The Work of Being a Writer

Hi, everyone. I wrote this 12 years ago, and a lot of it still rings true (although we now know that my “medically resistant depression” was due in part to Hashimoto’s Disease). I was “shopping” my first novel for paperback rights, and it was indeed picked up by the UK publisher to whom I refer. Still, it was a challenging time, and I just needed to share my thoughts.


I should be drying my hair, but I just need to get this out.

Being a writer is hard work. Sure, there’s the actual writing … but then what?

I was thinking about so many things this morning, and trying not to be overwhelmed.

— Every submission requirement is different. I’m in the midst of prepping yet another version of In The Eye of The Beholder, this time for a UK publisher who is interested in receiving my manuscript for consideration. After that, yet another submission version to prep for Authonomy.


— Publicity is hard, and sometimes you make a mis-step. I did already. I submitted my book to a reviewer who belatedly (and I mean belatedly … this had never been stated previously) announced that he expects authors to query him before sending him works. I sent a note of apology; there’s nothing more I could do.


— I am sometimes frustrated by the publicity process, to tell you the truth. We are all taught not to be boastful and self-serving. I used to work in public affairs for the Army, and I wrote press releases and promotional news information all the time. Marketing myself, though, is a challenge. My new marketing postcards have arrived … the next step is getting them out to people.


— I have the additional burden of dealing with medically resistant depression. That makes getting out of the house to go to my day job (and every author of my acquaintance has a day job) difficult, so adding this additional “shift,” if you will, makes things just a little tougher. Thrown in that my house is a disaster … which just feeds the depression. I’m working on the house, but sometimes it’s all I can do to pitch out the recycling. Those who cope with depression will understand; those who have never been through it cannot possibly relate — it’s not something you can just “snap out of.”


— At the same time, I theorize that my depression may be a gift. Many artists and authors throughout history have been prone to bouts of melancholia. I even gave my main character, Claire, a tendency toward melancholia in an attempt to get across what it’s like to live in that state. I don’t know how well I succeeded in that regard … only a reader could tell me.

I really needed to get this off of my chest. I am trying not to get frustrated or depressed this early in the game … some minutes are better than others.

Art Imitates Life

I wrote this seven years ago on Facebook (according to the Memories feature). I debated about sharing it here, ultimately coming down on the side of “yes.” It’s important to remember that all art contains a message, I think.


I need to get something off of my chest.

Yes, I am disappointed that Ramin Karimloo did not win the Tony. However, I have seen a whole lot of people denigrating Neil Patrick Harris for winning … and the simple truth is that his performance was indeed a tour de force. The other thing I would point out is this: every day, hundreds of actors work their asses off on Broadway. Out of those hundreds of actors, there are only a maximum of five Tony nominations in a given category — and only one actor will be the winner. Ramin continues to be just as humble and gracious as he was when he was nominated, and I’m disappointed that not all of his fans are taking a leaf from his book.

Here is the second thing I’m seeing a whole lot of: “they made this about issues instead of talent,” clearly meaning that the subject matter of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which is about a musician whose reassignment surgery is botched (amongst other topics), is somehow “bad” or something. I have news for you, people: all theatre, for centuries, has been about “issues.” Les Miserables is about inequality; the Occupy movement is the child of the Friends of the ABC. Much of Shakespeare was about politics. The Phantom of the Opera is social commentary about the shallowness of Parisian society.

I could go on, but I won’t. Just … think, people. That’s all I’m saying.

Blast from the Past: Thoughts on Being a Writer

Twelve years ago today, I shared this essay on Facebook. I originally published it on LiveJournal, which was my primary blog at the time. Enjoy!


I did a little more editing work on In The Eye of the Beholder today, both before I went to church and a little bit this afternoon after I re-watched “PS I Love You.” After services, Rev. Mike gave me my chocolate bar (a prize for correctly identifying the language into which one of MCC’s weekly reflections had been translated — Polish) and the reprint of my first entry in the Weekly Reflection series. My article was picked up by another MCC for their newsletter.

