so he could break the property up into three portions and sell it. I said “He’s smart”, and Kealoha answered with the bee-doh-bee-dohm part of the “Under Pressure” song.

At the end of our walk, mile 4.2, a group of running boys came right at us. High schoolers or college-age kids, running, without shirts, all washboard stomachs and testosterone. I said “Uh…” and pulled over to a driveway to check my phone so I wouldn’t notice shirtless boys. NOT APPROPRIATE. “They can run around me. I’m not moving,” Kealoha said, and walked straight into the River of Boy. I checked frantically for emails.

When the thudding feet and panting breaths passed, Kealoha looked at me. “Did you see that?” he asked, vaguely excited.

running-men “See what? I was checking important messages.” I could not admit I was purposefully not-seeing half-naked man-boys running.

“That guy held out his hand to high-five me and I high-fived him!”

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “You did not just have a random high-five with a stranger. Those things don’t happen in the wild.”

“I did! I did it! He held out his hand like this and I high-fived it! I high-fived a stranger!”

I was mad that I missed this high-five miracle. “If that really happened, if you really had a random high-five in the wild, then you know what that means.”

Kealoha looked down at me. (He’s taller than me.) “What?”

“It means you have to make a wish.”

He didn’t even pause. “I wish for more high-fives.”

“That’s against the rules,” I said as we continued walking. Then we stopped at D&W and got stuff to make stir-fry and Kealoha sang more of Freddie Mercury’s lines that were supposed to be mine.

Well, I guess there’s a reason that I don’t write to television, although I think our dialogue is just gripping and filled with drama. Aaron Sorkin, feel free to give me a call.

WTF I've Been Up To

I promised myself I would try to stop posting whiny woe-is-me blogs. In fact, I did post one last week, but then I pulled it. I forget sometimes that my blog shouldn’t be a dumping ground. No one wants to hear me sit in a corner and complain…unless I’m complaining while drinking a bottle of wine, then even I admit I can be humorous. It’s all the drooling that makes it funny. So here’s what’s happening and why my blog might be a little more sporadic for a while:

1) I had a tooth emergency and some ‘oral surgery’. It sucked. But the plus side is I got a whole day off to watch TV. I mean, that’s all I did. I sprawled on the couch (upright, cuz I couldn’t lie down) and moaned and groaned and watched True Blood, Orange Is The New Black, Nigella Lawson, MasterChef, and Newsroom. All. Day. Long. It was so glorious that angels sang! (Or it was taking me a while to come down from the laughing gas at the dentist.)

Me. Recovering.

2) I had an excerpt from my memoir accepted for publication. I need exclamation marks for that. Here: !!!!! The excerpt called “The Friendship Camp” will be published in the fall literary journal of Midwestern Gothic. I was so excited when I found out that I whooped and then I said ow and then I whooped again. And then I said ow. It was a vicious cycle for a bit.

3) I’ve joined a writer’s group. Two, actually. One online and one I’ll meet with in person every week. The groups are forcing me to work on my next novel and I’m 15 pages in. Not much, but it’s a start.

4) I’ve been gluten free for two weeks. It’s not as annoying as I thought. I’m now addicted to polenta, which is okay, because I can only eat soft food. And my food-belly seems to be a little smaller.

5) I’m ready to send the kids back to school. I’ve become the ultimate lazy parent, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I mean, there’s only so many crafts, outings, and ‘adventures’ a parent can realistically have before saying “Aw, fuck it!” Now when the kids ask if they can do experiments with the toaster and a fork I say, “Sure” and then “Call me if anyone’s bleeding” and then I go back to playing BananaKing on my iPad. School better start soon or the kiddos will be building a homemade methlab to earn money for Legos.

6) For the last two days, I’ve been talking like I’m wearing those cheap, plastic vampire fangs. This morning, I did a recording, and I sounded just fine. My mouth is good. My voice is good. And my jaw only hurts when I open really wide, so I have stopped opening my jaw really wide. (There’s a joke in there about Kealoha, but I will not stoop to that. It’s simply TMI.)

plasticfangs

7) All is well.

So, look for my blog periodically. I’ll try to post only important stuff like, you know, things about chafing and when we go to Applebee’s and my upcoming trip with Kealoha to a tiki bar in Chicago. You know, stuff that matters.

But if you really, really miss me, check out one of my books that you haven’t read, or force your friends to read one. And stay tuned. We’ll be releasing some free stories soon, and “Foodies Rush In” will be released as an audiobook in October narrated by the fabulous, Audie-award-winning Kate Rudd.

Happy, happy, me.

(I mean that sincerely. The laughing gas has totally worn off now.)

Vote On My Next Novel

I’m ready to start my next writing project, but I just can’t figure out which one to do. I have several ideas. It’d probably be good to start something especially since I’m trying to find an agent for my memoir and that’s super depressing to say the least. The search for an agent is depressing, not the memoir. images

A few years ago I asked you dear readers to choose the book I would write and post as a blovel. The result of that was ‘Tunnel Vision’…which is (I think) one of the best things I’ve ever written. So I thought I’d turn to you again. Can you help an unfocused writer focus?

It’s possible I could post this next piece as a blovel too, if there’s interest.

So. What book would you like me to write…or…which of these would you be most likely to read?

THE CONTENDERS: 

1)   A sequel to “Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage” called “Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Bad Curry” in which Pepper and her friend attend a dinner party when people start dying. They’re on an island so Pepper must solve the crimes before she’s dead too. It’s sorta like a “And Then There Were None” but with more food and less British stuff.

2)   A sequel to “Foodies Rush In” in which the characters from the first book celebrate the holidays. We’ll meet new characters, see multiple layers of disfunction and bad holiday sweaters. This would, hopefully, be a comedy and a feel-good type of book.

3)   A suspense/action novel in which a young girl discovers that her chemist father made her resistant to drugs so she’s the only one that can see that the happy world she lives in, isn’t really happy. She goes on an adventure to stop the poisoning and mind-control of her people. Lots of running, explosions, and a little darkness.

So. Help a girl out. Which book should I write? And if you know of an agent who wants a memoir called “Popsicle Toes” that’s in a similar style to “The House on Mango Street” lemme know.

POLL CLOSED

Thank you for voting!

#3 wins with 63% of the vote! Let the writing commence!

!!!!

How 40 Starts

0601_window01 At 1AM last night, I woke up hearing Bruno Mars shouting through my window that he would do anything for me. ANYTHING at all for me. He’d jump out of a plane, step in front of a train, go insane in the membrane…

And then I heard my next door neighbor scream at the top of her lungs: “FUUUUUUCK YOUUUUUUUU! Don’t you even CARE? Who ARE you? Shut off the FUCKING MUSIC!!”

