breakthrough.

Untitled

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.

Ten years ago, my novel, ONLY YOURS, got rejected by its last publisher.
I was drowning in debt and financial troubles.
I was a single mom, living in an apartment with the weirdest neighbors ever, and working in a job that was… hard. (The work was great, the co-workers were great, but the culture was challenging.)
My boyfriend (now poor husband) at the time was long distance.

My writing well was draining. I tried, and only produced crap. Well, there are a few good parts here and there, but for the most part? Nothing. No novels, not even short stories or poems. Just snippets and false starts and oh God, it was hopeless.

So I gave up on publishing.

That was ten years ago.

After I moved to Chicago, I decided to focus on “real” things. Things that made me money. It was hard at first. The job market in Chicago is tough. But somehow I found my way and now there are times I have to turn work away because I get so much. This is a blessing.

I worked in advertising agencies. Long, demanding hours. Six day workweeks. Plus freelance! I was making so much money but I was sick and unhealthy and stressed. I started getting grey hairs!

Lily Pads & Yellow Flower
 

I trained to be a yoga teacher. And while I will *never, ever* regret that year—really one of my happiest, most intense, and most amazing—I decided I didn’t want to teach yoga.

I was an extra in a movie, and decided I wanted to be an actress. That journey was one of the hardest things, and I don’t mean the trying to get famous or even book jobs part. I mean the research, the studying, the self-exploration, the creativity it takes to embody a whole new person and make that person real and whole and true. I liked acting, but friends, I just didn’t love it enough for the amount of hustle it entails. So I was content to work as an extra for a season, and hang out in the background, eating junk food and hanging out with my friends who were extras.

That last experience yanked me back to my writing roots. I’d been writing crap on and off this whole time, but often abandoned stories about five thousand words in. Then work got too demanding and I couldn’t write if I wanted to. But being on set? It’s like being IN a story. And I guess the combination of background work and acting classes woke up my creative mind. I also went back to my roots. I love writing love stories. The day I woke up and said “I’ll just write a love story,” things clicked. And the words began to flow.

I finished my first novel since 2006. It was a hot mess. It still needs work. But I did it. I DID THAT.

I started writing it without the intent of pursuing publication. I was rusty. I was out of the loop so I didn’t have critique partners or a writing community to guide me through. This story was meant to be fun. But then it kept growing and developing into something more. Something that someone else might want to read. So I changed my goal. And started working harder. I found critique partners. I began studying the craft again. I wrote and revised and wrote and revised… and there is STILL work to be done.

But it feels like home.

I often lament about the publishing journey. It’s hard, and the constant NOs and rejections and “go back and try agains” can really do a number on one’s self esteem and dreams. I tried to quit writing again last summer after a heartbreaking rejection. I moved all my documents to the recycle bin. I muted all my writing friends on twitter and facebook. And I grieved. and I can’t think of a time when I felt more WRONG in my life. I’m a writer. I have to write. So I decided, I can write, but I’m done with publishing. My manuscript was with agents and I was seriously considering pulling them off submission, and settling into my “real” life of freelance and contract editing, cleaning up cat poop and vomit, and trying to figure out where to put all my stuff. I have a lot of stuff.

But something kept giving me hope. My writing friends pulled me out and pushed me. They put things in perspective for me. They told me to send my work to them if I felt like deleting it again. (I did have to do that, quite a few times.) Those conversations often blew up into encouragement. And so I lived to fight another day.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

I had a few more close calls earlier this year. Not quitting writing, just publishing. But remember, I still had those manuscripts out with agents. Something told me *not* to pull them off submission. Instead, I focused on my recovery and brainstorming TWO new books (which is wild, because I was scared I had nothing else in me), watching Netflix, sleeping all the sleeps, and catching up on reading.

I’m glad I didn’t pull them. I’m glad I didn’t quit. I’m glad I saw a McDonald’s commercial with a little girl who reminded me so much of little me (with better hair), and a brown father. I’d NEVER seen that before. Ever, ever, ever. That commercial touched me so much and reminded me how much representation matters. I’m glad I kept going, and that I *will* keep going.

