I don’t want to alarm anyone in Norfolk, but there’s some sort of creature hanging out on the Swamp Trail in the Barbour Woods.
This creature enjoys splashing and swimming. Every so often, she jumps out of the swamp and shakes off her coat all over innocent bystanders.
If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get to see her. Be forewarned: encounters with this creature result in moments of pure joy and lots of smiling. I mean, honestly! Just look at those ears!
It moments like these that I hold onto because the narcolepsy continues. Of course I’m still sleepy.
Today, however, I am also hopeful.
When I spoke with my sleep doctor last week, we agreed to try a medicine that worked wonders for me for seven years. Overtime, its effectiveness diminished and the side effects became more pronounced. I’m hoping because I haven’t taken this medicine since 2015 that my body and brain will have completely reset itself.
Now, the challenge is getting the medicine. It’s only available at one pharmacy in the country and there’s a lot of paperwork and verification that needs to happen first. So far, I’ve had to email the pharmaceutical company a copy of my marriage certificate and license since the last time I took the medicine I had a different name ,and then on Friday I received notice I have to fill out a new enrollment application.
So, I wait.
In the meantime, Norfolk is on the brink of being a cornucopia of fall foliage. Now’s the time to get outside and enjoy it. Even better, bring a dog!
My mom and I like to say, “no news is good news.” For the most part, I believe this saying to be true. No news that North Korean is nuking us – GOOD NEWS! No news that the Affordable Care Act is trying to be dismantled again – GOOD NEWS! No news that the president hasn’t said something inappropriate on Twitter – GOOD – oh, wait a minute. This one hasn’t happened. Well, two out of three isn’t so bad.
Where “no news is good news” can be tough is when you’re a writer. The publishing industry is notoriously slow and a lot of the time you simply have to wait for editors to get back to you/your agent. This time can take days, weeks, months, or even over a year.
the important thing to do during the waiting game is to keep writing. In addition to working on several new (and old) picture book manuscripts, I’m about two-thirds of the way done with the first draft of a chapter book tentatively titled Henry the Housesitter (Not by Choice!), which follows the adventures of a 10-year-old boy as his parents ditch their lawyer jobs and become professional house sitters. Considering all the source matter I have on house sitting, this book is pretty much writing itself.
I also started writing a daily devotional, which means every morning I write a prayer asking for help with my day’s work. A lot of the prayers deal with motivation when feeling exhausted (I’ve had several days in a row of poor sleep) and I’m wondering if the end result will be an inspirational prayer book for those of us dealing with chronic illness. I suppose time will tell.
My goal is to write a new prayer every day and so by September 2018 I should have the first draft of this manuscript done. Talk about an easy way to finish a draft! Though at first I felt a little lazy at the idea that it would take me 365 days to finish a first draft, but the time is going to go by anyway and I already have several writing projects which will be finished in what I consider a more acceptable length of time for someone who aspires to be a prolific writer.
Another way I’m passing the time during the publishing waiting game is by immersing myself in children’s publishing as much as possible. I’ve started attending author readings at local libraries and book stores. Last week I listened to the incredibly talented Sara Beth Videtto read her picture book Turtle’s First Winter: A Read and Find Storybook at the Norfolk Library
and Tuesday I celebrated the release of The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarineby Mark Twain and Philip C. Stead by attending “the shortest, grand parade,” in downtown Hartford, followed later in the day by a reading at the actual Mark Twain house (Mark Twain lived in Hartford, CT, from 1874-1891).
I also came across this gem of a book at the Norfolk Library last week:
I wasn’t even looking for a new nonfiction book to read, as I was trying to finish The Book of Joy by The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for a book group, and then I had Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry on tap to read. But there Wild Things sat on a shelf in the “new nonfiction” section at the library’s entrance, just begging for me to pick it up and read it.
The fairytale chapter is rather gruesome; however, I am completely enchanted by the Good Night Moon chapter and all the fascinating historical tidbits from Margaret Wise Brown’s life. I’m now on chapter 4, which is all about using animals in children’s literature. Considering 75% of my main characters are animals, I suspect this chapter will also enchant me.
