Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Ruby & Purple

Last week was challenging and then all right, with great variability, and the best of my attention was spent on productivity. I read and pitched and wrote and read some more. I started a fight on the internet, and it was helpful for plenty of people but quite deleterious for me. Multiple reviews went live after a couple of dry weeks. I had a piece published that took a lot of research and time to assemble, and it kind of vanished without a ripple, which bums me out. A silly Twitter thread I did on Mansfield Park got more attention. Also, I finished up the fourth in Laurie J. Marks's Elemental Logic series, a tetralogy of books that has been one of the purest pleasures of my year. The first draft of my review was 1,300 words, and I could have gone on and on and on after that.

I had a lot to think about and process after the last couple of weeks, and that might be why this week has been snoozy and unproductive. I have a pile of ideas to write about, and no motivation whatsoever to write them. Some of this feels like perfectionism, some of it overwhelm. Luckily, there's always reading to do when I can't seem to write.

Last night my brain gave me yet another idea I don't necessarily have the time for: an essay that breaks down the 1977 film Ruby, which is truly awful, but which I love, and which is a failure that I suspect has an interesting and/or sad story behind it. My guess is that Ruby once had a good screenplay; excavating its layers shows that, most probably, someone came in to "enhance" it with zeitgeist elements and screwed it up. There's cliche, genuinely compelling drama, cheesy Exorcist imitation, unique combinations of genre elements, and deeply stupid horror scenes. It's a very both/and movie, the kind of bad art that fascinates me bottomlessly.

This is bad art idea #3, after essays on Plan 9 and Death Bed, so it's starting to seem more likely that I have a book about bad art in me - less a hope than a likelihood. I wish I could pursue it now, instead of pursuing all the other crap I want to/have to write first, but it's probably better to let it marinate anyway. In the meantime, if you're interested, Ruby is on YouTube, and a less grainy version is available with a Rifftrax track attached, the existence of which I think I'll use in the essay.

Of note, I'm writing this on my tiny purple laptop, which I bought after dragging my too-heavy-for-airport-walking laptop to Iceland, and which in terms of processing power and etc is worth about what I paid for it ($200), but which has the major advantage of being purple. I know I'm not the only person who is suckered by aesthetics when making purchases. Purple and dip-dye are the two most reliable ways to make me buy something.


In a little less than a month, a short story I wrote will go on sale as a standalone ebook at the Wild Rose Press. It's priced at only $0.99, so if you'd like to support me, I hope you'll pick it up. I'll have more news about that, promotional links and whatnot, soon.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Less Yes

This week I pulled waaaaay back on what I expected to accomplish. I focused on physical health and nourishment, and I read books: one dumb book, one okay book, and one extraordinary book. Maybe this balances out the sheer production of last week, the two essays I wrote, and maybe it balances out the week's astrology and the emotional upheaval I felt. And pulling back worked - I feel grounded and comfortable now, where I felt messy and ridiculous on Monday. But it's time to go back to producing: promises to keep, miles to go. Three reviews this week. An essay I pitched and now have to draft. Interview questions, a press release.

One thing I produced this week was a fairly good try at a book proposal. It's the second one I've written, and it required different resources than the first. This one is for a book that I have a better idea about, but the earlier one had lots more facts and figures I could leverage. I assembled this one based on a conversation at AWP, and I have no idea what'll happen with it. Maybe nothing.

The pile of books I have to read and review is not actually so bad right now. Sheer volume-wise, that is; the timing of them sucks, as it's five books on one release day, four books on another, nothing for a month, etc. I've started saying no a little bit, but more often I've just stopped saying yes. That's a weird distinction, but it's real: people offering things specifically to me happens a lot less often than people tossing opportunity in the air and seeing who grabs it. In the last month I've hung back instead of grabbing. I don't know exactly what's up this month, while I wait for the results of a few lines I threw out and plan for the events I'm organizing my summer and fall around. It seems smarter to wait a bit before saying yes more than I have.

I have been watching an awful lot of movies lately. Few of them have been extraordinary. A lot of them have been nice (Dumplin) or useful additions to a body of knowledge (Dressed to Kill, Inferno) or fun (Ant-Man and the Wasp). But nothing has really surprised me, or deviated from the middle 50%.

I also heaved a big sigh and dove into Werner Herzog's oeuvre. He's a mind I'm very interested in, from what I have heard and read about/by him, but until now I haven't put my money where my mouth is. So now I'm doing that, actually watching his films. Something about his timing and camerawork is stark and alien, like Cronenberg, but even more sterile. I like it.

Switching back to movies has been pleasant. It's an odd truth about me: I'm on much more solid ground thinking and working with movies than with literature. This doesn't make sense, because I'm a writer and a book critic, professionally. But no matter how many books I read, I still feel more comfortable in film. There's an innate ease to the way my brain processes the film, how wholly I feel I've absorbed it, while I feel like there's always more to process in a book, and usually I've only touched my subjective experience of it.

This week has been very light on social media for me. I don't know if it will last, but every time I opened the apps, I felt strangely hollow. Like how you feel half an hour after eating too many Cheetos. It's not real food, and your body knows it. I hope this sensation isn't temporary, as I've been wanting for years for social media to loosen its grip on me.

Next week I'll be reading the fourth and final book in Laurie J. Marks's Elemental Logic series, and I'm so sorry to be finishing the series. It's some of the best saga-type fantasy I've ever read, and one of the best novelistic projects. The books are so rich and thick and fully developed that I feel like I've lived a whole life, reading them, or even more than one.

Image result for elemental logic
My friend Kathleen drew new covers for the tetralogy, which is how I heard of it in the first place.

No big conclusions for now. Still it moves.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Interacting with the Material World

You might have seen it on social media, but KERNPUNKT revealed the cover art for my book. It looks like this:

Art by Mariana Magaña

It's so much prettier even than I imagined. I love it.

Managing the book release in early stages has reminded me a lot of wedding planning. A great deal can be done a long time in advance, but a lot of what must happen has to wait for the right moment to be planned. Calendaring and lists are essential. I was born to do that kind of work.

