Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Video: On My Haiti Experience and Brokenness

I had a different post ready to go today on writing a bannable book and decided (for the umpteenth time) not to publish it, despite this being Banned Books Week. Go me.

Instead I've decided, after much debate, to post the video of a presentation I gave over the weekend on my experience in Haiti last year. If you've followed my blog for a while, you know I went to Haiti last year with Mission Haiti Medical and a medical team comprised of (about) thirty people from all over Indiana, and that I kind of fell apart afterwards and hesitated to really discuss this trip with many.

But I was asked recently to talk about my experience at my church. They gave me a great amount of support last year, so, yeah. I couldn't put it off any longer. It was time to give back, if you want to call this presentation that. There were several remarkable presentations that day, but I went last, which, thank goodness because I turned into a blubbering mess all of the four times I spoke. I got so much support from so many of you, too, but I had come to the conclusion that posting this video would make me feel too vulnerable. The Internet is just so...huge. But then I received a card in the mail from a lady who was overwhelmed by my talk, moved to such a degree she took the time to send me a letter. And that was that. I was reminded of my own call to action despite vulnerability. If you watch this through to the end, you'll see what I mean. Sometimes things are really hard, but you do them anyway.

It's kind of long, though. You don't have to watch it. But it's here. Because I got a card in the mail.

Thank you to Joe and Bill and the amazing crew who made this video and to the missions team who invited me to speak.

Also? Thank you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

When Publishing Sucks You Dry, Have a Cupcake

Here's the thing about traditional publishing.

There is no way to predict when or if it will happen for you.

I know, right? Sucks. Because you can work and work--sometimes years--and never see any results from all your hard labor.

All right, so, you have some options.

1. You can quit. Easy peasy. Maybe this isn't for you. Eh, whatever. You can find another passion. I mean, seriously. You like to write; it's a part of your identity. But it's not who you are. You're a writer, but you are not your writing.* No need to get all emo and shit just because this crazy stupid, super-reliant on all-the-stars-aligning-just-right BS isn't happening for you. You must write to publish, but you don't have to publish to be a writer. Let's be honest: you've read so much crap, you know publishing doesn't necessarily mean you're a good writer, yeah? It stands to reason that not publishing doesn't mean you're a bad writer either. So, go. Do something else. Come back to this when the wanting far outweighs the pain of trying to get it.

2. You can self publish. A lot harder than quitting. No way to predict if you'll actually be any good at it either. Or make any money. But odds are if you self publish you'll make more money than leaving your manuscript sitting inside the desert wasteland that is your laptop. Might only be pennies. And you may end up spending all your pennies on marketing and booze to ease the sting of not becoming the next H.M. Ward, but whatever. Dude, you're totally published. Also, maybe you will become the next H.M. Ward.

3. You can keep writing. And keep querying. Keep submitting. Slowly go insane. Become an alcoholic. Destroy all your relationships. Shave your head, sell off all your possessions and join a nudist doomsday cult. Good luck with that.

4. You can keep writing. And keep querying. Keep submitting. And bake cupcakes. Lots and lots of cupcakes. And by cupcakes, I also mean garden. Or maybe build model trains. Or knit. Or have babies. Or mow geometric patterns into your lawn.

Basically? Keep living your life. Do things you can control, things that will be fruitful and multiply and ooze results.

This summer I started a garden for the first time. It was glorious.

I made loads of cupcakes and ate them all.

I experimented with pictures. Of feet.

I got a new tattoo. Sorry. Won't be showing you that one. Love you guys, but. Yeah. It's kind of privaty.

Also, I had a baby.

Just kidding. That's my friend's new baby. Crazy cute, huh?

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that you can't let yourself get too caught up in the misery of not making it...yet. That yet can take a freakishly long time. So in the meantime, if you're not going to quit, and you're not going to self publish, do something that makes you feel good about yourself, something that makes you feel like you're the most accomplished accomplisher OF ALL TIME. There is so much out of your control with this publishing dream, but there are so many other dreams and projects and really cool things you can control. Life is cool, man. There is so much else besides writing that can make you feel totally okay with yourself while you're trying to make the writing thing take off. I mean, okay, all my broccoli and my cauliflower went to crap, but I have a ton of tomatoes and onions. And so. many. cupcakes. And feet.

No babies though. Nope. No babies.


*Elizabeth of Liz Writes Books wrote a brilliant post on this concept: "Writing is not Breathing." Check it out. Please. It's time we stop treating writing like it's the end-all and be-all of who we are. That's an unhealthy attitude that creates the cynical, emotionally-drained writer on the cusp of a nervous breakdown contemplating the most dramatic, stranger-than-fiction ways to end it all. Do not be that kind of writer. You are more creative than that. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Balls to the Wall Courage and an Excerpt of My Latest Work OMG

It's come to my attention that I'm a bit of chicken-shit. Not to say that I don't do brave things. I'm an anxious nelly, and doing normal things like talking to humans outside of my own house (totally sober) can take a fair amount of courage. When I was younger, I couldn't order a pizza without first writing down exactly what I was going to say beginning with, "Hello, I'd like to order a pizza." Thankfully, I don't (often) get palpitations at such exchanges anymore, but there are certain things which have become more difficult over time. Like posting on my blog. Which might explain why I have no fewer than a hundred unpublished blog posts. After some serious therapy soul searching, I've realized that I have an intense fear of vulnerability. This fear manifests itself in manifold ways.

1. When my phone rings, I rarely answer.
2. When my doorbell rings, I rarely answer.
3. Unless you're someone who loves me (preferably unconditionally), I probably will never call you on the phone. Yeah, no probably. I won't. I'll text. Better yet, give me your email.
4. If I run into you somewhere I'm not expecting to run into you, I'll usually pretend not to see you unless you say hello first, in which case, awesome. So in the future, do that. And pretend to be excited to see me. If you don't I'll assume you hate me and wish I were never born.
5. I have only a select, very small group of critique partners and beta readers for my work.
6. I will put off showing my writing or talking about it for as long as humanly possible. If you do read my work, assume I came close to pissing my knickers before I sent it to you.
7. Heights freak me out. Also, bugs. And rejection. And germs. And crowds. And people on stilts. And people. Did I say rejection?

One of the few things that makes the above easier is alcohol. And maybe also my BFFs who threaten to boil my laptop if I don't cut that shit out (this probably puts my BFFs on the list at #7). Aside from the normal(?) cynicism and paranoia, fear is probably the foremost reason for holding back when I could otherwise act. I have this painful awareness of ALL THE THINGS THAT COULD GO WRONG OMG. So. Yeah. I don't post my writing anywhere.

But I'm exhausted with fear. Publishing is a tough business in which you have to be audacious. There's no point in writing a ballsy manuscript if I don't have the cojones to take it to the next level. So I'm going to do something I've never done. I'm gonna be a nervy little badass and let you read a snippet of this ballsy book of mine. Just a paragraph. Baby steps.


Pretty much it's like I'm posting a naked picture of me. If you're assuming I've wet myself, well, you could be right.


He pulls me into him, and we become a mesh of limbs and skin, a tangle of arms and legs wilting into sleep. In this moment we are the purest version of us, undiluted like uncut heroin and just as intoxicating and addictive. But when his breathing evens and his heartbeat against my back steadies and slows, I remember the right thing. I remember it's only in the dark, secret places that we belong to one another, unscattered, unbroken, undenied. It's only here in the dark we won't destroy us.

In the event you're curious, the ms is a YA with subtle supernatural elements. Magical realism, maybe? Think If I Stay with jagged edges and a seriously unreliable narrator.