And then I giggled. Welcome to being 40, Tanya.

I then had a very strange dream where I was still living at my stepmom and dad’s house. It was totally decaying. Mold everywhere, water dripping, and I was sitting on the front porch waiting for something when the roof caved in. I watched it cave in and then I texted my dad and said “I’m moving out.” He texted back and said “It’s about time. Everyone else has been gone for years.”

If that little episode doesn’t sound symbolic, then you haven’t been in English class or had any therapy at all.

Then the dream switched and I was in the ocean trying to study new lifeforms. Whoever gave me this job clearly didn’t read my resume. I looked over the boat’s edge (I’m sure it has a technical term but I don’t know it) and there was this huge wall of water coming for us, ala The Perfect Storm. I said “Huh”. Then I saw a giant whale jump out of the ocean, twist, flip, and do a giant cannon ball and I said “Look at the giant WHHHHHAAAAALE!”

perfect-storm

Then I was showing my college roomates (Kim and Rachel, who I spent my thirtieth birthday with getting ridiculously drunk) this dingy Chinese restaurant where I would eat lunch and try to pitch my stories to hungry Asian businessmen who didn’t speak English.

The dreaming ended when I bolted upright in bed and thought “Coffee” and then “What a fucked up night”.

I think I was too hot last night. Yes. On the night I turned forty, I’m pretty sure I was having a hot flash that caused mild hallucinations.

It sounds like it’s going to be an interesting decade if last night is how it’s all set up. And, also, now I want Dim Sum.

On Starting A New Novel and Muskrats

I’m here. I’m here. I’m feeling a little blech with the blog. I love doing it, but sometimes I just need a mini-break. Plus, I’m starting to think of the new project I want to work on (while I collect rejection slips on my memoir “Popsicle Toes”), and that’s starting to take over my brain. The idea is churning around in my head. It’s like, a novel starts with an idea, but then it starts to branch out and become a web. It’s very insect-like actually, spinning of ideas, seeing what sticks together, how everything connects, what mates are consumed after fornicating. Wait. Maybe one of those things doesn’t actually belong in my writing-as-insect metaphor. Hmmm.

Anyway.

I know I want the next book to be literary fiction and I know I want there to be a high conflict and a lot of action, and now I’m letting my brain do the work. I just sit back and wait.

Last night my brain woke me up. I dreamt I was with the kids and Kealoha and I were all packing to go camping. (We never camp, so you know this is a dream.) Franz and Moxie kept talking about something in the woods. “Ma, Ma! Are you sure we should do this? We’ve heard there’s Something In The Woods”. I said “We’re fine. We’re fine! There’s Nothing In The Woods!” We walked to the car and started to drive away and then my brain went black and I saw the words “The family was never seen alive again.”

Yes. I actually saw subtitles in my dream. And I woke up with a gasp.

First, that is NOT the story I want to write and second, I’m pretty sure the Something In The Woods was inspired by watching reruns of Lost and seeing a muskrat on my walk the other day. I was walking by the pond with my friend K and all of a sudden the cattails started shivering. Then I heard crunching. When I saw the muskrat, it all made sense, but that moment BEFORE seeing it was a little nerve-wracking. I mean, shivering and crunching, that’s the stuff of Stephen King. (Or a decongestant-inspired hallucination.)

A muskrat is basically a giant RAT that lives in the water. Eeek!

So. My brain is occupied with birthing another novel. Luckily, unlike a real pregnancy, this process doesn’t make me nauseous.

It does make me spacey. I mean, more than usual.

I think I have the opening scene ready and I’m almost, almost ready to start writing again.

I’m so looking forward to it.

I Am Not Betty Crocker

8 days! 8 days without blogging! How is this possible? What life shattering things have I been up to that prevented me from posting on my beloved blog? Building houses for the homeless? Proselytizing the benefits of yoga pants to new mothers? Hiding in my basement watching “The Following”, “New Girl”, and “The Voice”?

Actually, I’ve been trying to enter the Pillsbury Bakeoff Contest, while also hiding in my basement. (I’m a little creepy sometimes.)

On the Spring Fling Conference, Erotica, and Being Awkward

First off I should say that I love conferences. I love conferences the way that I love gift baskets. You get all these little surprises and trinkets. Except a conference isn’t wrapped in cellophane….although….after attending a workshop called Erotica For Beginners, I’m pretty sure several of the ladies here have cellophane wrap in their rooms. And giant plastic arms for ‘fisting’.  

God, I hope my mom and mother-in-law don’t read this.

 

Not that there’s anything wrong with fisting, if that’s your thing.

 

Oh god! Someone stop me from talking about fisting! I can’t handle it! I can’t handle even IMAGINING it! It makes me do this:

 

Ahem.

 

Where was I?

Ah, yes. Fisting. I mean CONFERENCES! Conferences. I love conferences. I’m also supremely bad at them. I like to think of myself as a well-adjusted, likeable person. I can walk in to a room of strangers and give a lecture or a collaborative exercise to write bad poetry. I can read to a room filled with hungry zombies about brain recipes or something, and I’m fine.

 

But stick me in a room with 200 other women writers and I suddenly freeze. Pure panic.

 

Suddenly, I was thrust head-first into all my phobias about making friends and not being cool enough for the cool clique and all those unnavigable (is that a word?) rules for making friends: don’t seem desperate, ask questions, if you’re shy they’ll think you’re a bitch, look busy but open…blah blah blah. The truth is, I don’t know how to talk to women. Actually, I’m pretty awful talking to anyone. I’m just plain AWKWARD. I wish I could wear a tshirt that says “Don’t take anything I say personally. I’m just awkward.”

 

Still….I’m managing to do it, and the women here are really nice and everyone’s trying to figure out the same thing: how to get their work out there.

 

It amazes me how many writers there are. Some women here haven’t finished a book yet, and they’re here and I just think “Wow. How cool is that? They’re so brave!” Others are relaxed and open. Others are just as awkward as me.

 

At dinner last night I told the table that yes, I’m published, but it’s just romantic comedies and one is self-published and the other two are put out by just a small press. One of the women looked at me wide-eyed and said “But you’re published?”

“Yeah, I guess.” I said.

“You have books and stuff?”

“Yeah. They’re here. I’ll be at the signing.”

“Then why are you apologizing? This is GREAT! You are published! You should be telling us to get our asses to the signing and buy your books!”

That made me cry a little bit, and it made me like her instantly. I’ve felt a little pummeled lately with writing. I feel like I have to qualify it wherever I go. It still hurts that my writing isn’t really taken seriously (nod to my alma mater who told me I couldn’t give a reading there because my type of writing doesn’t offer anything to their students). And I feel like I’m constantly having to convince people that “Yes. I’m a real writer, even though it’s not literary fiction. It’s quirky fiction. That doesn’t mean shit fiction.”

