For a long time now, I’ve been itching to visit Seguin Island (pronounced Sae-gin), a rocky blip off the coast of Bath, Maine, about 3 miles out to sea. Last week, we finally went. A thirty-minute ferry ride from Fort Baldwin will take you to this tiny island. There’s really nothing to the place. It has a lighthouse on it. It’s a nice lighthouse. We didn’t visit it. We walked the trails, which is a quick thing to do, but when you stand on the southern end of this little island, the only thing you see is the Atlantic and the curve of the Earth. You feel like you’re on the edge of the world.
Seguin hasn’t changed since colonists arrived. And those folks didn’t do much to it for the brief time they were there, so when you walk the rocky shoreline, you walk someplace not messed up by people. An overlooked place. An isolated place. Writing is an isolating endeavor. The longer I live this writers life, the more I seek out the overlooked, lost things in this world. They make me feel things out of the everyday set. They make me just a little bit better at what I do when I sit down to write. I looked at the other people on our tiny ferry and couldn’t help but wonder what brought them there. I know what brought me.
This poor blog has been neglected this year. But 2015 hasn’t been kind to this writer. Last year this time, I was celebrating. I had just sold my debut novel. I was staring in wonder and bliss at my deal announcement in Publisher’s Weekly. I was gearing up for my first phone chat with my editor. “My” editor. The sound of that is just lovely. I was ecstatic. Jubilant. All the words there are for happiness. The remembering is painful, because I sold to Egmont USA, and anyone who’s involved with publishing teen fiction knows they closed down early 2015. Contract void. No book, no debut. Sorry about all those dreams come true; have fun back at square one!
“You’ll see: This will all work out for the best.” Continue reading Hard things and good days
I heard a poem on the radio about a man with a wife who noticed him as a stranger. It was simple and raw and it didn’t rhyme, but it made me think of you, who I notice as many things.
You and me, who change like rocks beneath a river.
You and me who don’t rhyme, but flow together,
Converging, diverging, running parallel.
Always a pair.
I got this catalog in the mail a few days ago. I thought I read the title wrong. It seems cruel or a total joke to put, “Gear up for the best school year ever,” on the cover, followed by a reference to lunch bags and backpacks. I mean, kids aren’t even out of school yet. For those of us living in northern states, we just got leaves on the trees. We are NOT thinking about fall. Seriously, people.
I told my husband, loudly, how stupid it is to pimp back to school stuff in mid June. But I’m a big fat hypocrite. I am. I’m constantly anticipating, projecting possible outcomes. Now, if you are a writer working toward traditional publication (like me), patience is essential. If you don’t have it, you must acquire it somehow––steal some from a zen person, grow it in a jar, whatever––because there is a lot of waiting. Waiting to hear from agents. Waiting to hear from critique partners and beta readers. Waiting to hear from editors, and then, if you are very fortunate, waiting for your finished book to be released.
That said, I possess zero natural patience. I appear to have some (in an effort to be professional and not crazy), but it’s all show. My internal dialogue is that irritating kid in the backseat chanting, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Nobody wants to hear that. Least of all, me. We’re supposed to enjoy the journey, be in the present. All easy––and excellent––advice to give, but living it is another thing entirely. Mindfulness is an elusive state for many. Elusive, but worth chasing. And I am chasing it. Really. Or I will, right after I order this cute monogrammed lunch bag for my daughter. September is only two months away, after all 🙂
On a Saturday morning, this happened:
I watched my husband start to order the clothes back on, but then he just closed his mouth with a sigh and a smile. We stood there, watching our two-year-old run with gorgeous, giggling abandon through the grass and smothering pangs of longing to do the same thing––to dip back to the days when streaking across the yard would have earned us amused smiles, rather than a visit from the sheriff and a lecture on common decency. Oh, to be free and unselfconscious and joyous. Eventually, the diaper came off too, to be hung amongst the yellow flowers of the forsythia bush (in photo at left) and my daughter transformed into full-fledged wood nymph, complete with trailing flowers and muddy feet and shrieks of pure joy. It was beautiful to observe and a poignant reminder how magical these early days of warmth are. Plants crack through the soil, the ends of branches swell red with tightly curled leaves. It’s all proof that no matter how formidable winter can be, a new season is right around the corner, ready to fill the days with warmth and wake up all the sleeping things.
I didn’t say anything when my nearly two-year-old daughter dipped her cheese pizza in strawberry-banana yogurt and ate it. I stopped myself, and the horrified expression cued up on my face. It really did look disgusting. The yogurt was supposed to be dessert, by the way. The kid must have thought it was okay, because she kept eating the stuff. In the end, her hands coated in yogurt and pizza sauce, and she seemed to think that was okay because she licked her fingers. I just tried not to look too much. You should be thankful I didn’t post a photo of it. This is much more palatable:
But who am I to judge? I treat sugar and salt like their own food groups and drink honey straight out of the bear. But that’s perfectly normal. I once knew an adult person who dipped french fries in ice cream. For realz. I witnessed this act of heresy with my own two eyes. Didn’t say anything, of course.
I’d like to think I’ll always know when to intervene (or not) with my daughter’s choices. I’d like to think I won’t butt in and try to “help” her in life when she needs to work shit out on her own. I probably won’t. I’m not that wise. And I’m way too interested in her. But today, I patted myself on the back for letting the kid eat her nasty lunch without so much as a curled lip. It’s a victory, and I’ll take it. Even the little ones count.
(This post also appeared in my tumblr)
This is what happened. My agent sent me the list of editors we’re subbing my book to. My sweaty fingers made smudgy marks on my computer monitor as I read each editor’s name. Over and Over. Amazing names. I’ve seen them in acknowledgment pages and on blogs and on panels. What I would give, to work with any one of them. What I would give to see this burning goal of holding my beautiful book in my hands.
I don’t like to blog about writing, because there are so very many blogs about writing that do it better than I ever could, but I’m stealing a term from commercial fiction for this post: the black moment. It’s when it appears that all is lost. It’s the moment of true despair for the hero or heroine. It also marks the turning of the tide. The change of fortune from bad to good. I’m not implying that my present moment is black. Far from it. In the past year, I’ve been a finalist in several prestigious contests, secured an amazing agent and written a new book that I’m proud of. I’m enjoying this journey. The highs have blown my mind. The lows have taught me that I’m made of sturdier stuff than I thought.
But I am ready for that turn of the tide. The shift that will turn me from aspiring writer to published author. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I hope this is my black moment. I’d be okay with that.
This is possibly the worst poem I have ever written, but it is heartfelt. When giving in to the inevitable realities of “responsible parenthood,” don’t begrudge yourself a moment to mourn the passing of your carefree days.
Ode to a coffee table
Oh, sturdy coffee table of the living room,
from upon your surface, many meals have been consumed.
You’re the first one I bought––I still have your receipt,
indeed, the first table, I did not pick up off the street.
Through the years you’ve cradled my junk mail and slop,
piled so thick, I ne’er saw your top!
Faithful, you’ve been with my tea and my bread,
but lo! There’s a baby who keeps whacking her head.
Your corners and edges are simply too sharp,
and her cries when she bumps you are breaking our hearts.
So alas! With regret, you’ll be going away,
down to the basement, for a dark, lengthy stay.
But fear not, loyal table, for one day you’ll be back!
To hold up our cups, our remotes, our knick-knacks.