Men yell at me from car windows. My stride is slow and steady. I’m training for the American Tobacco Trail Half Marathon, my first real race. Before now, I’ve never attempted anything over 5k.
“Hey!” a man yells and it sounds like he’s falling off a cliff. The car drives away and he’s still yelling the tail end of the word until the sound floats away to nothing and he is gone.
A mile later, a beige-gold Chrysler Town & Country swerves around me and a man yells, “I will fuck you!” The back window of his van is black with little white stick-family stickers: Smiling Mommy, Smiling Daddy, Baby Girl, Soccer-playing-Son, Silly Dog with floppy ears.
I watch the van drive away, cautious. Can you Stow-and-Go an adult human woman? I guess I’m just being paranoid.
He hasn’t really threatened me, has he? But, it wasn’t a compliment, either. Men do not yell at women from moving cars because we are desirable.
I keep running, imagining Smiling Daddy falling off the side of the cliff. His stick family stands at the top, dumbfounded. As he falls, he screams, “I will fuck you!” until his dying breath stretches out to nothing and he is gone.
Today, I am thankful for all the disappointments that broke my heart in 2013 but ultimately led me in new and exciting directions. Sometimes, when people or things let us down, it makes room for us to see all the other truly kick ass people and things we really need in our lives.
Rejections, loss of friendships, personal failures and moments I wanted to cry (or, I did cry) because I didn’t get my way – it is easy to forgive myself and others for those things when I take stock of all the really wonderful things that have happened this year. The good has easily outweighed the bad and any year we can say that, we should take a moment to be grateful.
So, I am thankful for my friends – new and old. For your support and your laughter. For talking me off ledges and sometimes egging me up onto the ledge when I needed it. I am thankful for the friendships that fell apart because I only had to look beside me to see that more people love and support me than have ever let me down. I am thankful for my shortcomings as a friend because I’ve learned a lot about myself through my own insecurities and weaknesses. I am thankful for the ability to do better in the following year.
I am thankful for my family who are all insane. And complicated. And funny. And drive me up a wall sometimes. But I love you all anyways. Plus, you have to deal with my funny, insane, and very complicated way of dealing with the world. You gave me the freedom to do that so no complaining!
Thanks, especially to my husband who supports me and believes in me in this crazy way I’ve never really believed in myself. He holds me accountable when I slack off and he reads everything I publish. He encourages me and pokes at me when I fall too far into my own head. Plus, he’s super good looking.
I am thankful for my unholy ambition for pushing me beyond professional disappointments and into arenas I previously thought unattainable. I am a card carrying member of the “Women Who Get Shit Done” Club and that is a phenomenal feeling. I’ve had my first publication in 2013 and then I did it ten more times. I’ve gotten money for publishing my work – which seems shallow but really just gives me hope for a true career doing something I love. I’m a listed author on amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. When I was a bookseller (for years and years at Borders and Waldenbooks), it was my dream to be able to say that. This year, it came true. But, I’m grateful that it is happening slowly and I have a lot of room to build on that fantasy.
I am thankful for new readers and new opportunities to express myself artistically. Writing has kept me out of a therapist chair. Writing has given me a purpose and an excitement. But, writing was never enough – I had to share it with you. So, thank you so much for being receptive to it. Thank you for giving me this community.
Thank you to the editors that promoted my work. Thank for the editors that passed on my work but left a kind message or a note of encouragement. Thanks, also, to the editors that gave me form rejections or dismissed me completely – I take it as a sign of respect that you don’t handle writers with kid gloves. We are capable and hardworking. We take our lumps and we keep going. We don’t need to be coddled for doing our jobs.
And, finally, I am really thankful for those Ritter Sport Chocolate Bars with the cornflakes in them which I discovered this year and now pray I will never have to live without.
I was supposed to be working today. I had planned to work. I was actually looking forward to the Christmas Quiet that falls over my office. Really. No lie. My inbox is in desperate need of a scrub. But, I had to send my work laptop off for a Holiday Break upgrade and that really limited my options for a productive workday. What is a girl to do?
No, really. What is a girl to do? Work doesn’t want me – I got up early and wrapped everything up for my holiday vacation. Tie a bow on top of it because I am finished. My house is clean. Beds are made. Laundry done. Packages sent and delivered. Phone is silent. I entered some writing contests. I followed up with editors and sent out a few submissions I’d been putting off. I have this one short story that is slowly working its way into a novella and is in danger of being over-worked so I set it aside until after the holidays. This morning, I found myself sitting on my couch, alone. Staring at the walls.
