Tag Archive | memoirs

The Book’s Not Terrible

Whew, what a relief! My friend and I met yesterday morning and she didn’t tear my book to shreds. In fact, she even said I’m a good writer; that always feels good to hear. She did give me some solid feedback that I’m going to incorporate, and we had a really nice conversation. Now I’ve got the book with another, more objective reader (more objective because she wasn’t there for the whole thing) and I’m looking forward to her reaction. Her reaction when I told her what it was about? “Oh, good, it’ll be juicy!” Haha! I don’t know about that, but maybe.

After our meeting, I somehow ended up at my old LYS. No idea how that happened. Okay, yes I do. I’m making a rainbow cowl for my mom, and it had stalled. I’d started a Honey Cowl, DK weight yarn on size 6s, but I wasn’t enjoying it. It was slow, it hurt my elbow, I resisted working on it. Plus it had a lot of purling in it, and I’ve switched to the “right” way to purl, so I didn’t want to go back to this project with the “wrong” purling. I frogged it, and decided to add a second strand to speed things up. I tried white and didn’t like it, so my goal with the LYS was to find a black fingering weight wool to add to it. Not surprisingly, I found one! IMG_5003This was my test to see if I liked them together, and I do! I think it’s very striking, and tones down the brightness of the rainbow. (I love the brightness; not sure if my mom would.) I picked a different pattern, the Hartwell Scarf, and this morning cast on with size 8 needles. So far I’m very pleased with it, and I can tell it’ll go more quickly than it would have before.

Somehow I also made it home with this. IMG_4998Malabrigo Rios, color Teal Feather. Oh, Malabrigo. Why are you so irresistible? I’m pretty sure it will become another Barley hat, because that seems to be the perfect combination. I mean, look at my Pink Frost Barley, finished just last night: IMG_5004IMG_5005So, so pretty! This is a child’s size, and I have enough yarn left to do another one. I think I want to do a baby Barley. That would be perfection. But first I need to get in a solid chunk of proofreading, and then tonight I’ll reward myself with more knitting.

Playing with Words

One of the joys of being a proofreader is that I get to read books, books very few people have read before. It’s fun, being part of a tiny circle of readers, although sometimes the book isn’t something I would choose to read otherwise. My current proofreading job is a good one: a memoir about a woman who stopped shopping for a year and examines her relationship to shopping and clothes and self-esteem, and how all those things are intertwined. Her writing is personable, light-hearted and funny while tackling some serious issues. It’s really good, a fun read, and I know I’m supposed to be reading it for the mistakes but I keep getting caught up in the story too. It especially resonates with me, since I worked in the retail clothing business and now buy very few new clothes. Hopefully in the near future I’ll be able to tell you that it’s widely available for sale!

Speaking of memoirs, I’m meeting with my co-worker friend this morning, the one who agreed to be an early reader for my manuscript. I’m scared. I messaged her the other day, saying I was going nuts and was it terrible? The only response I got was, “Can you meet this day?” Well. That’s not very reassuring. Now, I know this woman, and she’s lovely and she will be kind, but she will also be honest, which is what I need from her. Still. Honesty is scary. I truly don’t think my book is terrible, but maybe it’s not interesting enough for a wide readership. Maybe I’m too harsh on some of my former co-workers. Maybe I’m an unfailing pessimist who always assumes the worst. Yep. That last one. Anyway, I’ll let you know how it goes. Unless it goes horribly, and then you just won’t hear from me for a while. Either way, I guess you’ll know!

Knitting was my reward last night for a full day of proofreading. I cast on with some Malabrigo Worsted in Pink Frost in a delightful pattern called Barley by TinCanKnits, and it’s coming along nicely. IMG_4996As you can see, it’s also good purling practice for me, since it has that 22-stitch section of garter stitch. I’m rather enjoying my “new” way of purling, and it absolutely makes knitting the next row SO much easier. I really want to curl up and finish this hat, but alas, I have to get cleaned up so I can go listen to someone tell me what’s wrong with the book I wrote. Ack! Cross your fingers for me!

On Writing, and Friendship

Does anyone else have writing ADD? I’ve got two readers for my memoir, and I should be working on query letters and proposals and all that stuff, and instead, I fell back into an old novel. It’s the first one I ever wrote years ago, and I took it out of the file cabinet to see if it was worth salvaging. Well. I think it might be. And that’s great! Except now I’m distracted, and I just want to work on this now, and I have ideas for where to take the story and I think there could even be a sequel kind of thing…and all of this is more interesting than query letters and proposals. Sigh.

