Wednesday, November 30, 2016

In This For the Long Haul

I've been running two kinds of races in November. In a way, both of them are against time, so I will eventually lose, but I'm still going anyway. I'm stubborn like that.

The first one is a writing race: to complete my revise and resubmit by November 30th. That's been an emotional ride that ought to have a soundtrack like Rocky.

  • First, there's the part where the hero (that's me!) feels defeated and wounded after receiving the request for a revise and resubmit instead of a new contract. We're not sure she can come back from this. It's a punch to the gut and she feels sick. 
  • Second, there's the part with a mentors who helps her find her inner fire and fight again (thanks, writing community!).  Lots of commiseration and advice. Lots of good listeners. Lots of people helping me see the actionable items in the comments and make a plan. Helping me see this as an opportunity instead of a failure. 
  • Third, there's the work itself, a montage of typing furiously, deleting furiously, banging my head against a wall, pulling my hair, staring into space not seeming to do anything at all, typing furiously again, drinking tea, nodding and laughing, drawing maps and timelines, rubbing my wrists and flexing my fingers, making lists, printing things out and marking them up in highlights and red pen. (good luck, film-makers, making that active enough to be visually interesting: it's actually a lot of butt in chair time).
  • Finally, there's the sending of the email, and the waiting to see if I made muster or not. (We're hoping this one ends with my hand tugged into the air, and someone waving a new contract; but if not, we'll just film a sequel. We're not quitters around here). 

Obviously, that's all very stressful.

So, at the same time I took on a new exercise program. I'm trying the couch to 5K. I should preface that by saying that I hate running. It's not my idea of fun at all. Unfortunately, that's true of most forms of exercise…and that's taking a toll on my body. Besides feeling like a tubby lunchbox most of the time, I'm also worried about my energy, my joints, and my longevity on this planet. So, it was time to take action. I'm going to need a lot of years to get done everything I want.

Running has the advantage of not requiring a particular location or much in the way of gear. I also know a lot of chubby women who've become less so by doing a program like this one. I downloaded one of the gazillion apps out there that will "ding" at you and tell when to switch from running to walking and such and set out.

I just finished my 10th run as I write this. It was two miles long in 28 minutes. 2.5 minutes running to .5 minutes walking. It was awful. I failed in that I walked through the last running segment. I still don't like running. But there are some advantages I'm finding.

  • Guaranteed "me" time. When I say I'm going for a run, everyone else in the house nods and waves. No one (except the dog) wants to go with me, so it gives me a half hour completely to myself, three times a week. That's really rare in the stage of life I'm in right now, with a day job involving 135 children a day, two kids of my own, a husband, writing group, book clubs, stuff for the kiddos, the occasional date or social gathering, and a dog. It's guilt-free me time, too, because I'm doing something generally regarded as a healthy and wise choice.
  • The healing power of trees. O'Neill and I have been going down to the Speedway for our runs. That's an old race track here in Hillsborough, NC. It's a wide, flat, measured path surrounded by woods. It does my heart immeasurable good in the metaphorical as well as physical sense to run in such a peaceful place, surrounded by the sounds of wind in the trees and the view of light shining through fall-colored leaves. 
  • My happy dog. O'Neill is a rescue dog. An Australian shepherd, which dog-lovers know is a high strung breed. That makes him a nervous Nelly to say the least. He loves us very much, but in some ways, we're not the right family for him. He could really benefit from a lot more physical activity than living with us usually gives him. Taking O'Neill with me, besides removing any safety anxieties I have, keeps me going even when I'm chanting "I hate this" with every step. His joy is an inspiration. Today, he ran out ahead of me, then came back and licked my knee just to say, "Isn't this awesome, Mom? Thank you for taking me!"
  • The quiet. Thinking time is so essential for writing. I don't listen to music or books when I run. At first this was because I was frustrated by trying to keep headphones in my ears while I bounce awkwardly down the path. But now, it's because I get some good plotting, planning, and thinking done while I run. I plan the fight scenes, imagine dialogue, or just drift and find strange inspiration I wasn't expecting. 
So, yeah. This is terrible (both running and writing). But I'm going to keep going anyway. Because it's also wonderful. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving at la casa Bryant

A traditional Thanksgiving is a lot of work. (I know: #firstworldproblems) Even in families that divide the cooking and hosting labor, there are still many many tasks on that to-do list to do it up "right." We don't live near our extended families, so that's not possible for us.

