I was fourteen when I sent out my first query letters. There’s a photo of the moment floating around on some hard drive somewhere: me at the UPS store in Rancho Santa Margarita, holding the stiff envelopes addressed for various literary agents in New York. I probably look annoyed, a forced smile, posing to appease my mom. I’ve always felt shy about this process–afraid to share the good or admit the bad. Even now, it feels weird to explain.
I’ll hyperlink to past entries in an attempt to make sense of what I’ve said here previously, in an attempt to connect the tangents of the last four years.
Anyway. Every agent I queried that round said no.
And every round after, too.
No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
(This, I guess, inspired me to write my personal statement for my grad school apps on how I THRIVE on noes–which was extraordinarily cheesy but finally landed me a Yes.)
Fifteen years old, I revised. I tried again. No and no and no. I revised some more. I tried again. A full request. A no. I edited and tweaked and turned sixteen and left high school. I wrote another book, finished it at seventeen while living in Berkeley. A double request followed. An almost yes, a summer of edits with an agent, an ultimate confusing no. I revised again and turned eighteen and moved to Colorado. A partial request. A no. I wrote some more, aside from two revisions on my second book, always working on that first manuscript. Nineteen, living in Humboldt County, I rewrote the beginning. A fire, a wildfire, but I let it die too fast.
I moved back to Colorado Springs to attend Colorado College. My focus was on school, not writing. The book was in the drawer. But then, my first summer after CC, I had a sinus surgery and rewrote it from word zero during my month on the couch. I was lazy. I followed the same plot and fell into the same holes. I went back to school. A writing conference that next summer. A full request I was hush about. I spent June and July and August revising like a fool for that request–switching from past tense to present, digging deeper but not deep enough. I knew this even when I clicked send. I was wrung out. I started my senior year at Colorado College and had some moving/Faulkner/flood panic attacks and wrote some weird short stories for workshop and drove around town alone when it all felt like too much.
Another no. This one felt big. A big no. It also felt inevitable. I blogged about it and then shook it off. I went back to writing. It was thesis season. This was last year. I thought I’d write my third book. I was ready to put my eight-year mess aside. But then the fire came. Ideas on ideas on ideas on how I could fix my old story. An understanding of the story, the REAL story. By December, I was in mad dash of rewriting. Real rewriting. Not following the same plot, the same scenes, but dealing with something almost entirely new. The fire from Humboldt County chasing me through all of the winter and spring.
I “finished” the draft and submitted the thing to my professor. It was my senior thesis. Fresh work. A new book inspired from the bones of that book I started when I was thirteen. I graduated and moved home and spent the summer rewriting the end, because I knew the end was limp. I cut the last ten-thousand words. Started in again. My goal was to finish and query before the end of August, before I moved to Alaska for grad school. I did, within a day of my deadline.
And then I didn’t move to Alaska, so I had time. I submitted the manuscript to Pitch Wars and made it in (!) and spent September and October gently revising under the nurturing guidance of Rachel Lynn Solomon. I was her alternate. And then the showcase happened. Requests! What! Within a single weekend, an agent read the book, and a phone call was scheduled. I read that email on my phone while on the drive home from San Jose with my parents. It was late and we were somewhere in Central CA. My dad insisted we stop for sugar. Starbucks was the first place we saw. They made me pose for photos. I couldn’t stop smiling and messing with my hair and it was weird and, I swear, my dad and I weren’t intentionally matching.
Then, a few days later, the call. The Call. An offer. Shock. I’m still in shock. It still doesn’t feel real.
Two weeks followed. More offers–from the Pitch Wars requests and the queries I’d sent out after the contest. On air. I was on fucking air. It’s the weirdest feeling: being wanted, hearing good things said about your book, speaking with people who believe in the story. It was the spin of all spins. I cried over the decision, but, somehow, I knew who I’d sign with early on: the agent who would challenge me the most, cultivate not just this book but my career, who gave me chills during our first call.
I accepted an offer of representation from Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency in the backseat of my mom’s car, parked in front of the UPS store where I sent out my first queries at fourteen. This–the circularity–was not intentional, wasn’t something I realized until days after, but I love it. Ending the query trudge where it began.
It still doesn’t feel real. My having an agent. Sarah Davies being my agent. Finally (FINALLY) making it over this hurdle. I’ve been jumping at it for almost nine years. And it feels so good. It feels right.
I don’t have the exact number of queries I sent out or rejections I received between now and when I was fourteen (somewhere around a hundred). I lost count of the revisions (the lame attempts and painfully thorough) and the endless editing rounds and the critiques from friends and the cut chapters and the versions of the manuscript lost to laptop crashes. But I don’t think those numbers matter. Albeit some extended breaks for the sake of sanity and education, I simply didn’t stop writing. That’s how I’m here. I wrote and I rewrote even more and, you know, I’m so happy it played out the way it did.
