Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Vermont Writer's Retreat

March 23, 2007

Day 1 of the Vermont Writer’s Retreat. Here’s what I feel:

Frustrated and sad but also appreciative and interested and curious.

Frustrated because, and mind you, this is not logical or valid or based on anything other than the demons lurking in my brain and the obsessive bullshit that runs like a song on loop over and over….So, I feel frustrated because whenever I go on a retreat like this one, I am reminded that I have not achieved the regular publishing of my books and that reality and reminder makes me so crazy frustrated. I feel frustrated because I see some of the participants are published and successfully “out there” in the mainstream, regular world of fully-published author. I know, I know that I am published, but I am POD published and that is not the same only because what I want and what my goal is and always has been is to be launched into the world of author-backed-by-a-publisher, 100%. Now I have to say to those of you who read this and want to throw things at me or call me a hypocrite: I never ever intended to have self-publishing be the period at the end of the sentence. It’s always been the comma, the joiner or pause on my way to a mainstream publisher. I am NOT ashamed about self-publishing. But to me it’s like staying at one level, one grade for too long. It’s like staying at college forever and not graduating. I am ready to graduate.

So, that frustration is swimming around me. Plus, I miss Chelsea. I smelled her head and skin over and over before I left, and she finally pushed me away and said, “Go, Mom. Have fun at your conference. Bye,” and she waved me away, sitting on the steps of our front porch and waving while I pulled out of the driveway. Broke my friggin’ heart. She’s 3 with the heart of a 30-year-old.

I anticipate I will leave early on Sunday so I can be home with Chelsea.

Now for he silent prayer I usually say while on these retreats:

Dear G-d, I really I just want to get to a place where I can slow down, write, make a living as a full time writer/author and teach when I feel like it. Focus on my family and my writing and teach/work out of the house only one day a week, the rest for writing and being a mother and wife. Help me make this my reality. Tired of pushing all on my own. Done with it. Ready to move on and be in the published world. Completely, not just one foot, both feet.

Much, much later….

Now feel warmed up and less frustrated and sad.

Had a conversation with Sarah A. (author of HEADCASE) about Jewish stuff, publishing, contacts, etc. Very helpful, and she’s funny. Told a story that I swear needs to be a book: Nice Jewish girl from The City is a kleptomaniac for six years, stealing sweaters from a store that was like The Limited. Tells her mother she bought the stuff at Lohmans gets caught one day when showing off how much she can steal with a friend.

Had another good convo with a woman, also Jewish; at these events we gravitate to each other like a school of fish. She wrote a book call GOY CRAZY. We talked about the marketing end of it all and how hard it is to balance new motherhood with writing, etc. I told her all about my publishing journey and vented a bit about how frustrating it is to feel like you are almost there….but not quite. Self-publishing, how self conscious it feels, how I feel like I have to explain why I did it, how I have to justify to the publishing/writing world that I have talent that I didn’t self publish for any kind of vanity…just impatience. She was a sympathetic ear. I worry she thinks I am unstable, a loon. We’ll see if she talks to me tomorrow!

March 24, 2007
Day 2
I went to bed with the same feeling I started off the evening with. I am sick of this business and just want to write and when I say that it sounds like a cliché. I wonder if that’s what this (me) will all turn out to be? A big cliché….

Another woman, Lucia, who I met at a previous conference who bought my books and LOVED them…I vented to her. Boy, I’m spending too much time venting. She says to me that Gina is a great agent and she saw her speak and she was wonderful and so many people can’t get agents and I need to kind of look at that and take it in.

She’s right, of course.

It’s true. I have THE BEST AGENT EVER. But IT still hasn’t happened. The book deal. My problem is I just don’t know what to do while I wait. And I guess it’s a matter of trust. Not trust in Gina, but I don’t trust this industry. But I realize, it’s not the industry you have to trust. It’s certain people within the industry, like Gina, and I am beginning to see all the REALLY great people that are out there in the publishing houses, too.

So, we haven’t heard from the bunch of recent places we have submitted to…..wait wait wait. Go to conferences like these, focus on my craft, teach, be with my daughter and husband…live my life.

Every night I think about IT. Every night, when it’s quiet and my world is resting, I think about my manuscripts sitting on desks of editors who have piles and piles and I wonder if mine are already rejected or being read or being considered. I wonder. Then, as I try and fall asleep, obsessive thoughts float into my head…Do I market my self-pub books hard core? Do I continue to write? Do I do both? I feel frantic as I wait to know if my books will get published and it makes me anxious and scared that I will never get the chance to give birth to the rest of my books. That the three other MADDIE books will sit in a drawer. No way. I will self publish them if all this waiting amounts to nothing. I do have a time frame….it’s not clear how many years I will wait but it feels like 2 more right now. After I obsess on that topic, I go to “I want another baby.” But it’s not the right time…next year. I tell myself to stop focusing and thinking about the what-to and where-fores of another baby and just let it go, until next year.

Finally, the thoughts drift away, just as easily as they float in, and I sleep.