So I guess what I’m taking from this so far is a bag full of swag, talking awkwardly with some really wonderful and brave writers who are just like me (working moms trying to balance everything), the idea that I should be proud of my work…and some really fascinating information I learned in the Erotica for Beginners presentation. Tiffany Reisz did scare me a little bit, but also convinced me that I could read her book on my Kindle AND NO ONE WOULD KNOW. It could be our little secret.

 

I may never, ever write erotica, but I could certainly read up on it. You know, for research. Yep. Research.*

*Except that fisting thing. I’m still terrified about that. There are some things I’m just better off NOT knowing. That’s one of them.

Chapter One of "Foodies Rush In"

I've been talking about my new book "Foodies Rush In" for awhile now. While agents and editors have nibbled at the book, I think it might just be another of those quiet books that doesn't have enough 'wow' factor for a big publishing house to take a chance on. It's okay. Not all stories are loud. I'm proud of this one because it shows a softer side to my writing. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it yet. Haven't quite given up on getting an agent to rep it....but....it's possible I might just publish it on my own. Kealoha and I are looking in to a little publishing business to also produce audio books. We'll see. Until then...here's the first chapter of "Foodies Rush In". Hope you like it.  

FOODIES RUSH IN

Chapter 1

 

Dana Kupiac leaned her head back against the plane’s seat. She hated flying with a passion, but if she just breathed through it, she’d be fine. In just two more hours she’d be home cuddling on the couch with her two kiddos and back into the grind of her life as a single mom.

The old woman sitting next to her softly patted her arm. “Would you like a drink?” she asked. The woman had white hair with just a twinge of blue, a bedazzled holiday sweater, and that soft sympathetic smile that brought up images of grandmothers and poodles and cookies baking. “You look like you could use a drink,” she continued, her smile beaming. “I’d have another one but I already had a heavy dose of Valium. Doctor prescribed of course. Does wonders for flying.” The woman winked at Dana, then her gaze seemed to go off into the yonder. She stared at her bedazzled chest and then picked a piece of lint of the sequined Santa. The woman had a sequined Santa face on her sweater and Dana tried not to notice that those pink eyes were exactly where the grandmother’s nipples would be.

“No, thank you,” Dana said and shook her head. “I just need to breathe through this. I’ll be fine. I just get a little nervous about flying.” Dana considered for a moment. “I get a little bit nervous about basically everything.”

The grandmother nodded sympathetically. “Valium does wonders for most everything,” she continued. “Why, I’d take it all the time if I could.” The woman stared at her chest again and flicked the bell on Santa’s hat. She seemed to like the way the bell ‘tinked’ because she flicked it again.

Dana tried to stifle a laugh. The woman next to her was blasted. Totally blasted. And if she had cookies baking at home, they were probably laced with something. Dana smiled and then closed her eyes. If she pretended to sleep…maybe then she wouldn’t have to talk to the woman.

With her eyes closed, Dana tried to have her mind not focus on the sounds of the plane hurtling through the air and the probabilities that there would be a crash of some sort or a terrorist attack. News coverage of that sort of thing had almost completely ruined travel for her. She was always so creative in her neuroses that they sometimes threatened to really drive her crazy. No. She’d do as her sister Valerie suggested: she’d find her Zen. Dana was pretty sure her Zen left along with her husband last year, but still, she’d try to find it. Maybe it really was within her and not somewhere on the coast of Ohio. Did Ohio have a coast, she thought? No. No. Not like Michigan. Michigan was surrounded by water. Michigan was her home. And in two more hours, she’d be hugging her kids, and the neon lights and general craziness of Las Vegas would be far behind her. Less than two hours. The flight only had another half hour or so before landing, and then she’d get her luggage, get her car from long term parking, drive the half hour home to Coopersville, and return to farmland and kiddos and making jams in her kitchen…and all of the glitz and adventure would be over. Quite possibly forever. At thirty-seven and single again and with boobs giving in to gravity more and more each day instead of fighting it, Dana didn’t see a whole lot of razzle-dazzle in her future. Unless it was battery operated.

“Course, Ecstasy is nice too,” she heard the old woman say. “Young folks call it the E. When my husband and I pop ‘em we go at it like we’re teenagers. It makes everything sorta…glow.” The old woman reached in front of her and began to stroke something imaginary. Dana closed her eyes tighter and pretended to snore.

Dana needed to find her Zen. Where was her Zen?

She didn’t have one. Let’s face it, being high-strung was part of her genetic make-up. She wasn’t like her sister Valerie, a stay-at-home supermom to twin baby boys. She could latch both boys onto her nipples and still manage to not only clean the entire house including scrubbing the floors, but also cook a four course gourmet dinner while doing pilates. No. Dana wasn’t like her sister at all, and with her dark hair and skin that hinted of past ancestors from around the world, Dana sometimes wondered if they were really related. Of course, Valerie was an exact copy of their mom and Dana…well, her strong chin and deep brown eyes looked just like her father’s. Sometimes she wondered if she’d even inherited his facial hair.

She sighed. Thankfully the woman next to her had stopped talking. Dana would’ve worried she’d gone into some kind of overdose condition, but she could hear the woman flipping pages of a magazine.

A slight smile started to form on Dana’s face. It was slight, sure, but even a slight smile was something of a miracle. This last year had been worse than hard. It had been almost unendurable. When Paul left her, she’d felt abandoned and devastated, yes, but more than that, she’d felt deeply betrayed. Not to mention the anger she’d felt with him leaving not only her and their marriage but also their 4-year-old daughter Ruby and 6-year-old son Zach. Paul had left everything they’d built together and started over with a new woman, a new house, and a new baby on the way. He paid child support, took the kids every other weekend or so, but beyond that, Dana had been on her own.

And she’d made it work. She taught English at the local Community College, worked at a restaurant on the weekends she didn’t have the kids, sold the jams and jellies and spicy chutneys she canned in her friend’s kitchen. And she’d somehow managed to keep paying the mortgage payments on the modest house. She’d kept the kids clothed and fed and loved. And she tried only to fall apart when they were sleeping or at their dad’s. A year of constant work and struggle had left Dana beyond Zen, beyond constantly exhausted. She was in a land of barely existing at all.

