Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another rejection for the bathroom wall

I have stopped counting the rejections. It's too depressing. If I kept track of the number I'd probably give up writing all together. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I am worried that I only get so many rejections and that's it. Kind of like a batter who gets three strikes and he's out. My thought is, for writers, we get a lot more than three strikes, though. (We're not quite as quick learners, so we get a few dozen more to smarten up).

Some writers, like Stephen King, have used rejection as a badge of honor of sorts. In his book, On Writing (which I highly recommend), he mentions early in his writing career he collected rejection slips on a nail on the wall of his workspace as a reminder of how far he'd come. Of course the king of the horror genre would do such a thing. Me, well, I am not so brave. I either rip them up into a million pieces or have myself a good cry. Or both, on a given day.

My first rejection for writing came oh so long ago from my high school newspaper advisor. She didn't give me a rejection letter per se, but instead stifled a smirk at the mere thought of this rather timid young girl becoming a newspaper journalist. "You? You're seriously considering becoming a writer?" Needless to say, I harbored a huge grudge and promised myself someday she'd know how wrong she really was.

And for a while, I thought I was succeeding. I had my share of accolades for writing. I won contests as a newspaper editor, as a feature writer and even a couple for fiction writing. But somehow, in this elusive gig called writing fiction, you're only as good as your last publication. The sting of rejection is considerably stronger than any accolade can ever be.

I thought I'd amassed a pretty tough skin over the years as the rejections continued to mount to so many I could wallpaper the bathroom with them (if I'd only kept them rather than shred them).

The latest came Friday evening via email. It wasn't one of those generic "It's not right for us, but we wish you success in finding placement elsewhere." This was a personal critique. It's the first big house to ever comment on my work and not either A)Toss it in the circular file (aka trash can) or B) Send it back via SASE with nary a pen mark. I held my breath, hoping upon hope this editor wanted my young adult novel that I felt was possibly one of the best things I've ever written.

Nope. Yet another blow to the already bruised ego. Bottom line, she said I had a great voice and it was a fresh idea for a genre saturated with vampires, werewolves and anything else that can rip you apart limb by limb. But again, it wasn't what they wanted or needed. I had failed.

I truly had thought this was it, my golden ticket of sorts. My chance at sharing my stories with the world. But, alas, there are no golden tickets in publishing. I just have to keep plugging at it and hope that at some point something will hit.

I figure this batter has a few more strikes left in her. My home run will come. In the meantime, maybe I should start collecting those rejections and wallpaper my bathroom for free.

Friday, April 16, 2010

To School or not to School

I am in charge of educating my son. Of course, that's the job of every parent, is it not? But two years ago I took the leap into homeschooling my middle-school aged son.

When I tell people I homeschool an eighth grade boy, I get one of two responses: a) "You're a saint!" or b)"You really think you can do a better job than a certified teacher?"

Now these responses aren't always verbal, mind you. Sometimes it's a facial expression - you know, the one where someone's face is all scrunched up like they have just devoured a sour lemon. But the scrunchiness always fades and then the next question comes along: "Aren't you worried about socialization?"

The answers to the above questions are as follows: No, No and well, sometimes. I honestly never dreamed I would homeschool my child. I was a maladjusted newspaper journalist for 15 years chasing the story of the day who finally woke up to what she really wanted: to write fiction where the stories (mostly) ended happily ever after.

I took the leap into freelance and fiction writing and for two years joyously wrote and wrote and wrote some more. Then the bottom fell out. My husband was laid off and my freelance money started drying up. Not so different from the rest of the country, our odyssey of job changes began. It's a long, ridiculous story of four moves in less than two years, schools that didn't quite fit and a son who cried every morning before school and clammed up every day after. I saw the future before me - a scary smart kid who hated school - and it scared the hell out of me.

It was my beloved sister who told me I could do it. I never taught anyone anything (except yoga). Then she reminded me that my husband and I taught our son to walk and talk and pee in the potty. We taught him right from wrong and how to be a kind and generous person.

Which brings me to the question of sainthood on my part. NOT even close! I take it day by day (and do a lot of yoga). We've discovered a cool place called Florida Virtual School. We pick classes that sound fun and I outsource the rest. We use a combination of books and online learning, always revamping when something doesn't work. It's like all the years of using journalism research has paid off!

My son's finishing up his second year of a high school foreign language and as an eighth grader already has other high school credits. He's doing so well he was even accepted to a rigorous program here in Alachua County to continue his education at a brick and mortar high school.

That's been the dilemma of the day this spring. Which also brings us to ah, socialization. Is it holding him back to keep him at home learning? Will he be scarred for life if he doesn't attend prom, let alone his alma mater's football games?

