Thanks to everyone who weighed in on the genre for the novel I’ll be writing during National Novel Writing Month in November.
Can a bread bakery in New York City be the setting for a book that’s historical fiction, an immigrant story, and a romance novel? I’m going to give it my best shot. Let’s see what I find. Regular updates will be provided in November.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, I’d love to know so we can support each other through it!
I’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month again this year, writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I have a few new book projects I’m thinking about in different genres and I’m trying to decide which to work on in November. Would love to know your opinion! Choices:
1.) Young Adult Sci-fi
2.) International Crime
3.) Romance Novel
4.) Historical Fiction: ~the year 1910
Also, are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What are you planning to work on?
Today I’m putting in a funding application for a piece of writing that combines my love for secret New York City history and immersive theater. Would you go to a show based on historical events and figures set in one of New York City’s only remaining original speakeasies during prohibition?
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!
The Tuesday after Labor Day begins my favorite time of year. These are all the joyful things I look forward to this month:
I hope we all find joy in this season.
Ten years ago today, my apartment building caught fire and nearly killed me when I was almost trapped inside. I lost almost all of my belongings that I owned because my neighbor in the New York City apartment building I had moved into 3 weeks before set her gas stove on fire and then ran out of the building without turning off the gas. I used to think of September 5, 2009 as the worst day of my life. Now I think of it as my best. I wouldn’t wish my path on anyone, and I also wouldn’t change it, not one bit of it, because I love my life now and each of these difficult steps brought me here.
The first few years
Over the several years after the fire, I was dealt a hefty dose of PTSD that still persists in fits and starts today. I had intense anxiety attacks that would take over my mind and body without warning. I often felt like I was watching myself fall into madness. Being conscious of your descent and having no ability to stop it is a terrifying existence. I would be lying to you if I didn’t fully admit that there were nights I would lie awake in bed and wonder if life was really worth it. Many days, my answer to that question was “no, it’s not worth it.”
A nightmare that led to a dream
One night, I had a nightmare that I had climbed out to the balcony of my apartment and jumped to my death. I woke up just before I hit the pavement on Broadway down below. Obviously, I woke with a start. The moon was so big and so bright just outside my window that it was almost blinding. I went out to my balcony, and in my foggy state of mind, I could swear that moon spoke to me. I was in a job I didn’t like, in a romantic relationship with a narcissist, and I spent most of my time profoundly unhappy. Out on that balcony, I realized that I wanted to be a writer, that I had always wanted to be a writer, and if I had died in that fire, I never would be. I’d die with stories still in me. That’s when Emerson Page, the protagonist in my novel that would be published almost exactly 8 years later, began to take shape in my imagination. I would later learn that the name Emerson means “brave”, and that’s what she’s taught me—to be brave. Deep in my gut, I know that the moon and Emerson saved my life that night, and that they have saved me many nights since.
Several months after the fire, I wasn’t doing well. One day I found myself sitting on a New York City sidewalk crying. I didn’t remember where I was going or how I got there. It’s as if I had fallen asleep and woken up in a place I didn’t recognize. A man put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I was okay. My honest answer was, “I don’t know.” Shortly after that, a friend convinced me to go to therapy and recommended a therapist to me. Our first meeting was basically me throwing out a lot of words and a lot of emotions, Brian listening, and then him telling me two things that changed my life: “I’m not afraid of you” and “I think I can help you if you want to be helped.” And that was it. I entered weekly therapy for 3 years, and to this day I still go to see him here and there when I am struggling. It is not an exaggeration when I say Brian pulled me out of my deepest darkness many times and that he is one of the tiny handful of reasons that I survived those early years and went on to build a life I love today. Without him, my life now would not be possible. He is a miracle worker. I owe him everything.
