Presenting my book trailer! And insecurities…

First things first: The trailer for Not On Fire, Only Dying was just released. Hear me read a few tiny excerpts and discuss some of the things that prompted me to write the book. Listen to my friend Naomi Hamby’s groovy, perfect music, which becomes another way of explaining this book—not the plot, but what sort of book it is. I hope you love it:

That said, if asked for a description of my current mood, I’d have to go with this:

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Time churns forward, as it does, and suddenly I find myself a little more than two months from my publication date. I’m approaching bookstores and libraries and reading series, hoping to take advantage of every opportunity to read from and discuss my work. I am especially interested in venues in New York—the City and the Hudson Valley—two locations central to this novel. I’m immersed in nostalgia for that part of the country, which I left ten years ago.

I’m sending out NOFOD for review. I’m brainstorming ideas for promotion. I’m planning trips around the country. I’m proud of this book. I can’t wait to show it to you. I want to find those readers who will connect with it, maybe strongly. I want to sell as many copies as possible for my publisher, who took a chance on me and this book. All of that, of course, but…

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…none of this comes naturally. Self-promotion makes me uncomfortable. So does praise. Like a lot of us, I’m not wild about speaking in public. It’s an entirely different skill than writing, that solitary submersion in language and your characters’ lives. It’s trying, always, to stay grateful. I won’t dishonor my past efforts by crapping out now. Still, it’s like jumping off a cliff, every day. On purpose! And I’m an earth-bound Taurus, usually the one telling you to get down from there right now before you break your neck.

I get it—this is being a writer. Returning, day after day, to labor that promises nothing. The labor of writing, revising, then submitting and hoping, absorbing rejection and discouragement. Doing it again the next day. Being a writer is doing everything necessary to make your book work, if you’re lucky enough to have it published. Even when you’d rather hide with a sympathetic, nonverbal, furry friend. A writer writes, yes, but she also tries. Every day.

I’m trying.

“What do you do?” On working, not working, and the power of one question.

Ten years ago this month, I stopped working. By then I was a Senior Book Buyer for the wholesaler Baker & Taylor. My coworkers were wonderful and I received an education in the art and science of book buying and selling. I watched publishing change and keep changing. I was a single mom working full time and, now, as a married mother who does not report into an office every day, I can tell you: those years were harder.

“What do you do?” That’s now my least favorite question. I no longer have a title. I don’t have an easy answer.
Well, I’m a mom.
I work at home.
I don’t work outside the home.
I’m a writer.
I’m trying to be a writer.

(“Stay At Home Mom” is like nails on a chalkboard for me. In my ears it is patronizing and inaccurate. I have yet to come up with anything better.)

I deliver whatever answer I can manage apologetically, uncomfortably. Then I’m sorry for that, too. I feel, each time, as if I must explain myself, my lack of a “real” job.

And yet a job is often the least interesting thing about a person. What I want to know is:
Who are you?
What’s important to you?
What do you pour your heart and sweat into, regardless of whether you’re paid?

In the last ten years, I raised a remarkable child. I worked hard to lay a good foundation, and I work still, even as my son assumes control of his own life. I always thought raising a good human being was a gift to the future, as important as any contribution. I’m glad I took the time I needed to do it right.

In those years I also wrote and published a variety of short fiction, creative nonfiction, reviews, and multimedia work. I discovered a vibrant and supportive online community and took on volunteer editorial positions. I wrote what became my novel Not On Fire, Only Dying. I scribbled sentences even as the school bus rounded the corner. I remained grateful for this gift, this privilege of time. I worked all day, and then my son came home from school and I worked some more. Like every mom does.

What do I do? I’m a writer. Only now, at 47, my son halfway through high school, and my debut novel forthcoming, do I feel entitled to claim that. Although I always knew it. In my gut, ears, eyes. My voice might lower when I say it, but I’m not apologizing. I’m not uncomfortable.

I’m trying not to be uncomfortable. That’s also what I do. Just ask.

 

Blurbs and Preorders and THANK YOU.

There are times when those two measly words—thank you—are not enough to convey the depth of one’s gratitude. Like when gloriously talented writers, who also happen to be generous and supportive human beings, agree to blurb your debut novel. Each is a writer and person I admire. Each is distinctly gifted. Some are famous; some should be. You probably already love their work, or you soon will. I share their blurbs with the hope that it makes you not only more inclined to read Not On Fire, Only Dying, but their work as well. Click HERE to see the NOFOD page at Twisted Road Publications, where the blurbs are collected and you can now PREORDER MY BOOK!

(See what I mean, about those two measly words? Today they don’t even come close.)