Because friends, I’m now repped by Caitie Flum of the Liza Dawson Associates, and I could not feel more excited to be working with her! I’m so thrilled that she gets me and my book, she is a fierce fighter, and looks out for her clients. I’m eager to see where this journey will take us.

I still have a long way to go to realize that NYT best-seller dream. A lot more work, a lot more angst. But now I have an advocate, someone who believes in me, even when I might not believe in myself. (That happens a lot in this industry.) In the meantime, I’m so happy to be part of #teamcaitie!

2017: brave, bold, free

New year, new you!
New start!
New everything!

…wait what?

2017 is going to be a weird year for me. I already know this. And somehow I’m looking forward to it. Aidan heads back to Ohio on January 2, which always makes me sad. I enjoy having him here so much. He’s smart and funny and one of my favorite people in the world ever.

January 6 is my last day at Humana for 90 days. There are some rules with their contracts that means I need to take a 90 day break before I start my next contract with them, and frankly, I’m OK with it. As I said before, I’m burning out and I’m looking forward to the time off.

The most important thing, though, is that I’m having a major surgery on January 10 and will need the time for recovery. So really, the timing for the contract waiting period is perfect. I will get the surgery, use the time off to recover, and then enjoy a few extra weeks of downtime—hopefully deep into writing my next novel—before working 9–5 again. I’ve saved a lot of money, and one of my clients said they’d have work for me when I’m ready, so I’ll be OK.

Once I’m over that milestone and firmly on the road to recovery, I’m looking forward to the following in 2017:

Writing a new book. I’ve been brainstorming and making notes, and my character finally has a name I think… but I’m going to hold off until the story is ready to burst out of me and I’m in the position to really focus on it without dealing with too much pain and brain fog.

Writing more boldly and unapologetically. Taking risks. Trying new things. I really want to write beautiful books that hook readers and won’t let go of them, and I want to affect readers all over the world with my words. The only way to do that is to push through the fear, stop holding back, and write from my heart. It’s important.

Attending the Writing Cross-Culturally workshop, and learning more about the craft, spending time with my bestie Rena, and meeting and spending time with some of my most favorite authors ever. It’s going to be amazing and I’m so excited. (I will rest and recover and follow all directions so I can be up for the trip—it’s 7 weeks after my surgery.)

Traveling to visit friends. Jennifer has invited me to LA, and I have other friends out in LA who I want to visit and spend time with, so that is definitely on the docket for 2017. I’m still dreaming of visiting Ivy in Florida someday as well, and my friend S. Abdul has been trying to get me to MN for years now. Maybe 2017 will *finally* be the year it happens!

Working less, enjoying life more. I am forever grateful for all the work that comes to me. It’s given me the opportunity to do so many cool things and to be generous to those I love. I never want to lose that, and I definitely don’t want to repeat 2006–2007 financially. Ever. But I also know that I burned myself out, and I got frustrated and angry at all the working I did with barely taking time for me other than silly internet/iPhone games and Netflix. I need to figure out a better balance so I’m still doing well financially, but not out of my mind with exhaustion.

Reading more books! I have a huge stack in my TBR pile for while I am recovering and I’m so looking forward to getting my ‘read’ list back up there. I used to read more than 100 new books in a year, so this 26? I don’t like it one bit.

(Hopefully) visiting another country! The writing retreat this year is in Wales, so I might go there. Or I might go somewhere else. I do love the UK so much though, and there are friends at the retreat who I really want to see again. So we’ll see!

Getting back into shape. My doctor said that after my surgery, I will have a flat stomach. I hope she’s right! But at any rate, I really want to get back into my yoga practice, I miss barre a LOT (but the mere thought of barre makes me breathless right now), and I’d love to take a few dance classes. But I’ll start slow. I’m just ready to be back, you know?

More meaningful connection with those I love. I want to start sending handwritten letters again, sending surprise packages, and sending long emails to those very far away. Twitter is fun and all, but I want a more visceral connection. Which is tricky for this introvert who gets insecure all the time, but I need it. Maybe I’ll even *gulp* pick up the phone sometime. (But maybe just to text.)

