Archive for August, 2008

Writer As Hunter, Agent As Gatherer.
August 8, 2008

 “You don’t choose a story, it chooses you. You get together with that story, somehow; you’re stuck with it. There certainly is some reason it attracted you, and you’re writing it trying to find out that reason.”

Robert Penn Warren

On a daily basis, droplets of information, sounding much like the rain on our tin roof, make tiny taps against our brains, telling us things, and with their secret knocks, gaining entry. Books, television, internet, newspapers, radio …

The information is important, if not skewed or sensationalistic at times, and good to know; when you know, things change. YOU change. 

The same goes for the query process. With writer as hunter, and agent as gatherer, being cast into the hunter role has been a stretch that feels as good as it felt unsettling, at first. Sure, I’m a person who wants to stretch in order to grow, even if the process is painful from time to time, or riddled with uncertainty. I know that, in the end, when you secure that happy ending, it’s those very factors, coupled with courage, that make the outcome sweeter.  

The truth is, in the grand scheme of things, the impossible and the difficult make the ride more exciting. In their simplest terms, obstacles are just another opportunity to repledge the cause, and to (hopefully) solidify your convictions.

I do have my work cut out for me; I may only say it loud enough to hear when I’m alone, but I write to improve the world — as I believe words have that much power. Touching or reaching just one person changes their world, and in consequence, their contribution to the world at large. It really is that simple, sometimes.

We read others’ words for a myriad of reasons, and carry with us those sentiments that wake us from our apathy. We turn to those words as a source of wisdom, validation, comfort, sweetness, mind-expansion, understanding, and for every other reason we need them.

As I continue to navigate the query process, laughing and screaming from the front row of the rollercoaster, I’m learning not to take rejection personally, not to give up the fight, not to surrender to self-doubt, and how much room there is to grow in the process.

Overall, I’m a better person for it; in the worst case scenario, even if I never published, the novel I wrote changed my world, and my contribution to the world at large.

And it continues to do so. It has its own reasons for being, bigger than me, and separate from my personal vision. It has already worked its magic on me, and whether that magic is contagious remains to be seen, but the courage to hope and to believe may very well be the best magic of all.

Death’s Lovely Banquet: Please RSVP ASAP.
August 4, 2008

O soul thou pleasest me, I thee,

Sailing these seas or on the hills, or waking in the night,

Thoughts, silent thoughts, of Time and Space and Death …

Passage to India

Walt Whitman

If we really do survive after this life, I’m already making plans; I hope to throw a dinner party on my arrival. Today, as I cleaned the rescue kennels and scrubbed the splashity green stuff (algae) out of the horses’ water buckets, (that smells like spearmint), my mind went over and over the guest list like a tongue-tip over a missing tooth. Let’s see.

God, of course, and Buddha, and the Dalai Lama, (pronounced doll-eye, not doll-ee), all incarnations. (How could you really pick and choose?) Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus, who’ll bring the fish, salt and wine between them, Ranier Maria Rilke, Jelaluddin Rumi and Rabindranath Tagore, who will give a pre-dinner poetry reading that will take our breath away. (Not that we’d need it any longer). 

Anne Frank, Princess Diana, (a vision in white), and Mother Teresa, perhaps even being the same person in three different incarnations. Hemingway and Emily Dickinson, (both at the same table), Sylvia Plath, too, (perhaps it might lift her spirits), and Anne Sexton (with a designated driver, of course).

All my dead friends. All my animals, too. The dogs will eat steak, medium-rare, without one cow being harmed. The cats will catch magical fish and clean whiskers and paws on catnip carpets. The horses will run and buck for carrots, alfalfa and ginger snaps, without a tangle in their long, flowing tails, and have all the sugar cubes they desire, balancing them on their noses first, showing off. 

Cherubs eating corn on the cob, with butter dripping off their elbows like real children, St. Nick, (the original), Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, and I know this is a guest list that will continue to come to me, even as I fall asleep. Abraham Lincoln, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Beatrix Potter, Winston Churchill. Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and the amazing Houdini, who could entertain everyone after dinner. Edgar Cayce, who could answer all our burning questions when Houdini was through and the night had substantially darkened, to make for that extra thrill.

