Tag Archives: writing

Taking flight

I’m usually a content machine, but sometimes life gets in the way.

In other words, I fell in love.

Fell deliriously, deliciously, full-heartedly in love. I know! I can’t believe it, either. Me! A snarky middle-aged singleton whose hope was ebbing away a little with each passing year. Like the Grinch, when I met the guy, my heart grew three sizes that day.

As my heart and my life became full, my writing seemed less important. With a popular book and blog called Things I Want to Punch in the Face, I was suddenly at a loss. I couldn’t muster up more than tepid irritation over anything, and that’s saying something, seeing as Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump exist. I’ve been writing a memoir about my teenage years, which seemed farther and farther away as my lovely new life left less and less room for memories and musings.

Instead of writing, I spent time with my guy, finding ways to be brave off the page. We traveled to a remote island in the South Pacific, where I drove a scooter and snorkled for the first time, trading in my anxiety for wind in my hair and tropical fish before my eyes. When I got bit by a 200-pound trevalley, I gave Blackjack the finger. Our boat captain taped up my bleeding middle finger and put a work glove over it and I got back in the water. I wasn’t going to miss seeing a giant clam.

I generally feel alive, present and engaged on the page, as words unspool from my fingertips. Here, now, I was bruised and scraped and bleeding and I didn’t feel like writing about it. I felt like living through it.

Since then, I ziplined despite my decades-long fear of falling. I loved it. I know! I was shocked too. I was prepared to say, “I told you so! I told you I’d hate this!” but instead, with a toothy smile plastered across my face, I said, “Let’s do it again!”

Through all this, the biggest big-girl step isn’t strapping myself into a zipline and praying to sweet Jesus not to toss my cookies or fall to my death; it’s letting myself be completely, joyously smack dab in the middle of a relationship with the love of my life. I’m letting myself be loved, even if I deep down doubt I deserve it. I have no plan B, no safety net. I’m all in.

That is some scary shit.

But as I told him yesterday, there’s a beautiful giddiness that constantly runs through my body because of him. My toes curl, my stomach flutters with butterflies taking flight. To paraphrase a card I gave him, “he makes me feel as if kittens are exploding out of my head.” But I also feel calm, grounded, certain.

Ben Affleck said in the screen gem Bounce, “It’s not brave if you’re not afraid.” Well, I’m going to continue being brave in my life and as I turn my attention back to my computer screen, I’m going to bring that attitude into my writing. Stay tuned for the next installment of my glorious adventure.

How to host a public reading

I was thrilled to be invited to write a post for Hedgebrook’s blog. I discussed the terror and the thrill that comes with sharing new work. And I offer up concrete tips for hosting your own public reading.

Reading from my work-in-progress puts me one step further on my path to publishing my memoir. Setting up a reading is, in some ways, straight-up event planning, something that appeals to the OCD detail-oriented control freak in me. But as someone stepping up to the mic as well, I find it brings insecurities and fears to the surface. My post addresses all of this, giving concrete tips for planning a great event for both readers and listeners and offering up ways to ensure that the event moves the needle forward on your project, rather than scratching it.

And if you don’t know Hedgebrook, you should. It’s a magical, mystery place for women writers on Whidbey Island. A literary nonprofit, their mission is to support visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. Hedgebrook offers writing residencies, master classes and salons. In other words, it’s the shit. I want to go to there.

Have you read from your work? How’d it go? Any tips you’d like to share?

 

Paying the bills and providing shelter

If you’re a fan of Things I Want to Punch in the Face, you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I haven’t been ill or in the witness protection program.

My heart has been elsewhere.

Specifically, I’ve been writing my memoir. I’ve talked about writing a coming-of-age memoir for years and years, working on it on and off. But I committed myself at the beginning of 2013 to make this manuscript a priority.

And believe me, it has been no easy task.

While I’ve always been able to find time to write a funny blog post here and there, it’s a whole ‘nother enchilada to write a deeply personal long-form narrative. I had to have help. I set up a small support group to help me stay accountable. We were to send each other new chunks of writing each week. I have taken one-day and ongoing workshops to give me more tools around structure, dialogue, and characters. A few friends and I have even set up public “works-in-progress” events, where we read new pieces from our memoirs.

Even with all this, I continue to need accountability. It is far too easy to let life—travel, crisis, health issues, and paying gigs—get in the way. When I have a deadline for a freelance article or need to show up for my part-time job, my memoir gets the boot.

I work around all of this, writing at night or on weekends. And I also push through the emotions that arise when writing honestly about difficult events from my past, a past that includes people who I love and hope to not hurt or offend in the process. But one of my writing instructors, a celebrated memoirist in her own right, said that the feeling of discomfort that we get while writing tells us that we are doing the right thing, we are providing shelter to others.

That is part of what drives me. Yes, I want to create a work that has value and is beautifully written. But I want to give the gift of my story to others, who can be entertained (particularly when they read about the tragicomedy that was my prom), but who can also recognize themselves in my own painful adolescence.

So I persevere, even if sometimes I have to write corporate marketing copy first. I’m bringing the same determination that saw me through my teenage years to completing a draft of my memoir by next year. I’ll keep you posted.

What it means to be an author in 2013

It’s hard out here for a pimp.

It’s also hard for a writer. In fact, sometimes I feel like a pimp. Occasionally, I feel like a whore. Let me explain.

When I quit my publishing job to pursue a freelance career, I had a vision of sitting around coffee shops, schmoozing and writing and living off massive royalty checks.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, I’ve cobbled together a pastiche of projects that keep me gainfully employed. In an ideal world, I’d be able to just focus on writing projects I’m passionate about. Again, didn’t happen. Working for yourself is hard, harder than most people can imagine. Not only do I have to produce around the clock, I also have to act as business manager and entrepreneur (enter The E Myth). An accomplished author, I still have to hustle like the rent is due.

Because it is.

While I have done many ignominious jobs that have kept me humble and solvent, these days I focus on the following:

  • Writing (and subsequently promoting) books that blow my skirt up
  • Taking on random freelance articles for beauty sites, travel magazines and a pupu platter of media outlets
  • Writing columns for today.com’s book page
  • College lectures based on my books (more on that at Samara Lectures)
  • A part-time job at THAT large Redmond tech company

In addition to the above (and I’m probably forgetting a couple of things), I have the good fortune to help other writers develop book proposals that will get serious consideration from publishers or agents. With my business partner Kerry Colburn, a close friend and fellow author and publishing professional who I met on the job 17 years ago, we started The Business of Books to share our knowledge of publishing and experience reviewing and writing countless proposals.

It’s as gratifying as anything I’ve ever done. I’ve never had much of a desire to teach, but man, is it addictive. Watching our workshop attendees be inspired and motivated has been a joy. Hearing that they landed a book deal, well, we feel like proud parents. Don’t get me wrong—they did it themselves. They polished their proposal, sent out submissions, and soldiered on through rejections.

My heart is full thinking of all of these newly published authors. And while it can be hard out here for a writer, sometimes it doesn’t feel like work.