So when her sister had given her the round-trip ticket to the conference in Las Vegas, a conference for foodies of all kind, Dana had sunk to her kitchen floor and cried with the sheer weight of the kindness. “I’m not just being nice,” Valerie had said, wiping the hair from Dana’s forehead. “I’m making an investment. In you. In your catering business. Vick and I will watch the kids and you can go to the conference. Learn everything you can about how to sell your food because, Dana, it’s amazing. And then come back here and we’ll do it. I’ll help you. Things will get easier.” Valerie had said the last part so convincingly that Dana had nodded as if she believed her. “And,” Valerie continued then looked around to see if any of the kids were within earshot. “Try to get laid. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?” Then she’d slipped Dana a crinkly condom wrapper into her hand and closed it tight, an action that was exactly something like their mother would do.

Dana laughed a little to herself as she thought of this. She was deep in her thoughts now. So deep she didn’t mind the turbulence at all.

She replayed all the crazy things that she’d done at the conference. The first two days, she’d gotten all the information and then some that she needed to work on her catering and canning business. She could make the food in her friend’s kitchen (Stella had a restaurant) and then sell her packaged goods online. She’d made contacts and handed out information. Tried amazing combinations of foods. And then…then…she’d met someone. He was cute, awkward, funny, and a great kisser.

Dana floated away thinking about him. She could remember almost everything about their two crazy days and nights together—except with all the mai tais and other tropical drinks there were a few holes in that last evening. She could still feel his kisses on her lips, on the side of her neck, even on her... If the old woman next to her knew what she was thinking right now, she’d wonder if Dana were on the E.

It was a foolish rendezvous, but it was also a lot of fun. And that last night…Ha! That last night began with a karaoke contest in a tiki lounge and ended with a hysterical fake wedding with her dressed in an 80s style short fluffy white dress and her ‘husband’ dressed in a t-shirt that looked like a tuxedo and jeans. Elvis had ‘married’ them of course and they had laughed and laughed and laughed, and then drank some more.

Of course, none of it was legal. They hadn’t filed paperwork or anything. They hadn’t even made love. Had sex. Whatever you’d call it. Had a one-night stand. No. All they’d shared was a simple kiss at the chapel, and then a much more complex series of kisses on the elevator up to the hotel, much to the apparent delight of a couple of Canadian tourists (she knew they were Canadian because they wore little red maple leaves on their matching jackets). As much fun as Dana had had with him, she knew it was only for a couple of days. But it was a couple of days that might allow her to get through the next year of hard work and endless struggle but still have something small within her that was her own.

“Please put your seats in the upright position,” one of the flight attendants announced over the loudspeaker. “We will be making our descent into Grand Rapids, Michigan where it is a balmy 14 degrees. Happy holidays, everyone!”

Dana barely heard the words. She was too busy reliving the vacation of a lifetime. For the first time in a year, she felt rejuvenated and relaxed, ready to start her new business venture. She’d make a secure life for her and the kids, Paul be damned. And thinking about all the things she’d done this weekend, she realized that for the first time since before she was married, she felt reconnected to her body again. She’d never realized how over the years in her marriage she’d shut herself off from being a sensual being. Dana knew now, although she’d known it before, but maybe it was helpful to be reminded…Dana knew now that she was more than just a single working mom. She was more than a sister. She was also a woman. What happened in Vegas would stay in Vegas, of course. It was two days and two nights of sheer liberation. But she was taking back something with her. She was taking back more of herself. She was going home stronger, more motivated, and she couldn’t wait to hug her kids and get on with their lives.

“You’re looking very relaxed,” the woman next to Dana said as if she approved.

Dana nodded. “I’ve found my Zen,” she said softly, more to herself than the bedazzled, drugged up grandmother.

When the plane finally zoomed through the atmosphere and slid across the runway of the Gerald R. Ford Airport, Dana was still smiling. She had, indeed, found her Zen. It had begun with a man named Eugene…

Balancing My Brain Through TO DO Lists

I’ve started reading this great book recommended by my super-smart Aunt who’s also a therapist. It’s called “The Whole Brain Child” and it talks about parenting techniques, but also gives insight into how the brain grows and develops, and what you need to have a ‘balanced’ brain. That is, a well-adjusted personality.

There was this great quote where it talked about storytelling and that storytelling allows the logical left-brain to organize the creative right-brain’s emotions. Hence, telling a story actually has a healing effect because you’re BALANCING YOUR BRAIN.

 

Whoa.

 

I have taken the next leap and now have justified my need to write To Do Lists. It is my super logical left-side of my brain trying to organize my overly-sensitive/neurotic/anxious right-brain into some kind of order. I’ve always made lists, but now I can rejoice in the fact that I’m not just being neurotic, I’m actually BALANCING MY BRAIN.

 

Here is my To Do list for today. Before I wrote it, I felt all disjointed and anxious. After I wrote it, I felt amazing rejuvenated with a defined purpose. I now know that I’m super stressed out and anxious and I need to clean my entire house, and possibly take a Valium. See? Before I wrote the list, I was just a mess of feeling. Now I have purpose.

 

Here is my list:

 

I probably should add on there: Read More of That Brain Book…you know…in case I’m jumping ahead and applying theories to my own behavior that don’t actually make sense.

Finding An Agent Is Like Trying To Date Someone Who's Not Interested In You

Last week I sent “Foodies Rush In” off to another agent…and I’ve been obsessively checking my email ever since. It occurred to me that finding an agent is like dating all over again…only it’s dating someone who you’re totally crazy and infatuated with, and they maybe-might-possibly be interested in you, and you’re desperately looking for any hint that they actually know you exist.

 

In March I went to New York and had two editors from Penguin request my manuscript. I sent it the same day they asked. Then I waited and waited. I went over and over in my mind when we met. Here’s how my inner dialogue went:

 

She seemed really interested in me. She laughed when I said I had crazy hair but I was not a crazy writer. She said she loved my pitch. She said she loved my pitch!! What if she didn’t actually love my pitch, but was just trying to get me out of the room? What if saying she loves my pitch is the equivalent of saying I have a nice personality but she’s not interested in me? Oh god! She’s not interested in me! I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

 

I waited for four months for an answer from both agents. Then I sent a polite, painfully worded email in which I try to sound gracious and accepting. Something like “I met you a few months ago and you seemed really interested in me and asked for my number. I gave you my number and made it clear I was available but you haven’t called yet, so I’m wondering if maybe your computer crashed or your email/phone/iPad isn’t working? Or maybe I transposed some numbers or something? Hope to talk to you soon! PS: I’m not crazy!”

 

Actually, that might’ve been a voice mail I left for a guy I was obsessed with in my twenties.

 

One of the agents responded, said her computer DID crash. I was overjoyed! I sent the manuscript again. She said she’d get right to it. That was three months ago. I then sent a follow up email that bordered a little bit on creepy and needy. Needless to say, she hasn’t responded.

