Save the Libraries: A Guest Post With Pages Unbound

July 31, 2014 at 6:16 pm (General) (, , , )

The wonderful Krysta over at Pages Unbound invited me to do a guest post about libraries, and you guys have probably realized by now, I am ALWAYS happy to talk about libraries and how wonderful they are. So check it out, and be sure to chime in through the comments and tell us your favorite thing about libraries.

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An Experiment in Control

February 6, 2014 at 8:36 pm (General, Writing) (, , )

Tomorrow marks two weeks of unemployment for me. I’m not panicking yet- last time I couldn’t get a job, it stretched for a whole six months- but it’s led to a lot of thinking for me, in between the cleaning and procrastinating. Mostly, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about control.

Because realistically, I can’t control my employment. I can put out applications, I can search and interview and do my best, but I can’t control what actually happens. It’s led me to other things I can’t control.

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I can write the best book I can write, but I can’t guarantee that the book will sell better than my writing a custom annotated bibliography practice back in the time when I was a student. It’s out of my hands, and in the hands of an editor who can decide that he or she wants to buy it. I can do my best, my fabulous agent can do her best, but in the end, it depends on a lot of factors, like what else is in the catalog, like what the current trends are, like the purely subjective likes and dislikes of an acquisitions board. A lot of factors, factors over which I have no control.

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Once a book is out there, the way it’s perceived is entirely out of my control. Books become, to many readers, very personal things. The way we enjoy them, the way we react to them, says a lot about us. I can’t control what people think of my writing. Once it’s out there, I can’t argue with people that I think miss the point, can’t tell them what I meant to do. Hell, J.K. Rowling is a superstar and she can’t get away with it without a furor. And really, that’s as it should be. Once it’s in the hands of the reader, it’s open to interpretation, to personal perception. I can’t make anyone like my book. I can’t control whether or not someone enjoys it. Love it or hate it, it’s out of my hands.

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Publishing is a crazy industry that attempts to balance art and business. It’s a juggernaut, really, that steams along to its own timeline. There are eight million numbers and considerations and factors and none of it is in my hands. I can make my contributions on one end or another, but I can’t control it. YA readers on Twitter the other day may have seen #TheArchivedNeedsaThirdBook. For some context, The Archived is an absolutely amazing book by Victoria Schwab. It’s creepy and atmospheric, exciting, heart-wrenching, unexpectedly funny, with the lyrical, gorgeous writing we’ve come to expect from Victoria. It’s sequel, The Unbound, came out at the end of January, and it is just as good. Where the first book was an external enemy, this book is largely internal; the main character is shattering and struggling to make everyone believe she’s okay. A very large part of this book is the realization that it’s okay to NOT be okay for a while after trauma. The story is such that things can end here; it’s the characters that need a third book, and there was originally supposed to be one, but as we know, in publishing, sometimes things happen. They’re not done intentionally, they’re not done to hurt anyone, but it is, at the end of the day, a business, and a business is about numbers and projects and yes, about passion. The hashtag was a fan movement to try to sway the publishers, but at the end of the day, a trending hashtag isn’t going to make a difference to the business. (It will, however, make a hell of a difference to an author to get that kind of outpouring of love and support). What makes a difference to the publisher is sales. Aside from the contribution of buying books from authors I love so they can hopefully make more of them, I can’t control other books. I can’t control other authors. I can’t control publishers, or timelines, or release dates. I can’t.

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I’ll be honest, Other People as a collective tend to piss me off. Not in a “you’re awful” kind of way, but in an “I don’t want to be dealing with you” kind of way. I am an introvert; I prefer not to deal with people if I can possibly avoid it, because I’m awkward and self-conscious and I hate feeling like an idiot in social situations. But I learned a long time that I can’t control other people. I can’t control behavior, or statements, or preferences. I can take accountability for my own actions, but not for theirs. I can’t control luck or good fortune, or bad fortune, I can’t make other people live with compassion or mindfulness.

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There are so many things out of our control it’s frankly a wonder we can convince ourselves anything IS in our control. There is so much about life that we don’t get to decide. We can’t choose the weather, or the climate (unless you choose to move, but even then, have you noticed how things have been recently?). We as individuals have a say in our government, but we don’t really choose it. We can’t control the jury summons or the illness or the falling in love. We can’t choose a lot of things, and where there is no choice, there is no control. It all seems rather a hopeless business, doesn’t it? But there’s something comforting, in a strange sort of way, about acknowledging how small we are, how generally powerless we are. Because when we admit to ourselves all the things we CAN’T control, we start to understand the things we CAN control.

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I can’t control what happens with my writing, but I can control the writing itself. Yes, there are bad days, where every word is a struggle and I’ll probably end up deleting most of them the next time I sit down to work, but those are generally rare. More to the point, what I can control is sitting down and DOING IT. I can control the process of sitting my butt in the chair and WRITING. I can choose to open the file, the notebook, the book. I can choose to exercise my craft and expand my voice. Whatever comes after is out of my hands, but it is precisely in my hands to shape the story and spill it onto the page.

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I’m not by nature a disciplined person, but I can change that. I can control that. I can make it better. Right now my apartment is slowly getting cleaner than any living space of mine has probably ever been, and it’s kind of creeping me out a little, because everything is getting organized and neat and in its place, and that’s just not normal for me. But I’m making the choice, here and now, to keep it that way. To start the good habits and maintain them. I’m usually someone who waits for the mood to write, or who waits for the day off, but I would very much like to get into the habit of writing at least five hundred words every day. Even if it’s not on my main project of the moment, just so I’m writing SOMETHING every single day. Starting good habits is hard. Maintaining good habits is REALLY hard. But- I can choose to have the self-discipline to enforce them, and right now, I choose that.

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I’m not able to control what happens to my books, but I can choose to keep pursuing the goals I’ve set. I can control whether or not I give up. Determination, persistence, they’re hard, especially because they traverse so close to the border of delusional and trying too hard. Sometimes, no matter how badly we want something, no matter how hard we work for it, it just doesn’t happen, and we do have to accept that. Sometimes that means we have to shift our goals. It doesn’t mean we have to give up. Determination got me my first book deal. I can choose to continue that determination.

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Okay, so this one is actually really difficult. Life has a way of throwing things at us, and it’s hard to control your outlook in trying times. But if I can’t control my emotions well enough to be optimistic, I can at least control them enough to not wallow in misery. I can choose to temper my outlook with a bit of joy and hope, or at least a really sick sense of humor. I can’t control the world, but I can control how I look at it, and I can control how I choose to move through it.

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Because at the end of things, the only thing I can really control is myself. All those other factors, all those other things, that I can claim to control, all those really boil into one single thing: me. And as long as I can control myself, as long as I can choose to make myself better, to do better, I can get by.

And what that also made me realize is something else I can control.

My gratitude.

So.

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Sometimes Things Happen

January 28, 2014 at 7:18 pm (General) (, , , )

I’ve been a bit squirrely for the past few months, and there were Reasons, but while I was in the midst of dealing with them on a daily basis, I found I couldn’t come home and explain it online, couldn’t talk about it more, but now I think it’s time for some explanations, largely because it’s also a form of goodbye. Not to you- I’m not leaving- but to my home for the past six years, and a large part of my life for twenty.

On 31st December, my Barnes and Noble closed its doors for the last time. This wasn’t an indication of how the company as a whole is doing, it wasn’t an indication of our store faltering or our local market not supporting us. Boiled down to its bones, our landlord didn’t renew our lease. There were details, of course, but to be honest, things got pretty messy after the announcements and it became a Big Thing, and in the interest of it not becoming a Legal Thing, I’m going to leave it at the lease.

Employees learned about it in September. Our District Manager was up (not unheard of) and she’d spent the day holed up in the office (not uncommon; even on store visits she still gets stuck on conference calls). What made it weird was the sudden appearance of our assistant store manager, who was supposed to be off that day and had been called in. Then the arrival of one of our merchandise managers, who was on vacation (but still in town). Eventually the other merch manager was called in, and then it was my turn, and by this point we were all wondering just what the hell what was going on. And the news was, we’d be closing at the end of the year.

When you hear something like that, there are any number of questions that bubble into your mind all at once, but damned if you can pull yourself together enough to ask them with any degree of intelligence. You want to ask about transfers, about severance, about eligibility for rehire, about insurance. But mostly HOW. Mostly WHY.

And once you get safely home and break down in private: What do I do now?

It was another month before we started telling customers, and even then we eased into a bit. There were a few of our regulars, people who are so much more to us than customers, that we told a few days early, but for the most part, we waited until the first clearance signs went up. We needed time to get used to it ourselves, we needed time to find out what we were allowed to say, how we were supposed to answer questions.

On October 27th, the first of the clearance sales went up. At that point, we had about 125,000 books and product in the store, and about a quarter of it went to clearance, all things that were unable to be returned to vendors. Unlike all of our previous clearance sales (because they happen about every two to three months), the dots marking the products were white, instead of red, and at every sale we had to warn people that these items could NOT be returned. I was actually somewhat shocked at how many people were utterly incurious as to why. But for most, this was where the questions began. The initial reactions were mostly shock and dismay. We were in our location for twenty and a half years, and a fair number of our customers have actually been with us the entire time. We used to have a hugely active preschool and elementary school community that partnered with us for events, and a lot of those kids who grew up in our store had started bringing their own kids in.

I never did the storytimes or the activities, but I was one of the kids who grew up in the store. I was there opening week with my mother, and it was the first time I’d ever told anyone that I wanted to published someday. I spent my allowance in this store, my birthday/Christmas/babysitting money. All of my original books were ruined in a house fire when I was 12, but three years later, I got to drop a couple hundred dollars in our Barnes and Noble (and trust me, I’d EARNED that babysitting money!) and finally got to buy my favorite books, the ones I’d checked out so often from the library that I could almost quote them. I still have almost all of those (some of the paperbacks have passed to friends as I’ve broken down and replaced them in hardcover), and sometimes it’s weird to look at the backs of the books and realize this was when mass markets were rarely higher than $4.99. Money wasn’t something we had a lot of, but when I had it, it tended to find its way to bookstore far more often than not. This store was a home for me, and as a child, I was awestruck by the idea that so much knowledge, so much wonder and imagination, could be contained within a single building.