There's a bunch of other stuff going on, too. A long story I wrote, "After Gardens," known on this blog as "the hot springs story," is going up for sale at the Wild Rose Press as a standalone ebook in mid-June. This press has been supportive and helpful all throughout the process of turning "After Gardens" into a commercial ebook, and I'm very happy it found a home there. However, the way this ebook requires promotion is completely different than the way Ceremonials does. Different audience, different kind of press, different goals, different approach. It's like switching alphabets. For this reason, I've been dragging my feet on promoting "After Gardens," but I need to get going on it.

Less striking, but just right for the content 

It's being sold as women's fiction, which is about right. (For the record, it's hard to find markets for short stories that qualify as women's fiction. Both readers & publishers prefer that genre in book length.) I hope it does well for the press, of course, but I feel weirdly indifferent to this project. Submitting to TWRP was my last shot with this story before I trunked it permanently, so I'd nearly severed my investment in it when it was accepted. Of course I'm very happy they accepted it and are selling it, and I'll do my best to promote it, but it feels like someone else's work, and that makes it more of a chore and less of a pleasure to promote.

A few weeks ago I put together a schedule for writing the remaining hybrid film essays I have to write for the collection I'm assembling. I gave myself ample time to write them in order to be finished by the end of 2019. At the time, April still had some days left in it, so I set a goal to finish something else nagging at me that isn't part of this project, a partially written essay about abandoned places, before May began. I succeeded (and the process of writing it was fraught, so hooray, go me, I did something hard), sort of. I thought I had a three-strand braided essay, but what I actually had was one lyric two-strand essay and a separate, much more straightforward single essay. When I was finished with both, I knew the lyric one was missing something, but I submitted it to an urgent opportunity before figuring out the missing bit. (This is a rookie mistake and I'm ashamed of making it. Oh, well; I'll fix it and send it out elsewhere, when it's actually ready.) Mostly I'm pleased that I met the goal of finishing those two pieces, which have been dormant for over a year, waiting for me to put butt in chair and finish them.

There are three main threads in my creative work right now: a) books, b) hybrid film essays, and c) everything else. What I wrote at the end of April falls under c), but now that it's done, I have to return to b). The one I scheduled myself to write in May is a little obnoxious, as it relates to Jeanne Dielman, a static three-hour film mostly about a woman doing domestic chores, but I knew I needed to get it out of the way before I went wild writing about Mildred Pierce.

Earlier this spring, I bought a handmade creativity candle. I wanted, on the first day of May, to burn it and do a tarot reading to restart/redirect my creativity. I've written easily 100,000 words of book reviews in the past 18 months. That's great, but considering that volume of work, I think I need a genuine ritual to direct energy into the collection I want to finish, which requires more intuition and less brain than reviews.

I didn't succeed in that goal. May has come in strange. I feel like I need more time to think, and then I get bored and anxious inside my own head. I'm sleeping thickly, with upsetting, disruptive dreams. My emotions are labile, slippery. [private circumstance], in a way I haven't been since my early 20s, and I have no idea what that's about. Literally all of this could be stress, the unbearable stress of freelancing, built up over time, refusing to come to an actual head but bubbling ceaselessly under a thin and all-too-permeable layer of self-control.

I'm writing this here instead of somewhere private because it's all of a piece, the emotions and the creativity and the stress and the book(s) coming out and what I'm accomplishing and failing to accomplish. For me there's no separation between succeeding at writing that lyric essay - which I think is one of the more meaningful things I've written, if not really one of the best - and failing to do the laundry today. At the end of a given day, the measure of it is how much I have interacted with the material world instead of shutting it out. That's the only mark of success or failure I have to go on right now.

I worry that this sounds too bleak. I'm sorry. I feel weird right now. There's a big deadline coming up in about two weeks, so I could use that as an excuse, but of course there'll be more coming after that and after that; if it's an excuse, it's a permanent one. Seeing Avengers: Endgame yesterday overclocked my emotional state in a way I can't explain at all, since I don't have a lot invested in the MCU, and I'm still recovering from that, which is embarrassing to admit but absolutely true. Ceremonials being a real thing that's coming, all five of my desired blurbers agreeing to review the MS, people jumping in to offer their influence to help me and the book, is exhilarating, but also a brand-new experience that I don't seem to be integrating easily. I landed a fascinating opportunity this summer, but it'll drain my financial resources instead of adding to them, which is a very unkind cut at the moment. Etc. All the great stuff is as overwhelming and stressful as the less-great stuff, and often they seem to be entwined.

At least I cleaned the apartment over the weekend. Looking at the clutter was getting to me, and now it's a lot better.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

An Honest Post

There's a lot going on in my writing world - perhaps too much for me to organize my thoughts into one place. I feel like I haven't written an honest post here in a really long time. As the number of people who pay attention to my work grows, I find I'm holding my tongue more and more. I didn't think I'd ever want to do that, but that's where I am. Here's some honesty, though not about everything I have to say.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 3/17/19-3/23/19

Last Sunday I took the entire day off. I did answer one email related to Barrelhouse, but otherwise, I did no work. I sat on the couch. I watched the Lorena Bobbitt docuseries and then about half of the first season of The OA. I vaped a little, midday, which I never do. (With good reason; my brain stayed foggy well into the evening.) It was a great idea; I felt tons fresher on Monday.

The rest of the week was a little less awesome than Monday. Coping mechanisms kicked in, because I'm stressed out about the near future, and I did a lot of coping instead of working.

On Tuesday I leave for Portland, setting into motion two and a half weeks of utter madness. I think I'm ready. I've done almost all the work ahead of time that I conceivably can do; I'm well-stocked with business cards; our taxes are done. Off we go.

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Writing:
Camp review
Rice review
"After Gardens" edits

Reading:
A Dog Between Us
Choke Box 
Comfort

Pitching/Queries:
Dazed (2) (rejected)
Film journals x4 (responded x1)
CrimeReads
Buzzfeed
Millions (responded)

Followups:
Nylon
WSJ
ASAP
HFR
Advocate

Correspondence:
Barrelhouse
Locus
Various publicists
Eve
Jennifer

Other:
Barrelhouse stuff
[secret thing] for many hours
Assemble Wurth and Choundas interviews
Promote Wurth review

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 3/10/19-3/16/19

I'm running out of time to get work done before AWP + the trip I'm taking the week after AWP. So I feel pressured as heck to bang out reviews and get them in. Pressure does not amount to motivation; in fact, it sort of opposes it, in my personality. Also, the correspondence was completely out of control this week.

