Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Envy follow-up

Wow. I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to yesterday's Envy post, both publicly and privately.

You guys are AMAZING. Thank you!

Also, apparently you all have the same issues I have. :)

I had to clarify that I'm not in a bad place right now--I'm happily working away on research for a big revision on SALVAGED, and it'll be a little bit before I'm on submission again. It's probably because I am feeling secure that I could write about it, actually. But obviously it's enough of a universal issue that it's important to recognize and discuss.

Thank you all for reading and discussing!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


This post is going to be brutally honest. I hope you don't think less of me at the end of it. But I think this is an important thing to write about, because I swear all us writers experience it whether we admit it or not, whether we want to or not.

Sour, stomach-twisting, soul-sucking ENVY.

I've been doing this writing thing off and on for 10 years. I've been doing the trying-to-get-published thing hardcore, with agented submissions and revisions and resubmissions, for more than 2. I've gotten close. I have high hopes for the novel I'm working on now. But I haven't yet quite made it past that hurdle, and it's been an emotionally drenched up-and-down run.

The writing community--especially the YA writing community--is close, a tangled knot of interconnected writers, where everybody knows and supports each other. I spend my days surrounded online by YA writers I love. I cheer with them, joke with them, read their work and blogs and emails. I feel that most of them are friends tangentially at least, and many are good friends. I adore these people. I truly want them to succeed.

And yet--and yet.

Still it kicks me in the gut when I read about another 3-book deal with an editor we submitted to. Still I have to take a breath before I smile when I hear someone's book went to auction in the first week of submission. Still I flinch when I see writers half my age sell their fourth book, see people who went on submission long after I did showing their covers or their release dates. Sometimes it's hard to be surrounded virtually by success at something you want so badly, but haven't managed. (yet)

But here's the good news, in my opinion. That horrible envy, those moments of selfishness? They're OKAY. It is perfectly normal and natural to feel a moment of bad for yourself in the midst of feeling glad for others. It's human.

The tricks I've found to feeling that way and still going on, without falling into the suck:
  • Allow yourself to feel bad, but NOT FOR LONG. Put a time limit on it. You can feel sorry for yourself for--oh, an hour. Max. And then you get the heck over yourself and you realize that person, that friend, has felt this way too, has had their own struggles, but they've finally made it. And now is their time to celebrate, and your time to HELP THEM CELEBRATE. They need you to. It's okay to feel the envy pangs--it is not okay to wallow.
  • Never allow your personal issues to show (erm, outside of this blog post). Envy is personal and private, and okay in that context. It's *maybe* okay to share with a close, trusted friend. It is never allowed, in my opinion, to let any sense of envy dictate your behavior: to say rude things or bring anyone down.
  • Realize that everyone feels this way at some point. Even if they seemingly sailed to this achievement, be absolutely certain they've had issues you have no idea about, that there's more behind the scenes. 
  • Don't let up. Continue to focus on your work, on improving, on things you can control. That is how you will make it to the celebration stage yourself. 
In short: feel it, but don't let it bring you down. Use that envy to up your efforts. If you have work you're excited about, it's so much easier to truly be happy for others.

And all my dear friends who have succeeded, are succeeding: don't be afraid to share your good news with me! I promise that even if it makes me hurt for a second, that is quickly overwhelmed by my happiness that you really have done it.

And hope that if you can, if I keep pounding someday I will too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

10 Weird Things about Montana

Because I've been a transplant for 7 years now, and I think it's time I confessed:

Top 10 Weird Things about Montana
(From a California perspective, with great affection. In no particular order other than how I thought of them)

  1. People say "crick" for "creek". Really. It has two ee's in the middle. How do you get an "i" out of that? I may let my child say "pop" for soda (even though it makes me shudder a little), but I will not ever let her get away with "crick".
  2. On the public radio station they interrupt to announce lost dogs.
  3. Speaking of dogs, they wander around on their own or in packs, all over the place. It is very, very common to have traffic stopped on the main street to let a dog pass. Though now that I think about it, that might just be in this town.
  4. The air sometimes smells like mountain scent air freshener, naturally.
  5. They just don't use toilet seat covers. Anywhere. In CA they were *everywhere*.
  6. They not only accept checks for everything, they EXPECT them. Even in the drive-through for fast food. Though god help you if you're not a local, because only local checks.
  7. Everybody seems to like their coffee sickeningly sweet. From drive-through coffee stands. With straws in the hole of the to-go cup. Why would I want to sip hot coffee out of a straw and scald my mouth?
  8. It is *always* okay to be dressed in jeans. It is perfectly acceptable for a woman to wear jeans to a wedding.
  9. Maybe this isn't weird, but there is a huge loyalty (and discrimination) based on being FROM here, actually born in this town or at least in Montana. If an article is written about you in the paper, it will always say whether you are or are not a "native". This is one of the first questions asked in every social setting.
  10. I live in a town of about 35,000 people. And it's a big town for Montana. I love that.
I do love it here. In spite of the winter and all the differences, it's gorgeous, and I can be in the mountains in 5 minutes--and it's a great place to raise a child.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I like cycles. As I get older, I see that much of life is cyclic, and somehow that makes me feel better. When I'm in a low I know I'll come out of it again, and when I'm in a high I ride it for as long as possible.