As much as I love Thanksgiving foods and having a lovely meal with my loved ones, I don't love the work. Especially not at the end of November, when middle school teachers like me feel like they might drown in the to-do list at school, if the drama doesn't kill us first.

It definitely doesn't feel like a holiday to me to take the primary cook (me) and make her cook more. So, a few years ago, when I was overextended and making myself crazy, we agreed to take it down a notch. We order Thanksgiving from Weaver Street Market. The food is good. It's still beautiful and festive, but the time and stress is cut in half or maybe even less. I've never regretted that decision (and if my family does, they are kind enough not to say so).

Now, when I sit down at the table, I don't fall asleep in the mashed potatoes. Instead, I have energy for making hand turkeys with the kids (yes, we make the teenager do it, too), and watching really cheesy fun movies and playing board games. I get to jump in the leaf piles because I'm not hovering over something delicate in the kitchen.

That's some giving (in the give and take sense) and I am thankful yet again for my family. May this holiday (if you celebrate) bring you joy and relaxation as well as yummy treats.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Nostalgia Nights: Rewatching Buffy

When my daughter was but a wee thing, and I was in recovery from a yucky medical experience, we watched the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series together. M was an unusually fierce child, and unfazed by monster makeup (only one monster on it ever scared little her: The Queller Demon). She loved that the main character was a pretty girl who kicked serious butt. She even had a special credits dance that involved a lot of arm flailing and acrobatic leaping. Luckily for her, I do not have video of that dance, but it lives in my memory with all my most joyous visions.

We've been re-watching the series this fall, now that she's all but grown (college in on our near horizon now). In the intervening years, we've watched an episode here and there and memorized the soundtrack to the musical episode, but we've never watched it all again. It's a double nostalgia treat for me, remembering and enjoying again both the series itself and the girls' night bonding of watching it with my girl. We're in Season 2 currently, and plan to watch the whole thing again.

Stuff we love this go round:

  • Whedon dialogue. We're especially enjoying all the random musing on words. We're word nerds ourselves, so we also wonder why you can't be gruntled, but you can be disgruntled or if sore thumbs really stick out or why it's the "whole nine yards." Nine yards of what?

  • Oz. He's our geeky, fully self-actualized dreamboat. Watching the romance build up with Willow is even better when you already know it's coming. "Who is that girl?" (It's also kind of worse when you already know what's coming after that). 
  • The Music: when the show was on, I didn't know most of this music, but now half the songs being played at the Bronze are songs I can sing along with. 
  • Cordelia. She's a fuller and more interesting character from the get-go than I previously gave her credit for (even in previous watchings of the show). She doesn't put her head in the sand and pretend there are no monsters. Like any good rich girl, she wants a professional to take care of it for her. Like any independent woman, she also wants to supervise, and might even help sometimes. 
  • The clothes. Especially Willow's. 
  • Giles. The reveal in season 2 of his history as "Ripper." What a great build and unexpected treat that was!
  • The monsters. The insect woman, the bug man, the cowboy Vampire brothers, Ted, Spike and Dru, the Incan Mummy girl, the big tentacled thing with the egg babies . . .and I remember there are still more to come!
Any other Buffy fans out there? What do you love about it? 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

