Where the Kids Hang Out

The whole family came down with a stomach bug after Sunday night, when we had our Corned Beef Cook-off. My sister called me, because she was very sick, and needed me to bring her Ginger Ale. I, of course, ran into the burning building of germs because that is what I do when my baby sister needs me. The next day, I felt like crap. I spent most of the day sleeping, and when I woke up I felt a lot better. I had made plans to go to a poetry reading on Wednesday night, and since I was no longer ill, I figured I would give it a go. Probably a mistake, since by the time I got home I felt terrible again, but this blog is not about feeling terrible, this is about the brief moment in which I did not.

Now, as the usual reader knows, I attend a poetry night at a bookstore near my house about once a month. In fact, I was the featured reader last October, and I have sadly not been in attendance since, because weather forced it to close for a few months, and then Momma passing caused ME to close for a few months. (By the way, both are back open.) I plan to attend tonight’s reading, but it all really depends on how I feel when I get out of work. But that is beside the point, which is that I went to a reading on Wednesday.

I started attending the bookstore reading pre-pandemic, when it was a mix of a crowd and I was far too anxious to try and speak to anyone. I arrived, read my poems, and went home. Then the world got sick, and we stopped doing things for a while, and when poetry night returned it was in a different incarnation, run by a different moderator, and with a different group of people. I got to know their faces and styles of poetry over the past year, and I like them all very much. However, and I am not saying this in any sort of bragging way, but I am almost always the youngest person in the room. This is not a problem for me, because I have always interacted with “adults” better than my peers. But I also know that poetry is having a renaissance here in Buffalo, and I’ve been to one or two events where there was a younger group of poets. But I only knew a couple of them, and I didn’t know where they hung out! It certainly was not the little bookstore I went to the last Friday of every month, so where have they been? I started looking around for other readings or workshops last year, and I discovered that there was a coffee shop in the Elmwood Village that was doing readings on Wednesday nights. I further discovered this night was hosted by my favorite local poet, and so I decided to attend. Of course, every time there was a reading something came up. It was almost always my health, so on Wednesday when I woke up sick, I was not at all surprised it would be ruining my plans again. However, I then slept for 6 hours, and when I woke up I felt like I could take on the world. It was a blessed break from feeling crappy, and it came at the perfect moment, right in time for me to go read a couple poems at a coffee shop to a group of strangers.

Because that’s what they were: strangers. There was a single man there that I have seen before, an older gentleman with a rambling poem that transports you back in time. I saw him once or twice at the bookstore, but every other face in the crowd aside from Justin’s was unfamiliar to me. And I don’t even know Justin that well! I thought to myself that there was a time when I would never have been able to go to this event. It took a lot of work to get me to the one at the bookstore back in the day, with me waging a constant war against my anxiety. But now, there I was, performing my poetry for a crowd of folks I had never seen before. Progress.

What struck me was the age of the folks in attendance. I was surprised to find people younger than me, older than me, and most surprising…folks my own age! It’s not that I feel out of place at the bookstore, but I do often feel like the baby of group. Here, I blended into the crowd and that is something that my anxiety really enjoyed. Then, it was my turn to read. I read Heaven is History, my little rhyming poem about the afterlife, which was met with much applause and cheering. Then I read Brigid, my poem about the saint/goddess, and myself and my mother, to which I received massive applause, as well as someone in the crowd screaming “Go, poet!” I don’t know who that was- but they made my freaking day. I felt really good afterwards, and driving home I thought to myself that there was nothing I could not accomplish.  Of course, then I woke up sick in the morning, but that is beside the point as well.

Tonight, I have the bookstore, but I have decided that I will be attending the coffee shop as well from this point forward. The older group gets together on Wednesday’s at a venue in Amherst, and while I would really like to check that out at some point, I think my Wednesday’s will now be devoted to a different crowd. It’s not like I’m going to stop going to the Friday night readings, because I have been going for a year now and I very much appreciate and admire the folks I have met. But the circle is small there, and I need to expand my reach. So we will incorporate Wednesday evenings into the rotation. Mark mentioned the age differences between the two groups to me, and I smiled. Perhaps I will write a poem about them, how they write about different topics, with very different voices, and live life in different ways. And yet, no matter our age or walk of life, we come together to read our work and express our love of existence. That has no age limit.


