I like to describe my creativity as periods of reading a lot and periods of writing a lot. This spring, summer, and even (parts of) fall, I was happy to have an extremely productive writing period. I wrote nearly 20 short stories, plus a few poems. Even better, 3 of those short stories got published! And 12 others are still out for consideration in literary journals and magazines.
Updates on My Novel and the Querying Process
Of course, I’ve felt a little paralyzed in celebrating my small accomplishments for the good news they are – mainly because I’ve been daunted by larger projects.
Most notably, I have been querying agents to represent my debut novel, How to Kill Yourself and Make it Look Like an Accident, and finding the process difficult at best and disheartening at worst.
So far, I have amassed 30 rejections, which is good because many of them have been thoughtful, personal, and kind - and because sources say I should expect 60 to 100 rejections before receiving that one, life-changing yes. Alas, I will only receive that glorious yes if the novel is "ready," or good enough to be considered seriously.
If this process sounds like it sucks, that's because it does. After 30 rejections, I think it’s impossible not to question myself and my work, and I feel like I’ve reached my limit of being able to sit with my book and improve it.
I need another (professional) opinion, an agent, or an editor, which is why I’m sending the book into the world of professional publishing, perhaps before it's "ready." (But will any creative project ever truly be ready?)
Fortunately, my early readers have liked the book, identified areas that may need improvement, and championed it to degrees I am humbled by and grateful for. (If you're reading this, thank you to Charlie and Bruno for running to the chalk board in hopes of a new chapter. Thank you to all the beta readers who have laughed and cried and connected to my story).
Unfortunately, I have found it challenging to make changes and improvements when the long list of rejections (or ‘if you don’t hear from us, we’re not interested’ style responses), dampens my overall confidence in and excitement about the project.
Publishing, apparently, takes extremely thick skin, but I think writing requires your skin to be pretty thin.
So, this project is on a little bit of a hiatus while I build up the strength to ask 30-70 additional human beings to consider my book and my worth as a writer.
I also want to give myself some time and space to strengthen certain areas of the novel, so at the very least, I can confidently say that it’s 100% ready for consideration... at least until the next round of rejections ;)
Anyways, thank you for tuning into my rant. I don’t know if you can connect to this, but it was incredibly therapeutic to write, and as always, it means everything to me that you’re here reading my blog.
I’ve lost the plot of this post a little bit, but I have a lot of updates to share, so here’s the next one:
I Have a New Novel in the Works
On the advice of other writers on the internet (and the call of my own muses), I have started my next novel. This is good for a few reasons:
According to those who ought to know, you should start writing your second novel the moment you send your first out for consideration.
The average author only gets published on their 4th or 5th novel (RIP).
I now have a home for my feminine rage.
My new novel is called C O N T R O L, and I am already stuck with writing it.
In the hopes of getting un-stuck, however, I'm going to tell you about it.
C O N T R O L is in her infancy, and the basic premise of the book is that hormonal and non-hormonal birth control (specifically the IUD) become methods for mind control and bodily puppeteering in the birth-control-taking population.
I've got the concept, and I've got a little character I love, and that's about it so far. This novel is coming to me in extremely small doses, but I truly cannot wait to introduce you to Isla and the world I'm building around her.
I'm about 6 pages (2,000 words) in, and now that I've established the concept, I'm trying to figure out where to go next with it. Thanks to an ongoing lesson from my last novel, I'm also trying to avoid skipping details or going too fast.
My previous rant becomes relevant here because I honestly think I'm talking myself out of writing half the time because I'm worried my writing isn't good enough, which leads me to...
Some literary magazines and one anthology have deemed my work good enough to publish! I think I told you all about Wild Strawberries and I know I mentioned Cat Eyes last year, but I also wanted to tell you about "Maman" and "McPherson Kids."
Maman is a little story I wrote about a spider while I was mad at my mom. Ink in Thirds published it in volume 4, issue 1 and even selected me as a Featured Contributor, which was incredibly heartening! Thank you, Grace (the esteemed editor at Ink in Thirds).