There were tears from some of our customers, fury from others. There was a rather depressing indifference from some. But then, there were some reactions that utterly baffled us.

Like the man who said he wasn’t surprised we were closing, because we’d politely refused to place an order on Amazon for him because he didn’t want to bother with his computer.

Like the woman who sniffed and said it was about time, because we’d been unable to send someone to her home to diagnose her router issues.

Like the ones who said no one read anyway, or that books were dying, or that Amazon was a better place anyway. (And do you have any idea how difficult it is not to snap back that Amazon isn’t a place at all?)

But no matter how the conversation went, the fact was, the conversation happened. Again and again and again and again. So. Many. Times. A. Day. And it was exhausting. Because sometimes the conversation twisted around to “What are you going to do now?” and we didn’t know (many of us still don’t know) and it was terrifying and we really didn’t want to talk about the uncertainty of our future inability to pay our bills. And sometimes the conversation turned to “What am I going to do now?” and it was both strange and discomfiting that some people could be so incredibly selfish, when there are SO MANY avenues by which to acquire books. We’d have to explain that no, we weren’t simply moving locations, because those things take time and we didn’t have any. We’d explain again and again until finally we just wanted to hide in the breakroom and talk about ANYTHING ELSE because we could actually FEEL our brain cells dying. We’d get home and I know for myself, I could do nothing more than drop onto the couch and stare mindlessly at the TV. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t do anything that required actual thought, because I was just so mentally exhausted.

The news had come so out of the blue that most of our holiday orders were already locked in, so it took a while for our shelves to start to feel empty. But, slowly, the shipments slowed down. Gradually, our ability to restock the shelves was cut off, vendor by vendor, warehouse by warehouse. Eventually, our ability to order books for customers transitioned to only direct-ship. We had to shift constantly to condense those empty shelves, and as weeks passed, entire sections of the store were just bare shelves.

And as we got into December, the desperation ratcheted up. Our customers were desperate to believe that there was some kind of reprieve in store, that if they just wrote enough angry letters or made enough angry phone calls to our landlord, somehow everything would be okay. As employees, we were torn between wanting to believe that and wanting everyone else to stop believing it.

But, we found ways to entertain ourselves, in a thoroughly giddy, borderline-hysterical kind of way.

Thanksgiving weekend, our assistant store manager decided to gift-wrap the breakroom door. I helped, and then took it further, until all the interior doors save the bathrooms were bright and sparkly (but without glitter, because one of our merch managers freaks out at glitter).

Outside of the Office Door

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We even found the polar bears because they make our store manager happy.

I have to admit, I kind of turned into a demented Christmas fairy, because it kept me busy. I made ornaments for everyone on staff. I made a wreath for our inner office. It kept me busy and kept me, a little bit, from fretting.

One night, one of my rare closing shifts, a couple of our cashiers decided to put out scrap pads (recycled page a day calendars) and asked customers to draw what they thought a whalien would look like. Sometimes they’d add a little explanation, but most of the time, they just would just say to draw what they thought it sounded like. I was astonished by how many ACTUALLY DID. We made a quilt of them. (I accidentally deleted that picture, but it was pretty awesome) It hung out at the cashwrap for that final week of business, and then the next couple of weeks of actually closing everything out, then moved to the fridge when we had to take those bays out.

For our final two days of business, our glitterphobe made us a playlist that included titles like “Final Countdown”, “Closing Time”, “End of the World (As We Know It)”, and other thematically appropriate (or inappropriate, all things considered) titles. The final day he included “Dance Magic” from Labyrinth, and “The Time Warp”, and we actually did dance the Time Warp in the cashwrap line. By the last day, we’d reached the point where we had to laugh like idiots because we just didn’t know what else to do and still function. (I’m told there’s video of that somewhere, but I haven’t seen it, so I’m pretending it doesn’t exist).

We closed on New Years Eve at 4 pm, because there really wasn’t much point in drawing it out, and we all trooped out across the parking lot to Ale House and started drinking. (Responsibly, but still, it was a drinking sort of evening).

For most of our staff, that was the end of it. As a store, we had over time transitioned into a staff made of disparate personalities that worked together really well. We didn’t have the big dramas that we’d had in some other incarnations of the staff, we didn’t have the fights. Were there issues? Sure. But we were also a staff that could talk through those problems, or take them to a manager for mediation without it being a tattle-tale situation. As a staff, we’d become very close-knit, family and friends. Saying goodbye that night was like a physical blow.

And yet, if I’m honest, I might be a little jealous of the people who go to leave when the store was about half full, because the actual process of closing out the store, seeing it disappear little by not so little every day, was heart-breaking. (And back-breaking) Day by day, we watched the store dwindle into nothingness.

We had to return all of the books that were left, which tallied up to about 65,000 units once the doors closed. We had to sort them by vendor, scan them, box them, try to get the box packed as efficiently as possible with a 50lbs weight limit in mind, label, them, and stack them. Then, either the guys in the evening, or I the next morning, would move them into the back room and stack them onto palettes. Over time, that equaled over 36,000 lbs. That’s right, over 18 TONS of books. One of those days included me packing up all of our copies of A Wounded Name. In a way, I was lucky- my book was in my store. My dream of seeing my book on the shelf of THIS Barnes & Noble, THIS store that I grew up in, came true, and I got to have my signing. But returning those books was shattering. We got an insane amount done each day, but…

..some days you just had to take a break…

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…and if you sat too long in the wrong spot, you took the risk of becoming part of the furniture.

We had to figure out what was going to other stores, and how we could pack them, and tear down sections to load into the truck, and the information kept changing, constantly, so we never really had a full idea of what was going on. We had to figure out what we could donate to different organizations, what we were allowed to sell to other organizations. One of our poor guys spent about three days doing nothing but shredding, sitting huddled in our cold back room as it emptied around him, because the cold kept the silly machine from overheating quite as often.

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When the demolition crew came in, I think what hit me hardest was the destruction of the theme wall and children’s octagon. Before moving to receiving, I was the Kids’ Lead, and I loved it. Kids books, from board book through YA, are my heart, and watching it get literally torn to pieces was devastating. The sequence was just..GAH.

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This was before, and then there was this:

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(Okay, yes, we sent our manager’s grandson down the wall mounting. Okay, FINE, I went down a few times too)

But even when we had moments to rest or laugh-

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-things just kept going away.

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Over the course of seventeen days, we saw a healthy store diminish into an empty space that suddenly, shockingly, seemed as tiny as we’d always sort of known it was. It’s only 12,000 square feet. In terms of bookstore space, that’s minimal. And yet, with the shelves and the books, with the vitality, it seemed so much bigger.

Friday was our very last day. We cleaned, we waited for our equipment to pick up, and then it was time to say goodbye. I worked at that store for six years, but it was a part of my life for more than twenty. And the truth is, I don’t know what I’m doing from here. I had some applications out, one of which got me very excited about taking new paths, but they didn’t pan out. There will be many more applications in the next few weeks. Hopefully something will work out, hopefully it will turn out to be a great thing, a good opportunity in something new, something exciting. But for right now, I don’t know.

It’s hard to go into the plaza and see that empty space. It’s hard to go to bed whenever and get up whenever, because I don’t have any particular place I have to be. My apartment is in the middle of getting cleaner and more organized than it has ever been (or might ever be again), and it’s kind of creeping me out, because I don’t stress clean. It’s also not done yet, but it’ll get there, and I have this awful feeling that I’ll get everything put perfectly in a place and I’ll still be unemployed. It’s hard to walk out of the grocery store and see nothing but this:

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Things end, and sometimes it sucks, and sucks royally, and I’ll be honest, I’m not yet at the point where I can nod and accept that things might yet turn out for the better. I’m not at a point where I can be philosophical or hopeful about it. But, I think I might finally be at a point when I can ask a favor of all of you.

If you have a favorite bookstore, whether it’s chain or indie, let the employees know how much you love the store, how much you appreciate them. Make the decision that the buck or two extra, or the day or two extra, is worth shopping there to support them, rather than Amazon. Write, call, or e-mail the landlords to tell them how much you value the store. Support your local stores, and help them stay where they are, because seriously, while the internet is a wonderful community (most of the time) there’s just nothing that beats having a bookstore as a part of your experience. As much as it hurts now that my store is closed, I wouldn’t trade those years growing up in the store for anything. Bookstores and libraries were- and remain- my favorite places, and I know a lot of you are the same way.

So talk about your bookstores.
Tell the employees.
Tell other customers.
Tell the landlords.
Tell anyone you can think of that might listen.

Things are hard for bookstores right now, because online is so convenient, and usually cheaper, and sometimes faster. That isn’t what happened to us, but it could have been. A bookstore closing- for any reason- is never less than a tragedy.

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Allegiant Survey Recap Part 1- SPOILERS ABOUND

November 10, 2013 at 6:13 pm (General) (, , , )

Okay, so obviously, if you haven’t read Allegiant, DO NOT READ THIS POST. Unless you have absolutely no intention of reading it, in which case spoilers aren’t really going to affect you one way or the other. But seriously, pretty much the entire post is made of SPOILER.

How this is going to work: I want to evaluate the responses I got to the survey, but I also want to talk about my own responses to the book. So. The questions are going to be written in bold, the gathered responses will be discussed straight out, and my own responses are going to be italic. And just as a warning, this will be a very long post.

If you were living in the city, what faction (or lack of faction) would you choose?

