Good Juju June, or The time my mother moved my birthday.

True Story. My birthday is in December, but both my sisters have summer birthdays. My mom felt really bad about this, that my sisters celebrated so close together, and I waited so long for mine, only to get shafted because it was so close to Christmas. It never really bothered me, because I was pretty jazzed that I got presents for myself, and then six days later got even more presents for the bearded guy’s big day. But my mom really worried about it.

So one year my mom decided that I would celebrate my birthday in June, exactly six months before my real birthday. There were presents, a birthday party (I think only my sisters came because it sounded too weird to invite other kids to), and we even went to a water park. I live in Arizona where it’s hot on a good day, but in the summer it’s a preview of what the entire Earth will feel like when the sun starts expanding and scorching us. So after a long day at the water park for my half-birthday, I got into the car, and lay across the backseat to try and reach one of my presents which had fallen to the ground.

It was a bouquet of paper and plastic flowers. I had gotten a Funskool Fantastic Flowers kit for my not real birthday, and had insisted on bringing my new art project with me to the water park. Because if there’s one thing a kid needs at a water park, it’s paper products. Anyway, I went to grab it, and my chest came into contact with the metal buckle of the seatbelt that had been sitting in the sun all day. The result was a burn in the shape of the seatbelt that went through a few layers of skin.

I wasn’t allowed to go swimming for the rest of the summer. Summer in Arizona is practically up to October, sometimes longer. We were only two months in. I had to rub oil on my burn and sit cantankerously under an umbrella while my sisters swam and dove to retrieve those neon rings. (Am I the only one who finds this to be a water version of fetch?) It was terrible. My mom felt so bad that when my real birthday came around, she let me celebrate, even though I had technically already had one. She never tried to move my birthday again, although she continues to lament I’m a December baby.

The point is, that even though I think my mom is kind of nuts and I will never celebrate my birthday at a water park again, she did kind of have a point. Sometimes things aren’t convenient, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still do them, on your own time. For me, this is NaNoWriMo. I’ve never done it, but always wanted to. November is an insane month though. You’re just getting over Halloween, which for me is a pretty big deal. (The pumpkin food alone is pretty time consuming, and I spend a good amount of time deciding what costumes my cats will wear.) There’s coordinating and cooking and what seems like an endless amount of Thanksgiving potlucks to go to. And when the flurry of feasting is over, it’s suddenly December and how the hell did I not buy gifts yet?

I don’t stop writing during the holidays, but my hat’s off to the people who set out with the goal of writing 2500 words a day. I’m probably lucky if I walk out with that kind of word count for the entire month of November. But every year when I see it starting, and I know it’s happening, a part of me wants to attempt it. I want to have a goal every day and know that I pushed myself to accomplish it.

So I did what any normal person does and I made up my own! I call it Good Juju June. It’s not as ambitious as NaNoWriMo, I only set myself a 1,000 word count goal per day. (I had roughly a hundred pages of a story already written, so I wasn’t starting from scratch.) But it’s a time when I need a distraction to take my mind of querying, and when I really want to push myself to complete this draft so that I can hopefully spend the winter revising and editing, and have a polished manuscript to query in the spring.

So far I’ve stuck to it, and I’m hoping that I’ll have at least 30,000 new words by the end of the month. Who knows? Maybe I’ll keep it up for Pretty High Word Count July. (I’m going to work on that name. That name is not good.)


Querying is kind of a big deal.

I started querying agents a week ago, and I would rather edit a thousand pages of a manuscript than a query letter. I’ve done my research, so I have a healthy amount of anxiety when it comes to how important the query letter is to the whole process. So I spent a long time going over drafts of query letters and the other submission materials, trying to get everything as close to perfect as I could make it. And then I sent them out.

That’s a pretty huge deal to me, because I’ve never felt that anything was ready to be seen by potential agents before. This manuscript is the book of my heart, which I know usually isn’t the one that authors have success with. But I believe in this story so much, that I’m hoping I can find someone else who feels the same way. It’s only been a week but I honestly feel like querying time is twice as long as normal time. Since these queries have been out in the world, I thought that seriously a month had passed, but it’s only been seven days.

And the querying process is long. There are agents that say eight weeks is standard, and if you haven’t heard after that, it’s a pass. So I was expecting to just have things out in the world, and bide my time, and focus on a new project. But I got a response the same day I sent out a query, my first rejection. It was super polite, the agent said she wasn’t a good fit, and I didn’t feel offended at all. I did get all those moments of doubt and panic: What if no one thinks they’re a good fit for my story? What if this is just incredibly terrible and I don’t have any sense for what good writing is? What if I spend my whole life trying to do the only thing I’ve ever felt good about, and it just never happens?

