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A New Year

It is the first official work day of 2016 (though, as a writer, most days are work days for me), and I thought I’d take a break from editing my manuscript to post a few thoughts about the year gone by and the year ahead.

So, yeah, 2015. It had good bits and bad bits, making it very like most of life. Reflecting back, the biggest challenges and difficulties the past year posed were also the source of some of my proudest moments and greatest accomplishments. Maybe I’ll try to remember that when I’m bemoaning hardship in the future. Good can come out of it. Growth, too.

Another thing that really jumps out about 2015 is the general awesomeness of my writing buddies. A small group of them in particular, who I have known since way back when I attended my first ever writing workshop, have been — and I know will continue to be — the greatest support network I could ever ask for. Sometimes cheerleaders, sometimes delivering much needed tough love, and sometimes just there to share a cup of tea and sympathy, I am really grateful to know them.

I landed an agent this year (!!!!) — Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency signed me just as 2015 turned to 2016 — and I have no doubt I was able to brave the sometimes agonizing, sometimes thrilling process of seeking representation in large part due to the support of my writing group. I look forward to returning the favor. I think we’re all going to do great things in the year to come!

2016 is only a few days old and it is hard to predict the future. Still, I’m sure the year will hold its share of hardships and, hopefully, an equal measure of triumphs. I will try to face them with fearlessness, compassion, and equanimity.

For now, though, I have a rapidly cooling cup of tea to drink and a manuscript that needs trimming. Time to get to work.

Here’s to another year!

 

 

 

A few friends of mine (very smart, interesting friends who happen to all be terrific writers) have decided to start up a podcast.

It is called Unreliable Narrators (which they all are, but only in the very best sense of the word). They talk about writing and books and other media they enjoy. It is casual, fun, and entertaining.

Give it a listen: Unreliable Narrators Podcast

I am beyond excited to announce that I have been signed by Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency!

I can think of no better way to close out 2015 :)

 

Almost a month has passed since I’ve updated the blog and it feels like it’s been about two days. The last four weeks have been a whirlwind of travel, writing, and end of semester kookiness.

Travel. After dealing with a really annoying bout of vertigo (thank you, wonderful world of migraines!), I finally decided I wasn’t putting my love of travel on hold any longer and made plans to visit my friend Pam in Miami. Good decision! The dizzies were unaffected by air travel and Miami was warm and zany. We ate lots of good food and poked fun of and enjoyed (in roughly equal measure) the ridiculosity of Art Basel.

Writing. As regular readers know, I participated in NaNoWriMo in November. While I didn’t “win” (whatever that means), I did clock about 35K words on a new novel. This momentum has carried me in to December and I’m having a blast working on the new project.

End of Semester Kookiness. Yeah. There’s not much to say here other than to note that the semester is ending, which always brings out the kooky. The students get stressed. There’s lots of assignments due and exams, which means lots of exam prep and grading for me. I try to take it in stride, but sometimes the general air of anxiety on campus is infectious. We’re down to the last few days (my finals are this Thursday and Friday), so the end is in sight. It helps that the weather has been absurdly warm, making my hour and a half subway-bus-walk commute to Queens more pleasant than usual.

Now, of course, the holidays are ramping up. My parents are coming to visit this year. Yay! Brooklyn Christmas! I’ve got my tree up, have wrapped most of my presents in Star Wars wrapping paper, and have planned parties and festive activities up the wazoo. All we’re missing is a sexy leg lamp to put in the window. Oh, and snow. It’s projected to be 66 degrees on Christmas Eve this year. So, that’s not weird or anything.

I still have approximately four million research papers to grade and two exams to emotionally fortify myself for. In the meantime, have a glass of spiked eggnog on me, and (if you celebrate Christmas) be sure you stay on Santa’s naughty list (if not, be sure you stay on someone’s naughty list. Anyone’s, really).

Crazy days, and happy holidays!

The novel draft is progressing. In fact, in the last 18 days I’ve written about 26,000 words. I’ve written every single day and I’ve done a super-human job (at least for me) of not going back and agonizing over every word and sentence.

