The sun will come out tomorrow today

The weather here has been pretty awesome lately. A balmy 50-60 degrees and mostly sun. (Hmm, a complete disconnect from my current header image… Oops. Oh well.) Riley’s been having a blast walking around the neighborhood again, and playing with the new puppy next door. They are painfully adorable together. I’ll work on getting pictures.

I’d like to blame the weather for my complete lack of productivity today, but I can’t. I’ve done exactly nothing on my to-do list today, and it’s mostly because I’ve been reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Until page 60, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the book or not, but since then I’ve been completely absorbed. Ford’s prose is simple, elegant, and moving. And I’m so glad, because he seemed like a wonderful person when I met him at a local reading.

My other reason is that things at work are busier than normal, because we’re moving to a new building in a couple weeks. Between now and then, I’ll be handling a lot of logistics, plus after we move I’ll go back to a 5-day work schedule for a 10-week transition period. I’m not exactly looking forward to the reduced writing time, but my work has been very accommodating to me and my writing so far, so this is the least I can do. (And hopefully after the 10 weeks pass, I’ll have figured out a way to make my 4-day part-time schedule work in the new location.)

Furthermore, I’m hoping that my recent consistency and good habits will help keep me on track through the move. Because that’s the thing about being a writer, you know? There’s never a perfect time or situation. So you always have to make it work. Make yourself work.

So yeah, that’s what’s up for the foreseeable future. But hey, at least my workspace (both current and future) has lots of big windows so I can enjoy all this sunshine!

Living life without a safety net

First, thanks to everyone for your wonderful and supportive comments about the stories/scenes I recently posted! I’m so glad I put them out there, even though I was hesitant because they’re so rough. I have a tendency to blog about writing in general, as opposed to my writing specifically, but reading Kiersten and Natalie’s blogs made me realize that I should probably open up a bit. Because it’s fun to share (like secrets at a slumber party!) and your responses are so encouraging.

To that end, I have a confession to make: I’ve started a new book. I’m excited about it, so if you think it sounds stupid, please don’t tell me.

In a nutshell:

A twenty-something couple seeking adventure in order to revive their stale relationship gets more than they bargained for when they are whisked away to a strange and possibly dangerous other world.

Think Alice in Wonderland meets Princess Bride meets Spirited Away meets real life. Or something like that. I’m only 2,200 words in right now, but I’ve hit my word goal every day this week, so I’m feeling pretty good. I’m also going to employ alpha readers on this project, and it’s the first time I’ve ever had alphas (well, besides my thesis adviser Hilary Masters) so I’ll talk more about that next week.

In other news, my friend Julia has started blogging flash fiction once a week at 52 Tales. Julia is awesome, and a very talented writer! (We met at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop.) Most of her current tales are about Austen Clark, a California lawyer who ran away to Micronesia for some mysterious reason involving a sawed off shotgun. There’s humor and adventure and even (I’m anticipating) a little romance. It’s like LOST, but without plane wrecks or polar bears or time travel or crazy conspiracies! In other words, not very much like LOST at all, except that it’s set on a cool island and is fabulous. Check it out.

Another friend, Mandy, recently blogged about how everyone’s pressuring her to get a backup plan. See, she recently quit her job to do freelance writing full-time, and apparently a lot of people think she’s going to fall on her @$$. What I love about Mandy is that she’s bold, so her response to those people was a big fat SO WHAT?

I don’t want to make a back up plan. I don’t want it to become THE plan as soon as things get tough and I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I want to struggle (a little). I want there to be times where I realize I need to hunker down and crank out some work if I want to pay my student loan. I want to make myself nauseous from the procrastination I’m doing to myself, and I want there to be days when I’m up until 4am finishing up work because I sat around all day reading blogs.

If I have complete security and comfort, which so many of us see as a level of “achievement,” like we’ve all suddenly reached our goals and can sit and be there and stay there, what am I going to get out of it besides the cash? What’s going to teach me, tempt me, freak me out, or make me squirm in discomfort? I know in the end we all want that feeling, but thinking of the day where I sit back and say “yep, this is it. This is where I’m at and how it’s going to be for the rest of like, ever…” makes me realize how I’m not ready to be there.

See? Bold. And brilliant. And totally going to rock the freelance thing.

Me, on the other hand… I compromised. I quit my job to write, but I got a safety net (a part-time job). Granted, it lets me spend a lot more time writing without making me a charity case, but sometimes I wish I were as fearless as Mandy.

(And sometimes I think I still will be… If 2010 isn’t the year, I think I’m going to have some tough decisions to make.)

Two years (and a few months) resolution

The past couple days I have been going through a bunch of New Yorker and Narrative magazine stories I had bookmarked to read and never did. I consider this part of my job as a writer, but there are a probably a lot of people out there who are like, “Reading? That’s your job? HAH!”

