Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Waiting Game

I am living the dream right now.

The dream I had for so many long, strenuous months of writing and stressing, so many hours spent cursing at my computer screen, and dragging my laptop across the city, and worrying if scenes and words and sentences made sense.

My purest, most passionate dream during that time was to be done. To type the last word, email the first draft to my editor, and feel a tremendous sense of freedom.

I am still waiting.

I am waiting, first of all, for my editor to get back to me with her notes, a waiting that carries a whiff of doom -- not unlike a prisoner awaiting his execution.

But most of all I am waiting for that elusive sense of freedom, of joy, that I was sure turning in the first draft would bring me. Where are the showers of confetti, the millions of friends surrounding me with bottles of champagne, the bright sunny days of beaching and picnicking and eating cotton candy? Whenever I am writing, I envision my life post-writing as some sort of movie montage of Happiness.

One would think that, after having written several books, I would know better.

What I feel when I turn in a first draft is mostly exhaustion coupled with gnawing anxiety and the knowledge that the journey has only just begun. Whoever said there is no great writing, only great rewriting, was spot-on. The first draft is just the bare bones, the getting-down-on-paper. It's in the revision process that the real, painstaking labor begins--at least for me.

I spend those first days after turning in my first draft in a dazed state of mild shock, watching movies on TBS and venturing out for frozen yogurt. A few days later, I start to worriedly check my email, wondering when my editor is going to send me back her notes. As much as I dread those notes, I also welcome them, knowing that they will return me to my manuscript. Because, like all writers (I think), I both love and hate my manuscript in equal measure--I am wildly frustrated with my characters when they are in front of me, but I miss them terribly when they are out of my hands. Waiting for an editor's notes is a kind of limbo, almost Dante-esque. Neither heaven nor hell.

My editor emailed me with a status update yesterday--she will either have her notes to me by the end of the week, or first thing Monday. In either case, I will be spending this weekend in the Berkshires, and I think--I hope--that being away from the scenes of the crime (i.e. my apartment and the various coffee shops where I wrote) will do me a world of good. I will breathe in the fresh crisp mountain air. I will swim in the clear swimming pool. And I will try my best to be patient...and find the joy in the waiting.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lucky Me

You may have notice that I have been derelict in my posting duties. But I have a good reason! From July 9th to the 17th, I was at my Vermont College residency, which rocked, but is crazy jam-packed with lectures, workshops, and readings, to the extent that the doing anything other than grabbing the occasional power nap is totally out of the question. I came home last Thursday...and immediately came down with the flu.
Four days, and one season of Buffy DVDs later, and it was time to hop in the shower, scrub those residual germs off of myself, and head upstate to Rome, NY, to the Turning Stone Casino and Resort!

No, unlike Cass Parker of GETTIN' LUCKY, I am *not* a poker player. The whole gambling thing doesn't appeal to me at all. So why, then, was I up at Turning Stone? Believe it or not, it was all in the name of YA writing!

I was invited to visit the Jervis Public Library (check out their nifty events calendar: http://www.jervislibrary.org/eventscal.html), to talk about my books, my career, and teen lit in general. It was a rainy Wednesday afternoon, and Lisa Kinna, the FABULOUS program director, warned me that I shouldn't expect a large crowd. That didn't deter me. Here I am, getting ready for my big talk:

(Note the stack of ro coms to my right--those were a hot commodity, no suprise!)

Her "small crowd" turned out to be one of the biggest groups I've ever spoken with--twenty-plus of actual teens (as opposed to my family and friends, that is). We talked a bit about my own writing, and from there, they had all kinds of questions about breaking into publishing. In fact, a bunch of them were creative writing students through the library's teen programming! Totally something I would have done back when I was a teen, in the dark ages. Lisa's own daughter (so sweet and cool) is getting ready to send her writing out to agents. I gave her some so-called professional advice.

Finally, we came to one of my favorite parts of a visit--signing! Though I tend to make things harder on myself by writing something unique in everyone's books. Thank goodness the readers are generally pretty forgiving.

It was really exciting to have a chance to meet some of my readers, but more than that, it was exciting to meet teen readers (there were even some dudes chilling out in the back row--though they wouldn't cop to having read any of my ro coms)! I can't wait to hit the road again for more library visits in the not-too-distant future.

Once I've had a chance to rest up, that is!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why My Life Seems Like a Samurai Movie

There is a famous Samauri movie called Rashoman in which different people have totally different memories of a crime. And I can really relate. This is not because I feel like I lived in 12th century Japan (which is when the movie took place) but because it seems like my memory of high school has absolutely nothing in common with those who I went to high school with.

When you're in the business of writing books set in high school, you find yourself reliving much of your own experience. When I'm working on a book, it's very common for me to flip through old yearbooks. I won't say how old, but I'll leave it to say that the hair is pretty big in some of the pictures.

Lately, I've also found myself reconnecting with some old high school friends on Facebook. (See Nancy's post below and add my name to the list of addicts.) There have been some interesting revelations and an amazing number of recollections that are very different from my own.

I thought I was a shy, withdrawn person who had limited dating success and absolutely no self confidence. Others remember me much differently. But here's the funny thing, most of them remember themselves as shy, withdrawn people with limited dating success and no self confidence.

