Thursday, March 31, 2011

POST-MFA COMA

81 days since graduation from Solstice.

This blog is a retrospection of the last three months since I graduated from Solstice and earned my MFA. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

Up until just a few days ago, I was in a post-MFA coma, a dream-like fog where writing and creating were daily acts of drudgery, where the only writing I could bring myself to do was private journaling and banging out about 50,000 shitty words of a first draft of my BRAND NEW KICK ASS novel set back in the good old 1990’s.

Now, I’m awake.
Writing has never felt more liberating.


***
January 13th
Five days since graduation….
@ Starbucks with Chels


So…eight out of twenty-eight are out ( I’m referring to query letters/submissions to agents). Two (I call these two agents AGENT A and AGENT B throughout this blog entry) out of the twenty-eight are reading the manuscript as we speak, because they actually requested it. Eighteen have rejected me flat out. (I started submitting to agents at the end of November with the guidance of my mentor).

Suffice it to say, all rejections have been various incarnations of the following:

"Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your work.  Unfortunately, we do not feel strongly enough about your project to pursue it further.
 
As I am sure you can imagine, we receive a tremendous number of submissions, and we are forced to limit our focus to a select group of projects.  Agenting is very subjective, and even though we could not take on your project at this time, another agent might feel differently.
 
Please accept my best wishes for success in your writing career."

Really, I have this very evolved perspective of all this. I honestly believe what they say is true. It’s kind of like dating: It’s nothing personal, but I'm just not attracted to your type.

I mean, how can I get angry at that?

Although, it is irritating when they end their emails with best wishes or warmly

January 20th   
12 days since graduation
@ Starbucks


An agent (I call this one AGENT C) got back to me. I just sent my first 10 pages to her just a week ago! She LOVES my story THEATER GEEKS IN LOVE. She practically was signing me in this email, telling me who a bunch of her well-known clients are.  Can’t wait to see what she thinks of the rest. Sending it out tomorrow!  YIKES!

January 22
14 Days since graduation
@ Brueggers with Chels


REJECTED from AGENT A: “I’m afraid I’m not as enthusiastic as I would need to be to know I am the best agent. I know another agent will feel differently.”


This simply confirms what I’ve been thinking. If someone wants me, it won’t take this long (it had been almost 2 months) to get back to me when they have the manuscript. : (

February 4
27 Days since graduation
Home


Rejected from AGENT B:
“This is a fun concept and a terrific title but I didn’t fall in love with the execution of to the point that I need to in order to pursue this. Of course this is a subjective business and I ‘m sure another agent will feel differently…”

Later…I email my former mentor from school:

“Seriously, this might be a waste of my time. She's right, you know. I'm a good writer. I'm funny. But the execution...it's not on the level that anyone, right now, in the industry would take a leap on. I really appreciate that she got back to me and I don't even feel anything other than...reality. I went to school hoping that it would bring me closer to that place I thought I could get to if I wrote the best thing I could...But the truth is, with or without the MFA, I will be in the same place. Unpublished. Without an agent. On my own trying desperately to climb up an impossible, steep mountain without any gear. The one thing I'm good at is teaching. I should focus on that more and say forget it to the rest. 

So I have to go now...to continue to write my next novel.  : ) “

February 8 
31 days since graduation
@ my writing workshop during Free Write/Warm Up


Since returning home, I find myself naturally looking at the end of a writing session to see how many words I’ve taped out. I’m at about 24,000 words of my new novel and each time I look at the bottom of the doc. at the end of a writing session and see that I easily taped out 500 to 1000 words, it increases my confidence that I will be able to write another novel. That I haven’t forgotten (During my two years at school I worked only on short stories). Oh, of course, the words I am writing aren’t brilliant or polished, but I allowed myself to write a shitty first draft. Why not?  There’s no deadlines any more and one thing I learned first hand from going to school is that deadlines–when it comes to composing creative work–are elastic and have to expand to fit the state/moment of the writer and what he or she is able to do.

So I’m getting off on how many words I write in a session, and it’s actually motivating me. However, also while I write, the voices in my head say the following things:

1.    This book is really impossible to write in terms of scope. Who the hell would want to publish or read a story that covers all four years of high school?
2.    Your writing is sooo fucking piss poor since you graduated. It’s like school made you stupider (see!).
3.    You should tighten the story line and scope now before it’s too late and you have 100,000 wasted words.

And yet, I continue to write, even with those voices yapping away. I just simply acknowledge them, and then I keep typing. Even as I’m typing and thinking, God this sucks total ass, I continue.

My mentor has taught me that perseverance is really the only way to achieve anything in this industry, more important that patience which is the second most important virtue for a writer. I have to remember that the recent rejections from the three agents who seemed enthusiastic about my work, those rejections are simply indications of not a match and another step closer to finding the ONE.

It’s like dating…Which I haven’t done in 17 years and was NEVER very good at.

This new novel also is like my salve, my antidote to moping around about the failure to land an agent (yet). My mentor also told me that the best way to cope with the waiting game when submitting is to work on something else. So really the reason why I’m being so free with this new project is because it’s an act of therapy….The act of sitting down and typing words that are part of a story, the act of composing another fresh new novel that’s not attached to any baggage from my previous publishing experience is so important write now. I feel reborn.

I look at the Maddie books I published, and I don’t really feel the old feelings of remorse or sadness or anger…Well, maybe a little, but it’s muted. My books still haven’t been picked up by an agent or publisher…but I’ve changed. I’ve grown. Time has passed and with that, I have some kind of perspective or growth. I know that the Maddie books are, in fact, just as good as the stuff that’s been published by a Scholastic or Random House. I also know that that isn’t reason enough for them to get picked up, and, in all reality, they never will. That will be a project that is left flailing in the wind, unfinished .

Those are facts. I can’t change REALITY. But time does provide this kind of shifting of perspective and my perspective is: Those are my self published books…they aren’t selling like hot cakes or being grabbed up by publishers. But that doesn’t mean anything else, other than what it is.

This writing thing is a humongous mountain with really bad weather and cliffs and rocks, but the view is fucking amazing no matter how high or low you are on that mountain.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry a month later, more news from agents and my awakening begins.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Loved reading your blog (as always)...so eager to read the part where you wake up. I think I'm still in a coma :(.

Love ya.
Kathleen

K. Oh said...

At least you're writing. I can't even bring myself to write crap...

Miss you and the rest of the girls,
Krystal

Joanne Carnevale said...

I'm sniffling back tears over the news that my little Hannah has her MFA. Way to go! Maybe this new novel could be a series of four: Freshman, Sophmore, Junior and Senior years. Might solve the broad scope problem of doing all four years. Just sayin' . . . Otherwise, a Gone With the Wind-like tome in four parts. What do you mean that's not helpful?

IAmRickSee said...

Hannah...your writing, be it at the residencies or in blog form is so epically good and entertaining. Consider me subscribed for life...or...at least until the end of the world this weekend...LOL!!! Rick Carr