Enjoyment and Enlightenment

Once upon a time, I had a librarian.  Her name was Mrs. Priester, and she worked at my elementary school.  Kevin was quite fond of her, because she encouraged reading in him and even took it upon herself to find books that she thought he would enjoy.  She didn’t need to do this for me, because the day I met her I told her, in the bragging way of a 5-year-old, that I already knew how to read, thank you very much.  In fact, I even had a library card already.  (I thought I was hot shit.)  What Mrs. Priester did teach me, however, was the difference between fiction and non-fiction.  I don’t know why the concept confused me so much as a small child, but I kept mixing up the terms, until one day she made it very simple: fiction was Fake.  Non-fiction was Not Fake.  It stuck, I understood, and she further explained that the books I wanted to read were not just called “chapter books,” but novels, and that novels were fiction: made-up stories for one’s enjoyment and enlightenment. 

I tell you this so that we are all very clear on what a novel is, and what fiction is.  I want there to be no misunderstanding, because this is the key piece of the thing that is infuriating me right now.

Let me paint for you a word-picture.  I, a writer, who lives in the Western New York region, and writes fiction, awoke Friday morning to learn of a tragedy that befell a fellow author.  Salman Rushdie was attacked with a knife onstage at the Chautauqua Institute while doing an interview.  I quite literally choked on my iced coffee, and my reasons are twofold.  First of all, Chautauqua?! I live in Buffalo and we just had a grand scale community tragedy about 3 months ago, and now we got crazies rushing stages and stabbing authors just an hour away? Not to mention, I can’t tell you how many times I have fantasized of being some famous writer who is invited to speak at Chautauqua-that’s like life-goal stuff.  And now, that place is marred, too…just like the damn grocery store.

Secondly, and more importantly: violence against a wordsmith.  I know of Rushdie, though his book, The Satanic Verses, sits unread on my shelf because I simply haven’t picked it up yet. But I know a little backstory, like the fact that Iran’s Ayatollah issued a fatwa in the 80s against him, which is basically an edict saying an Iranian should kill Rushdie. The man has been living with death threats for years, all because his book supposedly goes against Islam.  I think it’s because, from what I have read online, one character abandons the religion.  But again, I haven’t read it yet.  The point is that it doesn’t matter, because The Satanic Verses is a novel, and therefore, fiction, and fiction equals fake.  It’s not real; it’s just a story-a made-up situation in a guy’s head that he put down on paper and then an entire country took it the wrong way and decided he needed to die. 

How easily that could be any one of us.

I mean, I just finished the first draft of a book that features an exploration of the concept of religion as a shackle that keeps one from living their authentic life.  I do not expect death threats for the thoughts I come up with in my own head, but I’m sure its gonna piss of an evangelical or two.  But as mad as they get, do I deserve to be stabbed in the face for my imagination?  Absolutely not. 

So, when I head about Salman Rushdie, I was crushed.  I tried to explain to Mark why it was bothering me so much, but I couldn’t find the words.  Maybe it’s just that I am so sad that someone was hurt…just for playing pretend. Because that’s all we’re doing, really, when we write fiction: make-believe, in verse.  And I just do not believe anyone should be harmed over such innocent enjoyment.


Let’s talk about banned books: STOP banning books.  Talk over.

No really, knock it off.  Stop dumbing down society.  Stop screaming about “cancel culture” except for when it suits you.  Read a damn book, so you can learn about something other than yourself.

Sorry…I’m a little heated.  Maybe it’s because my teacher let me check Mein Kampf out of the library when I was 13.  If you don’t want to click the link, I will summarize.  Just know that this wasn’t pleasure reading, it was for a term paper I wrote on Hitler, whom I chose out of spite because my teacher said I couldn’t do Anne Frank, and to find someone else from the Holocaust to focus on.  So, I went straight to the source of the whole thing, and read his stupid book one weekend in 8th grade.  The point of this story is that I read Mein Kampf and grew up to see nationalists as absolute flaming garbage humans, so maybe it’s not the actual content that’s the problem.

Another banned book that made an impact on me was Annie on my Mind, by Nancy Garden, who was writing queer characters long before it was cool.  I just realized I don’t own a copy, though I must’ve checked it out of the library a dozen times.  It’s about two teenage girls in NYC who fall in love, in a time when that is verboten…so really it could be anytime and anywhere.  Now, I’m not a lesbian, but I loved this story because it made me understand lesbians.  See, I understood gay men because my dad had two gay male friends, but I didn’t have any girl-on-girl exposure until I read that book.  A few years later, my aunt came out, and I thought of Ms. Garden’s tome and smiled, because I was okay with it.  Other people in my family weren’t right away, but I was, because of my books.

