“The trouble is, you think you have time.” – Fake Buddha Quote
Resolutions seem like a bad idea to me, as do plans, because they map a linear direction and so often in my life the best paths have twisted me along in a decidedly non-linear fashion.
However – and I really want to say this without sounding too “authentic” because even the notion of that word and its current meaning make me want to throw up a little in my mouth – I have found that verbalizing my intentions helps me make them happen. The biggest case in point? My book. An honest-to-God, printed and bound, a-publisher-will-pay-to-print-this, I-have-a-contract, book. It doesn’t have a title yet, but I’ve written it, edited it per my editor’s specs, and I suspect by the end of this year, I’ll have a hard copy in my hands (as should all of you, of course!). That book happened because I said, “I want to get my master’s degree in Florida Studies and write a book about Florida and get a book deal” and even though it wasn’t a plan or a resolution, saying it (to other people) helped reinforce my drive, and every step I took pushed me down the path that led to me
sobbing with agony over revisions my editor wanted working with a bricks-and-mortar publishing house and getting a contract for my travel narrative about Florida.
If it worked once, it can work again, right? After all, it has worked better than anything else ever has, including the carefully-laid plans of my twenties. So, in that spirit, here’s a list of things that I will do. Not necessarily in the coming year, but – you know what? Yes, in the coming year. Why leave myself an out? So, because if y’all know what I’m doing, it will motivate me (because I’m apparently lazy on the inside but also big on doing what I say I will do), here’s my “This Will Happen” list for 2015:
Finish, edit, and self-publish one of my three mostly-completed novels
Every year I participate in National Novel Writing Month, which means every November I attempt to write a 50,000-word novel. So far, I have written three novels you could call “90% done” (exclusive of the editing, of course.) Inspired by my friend, fellow Florida Studies classmate, and published author Jon Kile, I have decided to self-publish those three books. I don’t know until I dive into editing the first novel how much time I’ll spend editing it, so I hesitate to say “I can self-publish three books this year!” but I can say I will publish one of them. (How well it sells is all on you, people!)
Publish my grandmother’s recipes
Grandma Rae loved to cook and people loved to eat her food. I had the good fortune to learn from her while her mind was still sharp (she and my grandfather came to live with us when I was 17, so I had plenty of practice by her side). Because my dad was the only one of her children who lived near her (everyone else lived in New York), and also because no one else seemed to care at the time (most of my cousins are younger than I am, which meant I was the only one cooking for anyone on the reg at the time), I took possession of her recipes after Alzheimers made life in a nursing home a necessity. My cousins never had that time with her, and when my cousin Sue asked me last year if she could have copies of grandma’s recipes, I said yes. When I started combing through them, though, I realized I had so much more of grandma than ingredients and directions. I have great stories about her and her cooking, about the dreaded Grandma Mary’s Cake (a/k/a “the cursed cake” that stopped working after my grandmother died), about her recipe for chicken (as dictated to my dad, who interpreted what I can only assume were instructions to rinse the chicken as “bathe chick”), about the way her home smelled at Christmas – these are all things a recipe cannot convey. I inherited her passion for cooking, and to her cadre of recipes I have added my own. I will publish bound copies for my cousins, and I figure it can’t hurt to make the cookbook available as an ebook as well. I already have a Facebook page and a blog I co-author with fellow Italian foodie and friend Tiffany Anderson-Taylor (although she’s way better at posting, which I will improve as work through these recipes).
Publish my Florida travel narrative
I realize this one’s almost a gimme because I’ve done the heavy lifting and secured a publishing contract, but it ain’t over yet – I feel confident I have more revisions coming down the pike. Because this matters so much to me, I count it, because I do intend to do whatever I can to make sure I have this book on bookshelves by this time next year. Oh, yeah, we still need a title, so feel free to leave one in the comments.