I know that rejection is part of the gig, and that’s why it’s highly recommended to work on another project while you’re undergoing the querying process. So I jumped back into a story that I had put on the back burner while I whipped up my first manuscript into querying shape. And I love this new story. It’s one that came to me in a very weird, vivid dream, and the more I dive into it, the more I want to explore this world. I’ve done a lot of research previously on it, and it’s the first adult novel that I’ve attempted. (Which is also huge because I’ve felt like I was so terrible at adulting for so long, that writing about actual adults was incredibly intimidating. Until I figured out lots of adults are horrible at adulting.)

I’ve been rereading the pages that I had written and trying so hard to take off my editing hat, and put on my writing hat. It feels so strange to have complete freedom with the storyline, to figure out what happens next instead of worrying about existing plot points. I’m still getting back into the groove, I only did a little over 700 words today, but I’m feeling so excited about telling this story, and hopefully getting to share it with another human someday. Until then, I’m pretty sure my cat thinks it’s brilliant.

My dad thinks I’m a hairdresser and I don’t know why.

My father is under the impression that I possess the ability to cut hair like a trained professional. This could not be farther from the truth. I have never had a course, or even watched so much as a youtube video on how to cut hair. At my last job I wasn’t even allowed to have scissors at my desk, because I am super accident prone. The last time I used scissors to cut valentines, I ended up with a gash in the palm of my hand.

But for whatever reason, my father thinks that I can give a decent haircut. It might be because my sibling competition consisted of my middle sister, who gave the cat a terrible groom job trying to get out chunks of matted fur (the cat looked like it had gone through a lawnmower), or my youngest sister who was just too busy with multiple jobs. But for the past few years, my dad has showed up sporadically on my front porch, scissors and clippers in hand, and said “I need a haircut.”

My father also doesn’t have a lot of hair. The crown of his head is bald, it’s just the lower portions on the side and back of his head that need trimming. There are a couple lone strands on the top of his head, like sprigs poking their way through snow, so I trim those too. I kind of just mimic what I’ve seen my hairstylist do, and pull up pieces, snipping away. I know my hairstylist has a method, I’m just trying to make sure I get everything remotely symmetrical. After I’ve cut away most of the growth, I use the clippers to try and get everything to look more smooth, and less like a five-year-old trying to trim her own bangs.

When it’s done, I call it the Julius Caesar, even though I don’t think he was bald. It just reminds me of some kind of Roman patrician, like all he needs is a toga and some laurel leaves and he’s set. I think the funniest part is that my dad usually tips me (even though I don’t charge him for this amateur attempt), either in groceries or cash, and if he went to even the cheapest licensed hairstylist he would have paid less and looked so much more professional. There’s something about the fact that my father for whatever reason, thinks that I can give him a haircut that he can go in public with, makes me feel like I can do absolutely anything*.

(*Note: Except cut hair – I am not under the impression I can actually do that. Yet.)

The Real World and why it won’t go away.

There’s a line in Sex and the City that has stuck out to me almost more than any other part of the show. Its from a scene where Miranda has just had her baby, and she’s struggling to maintain the balance of work, baby, and friendships. She’s flustered, and trying to pay attention to what Carrie is saying, but is clearly distracted by everything going on around her. Carrie’s getting ready to leave after Miranda can’t keep up with the conversation, but Miranda says something along the lines of, “My friendships are important to me.”

This is how I’ve felt this month. I went hardcore and tried to live by the philosophy of don’t do things out of obligation. And then I felt like some of my relationships were suffering from being focused solely on my own personal aspirations. But at the end of the day I have to accept that life happens. People need you, and you need you. There has to be time to eat, to exercise and take care of your body. There has to be time to give yourself a mental break.

I remember reading a writer’s advice to someone who was asking how to find time to write, when they also had to work a full time job. The author replied that working a forty-hour week is nothing, that you still have so many hours to commit to writing that it shouldn’t be an excuse.

And I completely and respectfully disagree with that statement. It’s never just forty hours that are occupied, and everything else is blank. Where is the time to do basic things like clean, cook, shower, sleep? Pay bills, take care of a family if you have them? Walk your dog or remember to water that wilting bamboo plant you forgot about for a week? Never mind connecting with the world, maintaining relationships with family and friends, that basic human interaction that keeps a person sane.

There’s always going to be things that are detracting from writing, but that’s the real world. I think the important thing, at least for me, is to not get resentful of all the real world things that get in the way of pursuing your passion. When I’m bitter that my job takes up so much time, I remind myself that I’m lucky to have a paycheck, and insurance, and to work with people who bring in bagels for everyone just because it’s Wednesday. When my mom needs me to do some time-consuming task, I remind myself she’s my number one go-to person for when I need something. If a friend is running late to meet me at the gym, I need to acknowledge that I probably wouldn’t have taken my tired self there in the first place if we hadn’t made the commitment. You need people, or at least I do. So I’m trying to appreciate that I’m lucky enough to have such a full plate, and to remember to not waste the free moments that I am given for myself.

