Sunday, February 22, 2009


Nothing's more fun than realizing you're smack dab in the middle of the very place and space you talk to your students about all the time. On the one hand, it validates your discussion. On the other hand, it really just plain sucks.

I've started four different novels in the last three months, none of which seem to be going anywhere. I do know enough to know that I need to keep following them, but the honest truth is that I am extremely lonely when I'm not living with a bunch of characters. I feel incomplete. I feel like I'm searching for the rest of me.

In the last three months, I've reworked a proposal for Shambhala once again. This proposal, tentatively called The Writing Warrior, has made it off my editor's desk up to the grand poobah of acquisitions. This means nothing. I've been here before. I've rewritten a novel originally intended as literary fiction for the YA market. I completed a memoir and now am going back through it to take out what doesn't fit. I have proposed a creative writing textbook to Pearson/Longman and wrote a sample section over winter break. The book is now with the senior editor in its peer review journey.

Lots of work. Lots of stuck-age. Stoppage. Blockage. Lots of waiting. Editors are losing their jobs. Publishing houses are restructuring. Bookstores are closing. Lots of work piled up at the train station. Nowhere near enough trains leaving.

I received an anonymous postcard this week. I've gotten a few of these over the last year or so. The postmark is Vermont. I don't know anyone in Vermont, so I'm kind of excited to have a secret Vermont admirer. The postcard said: If your train doesn't pull into the station, go out and find it. Very appropriate for the past few months. Of course, the next logical question is: Go where? Go west, young (ahem, middle aged woman) go west? Go east? Go north, south, inside, outside, upside down, underneath ... ah, so many prepositions. So little time. But the gist is -- move. Everything else may be held up at the station, but all those things are never in my control. It's just a bit easier to believe in the illusion of control when the world is in a bit better shape.

I feel like I'm putting myself on hold -- waiting to hear from Shambhala, from Pearson/Longman, from Simon & Schuster. I am unable to settle into any project because if another one hits, I'll have to leave the one I start and focus on that one. It's a mind-trip. It's not real. None of it. Not the possibility of success. Not the possibility of no success. All that matters is the work. All that matters is the work. One more time: All that matters is the work.

And speaking of blockage, stoppage, and stuck-age, this week one of my kitties experienced a terrible thing. I'll not go into it here, other than to say it involves many things not mentioned in polite company, including ... oral medication.

Ever tried to give a cat oral medication? It's a bit like trying to get a train to leave the station that's not moving. It's a bit like trying to force the world to notice your novels. It's a bit like ... yeah ... trying to make something happen when the time isn't right.

Steps to giving a cat oral medication:

- Timing is everything. Sneak up on her when she's asleep if at all possible.
- Hide the syringe behind your back while calmly tricking her into believing you just came by to say hello.
- Prepare for a 6.5 pound sleeping ball of fur to suddenly have enough force to leap to the moon if necessary.
- Hold the scruff of the neck firmly while bringing the hidden syringe forward toward the lips.
- This will work once. Then she'll know you're coming. She'll know the smell of the medication. She'll recognize the syringe. And no matter how sick she is, she's moving out of your way.
- In one quick motion, inject all the medication into her mouth before she can remove your fingers with her teeth.
- Have towel ready to mop up the medication she spits back at you.
- Tell her in a few days it'll be over and she can return to her normal life.

Sound at all like trying to get a book published. Yeah. Thought so.

I'll leave you with this vlog from Jackson Pearce. She manages to tie bathing a cat into shelving a novel.

May your medications, bathing, and waiting go down smoothly this week.

1 comment:

Dawn Maria said...

I feel less alone today reading your musings on projects in various states of completion and acceptance. I emailed my MS Monday to an agent I had an appointment with at the ASU conference over the weekend. It would be nice to bask in the glow of being in that place. It does mean something to have someone request your work, but it doesn't mean everything. There are still other projects, my family life and my plans for Spring Break to consider and enjoy.

I agree with you that it has to be about the work. I hope you find those characters to hang out with soon.