Spring Break is here, so I will be blogging more and I won’t be blogging so much about ways to keep going when you think you’re about to crash and burn. Since vacation is here, I will be blogging calmly in my robe and my reindeer slippers. (This robe is great. A shop lady in Martha’s Vineyard bascially gave it to me so I could finish my novel. I wish I had her contact info to say thank you. The robe is not sexy, but it’s snuggly, and it helped me make it over the finish line.)
Anyway, a few months ago I blogged about wanting to start keep ing a journal. So many people recomended their favorite notebooks and a few folks even sent me journals in the mail. (Y’all are the best best best.) Well, none of the notebooks went to waste. I pressed them into service for various purposes, but I hadn’t yet found the journal for daily use.
Well, I have worked it out.
I have been using a thin moleskine notebook. It’s about the size of a regular sheet of paper folded in half. I use the pink one, but they come in lots of pretty colors, and there is always the moody black one. Dainty without being precious or fragile, it can easily be thrown in my purse, or even hidden up my sleeve! The picture on the right shows a hardcover, but I use the inexpensive paperback. Since it has only 96 pages, it only takes me a month to fill it up. Then, I just get a new one. This works for me because I DO NOT like to flip back through and revisit my old thoughts. It’s like listening to my own voice on a tape recording. Can’t stand it.
I write in the journal while I have my coffee. I wake up with my mind brimming and sloshing. I feel like an over-full martini glass. When I spend just about twenty minutes with the journal, I feel much more stable. Even though those extra minutes mean I have to get up even earlier on a school day, it’s worth it.
Today was a good day. I seldom use this blog as a journal, but I felt like I really wanted to check in today.
This morning, I turned in my new novel, THE SILVER GIRL, to my editor at Algonquin. I don’t know how she’ll react to my revisions, but I can only tell you how I feel— terrific. This book has probably been the most challenging project I have ever undertaken. I had so many upheavals in my life over the last four years and I was trying to keep writing all the way through. There were times when it looked like the story was going to die on the vine.
Friends, who mean well, would say “How’s the writing going?” It wasn’t going. It was like all my creative energy was going to just keeping my life together in a general way. There was nothing left for my characters.
But y’all, I did it.
I thought that maybe I should wait until the novel is at the final, final, final, stage to write this. But then, I decided that postponing giving thanks and putting off feeling accomplishment is just another way to sabotage myself. Undermining is not part of the agenda for 2010.
If you are working on something, I hope it’s going well for you. If it’s not going well, keep pushing. Your luck will change and when it does, celebrate it. I don’t care how little the milestone is, mark it. Even if you just write a happy note in your journal. Do it.
Taking care of yourself is the first step to reaching any meaningful goal. You can’t write if you’re sick. You can’t write if you aren’t getting enough sleep. You can’t write if you are in a bad relationship that damages your confidence. To write your best work, you have give yourself the care you deserve.
Monday night, I will have the pleasure of introducing Tiphanie Yanique at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. Tiphanie will read from her OMG-It’s-So-Good collection on stories, How To Escape From A Leper Colony. Afterwards, she and I will sit down for a Q&A session. We’re going to get down to the writerly nitty gritty.
Tiphanie is an amazing writer; she’s got talent to spare. You may remember when I first discovered her a couple of years ago when I stumbled upon her essay, “My Super Hero Secret.” I blogged about it and when I met her in person at Bread Loaf, we became instant friends.
I I hope you’ll come to Greenlight Books and hear Tiphanie. She’s the real thing.
Here’s what I said about her on the back of her book and I meant every word of it:
Tiphanie Yanique is a writer to watch. Although How to Escape from a Leper Colony is her debut, she writes with the wisdom and confidence of an old soul. The title story alone is worth the price of admission, but each of the stories contained in this gorgeous collection is clear-eyed, honest while still zinging with emotion. Tiphanie Yanique is blessed with an electric imagination, an expansive heart, and an unflinching gaze. I can’t wait to see what she does next. -Tayari Jones
I am in the home stretch with the (current) round of revisions for The Silver Girl. I don’t know if everyone knows how this works, so I will give you a little overview of the process.