March 25

It’s the end of the next day and I have had a wonderful healing experience with Caitlyn from Antheum and Ellen Wittlinger, author of Hard Love. These women sat and critiqued my pieces and I just felt supported, encouraged, and GUIDED!!!!! I would love to work with Caitlyn, she is INTUITIVE. My fingers are crossed as she said she would look at my short story collection and the first two Maddie books. YIPEEEE.

So while I am still frustrated….I realize just because I feel that way doesn’t mean that I have to DO something different. The course I am on is the course I need to be on…writing. Writing and writing and letting Gina submit. Going to conferences. The other stuff, the publishing world stuff that I cannot control. I have to let it go.

I feel guilty though for not pushing the two self-pub books more. But then I think doing that, putting my energy there is not staying the course and track I am now on. I am leaving that behind, not forgetting it, but it’s time to shift my focus on getting a book deal and writing more stuff. What’s with the guilt I wonder?

It could be that my self-pub books were “birthed” out of pure love. Love for writing. Love for sharing my writing. These are my first books, my first foray into this bizarre world of publishing. Maybe I feel I “owe” them more because the experience of each has made me the writer/author I am today.

March 27th
It’s now two days back home…Real Life. Harsh glare of it, yet it’s okay because one thing I learned from the conference is no matter who you are, Ellen Wittlinger or Caitlyn Dlouhy, you still have to go home to regular life. You still have to deal with children, spouses, broken cars, messy houses. You still have to leave your special writing world and move back to reality.

This conference was healing in many ways. On the ride home from a conference I am motivated and excited and charged. I’ll have to pull over to a Starbuck’s and furiously write down my ideas. Once I pull into the driveway, I crash back to reality: This time though, my house was totally clean and my daughter and husband had flowers for me. So the harsh reality wasn’t a messy house or a pile of bills or anything like that. The harsh reality was that I still don’t have a book deal, I still don’t have the validation I seem to want and also seem to struggle with from the writing/publishing world. The validation I have come to accept is…a book deal. A bona fide, no-apologies, no bullshit book deal. It’s not the amount of money nor the specific book publishing company. Nope, it’s the validation that comes from someone wanting to take a chance on your work because they believe in it as much as you do.

I started to feel this as my daughter kissed me and snuggled into my shoulder. I continued to feel this as my husband asked for details about my weekend. Then, right before bed, after we watched Surreal Life Fame Games (how’s that for irony), there was s space, a pause in evening where time stopped. The harsh reality of what I really, really really want more than anything right now, that harsh reality took a new form for me in my head. Frustration, anger, sadness disappeared. This conference, this time around sitting with all these writers and authors, this time I feel something new:

This time, this conference, while I felt a little intimidated by the author and editor who were the guests, I spent a normal kind of time sharing meals and conversation, discussing the gritty, real-life stuff about children and families, about work and the need for balance…About the art and craft of writing, about process, about blocks, about being a writer and a mother/wife/daughter/friend/teacher. I almost forgot that they (authors and the editor) happen to be people that well, I want something from. I want something selfish from them. Not advice. Not a “how-to”. I want a bit of perspective, a bit of subjectiveness, and most of all I want them to like my writing. Like it so much they want to invest in it, in me, that they want to help guide me towards the life and world of full time authorship.

Terrible shame pervades this whole blog entry: will the participants of this retreat, including Caitlyn and Ellen, will they read this and think:

What a complete self-centered idiot. Boy, does she have her head up her ass. Man, she thinks we give two shits about her? Who the hell does she think she is? Self-published her books…that’s pretty
stupid. What a jerk…

First of all, neither one of them TALK like that. They are kind people and probably so kind even in their heads they wouldn’t say the stuff I just wrote.

I can’t even properly articulate what I think they may think if they were to read this blog entry….you know what, I just feel terribly self conscious. About my personality, about my self, about my writing….But, since I am such a friggin’ Gemini, coupled with that shit, the self-conscious shit, is this heroic inner desire to just let it rip and be me with out a glance at what someone might think.

The funny part is…most of the time I feel self-conscious it seems to be in the face of the REALITY that no one gives a shit and people are far too self-conscious themselves to pay attention to me and my freakiness.

I said something to Caitlyn, I asked the question I have been burning to ask a real editor about my self-pub books, “Would you look at them, even though they are self published?” She said yes, like it wasn’t a big deal, like the self-published part doesn’t matter. What a relief.

It was a dream come true and it is a cliché but clichés are clichés for a reason…it was a dream to sit with Ellen and discuss one of my pieces and to laugh with her about the piece– to receive the validation that this piece is good and that with a bit of tweaking it will be GREAT. Imagine having her read one of my books and at some conference she makes a reference to one of MY books as an example of “solid voice” or spot-on first person point of view. Imagine my work on one of those lists, those lists of GREAT YA books to read for characterization and point of view, and I don’t mean best-seller list. I mean a list created by librarians and writers and authors.

I feel good, I feel good about my writing….do I feel different about the publishing world? No, I still feel it doesn’t make sense; I still and maybe even to a greater appreciation, feel these editors are swamped with manuscripts and it’s very hard for them to get through everything. I feel like Caitlyn is a unique editor. She seems unfazed, she seems to genuinely LOVE her work and not feel burden by the slush pile.

And me…well, I am hoping she wants to take on all of my books and all of me.

And I think that's quite a load!