Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Being a Writer (and Zombies)

Yesterday a friend of mine emailed. She's as editor but has recently been trying to find representation for a children's book, with the goal of publication. Now, I know very little about writing kids books, so I haven't been a whole lot of help. But in her email last night, she said something I know well: "I'm so frustrated! How do you writers do it?"

My answer: "With much frustration. Over many years."

I've been working to get my books published for half my life now. Half. Over half, technically, by a little. I sent out my first queries when I was 15 years old. And though I didn't keep querying constantly for the next 10 years until I sold something, I did go back to trying that at least once a year. Especially after I got married.

There was one time when I'd just finished a manuscript, and my husband of about a year said, "Now no more writing until you try to get this one published." High on the feeling of being finished and convinced the story was brilliant, I said, "No problem!"

Problem. LOL. I'm a writer. Not someone who likes to write, someone who has to write. And within a week, I had this other brilliant idea that I couldn't not work on. I would sneak into our den to write, LOL. For the first day or two, when David walked in, I'd flip to the internet, all like, "What, me? No, I'm not writing..."

That obviously didn't last long, and we had a good laugh about it. I could appreciate that he wanted to push me outside my comfort zone, away from "being a writer" and into "trying to be a published writer." That was important. It mattered to me. But not as much--never as much--as just writing. Having him beside me, reminding me to try again, and again, and again to get my books into the world has been invaluable. No doubt otherwise, I'd just have the collection of books in my computer and nowhere else.

But it's always been about the writing.

Also last night, I took my daughter to ballet, and the grandmother of one of her friends asked, "Are you working on a book right now?"

I had the pleasure of answering, "I just finished one on Monday!" (Did I mention I finished A Soft Breath of Wind on Monday??? Woot!) And then added, "Right now I'm editing someone else's book. Then my next deadline is July. Yay for deadlines!"

At this point, another mom across the room heard the conversation and piped in with, "Hey, wait. What? You've written a book? Like, a book? A real one?"

LOL. I love these moments in the life. The ones where I get to be a writer. Where I don't celebrate my novel completion by vacuuming my kitchen or finally answering the plaintive "Mooooooooooooom! Where's my bear!" cry that's been distracting me for five minutes. Where I don't have to get up at 5:30 to have that time with my computer. Where I'm not balancing a stack of home school books or WhiteFire books or dealing with inventory or taxes or royalty reports. Where it's just me and someone who doesn't know me well and that lovely truth.

Yes. I'm a writer. I've written 28 books. Some of them are even good, LOL. I have nine either out now or due out within the year. More in the works. I am a writer.

I fished a bookmark out of my purse and ran it over to this other mom, who said, "Oo, you even have fancy bookmarks! This is so cool!"

It was. It was a cool moment. As a writer, I don't get a whole lot of those, so I soak them in when they come along. Most of my days are spent with my kids and their schooling. Or helping David run WhiteFire. But I love those moments when I'm just a writer.

Not everyone likes my books, and over the years, I've gotten to be okay with that. They're not sky-rocketing bestsellers, and I'm okay with that too. I've never won an award, and I don't need to. I'm a writer.

Writing a book is hard work. Getting a book published can be mind-numbing--and yes, frustrating. Getting bad reviews can bring you down, and seeing royalty reports can get depressing. But I've realized several times lately that for me, all that stuff is second. If I never made a dime off it, I'd still write. If I never sold another book, I'd still write.

It's part of who I am.

Now where, you wonder, do the zombies come in? Right now. ;-)

David and I like to watch The Walking Dead, which might surprise some of you. =) I'm not exactly a lover of zombie stories. But what I am is a lover of well-drawn characters, and this series has some of the best. And I especially love how this zombie apocalypse they're dealing with helps define who they are at the core.

Rick is a hero. A sheriff's deputy before the world falls apart, a leader. That's a role that gets better hewn in the midst of strife, and when he falters at it, when he loses that for a while, he loses himself. He's just an echo.

Hershel was a vet, a farmer, and a man of faith. Though the world turns upside down, those skills helped the entire group keep going...but especially that last. If there's no medical emergency, no land to tend, he still needs the faith. The faith still keeps them going. And though that, too, falters for a while, it becomes clear that if he loses it, he won't be Hershel anymore.

Glen--Glen was a delivery boy before the apocalypse. That's not who he was, that was just what he did. When everything fell apart, he had to discover who he really was. And he turned out to be a capable, fearless, smart dude. The kind everyone wants on their team.

The people who just had "jobs" in the "real world"...they get redefined. But the people who were doing what they loved, what made them who they are, that always shapes them through the strife.

Me...if an EMP wiped out all technology and publishing as I know it ground to a halt, I'd still write. On paper (gasp!) if I had to, but I'd still write. If the world descended into anarchy and we were all on the run for our lives, I'd still write. Maybe just in my head, and my books might just been campfire story time, but I'd still write. It's how I cope. It's how I process. It's how I deal.

It's not the only thing I am. It's not the only thing that defines me. It's not the only thing that I would always, always be no matter my circumstances. But it's linked to all those other things. It's part of them, as they're part of it.

And it's fun to think of. If life as you knew it ground to a halt...if you were stripped of job or house or circumstances...who would you be?


  1. What a great thought experiment! Growing up one of our ideals was having skills that would be useful in an apocalypse. I use these skills to make fairies and pretty clothes and beautiful (and useful!) house hold objects now, but I think they would adapt well. As long as I got over not having new materials for every project! : )

    I loved your image of being a campfire story teller! My dad always had a little struggle with his art, feeling like he wasn't a contributor, or he wasn't doing something world changing. Then he realized that he makes people happy with his art. And that is really important, especially in those awful, zombie times! : )

    1. I fully believe art changes the world in an incredible way. One of the most moving scenes in the mentioned show is when they finally find a safe place for a night and can build a campfire. One of the girls starts to sing. It's something she hadn't dared do for the last year, but it changes everything. That's what music and art and stories and dancing do. They change how we view everything.

      How fun that you use those skills in fun ways now! And yes, I daresay that you could adapt them as needed. ;-)

    2. And...just realized Wife, Mama, Maker is Kimberly, LOL. So yes, I knew you used those skills. I love your creations, and I know they enrich your family. And since if ever there's a zombie apocalypse (ahem) David has a plan for rescuing you and Martin from the city (LOL), I plan on relying on those skills of yours. ;-)

  2. Truth! As soon as I turned in my manuscript for Macy, my family said, "Now you can take a break!" And I did...for a day. Then I heard this song, and I started to plot, and I started to build this character in my head...And then I jotted down character notes...and here I am, onto another. And it's the best thing ever!

  3. Roseanna, I recently took a break from writing to watch the Olympics. When I got back to it a few days ago, I had to stop and catch my breath. I missed the process of writing! I didn't realize I'd miss it quite so much, but it was a pleasant discovery. This article of yours... I can totally connect with it!

    Happy writing!