Unsurprisingly, Dauntless won out by a large measure, almost twice as much as any other faction (40%). Next up, and fairly evenly matched, were Erudite (24%) and Amity (21%). Abnegation followed at 11%, and Candor came in last with 6%. There were a couple of fluke answers (again, the Star Wars, and one that thought I was asking if they’d choose to have factions or not), but I have to admit, I wasn’t shocked by Dauntless winning out. Part of that is our main characters coming from or choosing that faction- we naturally sympathize with our main characters, project our values or virtues onto them and vice versa, but we tend to cling to that even against honest assessments of our own characters. What did surprise me was that Abnegation came ahead of Candor. Selflessness is a difficult concept to live up to, and honesty-especially the frequently tactless sort of honesty Candor espouses- can seem a great deal easier.

I’d love to say I’m the type of person to choose Dauntless- not the cruelty, not the recently enforced and inescapable hierarchy of brutality, but the courage and the resourcefulness and the sense of protection that strength can offer to others, that appeals to me. More honestly, however, I’d have to say Erudite. There’s something very safe about knowledge. Even when we’re overwhelmed by how much we don’t know, even as our understanding of the world makes us feel very small and insignificant, knowledge and its pursuit is still a very safe place, like we can run from all the problems in the world so long as we can only find a way to research and produce an answer.

What is your favorite book of the trilogy?

The response was fairly overwhelmingly Divergent. The third book got several votes, and there was a lone call for the second one, but for the most part, it was decisively the first.

For me, it’s also the first one. The first one was something fresh and amazing. It introduced a distinct world with the factions, but also introduced an element of choice. Tris was a character who didn’t know her own strength, who would be forced by her own choice into a series of circumstances that would not only test that strength, but also force it to either grow or break. The language irritated me a little-it felt a little formal, a little (unintended pun) stiff, very much a product of an MFA program, if that makes any sense. That feeling intensified through the second book, and even more into the third book, and the sense of audience expectation, of strain, even of the stress of writing under a deadline, also manifested into something that felt like it needed a great deal more editing. Of the three, the first was by far the tightest in story and character.

From 1 to 5 stars, how would you rate this book?

Excluding the outliers, as an average across the gathered responses, it came to about 3.6, which is actually pretty on par with the larger spread. On Goodreads, for example, across 38,694 ratings, it has a 3.78 average. (By outliers, by the way I mean the Star Wars and the number with so many digits I’m not even sure I could read it out loud) From those nearly 40K ratings on GR, it splits out to: 13,223 5s (34%); 11,275 4s (29%); 8435 3s (21%); 3827 2s (10%); and 1924 1s (5%). (Compare this to the feedback on Amazon, with 2,395 ratings and an average of 2.8).

Also interesting to note is the difference between that and the average for the first book. Granted, Divergent has been out for two and a half years, so it’s had time to garner a lot more ratings, but on the whole, those rating are also a great deal more positive. On Goodreads, Divergent has 446,070 ratings and an average of 4.38 (5/231,618/52%; 4/122,488/27%; 3/43,715/10%; 2/10014/2%; 1/3792/less than 1%).

I find that interesting mostly because it supports the numbers of which book of the trilogy was each person’s favorite. I’m honestly not very good at the whole data analysis thing, one of many reasons psychology and sociology were struggles for me in school, but I like when the numbers don’t make me feel like a complete idiot.

My initial response was a 5, but that was mostly out of a knee-jerk reaction to the ending. After thinking through it a bit more, I would probably go for a 3.5 or a barely-4. It was a fairly scattered book, in my opinion, in need of much tighter editing, and the science felt specious and rushed. The characters felt rather inconsistent and there were a lot of things that were dropped. I think what it really comes down to is that I spent most of the book bored. For me, the ending is what saved it, both as a book and as a trilogy.

Who is your favorite character in the series?

Unsurprisingly, nearly all of the responses came back as Tris and Tobias together. They’re the main characters, after all, so it makes sense. Behind them, though, came a strong showing for Uriah. Christina and Caleb both got a couple of votes, and there were some strays for Johanna, Matthew, Zeke, Will, and Marlene.

Honestly I don’t think I have a favorite character, and there were a few of those in the responses as well. If I had to choose one, I’d probably choose Cara, for the way she adapts, the choices she makes, the way she can take the same overexposure to the outside world that shatters Peter and instead make it a new motivation for a larger life.

What was your favorite part of this book?

Fairly overwhelmingly, the answers all focused on Tris and Tobias, on their relationship. The actual moments varied- drinking soda for the first time, the picnic, the kissing, etc- but far and away the most common response had something to do with Tris and Tobias together. Following that were moments with Tris and Caleb, especially when they played Candor.

Somewhat surprising, though, was the number of responders that said they had no favorite part, and I can’t help but wonder if that would have been their response had they been stopped before the ending and asked that question. That is, did a general disappointment in the ending discolor the entire book? And looking across the line of responses, those who responded with none were in fact incredibly disappointed or even angry with the ending. There’s not enough to support a direct correlation, but it’s a theory I enjoy.

My favorite part was actually right at the very end, when Tobias went ziplining to spread Tris’ ashes. The fact that it took him so long to recover enough to have that sort of ceremony, the fact that he did it in such a way as to make it exceedingly appropriate for her even though it terrified him, that moment made a massive impact. It’s bittersweet, certainly, but it also has a sense of rightness that ripples back to the climb in the first book.

What was your least favorite part of the book?

This is another non-shocker: many of the responses were directly connected to Tris’ death, followed by Uriah’s death. What was interesting, though, was how many of the responses mentioned the writing. “The dual narratives were confusing at times”, “The middle info dump”, The shaky science”, “It felt rushed, the characters all felt like they’d lost their personalities”, as well as the inconsistencies in Tobias’ character. These things came up in the responses again and again. As far as the narration, one of the responses hit in right on: the voices weren’t distinct enough. They both had the polished, slightly over-formal feel that struck more of MFA than of Abnegation stiffness. The genetics came up frequently in the responses as being rushed and confusing, or as feeling incredibly out of place. A good fifteen to twenty percent of the response dealt with Tobias. “Tobias’ personality morphed a bit”, “Tris and Tobias spent the whole book fighting, showing no character growth”, “How weak Four seemed at times”, “Four seemed like a different person”.

I think part of the dissatisfaction with Tobias is that suddenly we’re inside his head. We’ve only ever seen him from Tris’ eyes before, and now we’re getting his thoughts, his doubts, in a way he wouldn’t necessarily have voiced to her before. We’re understanding him in a much closer way, so naturally our perception of him is going to shift. The science I completely agree with; it felt rushed and very gap-toothed, like the frequent repetition of something was going to suddenly let it make sense. The serums came into massive significance but they were also let loose rather without consequence. The actual plot felt rushed in order to give Tris and Tobias plenty of time to fight and make out. I think this is probably one of the very few books where I’ve ever thought “Oh God, they’re kissing again?” because it seemed less like tender moments between characters deeply connected than it did a constant, low-buzz distraction, like the fly going around the room. It dragged at the pacing. This is a big book, but it reads very slowly and with an effort. I felt like I was trudging through it, because the pay offs on the action were so few and far between and it felt like there was so much extraneous activity (like Four and Nita going off on their little trip- where was the payoff?).

Would you read this book again?

This was a solid mix of everything from OH MY GOD YES to HELL NO and everything in between. Many of the responses were actually split within themselves, some of them coming to “everything but the ending”. Of all the questions, this one had the strongest mix of responses, and while the yes answers were fairly straightforward, the nos were incredibly passionate (for example YES BUT NOT BECAUSE I HATE THE ENDING I AM NOT EMOTIONALLY STABLE, caps and all, NO WAY too heartbreaking, which came across more than once).

I will eventually, because in a few years I’ll want to read the trilogy as a complete entity, but the only one I’ll reread more than once will be the first one. That one I enjoy revisiting from time to time, but Insurgent and Allegiant both drag too much for me to want to read them at all frequently.

What are the biggest things you look for in the ending of a book?

There were two responses that came up more than any other, and nearly equal to each other: closure, and a happy ending. Nearly half the answers wanted a sense of closure, the resolution of characters and storylines, perhaps not answering every question down to the last detail but weaving together the important things. Nearly the other half wanted a happy ending, either veiled in a theory of redemption or just flat out stated as a happy ending, no strings, no conditions. Satisfaction and a sense of purpose came through, and there were frequent mentions of cliffhangers being evil. Also mentioned was the desire for cliffhangers for books that don’t end a series. I think my favorite response was “for me, a book needs to leave you feeling lost, or it hasn’t really done its job of making you feel a part of the story”.

The question was meant to be general- what are the things you look for in the ending of any/every book? But a fair number of the responses tailored specifically to this book and this series, or tailored to what they DON’T want in a book.

I have to agree with the first half of the answers: I want a satisfying resolution that makes sense within the story, characters, and world, something that wraps up the loose ends without leaving stray holes but also opens up an imagined future for the characters beyond the scope of the story. I don’t necessarily want to know what that future is. Seeds, perhaps, at most, but mostly I don’t want to pretend that the world stops when the story does. Part of that is the fanfic writer in me. I love the world beyond the story. But part of loving that world means loving the stories and their resolutions. Do I mourn when a character I love dies? Absolutely. But what I’m looking for is for that death to make sense within the story. I want that sense of completion.

What are the biggest things you look for in the ending of a trilogy/series?

For the most part, the answers here mirrored the responses above: closure or a happy ending, though happy ending made an even stronger showing here. What surprised me, though, was the number of people what wanted an epilogue. Something that shows the characters two, ten, twenty years down the line, a la Harry Potter or Hunger Games.

The same thing that many people were asking for- the epilogue later on- is the biggest thing I hope I won’t find in a series ending. For the most part I look for the same things as the end of a book, except on a larger scale. The individual threads, the ones new to the final installment, should be wrapped up, as should the threads of the series. It’s part of what makes the ending of a series so challenging, trying to wrap everything up and not let any of the balls drop. I want to believe that the characters’ stories continue after the story we’re told, but I don’t want to details of them. I want my imagination to be given to the greater possibilities.