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Writing:
"After Gardens" edits
Ceremonials edits
Eerkens review
Cora Burns review
Notes for Banshee, Naked reviews

Reading:
Banshee
Gather the Fortunes
Moon of the Crusted Snow
Naked

Pitching/Queries:
Rolling Stone
ASAP (responded)
Film Comment
Heavy Feather (responded)
Stoloff
Birth Movies Death
Nylon
London Magazine
Masters Review

Followups:
Erika / George / Kate

Correspondence:
Jesi
Blake
Barrelhouse
Neal
Eric
WSJ
Robert
Kathleen
Diane
Kate
Ben
Megan
Bethany
Noelle

Other:
Lots of Barrelhouse work
Literary submissions x3
Promote Bird King review
Attend/present at writers' meeting

Monday, March 11, 2019

Four Directions, No Rest

You guys, I am tired. I am really, really tired. Here is the career thing I'm wrestling with on this restless, overcast Monday: I am working in four different directions, and they require totally different kinds of engagement.

Direction 1. Growing my reach, meeting prestige goals. I think this is...professionalization? Trying to get my work into bigger, better-paying, more prestigious publications. Reaching outward for as many opportunities as possible. This is an exhausting direction, made up of hundreds of small moves: emails, check-in emails, calendaring follow-ups, research, networking, sending the same pitch to four or five places and then following up on them all, etc.

Direction 2. Pay. Placing my work in publications that pay money. There's a lot of overlap here with Direction 1. But it's additionally tiring to consider whether to keep pitching Publication X, even though I've never heard back from them and our artistic interests only align in a few places, simply because they pay so well.

Direction 3. Artistic and community fulfillment. Do I get to write what I want to write? Do I get to support a small press or a first-time author? This goal almost always contradicts Directions 1 and 2, though the degree of contrast varies.

Direction 4. Maintain links and relationships with pubs and people I've been working with happily. Keep saying yes to editors and publications with whom I work well, keep sending reviews to publications that will treat them right. It's more difficult than I ever imagined to do Direction 4 and Direction 1 at the same time.

Keeping track of all four of these and how they interact is so hard that, today, I'm thinking about temporarily ditching Directions 1 and 2, just like, never mind, fuck it, I'll keep writing $25 and $50 reviews for the sites that pay me and post my stuff promptly (even though they savage the hell out of my style) (in opposite ways), I'll keep writing for the two magazines that don't change a word I write even though the pieces rarely or never appear online, I'll stop pitching [redacted], fuck it fuck it fuck it it's too much. (And then, no fooling, [redacted] wrote me back this morning asking for more pitches.)

There's also the problem of all of this applying to book criticism AND to my other work, which, by the way, I still can't figure out how to get back to. I've had a bunch of rejections for my hybrid essays in the recent past, which means it's time to send out the work to the next round of pubs. I'm out of immediate ideas for pubs to submit to, so it's time for research. But research is the last thing I want to do right now. It's obnoxious to find pubs that want hybrid essays, particularly when they're as long as mine, and you guys, I am tired.

(Plus there's this weird little Jaws thing that I thought someone would snap up fairly easily but no luck yet and I have no idea who to submit it to next because no one seems to be getting what I'm doing there and I think it's hilarious and why does no one else think so?)

Related image
Pictured: me and my workload 

(And man, I'm really discouraged about a non-hybrid film essay I wrote, which has been given the curse of "I'm sure you'll have no trouble placing this elsewhere" - NEVER TRUE, y'all. If you're an editor, never, ever say that in a rejection, because the reason it's not right for you is the same reason it won't be right for anyone else. You all love it and say so, which is nice, but not one of you will publish it. This is the third or fourth time this exact thing has happened to my work. BOLLOCKS on "I'm sure you'll have no trouble placing this elsewhere.")

Point is, I am having this moment where I want to stop striving and just tread water for a bit. Here's a concrete example: I wrote an assigned review, but the finished product didn't work for the publication. The pub gave me leave to send the finished product elsewhere, no hard feelings. So I did that, but got a no on the first round, and I'm feeling like, oh, what's the point, do I really want to keep trying to place this review when the work I like best (writing) is now done and the work I like least (placement) is still before me? I know the review is quality, but I want to just trunk it because of the time and effort involved in placing it.

For just a few weeks, I want to stop pitching. I want to stop answering publicists' emails. I want to stop querying. I want to feel like I'm really absorbing the books I'm reading and reviewing, instead of reading them only just deeply enough. But Directions 1 and 2 are the work that keeps the pump primed; without it, I would dehydrate. Without it, momentum vanishes. I have April and May books that need placement, and it's not too early to start on June and July books. If I wait to pitch those, I won't place them, or at least I won't place them well.

AND YET I AM TIRED.

The usual disclaimer applies: I am not a coal miner. Writing is not, realistically, that hard. But working and/or thinking about work seven days a week is hard for a non-workaholic personality, no matter what kind of work it is.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 2/24/19-3/2/19

This week I immersed myself in JT LeRoy based on an assignment. It was not a lot of fun; LeRoy's writing is clearly good, but not to my taste, and their deception makes it tough for me to read them in an unbiased mood.

I also dealt with a pair of emotional upsets that derailed me completely on Wednesday and made the rest of the week not much fun. Maybe this is why I felt kind of at loose ends, work-wise. I see, looking at this list, that I actually did a good deal of work - especially edits and correspondence - but it doesn't feel that way. It feels like I have essentially the same pile of stuff to do and I've wasted a week not doing it.

In terms of reading, there's a particular book it's taking me forever to get through. I read the majority of it and a third of another book, so next week the read list should be longer, even though I did some of that work this week. (Also, I'll be on a plane for most of Friday so that'll be many hours of uninterrupted reading time.)

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Writing:
Best F(r)iends essay
"After Gardens" edits
Sissy edits x3
Revenge edits
Wurth review
Ceremonials edits
Draft Scott review

Reading:
Harold's End
The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things
Sarah

Pitching/Queries:
Popula (rejected)
Vulture

Followups:
Jarrold
Dahlia

Correspondence:
Gertrude
Mieke
Jesi
UMPG
Katrina Wan PR
Marvel team
David
Neal
Barrelhouse

Other:
Watch Author documentary
Submit to GCP micro-chap series
Promote Felicelli interview
Attend job fair
[secret thing]
Promote Readman review


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 2/17/19 - 2/23/19

I'm still kinda working myself to death a little bit on reviews. Everyone except my editors is trying to help me stop, with minimal success. There's a film essay I wanted to write this week, but I'm almost too nervous to start it, because I've only written reviews for so long. And because I'm so occupied with everything that has to get done before the end of March. (It's a lot.) My spreadsheets are still keeping me sane, but the different willingnesses of the spirit, flesh, and mind make productivity vary.