“Now what?” I thought to myself.
It isn’t often that I don’t have a project or task waiting for me. I’m happiest that way. I don’t do idle well. When I’m idle, I tend to get myself into trouble.
Like the time a friend and I visited that psychic in Kent, Ohio and we ended up cleaning her toilets and doing her laundry.
Or, like that time I ended up in that corn field while rollerblading.
Or, that time I was bored and thought I’d wash my car but then realized I was lazy and took it through the car wash and then got trapped in there.
Or, that time…ok, maybe I ought to wrap up some dignity and keep my trap closed.
For the first time in a very long time, I felt bored and alone and really pretty unwilling to change out of my pajamas. (So, ok, I work from home, mostly. The pajamas thing isn’t unique to today.)
I realize luck brought me this boredom. Normally, I whine about how busy I am even though I actually like it. But, to sit in a quiet house with no demands on my time? No chores set in front of me? That is pure luck, right?
So, now what happens?
When I was younger, my Dad would come home every day from work and ask us kids, “What did you get accomplished today?” This was his way of asking us how our day had gone. Happiness and satisfaction was and is still measured in our level of productivity. We come from Farming Stock and what we put off until tomorrow has a tendency to get out of hand pretty quickly. So, we stay on top of things and we get shit done. That way, when we go to bed at night, we know we accomplished something and when we wake in the morning, our workload is manageable.
But today? By mid-morning, my whole world had gone quiet. I’d found a lull in a busy life and I panicked a little at wasting the time. It is a dreary and rainy day that sort of begs you to sink into a couch somewhere. So, that is what I’ve done. Today has been a movie marathon and old fashioned pop corn day. I am alone but not lonely. I made the popcorn the way I like it and didn’t have to share with anyone. I had it with a big cup of chocolate milk with maybe a little too much chocolate but that was the way I wanted it, too, and no one said a damn word about it.
I burnt my popcorn, of course. Because, while it was popping I thought I’d just run real quick into the laundry room and do that half load of towels and by the time I got back, the popcorn was a bit black. But, still, there is something special about popping the kernels on the stove. The house smells like a movie theater. I have the volume up a little loud while I watch the second Lord of the Rings movie on DVD. I can watch the extended scenes and no one is calling me a dork to my face because of how many times I’ve seen these movies.
I suppose we all need a breather, sometimes. I have been so lucky this year – 10 publications in one year (I am proud to say!) – two more (BIG BIG BIG ONES) coming out in 2014. I found a phenomenal writing community. I write, write, write all the time. I completed NaNoWriMo. I spent my ninth year at my job and managed to assist all of my employees in keeping busy and successful – as contractors, that is a big deal. I have absolutely no reason to believe that 2014 won’t be an amazing year. So, now, just at the end of 2013, I’m gifted with a free day before the absolute chaos of Christmas.
So, you know what happens now?
Not a damn thing.
I can’t help but feel like that is somewhat of an accomplishment for me.
If you are looking for a Christmas present for someone….or, if you really love great fiction….or, if you are one of my family members who have a biological imperative to support my artistic endeavors then I proudly suggest purchasing a copy!
I’d like to also send out a special shout out to Crack The Spine’s editor, Kerri Farrell Foley – perhaps the hardest working and most dedicated editor I’ve worked with to date. It has been an absolute pleasure working with her. Her support has been invaluable!
If you find yourself reading through the pages and thinking, “Wow. These writers DO.NOT.SUCK” please consider leaving feedback on amazon’s page. So often, I’ve found myself loving something I’ve read and keeping those thoughts to myself. But, the success of these kinds of publications rely on reader’s feedback. Writers supporting other writers is a great way to increase your publishing karma (says me) and to support an industry we all want to see succeed.
And, if you read it and think, “Wow. These writers SURE.DO.SUCK” then you could maybe go ahead and keep that to yourself. I won’t mind.