Do you feel authors have a responsibility to provide their readers with a happy ending?

I kind of loved this set of responses, because it was fairly evenly split between yes and no, it was the way the answers were given that really just gave me a kick. There were a lot of nos that immediately complained about how the ending wasn’t happy. There were ones that said no but it’s a young adult book so it should have a happy ending. “No, but I feel they should have an emotional connection to their characters, and much more of that than the reader(s). Because of this, they should feel responsible for what happens throughout the book”- this is one of my favorite responses, largely because I really wonder at where the perceived irresponsibility comes from. Because Tris died? Because Roth pulled a strong emotional response from her audience?

Another very passionate answer “No. Authors are the creators/writers, and they can do anything they want. It’s fiction. BUT. As a reader, I expect SOMETHING. ALLEGIANT broke a trust I didn’t realize I had until I read the book. And that trust is that certain characters are safe and untouchable, and trust you that, in the long run, they may get seriously injured and all that, but they will LIVE. And ALLEGIANT broke that. Anyone can die, but I expect THE Main Character and THE Love Interest to live together forever, happily ever after, the end” So that is an expectation. It says no, but all the rest of the answer says yes, I’ve been betrayed by the lack of a happy ending. We can’t feel betrayed unless we feel someone else has gone against their responsibility. I’m not sure where we get the idea that main characters should always live, that everything after a certain point should be rainbows and unicorns.

Most of the no responses were conditional, and most of those conditions directly negated the fact of the no. I’d love to see a genuinely psychological survey and study on this, because it seems like no is the instinctive response, the “I”m a rational human being” response, but that the actual gut feeling is YES. We’re owed this for reading, for buying. We’re owed certain outcomes. But there were some that were incredibly emphatic no, such as “Hell no. That is a profoundly stupid idea”.

And, of course, there was a lot of YES. This idea that because we’re invested in a character or characters, because we’ve trucked along with them, cared about them, we’re owed a positive outcome. An author’s responsibility becomes our emotional well-being. They’ve asked us to care, and we care, and we’re owed some kind of reward for that.

I detest the idea that authors are responsible for anything more than producing a well-crafted book with compelling and consistent stories and characters. An author’s job is to serve the stories and character. Not the reader. It’s where the line between art and product blur. Because we put money into purchasing the book, because we put time into reading it, we think we’re entitled to a certain resolution. I think it’s BS.

My favorite books are rarely overall happy endings. They’re usually bittersweet at best, the happiness of the resolution shadowed by the consequences of the actions it took to get there, and the price that was paid for them. In other words, my favorite books are usually those whose patterns mirror the world in which we live. The ones that feel the most real. I find deliriously happy endings to be forced, usually a cop out, and a compromise of the high stakes of the rest of the story. And because those bittersweet or even tragic endings mirror our reality more closely, because they’re the ones that feel more real, they’re the ones we tend to remember. Shakespeare’s tragedies are far more well known than his comedies. People who don’t know Shakespeare all that well, people who haven’t studied him or read him for fun, can usually name the tragedies. A lot of them can’t name the comedies. But we remember Romeo and Juliet twined together lifelessly in the tomb, we remember Horatio sitting there surrounded by corpses as it falls to him to explain everything that’s happened, we remember MacDuff carrying MacBeth’s head back onstage on a pike, even as he knows that death won’t bring his wife and children back from death. We remember the endings that carry with them a high emotional toll, whereas happy endings tend to blur together.

The author’s only responsibility to the readers is to produce a GOOD BOOK. If a happy ending contradicts the story and the characters, if a happy ending cheats everything that’s been sacrificed and won and lost, it’s an author’s responsibility not to reach for the cop out. Even when it’s hard, even when it causes a backlash by people who cannot comfortably separate reader expectation from author responsibility.

Do you feel proprietary towards characters?

This was a fun one, because even though most of the specific responses were no, many of the responses across the lines said yes, very much so. Where people said no, some of them echoed that idea all across the line. No, an author isn’t responsible for a happy ending. No, they’re not enraged by Tris’ death. No, they wouldn’t change it. It’s a consistent answer. But a LOT of the answers to this question were no, even where there is a clearly proprietary rage and dismay across the individual’s other answers.

And this was, perhaps, the one question where people didn’t answer it. They sidestepped it, made a comment on something else, something that should have been different, should have been changed, and I wonder if it’s because they didn’t like the honest answer they came up with.

Because admitting that we feel proprietary about someone else’s characters feels an awful lot like stealing, right? We can take the half step back and remember that they don’t really belong to us. Except…when we get that emotionally invested, we can’t take that step away, we can’t get that little bit of distance, but there’s still that part of our brain that says no, this is not a rational way to behave. So rather than listen to that voice and confront the dissonance in behavior, we avoid it.

I’m not sure if this comes out of being a writer or a fanfic writer, but no, I don’t feel proprietary towards any characters other than my own, and even then half the time I have to admit that they’ve somehow moved beyond being mine at all. When writing (or reading) a fanfic, there’s a disclaimer at the top of every story, usually every chapter, reminding the reader that the writer is not claiming any of this as their own. They don’t own this. This is not theirs. You put the disclaimer up there for legal reasons, but it also serves as constant reinforcement that you’re playing in someone else’s world. This carries over to readership as well.

If your answer to the previous question was yes, do you feel the urge to lash out at the author?

Like the previous question, the single most common answer was “No but”, then some conditional reason why they really did want to lash out and yell at the author for This or That. Of these, the most common answer was that the respondee had no desire to read another Veronica Roth book in the future. Equally common was no, but I will make my displeasure known in a review/blog post/rant.

What I saw in a lot of these responses was a desire for an explanation. People wanted answers from Ms. Roth as to why she would do this, why would she hurt characters this way, why would she betray readers this way.

My first response would be not applicable, because I don’t feel proprietary towards the characters, but I’ll add to that by saying I don’t understand the impulse to lash out at authors. Get pissed at an author? Sure. I get that. But the lashing out, that I don’t get. When the ending to the last Sookie Stackhouse book was leaked, Charlaine Harris actually received death threats.Death threats. In what way does that make sense? Books can be an escape, books can be entire worlds unto themselves, but they’re not OUR world. To invest ourselves so heavily into fictional characters that we’re willing to offer harm to another REAL human being…I don’t understand that.

If your ‘ship doesn’t work out, does it automatically lower your overall rating of a book?

Given the incredibly passionate responses to the other questions, I was fairly surprised to see that this was mostly answered with no. There’s a scattering of yes, some “it depends”, but most were no. Favorite response? “Piss on shipping. What a stupid way to read.” Most of what I saw was “No, as long as it makes sense why it didn’t work out”. Again there was a request for an explanation, this idea of “It’s okay if it doesn’t work out as long as you tell me why”.

I tend to ‘ship less than anti-‘ship, as strange as that sounds. I’m willing to accept the pairings as given as long as they make sense to me, make sense within the story. Where I tend to get a little ranty is when the pairing doesn’t really make sense. Like Hermione and Ron ending up together. That irritates me, mainly because their personalities, as given, are not conducive to a functional long term relationship. But it’s irritation, and I can ignore it if I focus on the story rather than what comes after. Because the thing about relationships is, even if we call it true love, most pairings wouldn’t actually last that long after the story is over. They’re puppy love, or high-adrenaline love, a relationship based on high stakes events and intense circumstances, where disparate personalities can do better together than in more restful times. Which, if I’m honest, is what I would have expected had Tris lived. If Tris and Tobias both lived and got to pursue their ever after, I don’t really imagine them staying together more than a few years. The friction we saw between them in this book wasn’t going to just disappear once this story finished; it just would have found different ways to manifest. Are there teenage relationships that last a lifetime? Absolutely. But they’re rare, which is why we tend to hear a lot about the ones that do work and last.

There were four more questions, but I’m going to save those for next week, because these are the ones where responses get very unique and I don’t want to gloss over them (and because this post is super long already). These are the questions that focus very specifically on the ending, and I’m definitely looking forward to sharing them with you.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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The Art/Artist Divide

November 6, 2013 at 8:40 pm (Book to Movie, General) (, , , , )

Art, in any of its myriad mediums, has a schism most people don’t even realize exists. It’s a difficult idea, an oversight that’s somehow ingrained in our cultural consciousness. It’s surprisingly simple, too, when we look at it flat on a page.

The artist is not his or her art.

It seems obvious, right? Of course there’s a divide there, of course the artist is completely separate from the art he or she produces. Only, that’s not how we tend to think, or react. We walk out on this invisible bridge and never notice the transition from artist to art.

How we regard an artist very frequently colors how we look at his or her work. We make assumptions about people based on their performances or creations, but conversely, we also make assumptions about the work based on what we know of the artist.

Have you ever learned something totally awful about an actor, and when you go back to watch one of your favorite movies they happen to be in, you’re totally bummed because instead of enjoying the movie, all you can think about is how this really hot guy you previously admired as an actor just got arrested for drunk driving and smacking around his girlfriend?

Have you ever watched an interview with an actress that was so incredibly funny, where she came off as so real and down to earth and AWESOME that even though you didn’t like her movies much, you’ll still watch them, just because she’s cool?

We do it with books, too, which may seem odd to some. I mean, actors, they’re out there celebrities, right? They have no private lives because they belong to their audiences? Authors are more private, we think. Actors create art using their bodies, their voices, every part of them as the medium. Authors, we think, create something completely separate from them.

We think that, anyway. Truth is, what we think of an author REALLY colors our perception of the work.

My friend Shae has talked from time to time about author behavior and how authors behaving well can make her interested in a book she might otherwise not read. It’s a bottom line sort of thing–authors who behave well are more likely to get her money, whereas authors behaving badly–being nasty, arguing over reviews, attacking bloggers, etc–are very UNlikely to get her money.