Oh hey there world!

I recently finished my seventh round of revisions for my manuscript that I started back in January. It’s been exhausting, wonderful, and overwhelming all at the same time. I’d been cramming every spare moment with writing, with very little left over for anything else. When I completed this last round of edits, I took a breath and gave myself a little time to catch up on everything I’d been neglecting.

I finished the book I was reading, The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff, which I thought was beautifully written. I spent some time at the gym and more time trying out some new recipes, which was delightfully selfish because the ingredients were things like sweet potatoes and goat cheese which my husband hates. I went to bed before midnight, and I redid a painting that had been bothering me. I spent some much needed time with family and friends. I finally finished the last season of The Office (the American one, I just adore the dynamic between Jim and Dwight). And I started marathoning Dawson’s Creek, because sometimes I really miss the nineties and that show is just everything nineties. I basically took time for me.

But now it’s been a couple weeks and I think that the break is over. The next phase is to reread the whole manuscript in a short span of time to check for any last minute problems. And then I’m going to go over my query letters and lists one more time, and then I’m SENDING IT OUT INTO THE WORLD.

This is terrifying and so exciting. Even when the inevitable rejection letters come, it’s out there. And anything can happen at that point. So this brief hiatus in my writing schedule is coming to a close, but I just needed to spend a few days in the world again before I go back into introverted writer mode. But first I’m going to watch at least one more episode of Dawson’s Creek.

I adore the Superbowl even though I don’t get football.

I don’t even know what teams are playing today, but I’m so very excited for the Superbowl. I haven’t even really watched any football this year; I don’t even understand it really. I’ve had people try to explain the rules, and I think I get the gist, but all the small technical calls, and the frequent, long pauses in between plays, just really kind of kills it for me. Baseball is slow, but it’s a continuous kind of slow, a more relaxed vibe; football is angry, and you’re supposed to get amped up and crazy at the tailgate, before the game has even started. The whole tradition never really resonated with me, of drinking hours before and then enduring a four-hour game that feels like it takes an eternity to finish.

So why am I so excited for the biggest game in a sport I don’t really follow? Because today is the day that everyone else will be watching the Superbowl, and I can do whatever the hell I want. That means at least four hours of uninterrupted time where I can write, paint, cook, nap, or even watch the Superbowl if I feel like it. My husband and I were going to go to a friend’s for the game, but he decided last minute not to have a big thing. Another friend is having a game night while the game is on, but we had already said no because we thought we were going to the first gathering. We are essentially commitment free on a day when most people have set plans.

We decided to grab an obscene amount of food (because if there’s one thing I love about the Superbowl, it’s the emphasis on multiple dips), and we’re going to just work on whatever project we want while it’s on. So thank you Superbowl, for giving me this huge chunk of time. In a couple hours I will be sitting in a panda onesie, eating guacamole and cauliflower sriracha wings, while working on a dreamcatcher. And that is just super.

Harnessing your muse when she’s drunk on Spring Break

I’ve read a lot of articles by writers about working when your muse decides seems to take a vacation; forcing yourself to write when you aren’t even feeling inspired. The general take from what I’ve read is: work even when you don’t feel motivated, and eventually the inspiration will come. For the most part, I’ve found this to be true. When I start writing or editing when I’m not in the mood, I can quickly get absorbed in the material, and catch myself getting excited about how to make it better, or what direction to take the story next.

However, my muse is not on vacation right now. My muse has taken six shots of espresso and has made fourteen Pinterest boards about DIY dreamcatchers, nail art, and organization ideas. My muse is brainstorming four different story ideas, planning out a sequel to the manuscript I’m currently working on, and the ending to a different story I have half written. My muse is visualizing six different paintings I want to work on all at once, as well as how I can revamp a canvas I’ve been bored with for a while. My muse is trying to figure out how to make a regular binder look like a fairy tale book to hold cooking recipes, and what crafts I should start on for Halloween.

My muse is basically on spring break, and there’s no parents in sight. I made a deadline that I mostly stuck to (okay, I’m closing in on it), but my muse does not give a shit. My muse is that drunk girl at the bar who has had like six too many coconut flavored drinks and is just making plans with everyone she sees, not realizing she won’t be able to follow through. So while my muse and I were on the same page at the beginning of the month, about focusing and completing this round of revisions, now I’m dreading consequences of the inspiration hangover.

So I’m basically the sober friend that is trying to appease the tantrum throwing drunk girl my muse has become. I got through a chapter today, but my muse is demanding that I start painting something after she already insisted I file my nails into a stiletto shape. I’m hoping to get through more tomorrow, but that depends on how many creativity laced martinis my muse has tonight.