One of my more mundane but obvious cycles--and probably yours too--is groceries.

It starts out like this:

Hmm, I think. I need to go grocery shopping.

*Note: this image is a LIE. Even when my refrigerator is empty of useful food, it is still crammed full of sauces and jars of jam you'd have to scrape to get anything from and forgotten jars of purple cabbage stuffed in the back.

I love grocery shopping. It makes me feel all hunter-gathery.

Or Tartar-Warrior-ish. Like that.

Have I mentioned that I want to take archery lessons?

Anyway. I like to make lists based on weekly menus and go attack the store. I load up, always optimistically thinking OH and we can eat that!, sometimes buying too much for the week.

Generally I buy so much fresh stuff--fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, bread, juice, milk--that I have to cram it all in.


I feel happy and satisfied. I can make ANYTHING I WANT! LOOK! LOOK AT THE CHOICES!

This lasts for a day.

Then I start worrying about the food. How are we going to eat all this before it goes bad? It doesn't help that my husband, every time he opens the fridge, says "How are we going to eat all this before it goes bad?" :)

So we start in with the meals, eating our way through all that good fresh stuff. And about 5 days later, I am relieved. We've done it. The meals have been good, we've eaten it all. Success! But there's a little problem...


Writing's like that too: new idea! Play play play! Hate. Love. Edit edit edit! Send to people. Accept crushing feedback, rejoice in fabulous feedback. Regroup. Edit edit edit! Send to more people. Repeat of above. Edit edit edit! Let go. New idea!

Everything's a cycle. Right now in food I'm at the last image. In writing, I'm at the brain-break-before-editing phase.

It's all good. You've got to relish each part of the cycle--or get through it, if it's a bad bit. Or make do with the food you have on hand.

I think that's enough mangled metaphors for today, don't you?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Poetry Friday

It's been a difficult, tumultuous week.

Interestingly, after difficult times I find myself thoughtful, introspective, and appreciative of what I have. I seek inspiration and hope everywhere, whether fishing (I caught 7 trout Wednesday night, hurrah!) or reading, hugs or emails.

For Poetry Friday I choose this one, celebrating something that I love.

by Billy Collins
(borrowed from The Writer's Almanac)

From the heart of this dark, evacuated campus
I can hear the library humming in the night,
a choir of authors murmuring inside their books
along the unlit, alphabetical shelves,
Giovanni Pontano next to Pope, Dumas next to his son,
each one stitched into his own private coat,
together forming a low, gigantic chord of language.

I picture a figure in the act of reading,
shoes on a desk, head tilted into the wind of a book,
a man in two worlds, holding the rope of his tie
as the suicide of lovers saturates a page,
or lighting a cigarette in the middle of a theorem.
He moves from paragraph to paragraph
as if touring a house of endless, paneled rooms.

I hear the voice of my mother reading to me
from a chair facing the bed, books about horses and dogs,
and inside her voice lie other distant sounds,
the horrors of a stable ablaze in the night,
a bark that is moving toward the brink of speech.

I watch myself building bookshelves in college,
walls within walls, as rain soaks New England,
or standing in a bookstore in a trench coat.

I see all of us reading ourselves away from ourselves,
straining in circles of light to find more light
until the line of words becomes a trail of crumbs
that we follow across a page of fresh snow;

when evening is shadowing the forest
and small birds flutter down to consume the crumbs,
we have to listen hard to hear the voices
of the boy and his sister receding into the woods.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

These are a few of my embarrassing things...

Tawna Fenske started it.

Actually, maybe Linda Grimes did.

And then @BostonBookGirl reminded me of a good tale of my own.

Ah, those shining moments of embarrassment, when you truly wish the floor would swallow you up, because whatever monster is wriggling under the floor is CLEARLY better than where you are. Visible. Hideously exposed. Not only not-perfect-and-cool, but a mockery of humanity.

Or just klutzy.

When people ask me my most embarrassing moment, up till now my mind has always flown back to those agonizing two minutes freshman year of high school, when I slipped and slid--facedown--across the slick floor of the hall...and then the bell rang and everybody in the known universe poured out to find me there. But that's just high school. There are MORE.

Sixth grade. My teacher sent me somewhere--don't remember where, but I was pretty much teacher's pet at that point, so it's not surprising he'd send reliable me on a mission. Except I got easily distracted (then, as now) and didn't look where I was going. I slammed my forehead full-force into the metal pole standing outside the classroom. In view of everyone. Oh, yes. Knocked myself out for a couple seconds, and had to be helped by one of my less-distracted, eye-rolling classmates to the nurse's office to check for a concussion.


Seventh grade, English class. We were doing a word-search contest for some reason, which I usually won (still teacher's pet and always a word nerd). Problem: I had a really bad habit of sucking on the back of my pens while working. Bigger problem: this exploded. In my mouth.

So I had to decide: try to hide this incident, and possibly die from ink poisoning? Confess, spit, get help?

I trotted to the front of the class, my mouth bursting with ink, blue-black dripping from the corners like I was a vampire dining on octopus. Nurse's office. Spitting. Reputation oh-so-cool.

Geez. It's a wonder I survived at all. I'm sure there's more, too--that's just what I can think of right now.

How about you? Wanna keep me company with some fun tragic episodes of embarrassment?