I certainly think there’s something to that. When an author throws a public hissy fit pissing and moaning over a criticism someone dared to give their precious book-baby, it’s hard to take him or her seriously as an author. Rather than regarding him or her as an artist with a completely separate work of art, we think of a child throwing a tantrum. There’s nothing worthwhile in that. There’s nothing in that behavior worth investing in.

In some respects, it’s easy enough to separate. Author A is an ass, so we don’t read Author A. I’ll be honest, there are some people I do this with. I’ve never had a particular interest in reading Nicolas Sparks. What he writes isn’t really in my areas of interest. I’ve read the synopses and some of the major-publication reviews for his books (I work in a bookstore, so when he has a new release coming up, people ask me what it’s about), and I personally get bored with relaying the plots, because there’s a level of sameness to them that turns me off. Whatever. No author is going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

What I find personally repellent, though, and the reason I will probably never read a Nicolas Sparks book and will certainly never buy one, is his attitude, his unflagging belief that only men can write anything of true legitimacy and we poor women simply lack the emotional and intellectual depth to rise above mere chicklit. I’m not a huge fan of the term chick-lit, and to his partial credit, neither does Nicolas Sparks seem to be, though his distaste is usually in regards to the term being applied to his writing. But, for the sake of general perception, we’ll let the term go in favor of getting to the deeper reality: Nicolas Sparks is the king of chicklit.

Seriously.

His books are out-of-the-box bestsellers, he has movie deals panting on the heels of contract announcements, and the overwhelming majority of his readership is female. His books are love stories. Sometimes bittersweet, sometimes shadowed by Issues, but they’re enthusiastically devoured by women.

But Nicolas Sparks says his books aren’t chicklit. He says they’re “love tragedy”. (Anyone who can tell wtf love tragedy is as a genre is a much smarter person that I am)

Through interviews over the course of years, he’s expressed abhorrence at the thought of being grouped with writers such as Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Piccoult, or Sophie Kinsella- in other words, female authors who are generally dismissed as writing chicklit. Or for the slightly more PC term, women’s fiction, which is really just as limiting and only slightly less derogatory.

Reading his interviews any time he’s asked about genre or similar writers leaves me genuinely angry, because I come away feeling like if I were one of his readers, he’d be insulting me for giving him my money.

Now, I really don’t know anything about Nicolas Sparks beyond those interviews. Well, much of anything, and scuttlebutt from booksellers who’ve worked his signings probably doesn’t count to a holistic view of a person. He may be a really good person, a great husband, a great father, a genuine guy who most people would personally admire. I have no idea. But when I’m being honest with myself, which I try to be, I can admit that I generally assume him to be kind of a douchecanoe. And that is based purely off the public perception I have through his interviews and question/answer periods at signings.

Having never had a particular interest in his books anyway, my assumptions about him don’t particularly bother me as a consumer. I’m not torn by the divide between the artist and his art because I’m not interested in either.

But sometimes, it is so much harder.

Tessa Gratton already talked about this more eloquently than I ever could, but if you’re any kind of sci-fi nerd (or even if you’re not, and just pay a smidgeon of attention to the internet at large), then you’re aware that there’s a huge kerfuffle in the fandom of “Ender’s Game”.

It’s a cult book. It’s hard to take someone seriously as a sci-fi nerd if they haven’t read this book. Fans have been waiting for the movie for two decades.

But the author is, in a very public way, someone who devotes great time and energy to hating significant portions of the population. He is someone who actively pursues not just the limitation of certain rights that should be seen as innate, but actually wishes harm on those people and those who support them. It’s not just time and energy he puts to these endeavors, either–he also puts his money to it, money he earns through the sale of books like “Ender’s Game”.

So it leaves his fans with a choice: get more of the books they genuinely love, because whatever his personality and outlook, he’s a hell of a writer, or stand on principle and refuse to buy his products, thus reducing the amount of money he has to put into disenfranchisement and hate.

And it’s HARD, when you really love the work. I remember the first time I read “Ender’s Game”. I’d previously read “Enchantment”, and loved it, but then the summer between high school and college, I was working at a Boy Scout camp, and my friend Casey loaned me a stack of books to get me through the summer. I think they lasted me about a week. This stack included “Ender’s Game”, “Ender’s Shadow”, “Children of the Mind”, “Speaker for the Dead”, and “Xenocide.” I really liked Game. I LOVED Shadow. Children, Speaker, and Xeno gave me my first appreciation for what books could look like when they ran amuck from the author. (Honestly, I kind of thought the trilogy was a hot mess) But I reread Game and Shadow a lot, and the idea of a well-done movie was terribly appealing.

And from what I’ve seen of the movie publicity, it looks like this production might be just that: well-done.

And a movie isn’t a book. Yes, an author flourishes when a movie does well, but it’s a different creative vehicle. The movie belongs to the director, to the producers, to the screenwriters, to the actors, to all the crew and everyone who works on the film. Is it really fair to punish all of them because you dislike the author of the original text?

But if you’re contributing to the general well-being of someone whose views you find abhorrent, aren’t you helping to spread those views, albeit unintentionally?

I don’t know the answer. I know a lot of people have chosen to boycott the movie, boycott the books. Those fans who agree with Card’s views are likely, for equally passionate reasons, to see the movie multiple times, buy multiple copies of the books to balance out. But I also know I haven’t been able to read Game or Shadow since I learned of Card’s outspoken views. I’ve tried, because I genuinely do love those two books, but I find myself looking for his views in the text. It’s hard to separate what he wrote from what he professes.

I know I wouldn’t want anyone to blur that line in my own stories, in my book. I know I wouldn’t want anyone to look at Ophelia’s passive acceptance of a number of abuses and wrongs and think I in any way believe that to be how things should be. We create worlds separate from ourselves. We invest ourselves in them, certainly, but they’re not our manifestos. It’s easy to argue that we our book should buy judgments of us only as writers.

Easy to argue–a lot harder to live by.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Bullying, Censorship, and the Book I Wish I’d Had in School

October 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm (General) (, , , )

As some of you might be aware, the Parents Action League of a school district in Minnesota recently lodged a challenge against Rainbow Rowell’s book Eleanor & Park, saying it had no place in the classroom, library, or summer reading program. There are a lot of posts out there recapping the series of events and the specific aspects of the challenge and responses, and the fact that the bulk of the incident took place in the middle of Banned Books Week was surprisingly appropriate. These parents have listed a lot of reasons why the book shouldn’t be in their children’s hands: the swears! the making out! the talk about drugs/sex/booze!

What those parents aren’t talking about is why this book SHOULD be in their children’s hands, because the parents don’t understand it themselves. You see, the majority of these parents haven’t read the book- they’re ‘calculating the average curse words per page’. First of all, these parents have clearly never stood in the hallway of their children’s schools between classes, or the swearing in the book wouldn’t even register. They’re feeding the text through programs designed to trigger at certain words, blissfully ignorant about any sense of context or bigger picture.

Now, this post is going to get rather more personal than I usually air; if frank talk about bullying, including the kind that comes hand in hand with physical development, bothers you, I won’t be offended if you close the tab and don’t read on. Similarly, I won’t be offended if you decide you’d simply rather not challenge your view of the circumstances. That’s your right.

But in all seriousness, Eleanor & Park is the book I wish I’d had in school.

In the past few years, it’s become almost ridiculous to say “I was bullied in school”, because it seems like everyone was (hint: that’s become almost everyone was). Everyone gets bullied at some point or another in their lives, for a wide range of things. But some of us got bullied relentlessly. Some of us couldn’t escape it.

And for some of us, it started right away.

I was the girl in kindergarten who got made fun of because I was always reading or playing make believe on the play ground. I was the girl who got made fun of because a boy tried to kiss me during group work in the portable. I was the girl who got made fun in first grade (and subsequent grades) because I was friends with boys, and liked playing kickball and such with the boys during recess. I was the girl who got made fun of in second grade because I had to sit in the front row and still couldn’t see the board–and then got made fun of for having to wear glasses. I was the kid who got made fun of for being the teacher’s pet, for falling in love with interesting words and daring to use them. I got made fun of for being so far ahead of everyone else in our reading assignments that I got sent to the library to do my own work.

I developed YEARS before the bulk of my classmates, and that’s not an exaggeration. I was nine years old when I suddenly sprouted breasts, going from nothing to a DD in a very short span of time. All the girls made fun of me because breasts were something only old people and freaks had. All the boys I’d been playing with for years suddenly didn’t want to play with me anymore–suddenly I wasn’t their friend, I was a girl. Only the girls wanted nothing to do with me. I got my first period later that year, while I was at school. I knew what it was because my mom and I had that particular conversation when the breasts arrived, but how can a nine-year-old comfortably tell her teacher she has to go home because she’s bleeding? And the girls made fun of me even more because most of them didn’t know what it even was–our school didn’t do the health section until fifth grade. But I got made fun of then, too, because this nurse’s daughter insisted on using penis and vagina instead of vague euphemisms, so I got sent to the library for the duration of the health unit.

With the early onset of puberty came other significant problems, namely what has become a lifelong battle with weight. I know now that my problems arise from a hormonal imbalance that causes a variety of symptoms and issues. What I knew then was that suddenly, despite the fact that I hadn’t changed the way I ate, despite the fact that I was an incredibly active kid who ran around like crazy, I was packing on pounds that I couldn’t get rid of.

Be the kid who suddenly can’t run the mile without almost passing out. Be the girl who doesn’t understand why running suddenly hurts so much, because I didn’t know about sports bras, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because we didn’t dress out in elementary school.

