Tuesday, August 30, 2005

But I'm Not Complaining

After my sister got into a car accident a couple of years ago where she fell asleep at the wheel and flipped her truck over a median, everyone told her how lucky she was to be alive. No kidding-- it was no small miracle that she survived this, and with no "devastating" injuries. But because of this "you're so lucky" sentiment, she felt it wasn't okay for her to ever complain about the pain in her arm where the metal plate was put in, or the fact that her toenails were ripped off, or the loss of feeling and strength in her hand.

On the rare occasion that she did mention her pain, someone quickly said, "Just be thankful you're alive." Now, of course, there has to be a sense of perspective. Obviously, that's entirely true-- she IS lucky, and she IS thankful, but it frustrated her that her thankfulness was supposed to negate any of the pain she went through.

That's sort of how I feel about my writing career. I can't complain.

See, I rarely talk about my writing frustrations in my newsletter or on my forums because of that same sort of perspective. I know that many of my readers would give their right elbows to be where I am in my career. I know I'm lucky. I've been making my living as a writer for 8 years. I work from home, I get good assignments, I'm paid well, and I even sometimes get to cavort with celebrities. Because of all that, I don't dare whine in public about some of the difficulties and frustrations that go with it-- because I know that many people will just shake their heads and think, "Just be thankful!"

And I am.

But you have no idea what a relief it was when I got an e-mail from a similarly-experienced writer the other day that said, in part, that she was tired of the way she sometimes gets treated by editors and "experts." She was disillusioned with the writing business. Then she wrote, "I just have to remember that a bad day freelancing still beats a good day at a 9-5 job."

I'm not disillusioned. But there are certainly things that frustrate me. It frustrated me when I found out that a publicist on one of my books never sent galleys to the trade magazines. It frustrated me when a publicist actually did something humiliating to a co-writer of mine. It frustrates me when the scope of a project expands and expands, but my fee doesn't. And when an editor buys an article of mine and never publishes it, but wants to hang onto it indefinitely. (Especially when a publicist writes me every other week to ask when her client's quotations within the article are going to run.) And when an editor leaves in the middle of a project. And when a book editor takes months and months to get back to me with edits, at which point I'm supposed to drop everything and return the revisions in less than a week. And when it's written into my contracts that I get to approve cover art, yet I don't see it until it's already up on Amazon. And...

You see what I mean.

Sometimes I get burnt out and tired of it all. It IS a job to me, not something I'd do if I didn't get paid for it. And sometimes I feel like each book is a marathon and I'm already winded at the end of the first half-mile. Many times I think I'll never be able to keep up this pace for more than another year or two. Many times I fantasize about retirement. There are days of sheer joy and excitement, and other days when it feels like my brain's been rubbed across a washboard a couple hundred times.

I felt like, when that friend wrote to me, we had dissolved some kind of secret code of gratefulness that all successful writers are supposed to exhibit at all times. She took the chance that it was okay to vent to me, and it was. I love my job, and I'm thankful as can be to have it. But the writer's life is not without its difficulties, and sometimes it's nice to admit that.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Power of Prayer: Natasha Lyonne

I'm still doing a lot of searching when it comes to my own spiritual beliefs. I know I believe in the power of prayer, but I'm not exactly sure why. It's not that I think God keeps count of how many people are praying for someone, and when it hits the magic number, he decides to grant the prayer-- like a genie-- but I think it's that I believe there's a spot in each of our subconscious minds that can take in those prayers and know that people are pulling for us.

Anyway. Today I'm sending prayers to Natasha Lyonne. You probably know her from her roles in American Pie and The Slums of Beverly Hills. According to the NY Post, she's in the intensive care unit of Beth Israel Hospital with track marks all over her arms, receiving treatment for hepatitis C, a collapsed lung, and a heart infection. I don't follow celebrity news much, so I somehow missed her apparent downfall this year. I have no idea which rumors are just rumors and which ones are true, but it's said that she was living on the streets, addicted to heroin, dropped by her agent and publicist, and-- this part is true-- had a warrant out for her arrest since she left court early when she was to answer to charges of harassing her old neighbor and doing some pretty twisted stuff.