Write more for money
I love writing for the Gabber, and I intend to keep doing so. That said, I’ve used the paper as a crutch, held it up as a reason I don’t do much other writing. When I think about it, I must admit: I have no desire to cover the lawsuits on St. Pete Beach when I’m 60 (and trust me, there’s a fair-to-midland chance St. Pete Beach will still be appealing these same lawsuits when I’m 60). The best way to not have that happen is to shore up my other writing and start, as they say in the business world, developing other revenue streams. If that happens because of my self-published books (see how this helps? I already think of them as real things), or because of my published book (which is not really feasible; I don’t know how many of you realize this, but since I haven’t written Fifty Shades of Gray I have a more common publishing deal, which means my publisher doesn’t plan to publish enough copies of my book for me to earn royalties that would allow me to quit my day job) then great. If not, I still have options. I’m getting good at this writing thing, after all…
This is not me saying I want to leave the paper; this is me saying I would like very much to concentrate on the news stories, my column, and my Detours & Diversions, then pick and choose the rest, rather than take a picture – for the 12th year running – of people standing in line to vote on election day.
Get a second book contract
Yup, there’s a lot of emphasis in 2015 on writing. I already have an idea for a second book, and a third, so as soon as the first book is to bed, I will start on a proposal for number two.
Turn my Nikon into an ATM
I already take a LOT of photos (seriously, an average day for me at a street festival is 1,000 photos) and make a small – very small – amount of money taking pictures for people who want their events remembered but not in the “expensive wedding package photographer” type of way. I also teach photography in several locations, but odds are, you didn’t know that because how would you? Which brings me to…
Fix my damn web site
This site is awful; my blog is the only useful thing on it. So I’m going to fix it. Somehow. Because writers, apparently, need web sites, especially if they’re about to have a book or two to sell. You know who else needs a web site? People trying to sell their services as a photographer, or people who think it might be important for their photography students (or prospective students) to access a calendar to see where they’re teaching next.
There are other more personal things I want to accomplish, but I intend to keep them more private. Plus, you don’t care if I manage to knit my cousin’s as-of-yet-unborn baby a baby blanket in time for his birth (the odds are against me on this one), or if I can reasonably increase my protein intake and strengthen my lower back (the odds there improve a bit.)
Want to help me? Right now, other than buying me lots of coffee, there’s not much you can do, except like my public Facebook page and insist everyone you know do the same thing. And don’t forget to like Aphrodite’s Hearth while you’re at it. You can follow me on Twitter and pay attention to what I do on Flickr, and interact with me on all those things and remind me you’re waiting for me to make all these wonderful things happen. Oh, and when I post here that I (finally) have a book you can buy, buy it. If I’m really pushing the wire, think of it as a way to get all your 2016 Christmas shopping done in one fell swoop.
Happy New Year!
There’s a saying in the world of Innertubes: Don’t look behind you. Or, at least, there used to be. It basically means that there’s a young kid standing behind you who knows a newer way to do things than you do, and can likely do it better and faster. And it makes total sense, because the fact that I know CGI and Perl is about as useful as my understanding of how to edit reel-to-reel tape. I am, between the techniques I learned in college to prepare me for an
underpaid and unrewarding long and rewarding career in broadcast journalism and the ones I learned while earning my Network Development certificate in 15 years ago, perfectly trained for the bronze age.
Which brings me to this web site. I started blogging about 10 years ago, using Blogger or Blogspot or whatever we called it before Google ate the world, and it was straightforward enough. Plus, a smattering of what I learned about networks and stuff (that’s an industry term) might even have been relevant.
I have now outgrown my blog, because in addition to whining about things on the Internet and in print, I have a book contract for a travel narrative, a photography portfolio, a casual photography business, and a full schedule of speaking about my Florida research and teaching photography classes. I needed a website that would allow me to showcase my work, maintain a calendar, and still blog. I made the switch to WordPress a few months ago, bought a theme, and promptly grew so overwhelmed I stopped working on the site
You will note that while I list all the fantastic features I wanted my site to have, I did not link to any of those pages. That’s because I haven’t actually made them yet. Even though I once knew what the hell I was doing, at this point I’m lucky if this post feeds to Twitter when I’m done here.
