Sunday, August 13, 2023

Status Report

 #MWFA Make Writing Fun Again was my last-ditch, total desperation, Hail Mary plan to reclaim an optimistic writer identity and get through my summer of intensive work on Book 4. The plan was to write in all the ways that make me happy: in quippy Instagram stories, in Strava posts, in my newsletter, and here on the blog. I wasn't really thinking about making other people enjoy the writing, but rather just doing writing that is fun for me. 

Guess what? It worked! Writing became sometimes more fun and always more tolerable. I definitely feel happier now than I did in June. And, I also feel more committed to being a writer now than I did in June. We'll see how this goes.

Anniversary Celebrations We had the 21st anniversary of our marriage, which I mentioned. Also, it was the 150th anniversary of my school. I both went to the school from PK-12, and now I teach there. I really, really didn't want to go to the anniversary celebration because I felt nervous, and I don't like fun. But, I had to go because of contracts and reasons. As you can probably guess, it was way more fun than I worried it wouldn't be. And, a few of my friends are in a faculty band, and they absolutely crushed their gig. I did love that part.

Running Always a standby stalwart favorite. Tomorrow we begin the high school cross country season. I'm in my second year as coach of the Bears, and guess what? I got a promotion. Last year I was an Assistant Coach. Now, I'm Associate Head Coach! This was an excellent gold star, and I'm thrilled. My own running continues, and I'm trying to just be myself, race hard, and not worry about who beats me and doesn't. This relates to my final topic.

School Year Mantras and Mottos I always have one. They help with daily function and intentionality. I need one for this year, and it's on my to-do list for this week. My first idea, which I'm not committed to just yet, is something like "Live Today." You can let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

The Day We've All Been Waiting For

 I hit send on Book 4. It's off to my literary agent. Some details about that:

  • It's not DONE done, but it's way done enough. It's all readable and, I think, logical, and together, my team and I can now start making it the best it can be.
  • Not every agent is like this, but mine is an excellent editor, and I really like to get her take on the work first before I hand it in to my editor at Penguin.
  • Sometimes, the three of us--my agent, my editor, and I--will all get on a call and troubleshoot stuff together.
  • This is the time when we start to hope. We hope that the book is good, that people will like it, that it's interesting and different, that it will sell a lot of copies and enchant the masses.
  • There is no harm in the hope, and it gets us through the remainder of the process, which is long and also sometimes grueling.
Now, I'm going to take a couple of days off. In the beginning, that feels so weird. Like, what should I do? Should I scour the house and take loads of things to Goodwill? Should I plan my entire year of curriculum? Should I write pages and pages of ideas for cross country coaching (which starts on Monday)?

I tried to take a nap today, but all of these thoughts and options kept coming instead. Tonight, though? Guess what! It's our 21st wedding anniversary, and we're going out for really fancy sushi. I'm very excited.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

10 Days From Done

We've reached the moment. 

I'm finishing and handing in my book on August 9th. That's the day. It's 11 days away from now. Why the 9th, a random Wednesday more than a year-and-half after I'd hoped to complete my fourth novel?

It's because that's the day my agent is back from vacation. And sometimes you just need a hard deadline. And, if I do it, then I can maybe have a few days off before I begin major revisions, and then, you know, school starts. I'm a teacher, actually. That's my main job.

I'm trying to make writing fun again, but today it's a struggle. Everything is just a little bit harder than it should be. 

Here are 5 fun things? To try?:

  1. The Barbie movie was so fun and excellent and loudly subversive and one of my highlights of the summer.
  2. The people in my family do funny parodies of the song at the end of The Lorax. The one that goes, "Let it grow."
  3. Bagels. But, I'm out of cream cheese. But peanut butter is good, too.
  4. I ordered a funny t-shirt (it's a long story, but it says "mid runner," and I bought it to apologize for a dumb slip of the tongue I made at track practice that the kids won't let go). The kids liked it and laughed.
  5. My book is going to be done. Done, but not perfect, on August 9th.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Being the First Choice

I applied for a job this spring that I really wanted, and I didn't get it.

Of course, this has happened before. Sometimes you get the job, and sometimes you don't. This is the way of the world. And, obviously, there are all kinds of reasons why you might get a job or might not, and only some of the reasons are within your control.

But, and I say this next part not out of ego, but, well, I guess totally out of ego:

I just feel like with my impeccable academic record and my 22-year career in the field of education, which includes successful and accoladed work at nearly every grade level, and the fact that I have published three well-reviewed novels with literally the world's largest publisher... well, is it crazy to think that I might be someone's first choice to teach fourteen-year-olds how to read and write?

It's not like I'm trying to be something super prestigious like a writer in residence at an Ivy League institution or a Hollywood showrunner. It's ninth-grade English! And we're in the middle of a nationwide teacher shortage!