THANK YOU:

James Ellroy —  jamesellroy.net

Brad Meltzer —  bradmeltzer.com, @bradmeltzer    

Myfanwy Collins —  myfanwycollins.com, @myfanwycollins   

Leesa Cross-Smith —  leesacrosssmith.com, @leesacrosssmith    

Amanda Miska —  tumblingtowards.tumblr.com, @akmiska

 

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NYC! Soon I will be in you.

NYC! Soon I will be in you, all too briefly. I’ll be reading with about 20 (!) other writers from Mom Egg Review in support of The Museum of Motherhood.

 

WHEN: Wed, May 6, 7-9 PM.

WHERE: Barnes & Noble – Upper West Side, 2289 Broadway at 82nd St.

WHY: Come on, you need to ask? Mothers and motherhood. Real talk. Gorgeous words. And ME!

 

It’s part of a week-long B&N Bookfair. Click HERE for more infoEven if you can’t attend the reading, you can benefit the MOM by using the special code while shopping at barnesandnoble.com.

 

I plan to read a tiny (really tiny) excerpt from my forthcoming novel Not on Fire, Only Dying. Lola is a mother who lost custody of 3 older children and now reports a newborn kidnapped. She has a long history of mental illness and self-medication, and no one’s seen or even heard of this baby, so people are suspicious and they have questions: Did Lola imagine this baby? Did she do something terrible? Even Lola herself and Marko, the man who loves her and her sole defender, aren’t sure.

 

Back in 2012, Mom Egg Review was kind enough to publish my flash nonfiction piece, Our Bloody Secrets, which addressed pregnancy loss. But as Lola says at one point: “There are lots of ways to lose a baby.”

 

Hope you can come (yes, all of you). I love and miss NYC and I’m thrilled that I’ll there, however briefly.

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Curious?

Curious about my publisher Joan Leggitt and her press, Twisted Road Publications? Then you’ll want to read this brief article from The Florida Writer, written by fellow Twisted Road author Darlyn Finch Kuhn:

⇒  The Florida Writer covers Twisted Road Publications ⇐

It’s an excellent portrait of Joan the person and publisher: savvy, supportive, selective. She seeks “literary fiction from sharp-eyed truth-tellers with a gift for creating fully-rendered characters that get under our skin and expose our deepest humanity.” Check it out..

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No big deal, but…MY BOOK HAS A COVER. *swoon*

Every step of this process, preparing my novel for its September release by Twisted Road Publications, has been an EMOTIONAL EVENT: I have a publisher! I have an ISBN! There is an author photo! There is an ARC! And now—a gorgeous, evocative, perfect cover (blurbs to be added soon.)

It’s been a lot, and quickly. I am a Taurus, and whether my bullishness is in the stars or just my DNA, I find change difficult. I know that’s true for a lot of us. The intersection of defeat and hope was where I’d hung out awhile. This was new territory, this joy. This celebration! This YES, after so much no. After the encouraging rejections that all included the word unfortunately.

I’m getting it together. I’m searching the manuscript for certain passages, starting to think about what I might read aloud. How I’ll explain Marko and this story. How I will explain my reasons for writing it, beyond “The characters insisted.”

How I will explain myself.

Ah, now we’ve returned to strange lands. I feel the bull in me huff and puff and paw the ground. Adjusting to a new reality is challenging, even when it’s a dream come true. This is, after all, everything I wished for, all that time when I was trying, failing, failing better. I am ready for this. I can’t wait to show you Not on Fire, Only Dying. I can’t wait to hear what you think. It’s the best thing I’ve ever written. I believe in this book, always have.

The last few months have been a trip: shock, exhilaration, gratitude, confidence, terror. All of it, all at once. This morning, however, I’m just fine. Because, no big deal, but…

MY BOOK HAS A COVER. *swoon*

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“Hey, this is me.”

Yesterday’s mail brought something beautiful: Cobalt’s Volume 3, with its robin’s egg blue cover and pretty interior design and especially its content—oh, the words in there. You want this.

It includes my creative nonfiction piece, “Believe It, She’s Tried.” It’s about the novel I wrote and almost published, the years I didn’t write at all and how the words returned. It’s about celebrating the fact that we are writing and publishing, even if we receive few rewards beyond the relief of expression. Of saying out loud, as it were: “Hey, this is me.” It’s about divorce and why I hate the movie Forrest Gump.

“Believe It, She’s Tried” and its publication will always be especially important to me. Exactly two decades after the events described, I was able to confront disappointment and mistakes and finally, finally let them go. Writing this piece effected change, I truly believe that. It shifted the air.