More meaningful connection to me. This means less screen time and social media and more journaling, reflection, continuing therapy, working hard in my Self Love Workbook, and taking time to breathe and manifest good things in my life.

Working on my handwriting. I want pretty handwriting! Or at least funky, cute, and/or unique, but still legible. I know, such a weird thing to focus on but whatever. It’s fun. Also, I need to get used to writing longhand again. My wrists are so weak now and I need to fix it. Handwriting is visceral and helps me process things in a much different way than typing.

Being brave and bold with my writing, with my intentions, with my voice.

I have ~dreams~ for 2017 as well, but I’m not totally in control of those. All I can do is keep working hard and improving my craft and praying for the stars to align for me. So I will keep doing that.

Here’s to an amazing year!

breather.

Airport selfie while wearing my fave hat and #colourpop ultra matte lip

You guys. YOU GUYS. I survived! I’m up for air. I made it.

This latest contract had me working many hours, reading hundreds of pages a day. And this was in addition to the DayJob™, sneaking in writing revisions, events, visits from family and friends, meet-ups, appointments, and errands.

I am POOPED.

I’m exhausted and sick; coming down with my first cold in maybe a year or so?

But also proud. Because I did that, they are very happy with my work, and my relationship with is client is awesome. I survived the madness and I am so excited. (I am also hopped up on cough medicine with codeine in it at the moment so if this entry seems a bit goofy, that’s why.)

So far, this month (and part of September as well—because that’s when all this stuff started), I:

01. Attended a #ChiYA meet-up. It’s a group of Chicago authors of YA, and we’re going to do all sorts of cool things. *sings* Just you wait….
02. Finished this massive contract—maybe thousands of pages. Sent the invoice yesterday, so now I wait. And then save/pay off credit card/Christmas shop/buy something special for me.
03. Started *two* new contracts! One with a new company called Envision—they seem really nice. I’m excited about the work I’ll be doing for them. And another project for Berlitz. This one’s scope is WAY less intense.
04. Had many important doctor’s appointments (including my very first mammogram!).
05. Been keeping up with my medicine and my therapy, including the homework assignments she assigns. I really like my therapist.
06. Attended Anderson’s YA Literature Conference and YA Fan Frenzy. Got to hang with lovely author friends and make new author friends, and came away feeling loved and inspired and exhausted.
07. Stayed on the fancy floor in the hotel during the conference. They brought us cookies every night. I could get used to this—it’s part of the reason I work so hard.
08. Got the CUTEST Kate Spade Minnie Mouse bag.
09. Voted.
10. Got to see Rena *twice*. She’s my bestie, I should be seeing her more often. We’re both so swamped with work. Thank God for Google Hangouts. We talk almost every day on there.
11. Hosted my friend Sun, who I’ve known online forEVER. It was so fun hanging with her, relaxing with her, and having her in my home. She brought a nice energy.
12. Spent time with Aidan, who was here from 10/12–10/17. Never enough time, but it was fun. We ate junk food, watched raunchy stand up comedy, and laughed a lot.
13. Shopped, donated, supported people I care about, and some strangers I barely know.
14. Attended the Sia concert. Loved her show very much. Lots of dancing and artsy stuff. Very enjoyable!
15. Started Christmas shopping! 😮🎄

Now I’m back to revisions. Goal is to have them done Halloween! I want to start a new project for #NaNoWriMo, so I have to have my current one in a very good place before then. I’m very excited for the possibilities for both. :) I want to be really bold with this new project. Unapologetic, but still sweet. So eager to get started. We’ll see if I still feel the same once I’ve started, though.

But this weekend, aside from some tinkering with the novel, I SLEEP ALL THE SLEEPS. READ ALL THE BOOKS. And maybe call my mommy if my throat settles down.

Next week, I have to fix my car, get it tested, and then register it for another year. Just bought one of those portable battery chargers–hope that gets her running again. I’d love to have the freedom to drive so I can get a massage from Jan and also Christmas shop!

