Also, my website now features a press kit for Ceremonials, including a one-sheet (press release) and other info. I'm starting to put together tour dates, and those'll be up there too when I have them.
My vacation a couple of weeks ago gave me some real breathing room, and some time to work on two of the three remaining essays for the collection I'm determined to finish before the end of 2019. At first I worked on the Last Tango in Paris essay, but it was sloggy. Imagine a child who doesn't want to leave the house or car or Target toy aisle kind of whiningly dragging her limbs and fingers to do what her parent has urged her to do, and that's kind of how it was.
After getting permission from Marissa to set it down and try something else, I wrote pages and pages on Mildred Pierce instead. This essay has exploded into something way bigger than I expected. I might have to cut some entire threads away, or write something longer than I've written before in this mode. It's a big mess. I love it, and mentally, it's both all I want to do and a terrifying spectre of work to come.
Just now wrote several hundred messy words about the way vacation dragged up my conflicted feelings about book reviewing and the position I've found myself in here in September of 2019, five months away from my first book publication and so piled up with work for minimal/no pay that I can't see over the top of it. The conflict is about being good at something that has only helped me to be the kind of writer I want to be in this sidewinding, indirect way, and that may not be helping me do that at all anymore. About editors liking the thing I do as a kickstand more than they like the thing that is the bicycle. None of those words drew meaningful conclusions, so I hid them somewhere else.
Worry is so heavy.
I took a writing workshop on vacation, a very low-key one, and one of the discussions got involved enough that I sent my Singin' in the Rain essay to the rest of the group as "this is what I meant about The Lifespan of a Fact." The instructor, whom I really liked and who I think liked me, said she enjoyed the essay a lot. I told her it had collected nineteen rejections. She said "Wow. Really? That's a surprise." That soothed me, as I'm close to despairing of that one. I know it's good. No one wants it.
It's so strange how blessings have come to me in the last few years. I put out wishes and gratitude and work into the universe, and what I get back is always just to the left of what I thought I was seeking. And it turns out fine. I can't put most of the examples in writing, but here's one: I'm friends with a bunch of head editors at small presses at this point, and they've all helped me enormously, but their help hasn't been specific to getting any of my books published. Like, I thought that'd be the favor I'd want from a small press editor, to accept my manuscript, but no, they grant me other favors instead. It's terrific, but also why are we doing it this way, life?! I'm grateful for the blessings but unable to unravel what their squintable qualities mean, nor how to plan around and beyond them.
Or my editorship at Barrelhouse, which has evolved into a hefty bullet point on my CV, and it was utterly random how that happened and how it progressed into teaching an online course for them. But this I can say: none of it would have happened if I hadn't pushed. If I hadn't said I want this, may I have it? to the people who could give it to me.
So if there is a lesson from this extremely confusing period of my life, it's "ask for what you want." You may not get it, but you are far less likely to get it if you don't ask.
Also, here's a truth: I am so grateful that I heard a thousand times no about book publication for as long as I did. All around me, I'm seeing authors fah-reeeeeeking ouuuuut about their first book, from pre-pub terror to post-pub obsessing about reviews and sales hiccups. I still have plenty of time to participate in these behaviors, of course, and I'm not saying I'm so far above it all that I'll never melt down about a mean review. But the deeper I've dug into literature and publishing and magazines and rejection, the cooler a head I've been able to keep about it all, and the more I've been able to strategize about what I want out of book publication (in short: legs, not blitz). The dozens of reviews I've promoted over the last couple of years have taught me how to promote stuff, when to start and stop, how much is too much, and not to cringe when tooting my own horn.
Often I'm frustrated that X measure of success couldn't have happened two or five years ago, instead of now. But two or five years ago, I did not have the emotional stability about my work to cope with a book coming into the world. I can see exactly how I would have behaved from observing the people who, I can tell, were not ready. I never thought I'd be glad that my first book waited so long before arriving - sometimes I have been carved from a single block of impatience about this - but I'm telling you, it's so much better for my soul that it's happening now.
Speaking of good for my soul, today's a horse barn volunteer day. I missed the horses on vacation. I missed the smells of them, the happy weariness of my body after four hours with them. I'm trying to learn their body language from this book, but it's so complicated, and conflicts with human body language so much, that it's slow going. I don't know where this current involvement with horses is headed, but if all it remains is mucking stalls and currying twice a week, I'm on board.