Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Meeting, A Queer Divine Dissatisfaction

Martha Graham picture from
Hello all, welcome to Monday!

On last Wednesday's post, my friend Martha left an amazing quote in the comments here, and I hope that she doesn't mind that I bump it up here--I really love it. It's a quote from dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham.
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.
I really feel that openness is the best way to live and write--being open to opportunity whether that opportunity presents itself within me, or within the world in general.  And I love this quote because it doesn't sugar coat, but speaks to truth--the truth about living within dissatisfaction, but a dissatisfaction which spurs us to create.

What do you see in this quote?  How open are you to your own talent?  How dissatisfied are you?  What will you do with that dissatisfaction this week?

And, a sidebar on being open to the universe--Martha (not the dancer, but the writer friend) and I had our first children at the same time, lived in the same town, and grew a friendship through learning how to be mothers. We both moved away from that town, and into the same new town.  :) Regardless of this, we lost touch.  Occasionally, we bumped into each other around town, but not as much as one might think.  Then I met Anna, who introduced me to Nandini, who "introduced" me to Martha.  LOL.  I am so happy to be reconnected with this amazing friend! Thanks Martha!  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday, Super Grover!!

Happy Belated Birthday to my awesome husband, seen in this photo as Celtic's fan, Super Grover!! Yay for birthdays!! We had a great time, going out to dinner to a Teppanyaki style Japanese restaurant.  VOLCANO!!

I want to say a special thanks to my husband for all his support right now--I'm feeling a little lost towards my writing these days, and it definitely leaks into every other part of my life.

Writing takes such a long time (I was heartened when I read John Green's pep talk for NaNo-ers, and found out it takes him three years to churn out one book) that I cycle in and out of periods of feeling like I'm beating my head against a wall.  That even though my writing is getting to the next level through difficult revision, even though I have several other books waiting in the revision queue, even though I know I am moving forward, I don't feel the momentum.  I feel mired in mud.  Because for all intents and purposes, writing isn't even my part-time job.  I spend an hour or two writing a day, on a good day.  And it's hard to feel like a career is moving forward with this kind of time commitment.  I thought that writing tons of words every day for NaNo would cure that, but each word I type reminds me of how long I will revise this current project.  And it discourages me.

I've also been exercising every other day, which really zaps the writing time on those days.  So, I may be finding some kind of balance, but I'm not feeling balanced.

And my husband, who doesn't write novels, who doesn't know how incredibly long it takes to complete one (although by now, he's getting an inkling), is nothing but supportive.  He believes in me and my writing, and he always lets me know.  He puts up with my malaise, and frustration, without even knowing why.  Without him and his support, I wouldn't be wearing my writer cap right now.

Happy Birthday, Super Grover.  Thanks for always getting me through the roughest stuff, and believing in me even when I don't. Maybe Super Grover will even become my 200th follower!!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Meeting, Happy Belated Birthday, Cowgirl!

Phew.  I made it in to the "office" today.  So many weeks fly by when I can't get to our meeting. You know, where you and I make goals for the week, and then dish about how writing is going? I know, it's been awhile. And as excuses go, I have some good ones.  For last week, anyway:

Last Monday was Cowgirl's 5th birthday. Here we are celebrating with an ice cream and baby dolls. Everything was pink, and Cowgirl had a blast.

We had more celebrations last week, but I will save them for the next post.

On the writing front, I am way behind on my NaNo words.  I haven't thrown in the towel, but it is likely that November may be the busiest month of the year for me, even without NaNo.  I did have an excellent breakthrough thought this morning on how to move forward with the novel.  So, we'll see!  Thanks to all my crit partners for hanging in during this hectic time. :) 

I don't think I've talked all that much about my NaNo project on the blog. I'm drafting a dystopic YA.  Squarely YA.  It's not cuspy at all.  I recently switched tenses, which is always fun mid-draft, and I am thinking of narrowing my focus from two POV's to one.  I'm having fun with the story, and just got over the whole 'why the heck am I writing drivel and pretending it's a novel?' bump.  So, in my estimation, it should be all good to the end, right?  And, I'm just about to blow something up, so that should be really good. :)

My only goal is to move forward with the story, and to take a look at my MG revisions.  I'm not tasking myself to NaNo word counts, but I'm still full of hope that I'll get those back on track.  

How are you doing?  What are you working on?  Gotten over any humps recently??  Have a great week!  

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Sarah Dooley

Welcome to another Friday Feature.  I am tickled to introduce Sarah Dooley.  I love her! Her depth and humor show through every blog post. When I stop by to read a post, I find myself laughing or crying. Or both.  

She's one of those people that I would just love to meet.  

And I loved her novel, LIVVIE OWEN LIVED HERE. Loved it. 

Let's dig right in, shall we?   

As a child, Sarah Dooley lived 24 different places, including an abandoned post office, a tent, and a red cargo van. She now lives in West Virginia with her partner and their assortment of dogs, cats, and horses. When she is not writing, she has the pleasure of teaching, and being taught by, children with special needs.

Sarah--your debut novel, LIVVIE OWEN LIVED HERE came out August 17th! Woo-hoo! Tell us a little about the book itself.

LIVVIE OWEN LIVED HERE is the story of a teen with autism trying to find a home for her family after an eviction she thinks is her fault.

What sparked your interest to write this particular book?

I wrote LIVVIE as part of a class writing project I required of my students. Because I was writing alongside many writers on the autism spectrum, and because my sister and niece both have forms of autism as well, I began writing from the point of view of a child on the spectrum.

How did you catch the eye of an agent, and what changed in your writing life after your agent came on the scene?

I would be lost without my agent. She provides guidance, support, and clarity as I navigate the publishing world, about which I know little. As for how I caught her eye, I just sent her a query letter and sample pages and I guess she saw something she liked.