If Wishes Were Horses

I've been doing a lot of wishing here lately. It's something I do when I'm frustrated or worried, and there's been plenty of that to go around in 2016. So, rather than kvetching about what I'm worried and frustrated about, I'll talk about what I wish (though my wishes probably reveal my worries).
  • I wish they'd find a real cure for cancer. Not just treatment options that leave you sicker than the sickness itself, if you're lucky. 
  • I wish our education system was tenable, sustainable, and adequately funded. 
  • I wish I could vote FOR someone, instead of always just voting AGAINST the option that scare me most.
  • I wish empathy was more common. 
  • I wish I could afford to give up my day job to pursue my dreams. 
  • I wish I could let my husband give up his day job to pursue his dreams. 
  • I wish college wasn't going to bankrupt our family here in a couple more years. 
  • I wish weight loss was a simple straightforward process instead of a minefield full of sinkholes and traps. 
  • I wish cars didn't break down and have to be replaced.
  • I wish for a miracle discovery success story that bankrolls my life from here on out.
  • I wish I could afford to travel again.
  • I wish the universe would smile kindly on those I love instead of ripping the rug out from beneath them as it so often seems to do.
  • I wish "mean girls" was just a movie title. 
  • I would wish for time . . .but I'm superstitious about doing that. 
As I come to the end of 2016, I realize that it was a rough year on many fronts. But I also realize I've had a lot to be grateful for. So, November is all about finding my heart of gratitude again. 
Going Through the Change is on sale today: the Kindle edition is 99¢. If you've read and enjoyed it, please spread the word. If you've been meaning to have a look, here's your chance to do so at low financial risk. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

#IWSG: When R&R Doesn't Stand for Rest and Relaxation

Ah! I'm late posting today . . . which is maybe a sign of how much I need this group today, because I'm more than a little overwhelmed in my writing life. You see, I've got an R&R.

If you've not suffered this particular sling or arrow of outrageous fortune, let me explain. R&R, unfortunately, does not stand for "rest and relaxation." Instead, it is a "revise and resubmit." In short, you sent your book baby out there, thinking it was ready to go, and the publisher disagrees. Not enough to reject it; just enough to say: please take this back and make it better and try again.

For me, at least, it was a heartbreaker. I'd busted my bunions to get this book (the third of the Menopausal Superheroes series) in by the deadline I needed to meet to keep a 2017 release date. Since my heart was broken, I've been avoiding thinking about it for a few weeks, using the excuse of other writing deadlines to let it sit for a bit. But those deadlines all passed as of yesterday, and I'm out of procrastination excuses without getting really silly about it. Plus, if I don't start I won't finish by the NEW deadline (November 30).

The good thing, though, about those few weeks of knowing I had to do this but not doing anything about it yet, was that the sting has worn off a bit. Yesterday, I sat down with the beta comments and could read them more objectively, and look at how they might be right, instead of shaking my tiny fist at the heavens and swearing that it can't be so.

In the end, I know the book will be much better for this revision. It's just painful right now, trying to find the right road to get there, and on a short schedule. Probably, I should be thanking my publisher for not taking work that isn't really ready and pushing me to do my very best, even if it takes longer. I don't think I'm quite ready to break out the monogrammed stationery just yet though; there's still a lot of work to do and stress to chew through before then. 

I am grateful though, for their willingness to work with and keep my release date. I was trying to work faster than I ever have before, and, in my heart, I do know that the book needs something. In fact, I'm pretty sure I know what it needs, so that's a good place to be in. 

How about you, writing friends? How do you move through the stages of grief when your work is criticized and get to the revision frame of mind? How long do you stay stuck in "denial"? 


If you're not already following #IWSG (Insecure Writer's Support Group), you should really check it out. The monthly blog hop is a panoply of insight into the writing life at all stages of hobby and career. Search the hashtag in your favorite social media venue and you'll find something interesting on the first Wednesday of every month.

The monthly question for November was: What's your favorite aspect of being a writer?

For me, it's connecting with readers. When you hear (via a review, or an email, or a conversation) that someone read your book and really "got"it--saw in it all you'd intended--that's the best feeling in the world. That's when you know that you succeeded in realizing your vision.