 

Then I had an agent who wrote to me saying I had the best pitch she’d ever read and to send my manuscript right away. I did. In June. And…I’ve heard nothing. Apparently, my pitch is better than the actual novel.

 

Now most recently my book sits with another agent who also requested pretty much manuscripts or excerpts from everyone at the conference. It’s like entering the lottery, only with a group of deserving friends. Everyone deserves to win but chances are only one (maybe) will. You hope it’s you, but you also feel bad if it’s you.

 

I’m now obsessively checking my email and replaying my meeting with her. Just like the others. Haven’t I learned by now that looking for an agent is like The Rules? Remember that annoying Rule book? It said basically that you shouldn’t call or chase a guy. If he’s interested in you, truly interested in you, he’ll pursue you.

 

It’s annoying, but there’s some truth in there.

 

The sobering reality is, if my book was as good as I was hoping, these agents and editors would be chasing me. And honestly, I don’t even think it’s a miraculous book. I just tried to write something sweet, fun, accessible and marketable. It doesn’t advocate for social change; there’s not a ton of sex; it’s just a simple story of two nerds who fall in love when the timing is right.

 

I think I’ve written the novel-equivalent to a wallflower. My book is that girl that no one really notices, but if they only took time to get to know her, they’d find out that she’s colorful, soft-spoken and quirky.

 

Sheesh.

 

All I can do is wait. I’ve promised myself to stop checking my email, and stop even thinking about sending up that needy follow-up email that says “Hey! I’m here! Did you read my work? I thought you liked me? Don’t you like me? WHY DON’T YOU LIKE ME?”

 

I’m thinking these are good choices.

 

I waited thirty-eight years to find the perfect man for me. I’m just hoping finding the perfect agent doesn’t take as long. I really have been very, very patient.

 

For now, I’ll do what I’m best at: I’ll just keep writing. Someone’s going to notice me sooner or later.

 

OR ELSE.

 

(Okay. So maybe I am a little bit crazy, but only enough to be interesting.)

Uh...Awkward. ( AKA Adventures At Local Author Book Fair)

On Saturday I attended my second book fair. The first book fair was when I had just my first book available: “Easy Does It”. I sat out in the rain near a lake while parents ushered cranky kids right past me and bought books on Jesus and Good Cooking. I vowed after that experience to never attend a book fair again. It was humiliating. I felt like I was begging people to buy my work. All I needed was a cardboard sign saying “Hungry writer. Please buy my book” and a tin can. But I decided to give it another go. When the Grand Rapids Public Library decided to host twenty-five local authors (and I was included) how could I turn that down? It would be a terrific event! I could sell my books, do a reading, meet people who read my work. I immediately ordered supplies: extra books and band-aid promotional swag. I promoted the event on Facebook, on my website, my big ol’ face was even in the paper. With 25 writers also promoting the event, we would have easily a few hundred people there. Right?

 

I vastly overestimated. It was awkward, awful, and a smidge humiliating. What I thought was an opportunity to read our work, was more of a flash discussion on publishing, which I whole-heartedly did not want to discuss. So we sat outside while writers and attendees abandoned the book fair for an hour and a half to talk ‘shop’ AKA BSing.

Kealoha was with me and he made me laugh (except when he analyzed the meaning of 'bad boy' and where did that come from and then I just felt tired). When people came by my booth, they’d grab a band-aid dispenser, smile awkwardly and then go talk to the nonfiction dude sitting next to me. The mostly above-age-seventy group (of maybe fifty or so people) weren’t interested in romantic comedies. Except one woman. She reads romances while she works out her bad knee on a treadmill because you don’t really need to think when you read a romance. She passed on my book though and chose another’s (a friend of mine, so I’m glad she at least sold something).

 

Another woman stopped by, read “Blunder Woman” for about twenty minutes, laughed, said “You are really good”, and then proceeded to flip to the final pages of the book, read the ending, and then said thanks and walked away. I gave her a band-aid dispenser of course too.

The most action we got was from men admiring Kealoha’s fancy sign with the phone code things that you can take a picture of and go to a sight. They took pictures of the display so they could copy it.

Another woman stopped by, read the titles of my books and asked “So…uh…do you write comedy?” I said yes. She said "Hm."

We sat there. I tried not to get depressed. I tried not to think that this was just another sign that I’m writing things people don’t want to read. I’m exhausted by endlessly promoting something people don’t seem to care about. I feel like I’m pleading with people and shouting “But I’m funny! This book will make you happy!” It feels sort of like elementary school when you want to be in the popular group, but you can never BE in the popular group because to get in the popular group you can’t WANT it.

We sold one book…to a friend of Kealoha’s. I think he arm wrestled her to get her to come down. * sigh * (She was very nice though. I’ve met her a few times. She’s funny and she geocaches.)

So. What’s an awkward novelist going to do? I’ve got book four just waiting for a publisher, but if I can’t get people to read the first three, who’s going to read the fourth, besides my mother-in-law, mom, and Kealoha?

It IS depressing.

I know the book fair wasn’t the perfect venue for me, but it seems like neither is online, my blog, my publisher’s site, Amazon, or Facebook. People just don’t want the books…and there comes a point when I have to stop pushing so hard. You can’t force people to read your work. You can’t force them to buy it. The only thing you can do is give them a free band-aid dispenser and hope they think of you.

Wah. I’m whining. I know it.

 

The event itself was lovely and the library did a great job, there just weren’t enough people there, and certainly not enough interested in romantic comedies.

 

I’ve got one more last chance with “Foodies Rush In” and then we’re self-publishing it, and I’m not writing any more romantic comedies for the foreseeable future.

For now, I’m writing stories. Sci-fi and Young Adult and whatever else occurs to me. Stories are short, manageable, filled with energy, and it doesn’t break my heart if someone doesn’t want to read it. I can always write another. In fact, I wrote two new stories this weekend. That’s got to count for something. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe my best work is in front of me, the work that people will line up to read.

You gotta keep hoping. That’s what I do.

Please Join Me: Two Cool Events THIS MONTH

Greetings, readers. My blog is a random hodgepodge of writing, recipes, and every day awkward living, but today I want to do something different. I want to invite you to two awesome events happening here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They're both thrilling for similar reasons: the support and encourage local writers. FOR READERS

 

Get out your pen and put it on your calendar (or enter into your iPhone. Whatev.).  Next week, Saturday the 15th from 10-2, please check out the Grand Rapids Public Library Local Authors Book Fair (click title for link), or GRPLLABF.

Uh. That's not actually an acronym, but I like to say it out loud.