Should I have been reading Stephen King when I was 10?  Probably not.  But I did anyway, and I expanded my vocabulary by leaps and bounds.  I developed my writing style off of his more than any other author I have read.  His works were deeply formative to me, and if I had been restricted from reading them, I don’t think I would have some of the ability that I have now.

My father never restricted my reading, telling me that if I could read the words. I could read the book.  So, I read the books…as many as I could get my hands on, until my eyeballs gave out a little and made it a difficult task. 

So, they are banning Maus, apparently, which I have not read but seems I would really enjoy.  And they claim it’s not for Holocaust content, but rather nudity.  Nude…mice.  Because, you know, mouse fashion is a really important aspect of our reality.

It’s an excuse.  It’s always an excuse…I mean look at all the horror and gore and sex and nudity and witchcraft and violence in the Bible,..but ain’t nobody banning that. 

If they are banning books, they are doing it because they want to censor the reader, not the book.  They are trying to steal knowledge from you.  Don’t let them; fight back and read, read, read.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say on that, aside from the fact that I really hope to someday be on this here list.

Happy Thursday.  Read a book.

Still on Fire

Remember in years past when we would say things like “well, that was a crappy year, can’t wait to see it go?” 

How quaint.

This year stated out rough.  I became very sick in late January, which killed early February.  Then, in March, my grandpa died and five days later, the world locked down. 

Bright spot in May, when my collection came out, but darkness, too, as I wasn’t able to have a proper release of any sort.  Bright spot during summer, when Dad’s tests came back negative and he could happily say he was cancer-free.  Bright spot in September, when it appeared cases were going down in our area.  But, darkness again in November when Erie County slid into an orange zone and life became confining again. 

Overall, for everyone, a crap year.

I am focusing on the good today, though.  Like that book I dropped.  Or my healthy Dad.  Or the fact cases are going down again, and we have a vaccine now. 

So, it wasn’t all garbage, at least to me. 

This year, I am making a singular resolution.  Don’t eat any phonebooks.  No, seriously, I intend to read more.  I have fallen off reading so hard because of my eye troubles, and I need to get my butt back on that train.  I intend to keep a list of all the books I read this year, to hold myself accountable.  I’m almost certain it will be dismal.  One year I read 100 books.  Now I can barely get though two.  Damn these eyes.

But there have been great improvements in them this year, so I am hoping that pushes me to pursue reading even more than before.  I have a few King’s just languishing on my shelf, desperate to be finished. I asked my cousin Sarah to toss me a few books she was done with.  And I am intent on consuming as much poetry as possible (particularly from local and indie authors, so if you know any good ones, hit me up.)  The first book I intend to read is Courtney Changes the Game, the first in the new line of American Girl Doll books. 

I’m trying to ease myself in.

Anyway, tonight is New Year’s Eve.  Hubs and I don’t do much for the holiday.  One year we went to the ball drop and it was crazy and expensive and we swore that was going straight on the Murtagh list (a list of shit we’re too old for.)  Now out NYE consists of pizza and booze and a televised ball drop.  So, our plans did not change this year amidst a pandemic.  Except maybe the pizza will take longer to arrive.

Tonight, I am thankful for my family’s health and my own successes.  I am thankful for a hardworking and loving husband and four beautiful and clever step-kids.  I am thankful for a sister turned friend and a friend turned sister.  I am thankful for my grandmother, who is still kicking after her hardest year.

And I am proud, of everyone.

I wrote in the beginning about how to me, the world has always been on fire.  Then I wrote a poem about that observation.  Then I won a contest with that poem.  Then it was published in the Buffalo News.  It has become my motto of the year: the world has always been on fire.  I wrote about how my “healthy” people were experiencing moments of a depression and anxiety, while I was dancing among the flames that I have grown used to.  I am so proud of those people…people unfamiliar with mental health problems, who are experiencing this painful time but pushing though.  You are so strong.  I am so proud. 

And those of us dancing in the fire as usual?  Well, I’m always proud that we don’t just let ourselves burn. 

Anyway, Happy New Year to you and yours.

Sure was a crappy year.  Can’t wait to see it go.