With all that I have going on and all that I have to look forward to, I find the publishing waiting game much more tolerable. Dare I even say, enjoyable. It’s fun to be out in the world, going new places and hearing new stories. So it looks like the no news for me is, in fact, good news for now, until that day comes when I receive GREAT NEWS by way of a book contract.
One of the biggest problems I have with writing is the waiting. Time moves so much more slowly in the publishing world than elsewhere. Examples – agents may take 6 weeks to one year to respond to a query letter; from signed contract to publication can take three years (this is especially true for picture books with illustrations).
Of course, there are always a few outliers – the rare agent or publisher who responds within 24 hours to kindly reject my work – and then there are those who never respond (also a typical practice in publishing) and you’re left in limbo wondering if you should follow-up or let it go.
To add to the tension of this waiting game I’m now playing, I recently attended a conference where I had six 1-1 sessions with different agents and editors. One editor requested the entire manuscript of my Top Dog of K-9 Academy middle grade book (did I mention I finished my second book – only took three months to write the 37,000 words of which I attribute a large part of my success to the outlining method from Libbie Hawker’s wonderful book Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing) and another editor was so enthusiastic, she gave me a list of agents to contact and she said I could use her name (too bad this editor works at a press that doesn’t acquire middle-grade fiction).
As a result, I’ve been checking my inbox at a more than neurotic rate. I haven’t formally documented what that amounts to on a daily basis, but between when I woke up at 5:30am (the first time, that is, then I fell back asleep only to have an incredibly vivid dream about a jaguar breaking into the house and fighting it off to protect the dogs), got out of bed at 6:30am, and began writing this at 11:30am, I have now checked my email nine times in six hours (and for 1.5 of those hours I attended my creative writing group where I did not want to be rude and look at my phone).
THIS. MUST. STOP.
Checking so much is not an efficient use of my time. Mounds of research suggests checking email like this severely impacts productivity. I already know this, yet I do it anyway.
So the question I’m now asking myself is why do I feel such a strong compulsion that I can’t seem to stop it?
I’m a big fan of The Great Courses and for those of you interested in learning about the publishing industry, I can’t recommend Jane Friedman’s How to Publish Your Book enough, which I have fully listened to twice now. I’ll let you know about Writing Great Fiction when I finish all twenty-four chapters.
Anyway, here’s what Professor Hynes said in chapter 1 – Starting the Writing Process:
Few things make a writer more anxious than facing a blank page. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner starting your first story ever or if you’re a battle-scarred professional with many publications behind you. Having to fill that blank space with words is almost always a very intimidating prospect. Like any worker faced with a difficult task, a writer can find all sorts of ways to allay that anxiety. These include petty rituals of procrastination, like, say, alphabetizing your bookshelf, experimenting with different fonts on your computer, or sharpening all your pencils to just the right length. Some writers go further, indulging in such self-destructive practices as using alcohol or drugs to numb their anxiety. And ever since the advent of the internet, there’s been a vast middle-ground between these two extremes now that a writer is able to kill almost all his writing time by checking his email, making wise cracks on twitter, or watching adorable kittens on YouTube and calling it research.
Well, duh. I can’t believe I didn’t see this. Now that I’ve finished my book, it’s time to start another one. And what better way to put that off then suddenly being offered a representation/publishing contract where I can then turn my attention and energy to something I’ve already done? Wouldn’t that be the easy way out! I wouldn’t have to think of an entirely new plot, then write it, then edit it and re-write again. I don’t have to contemplate disappointment and failure in my writing process and I can remain blissfully a person who successfully started and finished two books.
Except I don’t want to be a person who just wrote two books. I want to be a prolific writer, writing across different genres and getting successfully published in a variety of different ways.
So I guess it’s time curb my anxiety the best I can and come up with different, more productive ways (other than checking my email) to alleviate it. There’s the obvious of actually starting my next book and yesterday I did start the outline. I’ve also come up with creating new content for my blog, visualizing how I want to brand myself as an author, and always keeping a book with me, so if I start to feel compelled to check my email again I can read a few paragraphs (one of the single best ways to improve your own writing is to read others).
I’m optimistic these strategies can work and I’m open to suggestions for other ways I can re-direct my anxiety in a more productive way. Any ideas?