I also have so many friends and former co-workers saying they can’t wait to read the memoir, and that’s exciting! But it’s frustrating, too, because if I’m serious about trying traditional publishing, it will take ages. First you have to query tons of agents, then once you find the right one, they’ll make you revise again (Just guessing. Doubtful the book will be perfect in their eyes.) Then they have to find a publisher for you, then you probably have to wait forever before you actually have a beautiful hardbound little book in your hands.

But if I self-published, it could be available…immediately! I do like immediate gratification. And to be honest, I’m feeling discouraged about the odds of finding an agent. There are so many good books written every year, and I know memoirs don’t sell as well as fiction so they have to be amazing to even be published. I’m struggling to believe that my story is that compelling to a large audience. I’m pretending that I think it’s well-written, and I think there are some widely relevant themes, but enough to sell so many copies to make an agent/publisher take a chance on it? I don’t know.

Maybe the problem is that I just read “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess), and her memoir was just…awesome. Hysterically funny, touching, sad, inspiring, comforting. I want to run out and get her other book right now. I can’t compete with THAT. I know what she’d say to me, though. “Don’t f@*&^%$ compete with me! Do your own thing because you’ve got your own awesome s*#@% going on!”

So here’s my new plan, decided upon this very moment: I’m going to allow myself a break from the memoir while my readers read. Once I get their feedback, I will revise based on that, and then I will dive into queries. And proposals, ugh. Maybe I’ll start with the agents who don’t require proposals for memoirs! Until then, I’ll work on the novel. It will be my distraction while I wait for my readers to finish.

Whew, glad we got that taken care of. Maybe you can help with my other problem. I’ve got this friend. She used to be one of my best friends, then we drifted apart a few years ago. At first I tried really hard to keep it going, but she would always put me off or not respond to texts. I gave up. Many months later, she was back, apologizing, and we got together again. It was always sporadic because…well, life, you know. That was fine. But I’ve tried a few more times to get together with her, and she’s back to the same habits.

I’ve heard that same quote that you have, about not making someone a priority if they don’t do the same for you. But here’s my question: what if it’s not about that? What if she’s feeling anti-social and isolating herself because of emotional issues? I’ve never known her to struggle with depression but I know how that can be hidden. She’s been through a lot the last year or so, and I remember when I was feeling really bad, I pushed away almost all of my friends because it was too hard to connect with people. What if that’s what she’s doing? Does it matter? I guess the end result is the same. The difference would be how I feel about it. Right now I feel hurt, disappointed, and ready to be done with it. If I truly thought it was caused by emotional issues, maybe I would be more forgiving. Then again, this is a long-term habit, not something recent. So maybe it’s just an indication that we’ve outgrown the friendship. It served its purpose at the time, and now we both need different things from different people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I need to not take it personally, and focus on the wonderful friendships I do have. Do you agree? Have you outgrown friends before? Is it always this awkward and painful?

Oh, and one last thing: Yay! The temperature in my house is consistently above 60 degrees! We paid someone from a heating company 50 bucks to tell us that the system is working as it should, it’s just that 1) the unit for the downstairs is too small and 2) it’s not the right system for this climate. We have a heat pump with electric furnace for supplementary heat, and it just can’t keep up with the frigid Midwestern winters. And neither of those things can be remedied by the home warranty. We’ll just have to make do until we can save up to replace the furnace with a gas unit. Until then, anyone use radiators? Do they put out good heat? Are they worth trying to get the boiler functioning again? We have evidence of water damage from them on the floors; is that a big problem?

Thanks for listening today, friends. You’re as much therapy for me as my puppy is. IMG_4874

I guess I am a writer

Have you ever heard that saying,”If you’re a writer, you must write”? Like, ‘real’ writers feel compelled to write. I do think there’s a little truth to that. For a very long time, I tried to write fiction. I have two completed novels in my file cabinet, but my fiction writing is very sporadic. It’s HARD, you know? A few months ago, I decided that because I didn’t feel called to work on those books, or to write others, I wasn’t a writer. I often get those little “What if” moments, thinking “Oh, that would be a cool story!” But then I don’t do anything with them. Therefore, my self-deprecating brain decided that meant I wasn’t a writer.