The odd thing is, my son actually asked to stay homeschooled. Begged is more the word. He plays Upward flag football, Y basketball, takes art lessons and golf lessons. He makes movies in his spare time and volunteers weekly at a local museum.

The greatest compliment I have received was from someone who said "Your son can speak to anyone of any age, can't he?" Yep. And that's what it's all about, isn't it? Preparing our children for life in the real world where their co-workers and friends will be all different ages, cultures and backgrounds.

So, I guess we'll keep plugging along on this homeschool path. Maybe I'll be sainted after all....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Fall from Grace

I fell flat on my face....Again. I am speaking literally, although I have fallen many times metaphorically along my rocky and sometimes rutted life path. Most of the time I have popped back up like some sort of crazed jack-in-the-box, dusted myself off and started all over again. Today I don't think it's possible for me to pop back anything (except maybe the cap to the bottle of ibuprofen).

It's Yoga's fault. Just after class last night (as I nursed a bruised nose and ego) I wanted to blame my well-intentioned teacher. But I now realize she's the innocent bystander here. The fault lies purely in the ancient practice of Yoga - the bringing together of mind, body and spirit. A practice that has included handstands, of all things, within its asana.

Within an hour of ranting (to myself) about the insanity of throwing feet over head at age 43 and vowing to never again put myself in such a position ever again, I took a deep breath and attempted to put it in perspective. That was a no go. All I could see during my hour and a half alignment class was a blissfully happy group of 20-somethings gleefully tossing their bodies into the air and flowing from pose to pose as I grunted and growled hoping it would end sooner than later.

I pushed. (There's not supposed to be any pushing in yoga). That realization hit me this morning at 3 a.m. along with the shooting pain in my shoulder. I thought, "What the (bleep) am I supposed to be learning here?" Then the light dawned - I'd broken the rules. All of them. And it was my own dad gum fault.

Basically yoga's teachings are pretty simple:
1) Breathe.
2) Follow what your body is telling you.
3) Rest between poses.
4) Don't compete with anyone (even yourself).
5) Never give up, just give in when you need to.

I broke every one of those rules. I made all the beginner mistakes and I've been practicing seriously for a while now. I held my breath hoping it would end. I didn't listen to my body when it cried out to give myself a break. I berated myself between poses, compared myself to college co-eds and decided at the end I would NEVER EVER try handstands again.

The little voice in my head is laughing now. Telling me not to take it all so seriously. It's a practice, not a perfect. It's when we encounter the unknown (or seemingly un do-able) that we close ourselves off to the possibilities.

So, what am I going to do? During my home practice today I am going to prop myself up against the wall and try a handstand again. I am going to keep trying one every day until I can do it. Patience will be my mantra. And knowing there's an ibuprofen waiting if I fall....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Passion vs. Insanity

There are days I feel completely bonkers. Days in which I feel as if I should be locked up in a room wearing a straight jacket and my family told, "There's just no hope for her." Those are usually the days I am dry creatively. I mean bone dry. Sahara Desert dry. They are the days I think that not one remotely interesting word will ever again flow from my heart and I should throw in the towel once and for all and forget about being a writer.

Well, that's how this past weekend started for me. Not a particularly positive way to head to a day-long writer's conference in which I would find out (after months of waiting) whether or not my contest winning entry would be requested by a "big" publishing house.

Preparations seemed futile as every time I tried to print my work my computer would glitch and spit out weird black boxes on the page, rather than words. So what did I do? I fell to the floor and started to sob. Wracking sobs in which my dearly beloved husband raced in to the room and wondered what could possibly be that bad.

"It's a waste of time. All of it," I responded between sobs which turned to a fit of hyperventilation. "I have no idea why I even try. None of it matters."

I know, a little melodramatic, even for me. I admit it, passion is my problem. As a wise friend continually tells me, my greatest strength is also my greatest weakness. And she's right. (Or, should I say WRITE?) As a writer, my passion has always made my writing more colorful. But in real life, that passion can get downright crazy. Even insane on a given day.

So I ran to the bathroom, cried it out of my system, blew my nose and returned to the room where my calm and mild mannered beloved reprinted my work. He said nothing. Not a peep. Didn't even ask what came over me. I guess he's used to it.

I've been writing a long time. It's been 18 years since I attended my very first writer's conference. "I should just give up." I've said this so many times I've lost count.

Once again, no response. My husband shakes his head as he always does. He knows I don't mean it. I can't stop. It's an addiction, a need I have deep in my soul. So, I will keep writing even if no one ever reads a word. Because I can't NOT write.

Oh, and the conference? Still waiting to see if the "big" house is going to call me up. But even if they don't I know I won't stop trying. EVER.