The good news is, my friend and editor Shelly completely overhauled the Gabber web site. And if that doesn’t work, maybe my 10-year-old cousin will come visit soon. She updated my dad’s Flash player when she was seven, so I’m pretty sure she can code now.
In 1983 I was headed for middle school. Swimming around in my 10-year-old head were vague notions that I would one day “be a writer.” I had no clue exactly what that entailed; I certainly couldn’t imagine that as the rest of the world poured themselves into the local bar for happy hour on Friday night, I’d be hunkered down in the BatCave, typing away as Calypso curled around my legs and plopped her chin on my foot. I had no clue what “being a writer” meant, but I clearly didn’t understand it meant baring my soul for money and having editors treat it as a commodity.
Had I known those things, though, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Even at a naive 10, I had the inklings of what it felt like to have a compulsion to write the stories I saw in my head. I knew the voices in my head weren’t real, exactly, but I also knew, to paraphrase Morgan Freeman, the things that happened to the voices in my head really happened to them. My imagination was real to the people I imagined.
That summer, my mom sent me to a creative writing kids workshop at the Clearwater Public Library. I can’t recall who taught it, but 31 years later I remember some of things the lady leading the workshop told me.
The most important thing she told me? That I could find stories everywhere. That squirrel in the tree? He has a story. Tell it. (Little did she know I would take her so seriously and write about squirrels, pigs and ducks…)
I make my living telling stories. Most are true, but the most fun I have writing are the ones that aren’t. The real stories of real people who exist only in my head. I will forever owe my parents – my mother and father alike are wonderful, creative, funny, and wildly intelligent people, and they gave me every opportunity to be the same sort of person – as well as a host of other adults who fostered that creativity in the 10-year-old me. I earn my living as a writer, and it’s because of experiences like that creative writing workshop so long ago.
That’s why I am thrilled to lead a week-long creative writing camp for kids, co-sponsored by Keep St. Pete Lit and Gulfport’s City of Imagination. Keep St. Pete Lit celebrates and promotes our literary community – that’s greater St. Pete, not just the city proper. They’re all about getting kids to read and write, too. City of Imagination supports the arts in Gulfport (seriously, that’s their mission statement, short and sweet and awesome.)
We didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid. I was lucky that workshop was free. Because Keep St. Pete Lit, City of Imagination, and I all believe every kid should have a chance to be creative, no one’s charging for this camp, which means kids can come for free, as long as they’re heading into fourth through ninth grade (we’ll totally accept your donations, but we don’t require them.) The camp will meet from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. July 28 through August 1. All you have to do is email me to sign up for the class; we do have to limit class size, so don’t wait until the last minute.
I promise your kids will have fun being silly and writing things. I promise I’ll show them how to be braver in their writing. I absolutely do not promise they will learn anything, although I can’t stop them…
Part of my job includes writing the occasional advertorial. Went to one today (yes, I work on Easter) and after a few minutes the man, who has been peppering me with questions, apologizes and tells me he and his wife both are used to “being on the other side of the computer.”
“Oh?” I say, “What did you do?”
He is a retired New York Times editor and she oversaw some of the news bureaus. He retired in 2009; she took a buyout last year.
And now I’m supposed to write an advertorial and send it to them for approval. There is no way I can do this. I usually e-mail the client the draft I write at the interview’s end, but after chatting about style guides and how the dailies have fallen, but this time I was in no way, shape, or form prepared to let this couple judge my work.
I fully enjoyed talking to them, although I remained wholly and completely in awe of them, and finally had to tell them as much. For their part, they were gracious and forthright and delightful. After two hours (no, they usually don’t take me quite that long) of talking and typing, I stood to leave. I mentioned I was under contract for a book with the University Press of Florida, and they, being polite, inquired as to its subject. I told them it was a travel narrative, and talked a bit about the Federal Writers Project and the Guide to the Southernmost State, and the man remarked he would like to read it as it sounded like an excellent guide book.