So, up next for the next 4–6 weeks:

01. Whatever deliverables for the two new contracts.
02. Plan Christmas shopping.
03. Get car squared away.
04. More doctor’s appointments.
05. #NaNoWriMo
06. Schedule and partake in a spa day.
07. Keep taking meds properly and going to therapy.
08. Prep for Thanksgiving! OMG.
09. More Christmas shopping.
10. Read read read. So behind on reading, my TBR pile is obscene.

I’m sure there is more, but I’m ready to relax now.

RELAX.

Wow. It feels very strange not having a big deadline looming over me. My next freelance deliverable isn’t due until EOD Monday, and it’s not a huge thing. Which means an entire weekend free. I’d forgotten what that felt like.

But I’m sure it’ll come back to me. Easily. 😂

Just Me. Feeling Kinda Pretty. :)

poor neglected blog.

Grounds of Dalvey House

It’s been a long time. I keep doing this. Sorry. The good thing is that I don’t have a huge following knocking down my door demanding updates. The bad thing is that I don’t have a huge following knocking down my door demanding updates.

Yet. *evil grin*

Anyway. You know me. Bullet points and gumdrops, so here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve been up to since that amazing time in New York City where I got to talk to Theo James and he talked back to me for 45 seconds.

· planned my 2016 Disney trip! I’m going with my mom, Aidan, my aunt Geneva, and my cousins Janae and Terri. Janae, Terri, and Geneva have not been and Janae (who just became the first person in our family to get a Master’s degree) is beside herself. My mom is super excited to ride Soarin’ again (even though it’s all new), and Aidan and I are excited in general because it’s DISNEY WORLD.

· worked on novel revisions, and got amazing feedback from a few industry professionals. Just waiting on one final sign off before I take next steps. Eeeek!

· started watching Once Upon a Time on Netflix and fell in love with the first season. Having a harder time with Season 2, with this Frankenstein stuff. I want fairy tales, not sci-fi, so we’ll see where it goes. My favorite characters are Regina and Rumple. LOVE them. Especially Regina. Everything about her. The way she speaks and carries herself. Her style, with the black and white crisp suits. Her makeup and hair. Her decor. I live for her episodes.

· which leads me to this point: I think I’m starting to like villains better than the people I’m supposed to be rooting for? I popped in a DVD of the show Popular the other night and was fangirling like crazy over Nicole, when I used to be obsessed with Sam. What is this madness? Truly, I always thought the people who rooted for villains were just doing it to be subversive, but I don’t know. There’s something appealing about the bad guys and their complexities. It started with Snape, then the movie Maleficent where I fell for her too. Interesting.

· saw the movie WAR ON EVERYTHING and loved the villain in that too BUT I suspect that had a lot more to do with the villain being played by Theo James (and the 45+ second shirtless scene of him walking through his mansion) than character study, but then again, I remember being fascinated by his motives and his mental process and what drove him to be the way he was. I mean, you all know I love the man’s acting. He gives his characters such nuance and he did an awesome job in that movie.

Michael Pena, one of the stars of the movie, was at the showing. People were making a big deal. I asked a publicist if Theo was coming and he said no, but he’d tried to get them all. I wonder if it would have been nearly as laid back if Theo was there. I would hope so. He’s not that well known outside of Divergent circles and hardcore fans, which is a shame but which is also nice.

· the biggest thing though was that I WENT ABROAD! I finally left United States soil and went to the United Kingdom, where I spent a lovely week in a Scottish mansion drinking endless cups of tea, hanging with writer friends, listening to gorgeous accents, eating loads of snacks, being cold almost all the time, sleeping in a room fit for a princess, and writing and exploring. It was amazing and I am so proud that I did it. I was so nervous but I did it, and I cannot wait to get back over there.

Grounds at Cawdor Castle and me!
me in the wall garden at Cawdor Castle, Scotland

Dalvey House
Dalvey House, my home for that week

Dalvey House - Group Photo
These AMAZING and GORGEOUS people

Inside Dalvey House
Where I slept every night. I KNOW RIGHT?