So, I’m watching “PS I Love You” this afternoon, and one of the letters Gerry sends to Holly talks about how he remembers her talking about creating something. Holly talks about how creating things shows the world something about you — something that you didn’t even perhaps know about yourself.

It seemed like all of these experiences today conspired to make me realize something: I had stopped thinking about myself as a writer. I guess I felt as though I no longer had that right after getting that rejection letter last year from the publisher. I thought I was deluding myself, you know? I had a novel — 55K plus words, with a plot and everything — but I had stopped thinking of myself as a writer.

I don’t know quite why. I started the book four years ago, during an especially dark time in my life. It took me three years to finish it. I am so proud of it — even as I go through this final batch of edits and tighten things up once and for all so that it can go up on the eBook site. But other than this blog, I had pretty much stopped writing until Rev. Mike asked me to write a weekly reflection. I used to write for a living, folks. But I stopped thinking about myself as an artist of words — I wasn’t kind enough to myself to think I had any business doing so.

The overarching theme of In The Eye of the Beholder is the importance of compassion. I also realize that it’s the overarching theme of my two favorite books of all time (The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Walter Tevis, and The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux). And yet I did not have enough compassion toward myself to recognize that I was shutting down the most creative part of me — the part of me that has, more times than I care to admit, shown me something that I didn’t know about myself.

So, here it is: I am a writer. I am an artist of words. My greatest gift is my pen (or, in this case, my keyboard) and what I make come from it. I am so very proud of myself for what I have written already, and I am grateful for finding my way back to that place.

Yet Another Blast from the Past

This was in my Facebook Memories from 11 years ago. It’s kind of interesting to look at these slices of life, I think.


Tired of all of those surveys made up by high school kids?! “Have you ever kissed someone? Missed someone? Told someone you loved them? Drank alcohol?” Well, here are 37 questions for the people who are a little older…

1. What bill do you hate paying the most?
The mortgage; such a big chunk of money, all gone at once.

2. Where was the last place you had a romantic dinner?
House of Genji.

3. What do you really want to be doing right now?
Can I pick only one? How about visiting Paris for the very first time?

4. How many colleges did you attend?
Let’s see. Portland Community College, College of Marin, Vista College, Contra Costa College, Foothill College. That’s five.

5. Why did you choose the shirt that you have on right now?
It’s my bathrobe …

6. What are your thoughts on gas prices?
Glad I’m still paying less than I was in 2006.

7. First thought when the alarm went off this morning?
Why can’t the cats understand about weekends?

8. Last thought before going to sleep last night?
Wow, that book was great!

9. Do you miss being a child?
Not so much, no.

10. What errand/chore do you despise?
Laundry.

11. Get up early or sleep in?
As much as I would love to sleep in, economic necessity and cats have dictated otherwise.

12. Have you found real love yet?
Yes. I’ve been fortunate enough to love passionately four times in my life … and three of those men are still around (one of them is my husband and two of them are dear friends).

13. Favorite lunch meat?
Roast beef.

14. What do you get every time you go into Wal-Mart?
I don’t go into WalMart if I can help it. The last thing I bought there was a Breyer (model horse) special run that I couldn’t get anywhere else.

15. Beach or lake?
Beach.

16. Do you think marriage is an outdated ritual?
No; I see it as a public statement of commitment.

17. Sopranos or Desperate Housewives?
Have never watched either one.

18. What famous person would you like to have dinner with?
David Bowie. (This should surprise *no one.*)

19. Have you ever crashed your vehicle?
Technically speaking, no. I was hit-and-run once by a semi — and was amazed that I was a) uninjured and b) that the structural integrity of the car was not compromised. A couple of panels replaced and a paint job … but no damage to the frame whatsoever. Talk about luck!