Very shortly after Cobalt named it a finalist, I learned that my novel Not On Fire, Only Dying had been accepted for publication with Twisted Road. Just as I’d made genuine peace with the possibility that I might never have a novel published. And it would be okay. I would be okay. I’d keep going, which is all that any of us can do. Keep going, keep writing. Stay hopeful but flexible. Dreams adapt on their way to coming true. Forgive yourself. Celebrate other writers’ success. Celebrate your own. Be grateful. Breathe. Believe it.

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Cats get in the way.

20150105_154806-websiteWhat cats lack in size they make up for in sheer bloody-mindedness. Nothing, least of all an inelegant primate such as I, will interfere with their quest for the perfect perch, preferably on paper still warm from the printer, stacked in a box just a bit too small.

Which is to say, cats get in the way.

Recently I sent my publisher a revision of my forthcoming novel, in preparation for its fall debut. I went through the manuscript page by page, scribbling notes. I was at it for weeks, the loose pages corralled by a plastic box at my side. Usually there was a cat in that box: Percy, short for Perseus. Percy the cat is blind in one eye and suffers no fools.

He obstructed my progress throughout this revision: Wait, where is that page I need? Oh, there it is, under the cat. Shoot—I need to look back a few pages, but they’re all…under the cat. The notepad I was JUST writing on? Yup.

My kind-hearted teen son insists that Percy loves me and want to stay close. He likes the feel of paper. But I know that, with his one good eye, Percy sees straight into my worst self-doubt. You’re right, he purrs. You give this book to the world and you give yourself. Better to let me hide it, hide you.

Cats are not without mercy.

So if cats get in the way, maybe it’s because we need them to. For a while. Maybe we need the writing, the revealing, to go more slowly. We need to take our time and work hard for it. Maybe it’s not contrariness but compassion that leads a cat to curl upon a stack of unpublished work, smooth with sharp edges, full of possibility and potential disaster.

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Thank you for hearing me.

This year I wrote an essay about my failure. I wrote about the years, two decades ago, that nearly did me in. I lost a marriage, a literary agent, a job. For years I did not write. In this essay, I wrote about redefining success, celebrating the work of writing, publishing small pieces, connecting with those who get what I mean. I was thrilled when this essay, “Believe It, She’s Tried”, was named a finalist for Cobalt‘s 2014 Creative Nonfiction Prize. (It will be published in Cobalt‘s Issue 3, available for pre-order here.)

And then, the best news. My novel, Not on Fire, Only Dying, a book I have believed in and worked on for years (and years), found its perfect home with Twisted Road Publications. It debuts next Fall. I can’t wait to show it to you.

It took awhile to sink in, let me tell you. Hearing Yes, after so much No.

Of course, no year is entirely wonderful. Loved ones face illnesses. There is worry and grief. There is the daily grind. But you owe it to yourself to raise a glass, make some noise for what is right at the end of another year. Personal or professional, no matter how small. Allow yourself a moment of gratitude and pride. Fill yourself with it.

Thank you, editors, for publishing my work. Thank you, readers, for reaching out when something stuck with you. Thank you, writers, for your words. For your stories and books that remind me I’m not alone. The world is filled with people who get what we mean. We just have to be patient. We will find each other. And when we do, let’s say thanks.

Twitter is good for writers. No, really.

This morning, someone Favorited this piece of mine, published in Feb. by @escarp. It reminded me, in my sleepy suburban outpost, of how grateful I am for the internet and how it makes much of my work available for viewing 24/7/forever. For those of us who did time submitting via snail-mail, publishing in tiny journals no bookstore carried, this is endlessly wonderful.

Sure, not many people have responded to this piece (yet), but it’s one of my faves and, like any writer, I’m encouraged whenever I receive even a small gesture of appreciation. It means you reached someone with your work. And that’s the point, right?

I’m proud of this little piece because it encapsulates what I try to do in all my writing: it tackles issues I have feelings about (the ubiquitous McMansion, ostentation) and distills it into a few precisely chosen words that engage the music in language. I try to do that always, even in my forthcoming novel.

So yes, Twitter can be a distraction. It can be silly Vines and semi-wise quotes and noisy hawking of self-pub’d material. It can be armchair slacktivism and cute pictures of baby sloths. (Not going to lie, I love baby sloths forever and always.) But it can also be wonderful exercise for writers, a way to keep the the writing muscles flexed. In addition to @escarp, I’ve published Twitter prose with @CuentoMag and @7×20, and some of my #cnftweets have won @cnfonline‘s daily Tiny Truths contest.

Where do you submit your briefest work? Let’s make more of it. Let’s flood Twitter with morsels of dense, delicious lit.