Amazon Description: Crack the Spine. Bend a fresh book until your hands meet beneath its stressed strings. Feel the weight of words snap free. This anthology includes the best poetry and prose from Crack the Spine Literary Magazine’s weekly publications. Authors: Glen Armstrong, Sally Burnette, Jay Carson, Tobi Cogswell, Daniel DiFranco, Megan Dobkin, Melanie Faith, Janelle Fine, Christina Marie Glessner, Matt Hall, Brian Hobbs, Tim Kahl, Brianne M. Kohl, Priscilla Mainardi, Robert Marshall, David McAleavey, Sean Padraic McCarthy, Shaun Anthony McMichael, Greg Moglia, Annelle Neel, Jos O’Connell, Jeffrey Park, Eliot Parker, Laura Pendell, Jim Richards, Marilyn Ringer, Jason Ryberg, Carla Sarett, Rochelle Jewel Shapiro, Michael Dwayne Smith, Angela Maria Williams, Kirby Wright
When I was in grade school, we had a guidance counselor that would come around to each classroom and give self esteem presentations. She would talk to us with the help of a little blue whale hand puppet. We called the whale “Stanley” because she was Mrs. Stanley and because grade school kids are not always witty.
“Don’t blow my candle out to make yours burn brighter,” Stanley would say anytime one of us would pipe up in a nasty way. He said it a lot, I remember. Because, grade school kids are basically just sociopaths confined in a room together.
I like to toss this old chestnut out when I hear adults being nasty with one another because it is folksy and cute and because if a blue stuffed whale hand puppet can get away with that kind of condescension, I feel like I can do it, too.
I thought about it tonight while I was reading another blog post from another writer who felt the need to tell the world why NaNoWriMo was a bad thing. I try to keep an open mind about things and I am very genuinely curious about what writers have to say about their process. I’m not talking about those writers who stand up and say, “Hey, NaNo: Not my bag.”
I get that perfectly. It isn’t for everyone. Writers – artists in general – all follow their own path to creation. That is the sheer beauty of being an artist. We each go alone into the cave and whatever thing we walk out with is the product of our own mind and effort and inspiration. Sometimes, telling the world what doesn’t work for us is as helpful as telling the world what does work. I have no beef with you, non-NaNo writer.
The people I do have a beef with? The nay-sayers. The poo pants. The people that ridicule others because they are excited about something that sponsors creativity, literature, reading and community. I’m lookin’ at you, established (sometimes) writer who wants to talk about all the hacks out there with the balls to attempt something so hallowed and revered as writing a novel. Who are those people to try? What gives them the right?
It’s a bit like climbing Everest, isn’t it? Or, running a marathon. It gets popular and then all these people come out, thinking they are just as good as the folks who’ve dedicated their lives to the craft. The craft, I say! Who will protect the craft! It takes practice, people! It isn’t for the weak. Those of us that write for a living, do it with hard work and dedication! We learn, we practice, we fail! We are the worthy ones. You get off my mountain!
Except, of course, NaNoWriMo isn’t anything like climbing Everest or running a marathon. No one is going to die attempting to put 50,000 words down in November (unless you forget to eat. Don’t forget to eat, NaNo’ers! Water is important, too!). I’m not putting anyone’s life in danger by dedicating an entire month to writing (except, maybe my family that may or may not be waiting for dinner at just this moment).
Writing is a huge mountain and yes, it is true, the best always make it to the top. But, nothing is gained by putting others down for trying. The Office of Letters and Light, the non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping writers write is not some nefarious organization that is hell bent on world domination or the destruction of literature. If you are really such a great writer, stop putting other writers down and publish something people want to read.
Truthfully, most people who attempt NaNo will end up doing nothing with the novels they write in November. I know this is true because this is my fourth year doing it and none of my previous novels were ever published. Until this year, when I dumbly posted excerpts, no one had even seen a word I’d written. I did it because it motivated me. It made me dedicate time and effort to a craft that was important to me. It made me think in a different way – and as a consequence, I made it further in long form story telling than I ever could before.
At first, I did it quietly – I didn’t know a single other person attempting it. Over the years, I’ve gained writing friends and built a whole community of writers and artists from whom I draw a considerable amount of strength and inspiration. If nothing ever comes from it, if I never publish another story or write another word, it was still worth it. Because, I put words down on the page and it made me a better person for the effort. That is what art does.
Paradise awaits the writer that supports other artists. Likewise, people that can only build themselves up by putting others down are always doomed to fail.
Don’t blow my candle out to make yours burn brighter, asshole.
I was chosen based on the reactions my story “Burn, Baby Burn” received when it was released in Issue 74 last month. Thanks to everyone that read it and spoke out in their comments and Facebook page. If you haven’t read my story, please take a moment to head over to their site! You can read my story and their interview where I sound brilliant, self assured and amazingly attractive. Yep.