I'll be there selling and signing books, along with about 25 other local writers with novels in every genre: YA, mystery, romance, erotica, humor, steampunk, thrillers, etc. Support local writers. Please buy a book (even if it's not mine). Also, Christmas is coming...buy your mom a hot pirate love novel. She's probably into that. Or, of course, one of my romantic comedies. Everyone needs a laugh, especially an awkward one.

FOR WRITERS

 

The other event is also exciting, but in a different way. I'll be presenting at the Grand Rapids Region Writers Group first conference! It's called "I've Always Wanted to Write a Book Conference" (click on title for more information).

We wanted a conference title that told exactly what to expect. This conference lasts all day on Saturday the 22nd at the Radisson in Grand Rapids. You can still register. It's $100, which is an investment, but hopefully affordable. You'll hear great presentations, network with others, come home with a goody bag and lots of ideas. There's also a social on Friday evening at the hotel.

It's great for all kinds of writers: new writers, closeted writers, polished writers, and never-written-anything-but-wants-to-be-a-writer writers. If you blog, write novels, want info on self-publishing, epublishing, or just how to get your stuff out there, please join us.

Even if you're just starting to write, join us. This is a great group of writers of all backgrounds and genres. We support and encourage each other.

Here's the schedule for the day:

"I've Always Wanted To Write A Book!" Conference Schedule
Hosted by The Grand Rapids Region Writers' Group
Saturday, October 22, 2011 at the Riverfront Radisson in beautiful downtown Grand Rapids! (There will be an icebreaker Friday evening for attendees)

9:30 - 10:15 Room 1 - Using Relaxation Techniques to Boost Productivity - Dr. Sandra Portko Room 2 - Writing Effective Queries - Michele Paulin, Tanya Eby and Sidney Ayers Room 3 - Writing Mysteries - Maris Soule

10:30 - 11:15 Room 1 - Writing Erotica and Erotic Romance - Abigail Barnette, Temple Hogan, Mia Watts, Suzanne Graham and Bronwyn Green Room 2 - Making the Most of Your Writing Time - Margaret Yang Room 3 - Author Branding - Tanya Eby

11:30 - 1:00 Lunch and Keynote Speaker, Jacqueline Carey

1:15 - 2:00 Room 1 - Writing Romance - Lisa Childs Room 2 - Why the Genre You Write Matters as Much as What You Write - R.A. Evans Room 3 - Everything You Need to Know about E-books- Margaret Yang, Temple Hogan, Abigail Barnette and Suzanne Graham

2:15 - 3:00 Room 1 - Trends in Young Adult Fiction - Tess Grant and Aaron Thomas Room 2 - What a Character! - Harry Campion Room 3 - Authors Behaving Badly - Jennifer Armintrout and Bronwyn Green

3:15 - 4:00 Room 1 & 2 - Q & A with Literary Agent Michelle Grajkowski and Editor Michele Paulin

4:30 - 6:00 Rooms 1, 2 and 3 Booksigning, open to the general public

Tumbling 9/11--A million little details

August 8, 2011 (38 yrs. old)

It’s weird when you look back on your life and see how a million tiny decisions lead up to something that feels like fate. Maybe it even IS fate. I don’t know.  I probably would never have moved to New York if all of these things didn’t happen. So part of me thinks I was slowly preparing for it, even though I wasn't aware of that.

2000 (28 yrs. old)

1) I had a gorgeous boyfriend who was a partial inspiration for Ronny the Rocker in “Easy Does It”. He was fun, hot, and we didn’t have a whole lot in common. I probably could’ve happily dated him for some time, but after a few months, I broke up with him. It didn’t feel real to me. It felt like we were pretending at being in love, and as fun as that was, it didn’t leave me feeling very fulfilled. I broke up with him. Or he broke up with me. Basically, we shook hands, said “That was fun” and parted ways. I wanted something “More”.

2) I thought I had that something “More” with a guy I’ll just call M. I’d known him for two years and was seriously head-over-heels in love with him, even though I knew he only saw me as a friend. (He’s the inspiration for “Blunder Woman”.) Because of this unhealthy fixation on him, I couldn’t seem to move forward. No other guy compared.

It was Christmas time and we met at a coffee shop to exchange gifts. The snow fell outside in great big flakes, that soft snow that happens in movies where the guy kisses the girl outside. I thought this could happen. I made sure I looked cute in my big scarf and red peacoat.

I gave him a quilt I hand-quilted. It took me weeks and as I quilted I made little wishes for him, wishes for his happiness, for love, for health. (I blush to think of this now.) He liked the quilt, said thanks, and then gave me a book he found in his parents’ basement. He didn’t read it or know anything about it, just, well, it looked old. And then he told me he’d met and proposed to a woman he met just a few weeks before. I said “That’s great!” stumbled out into the snow and never felt as cold as I did on that night.

Later I found out that, like me, he had three or four other ‘very close female friends’, all of us pining for him to love us. All of us thinking we were special. It broke my heart. And worse than that, I was embarrassed to have fallen in love and had a relationship that primarily existed in my head.

 2001, (27 yrs. old)

3) In January, I was waitressing at The Sierra Room. It was fine dining with lush velvet curtains, fusion cuisine. I started really learning about food and wine there. In between shifts, I acted in a lot of shows, got together with friends, partied, and came home most nights tipsy and lonely. I lived in a two bedroom apartment in a not-so-good area of town and I was beyond broke. A waiter at the restaurant (Tommy) needed a roommate. We had good chemistry, softly flirtatious, but nothing serious. He said I could move in with him. I sold all my furniture for extra cash since he had a furnished room. I packed my three suitcases, and my computer, and moved into the attic of his very cool apartment. He was training to be a chef, and I started to realize that I was a foodie in the making.

The main thing here is that I sold everything. I was now boyfriend-less, without furniture, and heartbroken. The perfect storm for a writer. The perfect storm for change.

4) In the spring, a friend of mine needed help making a short film. We tooled around Northern Michigan and tried to film this short piece. I was in charge of locations and script. We never finished the piece…it was way harder than I thought it would be, but we’d become friends. In June, he called me in a panic. His sister needed a roommate in her flat in New York City for two months. And she needed a roommate immediately.

June, 2001 (28 yrs. old)

So. I was renting a furnished room, had no relationship, was heartbroken, desperately wanted a new start, and I wanted MORE from life. And I’d just turned 28. 30 was looming. And what was I doing? Did I want to be a waitress my whole life? I could be a waitress anywhere. If I was going to be a waitress…I was going to do it in New York.

I called my friends. I quit my job. I had a going away party where my friends and family came together and donated money to help me start over. I booked a plane, and with about $800, I was ready to make a new start. In New York.

