SinC Blog Hop

Books

Photo by Ed Dubiel

So if you didn’t know, I’m an officer on the national board for Sisters in Crime, an organization for lovers of crime fiction: mystery writers, readers, and everyone in between.  I’m the Library Liaison, which means I help writers get hooked up with librarians and vice versa, to the mutual benefit of all involved.  This is a good role for me because I’m a librarian and a writer, so I know what it’s like from both sides.  (Even when sometimes those two identities have a hard time coexisting!)

Fellow librarian/writer/board member Barbara Fister and I created this September Blog Hop.  Okay, Barbara created it, and I’m just along for the ride. But this is a good idea, so I’m here to add my two cents. All this month, SinCers are posting their answers to prompts and tagging others to do the same.  I choose the following questions… (dun dun dun)

What’s the best part of the writing process for you, and what’s the most challenging?

I often ask myself why I write.  Sometimes I get so caught up in the drama and angst of it that I can’t even answer that question. I say to myself, I could be reading right now instead of beating myself over the head.  I think about my friends who don’t have the writing bug and get jealous. I start to wonder if the grass is greener.

I started writing because in third grade, a teacher handed me a pen and a Garfield notebook and told me to. Until that blank page stared up at me from the desk, I’d never entertained the idea. But this was part of our classwork, and like a good student, I followed the rules. Then I realized I didn’t want to follow the rules: I wanted to make up my own stories, for sport. My first story was called Trapped in a Video Game, and it followed the exploits of a main character whose name I cannot recall, but was, indeed, Trapped in a Video Game – Super Mario Brothers, to be exact. Also, she had a crush on Wesley Crusher.

I keep writing for the thrill of it. I like to see text unfurl on the screen, a scarf unraveled. I like to inhabit the mind of a character, figure her out, find out why she ticks. I wait for the aha moments and the quiet revelations that appear on the page. I turn my computer off and write longhand so I can concentrate, block out the noise in my mind and go to someplace that is entirely my own.

The hardest part of writing for me is dealing with the psychological burden that comes with it. I am only one tiny voice in a chorus of millions.  Why would anyone want to read my work?  Why would anyone care? Lately, however, I’ve been ignoring those questions, the little internal cry of Why bother? I’ve been sending out my work and letting others read it. Sisters in Crime has helped give me the courage I need for this. For years I’ve questioned my own self-worth in a number of areas, but I’m too old for that now.  I know I’m good at what I do, and it’s time to start showing myself off before I die.

What books are on your nightstand right now?

I’m a librarian and a book podcaster, so I have to answer this one.  Next in my queue is The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness.  Alas, I’m mystery/thrillered out, having finished several good ones within the last few weeks.  So, Harkness it is.  That is the last book in the fantasy series about a vampire and a witch who fall in love. I also have the advanced copy of Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult waiting for me.  When I do eventually get back to thrillers, I’m looking forward to Ice Shear by M.P. Cooley and The Secret Place by Tana French.

Bright Star

Henry 1Just before I got pregnant with Henry, I was helping a homebound patron edit her book.  She couldn’t come to writers’ group, so she sent me her pages each month, and I’d take them for feedback and send it back to her.  The book was on astrology, and she’d created a new system for reading the stars.  While she asked me not to share the details of the system, she did a reading for me as a thank you.  She said this decade, my thirties, would be the best of my life and most successful.

Now I am not much of a believer in anything beyond the physical world.  I have a thorny relationship with religion and am a skeptic about most everything else.  But this stuck with me.  Thirty was the age where I let go of fears, accepted my limitations, and came to terms with the fact that happiness was not a thing bestowed open me but a thing I had to work for. Things are not always easy – I’ve also dealt with some of the worst depressive episodes of my life – but overall, my thirties have been far and away more productive and happier than any other time in my life.  I have to attribute some of this happiness to Henry.

I don’t write about him much.  When I’m with him, I soak up every moment of him, good and bad.  That’s the way I parent, and it works for me.  But it makes me want to escape when I’m not with him.  At work, I focus on work; when he’s in bed, I’m thinking about other things.  He exhausts me.  There is also the background thought, all the time, that other people don’t want to read about him.  That people are inherently tired of children.  Children are so glorified in our society, seen as such a reason to be alive and to be fierce and proud, that we get tired of parents who are too vocal.

Today I wanted to write about him, though.  There are some things I wanted to document.  Henry, at almost 20 months, is a reason to be alive and fierce and proud, even if I don’t want to talk about it all the time.  He drove me crazy today, not wanting to sit in the cart at Target or Acme, and I had to alternately carry him and let him walk, pushing the cart with one hand.  I was sweating, as the temperature rocketed from 30 to 50 in two hours and my head began to pound with the change.  Yet there were small moments, like when we left the house and a random teenager was strolling past playing his guitar, and Henry stopped to dance.  When I asked him, “Do you love Mommy?” and he said “Yes!”  When Ed asked him if he had something he wanted to tell Facebook, and he said, “Bus.”  ”Bus” was today’s word of the day; everything was a bus.