Forward momentum wins.

Well, until this week. I’ve gotten to the end of the first act of the novel and I’m not entirely sure what happens next. I mean, I know the broad brush strokes and I have an idea of where I’m headed and how it all ends. But the specifics of how I get there? No clue.

I’ve been participating in NaNo, and the spirit of NaNo is to plow ahead and see what comes out, but I like to have a plan. I like to think first about themes and character arcs and how the specific events of the plot work to develop both. I like to work and rework those elements as I go.

Sometimes when I plow ahead without an outline it feels like I’m making wonderful progress. So many words, so fast! But it’s always three steps forward, two steps back. I end up having to tear out most of what I’ve written and rewrite it after I’ve thought through my outline, my themes, my character arcs.

So, I’m taking a short break from the flood of words to figure things out, do a little outlining, and make sure that the words I write are moving things where they need to go.

I’ve got a new novel cooking. Brainstorming is done. The outline is ready(ish). Nothing remains but to write the damn thing. You know, the easy part (hahahahahaha!)

In the spirit of motivation and accountability, I’ll be writing along with the hordes of others participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal is to ride the collective manic ra-ra-ra energy of thousands of other writers to complete 60K in the month of November.

What you end up with, of course, is likely to be a slightly fetid, overwritten, ugly first draft. But most first drafts end up in that condition anyway, whether you take one month to write them or three. 60K is also a bit shy of a full novel draft (most of my novels settle in the 80K range). Still, it’s a good start and a nice external push to just get it done.

I’ve done NaNo once before, and it went pretty well, though pumping out lots of words without going back over them, revising, and rethinking is not my natural inclination. I like to tinker as I go, so plowing ahead and promising myself to fix all the mistakes and work in all the lovely nuance later will be a real challenge.

I like a challenge.

So, no time to write more here…I’ve got a good 2K write today if I’m gonna keep the pace.

Laters, and happy writing, fellow NaNoers!

To be amazed

I keep thinking about last night’s eclipse.

To be honest, I’d kind of forgotten it was even happening, but then I saw something about it on social media (of course), so with very little preamble or expectation, my husband I decided to walk a block up to the park to check it out.

We sat in the grass in the dark (a rarity in of itself in Brooklyn) and watched the sky for almost an hour and a half. There were other people around us, some alone, some with kids, some with dogs, some with wine and weed. No one sat too close, but scattered through the park, little islands of smartphone lights and voices in the night, their presence was a comfort under such a sky.

Overhead, the moon passed in and out of wisps of cloud, the Earth’s shadow nibbling through it until it was totally obscured, glowing and red and seemingly huge.

It was truly amazing.

blood-moon

I gasped. Actually gasped.

So did other people, and it made me realize how rare it has become to truly have your breath taken away by something beautiful and unexpected. It wasn’t just that the moon was eclipsed, or appeared very large, or was the most incredible blood red color…it was the reminder of the cosmos, of the sheer magnitude of it all. That we’re just little ants on a rock falling around the sun, a rock that will one day fall right into the sun and be devoured and destroyed and reborn as dust spreading into the vacuum to become new stars and planets and life.

Truly, we humans have done incredible things. Our time on this planet has been quite short–far less than earlier species of hominins, for example–yet in that time we have built, destroyed, dreamed, and reshaped this planet to our liking far more rapidly and efficiently than any other species. Whether that’s for better or worse is hard to say. Maybe one day our dreams and belief in humanity’s manifest destiny will take us off this rock and out into the stars, where our ancestors will watch Earth burn up a long, long time from now. Maybe not. Maybe our run is winding down. Maybe we’ve reached too high, too fast, too carelessly.

Looking at the moon last night, though, I felt like it didn’t matter. Whatever we do or don’t do as a species, and as individuals, is so fleeting. So precious and so very now.

Maybe rather than worrying about it so much, I should just live my life, try to be happy, and let myself be amazed more often.

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