This was it! This was fate! I was going to New York. I’d find my heart’s desire. I’d find true love, my writing career would take off, and I’d live happily ever after. I was made for New York.

What could possibly go wrong?

Tunnel Vision--Chapter 19

1957, Traverse City, Michigan In my mind, I hear my mother’s footsteps echoing in the very corridor I’m standing in now. My adopted mother has taken me on a tour of Munson Hospital, formerly known as the Northern Michigan Insane Asylum. It is not the facility we’re looking at, but ghosts. I see my father in the shadows. He is a threatening force. And I see my mother in the way the light pours in through the windows.

Of course, I am not sure if I should even call Ama my mother. Isn’t a mother the person who raises you, who loves you, who tends to you? Is a mother purely biological, or is it a choice?

I run the palm of my hand over the smooth curve of my belly and within me my daughter shifts.

Something else shifts in me too. An idea, maybe. Something about life. How much of our lives, our happiness, is a choice? And how much is forced upon us? The woman who stands before me now, her shoulders hunched, her face lined with age and worry and the pain of giving birth to six children (only three who are still living), this woman…what choices has she made in life? I am almost afraid to ask her.

It turns out that I don’t have to.

“Come on, dear,” my mother says to me, her voice lilting with the brogue of her youth. “Let me grab my shawl and we can walk home and have a cup of tea. It will soothe the little one within you.” She smiles briefly and for a moment I catch a glimpse of the woman she was before my father died. “Perhaps it will soothe me too. Let us have the rest of the story. I will tell you what happened next.”

She tells the head nurse that she is leaving for the day. I follow her out the door, leaving both the darkness and the light of the asylum behind me.

As we walk down the long path that leads to the gate, I realize that even this place has undergone a transformation. There are no longer cries from crazed spirits, but the hollow silence of a hospital ward. Things are sterile now and humane. Some say it is on account of the frontal lobotomies practiced here. They say modern science has brought a great calm. I don’t know if that is true.

Sometimes when there is silence, trouble boils underneath.

I know this, because there is something boiling within me.

The gate is iron and twenty feet high. It is open. We walk through and turn the corner. My mother’s house, my old house, is only two blocks away. While we walk, I slip my arm into hers. We walk home in silence. I can wait a few minutes more for the rest of the story.

No.

Not ‘the’ story. I can wait a few minutes more for ‘my’ story. That’s what this is about after all. It’s about me. The place where I began. Was I a choice or a curse? Did I begin with hope or with fear? Does it even matter? For me, it does. I am so close to deciding what I must do, but before I can think of the future, I have to fully understand my past.

It’s waiting for me. Just there. Shivering in the distance.

I can almost touch it.

 

Ah, Summer. No work. No income. Gah!

Around noon today, I’ll finish narrating the last novel I’m booked for. That means at 12:01 today, I officially begin my summer vacation. Well, sort of unofficially. I still have one day left of teaching, but that’s just exams and grading. I don’t have to plan anything. So. Summer vacation. Two months of not teaching…and no narration booked. Part of me is having a panic attack, I have to admit. Usually with narration I have something lined up, but nothing yet. It’s entirely possible I could go two months without work or income. I’m a little bit terrified. Both of not working (how DOES one relax?) and not getting paid.

At the same time, I’m really excited. I have two months to focus on reading, writing, and just recharging. It’s time to get my writing house back in order, and slip into some good novels. I’ve already started “Sarum” (a novel about England). When it came to me in the mail via Amazon, I opened the box and was shocked to find out that that muther is almost 1,000 pages of very small print. 1000 pages! And it begins with like the Ice Age or something. I guess there’s a reason it’s called the Novel of England. If I make it through that, I think I’m going to read some Carson McCullers and some other classics.

I should be excited. I really should. And I think I am it’s just…well…trying to find a home for the cats is depressing. There are no takers yet. My daughter is heartbroken, so is my son and Kealoha. Where are the Crazy Cat Ladies when you need them?  And then the concept of two months without an income is terrifying to me. What if I’m never hired to narrate again? What if teaching falls through? What if I can’t write a single word in my new literary novel?

I’m trying to tell myself to shut up. I talk too much. I worry too much. But then I just start talking again.

I’m trying to use that whole ‘affirmation’ thing and remind myself that this is just a vacation. I can take a vacation. And someone, someone will want to give my cats a home. And my kids will start getting better. And Kealoha and I are going to have a great wedding. And I’ll lose the five pounds I’ve been trying to since I broke my foot. And my mom will find an apartment that works for her and she’ll stop stressing me out. And I do believe in fairies, I do, I believe in fairies so much that I’m just going to clap my hands right now! clapclapclap

Yep. I’ll just repeat these things endlessly until I get so tired of listening to myself obsessing that I just plain shut it.

I’m thinking that’s going to be at 12:01 today. At 12:01 today, I’m going to sit outside and just breathe for a while and enjoy the start of my vacation.

And I’m going to turn the next page in my book.

 

Tunnel Vision IS BACK!

I have turned over my new leaf. What on earth does that mean anyway? Whenever I turn over a leaf, I just see it's veiny underbelly. Expressions. Sheesh. They're so confusing. Let me start again. This is my first week of taking a break from being endlessly neurotic and obsessively promoting everything I'm doing. I'm just kicking back and reading and teaching and being a mom and a fiancee. It's nice.

But I have some unfinished business with a piece I started last year. A year ago, I asked for people to vote on a story idea for a Blovel (a novel posted in blog installments). Voters chose an historical gothic novel which is sooooo out of my comfort zone.

I decided to write about a 1930s insane asylum in Northern Michigan. Who knew I had such darkness? (Actually, I was pretty serious and literary and dark up until having my kids. Then I grew a sense of humor.)

I found working on this piece to be challenging, disturbing, aggravating, and a whole lot of fun. I posted like 17 installments, and then, well, life and the Promotion Machine took over and I stopped writing it. I didn't think anyone would notice.

A couple of you did.

So, because this story needs to be finished, because a couple of you have asked, and because I've decided to rewrite this little bugger and beef it up and make it a real novel, I'm going to finish it. In fact, I'm posting the next installment TODAY.

You can check on posts about "Tunnel Vision" by entering it in the search tool at the top right of the site. It's also categorized in "Summer Blovel". Or just CLICK ON THIS. You'll find previous chapters, and blogs as I talk about the process.

I'm excited to return to this. The characters still want their story to be told. Frankly, they're annoying me. So...without further delay...I bring you the ending chapters of "Tunnel Vision".

Just not right this second. Some time today. I have to take a shower and get ready to teach first.

