Thursday, April 17, 2014

I AM A WRITER ~or~ How My "Quit" Turned into a "Break"


Yep. That's what I screamed out loud in my house Monday morning to no one. I'd ingested a pot of coffee before nine AM after another night of too-little sleep. I'd slogged through my inbox, even though I'm on 'vacation' and I'm supposed to be packing for the big move, and I found a rejection. Another one.

I slumped back against the couch. It wasn't form, only two of them have been, but it was still the same result. I immediately texted my support crew. They said the things the people who love you say.

Not form? That's great. You're getting so close.
Non-form is practically a yes.
It only takes one.
They weren't right for you anyway.
Your writing rocks. You rock. I love you.

And nothing they said is wrong, or even a lie.

But I feel like I've been here forever. I'll built report with two amazing agents, connections with even more. Two of the non-forms even said, "You are a lovely person. I look forward to more of your work."

And every single one said this: DON'T GIVE UP.

And I know they meant it. My friends have time to fluff a pillow under my defeated head, but agents who aren't mine don't. So why then did I reach my breaking point?

When you were a kid did you ever put a rubber band around the tip of your finger, or maybe a clothespin on a dare or out of childhood stupidity? Your skin would go white as all the blood ran from the area screaming at you, "But I live there! That's not right!" Eventually you'd take off the torture implement and shake your entire body as the whoosh of blood filled the tip of your finger. A sensation somewhere between pain and 'oh my god, that was freaky and kinda neat' took over your body. The pain was usually great enough to put a kabash on the activity.

And then someone would dare you to do again?

And you did?

Yeah. That's kinda what being in the query trenches is like. But did you ever leave the rubber band on just a bit too long and the feeling took thirty seconds or so to come back? And you freaked? This was that moment.

I got another lovely rejection. It was so lovely, I wanted to bake them treats and thank them for being so kind. And that's what got me. They all say the same thing.

Great voice.
I like you.
I like your writing.
I love your concept.

That's the entire reason I write. Or choreograph and dance. Why I sing. Why I draw and create and work with kids and make food for anyone in my orbit - to connect.

My heart snapped in two. I'm doing everything right. I'm not looking for a shortcut, I work way too many hours a day, I've worn myself to a nub that doesn't feel like it can even fit in the sharpener to be honed for another go. But still, something is missing. And I'm not connecting.

NO connection? What's the point?

And the thing that pushed me to that point is - I don't know how to fix it. It's possible I just haven't found The One yet. It's possible that it's sitting in the inbox of The One right now and they haven't made their way to it yet. It's possible the next MS is the perfect fit. It's possible that the R&R I'm just about done with it the thing that will make this week seem ridiculous in hindsight. It's possible I used possible too many times in that paragraph.

But right now, it feels like everything. It feels like the only thing.

I read so many blogs about how you need a community to write, how you can't give up because those are the successful people, the ones who don't give up, blogs about perfect mommies who play with their kids all day and do everything right and then bust out a book, get an agent, get a deal, and they still manage to find time for a shower everyday.

How? I fail at at least one of those things every day. (Spoiler - usually the shower.)

I spend a lot of my time being happy, or at least appearing to be. I have depression and body dysmorphia. This is an awful combination while you're trying to lose weight and accomplish really big goals. And most days, I feel like I succeed at keeping it together.

But not everyday. I bet if you ask any of my Twitter buds, or even my close friends, they would describe me as upbeat, a hard worker, driven, a cheerleader, and always there for them. And I really want to be all those things. But I'm an artist and some days it feels like that girl is just one more thing I've created. I know she's not. She's real, because above everything else, I'm genuine. That's why you're getting this blog right now.

Sorry, that was all off topic. I digress. Anywho, I read all these blogs about how not giving up has led to the agent, the deal, the successful self-pub, but what I don't see much of is - how hard it is to stay the course. And you know what? It is SO hard.

Monday had it's share of real life things before I got to the screaming in my living room, singing Avril Lavigne at the top of my lungs, oh hey another rejection point. I'd already been to hell, I'm sorry, Wal-Mart, to purchase a new coffee pot to replace the one that had mysteriously died overnight. One kid had missed the bus and I got the second one on her bus with only two minutes to spare. All the anti-freeze had leaked out of my car and it was cold - in the South!- and the heater in the house had also gone out.

Needless to say, Monday was stellar.

So after the email read through, I hopped on Twitter. A little levity, a few articles, maybe a picture of a hot guy, and I'd be good to go.

Instead, more of my friends - my very talented friends and acquaintances - had great news. Book deals! Agents! Covers! 5star reviews! 

I went into cheerleader mode. And it was genuine. And it was real. I'm legit happy for all those people. Their success doesn't take anything from me. More books sold and successful, the more deals there will be. It's a good thing. But fifteen minutes later, tears poured down my cheeks and the hollow I'd been feeling since reading the last rejection was filled with the worst thing of all - self- doubt.

That will never be me.
I'll never be that good.
I should stick to other things.
They started after me.
What am I doing wrong?
Am I not talented enough?

And so I did.