I thought it was going to get better in middle school, because there’d be new people, but somehow that was exactly what made it worse. Because along with all the kids who’d been bullying me for years, we got an influx of kids from other elementary schools who joined right in. When the cliques all gathered together so they could take turns shielding each other while dressing out for gym, or crowded into the bathroom and took up all the stalls, I was the one who had to change right out in the middle of the room with people pointing and laughing. I was the one who got made fun of for being smelly in class because we never had the opportunity to take showers after gym–not that I could have taken one anyway, because the curtains were clear and the thought of being naked around all those mean girls was debilitating.

I wore shorts because I got overheated in jeans, but got made fun of for jiggling thighs. I wore monstrously large t-shirts because I thought–hoped–that if they couldn’t see the fat, they couldn’t make fun of me for it. But they did, and they made fun of my glasses, and my frizzy hair that was back in a bun every day because it was the only way I could manage it. They made fun of me for being smart, for participating in class. They made fun of me for reading, for writing. They made fun of me for not having a date to the mandatory in-school Valentine’s Dance in sixth grade–I spent the entire time silently freaking out in a corner because I was terrified some hateful boy was going to ask me to dance only so he could humiliate me in front of everyone. I had a crush on a sweet, amazing boy, but I was too scared to ask him to dance, because I was afraid he’d say yes–and everyone would know it was only because he was a nice guy and didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

Eleanor gets called Big Red because of her weight and her hair–I got called that because in seventh grade, my period hit unexpectedly on a day I was wearing white shorts. My mom couldn’t come get me and none of the teachers would let me go down to the gym lockers so I could at least change into my PE shorts. I was the girl whose backpack got raided so girls could pass around the pads and tease me for the things they didn’t need yet.

And it never helped to go the teachers, not even the nice well-meaning ones, because then you heard things like ‘We need to be mature and not tattle every little thing’ or ‘you just need to try harder to get along with people’ or ‘I’m sure they didn’t really mean anything by it’ or, my personal favorite, ‘this is something you’re just going to have to learn to deal with, because you’re always going to experience it’. I was hurt and embarrassed, and the teachers were so scared of pissing off parents that they made it my fault.

And it got even worse in high school, when I finally started wearing clothing that fit a little bit better. It got worse when the only way I was growing was out. It got worse when kids would make fun of the way my breasts jiggled when I ran because I was too embarrassed to change bras in front of the girls in the locker room. It got worse when even the coaches laughed when some jackass boy told me not to bounce too hard making a shot in basketball because my boobs might knock me out. It got worse when suddenly they were making fun of me for not having a boyfriend, or for having a weird boyfriend.

And I know I didn’t have it the worst. There were definitely kids who had it worse than me, but somehow the adults never seemed to understand what a sickening standard that was. Yes, it’s true, I wasn’t being attacked the most horrendously, but I was still being attacked, and they did nothing. Weren’t willing to do anything.

Eleanor & Park was the book I needed in middle school and high school. I needed that reassurance that yes, the kids were going to make fun of me, that yes, the adults weren’t going to care, but, and this was the big thing, THAT I WOULD FIND MY PEOPLE. Or maybe even just my person. It didn’t have to be romantic it just had to be real, the people on the fringe uniting in common goals. I found that, fortunately, and by the time I graduated high school I’d largely learned to ignore the insults until finally they mostly stopped coming, but it was something I had to work at, A LOT. I found my people in theatre, and even though I got made fun of for being weird, for being that strange kind of drama person, I had people that were just like me. When I was getting made fun for having to prance around on stage in a green unitard that covered me neck to wrist to ankle, I had friends that had brown suits complete with hands, feet, and hoods that ran around the school cafeteria yelling “I’M A LITTLE CHOCOLATE BROWN TURD! I’M A LITTLE CHOCOLATE BROWN TURD!”

Eleanor & Park was the book I needed, because it would have taught me that I had so much to offer anyone willing to actually get to know me, rather than just stand by and insult me or laugh. Because it would have taught me that common interests transcend physical appearance. Because it would have taught me that a single friend, a single TRUE friend, could mean more than the insults of the entire rest of the school.

I wouldn’t have been fazed by the swearing–even our middle school was full of such language, and that was almost two decades ago. Coming back from a field trip in seventh grade, when we made an unscheduled stop for dinner and I had no money, one of the girls in my drama group offered to pay for my meal–as long as I let her teach me how to swear. It wouldn’t really have mattered anyway, because I certainly read worse in the books that were in our school library. I was ten when I read Avalon, by Anya Seton. Oh, for the sixth grade joys of raping and pillaging. I was fourteen when I read a book where a teenage girl ran out on her wedding night to become a prostitute, and spent the rest of the book explicitly cheating on her husband. I returned the book to the library in absolute disgust, not because of the sex, but because of the euphemisms. I don’t think our media specialist ever recovered from asking me why I didn’t like it; “Because it’s a penis, not a wriggling fish”. So making out in the backseat of a car, getting to second base? Not so much an issue. Drugs and booze? Even the good kids knew where to get the drugs– we could name every corner of the school grounds where you could try your luck if you were so inclined. Booze was easy–you just waited for someone’s parents to let them throw a football party.

What our librarians were wise enough to know was that if we were voluntarily in the library, if we were checking out books for pleasure rather than research paper or reading requirements, we were mature enough to handle otherwise sensitive issues.

And here’s the thing: the parents challenging the book, the ones counting the swears and clutching their pearls, aren’t afraid of the language. They’re not afraid of the sex, or the drugs, or the booze. In their bid for censorship, they claim lofty goals, and in place of their relentless sense of entitlement they claim they’re just “thinking of the children”. They’re not, though. Because what these parents are really afraid of, where this book’s power really lies, is in it’s ability to make children think. It opens minds, it opens hearts, it lets kids know that IT GETS BETTER. It lets them know that IT’S OKAY TO BE DIFFERENT. It lets them know that WORDS ARE HURTFUL.

It teaches children to move beyond the patterns of their parents. It teaches them to start thinking for themselves, to start defending themselves and who they really are. It tells them that they don’t have to sacrifice who they are to try to fit in, because there are people who will appreciate them for exactly who they already are. It teaches them that friendship can grow from the unlikeliest of places.

The parents aren’t afraid of a few f-bombs or backseat groping.

They’re afraid that their children will grow beyond them, that their children will become better people than their parents.

Most importantly, they’re afraid that their children will begin to think for themselves, that they’ll start to make their own educated, informed, and impassioned decisions about what they will and will not stand for, about the kind of people they want to be.

Because the mother who claims to be worried about swearing is worried that a pursuit of language might lead to a pursuit of truth. Because the father who claims to be worried about children making out in cars doesn’t want to admit that he’s uncomfortable with people of other races. Because in their race to censorship in willful defiance of context, they don’t have to identify what it is that really bothers them about this book and other books like it. They can rely on formulas and equations and they never have to read the book, never have to fear the impact it might have on THEM.

Eleanor & Park is the book I NEEDED when I was in school, but I didn’t have it. I had to struggle along by myself and it HURT. The struggle didn’t make me a better person, it made me a less trusting one. I look in the mirror and I can still hear those kids from elementary school.

They made fun of me because I was an easy target. Because it was easy for the girls surreptitiously padding their bras with toilet paper to make fun of me for my large breasts. Because it was easy for the kids who couldn’t get the answers to make fun of me for knowing them. And these behaviors are learned from their parents. It’s easy to go after Eleanor & Park: oh the swears! Oh the scandal!

What’s much more difficult, but so very necessary, is to sit down and open an honest dialogue with the book, and to understand that the very things raising the hackles are the very things that make this book so essential.

When we ban books like Eleanor & Park, when we cut children off from the amazing support and hope that they offer, what we’re really doing is telling them to be victims. What we’re telling them is that it doesn’t get better. We’re telling them it’s not okay to be different, to be unique, to be themselves. We’re telling them that they should change to fit into this homogenized world where everyone’s the same color and follows the same creeds and things are As They Should Be. We’re telling them they’re wrong.

And it’s NOT TRUE.

And when the teachers aren’t willing to step in, when the parents are more scared that their child might be different than they are grateful their child is a real person, that’s when Eleanor & Park becomes even more important, because for some bullied kids, myself included, books were the only hope I had.

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What Makes A House A Home

July 28, 2013 at 5:45 pm (General) (, , )

Family is what makes a house a home, but when we don’t live with family, when we’re out on our own either by ourselves or with roommates, there are little things that make a place truly ours. Sometimes it’s making the first meal in the new kitchen, or hanging up the pictures, or putting out a collection.

For me, it’s setting up the library.

After the physical and mental stress of moving, there’s something incredibly soothing about the act of sorting, unboxing, organizing, and shelving the books that makes a place feel like mine. Having my hand on every single book, seeing them all correctly in place, that’s when a place becomes mine.

I’ve always called it the library, even when it was just a tiny stack of books on the floor. I’d tell my mom I was going to the library, and I’d go into the closet, close the door, and curl up in a nest of blankets with a book and a flashlight, and I’d disappear for hours. I’d go walking through wardrobes with the Pevensies, talk to animals with Daine in Tortall, or sail the high seas in Amy’s Eyes.

For the most part, though, books really were from the library, either the public ones or the school ones. Money was tight, and with as quickly as I read, books would have been a serious investment. But then when I was…fifteen? Almost fifteen? I earned some money for babysitting all day every day for two kids for two weeks. They were great kids, and we had a lot of fun. I’d read out loud to them after lunch, so the food could settle, and for the first time they were actually enjoying books, which was almost worth everything right there. Mom and I struck a deal- as long as I put a third of it into savings, I could spend the other two thirds however I wanted.

We made a trip to the bookstore.

Surprise, right?

But thirteen years later, I can still tell you which books I bought, because they were ones I had checked out from the library so often I almost had them memorized. Everything Tamora Pierce had out at that time, the full Belgariad and Mallorean series by David Eddings, plus the side books, whatever Brian Jacques paperbacks I didn’t have yet. I came home with two enormous bags of books, plus the materials for a little bookcase. I put it together completely by myself, and when I had it up and organized all the books and put them up, I just sat there in front of it and smiled.