I wrote McPherson Kids after reading The Best Short Stories of 2022 anthology and trying to figure out what kinds of stories won awards like the O. Henry Prize.
Then, a really cool thing happened, and McPherson Kids was included in an anthology of its own!
You can read McPherson kids in a copy of the TulipTree Anthology, Stories That Need to Be Told 2023. I'm so excited about this opportunity, and it's the first time my writing has appeared in a physical book that you can actually go out (or online to Amazon) and buy!
Where I'm at Now
Okay, enough with the highs and lows. I wrote this blog to tell you where I'm at these days, creatively. I think the simplest answer is stuck.
In other words (and to bring it all the way back to the beginning of this post), I think I'm in a reading period right now. It's difficult to accept this after such a long, productive, and roller-coaster-esque writing period, but I have to remember that reading periods are valuable in their own special ways.
Without rambling too much, I'll go ahead and explain what I'm reading and why I'm excited about it:
First, I'm reading tons of literary criticism because I've started a Master's in Literature at Heidelberg University! For the past few years, I've wanted to go back to school, and I finally found the right set of circumstances to study again. I could not be more grateful to Monika, Bruce, and my writing group (who gave me the idea), to Germany (for having a welcoming, flexible, and affordable higher education system), and to my partner, Sam, who is helping make it all possible.
I'm learning so much about contemporary literary criticism and gravitating towards dissent, controversy, and censorship - as well as concepts like prestige, sincerity, and high/low culture in literature. I genuinely can't explain how hyped I am, but my academic work is fitting together perfectly with my interests and the books I have been choosing to read on my own. Somehow, it all feels like a seamless continuation of my undergraduate degree in Cinema and Media Studies, and basically, the way I've spent my life up until now.
In other words, it feels really good to be indulging my brain like this again, and I can't wait to project my voice into the literary and cultural spheres, one way or another (but preferably both creatively and academically).
I love it here in literature land, and I feel like I'm slowly but surely building more legitimacy in this space I've chosen to occupy.
At the very least, I'm engaging with it a lot more and that feels like a valuable use of my time (or a use of my time that mostly makes me feel good when self-doubt shuts the hell up).
Recently, I read three things I want to share with you, and then I'll go ahead and wrap up this long blog:
First, "Ten Year Affair" by Erin Somers in Joyland. This is one of the best short stories I have ever read. I found it while looking for homes for my own writing, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. Seriously, I think about it once a week (if not more).
I want to do writing like this myself, and Somers' piece even inspired a short story of mine called "Professor," the most recent thing I have written aside from this blog! Joyland has since rejected me, but in fairness, I don't think my short fiction is quite at this level, and both Somers' work and Joyland give me something to aspire to.
Second, E Unibus Pluram by David Foster Wallace. This essay really got my brain going, and inspired a whole wave of literary criticism that is super contemporary and super easy to relate to. I also read the introduction of Cool Characters, and together, these pieces have got me thinking about the purpose of literature and how it functions in our everyday life. I also got to view some books I read on my own, like Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, in a new, more academic light.
Third, The Sentence by Louise Erdrich is an absolutely gorgeous novel that everyone who loves books should read. I was extremely moved by it, and I was encouraged to see that many of the books I'm reading on my own and for class are referenced in the novel (Erdrich is also referenced in E Unibus Pluram).
All this to say that I think I'm on the right track.
I don't know about you, but it's really easy for me to doubt my own choices, and over the last year, I've leapt fully into my creativity, which is a crazy risky thing to do.
Actually, the word I've been using is indulged. I've indulged myself in creativity, and there's a negative connotation to the word, "indulged," that's been stirring a lot of self-doubt and existential dread in me lately.
I genuinely can't think of a better use of my time or anything I'd rather be doing, but because I'm not working in the traditional sense or making loads of money, I sometimes ask myself what the point of it all is.
Overall, this blog is a little attempt to answer this question and fight off the existentialism that so-often surrounds art. My friends have helped me, too.
I hope, as always, that my words help you. If not, I hope you've at least enjoyed this little peak into my brain as the seasons change.
Welcoming a peaceful fall and winter and wishing the same for you.