Once a publisher agrees to publish the manuscript, the editor sends the writer an editorial letter, which is basically a few pages of critique. The writer gets a few months to address the issues. I always make a good faith effort to take the editor’s instructions. However, if there is something that I just really disagree with, I leave it be. Sometimes fixing other issues with the novel, will make it where things that used to be issues aren’t issues anymore.
I do try and address every point she brings up, even the ones that seem crazy on their face. You have to trust your editor enough to believe that she knows how to make the book better. As I tell my students all the time– take every suggestion. If you don’t like it, just change it back to the original.
This morning, I rewrote the ending. Tomorrow, I will do one more read through, but then I’ll be ready to submit. It’s a really big deal. I half want to celebrate and the other half of me would like to get in the bed. I am exhausted.
Over the next couple of weeks, my editor write me another editorial letter. This is when we will really tangle over the little stuff. I will turn it in one more time and we will basically be done.
Maybe then I will be rested up enough to party.
to people who read this blog!
I’m in the home stretch with my revisions, but I just had to take a minute out to post all this great news.
Maythee Rojas has published her first book, Women of Color and Feminism. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but the very very discerning Rigoberto Gonzalez gives it a thumbs up and his students agree.
Dwayne Betts took home an NAACP Image Award for his memoir, A Question of Freedom. And can we address the gorgeousness of the cover of his new poetry release?!?!
Cherene Sherrard-Johnson has won the New Women’s Voices Poetry Prize for her chapbook, Mistress, Reclining. (Finishing Line Press has the most chaotic crazy-making website ever, but click down to find Cherene’s book to pre-order.)
It’s time to introduce a new term– Workcrastinaton. If you’re like me, you think that procrastination involves Law & Order marathons and twitter, and these are insidious forms of procrastination, for sure. But there is another, more sneaky, incarnation– Workscrastination.
This is when you blow off your novel for important stuff that needs doing, not fun stuff, but neccesary stuff. For example, right now. I know I need to be working on my novel, but I am doing things like grading student papers. (It must be done! It’s my job!), paying bills (It’s the first of the month!), etc. Other instruments of Workcrastination include updating this website. (I spent half the morning updating my “appearances” page. Check it out. I added a lot of new stuff.)
But really. This has got to stop. I am about ten pages from the end. Why am I acting like this??? I am going to have to get a zero-tolerance policy with myself– If it ain’t the book, it’s procrastination. If the house is burning down, grabbing a hose = procrastination.
Time to get to work.
The Tenth Annual National Black Writers Conference at Medgar Evers University is especially awesome this year; I am so excited to be a participant. Toni Morrison is the honorary chair, but the whole line-up is pretty delicious. Those of you who were disappointed that Dolen Perkins Valdez’s reading got snowed out will get another chance to see her. Also Bernice MacFadden will be reading from her new one, Glorious. Colson Whitehead is on board and so is my former professor, Jewell Parker Rhodes. Edwidge Danticat will be there and many many others. (I’m giving a “talkshop” about writing fiction.)
Registration is just $60 for all four days. There are also opportunities for people who want to work as volunteers!
I am so sorry to tell you that the Chapters Reading– featuring Dolen Perkins-Valdez– has been canceled. The reading was set to be a swell event, so we are all very disappointed. Not only was I looking forward to hearing Dolen, but I was also excited to hear from our Girls Write Now mentor/mentee pairs. When you see our girls in action, you will see right away why Michelle Obama presented GWN with The Coming Taller Award. Girls Write Now is preparing the next generation of women writers one girl, and one word at a time. Please consider giving GWN a donation to help us continue this important work. Since the entire Northeast is snowed it, how about you give us the money you won’t be spending on cab fare…..