Our Last Night Together as Frogs

I just watched THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, which I was totally charmed by--especially how, as a 25 year old weaned on the Disney Princess stories, it definitely progressed from them and moved forward, acknowledging the importance of hard work and the balance of work/love.

But it's not what I want to talk about, just why I titled the post that.  Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about sustainability.  I mean, yes, I care about the environment, recycle my bottles, turn off the water, blah blah blah, but I'm really concerned with sustainability in our everyday lives.  I just started this new job where I'm working overnights, and my first thought when I took the job was:  "This job sounds amazing.  But how long can I work overnights without going crazy?"

And then it kind of resonated with me.  It's something that I've been thinking about in my writing, too:  how long can I keep up this pace?  This drive?  Would getting published change anything about that? This is more of a serious question than aimless conjecture, because other than a few excursions in writing something just to be writing, I really haven't started anything solid since I wrapped Scarlet four months ago.  Four months without a serious project for me is like four months without a meal for me.  And I like me some food.

I'm of two minds about it.  For the first time in my life, I really trust my own creativity enough to know it will come when it wants to come, and when it does, there's not a hell of a lot I can do to stop it.  But at the same time, it makes me wonder.  How long will the off switch last?  How often will this happen in the future?  What would I ever do with myself if I were to stop writing?

And is this a sign that I should somehow be trying harder?  Working harder?  I don't know.  I just can't risk--or face--the idea of my writing being nonsustaining.

And what about jobs?  I guess the question with both things is when you face something that's faltering or not sustaining, do you let it run its natural course or do you fight like hell?

Novels and Hopes

Okay, so I've been thinking more about getting my hopes up--thanks for the support Miss Ming!--and about writing, and how the two play into each other.

I'm in the middle (and trying, trying to draw it out) of CONSPIRACY OF KINGS by Megan Whalen Turner.  Now, MWT is an absolute master of twisty plots--Eugenides, one of her main characters, is a master of sleight of hand, and the whole novel becomes something like an elaborate hoax on the reader.  Which I LOVE, of course.

So I'm in the middle of a particularly rough part where I feel like the main character is about to get royally screwed over (literally, actually), and there's this whine that is coming into my head like a devil on my shoulder:  "come on, read faster, you KNOW it all works out in the end."

And THERE's the rub.  I mean, on the one hand, I'm a writer and a total optimist for my characters.  I'm going to put them through utter hell and torture (and that's literally in the case of Scarlet--not the hell, but definitely the torture) but dammit, they are going to get their well deserved happily ever after.

In the young adult world, if you put up with total crap with pluck and a smile, you'll earn yourself a happy ending.  If you cave, you're probably going to end up in an unhappy marriage or as a scullery maid or something.

Not that some scullery maids don't go on to be happily ended heroines.  Because they do.  Check out THE LITTLE PRINCESS for reference.

But then again, the happy ending and triumph of that happy ending only works out because both the reader and the character believe it's never going to happen.

So should I go with authorial instincts and convince myself that it's going to work out in the end, no matter what obstacles I face?

Or should I go with reader and character instincts and get so deeply engrossed in the moment that I can't even fathom how it's going to work out--leaving me shocked or shattered depending on how it all unfolds?

Well, I'll be honest, I'm more of a throes-of-the-moment kind of girl, mostly because it comes with highly saturated emotion, drama, and the occasional bout of total mope-age.  I love a good mope.

So....that resolves nothing.


Getting My Hopes Up

All my life, time and time again, I've gotten the impression that getting my hopes up isn't a good thing.  I mean, on the one hand, I want to say that I'm a bubbly, uberoptimistic kind of girl, and I am.  But I also believe that the universe is bigger than me, and has a crazy plan, and I'm positive there is a plan beneath all the madness.

So, either the universe thinks I'm a complete jackass and that all my plans are meant to be undone, or getting your hopes up is the surest way to see that the complete opposite happens.

But how can that work?  I mean, surely there are things that we want that we can actually achieve, right? Or more specifically, I would really appreciate it if there are things that I want that I can get.  I do get my hopes up!  Hope against hope, wish against wish, I always get my hopes up, and I just can't quit it.

But everytime, I also worry that it's instantly sabotaging myself.

Think of it like the Anti-Secret.  You attract whatever you don't expect and can't possibly see coming.  I mean, the troublesome thing is that part of me LOVES THAT.  It's the stuff you never see coming that feels magical, incredible, enlightening and thrilling.  It's that part that makes me feel like there is this universal plan, and I'm part of it and protected by it, that I make foolish or shortsighted plans for myself and eventually, I'm delighted to be proved wrong.