But Alex pointed out today that I don’t work part-time; I work two jobs. There’s the one that I do for 30 hours a week, answering phones at a graphic design firm — the one that (mostly) pays the bills and provides health insurance. And then there’s the one that I do for at least that many hours if not more, the one with no boss but myself, no deadlines, no schedule or plan or client or anything. That’s the hard one, the one I really care about, the one that I think most people don’t get. (Unless of course they are working that job too…)

No need to pull out the world’s smallest violin for me; I know that I have it good and that I’m not special. I don’t really “get” anyone else’s job either, except my parents’. I’ve dated Andy for 4 years and I’m sure that what I know about his job is a tiny fraction of what he actually does. It’s the whole you gotta walk a mile in the other person’s shoes thing. Except, people respect Andy (as a purchasing manager) without really understanding his job. I don’t think the same is always true for me as a writer.

But that doesn’t really bother me. It just is what it is. No, what bothers me is that I’m starting to feel disappointed in myself. Two years (and a few months) after graduating college, I don’t feel like I have very much to show for my efforts. Yes, I made some big decisions — namely, I committed career suicide and quit my job as an account manager, and I switched from literary fiction to young adult — but what concrete things do I actually have to show for it? What can I point to when people ask what I’m doing, what I’ve done?

Last week my alma mater hosted an info session in downtown Cincinnati for high school students who were interested in applying/attending. I’ve volunteered at that session the past couple of years, helping people register and answering their questions both before and after the presentation. This year I decided not to go. There were a number of factors that led to that decision, but I admit, one of them was that I did not like the idea of having to answer the inevitable questions, “What did you study? What do you do? Have you been published?”

I know that my current struggles are normal, that I’m not behind schedule for this career. (In fact, given my age, it could easily be argued that I am ahead.) But I also know that those parents are considering paying a LOT of money for that education, and those kids are thinking not just about classes and dorms but about internships and job offers, and they all want to see results. They want to know that their time and money will be well-spent. And right now I just don’t think I would make a convincing case to them.

But this is not a pity fest. I knew (mostly) what this would be like when I decided I was really going for it. In fact, I have it easier than a lot of other aspiring writers, not to mention most people around the world.

So instead of feeling sorry for myself, I made a decision. I will be at that info session next year. And when they ask the inevitable questions, this is what I will answer:

What did you study? Creative writing.

What do you do? I write novels.

Have you been published? Yes.*

*If not “Yes,” then I’d at least like to be able to say something like, “Sort of. I have an agent, and we’re currently sifting through offers from multiple publishing houses on my first manuscript. It should be on bookshelves by 2011. Be sure to pick up a few copies!”

The things we do to pay the bills

Number of new words written today: Like 30, counting this blog post.

Number of FedEx shipments made today: 53 billion. Divided by 53. Or maybe a billion.


For a Texan, I kicked ass

Originally I had a deep, philosophical entry planned for today, but things change. Kind of like how I went to bed early with the intention of getting eight good hours of sleep, but then Riley decided to go on a barking spree at 3 in the morning. Thanks, pup.

Today my plans — ALL OF THEM — were derailed by what I termed a “mini blizzard.” Hamilton County later termed it a “Level 3 Snow Emergency,” meaning that no cars should be out on the road, but of course that was TWO HOURS after I drove to work.

It took me 30 minutes to chip through the 1″ thick layer of ice around my car this morning. Another 10 minutes to get up the long upward sloping driveway that leads out of our complex. I got stuck behind a salt truck, who got stuck near the top of the hill, so I stayed near the middle while another car waited at the bottom. The salt truck waved me on. I attempted to drive. No go. I waved the other car on. They got all the way up to the salt truck, then had to reverse all the way back down. Everyone sort of looked at each other like, What now? So I reversed down the hill and worked up some momentum to reach the top. As I was ascending, the salt truck was coming back down and a man on the back yelled to me with some attitude: “USE YOUR FOUR WHEEL DRIVE!”

Hey, why didn’t I think of that?


Geez. I may be from Texas, but I do have a brain. Give me some credit.

I had already called both my bosses by this point, but neither picked up, so I decided I better go to work just in case. Well, I was about five minutes away from the office when one of my bosses called and told me to stay home. Uh, thanks.

Margot and Kate were already at work, and my other boss came in shortly after. The four of us hung around for a bit, then received word about the Level 3 declaration. Boss #2 let us go home, but Kate had to wait for her husband (they carpool) so Margot and I stayed with her. We baked cinnamon rolls, and that pretty much made up for coming in unnecessarily.

Driving home was slightly better, although still not great. My car got stuck while trying to park, but I was too tired to dig myself a path. Sticking out and crooked will have to do.

(That’s what she said!)

mini blizzard 004

So now I’m safe and warm at home, eating soup and wearing my Powerpuff Girls toe socks. I sound bitter and grumpy, but I’m not. (Or at least, not a lot.) I did drop the f-bomb more times today than I have in like six weeks combined, but that was mostly for dramatic effect. Truth is, I’m rather proud of myself. Like the title says, for a Texan, I kicked ass today.