“Oh, it’s not so much a guide book as it is a travel narrative,” I said, then added: “have you ever read any Bill Bryson?” This is how I tend to explain my book to people, that I wrote it in the style of Bill Bryson.
“I know Bill Bryson,” he exclaimed, and started talking about Bryson’s latest book.
Yeah. No way I can write this advertorial. None. Bonus: after we spoke, he said he planned to start reading the Gabber.
So, this happened tonight…
P.S. Even though I structured that sentence properly, I want to clarify: Enrique was wearing the wrestling mask. The other guy had on red striped pants and cowboy boots.
So this was my mid-morning. The joys of working from home.
Scuppers caught a squirrel, but failed to kill it. He did, however, bring it through the cat door (of course) while it shrieked like a banshee. Since El Cap’s at work, the job of getting the squirrel out of the house fell to me. What followed was some twisted episode of Wild Kingdom. But not the happy family feasting on prairie grass, if you know what I mean. Here’s what happened after the squirrel entered my home and my life:
… all you do is open your veins and let them bleed on the page.
Curious thing about writing. I do it every day, for a living, and have done for the past ten-plus years. But what I’m doing this month, writing for money I will not see for at least a year, is different, because I’m finding it takes more discipline than the shorter articles and smaller projects I do every day.
What’s also odd is that I’m finding the need to write before I write. There’s a great quote from Lord Byron: “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” More and more this week, I’m finding that to be true. I have a lot of stuff floating around in my brain, and I find I need to clear out the cobwebs to make any sense at all. That’s what this is, and my apologies for that, but no one’s making you read.
This week is not without challenges. El Cap’s parents are staying with us, perhaps temporarily, perhaps not. They are not hard people to have around, but it takes some getting used to having other people around during the day, to say the least. I talk to myself a lot, which is fine when it’s me and Calypso. It’s just something I do, usually when I get up to stretch or get tea, which involves me walking out of my study (which I call my Bat Cave) and into the kitchen. Calypso usually comes with me because the clever dog knows there’s a good chance there will be cheese.
When you add two other people into the mix, one of whom doesn’t hear well anyway, it gets weird, because they think I’m talking to them when, in reality, I’m really just making words bump together to get my mind working, or talking to the dog to prove that I still have the power of speech. Also, Calypso doesn’t judge me when I talk to her. I can tell her anything. It’s an adjustment not to tell her I need to shave my bikini line or that my butt itches when I go get my tea, because I feel as though the El Cap v.1 and his lovely wife really don’t need to hear about those sorts of things. What’s more, they probably (OK, definitely) don’t want to hear those things.
Nevertheless, I’ve got a nice little routine going. Write things like this, get some tea, and get down to it. In between, I keep having these thoughts that I could very easily adjust to this lifestyle. I mean, aside from the lack of income at the present. So, you know, if anyone wants to just hand me money to do this, you know where to find me.
I’m on the first official day of leave from my regular gig at the Gabber Newspaper, and I’m supposed to be working. I’ve set my work e-mail to auto-respond and I’ve started ignoring phone calls. It’s also two days before the start of National Novel Writing Month, which should dovetail nicely with my plans to finish my manuscript and get it to my editor so I can get on with my career as a writer.
So far I’ve been on Facebook – just to check – and priced healthcare. I’ve also done a small workout, ran the dishwasher, and finished the laundry. Oh, and I’ve made a grocery list and returned a bunch of calls.
But as soon as I walk the dog, pick up my paycheck, and get to the store, I am totally going to do this thing. And I’m going to make myself blog about it on the regular so I’ll be staring down not only an angry, unrevised page but the collective force of all your derision on top of my own shame and humiliation should I fail. Which I won’t. I’m starting now. Honest.
Just let me walk the dog, OK?