December 22, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Let me take you back to the olden days, back in the early 1980s. Personal computers were around back then, but they were quite expensive and few people had one. The internet? Barely even thought of, let alone used.

The following occurred more times than I care to count:

I carefully typed my manuscript (as error-free as possible) on my trusty Sears electric typewriter. I then placed my book in a stationery box along with a cover letter, title page, synopsis, and an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).  With a rubber band around the box to be sure it held together for the transit to NYC, it went into the toughest padded envelope available . Included with the box was another large, padded envelope, addressed to me, with enough postage attached for return if the book was rejected.  Then I hauled my precious burden to the post office, had it weighed, paid what felt like a year’s salary in postage, blessed the package with good vibes, prayers, and hopes, then sent it on its way. After about six weeks, I would literally stand at the front window about 10 a.m. every day, waiting and watching for the mailman.

Step into the 21st century. I am basically doing the same thing, sans the packaging, the expensive postage, and trip to the post office. I’m anticipating affirmation (or rejection–but we won’t think about that) so I check my email a hundred times a day. What I’d really love is a phone call, but happened to me only once, when I sold my first book. The editor actually called me at 9 o’clock one night to tell me she loved my book, wanted to publish it, and asked if I had anything else to send her. Boy howdy, that was a sleepless night, I tell ya!

At any rate, the jumpy feeling in my gut, the shivers of anticipation, the uneasy dread … those feelings haven’t changed. It’s been a long time since my work has been rejected. If this new series I’ve created is turned down, I have a feeling I will suffer disappointment just as keenly as I did years ago, watching as the mailman brought that battered returned manuscript to my door.

Send some good vibes my way, will you?

May 9, 2015

Saturday, May 9

Yes, I know a few days have passed, and I have entered no updates. This is what happens when most of the time in the office is spent cleaning out drawers, closets, boxes, and files. The best I can say right now is that I can open the closet to get to supplies and/or manuscripts without being knocked unconscious. We have enough paper to compost the garden for twelve years.

And I’m not finished. Sigh.

Light a candle. Say a prayer. I’m eager to have this chore completed so I can concentrate fully on writing once more.

April 29, 2015

Wednesday, April 29

This week has been dedicated to cleaning and organizing my office. When we moved into this older, cottage style house nearly three years ago, the room I chose to be my office had a teeny, tiny closet. (How in the world was it EVER used for clothes storage?) I had deadlines to meet during that move, and after, so I shoved things into the closet until such time I had the nerve to tackle it.  At this moment, my neat little office isn’t so neat.

I’ve found so much old stuff. Old ideas jotted in old notebooks or on old scraps of paper, old short stories (some completed, some left undone for a good reason). A file folder bulging with carbon copies (yes, carbon copies) of query letters. Oh, my, I wish someone would have taught me how to write one back then. They are truly awful, but I’ll keep them to show new writers I made the same mistakes they make now. Maybe they’ll derive some comfort and hope. I have also unearthed enough writing tips to fill a book, discovered several packages of manilla envelopes, new and used file folders, and plenty of dust.

Then there are all those early book manuscripts. The ones where I was just beginning to crawl as a writer. The ones where I was finally able to walk as a writer were marginally better. By books five and six, I more or less knew what I was doing but still needed a lot of work and practice before I could even consider of entering any marathons.

I’m not finished with this cleaning/organizing task, but I know one thing for sure. Never, ever throw away book or story manuscripts. They might be old and dusty, yellowed with age, but they hold a lot of gold. Some of it can be mined. The first April Grace book, In Front of God and Everybody, proves that. It was an old book, chucked away for years.

I have a book coming out soon that was written nearly twenty years ago. It’s been polished and revised, brought up to date, but still, it’s a story salvaged from my desk drawer. Dare I say, it’s really good. I think so, anyway. I hope so.

April 22, 2015

Wednesday, April 22.

Honest to goodness, is there anything more tedious to a writer than final edits? Not the first ones where our editors ask for revisions or rewrites, or even the painful edits where we slash our babies, eviscerating a ton of unnecessary prose. I’m talking about the very last bits and bobs: a comma  here, an extra space there, a word that’s been deleted, a lost ellipsis … all those pesky little varmints that we seem to overlook during the first two or three rounds of editing.

I got up this morning at 5, and here it is, 8:15, and I’m only on page 130 of a 327 page manuscript. My back aches, my eyes crossed a long time ago, and boredom is drilling a hole in my brain. But, it must be done. I am not offering to you, my reader, anything less than the best I can do. If that means suffering through hours of seeking, replacing, deleting, or otherwise cleaning words, then it’s worth it.

April 21, 2015

Tuesday, April 21st.

This past week has been a busy one. I enjoy teaching the writing class. It’s a small group of fascinating women, each in various stages of writing development. Since I primarily teach fiction writing, those who expect a course in poetry or how to write for magazines will be disappointed.

I have short-term memory problems (is that age or is it just me??), so I wait until the day of the class before preparing the evening’s agenda. Putting things off makes me nervous and uncomfortable. I like to get busy and accomplish what I set out to do. In this instance, though, I believe waiting until the eleventh hour is best for all concerned.

Progress continues on Upside Down and Whopperjawed. If I had nothing else to do and devoted most of my time to this story, I could finish in about six weeks. Maybe less. April Grace Reilly often seems to sit on the corner of my desk, telling me about her day and the crazy people in her life. Recording her tale in her sassy, witty voice ensures that the story basically tells itself.

Not every novel I write is this easy or this much fun. But that’s another topic for another time.