Category “Writing”

Thankful. Again. Always.

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Two years ago, on Thanksgiving Day 2009, I told my family about my latest endeavor. My soon-to-be blog. Embrace the Detour, I was calling it. “An experiment in creativity and productivity,” was how I described it to them. Excited (and very pregnant), I showed them the freshly minted site and read them highlights from my “Because” page:

During the first twelve weeks of my new baby’s life (the length of a standard maternity leave), I will endeavor to do the wholly unadvisable and likely impossible: I will attempt to write — and finish — a novel. I will try to write daily, both for the book and for this blog. I will likely regret making the previous statement.

They probably thought I was insane. They may have been right. I was about to have my first baby. Those were some pretty bold pronouncements for a new mom. Some pretty grand “I will”s.

I wasn’t certain I’d be able to do it. In fact, I was pretty scared I wouldn’t. But I wanted to. Oh, I wanted to. I wanted the finished product, but more than that I wanted to be a person who could set a goal and attain it.

Desire is a powerful motivator.

Four months after Lil Mil was born, those four “I will”s had become four “I did”s. And while there were moments when this challenge felt like a giant boulder strapped to my back, there were more moments when it felt like a blessing. A gift. It was order amidst chaos. It gave structure to what would’ve otherwise been a free-for-all of hormones and bodily fluid. It fueled, and thus kept alive, the vision that might’ve burned out (or been doused out by breast milk and baby barf).

Although I didn’t write the book as quickly as I’d planned (12 weeks turned into 100 days and the draft I initially produced wasn’t something I’d ever want my name on), but less than a year after launching Embrace the Detour, my novel was ready to go out to publishers. Because really, wasn’t that what I was truly hoping for? Not just a finished manuscript. A book deal.

I wasn’t sure how I’d get there, but I knew I needed the manuscript first, so I focused on that. And then, when the draft was in decent shape, I started querying agents. Slowly, one-by-one, so I could judge the feedback and tweak my query letter if necessary. I’d sent three queries when I got an email from an agent who’d been reading my blog. She wanted to read my manuscript.

Um, yes. Yes, please. Yes, yes, yes.

So, almost exactly a year ago today, I sent that agent, Kristyn Keene at ICM, my story. And exactly a month ago today, I sold that story to Sarah Landis at HarperTeen in a two-book deal.

I sold my book.

I sold my book.

I. Sold. My. Book!!!!

It’s been a month since it happened (I wanted to tell my parents in person before announcing it here) but it still feels surreal, like a dream. Which makes sense, I guess, because it IS a dream. The dream that has informed so many of my choices. The dream that has made me hopeful and happy and determined and unafraid.

Today I am thankful for that dream. Thankful most of all to God for giving it to me. Thankful to Lil Mil for being the reason that dream became action. Thankful to Husband for believing that action would bear fruit. Thankful to Kristyn for seeing the promise in my story, and for putting in the time to make it better, and for selling it to exactly the right publisher, and for being, sincerely, the loveliest individual I’ve ever worked with. Thankful to Sarah for saying yes (and for paying me to write another one!). And thankful to you guys, many of who have been on this journey from the beginning.

In some ways, it’s the end of the road. But, truly and wonderfully, it’s only the beginning.

Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

Happy Birthday, Baby

Dear Baby,

Has it really been a year?

Has it only been a year?

It’s funny to me now, how worried I was about your arrival.  Little did I know that the first year of your life would be the very best of mine.  I have a feeling, sweet girl, that it’s only going to get better from here.

Happy Birthday, Baby.

Love,

Mom

P.S. – in honor of Lil Mil’s first birthday (and the fact that, in the year since her birth, I wrote a novel and sold my first TV show!), starting tomorrow, I’m going to re-post some of my Embrace the Detour favorites.  If a particular post stuck with you and you’d like to see it again, let me know.

Thankful

I didn’t know what I was getting into.

Exactly a year ago, on Thanksgiving 2009, I revealed my super secret “creative project” to my family.  Up until that day, Embrace the Detour was just a figment of my imagination.  Yes, I owned the domain name and yes, I had paid someone to design the site (back then, I knew exactly nothing about HTML and the ins and outs of Wordpress), but since no one knew about ETD, I could pretend it didn’t exist.

But I didn’t want to.  Not back then, anyway.  Shot through with third trimester pregnancy hormones, I was raring to go.  I didn’t want to wait until Lil Mil arrived.  Eager to convince myself (and everyone else) that I COULD DO THIS! I started working on my first post (which, I’ll admit, took me over a week to write).

While certainly supportive, my family had mixed feelings about this creative project of mine.  Husband in particular was lukewarm.  He was excited that I was excited, but at the same time, he was worried that I was taking on too much.

I was.

Of course at the time I didn’t realize that.  I honestly believed that I could write — and finish! — a novel in the first three months of my baby’s life, and I said as much on my Because page.  Believe me, if I’d known how incredibly hard the undertaking would prove to be, I never would’ve made such a grand (and public) pronouncement.

Thank God I didn’t know.

By the time I realized what I’d signed up for, it was too late.  There were too many people watching and, even more than that, too many people telling me to give up.  It was too much, they said.

They were right, of course, but I refused to accept that.  So I kept at it.  Kept juggling.  Kept struggling.  Kept writing.

Three months turned into 100 days.  My definition of “draft” morphed into something more manageable.  My blog posts became less frequent.

But I kept at it.  Kept juggling.  Kept struggling.  Kept writing.