But somethings you just never want to pass you by.  I want to be published, and I want to be published in a big way.  I'm willing to wait for it, I've BEEN waiting for it, but I want to be a career novelist, and I want stupid things, like a decently working car that has been manufactured sometime less than the past thirteen years, like some steady money, like more things that I don't want to admit I want because, well, that would be getting my hopes up.


Is this crazy?  I feel a little crazy and superstitious sometimes, and a little overly concerned that my tiny little thought might effect my life in an overblown way.  So let's put it this way: this post is missing everything I don't dare to hope for.

One (small) Dream Comes True

Okay, so it's not The Big Dream--or really, the First Phase of the Big Dream--that's come true, but rather a Smaller Dream that I've mentioned here on the blog before: I'm getting published in a magazine!  It's only a small article about baking soda appearing in Dollar Stretcher Magazine, but yay!  I'm getting into magazines, which was what I wanted to do for a while now.  I don't know at this point (I just got a full time job!) how much freelance writing I'll be doing in the next couple months, but I'm psyched that I have a magazine credit to my name.


I definitely think that the universe likes to chuckle at my plans.  Just when I'm in a position to get OUT of freelance writing is when I've had the success I've really been waiting for.  Still, I'm pretty excited to move into a full time job and just be set for a while, not scrounge to pay bills and really stress about finding work and keeping work and all this craziness.  I want steady and I want security--well, at least for now!  I'm enough of a water sign to know that very little in this life is really secure, but you just have to ride the tide and see where it bears you.

Here's to riding the tide.  ;-)

Writing, Workshops and Gender

It's about time women ruled the roost!

Okay, as a light feminist and a attendee of two all girls schools, I'm generally pretty concerned with how women are represented.  One of my favorite bones to pick is how women all like to complain that we don't get the opportunities men do, but we also tend to tear each other down instead of wildly promoting each other (a la old boys clubs).

This weekend, however, I noticed something almost counter intuitive, and I want to muse.  So, in the children's writing field, the following are true:

1.  Agent blogs I read comment that the vast majority of queries are from women.  Kristin Nelson went so far as to say that men's queries get more attention because they stand out, and that statistically speaking, there are less men looking for representation.

2.  Statistically, in children's lit, men win WAY more awards than women.

3.  At conferences and retreats I've been to, the ratio is roughly 25:1 female:male.

What conclusions can we draw from this?  The immediate thought that comes to mind after reading #1 and #3 is that men must not write as much children's fiction as women do, but obviously #2 invalidates that.  Men are in the game in a big, big way.

What else?  Perhaps that women are more social creatures, more likely to gather at events than to write as solitary figures.  This would surely explain #3, but not so much #1.  #1 has nothing to do with the social nature of women and still represents a great divide.

Worryingly, I've developed another theory. Women in these conferences and retreats are unbelievably supportive, in a way that I've never known women to be, especially not at Mount Holyoke, where women were cutthroat, knowing that there was a limited number of spaces for their success in the world, and cutting down your competitor meant drawing closer to your goal.

This made me think of that cutthroat instinct.  It's not there in children's writing, and while I think that's partially because there's a sense of kindred fun and imagination that isn't conducive to backstabbing in children's lit, I think it does suggest something else as well that intersected with another thought at the retreat:

I don't think women take writing seriously.

I'm not kidding, either.  A huge theme of the weekend was how ragged we get because people are always knocking writers down; "you should be watching the kids", or "that's not a real career".   We seek validation from many different sources, and when it's not offered, we're devastated.  I think that's because secretly, we don't validate ourselves.  You only need validation and permission if you don't feel those things innately within yourself.

I think men and especially male writers trust themselves.  They trust their calling, their vocation, their career.

Women don't.

It's like antiempowerment!  Women are finding their voice only to lose their power and confidence.  What the hell is that?  For a long time I've thought that women need to spend more time writing so they can trust that inner voice and learn to develop what they want into what they need. But obviously this is only half the problem, and frankly, I don't know how to validate women.  I feel pretty validated--a little stagnant at the moment, because it just takes a while to get this tough career started, but I have always felt sure and serious that I will make a career of writing.  I will make my passion my business. Period.

So what's standing in the way, ladies?  What can we do?  What do we need to give ourselves permission to chase our dreams?