Every time I move I tell myself I have too many books, but then I get them all up on the shelves and suddenly this brand new apartment, with everything else still in boxes, the still unfamiliar floor plan, becomes home.

I’m still in the middle of the current move, but it’s been plagued with daily heavy rains, so process has been somewhat slower than I’d’ve hoped. However, those rains have meant that I’ve had more time in the new place to organize and unpack as I go. Today’s rainy hours project was my YA books.

My books have been in storage since January, so in many ways it was like reuniting with old friends. Seeing trilogies completed by books that have come out in the past couple of months finally sit all together was awesome. I’m the type of nerd that loves to recognize patterns, so it’s fun to see where authors’ names cluster within certain letters. It’s a weird mix of having a lot of books by particular authors in those clusters and having a lot of different authors in those clusters, but I have a ton of books whose authors’ names start with C. And M. And R and S.

The Tamora Pierce books have been joined by more- since I bought Alanna and Daine’s sets, I’ve added Keladry’s, Aly’s, Beka’s, and the Circle Opens and Circle Reforged sets. She takes up a full shelf and a bit. My Cassandra Clare hardcovers take up most of a shelf, and I’m not sure if they look impressive or terrifying all lined up together.

Every book, though, as I sort it by letter, as I shelve it, I remember why I bought that book. Someone I trust told me it was amazing. The characters sounded incredible. The setting seemed unbelievable. I remember why I was intrigued enough to buy them and I remember what my reaction to them was.

And that’s what makes it coming home. These are the friends I escape to in bad times, celebrate with in good times. They take me away from my own world and I come back to understand it better. They challenge me, change me in ways I can’t always even encompass until years later.

Then there’s the fact that I got to put my own book up on the shelf for the first time. It sits right between Tara Hudson and Eva Ibbotson, and seeing it up there legitimately is MIND-BLOWING.

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An Old, Dear Friend

June 30, 2013 at 9:45 am (General)

Meet Aristotle:

Aristotle1

We first met him thirteen years ago, when he was about a year old. He and his brother and sister were rescued from a kill-shelter by a pair of ladies in our church choir, who were then informed that one more animal in the house meant one less husband, so they brought them to choir practice to try to find them homes. As soon as she saw the cats, my mom turned to me and said, very firmly, “NO.” I could play, but we were not- she repeated NOT- bringing an animal home. All three cats were beautiful and friendly, but I fell in love with the striped one, and I played with him all through practice. When it was time to go, Mom told me to put him back in the box.

This cat snuggled deeper into my arms, ever-so-gently put his paw against my cheek, turned to look at my mother, and started purring.

I didn’t catch the first few words my mother muttered, probably because she didn’t want to swear in church, but the last word was opportunist, and he came home with us.

I’m still not sure how it was that my brother got to name MY cat. I wanted to name him McGonagall, because when he was younger (before he reached Jabba the Hutt proportions) he lacked only the square markings around the eyes to look just like Professor McGonagall’s animagus in the first Harry Potter movie. And yet, somehow, he got the name Aristotle, and I had to be content with giving him McGonagall as a middle name. Aristotle McGonagall Hutchison.

Over the years, he acquired a wide variety of nicknames: Stotle, Corky, Herpes (which, somehow, isn’t as gross as it sounds- in cats, the herpes virus is a respiratory infection that acts rather like a cold, and is responsible for chronic sneezing). As he got older and fatter, unable to lose weight due to metabolic damage from bladder crystals, he grew (and grew!) into Fat Cat, Meatball, Walrus, Sea Lion, and Seal Pup. Being a cat, of course, he alternated between answering to all of these plus anything else that came to mind, or answering to none of them.

Aristotle was a mellow guy. He loved to play, of course, but it was pretty hard to truly bother him. He didn’t growl, he didn’t claw or bite. Well, not without direction provocation. In thirteen years, the only time he ever bit me was when I was holding him still against my chest so my brother could scour his infected claw beds. He played with our dog, Cinnamon, who was the same size he was- and significantly lighter. He wrestled with my brother’s cat when we lived together, and when we had a third roommate with a cat that thought SHE was queen of the castle, Stotle only put up with it for so long before he rolled over and smacked her across the face. After that all he had to do was roll over or lift a paw, and that cat would streak away and stop bullying them for a while.

He was a hunter though, when he was still an outdoor cat. We lived in a house with a dog door that I think Stotle used more than Cinnamon, and he’d bring us tokens of love from his endeavours. Lizards, usually. Most of the time they were even dead. But sometimes there were birds, or mice. One morning I woke up to a scream, rushed out to the hall, and there on the inside of the dog door, neatly laid out on the rug leading into the kitchen, was a dead squirrel that my mother had nearly stepped on as she made her way to coffee.

One of his favorite things to do was to help me with my writing projects-

Aristotle2

-by reminding me of the importance of taking frequent breaks. It never really mattered what I was working on, he was there to sprawl across it. I think the biggest conundrum of his every day life was trying to figure out how he could lay across All The Things simultaneously. Internet laptop, writing laptop, various notebooks or clipboards or binders. Just a week and a half ago, I had three binders, two magazines, and my nook spread out across the bed as I was working on something, and he kept shifting position trying to get at least a paw on all of them. In the picture above, he was helping me with my first round of edits with Editor Andrew, on what became A Wounded Name.

Lately, his favorite spot to sit, when he’s not sitting on top of me or my projects, is the box of author copies. I have over a dozen boxes of books scattered around the room right now, while I’ve been camped out at my mom’s, but he always goes for that one, even if there are things on that one and none on the one next to it. Always the one with the author copies. I even did an experiment where I moved that box across the room and put another in its place- he still went for the one with my book in it.

Eight days ago, Stotle was diagnosed with newly-transitioned diabetes. As a diagnosis, it wasn’t really a shock. Given the long-term damage from his way-too-close near-death experience with the bladder crystals nine years ago, diabetes was pretty much an inevitability, and we were prepared for that piece. We’d caught it extremely early in the transition, and the vet was very optimistic that we’d get this regulated quickly and he’d be fine, just needing twice-daily insulin injections. Except…a couple of days later he crashed and crashed hard into what’s called DKA. Basically, it’s the step below diabetic coma. He required hospitalization to try to get his glucose levels under control, as well as get hum rehydrated. In three days he’d lost over two pounds, most of that purely from dehydration because he had no appetite or thirst. We shuffled him between the vet’s day hospital and the emergency vet’s night care, and in addition to his glucose and proteins being out of whack, his electrolytes were badly upset by both the dehydration and the insulin.

He started feeling just well enough that first night to get feisty, and by that I mean pissed off, cranky, and aggressive as hell whenever anyone came near him. I came to pick him up in the morning so I could take him back to the day vet’s and as I sat in the exam room, I could hear a cat in the back, yowling and growling and generally giving the techs hell, and I was like the mom in the supermarket who hears a crash and a yell and can only stand there with eyes closed murmuring “Please don’t let be my kid, please don’t let that be my kid.”

It was my kid.

But after days of intense care, he wasn’t stabilizing. He was calm with me but feisty with everyone else. The emergency vet has a policy of no personal effects with the pets, but they let me bring his bed from home to see if that could reduce the stress a bit. He barely touches the bed when he’s home, but he stayed in it all Friday night. The reduction in stress didn’t really help, though, except to make him more comfortable. His glucose levels were still too high and his electrolytes were too low, despite insulin every four hours and a constant drip of enriched fluids. The emergency vet was willing to tell us what his regular vet wasn’t: at most, Aristotle had a year left, but the chances were high (like 90%) that IF he came out of DKA this time, which was not only not guaranteed but at this point not very likely, he would definitely crash into it again. When they brought him into the exam room for us to see, we could hear his wheezing from across the room. He’s an enormously fat cat, so he’s wheezed for years, but only ever when he was on his back or side. Now he was wheezing when he was sitting or laying normally, indicative of early congestive heart failure.

He wasn’t going to get better, and he wasn’t going to be comfortable.

The decision to let him go was the hardest I’ve ever made in my life. I knew Friday evening that it was something I needed to seriously consider, but at first all I could do was sit there and sob. Thirteen years Aristotle has been part of our family. He’s the reason we know that you can return a ladder to Home Depot if the only thing you use it for is to get a cat out of a tree. He’s the reason my poor penguin Pillow Pet looks disfigured, because Aristotle decided that was HIS penguin. He’s the reason I know cats actually pay attention to what people are doing in the bathroom- ten years ago, I kept forgetting to change his litter box, so he’d piss in the toilet and then paw at the handle to try to flush it.

Seriously.

Aristotle has been with me through four houses, six apartments, and eleven moves. We drove all the way to Colorado and back, and he hates seeing what’s outside the car when he travels, so he chilled all day in a laundry basket covered with a towel, and then explored the hotel rooms at night. He never minded when I was having a bad day and cried all over him as we snuggled, and he LOVED to cuddle up to my best friend whenever she came to visit, even knowing she was just going to shove him off the bed. Honestly, I think that was his favorite part, trying to see how long he could be there before she noticed him and pushed him away. (she’s allergic to cats, by the way, not being hateful). I always had to do the Stingray Shuffle on the way to the bathroom at night because I never knew if he was going to be sleeping right where I needed to put my feet. He’d pounce on your shoes as soon as you took them off, wrapping himself around them and shoving his whole head inside, the stinkier the better. And when he was upset, if there’d been a sudden bang or a knock on the door, if something was stressing him out if we were at the vet’s, he’d curl up close and bury his head down my shirt.

So here’s to Aristotle. I’m grateful for his love and companionship, for his playfulness, his mellowness, I’m grateful for the joy he brought me and the comfort he gave me. Letting him go was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but he died loved, he died calm and comfortable, not in pain and panic and fear, and he fell asleep in my arms.

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To This Day

February 21, 2013 at 8:55 pm (General) ()

This.