Donna Reed and James Dean, Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton playing through the cocktail hour, until Judy Garland takes over, belting it out from the smoking section. All the women in the finest gowns and the men in smart tuxedos. Flowers growing everywhere, and happy, shining faces.

Novel Query Update.
August 3, 2008

“Be there. Go there now and never leave. Imagine that your dreams have already come true. Live your life from that mindset; predicate your behavior on that reality, not the illusions that now surround you. Filter every thought, question, and answer from there. Let your focus shift, and be born again.

Because dwelling from, not upon, the space you want to inherit, is the fastest way to change absolutely everything.

See the difference?”

(I’m presently searching down the author of the above quote. It’s very lovely.)

 

First, let me just say what a beautiful day it is here.

 

the heat is waving, the sun enlightening,

the photo-perfect storm has a date with dusk,

the poisonous toads puddle the porch by evening,

soaking in the run-off from the misters,

attracted to the moths that buck the system

with an immunity to bug lights.

 

I am grateful, today, for everything. For the new mattress we bought last night, delivered early this morning, upon which I just had to take a nap, (I never take naps — I’m usually a blur, by day, and impossible to make sit still; when I’m writing, it may appear that I’m sitting still, but my mind isn’t –), and which was like sleeping on a cloud.

I’m grateful that my legs, organs and body work. I’m grateful for running water, both hot and cold, and a prolific ice cube maker popping out generous bowls of ice cubes for the rescue dogs’ water buckets. I’m grateful for the new load of bermuda hay, life-green and fluffy and promising lots of sneezes. I’m appreciative that, even if I don’t always get what I want, I do get what I need. Just to be born a woman in America makes me lucky. The list could go on and on.

On Friday afternoon, I finished query letter version ten and began querying Friday night. It’s been a month and a half since I’ve had any queries out in the world, and I was surprised to realize how much I missed the process. It has its inherent thrills, no doubt — and it’s easy to forget this, as you make that uncomfortable stretch.    

Putting yourself out there is quite the rollercoaster ride. Partly thrilling, partly frightening, it’s that very mix that makes the process so exhilarating, magnetic, and invigorating, if you have the guts — if you have the wonderful, necessary guts!

I’ve received one response already, and I’m appreciative of the speediness. It’s a rejection letter, but a personalized rejection letter. Rubbing off some of its magic dust, it has me loving that rollercoaster ride.

During the query process, as many writers know, the mental storms can move in so quickly and unexpectedly. However, I don’t feel disappointment over this new rejection. I feel quite the opposite, actually. It’s time to dance with the terriers in the hallway, again, laughing all the way. It’s time to summon up my inner wise elder, (scrunching your eyes tight and clicking the heels of your cowboy boots together three times helps), and lean into that pat on the back.

I tell myself what I would sincerely tell any other writer in the same position: be proud. Acknowledge the progress, no matter how small. Publication is a journey, not a destination — so, don’t give up, or allow yourself to surrender to self-doubt; there’s so much to learn from the process, and especially about yourself.

Be forewarned: the happy or sorry state of your courage will make itself known, and you may not like what you see. That’s okay. In addition, your missing parts will be made obvious, as will your soft parts, your scared parts, your wish parts and your stamina, or lack thereof. This is a good thing. This is where your work lies. Writing is oftentimes hard work in ways that have nothing to do with words. 

Published or not, rejected or not, the steps you take to follow your dreams will enhance your life in the present and brighten your experience on this crazy, beautiful planet. I know this is true, but all too human, at times, I don’t always feel it. Today I do, so, carpe diem, and I will.

 

guaranteed no tomorrow,

with no real control,

life is for the living; 

the hardest part is letting go.

 

And that’s my novel query update, and it’s an update with wings. I see the bigger picture, and I’m at peace with it. (It always brings on the poems.) I’m content to let go and let the chips fall where they may. 

 

The year ‘s at the spring,

And day ‘s at the morn;

Morning ‘s at seven;

The hill-side ‘s dew-pearl’d;

The lark ‘s on the wing;

The snail ‘s on the thorn;

God ‘s in His heaven—

All ‘s right with the world!

 

Robert Browning (1812-1889)

Pippa’s Song