But then I had an epiphany: I have this blog. I’ve been writing here for quite a while now. I’ve lost track of how long, but I’m thinking it’s around two years. Before that, I journaled. I was being too limiting: I AM a writer. I do feel compelled to write. I don’t write every day, though I’m trying, but I write often. And even though I started this blog primarily to talk about my knitting, I’ve written about a lot of different things: dogs, depression, loss, grief, parenting, reading, and now writing.

I AM a writer. I may not be a writer of fiction, but I am a writer. The things I am compelled to write are true, they’re stories of me and my experiences, my thoughts, my opinions. Maybe that’s selfish, or egotistical, to think that people would want to read about me. But maybe it’s also helpful to read about real people. I know I enjoy reading other people’s personal stories. They help me learn about myself, feel better about myself. They inspire me and teach me. They help me feel not so alone in this often-hard world. So why couldn’t my stories do the same? It’s a lofty goal, for sure, and I don’t know if I’m there yet. All I know is that this is what compels me to write, this is what comes out easily and with passion, these are the stories that read true.

Years ago, back in the stone age when a writer used manila envelopes, snail mail, and SASEs, I sent my second novel out to agents. I probably queried fifty agents, and I received a LOT of rejection slips. Those were disheartening, of course. But! I received one “Query me later”, one handwritten “Well written but not right for me” and one request for a full. No, I didn’t get an agent, and the book didn’t get published. But given the number of queries agents receive, I consider those responses as small successes. At least three people saw potential in my writing. Not just people, publishing professionals. Why didn’t I keep going, keep pushing with this book? No idea. Laziness, fear, frustration. I also had a young child at the time, so I could have easily gotten distracted. I’ve thought about going back to this book, but again, I haven’t pushed myself. Both my novels were written on old computers and revising them would mean completely re-typing them into my current laptop. Yep, that would be a good opportunity to revise. And I might still. But my current manuscript is where my heart is right now, my little memoir from my retail life. So that’s where I’ll be pushing. The real work begins now, as I move into the realm of query letters and proposals. I have to convince someone that my book matters. What tricks or tips do you have for writing query letters?

Last night, I handed off a freshly printed manuscript to my husband. Then, to distract myself, I started a new hat. It’s a lovely dark emerald green, and it will grow up to be a slouchy hat. IMG_4822

Writing a Book is Hard

I wrote this thing, this book-type thing. It’s a memoir of my years in retail management, and I’ve been working on it for over five years now. Today, I finished it. I’ve done all I can do by myself. I’ve written, re-written, re-organized, cut and pasted and added and deleted. I’ve read it and re-read it, had a few people read early versions that bear little resemblance to the manuscript now sitting beside me. And I think it’s done. I mean, of course, it’s not DONE done. I’m sure there will be more edits in the future. But I feel good about it (as good as one can feel about their own writing). It FEELS done. I think the major revisions are done, and now it’ll be tweaking to take out boring sections, flesh out good sections, building up the themes. For that, I need people.

My husband will be first, and I know he will be supportive and encouraging, and gentle in his suggestions. I’ve got a former co-worker in mind too, to make sure I wasn’t unfairly harsh or critical of our team. She’s a smart, well-read woman whom I trust to be honest but kind. And then I need someone who’s not related to me and who wasn’t part of that retail world, and I’m still pondering that. How do you find a good beta reader?

Then, I have to figure out what steps to take next. It would seem that memoirs are hard to sell, based on what I’ve read from agents. They need to be exceptional, and I’m not convinced I am, or that my story is. I’m a good writer, but does this story stand out? Why would a reader pick my book? What would they get from it? Is my story different enough from so many others? Would an agent even consider me without a strong platform? What the heck IS a platform anyway?

I’m still trying to find answers to those. And I’m pondering self-publishing too. It would be quicker, and I know that most of my former co-workers would love to read it. But I can’t help it: there’s a part of me that wants the validation of traditional publication. It would mean that someone out there valued my writing, thought it was worthy of sharing with the world. But why does that matter to me? Why can’t my own opinion be enough? Because I’ve seen too many self-published books that should never have been published, and I don’t want people to put me in that category.

So I’m going to find the list of memoir-friendly agents that I made, and I’m going to start researching. What do I lose by trying? (I mean besides my self-esteem and confidence.) Maybe I’ll get rejected 100 times, and then I’ll reconsider self-publishing. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll find that one agent who thinks it’s worthy. Wouldn’t that be something?