Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fueled by Hope

Hallelujah and whoo hoo and yippee yahoo! I finished a first draft! It took me ten months, which is by far the fastest first draft I've ever written. For ten months, I've been thinking about this story, poking at it bit by bit, tunneling through to the end. For ten months, I haven't received a cent of payment, yet I've worked my hardest, struggled, and persisted, all fueled by hope. The hope that I could finish. The hope that this story would be worth writing and then worth reading. The hope that someday, after I revise and revise and revise, this will be the book that breaks me out of the mid-list. This will be the book about which people will say, "You have to read it!"

Lately I've been thinking about hope and how the authors I know get so excited and filled with hope before their book comes out, and then how those same authors are often disappointed when their book, no matter how great it is, doesn't get the attention it deserves. Doesn't get shelf space at the book stores. Doesn't get starred reviews. Doesn't get publicity or buzz from their publisher. Doesn't sell movie rights or foreign rights or hit the best seller lists. It's incredibly frustrating.

They've done this amazing thing that most people never do... they've gotten their book published! But then the reality of it hits... their book is one of around 25,000 new books for children and young adults published every year. It might seem impossible to get published, but the truth is lots of people accomplish that goal. Unfortunately, only a tiny percent of those people are ever published successfully.* You've got to be a fool to hope for that.

So call me a fool.

One of my author friends said she doesn't get swept up by the hope or by the disappointment. She just keeps doing the work. And though I admire her balanced way of approaching this journey, I know that will never be me. I need the hope to fuel me. I would never have spent ten months of my life torturing this story out of me if I didn't think there was a possibility of a huge reward someday. Yes, the writing is the reward... I get that. And as difficult as it is, I love to write and can't imagine doing anything else. But it's too easy to give up if I think I'm just doing this for myself or for mediocre rewards. The hope that maybe this time I could be writing a breakout novel keeps me going. I'll take whatever disappointment comes my way. I understand that's the consequence for hoping, and I'm okay with that. Because without the hope, I'd just be standing still. Dreaming, not doing.

* I realize everyone will have their own definition of success. And it might be that the nature of success is that you always want what is just out of reach. For example, Julia's Kitchen could very well be considered a success. It won awards, got great reviews (even a star from Kirkus!), was translated into German, and worked its way into the hearts of many readers. And though I'm so grateful for all of that, my dream of success goes beyond what I've accomplished so far.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Lots of Birthdays

In our family, we celebrated three birthdays this weekend. My twins turned seventeen. And my puppy turned three.

What's it like to have seventeen-year-old boy-girl twins? It's a breeze. It's a joy. It's a whole helluva lot easier than having younger twins. When Jacob and Faith were babies, they were cute and sweet when they slept or laughed or held hands or did something funny like accidentally pee on each other while I was changing their diapers. But in general, it was physically and emotionally draining. I was always needed. My life was basically taken over by these kids. Did I mention that we had another baby 19 months after the twins were born? (Incidentally, my husband recently completed his first triathlon, and he said it was the hardest thing he'd ever done. He must have forgotten what it was like when the kids were little.) Back then, I was going to write a book about how to survive the first year with twins. I had a title figured out: The First Year is a Blur. I bought a binder and organized it with different sections for different aspects of raising twins. But guess what? The binder is empty. And the first year is pretty much a blur.

If you are expecting twins, I don't mean to frighten you. I'm just relating my experience. I'm sure you'll have angelic babies who sleep through the night and nap at the same time and have mellow personalities. It's definitely possible. But here's the important thing: My kids are amazing. Smart and funny and unique and comfortable in their own skin. And holy cow, they're seventeen!

So, what's it like to have a three-year-old puppy? Okay, I realize Ozzy is not officially a puppy anymore, but you try telling him that. Ozzy is our Mini-Whoodle (part Wheaten Terrier, part Mini-Poodle), and he is the world's sweetest dog. I am not even the least bit biased. I know a lot of people end up on my blog when they do a search for Mini-Whoodles, so I figure I might as well give you some helpful information, not just about puppies but about what you can expect when your Mini-Whoodle grows up:

Appearance: 25 pounds, charcoal gray, warm brown eyes, and a funny looking 1970's-ish mustache. He's the perfect size for snuggling with on the sofa, and he's not tall enough to get anything off the kitchen counter.

Trainability: (Granted, some of this is my fault, but still). He sits. He stays in our yard with the invisible fence. He walks well on a leash. He never pees or poops in the house. He doesn't chew anything he shouldn't. He doesn't bite. Unfortunately, he still jumps on people, and he barks at the mail carrier and UPS guy, and he doesn't know how to fetch, and he never comes when I call him unless I'm giving him a treat or a car ride. Thankfully, his sweetness more than makes up for these minor problems.

Personality: Very playful. Very loving. Has never met an animal or person he didn't like. Will do anything for a belly rub. Gives lots of kisses. Enjoys daily walks and car rides with his head out the window. Often sits outside and greets the neighbors by rolling over on his back. Snuggles on the sofa with everyone in the family. Sleeps in his crate with his favorite stuffed animal. Smiles for the camera.

If you're looking for a Mini-Whoodle, I suggest you contact Barb at Old McDoodle Farm. She's wonderful. And if you're expecting twins, I suggest you load up on sleep, solidify your marriage, and reinforce your sense of humor. You're about to have the craziest, most challenging, most beautiful, and most rewarding ride of your life.