This needs no other words.

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Farewell, 2012

December 31, 2012 at 8:27 pm (General) (, , , , , )

2012 flew by so bizarrely for me that any attempt to do a true retrospective can’t but come off as stilting, but there were some things that happened this year that will always make this year stick out in my mind.

I learned a lot about myself as an author this year. I learned my habits, both good and bad, learned some of the things that do or do not work for me in a big way. I learned what it means for me to pace myself. I learned my limits- more importantly I learned which are hard limits and which I need to push.

I signed with an agent, someone who gets me. Someone who can look at a story so creepy even I can’t help but cringe and say she loves it- honestly. There are corners of my brain that are very dark and twisty, that produce scenes or even whole books that are so thoroughly, grotesquely creeptastic almost anyone would have me committed, and Sandy gives me full permission to take my characters and go play there. We can also, in the middle of an ongoing exchange about edits and cover ideas, have a conversation about David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King’s unambiguous bulge. Welcome to the professional world. I am incredibly, profoundly grateful for meeting and signing with Sandy. She’s honest with me about what works and what doesn’t, and even if I mention I’m thinking of pursuing an oddball idea, she justs says go for it, we’ll see how it turns out. She’s more than a champion for my work- she’s a champion for me, someone who can beautifully time something personal or something absurd.

I learned that all those worries and frets and neuroses don’t go away when you sign with an agent- they just graduate into something more complicated and challenging. Somehow when A Wounded Name, then Elsinore Drowning, was on submission, it occured to me that an agent isn’t simply tossing your work and your reputation out there to editors- an agent also stakes his or her own reputation on your work. An agent takes you on as a gamble, as the risk they’re putting forward into believing your work will sell. And they’re sending your work to people who may or may not want to gamble more money on you. I have a complicated relationship with money, and a decidedly odd perspective on numbers because of it, but as soon as the business comes into the art, the neuroses ratchet up.

I learned that being personable as an author is very, VERY different from being personable in retail. I am a shy, self-conscious, and socially awkward individual, I truly am. I’ve worked retail for more than eight years now, so I’ve learned how to appear not to be, but when you’re Bookseller or Cashier or some faceless position, it doesn’t really matter. As long as you do what you’re supposed to do and interact on an acceptably non-dysfunctional level, that’s about as much effort as you have to put into it. Do I put more effort in? Yes, because that’s how I was raised, and if I have to spend forty hours a week doing a job other than writing, I at least want to spend more time smiling than not. But, in a different arena, the difficulty can be much greater. On the phone with my day job, I’m answering questions with easy answers. Yes or no we have that, yes or no we can order that, this or that is the problem and yes or no we can fix it. It sometimes takes some ingenuity to answer a question (Um, I saw this book somewhere like five years ago, and it might have a red cover, or maybe black? Maybe there was dragon in the title? Or on the cover? Or maybe it was just in the story? Oh, and it was written by a dude. I think) but in the end, the answers are all right there, and nearly all of us can give the same answer to the majority of the questions.
As an intensely shy person, it’s a lot easier for me to be personable and put myself forward when I’m representing an established company. My work is less reflective of myself than it is of the company that trained me and employs me. When left to my own devices, or more importantly when left to adequately represent myself…it’s nerve-wracking. And when I’m nervous, I have this stupid little laugh, which just makes me more nervous. I’m constantly afraid of being tongue-tied, or just sounding like an idiot. I’m worried about giving the wrong answer, I’m worried about coming across as too forceful on some points, or too weak in others. I know that I can come off as a snob (and in some aspects, I am a snob, I can admit that at least) and it makes me paranoid about offending people. And it’s not just talking on the phone that’s so difficult.
Seriously.
I can be am awkward in emails. And that’s supposed to be the thing you can fall back on to NOT be awkward.
But this is all part of what being an author is. You have to reach out and communicate with people. You have to be able to represent yourself intelligently and well, you have to be able to carry on comfortable communication. I’m not sure I’m there yet. I become accustomed to people, and the worry decreases a little, but it takes a while, and there are so many new people to meet and speak with. We’ll call improving this one of my working goals of 2013.

I sold a book.

I SOLD A BOOK. But it wasn’t just me- it was also Sandy, it was also all those editors and editors’ assistants who read my work and gave responses, and it was the editor who said YES. I am incredibly grateful to be working with Andrew. He’s amazing. I think one of the biggest job requirements of being an editor- other than a skill for wrangling neurotic writers- is a boundless imagination, and Andrew takes a little boy’s unabashed pleasure in exploring all the possibilities of a manuscript. Reading the differences between the submission draft and what’s become more or less the final draft (minus pass pages, which haven’t happened yet) is astounding. And the thing is, I’m still very, very proud of the draft that went out on submission. BUT IT’S LIKE A MILLION TIMES BETTER NOW. That is an editor’s gift, something Andrew possess in abundance (in addition to a deep patience for my sending him questions that make me cringe with how I stupid I perceive them to be). In the course of this year, I went from someone desperately wanting to see my book on the shelf someday to someone who WILL see my book on the shelf someday. A finite day, in fact, sometime in the fall of 2013.

I have learned so much about the process of publishing, a journey that still fills me with shock and awe and wonder and a profound sense of gratitude.

And that may be one of the biggest things I’ve learned this year. Not that I was an ungrateful buttmunch before this year, but there are the things you’re grateful for, and there are the things that fill you with gratitude. There are these moments where suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, you’re just aware. I love that when I find really funny, REALLY inappropriate jokes about Hamlet, I have someone I can send them to- and who sends them to me in return. Really late on Christmas Eve, I woke up to find an email from an author I really admire both personally and professionally, whose debut novel filled me with a lingering love of words and rhythms, saying she wanted to blurb my book. I’ll release details when I can, but I spent the next…oh, two hours, at least, as Christmas Eve passed into Christmas morning, sprawled on bed and intermittently giggling with sheer euphoria. My emotions on Christmas Eve/early morning are complicated at the best of times (house fires born from Advent candles will do that to you) and this was astounding. I am constantly in awe of the Young Adult community, not just the readers but the authors as well. I grew up in theatre- even in the midst of close friendships, there’s always competition, because only one person can have That Role. The Young Adult writing community is so incredibly welcoming it’s almost terrifying. Even shy little people like me, that can really only handle making a few new friends at a time, has a place. You have a triumph and suddenly SO MANY PEOPLE are saying YAY. And meaning it. There’s no jealousy, no sense of displacement, no cliqueyness. It’s astonishing, and it’s wonderful.

I’ve mostly told my frequently revoked Adult License to go screw itself.
I may technically be an adult, but it’s bizarre how little significance that word has for anything. I live on my own, I pay my bills, I work for my living, and if I want to get something and have the funds I can, without any sort of explanation or justification. I still don’t feel like an adult. If I’m in the apartment, I am in my pajamas. I don’t wear them outside any more, except on laundry day, but seriously? There are stuffed animals on my bed. I still eat Lucky Charms. This Christmas I got a bathrobe with a penguin-head hood and it MADE MY DAY. And there are all these worries. I look at my bank account and worry, I look at my bills and worry, I think about putting gas in the car and wonder if there’s enough and I HATE IT. That worry? That endless stress about income and expense? That’s what I associate with being an adult. I had an apartment in college, had a job, had bills, but most of that was done with a greal deal of help, and the fact of being in classes, of having a set schedule and homework and teachers/professors in aspects of authority, that all contributed to this sense of isolationism, like the real world was still beyond the hedges somewhere. That feeling is, I think, what the basis of New Adult should be, but just as Young Adult started off in one area and grew, I think New Adult will as well.

I’ve learned that sometimes you can do your absolute best, do everything you should, and yet sometimes things just suck. Things just fall apart, or turn into a complete cock-up, and it’s not your fault.

I’ve learned, once again, that people can do senselessly horrible things.

I’ve learned, once again, that people can do senselessly wonderful things.

I’ve learned that Richard Armitage is really, really hot.

REALLY hot.

I’ve learned to let things go. To look at what’s before me, and what’s behind me, and say no, this isn’t going to work, or no, this isn’t the person I want to be. It’s not easy- I don’t suppose it’ll ever be easy- but I can let it go.

2013 is going to be a strange year. My book is coming out in less time than it takes to carry a healthy baby. I’m going to be speaking at a local writer’s group meeting in February and doing a signing at BEA in May/June, and I’m terrified because this is so far out of my comfort zone but at the same time, this is what I signed up for. I have new projects lined up for next year, and a couple of them scare the bejeezus out of me- and I’m so excited for them I can hardly see straight, because that fear, that thrill of adrenaline, is what gives me the courage to tackle those exciting stories. I’ll have to make some decisions regarding priorities- which includes this blog and how I schedule/structure posts. Over the course of this year, I’ll be meeting authors I really admire, and holy hell, how am I going to be able to keep from fangirling all over them? Because yes, they’re artists whose work I adore, but they’re also (strange as it seems to say it) colleagues, but they’re colleagues who cheer each other on, and yes, flail about each other’s work in the best ways possible.
2013 is going to include a fair share of rejections, I’m sure, but hopefully there will also be a measure of acceptances, of the book I’m releasing and the books I hope to sell. So far my book is still this little baby held close to my heart where very few can touch it, but once galleys go out, it’s out of my hands. People will have the choice to read it, and they’ll love it/hate it/want to burn it as they choose. That’s terrifying, and the prospect feeds right into some of the worst of my neuroses.
Which is another goal for 2013: try to rein in some of the more neurotic tendencies unless they feed directly into being productive.

2012 has flown by in such a way that it almost feels unreal that it’s over in a few hours, but this has been a year of such change, of such personal growth, that I can say it’s been a very good year, a better year than I’ve had in a really long time.

And that, as does so much else, brings my mind circling back to that wondrous sense of gratitude.

And that, too, I’m grateful for.

Until next year~
Cheers!

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