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Writing:
Edits on Revenge review
Gutter Prayer review
Edits on WW review
Tiny edit on Sissy review
Edits on Body Myth review

Reading:
Amberlough
You Who Enter Here
This Never Happened
The Conviction of Cora Burns

Pitching/Queries:
Broadly
Assay
TLS
JTL production

Followups:
Prairie Schooner
Albuquerque Journal
Brevity

Correspondence:
Barrelhouse business
Anita
Emma/Reid/Amy
Heather
Graywolf
Nathaniel
Neal

Other:
Barrelhouse
TWRP business
Kernpunkt contract (!!!!)
Promote Handbook review
Promote Gatsby's Child review
Best F(r)iends watch & notes
Seek help from everywhere on permissions thing (hours and hours of work)
Promote Western Wind review
Promote Ramadan interview
Felicelli interview
Promote Locus year in review

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Major Announcement!

Image result for good news everyone


My novella, Ceremonials, has been accepted for publication by Kernpunkt Press. I'm so happy it hurts. Since the project is tangled up with copyrighted material, it might have a different name when it comes out, but it's the same project. The editor at Kernpunkt has told me she's very enthusiastic about the book, so I have high hopes that we'll work it out.

I found out about this on Friday. As a rule, I'm very, very bad at keeping secrets, but watching promised projects go boom after I made a big deal of them in the past, and particularly the last 18 months of pitching/trying/failing/waiting, has made me better at saying nothing until the news is more secure.

The book is due out in 2020. I have 784 ideas about how to promote it, including an LA bookstore tour, an email blast to everyone I've ever reviewed for, and hooking up with a unique book club to get it in tens of thousands of hands.

Because I can't resist making this news into advice: I started work on this project in 2013. That's six years ago. I finished it in early 2016, a span which includes some long breaks due to mental health; writing time was probably a few months, all told. I spent the following three years researching, querying, and submitting to presses. The project is extremely short to be a standalone book, so that limited the presses I could find who would even be interested, and it meant I could not go through an agent. (I tried one, and his email back indicated he saw the word count and didn't even read the rest of the query, which included info about the significant built-in audience.) Some of the presses who read it said it was beautiful but wrong for them. Others sent me form rejections.

It takes a long time, y'all.

Some of the reason is that my project is weird, short and lyrical, rather than a normal novel or memoir or whatever. But mostly it just takes a long time. My friend Marissa has a beautiful, finished, easily publishable memoir that she's been querying for I don't even remember how long now, two years maybe, and it's stupid and criminal that it took until last month for her to find an agent. It takes a long time. 

I have lesser news about other things, but I'm going to let this post stand alone. Can't wait to know more, and tell you more. I've wanted to hold in my hands a book I wrote since I was in elementary school, and I don't really believe it, but that's going to happen. Next year.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 2/10/19 - 2/16/19

I successfully got up early every day this week, which means I got a lot done. Lots of good stuff went on, too - I spoke at a writer's group with decent success, I got good early feedback on a review I was scared to turn in, and I got an acceptance at a super duper outlet. Plus, on Friday, I got news so good I haven't really been able to believe it yet, and which I've got to keep private for a little while longer.

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Writing:
Mother Winter review
Handbook review
Sissy review
Denslow review

Reading:
Not Everyone Is Special
The Gutter Prayer
The Bird King
Getting Off

Pitching/Queries:
Southwest (rejected)
Jarrold
Woolfer (rejected)
Room (rejected)
LRB
YWEH to two NM pubs
NPR (accepted!!!!!)
Paris Review
Caroline (agent)
Walrus

Followups:
Prairie Schooner
Bitch (answered/assignment)
S&S publicist
Books I Hate folks (4)

Correspondence:
Barrelhouse business
Locus business
Galley request - Inanna (replied)
WRB assignment (yay!)

Other:
[secret thing]
[GIANT INCREDIBLE NEWS]
Submit "4 to 6"
Critical Notes submission
Promote Surge review
Promote Mother Winter review
Pleiades contract
Finish Ramadan interview
Promote Öræfi review
Attend reading
Speak at writers' group

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 2/3/19 - 2/9/19

Looking at this list, I feel like I didn't do much. I was stuck a lot this week - falling asleep repeatedly while reading a particular lengthy novel, playing phone games too much, etc. I also accomplished a pile of long-put-off personal-life things after my search for an ad hoc assistant turned up nothing. I basically lost a day doing all that, but it was still a relief to get it done.

Good news is that my review of The Collected Schizophrenias got a whole lot of attention. I think that's due to Esmé's followers, but it's still nice. And I am caught up to a reasonable point for February. And the year-in-review piece I wrote for Locus appeared in the paper magazine, with a messy but recentish picture of me. (This won't appear online, I don't think. Get the magazine: it's got not only a whole bunch of experts on the best genre fiction of the year, but a ton of statistics about books published and sold compared to prior years.)

yay

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Writing:
Western Wind review
Gatsby's Child review
RotT review
WDtFiYM review

Reading:
The Trouble with Men 
Mother Winter


Pitching/Queries:
MyModernMet

Followups:
Nation
Slate (rejected)
Daily Beast (rejected)
Prairie Schooner
WSJ (responded)
Pleiades (accepted)

Correspondence:
Locus business
Barrelhouse business
Rosalie
S&S publicists
TWRP business
WVU publicist
Heather
Neal

Other:
[secret thing]
Barrelhouse editing & selection
Private client answers
Deb follow-ups
WRB contract
Promote Wang review
Promote Abdurraqib review
Promote Tonic & Balm review

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Directing the Fire Hose

The biggest news in books this week is this piece about an editor and author, Dan Mallory. He is not as blatant a grifter as Anna March and not as absurd a plagiarizer as Ailey O'Toole, but he lied his face off for many years about his life and his hardships. In return, he attained bigger and bigger rewards from the ivory tower and the literary world. Eventually, he picked up a seven-figure advance for his novel and a big hunk of money for the screen rights.