I put away my zip drives, I cleaned my desk, I put my notes and my calendar away, I wrote the appropriate emails and saved them to a folder. I was done.

Fast forward to Wednesday.  I woke up with a hole in my gut. I needed something, but I didn't know what. I ate breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, had coffee, worked out, cleaned house, smooth sailing with the kids that morning. I read for a bit. I watched TV. Nothing fixed it. It was the scratch in just the middle of your back that no amount of flexibility or contortion will allow you to reach. By noon, I was so jumpy I went outside and started cleaning my garage. CLEANING MY GARAGE, PEOPLE.

And then it hit me. I had something to say. I'd run back inside, write it down, and then get back to life. I opened up my computer, slid the zip drive into place, and pulled up my files. As my fingers hit the keys, my shoulders relaxed, the words flowed, and my mind cleared.

And I got it. Just like I need music or I have to dance, I have to write. I AM A WRITER.

I still don't know what it is that will push me to the place I want to be. If you know what it is, please tell me.  It might simply be my community and friends never letting go of my hand. It might be them shoving me into the phase. It might be the fact that I'm really, really stubborn and I'm willing to work to get better.

But most likely, I can't quit - BECAUSE I'M A WRITER.

So, I am taking a little break. I'll finish up my R&R, take another look at the MS's that aren't quite there, but mostly, I'll forgive myself for not having superpowers. I'll forgive myself for not reaching impossible self-imposed goals. I'll keep trying to smile on the days when I want to stay in a dark room and shut down. I'll keep telling my reflection she's beautiful no matter what, because pant size really doesn't have anything to do with how much I can offer to the world.

So there you have it. I'm not very good sharing the darker side of me because I like people to believe that cartoon birds braided my hair this morning. And they did, but they were still drunk from the night before and did a horrible job! I like to make people laugh, I like to give them hope, I like to spread my fairy dust and glitter all over the place. But some days are hard. And what if I share this and someone else had a hard day and their quit didn't turn into a break until they read this?

We're writers. We're artists. We're creators. We make magic and sometimes all those things really hurt to do and to be. But in the end, that's what, I'm sure, will make it worth it.

And then I'll be able to write that blog post about how I didn't give up. Because really, it only takes one.

Obligatory hot guy gif:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review: Twelve Steps by Veronica Bartles Plus a giveaway!

Hey gang! It's been awhile, but the blog is back in action and I'm kicking that off with a review of TWELVE STEPS, a great YA by Veronica Bartles.
Here's what it's about:

Sixteen-year-old Andi is tired of being a second-class sibling to perfect sister Laina. There in Laina's shadow, Andi's only noticeable feature is her pretty awesome hair. And even that is eclipsed by Laina's perfect everything else.
When Andi’s crush asks her to fix him up with Laina, Andi decides enough is enough and devises a twelve-step program to wrangle the spotlight away from Laina. After all, great hair must count for something.
Step 1: Admit she’s powerless to change her perfect sister, and accept that her life really, really sucks. OK, maybe that's two steps in one.
Step 4: Make a list of her good qualities besides great hair. There have got to be at least three good qualities, right?
Step 7: Demand attention for more than just her shortcomings, and break out of her shell. Easier said that done, but worth the effort in the long-run. 
When a stolen kiss from her crush ends in disaster, Andi finds that her prince isn’t as charming as she'd hoped, and realizes she may need a new program--perhaps with less steps!
As cracks in Laina’s flawless fa├žade begin to show, the sisters work together to find a spotlight big enough for both to shine.

Here's a bit about the author:
As the second of eight children and the mother of four, Veronica Bartles is no stranger to the ups and downs of sibling relationships. (She was sandwiched between the gorgeous-and-insanely-popular older sister and the too-adorable-for-words younger sister.) She uses this insight to write stories about siblings who mostly love each other, even while they’re driving one another crazy.   When she isn’t writing or getting lost in the pages of her newest favorite book, Veronica enjoys knitting fabulous bags and jewelry out of recycled plastic bags and old VHS tapes, sky diving (though she hasn’t actually tried that yet), and inventing the world’s most delectable cookie recipes.  TWELVE STEPS is Veronica Bartles's first novel.
Here's what I thought:
What a refreshing book. I love the sister relationship and focus of this book so much. I'm a sucker for lists, I admit it, so the fact that book is based on a twelve step list, and then another list later on,  was one of my favorite things. 
The writing is strong and the reading is so enjoyable, I finished this book in two days. I loved the characters and Veronica has such a lovely voice that shows through in her writing. I loved seeing Andi's journey and the realization that the world through her eyes isn't necessarily the way the world really is. It was so easy to relate.
But hands down my favorite thing is the sisters working together. I'm trying to keep this review spoiler free, but that relationship is what kept me in this book and it's been a long time since a YA book held me with a non-romantic relationship. 
Again - the words that comes to mind is refreshing. I give TWELVE STEPS four stars and definitely recommend it!! 
Find Veronica at: 
Add and buy TWELVE STEPS on Goodreads.  

Not convinced? How about a giveaway? 

a Rafflecopter giveaway