I hate the way this is presented in the news as just another piece of celebrity gossip. There it is, "Natasha Lyonne fighting for her life!" as a couple of paragraphs just above or below "Jen and Brad have split for good!" and "Is Courtney Love pregnant?" This isn't gossip. It's not "oh, just another celebrity-and-drugs" story. It's a little girl lost. It's a 26-year-old who might die, and the papers are talking about lawsuits and leaks rather than compassion. So I'm giving all my prayers to her today. I hope you might do the same.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Long Hair Activists Found Me

Strangest thing. I wrote this little book, Hattie, Get a Haircut! , and talked about it in my recent Absolute Write Newsletter. In the book, Hattie decides that she will never, no way, not at all get a haircut. Eventually, she changes her mind and discovers she can do a good deed in the process by donating her hair to Locks of Love.

Locks of Love is never actually mentioned in the text, but there's an "Ask me about LOL" sign in one of the illustrations. My editor had suggested this angle; originally, Hattie just decided to get her hair cut, period. I liked the addition of a "good deed" because anything that encourages kids to be thoughtful is a smart idea, in my opinion.

Anyway. I got a couple of letters from people who are anti-LOL. They told me that the charity is no good, mostly because they don't use a lot of the hair for wigs for kids. They sell a lot of it. I knew that, but was okay with it because I know they have plenty of expenses-- they pay for the manufacturing of these wigs for kids, so the money has to come from somewhere. But I agreed with the letter-writers that I would contact the company for answers to some unanswered questions about their funds.

Apparently someone notified a "long hair activists" group. Did you know there was such a thing? It's almost a religion. They don't want anyone to feel pressured to cut their hair, ever, and have pulled out all the stops to attack Hattie. Wow! They've written to the publisher, the publicist, and the reviewers in protest.

My mind is boggled. I wonder if they'll try to get the book banned. Banned books sell really well...

Here's the troublemaker in question:

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Maybe the Theme of this Blog will be Hammock Photos

In the book Journalution by Sandy Grason, she described how she began one of her journals by drawing a picture of her legs in a hammock. I was thinking of her when I took this shot.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I've Graduated

...from neurotic author to less neurotic author. I am so proud. I recently realized that I no longer check Amazon obsessively for new reviews and rankings. I used to do it so many times a day that I'd have to pretend to myself that I was on the site for a legitimate reason. Now, I'm cool. I'm calm. I'm Less Neurotic Author.

I am Allergic to Rain

I know, it doesn't sound possible, but I am. Something swells up inside my brain right before it rains and stays that way for hours. Not usually before a downpour, but much more during those misty light rains. I get rain brain, which makes me a spaced-out idiot. I made the doctor X-ray my head, but all he found were giant cysts in my sinuses (which they had to yank out of me). I hoped the cysts were the culprit, but alas, no. Rain brain lives on.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Kindness of Strangers

I stumbled upon Angels for Hope today.

They crochet angels, butterflies, and smiley faces and send them free of charge to anyone who needs hope.

Know anyone?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Bring Me the Measuring Stick

My sister, my mother, and I have always been about the same height. Technically, I'm the shortest. My mother is a smidge taller than I am, and my sister is a bit taller than my mother. Or so it was until this week.

This week, I found out my sister and I have the same weight, which is odd, because she looks thinner than I do. My mom said that's because she's taller. I said, "Not much taller. Like, barely at all." She ordered us to stand back-to-back, and that's when the bizarre discovery happened.

I am taller than both of them now.

This, I believe, is a mutation of some kind. Humans are not supposed to grow at age 29, right? I believe the secret is in the Pringles. Or possibly the brownies.

Whole new possibilities abound. Next year, I may be a giant. I will contemplate learning how to play basketball and pout on the catwalk just in case.

Through the Hammock

A girl could really get used to this view.