Here's what pisses me off most about this article: Mallory got so many things that I myself want, audiences and editorships with people and publishers with whom I salivate to be involved, acceptance into fancy colleges that I never could have touched. He did it dishonestly, and that meant that he took on prestigious editing positions before he was 30. I'm doing it honestly and it's taking me yeeeears even to get a book published. I'm not capable of Mallory's dishonesty, so I must do it the slow way, and that annoys me in a desperate, hollow kind of way.

Talent plays a role, certainly. Mallory surely has talents as a writer and salesman that I do not, and I acknowledge that it's not an equal situation, where I definitely could've had a $2 million advance if I'd only lied once or twice. But I can't help thinking if he could pull off this shit, why can't I? 

I mean, the wages of this kind of dishonesty are eventually ruin and ridicule, and that isn't ideal. And I don't really want to be the person who got a big-deal editorship by lying my way into it. But it seems like he did genuinely good work as an editor (when he could be arsed). He needed a shortcut to get there, and he needed to lie a lot in order to not come into the office for months at a time (what the hell was he doing during all that time, by the way? GTA and cocaine?), but while there, it seems like he did strong work as a book promoter and editor. And he did come through with an actual book that seems like it sold enough to justify its gigantic advance, even if it might've been a tiiiiiiiny bit plagiarized. He needed the boost of lies to get where he wanted to be, but he seemed to succeed, mostly, once he was there.

What might a shortcut like that do for people who've done enough work to earn it but haven't gotten the breaks they needed? What makes Mallory think he deserves success enough to lie to get it? Who deserves easy success and who doesn't? I'm full of questions about this stupid guy, ballasted by irritation at the publishing industry for being this way, for giving monetary success to people who are good at marketing and midlist success to people who are good at writing.

Last night, someone with interested followers retweeted the Horse Latitudes piece, and it got a whole additional boost of attention and reshares and likes. Today, the author of a book I reviewed tweeted the piece to her significant following and hello, reshares and likes. Lately I'm writing about books and in publications that have momentum separate and apart from what I do in relationship to them. That means I have to do a lot less to make my name visible, which is nice, but weird, in terms of what I'm accustomed to.

About a year ago I decided to hustle whether I liked it or not, and that's what I've been doing, just putting my head down and hustling, even though I mostly hate it. Regular newsletters, regular blog posts, checking on pitches once a week, sharing every single review on FB and Twitter, handing out my business card to anyone who asks if I write, asking for advice about everything I don't know how to do, applying for all possible reviewing jobs, asking for masthead placement from editors I write for regularly, saying yes to weird opportunities that I don't know if I'm qualified for, emailing editors who've rejected me to say they might be interested in X piece that just went live, agreeing to review as many books as I can and worrying about time and placement later, hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling.

I need to slow the pace of all this, or at least change the direction of the applied force. I never again want to be as overwhelmed as I was in January, and part of guaranteeing that is saying no instead of yes (more often and more firmly. An editor a couple of weeks ago interpreted my "I really don't think I can" as "yes!"). Part of leveraging the momentum I've given myself, and now, the momentum others are starting to give me, is directing the fire hose at my hybrid essays instead of my criticism. I never want to stop writing criticism, but I'm concerned that if I keep going with it as I have been, I won't be able to pivot toward the writing that matters to my guts. Nor will I have time (thanks, Chris).

As I wrote previously, my momentum has gotten me rewards I didn't foresee, and not (yet) the rewards I hoped for. I could've lied and said that I got an MFA from Columbia even though I got an MA at CSUN, and say that I used to slush for Conjunctions even though I used to slush for a miniature audio-stories outlet. With those lies I might've gotten further faster, with a lot less trouble and disappointment, and I might've been able to point the hose directly at the work that mattered most to me from the beginning. I could've proved myself once I was there.

But would I want something I had to lie to get?


Out in the world: 

I reviewed Esmé Weijun Wang's The Collected Schizophrenias, which I think is going to be a major book, for LARB.

I reviewed Tonic and Balm, a novel in stories by Stephanie Allen, for the Masters Review. It's out on Shade Mountain, one of my favorite presses, and it's about a nearly lost realm of entertainment: the medicine show.


This picture is completely unrelated to this post but it's hilarious and I need an image so. Click to embiggen if you don't see what's funny. In other news: I am an eighth-grade boy.


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 1/27/19 - 2/2/19

This week hopped and jumped like a Mark Twain frog. I did so much stuff! I got so much good news! I rolled in under the wire on some great opportunities, and I handled a few tasks I've been putting off for a good long while. My February workload looks okay so far, but I might just be looking at physical piles rather than considering the books I've loaded onto my e-reader. Ruh-roh.

Of course, part of February is going to be preparing for AWP in March. Please get in touch if you want to see me there; I'm actually starting to make lists of booths I want to stop by and people I want to meet in person. This sounds hideously self-important and I'm sorry. But it's the truth: if you want to meet up, let me know instead of relying on fortune.

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Writing:
S. Allen review
GAITR review
Davis paired review
The Body Myth review
Blog post

Reading:
Labrador
Revenge of the Translator
The Silk Road
The Body Myth

Pitching/Queries:
Ramadan interview to V1B (accepted)
Ramadan interview to Fanzine (withdrawn)
ASFM to Slate, Nation
Two books to Daily Beast
AGNI (answered)
Two titles to Prairie Schooner (accepted!)

Followups:
WSJ (answered) (!)
Hyperallergic (rejected)
TWRP (answered)
TNR
Graywolf

Correspondence:
Locus business
Barrelhouse business
Sophia & her publicist
Will @DV (enthusiasm!)
Cole @TMR
Chad @BWDR
Michelle D.
Christina
Emma

Other:
Promote Books I Hate
Promote Horse Latitudes piece
Assemble & send newsletter
Promote Thirty-Seven review
Apply to Mineral School (finally)
[secret thing]
Barrelhouse editing & selection
Put together materials for workshop
Interview questions for Ramadan, Baker

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Orange and Teal

First, I must note that I'm astounded by the response to my piece about Horse Latitudes books. The traffic has been of a different character than for any other piece of mine, ever. A whole lot of interesting encounters have come out of it, including this delightful blog post by a writer I admire. I don't know what I expected in terms of response, but it wasn't this; I wrote it for my own amusement. (My editor said it was a scoop worthy of a Pulitzer, but that's his sense of humor.) Hello and thank you, anyone who's reading this after finding me through that piece.

