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.