The great thing is, most of them have fun reading the books and reconnecting about them. Ro-Coms and the internet have given me a chance to go back to school and realize that things were not always what they seemed.

Monday, July 21, 2008

FACE-ing a New Addiction

My name is Nancy K. and I am a Facebook-aholic.

There.  I've said it.  I'm an addict.   I never thought I'd be trolling around Facebook land to begin with.  After all, I'm a grown up.  That's a place my kids hang out.  But when my friend Gina invited me to create a page for myself (does that make Gina my Facebook pusher?) I just had to give it a whirl.  

At first I just showed a few book covers, and answered a few profile queries.  But the next thing I knew, I was getting request to be Facebook friends with a lot of my real life friends.  It seems they'd all been in Facebook land for a while. And soon we were all writing on each other's walls with glee.

That of course led to the Bumper stickers, the sending of cyber plants in the hopes of saving rain forests,  the pokes, the super pokes, and the never-ending status changes.

And then came the moment I knew I was addicted.  I created a Dogbook page for my dog Pepper Burwasser.   And he already has friends believe it or not!

I haven't had the guts to request that my kids accept me has a friend.  I'm not sure who that would be weirder for, me or them.  But I am trying to up my number of on-line pals  (hint. . .hint).

The addiction to Facebook is strong.  I sometimes catch myself checking my page on my Blackberry in the gym locker room or while waiting for a take out order at the deli.  It's not as good as a full fix on a nice sized screen, but it tides me over for a while.

But only a little while.  I just noticed an e-mail popping up on my laptop.  Apparently someone has sent me a message on Facebook.

Gotta go!



Sunday, July 20, 2008


This weekend I was involved in helping out two different charities, one that buys wheelchairs for people in third world countries, and one for cancer research. This got me thinking about all the different kinds of charities that are out there, and how we, as generous donators or organizers, select which one(s) to support. I'm inclined towards the arts, I have a soft spot for animals and children, and I am probably with the majorty of people who agree that helping poverty- and illness-sticken folks is a biggie. There are countless organizations that help out in these areas, and it seems like I'm always discovering new and interesting ones. Of course, no matter how much I'd like to, I can't donate to all of them.

So, I'm curious. How do you decide which charities to support?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Keeping It Clean

I typically try to post this blog around the 12th of the month. However, this month, I'm delinquent. My husband and I cancelled our Fourth of July plans in order to deal with the Flood of July.

Sadly, I have no photos. I was busy hauling wet carpet up from the basement (have you ever carried wet carpet? Guess what? Wet carpet padding is even HEAVIER.) I was most of the way through cleanup before it occurred to me that, hey, this might be a fun story for the blog. However, though I'd regained my sense of humor, I was too tired to whip out the ol' Canon.

So here's what happened, for those of you who are dying for a course in home management: The pump on the A/C went out, which sent water all over the storage room of my basement. Though I'm in there often, I didn't see the water. It was being soaked up by the sponge-like pad of the carpet remnant I tossed down there years ago, when we had carpet installed in our family room and I told the carpet guys not to trash the leftover carpet and padding. Lesson of the week: Do not EVER put a carpet pad where it might absorb water from nearby appliances. By the time I found the mess (at precisely 8:30 pm on July 3, which was exactly the point where I would have a maximum wait to get the A/C fixed), the water was everywhere.

On the bright side, my basement is now immaculate. My husband and I went through years of junk (some waterlogged, some not, but we had to sort through it all) and put most of it in a pile in the garage to be hauled away. Anything that could be re-used or recycled was either put on Freecycle or taken to a recycling center. And then we both came across boxes with our photos and yearbooks. I found photos from fifth and sixth grade (I was wicked skinny!), a letter from my ninth-grade boyfriend (he was really funny), and even a diary from when I was nine. (Apparently, I had a love/hate relationship with my flute. I whined about practicing on nearly every page of the diary!) Appropriately enough, while I was cleaning, the one radio station I could tune in clearly had a Back To The Eighties weekend. How could I have forgotten Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam? Or T'Pau?

In the end, the flood (and the week that followed, which involved many visits from plumbers, a new A/C pump AND a new hot water heater...another long story) turned out to be a good thing. Expensive, but good. The basement we've had on our To Do list is now completely organized. We found all kinds of lost items and got rid of tons of clutter (old law books, anyone?) But best of all, scanning those old yearbooks, diaries, and photos has given me a world of new story ideas!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

We do not say "exploitation of pet." We say "gentle use of existing resources."

I have a new kitten! Awwwww. The mother/pet owner in me says I should raise him in a calm household without harassment. But there's another part of me, the shameless publicity part, an old hag who's always grumpy from sleeping on her bed of small change (the nickels and dimes poke her in the back) and who wakes up only once a month, when the bills come due. This part of me says the cat is being harassed by my small child anyway. I might as well harass the cat further by creating some LOL Cats featuring my books while he is still young and cute. Organic kitty litter doesn't grow on trees, you know. (Actually it does, but I have to pay for it somehow.)

And so, without further ado...Little Lucky's LOLCats!