If you haven't, please sign up for my newsletter for a chance to win all twelve of the books I read and reviewed in the piece. A runner-up will win one of my literary tote bags. I have a lot of them. It's a problem.



Second, in case the news hasn't crossed your feed yet, I am now the book reviews coeditor at Barrelhouse, along with my long-distance pal Kamil Ahsan. (He's a good dude. Send him all your Kirsten Dunst gifs.) I'm REALLY excited to be doing this job, for undisclosable reasons as well as the obvious ones. And yes, you can pitch me. Please do.

On with the show.

Yesterday I went to see both of my mentors at CSUN. (It was sheer luck that both of them had office hours on Tuesday, so thanks, office hours fairy.) It was an interesting visit, because they gave me differing but caring advice, some of which proved that they really are just two sides of the same mentor-coin.

Chris told me that although it's great that I'm doing so many reviews, and thus helping the literary community so much, I need to figure out a way to get back to my own writing. "The world needs Kat's writing," he said, a little insistently. I hung my head. I do have essays that need extraction from my brain, but when I will have time for them I do not know. That's not a good thing, according to both Chris and me, but I'm in so deep on reviews that I don't know how to fix it.

Kate told me that she's happy for my success, and asked (politely) if I was making any money yet. Not really, I said. She asked if my goal was to land a paid position as a regular reviewer, and I said sort of. I do want that, but only if it will help me publish books, and/or slow down my reading pace. She kind of shrugged, and said well, I hope you can do that, but right now you're kind of an indentured servant. You're doing the grunt work and building up credit you can use to buy your freedom, and a little plot of land of your own. That was helpful of her, and sweet.

I asked both of them for recommendations on a certain kind of dialogue that appears in literary short stories, because I'm speaking about dialogue to a group of women writers in mid-February. (You can come if you want to, as long as you're close to LA and not male-identifying. Email me for details if you'd like them.) Both of them (separately) looked at their bookshelves for a long time and eventually realized aloud that they don't really like dialogue.

This will be funny to people who know them both, because as thinkers, they couldn't be more different. Kate is a structuralist, inspired by the natural world, a Baby Boomer with a fine-tuned ability to walk in and teach for three hours off the cuff. Chris is a poststructuralist, immersed in pop and digital culture, a Gen Xer who examines his pedagogy like narcissists examine their faces. They have both helped me immeasurably, and yesterday isn't the first time I've thought of them as the orange and teal of my writing life.

In other news, the overwhelm I felt recently lasted a while, a week+, but I dug out of it this week and got a bunch of things done. I'm not completely aboveground, but I'm getting there. Lots of good news ahead, lots of good books behind. Nice to have a fresh start in February.

Out in the world:

A review of one of the best books I read last year (out of 150, mind you): Thirty-Seven, by Peter Stenson, at 3:AM.

A short, cynical piece about the PEN shortlists and money in publishing at Book & Film Globe.

Books I Hate with Morris Collins, who wrote one of the Horse Latitudes books. I really enjoyed this interview. He's a smart guy, about writing particularly.

By the way, if you're reading this and you're one of the people who's agreed to a Books I Hate interview, email me, okay? I need to sort out the next few months. I promise I'm not mad.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 1/20/19 - 1/26/19

This week I felt utterly overwhelmed. The amount of work I've taken on is unreasonable, and a few things that are genuinely important have fallen by the wayside (applying for a residency, [secret thing]). I sat down with my book pile, my spreadsheet, and my husband on Saturday to figure out what to do, and although it felt a lot like me rambling and Matt sitting there with a listening-but-feeling-slightly-superfluous look on his face, it helped a bit. I have a short list of what to do next, I eliminated a couple of items from the pile, and I feel okay about February.

Then, later in the day, I secured a gig that is still secret, but is goddamn amazing, and calls for significant additional work and time. It would have been the wrong move not to leap at it, but the bare fact of leaping at it when I'm already overloaded is frankly illogical.

I really had no idea that going freelance and leaning into book criticism would turn out like this, and it's so hard to describe what I mean by "like this." I've had more/faster success (by my own metrics) than I imagined, but the path has been so chaotic that "path" doesn't really apply to the experience. Even Wonderland had a visible, followable trail through the weird woods.

If I consciously thought about what lay ahead, I believed I'd teach workshops once every two months or so, write a book review every now and then, find an agent or a press for one of the two saleable books, and publish hybrid film essays regularly, like every few months. Instead I wrote for horoscope.com, published 10 book reviews in one month, wrote twice for the most prestigious book criticism outlet in Britain, and [secret thing] [it's really weird, something I never even considered I'd do]. I have taught no workshops, gotten no nibbles from agents, and published no hybrid essays, though not for lack of trying. And I somehow made friends with the head of Dzanc, a publicist from the University of Texas, and Neal Pollack.

Does that get across how chaotic and contra expectations it's been? I mean, horoscope.com??

So. I spent a lot of time this week feeling overwhelmed rather than working, but I also had a small medical procedure and some unrelated emotional turmoil. Coping mechanisms (rewatching Rifftrax and playing very stupid phone games) intervened. I did pitch a lot, but I didn't meet reading or writing goals. The above might've been good as a separate blog post, I guess, but only after yesterday's flail session with Matt did I feel coherent about it, so in it goes with the to-do list.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 1/13/19 - 1/19/19

This week started out strong in terms of writing and finished strong in terms of reading. I couldn't bring myself to rewrite a piece I was told (rightly) to rewrite, and that stopped up the writing pretty effectively, so I read instead. Given how many books have to go through my brain in the next 11 days, that's OK. I was glutted with promo work this week, and consequent correspondence, because a bunch of books in my orbit all dropped on the same day (Tuesday).

I got two big pieces of good news this week, and I made a really hard decision. Lots of incidental stuff is falling to the wayside, emails I need to send and people I want to see. Next week is going to be stressful for un-work-related reasons, so before that happens, I'm trying to remember all the things I've forgotten, with middling success.

