I got some unfortunate news on Friday night: my publisher for my novel is going out of business on September 30th. As of October 1st all the publishing rights for Emerson revert to me. Because the book has been reviewed well, received several awards, and is still up for a few more awards, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to find a new home for her story that will include the existing novel and the sequel. If you’ve been through this type of situation or know someone who has, I’d love your advice on approaching this process and taking next steps, I’d love to hear it. Thanks, all!
“That’s the best revenge of all: happiness. Nothing drives people crazier than seeing someone have a good fucking life.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club among many other novels
When someone’s really hurt you, what’s the first thing you want to do? At the very least, you want that person to see that he or she was wrong and out of line. Maybe you’re going to get an apology at some point, and maybe you aren’t. Honestly, it’s not up to you. It has everything to do with how self-aware and kind the other person is. Everyone makes mistakes that can be hurtful to others. We all do. We’re twisted humans.
The best part is that no matter what’s been done to you, you don’t need an apology to move forward with your life. It’s the great benefit of being an adult. You can decide how you want to proceed, with or without that person who hurt you, and then choose to be happy with your decision. I’m not saying that’s easy. It’s damn hard. That sting takes a while to subside, and then there’s the scarring to deal with. But don’t make things worse for yourself with extra baggage that you create by carrying around old grudges, debts, and heartaches. Chances are those debts will never be repaid by the ones who owe them. Repay yourself. Be happy and create a good life for yourself. That’s all the revenge and repayment you need.
I’ll go see any show that’s a take on Alice in Wonderland, my favorite book of all-time. Last weekend I went to see Dodgeball Theatre‘s steampunk-inspired ALICE, a part of Capital Fringe. Performed in the round with exaggerated stage movement and outlandish characterizations of the story roles I love so much, I was able to see the story in a whole new light.
Seductive undertones, a dream-like weaving of the story’s most famous lines, and a triumphant Alice all made me realize that stories, like life, are malleable. Words are only the beginning. Physical movement, rich visuals, and lush music can transform lines of text into an experience that we can dive into head first and never look back. Like the white rabbit, I lost all sense of time and space as I looked on waiting to see where this multi-talented and imaginative cast would take me. Falling down the rabbit hole with them was a delight.
You can still catch ALICE on Thursday, July 16th, Saturday, July 18th, Tuesday, July 21st, and Saturday, July 25th. And if I were you, I’d mark these down as very important dates to relish how theater can make an old story new again.
“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story.” ~Isak Dinesen, Danish author
No matter the source, sorrows multiply when you leave them in your mind and heart. I write mine out. Sometimes in a journal, often on this blog, and sometimes in my fiction. A few days ago, I was editing a part of my book, Where the Light Enters, and I realized that I could work in some real-life emotions that have plagued me recently. The moment I did that, I felt lighter. Not free necessarily, but stronger and relieved to see these emotions be given a purpose. We can’t always prevent disappointment, heartbreak, or regret, but we can always use it to create something of value. We can always make it meaningful.
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
I’m now digging into the next phase of the editing process for my novel, Where the Light Enters. I thought it would be easier than the first draft and the first set of edits, but the refinement process carries its own gnarly tasks. I’m now getting into critical detail where research and intense imagination are critical, when self-doubt is around every corner making it easy to throw in the towel. Self-doubt is really starting to get ticked off that I’m not giving up, and so its voice grows louder and its criticism more biting.
Quotes like the one above remind me that every process, every experience contains a certain amount of beautiful and terrible, light and darkness, frustration and ease. It’s a difficult and dicey balance to negotiate, but if we want to build anything of value and substance, whether it’s a piece of art, a relationship, or a book, we have to be willing to take the good with the bad. There will be times that we never want to end and times that all we want to do is give up. That seesaw is part and parcel to the creation process.
When giving up on anything feels especially enticing, I remind myself that I’m not perfect, that no one’s perfect, and so if something truly comes from my heart and gut then it will carry imperfection, too. That helps me keep going. It calms the small voice of self-doubt that is always present and wants me to abandon ship. I understand its fear and concern, and I also know that this same fear and concern is what helps me do the very best I can at any moment.
Back to writing…
“FEAR – Forget Everything And Rise.” ~ Dan Romanelli, Happy is the New Healthy
My friend, Inna, gave me this book for my birthday and this definition of fear really resonates with me. We can’t stop fear. It’s a natural and protective human response. We can move over, under, and through it in our pursuit of what really matters to us. Forget Everything And Rise. That sounds exactly like the kind of fear I can embrace and use.
I recently read a quote that books (and thereby, learning and education) can’t solve everything. They don’t fill an empty belly, stop violence, or provide much-needed healthcare. And I beg to differ. I’ve felt hungry, afraid in an unstable environment, and sick without healthcare. Books helped me, and continue to help me, take the long view. They help me to believe in a better, brighter tomorrow, and they empower me to build that tomorrow with my own two hands, and my mind, and my heart. Books make me powerful.
In my saddest and darkest hours, my education literally saved me. It helped me to keep looking up, and to keep trying, when it seemed like all of my efforts were in vain. No, maintaining our grit and determination in the face of adversity isn’t easy, and yes, it’s tempting to take a shortcut and go off the tracks and give up. But if we will go just one more day, no matter how difficult or embarrassing or discouraging, the light at the end of the tunnel is there and it is ours as much as it is anyone else’s. It was there for me, and it’s there for every child who can find a way to keep going.
We have within our power, in one generation, to make that happen for every child, everywhere. It will be expensive, though not nearly as expensive as not doing it. Think of how we could change the world if we could educate every child.An education is for the good of the many, and the one. That’s not just an idea, that’s a revolution. That’s a movement.
I have started to work on several longterm writing projects. I wouldn’t call them book ideas just yet, but rather historical events that I want to deeply explore and write about. One of my majors at Penn was history and my reasoning for choosing it was very simple—everything has a history so no matter what interests me, not matter what work I do, history will always be important. We have to know where we’ve been to understand where we are. And where we are now is the start of everything yet to come.
I’m trying a new writing practice. I read a bit of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver before going to bed (which is an incredible book!), and then I set my iPad next to my bed with an email to myself already set up. I’ve found that this book’s language is doing radical things to my writing, in my dreams. I have the iPad at the ready to capture words I’ve dreamed. Here’s last night’s bit:
“She mixed the ingredients together, like a sorceress, like a doting grandmother makes meatballs or matzo, with such care and tradition and love. It was best to not disturb the magic.”
I don’t know where this is going or what it’s for, but I do know The Poisonwood Bible is good for me.
Where the Light Enters is my first novel. I wrote the first draft in November and now I’m in the midst of the first edit. I’ve read lots of advice on the process of editing and the structure of the task. I decided that the best structure for me is one scene per day. And I really work that scene from overall book structure right down to the word choice. It’s like being a scientist—I put the scene on a slide and mess with it through a microscope to see if I can get something to happen.
I ask myself a lot of questions as I peer through the microscope. Why does this scene really matter to the overall structure of the book? What information and ideas need to be conveyed that are critical to the story, and how can I convey them through action? What are the characters’ relationships and motivations, and why are they important? I like this intense dive into a 2-inch picture frame of the book. The idea is that when I edit that last scene the book will have been through five drafts one scene at a time.
The value of intensity, focus, and merciless reworking? (Hopefully) priceless.