Up early this morning, though I don’t generally make it a habit to discuss my habits. There was, however, a great write up recently about how author Megan Abbott spends her Sundays.( You can read that here. ) What I loved about this piece is that as a writer it is sometimes helpful or comforting when other writers share such things because this tends to be a solitary gig that is comparable to precisely no other job on earth. Though I have considered the possibility that astronauts might have some idea what it’s like. Here is where I have to keep myself from going off on a tangent with regard to my imaginings about space travel and the like. So as a writer, to read about the day of another writer can feel like… I’m normal. Writers spend a lot of time very much in their own world, the world of stories. However, what you learn is that most folks, regardless of occupation, are constructing their own realities, it is how we all live in the larger world.
I’ve ordered my proofs, or advanced copies, ( also sometimes call ARCs) of the novel. I’m nervous, excited. I have a feeling of accomplishment that has brought to me the realization that I so needed it. I needed, and need, to feel like I am getting somewhere, like I am getting something done, accomplishing something, achieving something. I’ve realized that this was/is part of my difficulty with traditional publishing. Please don’t misunderstand me, in and of itself, traditional publishing is fine, I mean, I’m not opposed to it, that isn’t what I’m saying. Traditional publishing puts everything on their terms, they like your story, they don’t like your story, you could wait months to hear. I got a rejection notice this year after waiting a year, and that is pretty common depending on the market your submitting to. People outside this business hear things like that and it sounds unfathomable. I’ve already addressed a lot of those issues in previous posts. But what I’ve realized is that it left me feeling like I wasn’t getting anything done and like there wasn’t a lot of hope to get where I wanted to be, or to be doing what I want to be doing, and that is, having my work published on a regular basis.Going the route of traditional publishing, very honestly, often left me feeling like a groveling idiot, if not acting like a fool. It left me feeling like it was less about whether or not my work was any good, and more about whether or not I was likable and socially adept. I also felt like if I had walked into the proverbial room with a master’s degree in English from a respected college, I might have appeared to be more talented. Other times I felt like I was being relegated to being “fan girl” and again, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being fan girl, on some level, I most certainly am every bit the fan girl. But when you’ve written as much as I have written and are as serious about it as I am, have been writing for as long as I have been writing, being met with the attitude that you’ve just shown up to get autographs, kind of sucks. Worse though, perhaps, is feeling like you can’t say anything about it. In that though too, there have been people who have been incredibly supportive and those are the people who helped to keep me from quitting. I’m so thankful for those people.
What I wanted was for it to be about the work. From the beginning there was someone saying But who is she? I guess it would be kind of like if you were the new employee and didn’t put any family photos out on your desk. I was unprepared for that. I think that I knew how to be professional, or I knew how to be personal. Not knowing how to juggle that is certainly on me. It simply wasn’t an issue I’d expected to encounter. It’s a tough business, one that often isn’t structured very much like a business, or didn’t seem to be. It got to where it felt hopeless to me. I thought, I’m talented. I’ve got all of this great work, and no matter what I do or how I approach it, I’m spinning my wheels.
I don’t live my life competitively or by comparison. I’ve dealt with a chronic illness from a young age and what that taught me is an appreciation for individual ability and accomplishment, an appreciation for, What is the best that I can do today? So my sense of accomplishment has nothing to do with what anyone else has going on. I also have a keen sense of time. A year’s response time may be normal in some quarters, but that’s longer than I care to wait. ( There was a time when I was very quietly submitting work to some pretty large markets because why not? Those are some slow wheels.) I need to feel like I’m getting something done. Regardless of what any other person thinks of it, I’ve written an eighty-five thousand word novel, edited it, designed and formatted the interiors, designed the cover, formatted it for publication, it is four hundred and sixty-six pages total, by myself. That is an accomplishment. It’s something that I can be proud of having accomplished. It has helped to restore my sense of confidence, something that had been completely destroyed over the last however many years. Does it matter to me that this isn’t a big traditional publishing book deal? Not one whit. I love this. I love being able to do this myself. Whether or not others recognize the accomplishment or take me seriously as a result of it, again, that’s their prerogative. I don’t feel like a groveling fool waiting to see if someone likes me enough, or who I’m “friends” with, ( which can work for or against you, depending), or whether or not I’m cool enough or popular enough, marketable enough, to publish my story. Whether or not that that’s the reality of it, that is the truth of how it felt to me. For all of my life, I have known that I am a writer, and I never felt like less of one than I did at so many moments in the last five years. Traditional publishing often made me feel like, You’re a writer when we say that you’re a writer. And that’s bullshit. There was a tremendous loss of my sense of self-respect in that, one that I didn’t realize that I had acquiesced to, until I put this book together myself. I’ve been through one of those tremendous phases or personal growth and learning. I really cannot wait to write and publish more books.
Obviously I read a lot of traditionally published material, and enjoy it. I’m simply speaking to my own experience as a writer trying to get published, be paid for my work, and get something accomplished. I’ll still buy a copy of The Paris Review. What I’m saying though, is that for me, this was the better option. I also really believe in the independent publishers and small presses that are out there getting it done.
So, I’m waiting for my proofs! Yeah! Hoping to have The Slick Furies available for purchase prior by Halloween.
I’ve also been working on a collection of poems, on breaks from getting the novel ready, that I should be able to published and have available before the end of the year. They are thirty-nine pieces of poetry and prose that I wrote from 2005 to 2008, while recovering from a bought with physical illness, mourning the deaths of my beloved grandparents, and leading up to a very real,completely devastating, nervous breakdown around the time of my fortieth birthday. The selection of poems, and prose, is titled WINSOME VEIN. The poems are darker than anything that I had written up to that point, some of them have appeared here on my webpage, and what I had said about them early on was that if I had to describe them, it would be like if Anne Sexton and Edgar Allan Poe had a baby, and that baby was slightly more ethereal or given to romantic ideas occasionally, along the lines of Sara Teasdale. The title, “Winsome Vein”, came out of a quote about writing, to paraphrase, that there’s nothing to it, that all you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. Some version of which was said by Ernest Hemingway, and also by a sports writer named Red Smith. So that’s fun!
What works for one person, isn’t necessarily the way for another person to go. This is what is working for me right now. This is what I know that I need to be doing right now. I’m excited about writing again, about making books, about life. What’s more though, I’m hopeful.
12 September, 2016