On Writing and Living

ON WRITING

This was my first weekend of not obsessively tweeting, posting to Facebook, or tirelessly promoting my work. Instead, I read 200 pages (for pleasure), took naps, and enjoyed time with my fiancé and the kiddos. What a revelation! I said to Kealoha: “I don’t know why I’m so tired. I think there’s something wrong with me.” And he said, “Uh, you’re relaxed.” I was pretty shocked. I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve slowed down this much, so much so that I didn’t even know that I was relaxed.

Of course, two days isn’t saying much, but I’m trying to look at it as a ‘life change’ and not a ‘weekend change’. I’m tired of running and doing so much.

I was lazy. I didn’t clean, do a To Do list, prep an audio book. I didn’t write, didn’t obsess nearly as much, didn’t scour the internet looking at reviews and comments about my stuff. What I did do was cook, play, and go for walks. On one of my walks, I started thinking about a short story I’d like to write. It’s been a long time since I’ve dipped my toes into short stories. I’d like to try it again. This week, I’m going to start writing again….but the kind of story I want to tell (even if it’s hard).

And I thought about the wedding coming up in October.

 

ON LIVING

We’re planning a 1950s Cocktail Party/ Luau theme. I had no idea how much goes into a wedding….especially how much it costs. My first marriage we didn’t have a wedding ceremony. Just us and two witnesses. I dind’t want a big to-do, then, and maybe that was a sign.

With Kealoha, it’s different. I actually want to stand up with him in front of our friends and family and do the whole exchanging of vows thing. I want to make it official. Still, it’ll be relaxed…basically a fun party for us and about 100 guests (most of whom are our family). Appetizers, music, fun outfits, gifts, a mai tai toast…gah!  So much to plan! So much money to spend. I’m also learning a lot of weird wedding stuff. Stuff that makes me just shake my head, like the coordinator at the JW Mariott who calls herself a “Dream Planner”.

On Sunday we had a little ‘engagement party’ at Kealoha’s parents. I met his extended family. There were a lot of jokes, some cussing, and one of his cousins repeatedly asking me: “Are you sure about this? You want to marry this guy?” I assured her I did.

Kealoha’s parents loaded us up with sausage, chips, taquitos and M&Ms for our trip home. I sat in the back seat in between Louis and Simone, my mom was in the front, and Kealoha was driving her car. I had a sort of surreal moment where I thought “Holy shit. This is my family.” Of course, at the time my mom was telling Kealhoa a complicated story about clowns and drunkenness, so I was actively trying to zone out.

It was a fun weekend. A real weekend. A weekend in which I spent more time actually living my life than running from task to task. I could get used to this. And thanks to Kealoha, there is now a hammock in our back yard that is whispering my name. I better go check that hammock out. You know, make sure it works and all.

 

Insomnia Causes Epiphanies. Big Ones.

It’s no surprise that I’ve been having (what I lovingly refer to as) an existential writer crisis for about, oh, a year. Well, I think it’s hit its precipice. At least I hope it has. It’s 12:57 AM and I can’t sleep. All I can think is ‘It’s time to do my work’. A rather annoying thought to have when what I’d really like to be doing is sleeping. I know what my brain is telling me. It’s telling me to quit whining, grow up, and write what I should be writing. (I keep thinking of the end scene in Uncle Vanya.)

These last two years on my own with the kids have been pretty chaotic. I’m constantly busy with teaching and narrating and then writing and more recently endlessly promoting my three small books that are out there. You can do a lot of things at one time, I’ve discovered, but you can’t do a lot of things well. I’ve given my all to my kids, my students, my audiobooks, and what little is left over, I give to my own work. There isn't a lot left over, actually. There's hardly anything left over.

Here’s where things get touchy.

I have a huge chip on my shoulder about why my work isn’t catching on, and why I can’t get an agent, and why I can’t get that elusive big New York publisher. Originally, I just thought the world was against me. Now I realize it’s actually more personal than that. My work isn’t good enough. I’m not saying this for pity; I’m saying it because it’s true.

I’ve thrown a tantrum over a colleague of mine and the accolades that he’s rightly receiving. I’ve thrown a tantrum because my alma mater GVSU said they wouldn’t let me do a reading there because the type of stuff I write (romantic comedy) isn’t supported by their department. I’ve thrown a tantrum as I’ve watched other writer friends get agents, book deals, readings at Schuler’s, etc. I threw a tantrum this week when the two agents looking at my new manuscript passed on it, even though they said I’m a good writer with a keen imagination. And I nearly threw a tantrum last night when I googled my college boyfriend, and discovered that he was on The Daily Show in January talking about his critically heralded second book on Detroit and the auto industry. The man is called a genius, and the truth is, he is.

What do any of these tantrums really accomplish? Why am I being such a baby?

Here’s the truth. I have a smidgen of talent and I’ve always floated by on that. I’ve never really tried at anything. Good grades came easy in school. I was a mostly A student. The same in college. Papers came easy, and later so did stories. Now if I’m being really honest, I’ll take it a step further.

Writing is a joy to me. An escape. So I don’t like to work on it. Work is, well, work. My three books out…they’re pretty much 1st drafts. Sure, I fix the typos and I add things here and there, but you’re pretty much reading the 1st draft. Why? Because I’m sort of just floating by.

So while I throw tantrums all over the place about the ‘world not recognizing me’…what kind of effort and work have I put into making them listen? Are my books the best work I’m capable of? No. They’re not. They’re just parlor tricks.

What would happen if I really took some time and energy and put it into a novel? What would happen if I stopped complaining, stopped looking at everyone around me and what they have, and just focused on my work? On those novels that I want to write? On the novels I need to write, but haven't had the energy for? What would happen?

I’m hoping for magic.

This is what I’m going to do. I’m finally at a place in my life where I feel loved and supported and safe. It has taken all my life to get to this point. (My childhood is the stuff of pained memoirs.) I have great kids and a wonderful fiancé and a wedding to plan. I don’t have to fight anymore to be who I am, or struggle emotionally or financially. Things are in place.

So now it’s time to shut up and do my work. I’m returning to a literary novel that I started a decade ago and didn’t want to put the time and energy into it because it was too hard. And I’m also going to rewrite “Tunnel Vision” and see if I can add depth and texture to it. If no one bites on “Foodies Rush In”, I’ll self-publish it and I’ll move on.

I’m tired of my own tantrums. It’s time to get serious about this.

It starts now…

Or, okay, it starts after I get some sleep.

Don't worry. I won't lose my sense of humor in my work, but I'm going to widen the scope a little. There are characters still waiting in Rusty's Bar and Grill, and a fortune teller has moved in above the restaurant. This is what I'm going to work on. Everything else around me is just noise.

Rah.