I’m so, so happy.
So much is happening, and it’s weird to be exposed, to share this, to not be so ambiguous. It’s weird that my mom shared this news on Facebook before I had the chance to even shoot out a tweet and people I’ve never met know. And gosh gosh gosh I’m happy and also scared and nervous and thrilled to see what happens next. A succession of THINGS. This. The past month. This whole autumn. And what waits. Revisions with Sarah. Hopefully kicking Lyme disease in the ass. Moving to Alaska. New friends, new important people in my life. In some ways, a new life (with the same head, same me). Grad school and teaching (?!). Going out on submission (!!!!). Writing a second (well, technically, third/fourth) book sometime SOON.
What then? WHAT THEN! What is happening?
I do not know, but I like it.
Last week, I left Southern California for the first time since I flew to Alaska in August.
Truth: I wasn’t supposed to go on this trip. My parents were going to visit my older sister and I invited myself along because I was desperate to leave. Speeding up the 5, we passed a small fire in the brown Santa Clarita hills. And, you know, after writing about a wildfire all autumn and declaring my revision done only the week before, I considered this–the obviously contained fire–a sign. A good sign for the book. Is that dumb?
And it kind of totally was a good sign. I think so. We’ll see. I’ll let you know.
So last week, I reunited with my two sisters, because my Chico-living little sister invited herself too. A mini reuniting before next week, Thanksgiving. It was fast and lovely and I was sick and miserable but so happy and we toured Tesla (where my brother-in-law works) and we hiked around Saratoga and I slept on a couch and I was cold and felt compelled to text long paragraphs of messages to friends far away until I finally fell asleep, which took too long.
And then the drive home down the coast, when it was time to go. Central Coast. California is home, the entire state. I feel odd and disjointed that I didn’t go further north than San Jose. It’s weird to not know when I’ll come back for longer than a visit. Never? Maybe. February? I hope not. And it’s also weird to think back to two weeks ago, when so much felt floppy and far away that now feels close and real. Nothing has really changed. I’m still on the living room floor. I’m still struggling with picking myself up, with my health. I’m still scared of Alaska and the cold and falling on my face and freezing in a snowbank. I was sick two weeks ago and I am sick now, nothing has really changed, but I’ve seen my sisters in this time and I’ve talked on the phone with people who made me smile and the days are passing and basically EVERYTHING IS WEIRD.
Anyway, it was a good little road trip. A nice break from the past 13 weeks. It was a mere quick jolt north. Nothing special. But considering how well I’ve stayed still the past two months, it was ever so slightly spectacular.
Also, I think I’ll have NEWS news soon.
Tonight. Tonight. Tonight.
I’m bloody grateful tonight.
So grateful that I cried in front my screen on my parents’ living room rug when it hit me what had happened. What’s happening. My mother thought I made a nice image. Perks of temporarily living with your parents include nice writing rooms and paparazzi (and so, so much more).
What’s happened: another revision finished thanks to Pitch Wars. I’ve never revealed titles on this little blog, because titles always feel so temporary and I like to hide, but can I reveal this one, maybe, please? NOTHING LEFT TO BURN. Another attempt at the story I first told when I was thirteen and fourteen and again at fifteen and seventeen and then twenty and again at twenty-two. Twenty-two, last winter, that’s when I tossed out the old plot and a few characters and gave it one last sprint. That’s when I gave my protagonist a fire to chase and found a fire fighting boy stuck in a lie with guilt you can taste and changed the timeline from six months to a single day.
And now, twenty-three, my revision of that sprint is complete. It won’t be the last revision, possibly not the last sprint. But it feels good. It feels damn good to consider what this story was in 2005 and what it is tonight in 2014.
So grateful to so many. Almost a decade. Those who said yes and who said no and who read and shredded my pages and underlined lines and ate giant slices of almond cake with me under silly deadlines and who sent emails I didn’t deserve and read and reread and read and reread and critiqued and believed in this crazy thing. Most recently, I want to smother Rachel with hugs, for choosing me and the final push and the love and just being there, being here.
Obviously this isn’t the end. Nothing may come of this revision, this manuscript, but I’m closer and I didn’t give up in 2005 and I won’t forget it in 2015. This story is in my bones. Always will be, no matter its outcome. I don’t remember my life before thirteen, before my mind was threaded with this voice, the smoke. It’s so engrained. And I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m damn blessed by the love and persistence that’s kept me going. Family and friends and community. The luxury to make writing a part of my everyday.
Like I said, I’m bloody grateful.
Hey look, it’s Halloween and November is a few hours away. Two months two months two months (and seven days). Haven’t you heard I move in two months (and seven days)? I’m a broken record, pardon me, please, I’m stuck on repeat. Two months is both so near and so far out, it makes my heart ache.
