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(Part 1 – How I Ended up Publishing Independently)

I didn’t intend to get all indie with this book, or maybe I did in the beginning, but when editors start nosing around one feels hopeful and when agents get involved it’s easy to dream of the big leagues. Who doesn’t want a posh NY Agent with international connections?

When I got one, I thought it was time to kick back and let her take over. Oh I wrote the proposal she asked for (with gritted teeth, mind you) but once I handed over the proposal, I ceased to be an active participant in the process.

It was up to her now.

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091114I’m breaking up with my agent.

Or maybe she’s breaking up with me.

Either way, we’ve apparently come to the end of this eternally awkward and non-communicative road.

Some of you know that I have been underwhelmed by her activities on my behalf – six months to get a working proposal, followed by six months of radio silence until finally, in July, a brief flurry of effort which ultimately culminated in – well, nothing.

From the beginning, we disagreed on fundamental issues – namely how much we should tell editors about the end of story. I understood that she wanted to withhold that kind of information in the proposal, but she seemed intent on keeping Alice’s death from them until a deal was on the table.

For me, framing the story as something other than what it is makes sense in a three paragraph query but NOT at the point where editing notes are being exchanged. This strategy wasted time – mine and that of the editors involved.

Yes, I’m frustrated that she dragging this process out for sixteen months, but at the same time, I’m weirdly excited at the thought of having it back in my own hands. To a certain extent, when I handed it off to the agent, I disengaged. But no more.

I’ll be looking at other ways of moving forward (non-traditional publishing options and such) for the next few weeks so chime in if you have thoughts on the matter.

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lifes-that-wayIntensely personal stories often illuminate universal truths. Writer and actor Jim Beaver’s memoir is one of those. In October 2003, his wife Cecily was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. In an effort to keep loved ones abreast of the situation, Jim began sending a nightly e-mail to 125 friends and family members. These messages, eventually reaching an audience of nearly 4,000 and spanning a year, are the basis of “Life’s That Way”.

Jim writes: “I’ve attempted to flood the path with light where I could, and where I could not I’ve wanted at least to hold up a candle so that others coming this way might not stumble too painfully.” And indeed he has. The first 1/3 of the book traces the course of Cecily’s illness, painting her so vividly that her death in early March is a punch in the gut, even to the reader who met her a mere 125 pages earlier.

The remaining 2/3 of “Life’s That Way” deals with the aftermath in a way that is immediate and intimate. Beaver continues the nightly e-mails, processing his experiences, sharing the struggle of raising a young daughter alone and mourning his beloved wife. “I will bear this grief. I will endure it. I will reach a point where it doesn’t kick me down an abyss whenever I turn my back on it.”

As someone who still deals with the abyss of grief on a daily basis, I found this beautiful book wrenching and yet somehow hopeful as Jim Beaver weaves wisdom and humor into his story and their lives. I recommend it highly, not only to those who have faced such grief but to anyone who someday might. As Beaver so pointedly writes: “Some kind of Providence keeps us blind to the intensity of suffering so as to keep us sane, until that day when the suffering is our own or that of someone we love beyond imagining.”

But taking this journey with Jim, Cecily and their daughter Maddie has made me more acutely aware of the necessity for life beyond the grief. 

[You can find "Life's That Way" now on Amazon or GoodReads.]

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1113In Writing News - I’m one week and 16,000 words into the new novel. I owe much of that word count to a handful of Twitter friends, busting out word sprints of 20 – 30 minutes throughout the day. There’s something about the joint effort, even with virtual strangers, that is motivating. Because writing is, by nature, a solitary act, we can get mired in our own muck and talk ourselves out of exciting and productive work. I’m trying to keep myself accountable this time around – to myself, my NaNoWriMo buddies and most importantly, to my novel.

I had a serious slump on Friday, writing next-to-nothing and Saturday wasn’t much better. But today, I jumped over the stuck point and was able to push through three more chapters. With the exception of the nagging feeling that I’m telling the story from the wrong POV, I’m feeling good about the progress I’ve made and how the story is unfolding. My shitty first draft (a la Annie Lamott) is well on its way.

In Reading News – I’m 2/3 of the way through Jim Beaver’s “Life’s That Way”, a memoir spanning his wife’s illness and the aftermath of her death. Because it was written as a series of e-mails to loved ones as the events were taking place, there is a rawness to the writing that is wrenching. Incredibly engaging and some seriously brilliant thoughts on grief. 

To balance out the intensity of Beaver’s book, I’m finishing up Christopher Moore’s “Lamb; The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” and starting in on Diana Rowland’s “My Life As A White Trash Zombie”.

In Other News – My oven has been repaired, I’ve acquired a cat named Fraidy and I get to see my godchildren in Monterey next weekend. How about you?

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It’s a Book Meme. How could I resist? Feel free to link your own version in the comments.

Author(s) You’ve Read the Most Books Of:

Charles Bukowski, Louise Erdrich, Agatha Christie, Elmore Leonard, Chuck Palhinuk, Alison Bechdel, Sherman Alexie, Brendan Halpin, Michelle Tea, Anne Rice, Ivan e. Coyote, Diane Wakoski and of course, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Best Sequel Ever:

I’ve always thought that Memnoch The Devil was head and shoulders above Anne Rice’s other vampire tales.

Currently Reading:

Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni and (despite my agnosticism) A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Drink of Choice While Reading:

Water with ice for chomping unless it’s Bukowski and then it’s whiskey.

E-Reader or Physical Book:

Both, though I prefer an actual paperback book.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Dated in High School:

Mouse from The 18th Emergency.

Glad You Gave This Book a Chance:

The Last Temptation of Christ

Hidden Gem Books:

The Joys of Yiddish – Leo Rosten

Silk – Alessandro Baricco

My First Kafka – Matthue Roth

Important Moment in Your Reading Life:

Woman At Point Zero by Nawal El Saddawi changed everything Read the rest of this entry »