I'd laugh, except-- okay, I am laughing. Maybe I'm just dreaming too damn big. Multi-book, six-figure deals with renowned publishers?! Check! A job you want with stinky teenagers? Better luck next time!

I'd like to stop thinking about this now since I got rejected in March, and now it's July. But this is one of those things that just keeps coming back. I know you understand.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Five Things About Our Vacation

I got good feedback on my last newsletter about the five things I listed about my new book. 

So, here are five things about our vacation to Oregon:

  • Before we went to Oregon, my brother Noah told me that everyone in Oregon was super weird. I felt skeptical. How could an entire state be weird? And Noah himself likes stuff that I think is weird, like knives and dirty-looking t-shirts. But sure enough, there is definitely a markedly higher percentage of weirdos just walking around on the streets in Oregon than I've seen in other places. As Dan said, "Every place here feels like you have to leave fast or else get serial murdered." 
  • I really like big rocks that stick up out of the ocean. I guess the geological features to which I'm referring are called sea stacks and are caused by headland erosion. There are really cool ones on the Oregon coast. And there is mist that flows out by them and then also jutting points and cliffs and such. The whole effect is very majestic and mysterious, and I almost never felt I was going to get serial murdered on the beaches we visited. 
  • I have a tendency to save money by renting sub-par vehicles. This time I rented a Kia Sportage that did get great gas mileage, but had no automatic locks. Did you know that cars without fobs still exist? The Kia also lacked USB ports for charging. Still, It was not the worst car I've ever rented because now we have a family rule that I'm only allowed to secure automobiles from major-brand car rental companies.
  • Track is the best sport. We spent two days watching the pros at Hayward Field, and omg, up close they're even more impressive. My favorite event was the women's 1500, which was physical and a nail-biter and generally epic. Our seats were just post-finish line, and I loved watching the athletes process their results. We also had prime seats for high-fives and selfies. Not many middle-aged women went trackside to take advantage of this benefit, but I was not too proud.
  • Our five-day vacation is over now, and though I worked a little most days, it was nice to take a break. Now, I have no choice but to go back to SARAH JONES every day, many hours per day. I guess it's okay. This is what novelists sometimes have to do.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

The Turn In

My one blog reader, Lee, asked about whether I'm turning in pages of my new novel (currently called THE ONE AND ONLY SARAH JONES) on the regular. 

She asked this because I wrote in my last MWFA blog post that I "finish" my 8000 words and then hand them in. Lee knows this is not SOP for novel writing. Usually, novelists just write their stuff and deal with their own cadre of critique partners and freelance editors (I have them), and then turn in a "finished" version of the whole thing to their official editor and/or agent. 

My agent, Joanna, is highly editorial, so I do always give her a whole thing. Most often this happens before we send it to my official editor at Berkley. We do some of the work before Kerry, the editor, has to see it. It makes me seem smarter and lower maintenance than I actually am. The plan seemed to be working fine because Berkley bought four of my books.

But this time, for the fourth one when I'm supposed to be more experienced and competent, I'm handing in pages on the regular.

Here's what that's all about: I "finish" like 6000-8000 words and then send those pages to Joanna in a document on their own. It's like an accountability thing, but no one's making me do it except myself. Joanna doesn't even read the pages. It's just like a little checkmark, as assurance for everyone that I'm writing the book. 

This book has been hella hard to write. There have been many stops and starts. Two ideas got killed by my publisher before we landed on this one. This one got torn apart by an agency editor before I doubled-down on it and figured out how to make it go.

There has been a lot of crying and despair, hence MWFA. And also, hence the accountability gold-star hand-in-pages email check.

I have a book update today, too, for those of you (Lee) who like to know how the sausage gets made. 

I'm going to whisper it: 

I had to go review all those chunks I've sent Joanna because it's time to fill some plot holes. (I have a helper for that who can do his job much more easily if I do some prep). And, I've discovered while I've re-read them that the chapters I've written are... 

...good. The book is funny. It's interesting. There are some holes, yes,  but they are going to get filled. 

Yesterday was a good, good day.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Status Report

MWFA: As a review for everyone, that's Make Writing Fun Again, my plan for the summer. And guess what? It's working! Every day, I think about ways to make writing fun and do those things. What I've noticed is this: doing the fun little snippets make the work writing easier. There was even one day when the work writing was the most fun writing I did. Amazing. It's happening. The fog is lifting and the fun is coming in. Also, the book is getting much closer to done. Speaking of...

The Book: I am working on it a lot, and it's getting written. On drafting days, my goal is to average two thousand words. That's a lot. It's like six or seven pages. Every time I get to 8000 words, I "finish" those chapters and hand them in. "Finish" is in quotation marks because we all know they're not actually finished. They're just readable and reasonable. The word count goes from 8000 to about 6000 at this point, but the words are much better. And then, when all 90,000 words of the book are in that shape, we can revise it all again. And then again and again, but with help. It's happening. Did I say that already? It's happening. It's happening.