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Writing:
Horse Latitudes draft
Dyer review
Smoke & Summons review, revise
Edits on Wang review x2
Edits on Malhotra review
Blog post

Reading:
What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth
Horse Latitudes
Fire Logic 
Go Ahead in the Rain
The Western Wind

Pitching/Queries:
TUG to Hyperallergic (answered)
Galley request, Costalegre (+)
Galley request, The Ash Family (+)
Galley request, The Undying 

Followups:
Call to EHS
Agent LH
Graywolf publicist (answered)
Bitch
BW/DR

Correspondence:
Emails w/ Nora
Emails w/ ST publicist
Email to RH publicist
Emails w/ Renee
Emails w/ Morris
Messages re: Austen reprint
Emails to UHP, PDP
Emails w/ Locus
Check in with Arts Fuse
Pitch from publicist

Other:
Promote reviews (5) 
Invoices
Update website
Abstract & bio for SGVWW
WaPo paperwork
Submit to AWP thing

<3 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Surprise in Gray

O, Gentle Reader, hello. I'm feeling a smidge vulnerable right now. There's a stomach bug in my house and I'm helpless against it; when I lose sleep I turn into a slow, uncertain version of myself; I have multiple drafts of blog posts that I can't decide the time is right to write, and the clogginess of them makes me anxious; the remote control in my bedroom has been cosmetically damaged with wintergreen essential oil, which I don't even know what to do about; the pile of books I have to read in January is not getting any smaller, but it's because editors are saying yes to my pitches, so I can't complain.

I cried this week. (I cry about once a year.) I'm having a medical procedure I don't want next week, with anesthesia, and I'm dreading the helpless feeling I'll have afterward. On Tuesday I was able to run longer than ten minutes without wheezing and giving up. I wrote a version of an article I've worked an inordinate number of hours on since early December, and per my editor I have to rewrite it, and although I think he's right, I'm balking, despite the ticking clock, because of despair at having to redo. I am strongly motivated by not having to redo things. Part of why I don't play video games.

SIX things I wrote were published this week. As I said elsewhere, I'm grateful for the riches, but risking overexposure is a problem I never thought I'd have and don't know what to do with.


Also, I feel overwhelmed at the spring books I have yet to place. Lots of cool titles in March and April that I have pitched, had no response, and haven't managed to pitch again. I'll probably end up scrambling to place them less than a month out, which I hate, but that pile of books I have to finish in the next fourteen days...! Pitching takes a short time but lots of energy; reading takes lots of time but little energy (and is much nicer). I'm overly insistent on landing this one book in this one specific place, and it's stupid of me because I could just write it up for a different place and be done, but the editor asked for phone calls, and I've left him two voice mails and he hasn't called me back, and why would you do contact that way? Unless you want freelancers to be mad at you?

At the end of March I go to AWP and then immediately to Iceland, which is very exciting but it keeps getting closer and I have no coherent plan and haven't lost any weight or gotten my chipped tooth fixed, and last AWP it was fine because I had no one to impress and mostly loved ones to meet, but this time the stakes are much higher based on the "let's meet up!" emails and messages I've been exchanging for the past six months, and I don't know what to do, and I dreamed about Iceland last night, and it was scary and clean and efficient and everyone was bundled in attractive cold-weather gear and speaking in lovely textured consonants and I felt very American.

The bugged of stomach is tossing a bit in bed and I should really go ask if he needs anything. The pile of books isn't shortening and I should really go read. January is running out and I should really arrange an interview and rewrite that article and write another review.

DESPITE ALL THIS, I feel happy. It's been raining for four days here, which sounds awful, but it's actually lovely, like a surprise in gray. When you have months on end of stalwart sunshine, not a cloud in sight from one season to another, rain can be a delight. And I'm hugely blessed by all the publication, and a particular pitch-yes I received this week, which hasn't really sunk in yet because it's so meaningful. Can't wait to tell you about it.


Out in the world:

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 1/6/19 - 1/12/19

Fairly representative week. I wish I'd written a couple more reviews. Next week is going to have so much promotion that I know I'll have a hard time getting things done.

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Writing:
Dual memoir review
Wang review
Edits on other dual review
Edits on Stenson review x2
Draft Roupenian review

Reading:
Smoke & Summons
Gatsby's Child
Horse Latitudes books (3)
You Know You Want This

Pitching/Queries:
Highbinder agent query (rejected)
Serpent's Tail query (sort of)
Shields to New Republic (responded!)
Hygiene thing to The Loop
EHS email/call
ASFM to WSJ

Followups:
JTG (answered)
BWDR (answered)
Pitchfork
TLS

Correspondence:
Emails w/ UW publicist
Emails w/ Madison, Eric
Emails w/ Meg
Locus business
Emails w/ Dahlia
Emails w/ Renee
Emails w/ Sophia

Other:
Promote Narrator review
[secret thing]
Promote other dual review
Promote Virtuoso review
Answer private client questions
Submit hunger story x2
Social media stuff
Update website

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 12/22/18 - 1/5/19

This post represents the past two weeks of work. The week of Christmas was marvelously quiet - I didn't write a single review - so I combined it with the week of New Year's, which was a little busier. I took some time off during these weeks, but also, Matt was off work, so we spent more time together than usual.

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Writing:
Oraefi review, edits
Something Like Breathing review, edits
Thirty-Seven review
Callbacks/Frail Sister review
Edits on G review
Edits on Virtuoso review

Reading:
Horse Latitudes books (5)
Callbacks

Pitching/Queries:
Interview request to DB (accepted)
Query to CW
Interview to NPR
Multiple to TLS (responded)
Multiple to Pleiades (responded)
BW/DR

Followups:
R&RG (answered)
A/V (answered)
JtG
Guardian (answered)
Bust (answered)

Correspondence:
Review request from Neal (accepted)
Galley request (resolved)
Locus administrative stuff
Graywolf emails on interview
Publicist emails (multiple)
TWRP emails

Other:
Blog posts, promotion thereof
Rejections (3)
Full MS pass for private client
Mentoring stuff
NetGalley stuff
[secret thing]
Contest entry
Promote G review

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Resolute, 2018 Edition

Every year, I post last year's New Year's resolutions with a short analysis of how well I think I succeeded at them, and then I post this year's. So, here are last year's (in greater detail here):

1. Hustle. Success, possibly too much. I got really damn busy as a writer, and I'm proud of it. I wouldn't have traded my overwhelm for being underworked, but I wish I could have figured out how to feel less stressed about all the work I took on. I did get it all done, and almost all of it was on time, so the stress...did me no good? Or was it the prod at my back? I don't know. The hustle worked, is the point; I think it's the main reason I am where I am as a writer at the beginning of 2019.