Grounds of Dalvey House
So. Many. Flowers. *heart eyes*

Cawdor Castle
Cawdor Castle

And there are more pictures where those came from! [LINK]

· thought I missed the lilac bloom this year because of Scotland, but nope! They waited for me! And they smell heavenly. :)

· preparing for Aidan’s summer vacation! He arrives June 2 and I am so excited. Cannot wait to see that guy. His room is a hot mess. There is one part I will fix up, but the LEGOs all over the floor? Not. Touching.

· finally listened to Hamilton all the way through and I get it. It’s amazing and it gets stuck in my head like RENT. One of these days I’ll see it. Maybe when the demand dies down a bit. That could be ten years, though. :O

And I think that’s all for now. :) Probably the next time I write will be post Disney trip, ha ha. Till next time!

right now.

#latergram Driving thru Indiana #winter #indiana #snow #white

Hard to believe we’re already into March, and that it’s been almost two months since my last update. Whoops. I have to say that this winter has flown by, and I’m glad. It’s also been super mild. Thank you, El Nino. We had some crazy cold days, but nothing like winters of past. I don’t have to go out a lot, but when I do, it’s nice that the wind isn’t stabbing my face. It’s also nice that I finally own Uggs, and that they feel like warm, fuzzy clouds on my feet.

It's all about that #ugg life.

No excuse really for me not updating here, except that there’s not a whole lot going on. I did go through that extreme exhaustion phase I go through every January, except this year it lasted clear through to almost the end of February. I’ve also been craving and eating meatballs like crazy. I am not sure if the two are related or not.

I’ve been working, writing, playing games on my phone and facebook, listening to music, sleeping, and watching Netflix. I visited my mom at the end of February, and brought almost all of the laundry that I hadn’t done since the last time I visited her in September. I KNOW. Sometimes I fail at #adulting. But now I have a lot of clean clothes and I vow to never go six months without doing laundry again.

(For the record, I’ve said this in the past so take that vow with a grain of salt.)

Visiting Mommy was nice. She’s doing well. We watched The Oscars (finally, Leo, dang), hung out with cousins and aunts, Aidan was there (!), and I got to eat good food. Corky & Lenny’s, Bob Evans, and Mommy made me Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, and corn. Mmmmmm. So yummy. Her kitty cat is so sweet, and visiting Marc’s always makes me happy because yay for snacks I can’t get in Chicago and cheap spaghetti noodles and Tahitian Treat.

It was a nice visit.

On the writing front, I’ve been revising my novel, talking to lots of writerly people, making friends, and well, I’m getting there. In December, I got the news that I’d been accepted into the Writing in the Margins mentorship program. Super exciting. I got my mentor introduction in January and you guys, I adore her. She’s been amazing. It blows my mind that this super successful author is willing to take time to read my novel and work with me to make it the best it can be. I am so lucky and hope one day I can pay it forward. She says 1–2 revisions or so should do it with this novel. It’s crazy that it’s finally nearly done. I definitely did not work this hard on ONLY YOURS, but then again, ONLY YOURS never sold. Or maybe I did work so hard but I just don’t remember. That’s a huge possibility, now that I think about it.

So, I’m dealing with a lot of FEELS in regards to this. I don’t know if I want to go into them here because I need to process them in my own safe space first. Luckily, I have plenty of notebooks and journals such things.

Wanda made me a hat!

Don't ask. It's better that way. 😜

Isn’t it pretty? I get a lot of compliments on it and I wear it everywhere. (The hat, not the face I’m making!) Ha ha. :)

This year, I’m making a point to support #ownvoices YA authors, especially authors of color. I thought I could put a limit on the works by mainstream authors that I purchase this year, but well LOL NOPE. Aidan gave me a booklist last weekend and a bunch of them were Dan Brown books. I’m never going to begrudge my child books, so I got him three. And there are some books in series that I already have pre-ordered. But here’s the thing. Buying #ownvoices books by authors of color has been remarkably easy on my budget so far. Not okay. I’m not even going to get started now but I have a lot of feels about that subject too.

*takes deep breath*

So much stuff in the works over here. It’s a bit overwhelming, to be honest. But let’s think about it. When am I not overwhelmed?

Till next time.

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