Sad Books

I have done quite a bit of reading over the last two days, in preparation for something I will tell you about later on.  By later on, I do not mean later on in this blog post-I mean later in the week.  You will just have to follow my Twitter or Facebook @hamneggs716 if you want “breaking news.” 

Anyway. I did a lot of reading.  I am straight-up forcing myself, from here on out.  Unfortunately for me, my eyes are not doing well with my books.  I went to the eye doc, and they, for reasons I cannot fathom, forgot to give me bifocals.  I’m supposed to have bifocals.  Instead, I have glasses that help my driving significantly, but with which I can’t read a damn thing. 

Unless it is on my computer screen. 

I was browsing a lit mag the other day and realized I truly have no problem reading on the computer screen.  It is the perfect distance away.  So why am I not reading everything on my computer?!

It was an inspirational moment.  Also, a convenient one.  Why was I trying to read my books by holding them up to my nose?  Why was I trying to read poetry journals on my phone, squinting at it with my glasses atop my head?  Stupid, stupid girl.  You could have just been here in your office, comfortable and at good distance, and read anything you want.

But…to my left…

Oh, they are sad.  They are looking at me, all the tomes I have collected over the years, and they are crying, because their spines may never be cracked again.  My books are my #1 possessions…ok, besides my teddy bear, Honey Joe…#2.  I can’t get rid of them, but I also can’t read them right now.  It makes me sad.  In turn…they are sad.  I can feel it.  Books are alive, y’know.

So, I did some reading.  I finished that lit mag.  Then I read three short stories, all on my computer.  With comfortable eyeballs.

Listen, this may not be a big deal to some but it’s a big deal to me.  Just another step in the healing process.  Today I said to Kev that I hadn’t been to the retina doc in a long time, which was weird, because I used to go once a month or so for my eyeball shot.  I am so happy that’s no longer part of my routine.  I am so happy to see, even if they didn’t give me bifocals.  I’ll read, a lot in the coming days, actually, and I will do it on my computer.  But while I do, I will sit beside the books I love so much and wish for next year when my insurance gives me another eye doc appointment and I can get bifocals.

On Books and Tummy-Aches.

It is midafternoon on a Monday, usually a time when I am far done with my blog, but today was a holiday, and this week has been strange.

I was sick, unfortunately, pretty much all week.  It was terrible and I have no desire to rehash it so let’s just call last week a wash and move on.

I came across a photo the other day, below.  Me and Kevin, maybe four-years-old.  I am sick and lying on the sofa, and he is sitting beside me, reading a book.

I don’t read much anymore because it is difficult for me, what with my eyes.  I do more now than before I got new glasses, but without bifocals it’s still tricky.  I have had two Stephen King’s sitting beside my bed for months that are unfinished.

And then today, Kevin gave me about fifteen more. 

While downsizing his life, he decided to get rid of his King collection and gave it to me, which is awesome, but now means that A. I need more bookshelves, and B. My reading list has just expanded greatly.  They’re all books I have yet to read, or have read once and didn’t have a copy of. 

Anyway, this special delivery reminded me of that little picture of a sad and sick Briggy being soothed by the fake-reading of a four-year-old Kevvie.  I was really sick this week, and I had a few plans with my bud that ended up having to be postponed because of it.  If there is anything worse than the physical pain that comes with gastroparesis, there is the mental anguish of always feeling like you’re ruining something by getting sick.  Every plan I have to cancel or rearrange haunts me.  I hate it.

Today, I hate the whole damn thing.

But tomorrow, who knows…maybe I will make a space on my bookshelf.  Maybe I will choose a new King novel to devour, hoping that it will get me back to the other two languishing on my nightstand.  Maybe I will read something, and the words will seep into my eyeballs and though my pores and wind their way though my body, and I will be healed by a story or tale or poem…little healings, that keep me going.

Always gotta keep going.


In the past few days on Twitter I have seen a great many readers and writers discussing book reviews.  It did not go well, most of the time.

For instance, one author mentioned how they do not understand why people would leave a poor review based off, and I quote, “one sentence.”  This reviewer also did not finish the book after said sentence, and gave it a one-star review.  The reading community did not like his tweet.

I chimed in, like an idiot, trying to bolster him by saying that I would not care about a review if someone did not “put in the effort” to finish the book.  I got several responses saying that a reader can do whatever they want after getting the book, and that reading for pleasure shouldn’t be an effort.  Yeah, you’re right.  My wording sucked a little.  But the point remains: if you didn’t finish it, I, as an writer, do not trust your review.