And this past month? October chewed me up and spit me out and kicked me under the rug. So many October intentions. Too many October intentions. I have a diagnosis, which is nice, which is cool. I have a revision I’m proud so of and seventy-thousand words to share and hours of sleep tucked away, nestled in hidden pockets of my body–the curve of my right hip and behind my knees and under my tongue and in my ears. I’m hoarding sleep in preparation for grad school. Sleepless weeks ahead.
But my hours are whacked. Is all sleep good sleep? Mornings in bed. Afternoons on the floor pounding on a keyboard or rolling in dog hair and carpet fuzz. Some nights I go outside and I run and it’s weird, because I’ve never been one to run outside, especially when I’m sick (and I’m sick). But when I stomp up those canyon hills, the static either goes shhhhhhh or is amped up loudest of loud of LOUD. And it’s like, cool, I’m doing something. I got this. I’m a master of my machine. This body. Supposedly I was bit by a tick when I was a kid and supposedly this tick infected me and supposedly my body is saturated with Lyme disease. And supposedly in order to heal, you have to get worse before you improve.
And, you know, I believe it. I’ve experienced it. Physical mental emotional whatever. There’s always this drop. The free fall before the rise. I guess it’s kind of like an emotional plot line, which make sense. Plots are constructed to mimic life, right? So there you go. So I’m layering on hoodies and wrapping my legs in blankets and napping in a parka lined with coyote fur, a parka intended to keep me warm for forty below. So it’s 87 degrees outside but I’m shaking from the cold, yet I’m sure I’m positive I’m freaking certain I’m approaching a turn and the rise and there’s bound to be another fall, but hey, at least I’ll be elsewhere, at least I’ll be trying. I always try.
I guess I’m just attempting to articulate that the days are sad and weird and spooky and glorious in the most mundane of ways and I’m exceptionally optimistic. October was hard and I’m relieved for November’s arrival and I’m writing and writing and writing and I finished my revision and I think things are relatively grand.
these days. september. goodbye. october. hello! the highs of 99 and the hits of 106 and the joy of 69. this song does things to my brain, like these days. a flip. a year ago. now. grad school? what. Alaska? what. I supposedly land on ice on January 7, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.. danger, danger, danger. nothing is confirmed. medical clearance not yet obtained. program directors have yet to offer a firm yes, yes, yes, all is well, all is waiting, all is settled. haven’t completed my 40 hour satellite TA orientation because why give 40 hours to something not yet a definite totally sure thing? I don’t know if I’ll have a room to call my own, a place defined as home. I won’t believe it until I’m there, until I see the sun set before three in the afternoon, until I’m in a classroom, me the teacher, me the student, me there then now. I won’t believe it until my skin is peeling flaking reddening from the cold.
so for now I work the office job. corporate, hush hush. heels and skirts in a shiny office tower. I’m a master of cover letters. I’m a master of writing about something I know nothing about.
so for now I’m an occasional server for a catering company. rocking the art of being invisible except for when one is thirsty or hungry or wanting something anything anybody. I’m learning the art of not flinching when a bony lady pats her hips and glances at my definitely not so bony ass and my definitely not so bony waist. I’m learning the art of not flinching when said bony lady sneers at the crab lettuce cups on my tray and says she’s on diet, so no, no, no thanks. there’s an art of not drinking the abandoned never touched glass of wine of beer of martini of whatever. there’s also an art to swallowing champagne without it being considered drinking on the job. there’s totally an art to taking selfies with your boss and four other servers in the catering truck cab after a six hour gig in khakis on a triple digit day.
so for now I’m an occasional writing consultant, tutoring a Hayden. the boy is not named Hayden. a Hayden is a phrase that will mean nothing to anyone but me and maybe, like, six other people. the boy is not a boy but a MAN of my own age, but hey, boyboyboy. these are the words I use. is it even tutoring? I’m helping this Hayden with his college application essays. boosting the self esteem. shattering writer’s block. I love this. this job. this job gives me a high that has me speeding from his home grinning like a fool. always hyper-hyper after tutoring/counseling/discussing. I miss CC’s writing center. so for now on occasion I feel like I’m doing something that fills me and fills another, and this will satisfy me until I’m there, north in Alaska, until I’m (supposedly) teaching composition and in another writing center, a new writing center, new to me.
that’s my new There.
and, not for now, because this is an always–an anywhere and everywhere and always–I’m revising and I’m trying to remember I’m REVISING and NOT rewriting and that is the happiest part of my life, the revising, or one of the happiest, even if I feel like I’m not doing enough of it. but, you know (you totally don’t know), it feels so raw and absurd and fast. this revision, what I’m trying to accomplish with this support I never anticipated and that I feel so undeserving of, but maybe that’s just my head playing games. point is, what I’m trying to say, what I’m getting at, is that’s all I have to say on the subject: I’m revising my mess of a 78,000-word manuscript and IT’S GOING GRAND, OKAY?