He knows how to turn on my Nook and find his spelling game app.  He can spell words within the app.  He knows how to find his Babyphone app, too, and he knows how to turn on the Wii and start Donkey Kong Country.  He knows letters: O, I, A, M, E – but he’s confounded by W and J.  He will climb into the lap of a stranger and dance to cell phone ringtones.  He loves to sit with me and read.

Before he was born, I was so worried that having a child would mess up my life, the way it was.  That all my free time would be sucked away in an instant – that I would be a different person, an obnoxious person who thought and talked about her kid all the time.  I reminded myself that it was going to be hard, and that I needed to remember that life is not all about me anymore.  This is the way it is now: I am still me, like I said I would be.  I was prepared for the difficulties, so I wasn’t shocked.  There were only pieces of this life that I wasn’t prepared for.  He has so much power, this small bright star.  He has so much ahead of him, so much discovery, and I have so much to learn about being his mother.

Children don’t make you happy merely by existing.  No one wanting to improve their marriage or their lives in general should have a child to accomplish that.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you should or should not have a child.  That is your decision.  My decision was to create and shape this little person, and I’m glad I made it.  As Ed would say: “he’s pretty awesome.”  When he’s exhausting, when he’s fascinating, and when he’s shining.

 

PLA: The Good, the Bad, and the Migraine

pla-logoLast week I was at the Public Library Association conference.  I am the Library Liaison to Sisters in Crime, which means I put together a booth on the exhibit floor and talked to librarians about the group.  This is a perfect job for me because I am both of those things, so I can connect librarians to writers and writers to librarians – I know how each of those minds work.

But seriously, Sisters in Crime is a fabulous organization for anyone who loves mysteries.  My writing has gotten better because of it, and I’ve learned so much from my fellow Sisters and Misters about the business.  I have found mentors in my local chapter as well as on the national board and through other events.  I have had the opportunity to travel and meet librarians and writers across the country.  My life is so much better for it.

I also wore my regular library-work hat, which meant I attended sessions and visited vendors.  I have tons of ideas for our next two-year technology plan.  The sessions I saw were first-rate, too, especially the one by Simon Sinek, who talked about the biochemical human need to connect each other, not push each other away.  It’s a management style I have always embraced, so it was validating to see it on a big stage in front of hundreds, maybe even thousands of people.

On Friday night, I joined a group of teen librarians to see Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan, two of my YA idols.  Despite my terrible migraine, it was the best thing ever.  We ran into them in a cupcake shop just before the program started, so we got to meet them and talk to them before anyone else did.  That was great, because after we waited several hours to get their autographs, there wasn’t much time to tell them anything personal.  I was so glad I had the chance to tell them how much their books meant to me while we were all waiting for our delicious cupcakes.  Their talk and reading was great, too.  And teen librarians are the best to hang around with.  They are all so caring and fun.

I took away a few things from PLA:

You should always try.  Megan McArdle brought this up in her Big Ideas talk, and Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan reinforced it.  If you don’t write garbage, you’ll never write something worth reading.  If you don’t fail, you’ll never succeed.  Yoda may say there is only do or do not, but doing may come in stages.  Don’t give up.

What you do may not seem worthwhile at first, but you will reap the rewards later.  When you put other people first, the whole world opens to you.

Tell your story.  I’m an idea person, so at any given time, there are always several books roaming in my head.  I wish I could write at the same pace I read.  Rainbow Rowell said that writing is about telling the story you want to tell.  Over the past few weeks, I have been wondering if it is really possible that I can write a cozy mystery, a dark YA fantasy, and a multi-genre thriller involving robots and still build a career.  (And before that, I wrote chick lit… talk about a trend that’s crashed and burned).  But you know what’s most important?  Those stories.  Realistically, let’s face it, I’m not going to have a Fancy Writing Career.  So why should I spend time chasing trends and branding myself as X or Y?  I’m not.  I’m always having an identity crisis, hence my blog title.  So I might as well have one as a writer, too, and write all of it – those important stories.  One day, a trend will come around that one of them fits into, and I might sell a book.  We’ll see.

Don’t apologize.  Warren Graham said this in the Black Belt Librarian session.  When you need to tell someone at the library to follow the rules, you tell them, “I know you didn’t know the rule, but – ” but you don’t say you’re sorry.  I say I’m sorry to everyone and everything, so this is new to me.  A few times at PLA, people told me things I should and shouldn’t do.  I accepted (and still do accept) that criticism as graciously as possible, filed the information away in the back of my head – but I did say I was sorry.  Why should I be?  I ran that booth like a boss, got lots of compliments from authors, librarians, and even one of my library’s board members, and so many people went away happy.  There’s no reason to be sorry.  There may be reasons to do things differently next time, but I’m not going to apologize for any of the awesome things I did at PLA.  (And I’m not going to apologize the next time I have to kick someone out for swearing or doing some other stupid thing.)

I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel, champion the things I love, and connect with so many people.  My deepest thanks to Sisters in Crime and Twinsburg Public Library, the organizations that believe in me and send me to these things.  Next will be ALA in Las Vegas… and I hope the migraine doesn’t follow me there!