And today, one year after this blog was born and 10 months and 8 days after my baby was born, I have a completed novel to show for it.  And!  On top of that, I have something unexpected.  A community.  This community.  Friends!  Not the fake, we-met-over-the-Internet kind, but the real, live, we-met-over-the-Internet kind.  Friends like Rachel of MWF Seeking BFF (who I met in person two weeks ago and am now obsessed with.  Rachel, if I move to Chicago can I please be your BFF?)

Thank God for unrealistic expectations.  Thank God for this blog and the book that came out of it.  Thank God for the baby who’s made all the juggling and struggling worthwhile.  Thank God for the boy who is juggling and struggling with me, holding my hand while I do it.

And thank God for you, my friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What It Looks Like This Week

Posted in: PARALLEL, Writing

This was not how this week was supposed to go.  After my post last Friday, I was ready to make good on my promise to fill in the blanks.  I had five really meaty posts planned.

Then I looked at a calendar.

And I realized that the fact that I thought Monday was June 16th didn’t actually make it June 16th.  It was June 21st.  A mere 10 days before my two-week trip to Scotland for Dad’s 60th birthday (sorry, Dad, that I just broadcasted your age on the Internet).  Nine days before my (self-imposed) June 30th deadline to send my first round of query letters.

Oh.  Crap.

And so, just like that, the blog got put on the back burner.

The good news is, with 6 days to go, I’m in good shape.  I’ve assembled a list of agents I want to query, and I’ve got the meat of my letter complete.  The plan is so send the first batch out the day before I leave for my trip and spend the next two weeks reading my novel – on paper! – as I tour the Scottish countryside with my family.

There’s still a lot to do before that can happen.  As of right now, there are a number of bracketed scenes in my draft, scenes that need major work before they can be considered complete.

Which is why, sadly, the blog will have to stay on the back burner for a few more days.  This is what embracing the detour looks like this week.  Putting first thing’s first.

In the meantime, those of you with querying experience, I’d love to hear from you.  Advice/insight/funny stories?

The Whole Story

Over Thai takeout last Thursday, a close friend and I caught up.  It’d been over a month since I’d seen her, and even longer than that since we’d had a talking-really-talking-conversation.

As we munched on spicy green beans (her) and gingery mushrooms (me), B said something that stuck with me.  “Reading the blog makes me feel like you and I are talking regularly,” she mused.  “But I realized the other day how little I know about what’s really going on with you.”

My first thought was “but if you read my blog, then you do know what’s going on with me.”  But then I ran through a mental list of things I don’t blog about and realized how little I actually do blog about.  Book and baby.  And lately, only baby.

So I filled her in on all the other stuff.  Marriage.  Family.  Finances.  Work.  The meaty stuff I never write about.

The meaty stuff I never write about.

I write about struggles for time and conflicted feelings and sleepless nights.  I write about my pursuit of productivity and my quest to live in the moment.  But I don’t write about how the three Bs have affected my marriage.  Or the toll my elective  unemployment has taken on my bank account.  Or the fact that I will eventually have to go back to work full time.

If you’d asked me eight days ago why I don’t write about these things, I would’ve been ready with an answer:  my blog is about writing a book while raising a new baby.  These other things are peripheral.  Not the point.

But last week, giving B the full picture instead of just snapsnots, I realized that, when it comes to the pursuit of our dreams (writing that book, producing that film, starting that company), nothing is peripheral because everything – every part of us – is implicated.  You can’t compartmentalize.

And yet we do.  Not only on our blogs, but in real life.  We talk about work and life and the give-and-take between the two.  Our struggle for the illusive ”work/life balance.”  And then we proceed to relay snippets about our jobs or our creative endeavors.  Tidbits about our kids or our spouses.  Rarely acknowledging that the struggle exists not because we haven’t figured out how to balance Work and Life, but because these two categories aren’t actually separate.  Work intersects with Life.  Work sometimes is life.  And then there are the elements that don’t properly fit into either category.  Where do mortgages go?  Work or life?  Hobbies?  Housekeeping?  Health?

I write about book and baby and blog.  I mention boy.  But those four categories aren’t the full picture of my life.  And those four categories aren’t actually categories.  They are people and passions that overlap and intersect in places and in ways that aren’t immediately obvious, and they bump up against and compete with other people and other passions (and other people’s passions).  When I neglect to write about these intersections and friction points, I leave out crucial pieces of the puzzle.  I don’t tell the whole story.

I want to tell the whole story.

Inevitably, my conversation with B turned to this blog.  Its future.  What the next 100 days will look like, and the 100 after that. “What’s next?” she asked me.

I didn’t have the answer ready then, but I have it now:  what’s next is the rest of the story.  The rest of my story.

Five months ago, I set out to write a draft of my first novel in the first 100 days of my baby’s life.  That’s the story I’ve been telling here, in snippets and tidbits, since the day Lil Mil was born.  But it isn’t the whole story.  It was never meant to be.  It’s just the first chapter of a longer, fuller, better story, one that ends with a cover and a spine.  A book.  My book.  Sitting on a shelf in Barnes and Noble.

Or maybe it doesn’t.  Maybe it ends somewhere entirely different, somewhere I don’t expect.  I won’t know til the very last page.

In the meantime, I have a dream to pursue, a little girl to inspire, a husband to love and a mortgage to pay.  That’s the story I want to tell.  The real story.  The whole story.  What embracing the detour looks like, every day.

I don’t want to leave anything out.  I want to talk about the gritty stuff.  The not-so-easy to talk about stuff.  The meaty stuff.  The stuff that makes pursuing our dreams both the hardest and the greatest thing we’ll ever do.

The whole story is worth telling, I think.  It’s the only one that matters, anyway.