2018 Writing Update
Lately, I’ve been getting more inquires via social media about when to expect my next novel. The answer is a little longer than 280 characters, so I thought it best to do a quick blog about it.
First off, thank you so much for reading Learning Not to Drown. A lot of heart and my own emotional journey went into that book, and I am grateful for every reader. I am especially honored that for some of you the book had a significant impact, and I appreciate every single person that has reached out to tell me so.
Now, on to what is happening with my writing.
Since 2014, I had been working on another novel. I had attempted several approaches: it was realistic fiction, then a re-telling of a fairy tale, then its own fairy tale, then that fairy tale within realistic fiction. I showed a few drafts to my agent, Jennie, then revised those several times. In summer of last year, I showed a portion of my most recent draft with an outline to Jennie. When the most recent round of feedback came back, I tried to fix it. But, I was miserable. My heart wasn’t in it, in fact, my heart hadn’t been committed to that manuscript for a while. I didn’t want to revise it again in that moment. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to revise it ever. I had nine drafts and over 500 pages of words, and I wasn’t satisfied (UGH). Part of the problem was too much story, too many characters. Part of the problem was the topic was too emotionally close. It made sense career wise to follow up Learning Not to Drown with something realistic and gritty, but looking back, I don’t think it made sense art-wise, or emotional-health-wise.
I seriously considered all of my options for that novel. On July 17, I made the decision to put it away, at least for a considerable chunk of time. Maybe six months, maybe a year. Maybe more. Maybe forever. I was disappointed in myself for not being able to tackle it, finish it, make it something to be proud of. But when I made the decision final with an email to Jennie, I immediately knew it was right to put it down.
Three days later, Chester died. Since then, my ability to concentrate has been extremely limited. Even reading anything longer than a few pages is hard to follow, and often I flip back to re-read. Writing or revising a novel would be impossible. I was relieved I had already made the decision to put away that manuscript; that the stress of finishing it wasn’t present during the stress of everything else.
Writing has returned to being an emotional outlet for me. In my purse I carry a small notebook and my favorite pen, along with a sketch pad and a set of pencils. My thoughts come out in small bursts. Emotions and words that are swirling find a better place on paper than circulating in my head. I’ve never considered myself a poet, but I’ve always turned to writing poetry in times of great emotional upheaval. Some of those poems I’ve shared on Instagram. Others sit in the notebook, maybe with their purpose already served; maybe there is something more to do with them. I’m not sure.
The brain fog of grief had just started to lift. Then my mom passed away in November. It came back. Not as thick: death is different when it is caused by old age and is somewhat expected. I know that time will lift it, but for now small projects-or larger projects in smaller chunks- are doable and rewarding.
I have been working on a few manuscripts for much younger readers (for the little ones, ages 4-7. The publishing industry classifies them as picture books since the story is told both with illustrations and words). They are full of joy, and more importantly, to work on them fills me with joy. Bonus: Jennie feels that one of them is ready and has promise. Fingers crossed that she will find a home for it with a publisher.
I have an idea for a different novel, some days I work for a bit on that.
Some of my writing is about mental health. Some of it will be for 320 Changes Direction. I have been asked to speak a few times this year with Talinda and our amazing friend (and LP’s production manager) Jim Digby. Although I have my degree in communication studies and once thought I’d like to become a speech writer, I never imagined speaking about myself and mental health – fictionalizing my emotions was always so much safer and more comfortable. Bravery can come out of heartache.
I feel like there are a lot of projects in front of me, but somehow it’s not as overwhelming as trying to finish that one monster manuscript.
The over 500 pages worth of manuscript continues to sleep. My poetry notebook continues to fill. The new novel is starting to take shape, and my picture books have made me fall back in love with words. Not all of it is written with the intent to publish, but sometimes the best words are those written solely for the writer. Words that later come into the world because they are right and true.