I have finished so many books that I did not like.  And I also do not leave poor reviews.  I also have not gotten any poor reviews.  So, I understand that my experience is different from others.  But like it or not, I would never, ever leave a review for something I did not finish.  So, I understand the original tweeters question.  People also started taking issue with them “calling out” the poor reviewer, which I agree is uncouth, but is not what they intended to do, I think.  Anyway, there was backlash.

Then I saw a few other tweets by other folks discussing the same thing.  I stayed out of those threads, but read the comments.  Some readers feel we should just not read our reviews, and many writers agree.  I am in the opposite camp, which I guess is controversial?

My reviews-again, so far so good-have bolstered me.  I couldn’t not read them.  I need them on days when I feel like it’s all crap.  Now, how will I feel when I inevitably get the bad one?  I don’t know.  But I hope that I will look at it with a critical eye.  I hope that it will be constructive to me in some way.  However, if I get something along the lines of “I read one poem, and hated it” I wouldn’t even factor that into my consciousness.  First of all, I maintain that if you didn’t finish it, you’re not in the right position to be judging it.  Secondly, obviously, I didn’t write it for YOU.  And that’s ok.

Now, I really do not care what you do with my book.  You bought it.  It’s your property. Read it, pass it on, shelve it, throw it out, burn it…do what you will.  I hope that if you like it, you leave a review.  If you don’t, I hope you can just say “eh, not for me,” and move along.  And if you must leave a one-star review, I’m just saying, it would be great if you could come at me with guns blazing, so that I can identify any actual problems in my work.

Or, y’know, whatever.  You bought it.

So yes, I will read my reviews.  No, I will not make the mistake of taking to Twitter about bad ones (or asking questions about them, as the case may be.)  Others learned that lesson for me this week, some the hard way, and that sucks for them.  Especially newbies like me…maybe we don’t know the decorum of reviews yet.  Maybe we have no flipping idea how any of this works and are learning as we go.

Most people Google things to get answers, but trust me when I tell you, that is difficult in writing and publication.  You really need to find stuff out firsthand.  And connecting with writers on Twitter is a great way to do it.  Unfortunately, you are occasionally attacked for a misstep, and your meaning gets lost in 280 characters.  (Actually, this is just a general Twitter problem.)

Still…Twitter may bring occasional disagreements or trolls or whatever, but I made some great connections because of the Twitter Writing Community.  I would have no illustrator without it, no publisher for my mini-chap, no book blogger reviews.  It helps me sell my book, and connects me to people who are in different stages of their literary careers.  Not to mention that there are publishers and editors and agents galore.  It’s really very useful.

Just gotta watch your step.

The Reading Room

I did not update on Monday, as I was sick still.  I am well now, but it is a peculiar health, one that seems extra fragile as I sip my Gatorade and eat my yogurt.  I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  Let’s talk about reading.

Once upon a time, I lived down the street from a library.  It was very tiny and I’m not sure if it was part of the county library system, but I have almost zero memory of it.  I could not have been more than three when it closed and the big one opened across the street.  It was the first brand-new building I ever set foot in, and I thought it was a castle.  My father walked me through the doors and I asked him, “Which book can I read?”

“Whichever you want.”

My little head exploded.  I knew I would walk out of there with picture books by the loads, but there was also the possibility of BIG BOOKS: the ones with no pictures, the ones for grownups, where the cover is the only glimpse into the magical coded world that lie inside.  I was only just learning to read but I found myself cracking this code a little more every day and could not wait to get my hands on one of those BIG BOOKS.  And here was my father, telling me I could read whatever I wanted?  I knew the underlying lesson there: I could read whatever I wanted, so long as I could READ.

So I read.  I read every picture book I could get my hands on.  And when I was proficient in those,  I moved on to others, like Amelia Bedelia.  Then Judy Blume’s, then the most of the Babysitters Club series.  I discovered my favorite genre, horror, though RL Stine.  Then, sometime around 5th grade, I started reading “actual” novels, meaning not meant for the teen or tween crowd. 

