Let’s Talk About Books, Baby. Let’s Talk About You and Me.

I signed up for something called http://www.shewrites.com.  I heard it’s a great online resource for women writers.  I haven’t done anything with it yet…just created a quick profile of who I am and what I’m doing.  But then, today, I received an email notice that someone was welcoming me to the site.  Her name is Meg.  She wrote The Wednesday Sisters, which is sitting (unread) next to my bed.  I think Mike bought it for me for Christmas, and it’s been one of those books I just haven’t made time to read.

I replied to Meg’s short and kind greeting with a little note about how I’ve got her book and look forward to reading it (I do).  And then, she wrote back, about how she’s got a child at the University of Chicago right now…about how I should join a group on http://www.shewrites.com for first time novelists.  It was extremely helpful to get a little boost from someone with that sort of cache (and believe me, it doesn’t take much to impress me…so coming from her, I was blown away).  Here’s a little bio on her from Amazon:

Meg Waite Clayton is the author of the national bestseller, THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS, THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT, which was a Bellwether Prize finalist, and the forthcoming THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS (Ballantine, March 2011). She’s also the host of the blog, 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started, which features award-winning and bestselling authors sharing stories about their paths to writing and publishing. Her short stories and essays have been read on public radio and have appeared in commercial and literary magazines. She’s a graduate of the University of Michigan and Michigan Law School, and lives with her family in Palo Alto, California. Visit her on the web at http://www.megwaiteclayton.com.


That’s one end of my “book spectrum” today.  The other end involves my Amazon.com purchase, made in preparation for our oldest child turning 13 next month.  I just ordered  Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager, Revised and Updated

The author’s last name is Wolf, which is comforting.

I think I’ll get a kick out of the book based on the title alone.  I see glimmers of teen-ish-ness from my son, but he’s truly a great kid (all my kids are…I’m extremely lucky).

I’ll admit that in the past 4 weeks of writing 2 posts a day for Patch.com, I’ve drained my energy reserves to an all-time low.  As such, my patience and ability to “roll” with things have both sunk far below the realm of recognition.  On the bright side, I’ve got two things working for me here:

1.  The wisdom to know that I’ve got to recharge, and

2. A husband who hears me and knows it’s important to step out, even for 24-48 hours.

I found a hotel downtown to bring all my files and notes and folders for my novel.  My neglected novel.  The novel I cannot WAIT to hand to young girls.  The novel that will empower them and celebrate their strength.  That will speak to them and make them laugh and cry and learn things about life in Chicago and sailing and living with less materialism.  That will be discussed in mother-daughter book groups far and wide.  That will transform the way kids look at the toy aisles in Target stores — from desire to disdain.

Lofty expectations from an unpublished author, no?

The way I see it, I need this hubris.  I need to believe I can do it.  An hour ago, I didn’t believe I could.

I was stressing about how I’d get all my obligations handled tomorrow before meeting with my critique group…until I had a breakthrough.  What if I don’t turn in pages this time?  I’ve never NOT turned in pages.  But when I’m really feeling down and overburdened, why not think about my group — and all its unwavering support — and try something new?  I emailed them and said this:

My goal for Thursday is to get some suggestions on how to tackle a major writing weekend.  Good news is, I’m getting out of my house for the weekend to write, but I’m a bit overwhelmed at the task of my novel (maybe b/c I’ve been writing short bursts of blogs for the last 4 weeks).  No need to read anything of mine this week.  Just looking for a little hand holding.  Wondering if my book’s any good, and if I’ll ever finish it.  Feeling a little defeated about my neglected novel.  Would love a motivating speech about how I can finish it AND polish it in time for the Winter Conference.  I signed up for it tonight and I’m excited and terrified about that deadline.

That’s right:  I’ve signed up for the New York SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Conference in January 2011.  I’ve also signed up for the Writers’ Intensive Group, which is when you sit with an editor/agent and let him/her read the first 500 words of your novel.  If the person likes it, they’ll ask for the whole thing.

Last year I went to the conference, and an editor read my pages.  She asked if I was finished (a great sign), but when I said I was 75% done, the conversation was abruptly through.  She came to the conference looking for manuscripts to take home.  I went to the conference (wrongly) hoping an editor would say, “This is great!  When you’re done, call me and we’ll sign a contract.  Keep going!  You’re awesome.”  Sadly, that’s not the way it works.

I now get it.  Well, I get it more than I used to. In this economy, editors are trying to find the best and the most polished manuscripts of the day.  They’re not there to soothe and coo and coddle us writers.  Their eyes are bugged out by the end of those writers’ intensive workshops.  They want to take something that’s ready to present to their board back at HQ.  Something that justifies getting out of the office for an entire day rather than pouring through the slush back at the office.

I want my manuscript to be the one to make the right editor shiver at the end,  to catch his breath midway through, lost in tangential thoughts like “how on earth will this story ever turn out?”  To compel the right editor to ——

Hold up.

Realistically, I’d like an editor to look at my first 500 words, put the page down, and simply say, “May I see more?”  That, actually, is what I’d really love.


3 responses to “Let’s Talk About Books, Baby. Let’s Talk About You and Me.

  1. Hi Christine,
    Another wonderful, inspiring entry. You are so wise to “get outta town,” so to speak — and have the peace and focus needed to write when all the pressures of home life impinge on our ability to concentrate — and push aside everything screaming at us to “pay attention to me!!!”–whether it is bills, another pile of dirty dishes, organizing that closet when the clothing stuffed on the upper shelf falls on our heads. We could keep ourselves frantically busy our entire lives just trying to “get organized.” (I fall prey to this compulsion and come by it through nature and nurture. My mother thought she could organize herself into a peaceful, in-control existence. She was pretty darned organized — and had a lot to keep in order — what with being the business manager of several rental properties in a sketchy neighborhood – and the family business manager as well), but I realize now she allowed virtually no time for herself and dreams. Another era too.

    But your plans for the conference and more work on your novel (which would be so easy to cast aside with the very best excuse: you HAVE a demanding writing job that requires feeding the insatiable beast of daily deadlines) are heartening! I’m going to try to move ahead on my memoir with some commitment to myself — as you have done. Thanks also for the positive response from SHE WRITES. I joined too, but have not followed through-so another level of inspiration!!! On a positive note — I’m almost done (after months of work) creating a photo wall up the length of my front staircase — nearly 100 ancestral & family photos –to celebrate the centennial anniversary of my grandfather coming to America on 12/24/1910. My archaeological digs through my family’s daunting collection of photos, letters, and artifacts inspired me. I hope to write about the photo wall’s creation to help others figure out how to approach this daunting task!
    Happy writing!

  2. Work on the novel! I believe in it. Really!!!

  3. Thank you, Brenda and Linda. You both always know just the right things to say.

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