Yay, another slush pile success story! What were revisions with an editor like? Was it smooth sailing once a publisher picked up your book?

LIVVIE was my first book, so I had the luxury of having about 15 people read it before I sent it to my agent. Then my agent helped to polish it some more. That meant it had already been through several revisions by the time it sold. After a relatively light round of revisions with my editor, the book was ready to go to the copy editor and beyond.
Because my second book sold before I wrote it, it was a lot less polished when I sent it to my agent and editor. My editor and I recently completed a round of revisions, and let me just say that I need to buy her a nice pen, because she's used up a lot of ink in the margins of this manuscript. But I'll say this, too: I'm in good hands. My editor is wonderful and insightful, and I trust her completely with this book. It's going to be a lot stronger thanks to her skill.

It sounds like you have a wonderful team behind you!  So, what has been your highest high? Your lowest low?

Although there have been a number of amazing joys on this journey, I think the very highest high was getting to tell my parents that the book had sold. I didn't have minutes on my pre-paid cell phone, so I had to wait until a school day to call them and tell them. My mother guessed halfway through my sentence what I was saying, and she finished the sentence with me. It was a very cool moment.

As for lows, last February, right about the time I got a peek at the amazing cover art for LIVVIE, I also got word that a cherished writing mentor and beloved friend had passed away unexpectedly and under tragic circumstances. For a long while after, it was difficult to get excited about Livvie or much of anything else. I mourned my friend and also the books she would never get to write. I briefly considered dedicating the novel to her, but this novel truly belongs to my students.

Sarah--I'm so sorry for your loss--I can't imagine.
Has anything surprised you on this journey?

Honestly, there has not been a moment of this journey that has failed to surprise me. I still stop in my tracks when I see my book on a store shelf. I elbow my husband, who is quite patient with my lingering shock. I point and whisper, “Hey, you know who wrote that?” And he rolls his eyes and hides a smile and says, “Who?” And I say, “Me!”
I hope it never completely sinks in.

I love that!  What are you currently working on?

I'm 30,000 words into a new YA novel, and all I'll say about it is that it's a little more fast-paced than my first two books. It's a blast to write!

What made you start to write seriously?

I've always loved to write, but I didn't always dedicate time and energy to it. After spending weeks preaching to my students about taking writing seriously, I started to hear what I was saying. When I jumped into the writing project alongside them, I jumped in wholeheartedly.

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

My blog was better when I taught public school. I think this post about perspective is my favorite. It involves gym class, phonemic awareness, and mangoes.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

Verla Kay's Blueboards have been invaluable! But I never would have written my first novel if not for National Novel Writing Month, and I spend a lot of time on that site as well.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

I have a very difficult time getting past page 30. I love writing beginnings. But around page 31, I tend to run out of steam. If I can make it to 45, I can make it to the end.

What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

I like to use Write or Die by Dr. Wicked, set on kamikaze mode. I don't like to see my words disappear!

You've got guts, using the kamikaze mode! Sarah, what is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

My practical goal is to keep writing honestly. My reach-for-the-stars goal is to train my cat to move when I need access to my revision notes.

If you do train your cat, send me the handbook.  I have similar feline troubles!  If you could create the perfect place in which to write, what would it look like?

I've got it already. It's an L-shaped desk in the corner of my office, with a coffee pot on one side of my computer and a cat on the other. I mean, if I could hone it just a bit, the cat would prefer to sit on manuscript pages I've already revised, rather than the ones I'm still working on, but it's pretty close to perfect as-is.

If you could be a character in a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?

I think I would be Ginny from SUMMER PONY by Jean Slaughter Doty. In fact, I spent most of my childhood trying to be Ginny from SUMMER PONY. Some summer days, I still try.

What other distractions are in your life?

My life is rich with wonderful, worthwhile distractions. My partner and I got married this summer after six years together. I'm teaching in a new autism program and I love it so far. I've got a wonderful family, sweet pets, and I live in a beautiful city. Plus my apartment is only six blocks from the public library.

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

Oh, goodness, coffee. And lots of it. Did I mention that I do not have to get up from my desk chair to pour a second cup?

Heather, thank you so much for the great questions!

Yay, thanks so much for doing this Sarah! I wish you all the best, for you, and for LIVVIE OWEN LIVED HERE!!  Everyone, make sure to leave Sarah a question or comment, and she'll stop by to answer them. Then, make sure to check out her blog and website, facebook, and BOOK.  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Building Up and Backing Up

I am postponing the Friday Feature until next week, so I just wanted to check in and see how everyone is doing.  Next week I should get back to my blogging schedule, with the Monday Meeting, Friday Feature, and riff-raff in between.

On the writing front, I'm enjoying attacking my new manuscript, building it up, laying that foundation.  Hoping all the cups will stay up.  Hoping it doesn't disappear from my computer.  Yesterday, while I was shooing a kitten off the computer keyboard...
 ...I accidentally hit 'control', a kitten walked across the keys, and *poof* I found myself staring at a blank screen.  Completely blank.  Manuscript GONE. Not freaking out (much), I hit what I thought was undo (everyone can weigh in about what this actually might be--maybe I should read the laptop manual) without success.  I ended up quickly saving the new document under a new name, so that yesterday's file stayed saved with the old name.  But I lost the day's words, and had to rewrite the scene.  Which, to be honest, was fine.  It's ALWAYS better the second time around.  But, a cautionary tale, nonetheless. Backup. Backup Backup.

Especially when there are such accomplices underfoot.
Hopefully my manuscript will last longer than this cup tower!

How's your writing life?  Have you had an close calls, or computer SNAFUs recently?   How are you keeping your cups stacked up?