We moved, so my old library was replaced by another, and I spent many afternoons amongst its stacks, reading and learning.  I was never one to ask for help-I have always been terrible at it.  So whenever I had a problem, I went to the library, and I researched the hell out of it.  I did all my schoolwork there.  I spent hours perusing the shelves.  And now…

Now there is a library a couple blocks from the house but I never go.  I don’t need to.  I have all my information in my pocket on my phone.  I do like to go pick out a book or two every now and then but they usually languish unread on the bar while I hate-watch another episode of House Hunters.  It was my eyeball’s fault for a long time, but now I find I am just not concentrating on a book as I used to.  My New Year’s resolution was to read more, and my first book of the year was The Institute, and I’m only halfway through.  It’s a Stephen King book about kids with super powers.  I should have devoured that a month ago.

I wish I could read like I did as a kid, so voraciously.  I love seeing kids reading.  Sometimes the girls do and that’s nice.  My cousin Grace and I like to talk about books sometimes, too-she is ten and plugged into all things middle grade and YA.  Right now, she is reading some old favorites of mine, like Blubber by Judy Blume.  When I was her age I had Carrie in my hands for the first time.  Some might say a little much for a ten-year-old, but I knew what I think my father knew: You’ll read what you’re ready for. 

And reading made me ready for everything.

New Year, Same Me

You know what I think is a generally stupid idea?  New Year’s Eve.  And yet, I look forward to it every holiday season.

When I was young, it was fun.  We had snacks and stayed up late and mom and dad always made a party of it.  Then sometime in my late teens, it became garbage.  I remember going to parties out on Grand Island where I would get hammer-drunk and have no way home the next day.  I recant that: one year Jaime and I stole Steve’s car and drove home.  I honestly don’t recall if she had a license.  Let’s say she did.  (She was at least sober-I myself barely remember the car ride home.)  If I wasn’t on Grand Island, I was downtown watching the country’s second largest ball drop (Buffalo fun fact!) and freezing my ass off while sipping on a 15$ rum and coke. 

One year I went to my aunt Mary’s party which was close to home and all my friends came with so it was perfect.  That’s one year of celebrating out of, like, 20. 

I gave up on NYE halfway though my relationship with Mark, after we did the ball drop one year and decided it was going on the Murtaugh list.  We were certainly getting too old for that shit.  Now we spend it with pizza and booze on our couch and it has been delightful.  This year we threw Kevin into the mix, and spent the evening playing Soul Caliber and watching YouTube videos.  We watched the side by side of the ball drops (Buffalo and NYC) and then Mark kissed me and ran outside to bang pots and pans with Kevin.  (Side story: Kev and I grew up in a neighborhood called Riverside where people did this at midnight followed by a rendition of Auld Lange Syne at the top of their lungs.  We don’t know if it’s related to the neighborhood specifically or if our parents are just weirdos, but I do distinctly remember other people participating in this when I was young.  Is it a cultural thing?  A geographical thing?  Someone enlighten us.) 

1am found me in bed, sleeping soundly.  It was, overall, a good night.

The next day we rearranged the furniture on a whim.  Hubs decided we needed to change things up a little, so we switched the living and dining rooms and I have to say I like it.  Now we are going to do a deep clean of the apartment, because I noticed honest-to-god cobwebs yesterday.  I will admit that I am not the world’s greatest housekeeper-I am a creative, and I think that has something to do with it.  Everything has it’s place, but like…I don’t dust unless I have to.  I just don’t notice it.  And then when I do, I feel like a slob.  But it’s not sloppiness, it’s just me focusing on other things.  My mother tried to instill the whole cleaning thing in me as a kid and it never took.  If something is downright dirty, I will handle it.  If something is out of place, I will right it.  But that’s the extent of my housekeeping-daily management.  Deep clean is Mark’s department, and we are going hard the next few days. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about 2020.  My first thought is that this is what I always believed to be “the future” when I was a kid, so where is my flying car?  My second thought is that 20 years ago it was 2000 and I was just turning 17 and Jesus, that feels like yesterday.  My third thought is that I need a real resolution this year.

I usually don’t do resolutions, except my old standby: don’t eat any phone books.  It’s perfect, because you know you’re going to follow though.  And if you don’t, you have bigger issuers than just breaking a resolution.  But this year I am making one:  I am going to read more.  I haven’t read a lot these past five years or so because of my retinopathy.  I finally have a clear field of vision now, however, and want to get back to expanding my library.  I intend to keep track of everything I read, and to look at the experience as a learning one-something to help me better my own craft.  You can’t write if you don’t read and my current rate of maybe two books a year (and likely both Stephen King’s) is dismal.  Of course, I had my reasons, but now there’s no excuse.  I will be starting the year with my main man of course, and just started reading The Institute, which my father got me for Christmas.  Next up is some middle grade books-I can knock those guys out in a day or two, and they will help me with my new tale that I am working on.  Time to revisit Judy Blume, and find out what the kids are reading these days. 