2. Keep to my own rhythms. Success. I slept more in the past eight months than I think I did in the prior three years. I'm still trying to sort out acceptance of this, feeling no shame about napping most days. It took years to accept that I need eight to nine hours of sleep per night instead of less, so I'm not expecting that acceptance of my own rhythms will be easy.

3. Fight fear. This resolution was a mistake. I don't need to fight fear; I need to let fear in, feel it, and move on. At that I did pretty well, but no better or worse than last year. I'm calling it a no-foul draw.

4. Plan better on a small scale. Success. I worked out a daily schedule for myself, and it kept me afloat when the looseness of freelancing threatened to drown me with excess time.

5. Give myself credit for hard work. Success. Matt helped me with this, telling me over and over how much I deserved credit for hard work. But something else that helped me was making to-do lists, but not throwing them away, and instead reviewing the finished items later. This had the effect of showing me, with hard evidence, the plentiful work that I'd done, instead of my mean ol' memory saying I didn't really do much.

6. Let go, let go, let go. Success, on balance, although I failed a lot. A very difficult, very necessary resolution for this year, much more so than I had imagined. I let go of my day job painfully, over a long period of time, but at present I have some peace about it - even if I still have bad dreams sometimes. I let go of expectations a bunch, and it made certain disappointments much easier. This resolution came to pass in exactly the right year, but it's a lesson I'll carry with me.

7. Take better care of my body and my home. Fail. I did better with flossing, but I am still the poorest housekeeper on this earth, and I exercised way less than in prior years.

8. Avoid travel. A draw. I didn't travel much, but a couple of trips were necessary, and I didn't die. This was sort of a dumb resolution, because I always want to avoid travel if possible. I think it came out of the unfortunate travels I had in the fall of '16 rather than anything real I needed to shift in my life.

This year I had a hard time thinking of resolutions. Not because I didn't feel there was anything about me that needed changing (we all need tune-ups), but because I'm deeply content. In such a state of mind, it's hard to think of what I want to change. Also, a lot of the stuff that ties me up in knots internally has been resolved by prior resolutions. Which is the point of resolutions, so it's nice that they're working, but it also leaves me with less to do in the future.

Anyway, I did come up with a few.

1. Rethink productive. There's always a little voice in my head that nags at me to be productive in a given day. Do laundry. Clear the coffee table. Organize your calendar. Marinate that pork roast. Read a book. Write something. It's hard to ignore this voice even if I've spent days on end being productive and want/need to spend a day resting. And it's part of how I failed to take a day off for multiple weeks at a clip this fall and winter. High productivity is nice, but burnout is not, and I'm quite nearsighted about the latter so I need to build in rest time.

I think there's got to be a way to redefine "be productive" for myself so that the voice stays quiet but I don't descend into sloth. I don't know what it is, but that's why it's a "rethink" resolution.

2. Lean into a hobby or two. When I did finally find the time to take a day off, I didn't know what to do with myself. Many of the things I would normally have done (hiking, museums) were not practicable, but some of the other things I might have done on past days off (reading, writing) had evolved into the stuff I needed time off from doing. An unexpected consequence of making avocation into vocation. That means I need to work out at least one hobby that I can do on my days off. Right now that hobby is phone games, which is a trashy hobby. I'd prefer to cross-stitch or do a puzzle.

3. Bring collage and horses into my life. Maybe collage is one of the hobbies I should pursue. I need to do it! I need to make it a regular part of my creative life. I've been thinking about it since September, and still haven't done it. I also need to bring horses more distinctly into my life in 2019. Being around them during Labor Day showed me how much happier and calmer I am when I spend time with them. I don't know how I'm going to do this, because incorporating horses into one's life is not necessarily an easy thing, but I must not keep putting it off.

4. Be smart about yes and no. I said yes to too many reviews in the spring and summer, but I didn't think I was in a position to say no to any of them. Now I'm starting to worry I said no too much in the winter, because my workload beyond March is so light I might have time to get back to writing my book (GASP). The timing of yes and no when it comes to reviewing is complicated because of lead times and editorial ghosting, but I can still try to be savvy about yes and no, rather than blundering into too much or too little work.

This is a hard thing to get right. Only trial and error will get me there, so I have to practice self-forgiveness if I mess it up. Which is also a good thing to work on in 2019.

5. Be aware of the networking vs. friendship, promotion vs. information percentage. Particularly in a year when I'm going to AWP, I'd like to be more cognizant about how loudly I'm self-promoting, and how much that sounds like annoying kazoo sounds as opposed to useful information offered to people who want to know how my writing is faring out in the world.

Similarly, I've made a lot of wonderful connections in the writing world this year. I'd like to call some of these people friends, but I'd be happy to slot others in the category of "networking contacts," meaning I don't have to comment on all their tweets. Some of these connections are about half and half, I think, friendship vs. networking (like, I'd probably hug them at AWP, but wouldn't be offended if I didn't get a birthday note from them). I think it's best not to be naive about these connections, though, and comprehend that even if I do like X Publicist as a human being, she probably likes me as a reviewer.

This resolution is advising general awareness, rather than naivete, of what I'm up to as a networker and self-promoter. I don't want to be slide into the mode of hustling all the time, but I also don't want to invest the softest parts of myself into what turn out to be professional relationships.

6. Teach. This might be more of a goal than a resolution, but I'd really like this to be the year I get a classroom full of minds to play with. It might come as a surprise to those of you I've told that I don't plan to teach, but I still don't plan to make teaching my primary job. One class per semester is about all I want.

7. Travel. Ha! Surprise reversal! I'm making this a resolution so that I will ENJOY the travel I do this year. Portland, Iceland, and possibly New York and Australia (!) are all on my list for next year. Plus a family trip with no destination in mind yet. So I damn well better change my attitude about hating travel, even if just for one year.


I don't know how we got to 2019, but here we are. Happy New Year, friends. I hope you stay here with me; I'd miss you if you decided to find another year to inhabit.