20. Ever had to use a fire extinguisher for its intended purpose?
No.

21. Ring tone?
“Waterloo,” by ABBA

22. Strangest place you have ever brushed your teeth?
I guess that the bathroom of a Virgin Atlantic jet is the only one that qualifies. Oh, wait — by the water pump at a camp ground. Either one.

23. Do you go to church?
Sometimes. I’ve found a nice community at MCC.

24. Do you have a “go to” person?
For everything? How ridiculous.

25. Are you where you want to be in life?
In some regards, yes.

26. Growing up, what was your favorite cartoon?
Pepe le Pew.

27. What about you do you think has changed the most?
My age, LOL. In all seriousness, I’ve learned to pick my battles more carefully than I used to do.

28. Looking back at high school, were they the best years of your life?
Not at all. I try *not* to look back at high school.

29. Are there times you still feel like a kid?
I was never very “kid-like” even as a kid. The first time I remember feeling a childlike sense of wonder was at Disneyland — the first time I went, in 1987. I was 23.

30. What was a “fad” you remember from your childhood?
Malibu Barbie.

31. Did you ever own troll doll?
No.

32. Did you have a pager?
I had a boss who made us drag them around in 2005. I hated the damned thing.

33. Where was the hang out spot when you were a teenager?
I wasn’t allowed to “hang out” when I still lived at home. When I moved out, I made friends with a group that often met at a local park.

34. Were you the type of kid you would want your children/friends children to hang out with?
I was very smart and bookish; I don’t think most kids would have wanted to hang out with me.

35. Who/What do you think impacted your life the most?
Everyone you meet makes some impact on you, whether for good or ill. I would cite two of my teachers: Diane “Edge” Edginton, my speech/debate coach, for giving me the gift of confidence *and* getting me over the number one fear (public speaking). Ron Gerard, my civics teacher, for giving me the gift of critical thinking. He taught it as part of his course, and it’s never left me.

36. Was there a teacher or authority figure that stood out for you?
See above.

37. Do you tell stories that start with “when I was your age”?
Every once in a while, I say something like “I wasn’t always a plump, middle-aged woman” and then tell a story about wearing a dog chain as jewelry, or black lipstick, or something. I was one of them thar punk rockers back in the day.

Another Blast from the Past

This came up in my Facebook memories from eight years ago, and I decided to share it here. It contains some of my  thoughts about not only my writing but about prejudice.


 

I’m writing about this over here rather than on my author page for a reason. I seem to have started losing fans over there when I announced my work on His Beloved Infidel. I realize that correlation is not causation, and people choose what they follow based on any number of things. But the idea that people might be leaving the page because I’m talking about the history of the time period (during Iran’s Islamic Revolution, though the story takes place in Paris) and the information I researched on Iranian/Persian cultural customs kind of bums me out and makes me wonder whether the mini-exodus is not related to some kind of Islamophobic beliefs.

I have said before that extremist/fundamentalists of any stripe do not truly represent the vast majority of their co-religionists — of any stripe. And yet, when it comes to certain faiths, so many people seem ready to scapegoat people who believe differently from themselves.

There are a lot of things about a lot of mainstream Christian churches that I dislike, and I’ve made no secret of that. I’ve been accused by adherents of some of those beliefs to be “Christophobic,” which is pretty ridiculous, since I believe in Jesus’ teachings (which are pretty simple: feed the poor, comfort the ailing and love your neighbor as yourself). I just don’t believe in hating people in the name of Jesus; that makes no sense.

My story is about a guy, who happens to be Persian and living in Paris, whose brother is an Islamic radical. That guy is in love with an American girl with whom he works at a language school. The story is about the conflicts they experience because of cultural differences … and the political climate at the time. At the bottom of the story is the idea that we are all human beings in search of connectedness.

So, those are my thoughts on the matter. I figured that the philosophical part of my whine was better suited to this page than the authorial one, LOL.