So, in closing, this is my new year: cleaning, reading, and trying to keep my butt out of the ER, of course.  Those are my manageable goals.  Of course, me with my big imagination, I have other goals in mind, too.  Writing goals.

I wonder where I will be a year from now.  Will I be done with my WIP?  Will I have found a publisher?  Or maybe one for my chapbook?  Will I have a complete children’s book to market, with illustrations and everything?  Will I continue to have my poetry published?  Will my new idea fully form itself in my head so I can do NaNo again next year?  So many questions.  Only time will tell.

Happy New Year!

Impostor Syndrome

When I’m stuck writing, I like to read.  Of course, my go to is Stephen King.  I have expounded on my adoration of him before, and likely will again.  Stephen is my literary love, and at my poetry meeting this month I won the door prize, which was a copy of Bag of Bones.  I was excited, as I have never read it.  So, when I was feeling overwhelmed by editing the other day, I cracked that bad boy open.

One chapter is all it took to feel like a talentless hack.

Now I understand that I am comparing my lowly works to one of the greats, and not only that, but my personal hero.  I could never write as well as him and I would never want to, but reading his words has caused me to become very self-conscious of my own.

For instance, as it stands, my little novel is 51k.  Bag of bones is 210k.  I tried to reassure myself by looking up how long Carrie was, but still, that’s 61k, so I felt no better.  Little inside voice that is always rational says that following drafts might have more words: perhaps there are things I will want to add.  Also, it reminds me that King is historically verbose, with the exception of Carrie.  His next book, Salem’s Lot, was 122k.  His only other “short” novel (I’m not counting novellas here,) was The Gunslinger, coming in at 56k.  So really, I’m comparing myself to someone who is generally wordy, whereas my writing style is more succinct, so there’s no comparison to be made, actually. 

But then there’s the descriptions.  He uses entire pages to describe events that I usually fit into a couple of paragraphs.  As I edit, I am looking for opportunities to expand on simple ideas, to bulk out both my manuscript and my thoughts.  Rational voice reasons that reading King is good for editing as it can give me ideas as to where I want to end up.  Irrational brain insists everything I’ve ever written is garbage and that Stephen King himself would use it to line a hamster cage. 

Carrie is not my favorite King book, but it is special to me.  I even mention it in my novel, giving a little nod to my love of the master.  It’s important because it was his first work, and originally, he thought it was garbage, too.  So much so that his wife fished it out of the trash, read it, and then told him she wanted to know how it ended.  This little story reminds me that every author, no matter their ability, thinks their writing is crap. 

I finished editing my WIP the other day and sent it off to Sahar’s capable hands.  I am very much at a loss as to what to do with my time.  On Monday I updated my blog, sent withdrawals out because I got a poetry acceptance, and then sat on Twitter for half an hour because I didn’t know what to do with myself without my WIP.  Tuesday, I tried writing an elevator pitch.  It’s…not good.  It’s really hard to condense 50,000 words into 50. 

On Wednesday I tried writing a longer pitch, something you might find on a back cover.  It is also not good:

Awaking alone in a dream world, Frankie must try to find someone to bring her the answers she seeks.  Her mother, Lila, interrupts her own hunt for understanding when she learns her daughter is in trouble.  Will they overcome their dysfunctional relationship, or will the chasm between them only deepen?  A look at loss, grief, and grave mistakes, this story tells the tale of two women on a quest to find themselves and each other.

I mean…this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg.  But it’s things like back cover material that get people to purchase a book, so you have to be very succinct and try to tell the story in as few words as possible, but also draw the reader in.  Whenever I read that back, I hear it in Mr. Moviefone’s voice.  It’s drivel.  I hate it.

But, it’s a work in progress, like everything is, and I am just teaching myself how to do this as I go.  I will certainly come up with something better as I learn how to write pitches.  I’ve been reading articles on how to sell your book to agents and such.  That’s still a way off but learning the process now can’t hurt.

See how I did that?  I started out writing about how I feel like a total hack when I read King and then brought it around to things I am working on in the meantime despite feeling that way.  Because it’s all just hamster cage liner in our minds, until someone picks it out of the trash and says, “hey, I want to read that.”