Running: I trained really hard and well from December of 2022 until a couple of weeks ago. My plan was for my big finale of this training cycle to be a half marathon. But, when the week came, I just didn't feel like doing it. The race I picked was small and not super well-supported. The weather was hot and humid. I was overwhelmed by the task of writing my book. I just decided to bag it. I think it's fine. I'm taking a month of very easy running, and then I'll start back again to some regular training. I'm running a fall marathon, and I probably won't bag that. It'll be marathon #10.

Driving: Mac got his permit. He's permitted to drive. I'll begin his instruction thusly.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Deep Sadness and Betrayal

Here's the problem: I feel terribly miffed about not going to the Taylor Swift Eras tour. Even though it can't be actually true, it feels like everyone has gone to the show and had the best time of their lives. Everyone except me. 

And while everyone was at the show, they got to do one or more of the following: wear a sparkly jumpsuit, put glitter on their faces, make and trade cool friendship bracelets with Tay-themed messages on them, and cry with joy and fulfillment.

Meanwhile, I'm sure my life has meaning, but I'm not sure what it is now that I've missed out on this iconic experience.

Friday, June 23, 2023

The Boxes

The whole impetus for the MWFA project is to enjoy my writing more. 

Because it's hard, and it sucks, right? And it makes me feel bad about myself? 

But not blog writing. Blog writing is fun and makes me feel like, hey! I have so many years of stuff I've written and collected all right here, right on this website!

And do you know what else is fun, even about writing novels? 

It's fun to color in boxes to show how much you've written and then give yourself a sticker when you've reached your target. I met my target every day of the week this week, so I got five stickers. 


The stickers have an oceanic theme. They include a shrimp, a stingray, a couple of sharks, and an octopus. They are printed in whimsical colors and with cartoonish eyeballs. If I saw these animals in real life in the ocean, I would not be thrilled. But in my little bullet-ish journal? They're frickin' thrilling.

The next step is editing these 8000 new words and that seems hard and sad to me right now, but I have a policy that works in a metaphorical sense for this situation. 

The policy is ONE BOX AT A TIME.

Editing these 8000 words is in tomorrow's boxes.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Dog Trimming

I have a few problems, and one of them is that I have three dogs. I don't think I've explained this reality, as I've hardly written anything here in the last few years. This is what happened:

We had one dog, Teddy, a perennial puppy whose vertical jump measures at least four feet, whom we welcomed into our family in 2015.

Next, it seemed like an excellent idea to get a pandemic pup in 2020. Though it was embarrassing to procure a cashier's check for "Cockapoo of Excellence" as the world shut down, I stand by that decision. Two dogs is great.

The third dog, we couldn't have predicted. Skip was my late brother Kevin's constant companion and loyal pal. When Kevin died suddenly in April 2021, the only right thing to do was to add Skip to what could loosely be called a pack. Skip is a weird little guy and behaves not a ton like a dog, so "pack" seems like a stretch. 

Anyway, Skip is one of us now, and I think is about 13 years old. His eyesight and hearing are going fast.

Ok, and also, all three dogs need regular haircuts. They're those kinds of dogs. Megan, the best groomer, books out months in advance, and I can never call on time. So, sometimes, I have to clip them. It's harder than it looks.

Here are some of the comments I've received before, during, or after trying to groom the dogs:

  • "Oh, KC, please don't."
  • "Mom, you did them dirty."
  • "Let's leave it to the professionals."
  • "It looks like they're diseased."
  • "Do they have mange?"
This time, I think I did an okay job, but I've received no compliments.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

I'm Trying To Express My Weirdness

I had an epiphany on my run today, and it was that I should have FUN writing every day.

Making Writing Fun Again (MWFA) is my idea to counteract the deep insecurity and sadness I feel when I try to write novels, which I've been trying to do (and doing) for like six years. 

Quite simply, in the time that I've been a professional writer, I've come to mostly hate writing. Or, to be more precise, I hate the way it makes me feel.

Because I'm a good problem solver, I tried to brainstorm ways that writing could be fun for me once again, as it was in the days of yore. And, I thought of this blog. And, I thought of captions on Strava, the exercise app. And, I thought of Instagram stories.

First, to MWFA, I wrote a long thing on Strava about how writing makes me feel. I wrote about my deep insecurities and fears. I felt good when I hit "Update." And then an hour later, I realized I sounded like an overly emo psycho in that "piece." My hope is that not too many people saw it.

My whole brand is pretending to be normal, right? I need to be a little more surreptitious about my actual neuroses. 

So next, I did a little draft of an Instagram story about MWFA. Unfortunately, on review it seemed a little disturbed, so I deleted it.

And then, finally, I came here, and I wrote this entry. 

The blog is defunct, so I think it's okay. It can stay. If you read this, maybe be careful about letting me know. It's like a journal that's online, but that like no one reads.