tired beyond tired these days. I cry a lot because I’m so tired and I’m so bloody tired of being tired, so bloody frustrated that this happened. my still being here. my body burning out. accidentally falling asleep midday with my laptop on my face. I never knew how to nap before and I guess the secret to napping is to not try. so I’m tired tired tired, but then midnight HITS and my heart paces as fast as this beat. vinayasa flow or whatever. probably doesn’t help that I’m snapchatting/texting like a fool like a swoony child like teenage me in the evening, taking myself out of the right now, clawing at January ideals. probably doesn’t help that I’ve burned through my adrenals and my neurotransmitters are shot. my doctor believes I have and have had Lyme disease. that probably doesn’t help either. I like to think my stretching helps. deep breath. I’m back in a ballet class but instead of starting at 2:45 pm, we reach for the barre at 8 and ballet makes me crazy hyper happy sad feeling good, so it’s another thing that doesn’t help the sleeping thing but I totally adore it so continue to go.
except for tonight. tonight I skipped ballet because I was too tired and too dizzy and it’s probably not brilliant to spin when you’re already experiencing virtgo, no?
deferring is weird. what is this. living at home. I have a degree. I don’t have a diploma. should be somewhere, there, but I am here. no. shut up. that’s bullshit. what I’m saying–it’s fucking bullshit. I’m where I should be. I’m resting. I’m seeing specialists and doctors and having blood sucked from my arm on a weekly basis. I’m making this body a priority, trying to heal, trying to solve mysteries. all the while working these jobs because I spent all of my savings on an idiotic last minute (but not last minute trip at all) to the place I’ll be moving to in three (!) months.
Ecid is quite possibly the only musician I’ve posted on this blog. him and maybe Kristoff Krane and Eyedea & Abilities and maybe Saturday Morning Soundtrack, which is kind of funny, because it’s not like I only listen to their genre, don’t even listen to them much at all anymore, but what is it, why is it I only link to them? I don’t know. the pace of the music makes me type faster than my usual fast-fast typing, blogblogblog, I can only write blogs to their music, and their music compels me to post it with my words or put words down while playing the track on loop, until my head aches.
right now, right here on my bedroom floor, I miss Humboldt County in a way that hurts my throat. that semester in the trees. what was I? sad, manic, inspired, rutted, speeding up the 101 too fast so fast what are you doing where are you going, driving two hours east just to be closer to Colorado for a minute before turning around, dropping Astronomy and writing my first analytical essay at nineteen, getting lost in the Redwood Forest and wondering if this is it, is this the end, wait wait wait wait. all before CC. before any of what I am now. I blogged daily then. it was necessary. so necessary. I felt much safer, hidden. now here I am and here you are, whoever you are, and it’s like HEY where’s the filter HEY fuck the filter HEY I should probably find a filter or go stretch and chill out. that blurry photo above reminds me of then, Spring 2011, Arcata, the head spin. that blurry photo was captured in a lonely hotel room in Anchorage in August when it was starting to hit that fuck no could I defer to Fall, fuck no could I wait that long, fuck yes January, I can heal by then, I can, I can, I can. so I took a photo as evidence of the Right Then Right Now. because I was in a city alone and missing Fairbanks and that wasn’t supposed to happen.
two years ago in Colorado, I went and saw Ecid play in this tiny little brick-walled bar. I drove from the Springs to Denver alone and I drank too much red wine, so I had to hang out at the bar for an hour or so after the show before I could drive home. I sat on the back patio with him and Mercies May and Chris Caesar of Literati and it was hazy and I was so sleepy but I remember thinking that years from then I would wish I’d paid better attention to the memory. Chris Caesar and I messaged on Facebook regularly for a month after. I don’t think that fact has any relevance.
sometimes my heart booms in my chest so fast and so rough I need to scream I need to run I need to tackle someone with a hug with a something with a I don’t know. I miss Colorado Spring too. More than Humboldt County. even more, even still, I miss Fairbanks. Alaska! is that possible? I miss my two days and I miss what I’m missing, what could be now but what isn’t now, all the while understanding I’m not meant to be there right now, but meant to be there after right now, right here. I’m nostalgic for January, for what will be, what hasn’t happened yet, that maybe won’t happen, and that’s okay, but it exists in this form, in my mind. so it’s there. it’s real, in a way that I can’t articulate.
I need to stop typing because I need to stop listening to this song because I’m already sick of it and because I need to calm down because I need to try to maybe sleep.