Making peace with my past
As it turned out, the fire was one trauma that burned away the wrapper I tightly bound around many other traumas I had endured over the years. Once the fire happened and my PTSD was in full effect, I could no longer hide nor contain those earlier traumas. I had to deal with them. Those traumas were festering and wreaking havoc in my life in all kinds of ways that I hadn’t even known or acknowledged. It was painful to do the work to heal myself, and it was necessary.
About a year after the fire, I got my first dog on my own as an adult. I had grown up with dogs and loved them so much, but had convinced myself that I needed to be in a relationship before I could get a dog because raising a dog and taking care of one in New York City on my own was something I just couldn’t do.
My fire gave me a lot of occasions to say, “Well, if I’m not going to do this now, then when?” And so, I decided to foster a dog. The fostering lasted about 5 seconds. I saw my dachshund, Phineas, a rescue who desperately needed a loving, supportive home, and I knew he was the dog for me and I was the human for him. We have had our ups and downs – plenty of mental and physical health issues for us both – but he is by far one of the best beings I’ve ever had in my life. We rescued each other. We still do.
Grateful for the lemons
My fire stripped me bare of any and all pretenses, excuses, and denials. Though at first it made me afraid of everything, it eventually made me fearless. It made me strong and confident. I had run from a burning building, lost almost everything, and rebuilt my life—mentally, physically, and emotionally—from scratch. What did I have to be afraid of? What could I not do? That fire taught me that my only constraint was me. I wasn’t making lemonade out of lemons. I was and am grateful for the lemons, just as they are.
My life is not perfect now, far from it. There is still so much I want to do. There are so many places I want to go and see. There are still so many experiences I have yet to have, that I want to have. For today, I’m putting those aside. Today, I’m just happy to be here at all, still broken in some places and with all the pieces I need to be whole. Thanks for listening. Thanks for being here with me. It means more to me than I have words to say.
It’s back to school time and that has me thinking about books. Hard to believe my Emerson Page book met the world two years ago and that I’ve nearly finished book #2 in the series. What an adventure.
I’m looking forward to talking to more students and teachers this year! If you’d like me to chat with your classroom, please let me know. I love visiting students and teachers, in-person and virtually via Skype and Google Hangout.
In honor of school and Fall semester starting, what is or was your major and why did you choose it?
-Economics to learn how money could be a force for good
-History because everything and everyone has a history
-Then MBA and now grad work in biomimicry to make the world a better place
“The real joy of writing is you get to be your story’s first reader.” ~Neil Gaiman
This quote completely changed my view of writing. It brought peace to my writing process, and that’s made me a much more productive writer. Sometimes people will talk about writing as a painful grind. This quote helped me see what an absolute gift it is to write and tell stories. Yes, it can be challenging. Certainly, it’s time-consuming. But it can and should be joyful.
I love nothing better than to be told a story so with this lens from Neil Gaiman, I realized writing could be a complete joy, even on days when it’s difficult.
I have plenty of days when the writing doesn’t flow. When I feel stuck and uninspired. When the words won’t come as easily as I’d like them to, I just close my eyes, watch, and listen. And then I get it all down as honestly and bravely as I can.
I hit a big milestone today with my latest novel and I hope it inspires all of you who are writers.
My first novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, was published two years ago after an eight year journey. For the past two years, I’ve been working bit bit on my manuscript for my second novel while working full-time and doing extra freelance work. At the end of July after a very difficult set of circumstances, I decided to strike out on my own and open up my own company with one of the main goals being to work on my some creative projects that I haven’t had the time to complete. Finishing the manuscript for my second book was my top priority, and I set what felt like an impossible goal – to finish it in the month of August.
Today I was able to hit “compile” on my manuscript writing software. (I use Scrivener if anyone is looking for a recommendation of software.) That means I feel confident enough about all the scenes and the order of them that I can now edit the entire manuscript as a single, cohesive document. I still have a lot of work to do over the next few days, but finishing it this month actually feels possible.
So here’s to setting wildly ambitious goals and then working to make them a reality! Are you writing a book? If so, I’d love to hear about it!