Annus Horribilis: What I Learned in 2010

Most of you already know what a shitty year it’s been for me. For many. For others, it’s been a beautiful year: they’ve had babies, new jobs, good news, lost weight, and had plenty of visits from bunnies and unicorns. Instead of rounding out the year with a post summarizing all the shit that’s gone on to make me miserable, I thought I’d turn it around and contemplate what I’ve learned. (You didn’t think I’d get all mushy on you and give some optimistic shit about turning lemons into lemonade, did you?)

1. ON THE BIGGEST THING I DID THIS YEAR: Writing a totally excellent novel and publishing it myself was cool, but apparently not important enough to register on anyone else’s radar. Meh.

2. ON HYGIENE: Certain very expensive skin care products do actually work. And straight hair IS better.

3. ON SPORTS: Eli Manning is not a good quarterback.

4. ON HOT IRISH ACTORS: They are short.

5. ON LATE NIGHT COMEDY: While Conan O’Brien may have fought the establishment and come out alive, he is still not funny. (But neither are any of the other network late-nighters if that is any consolation.)

5. ON INDIE PUBLISHING: Despite all the advances of the past 2-3 years, we are likely still in Independent Publishing 1.0. My guess is that after the xmas 2010 delivery of e-reading devices by the xmas stork to millions of readers, we may see an actual market demand for a more reliable search methodology (or technology) so that the unqualified work is filtered out.

6. ON UNQUALIFIED WORK: Unfortunately for the experimental writers out there, we may not have much of a chance in 2011 to make much of a splash (though we are grateful now and forever for the e-medium to showcase our work). We didn’t create a strong enough force in 2010 to become an influence and in that time, the major publishers, the transmedia people, the private-equity backed tech startups, and Apple, among others, have all caught up so in Independent Publishing 2.0 we will likely be outweighed by the majors’ great power. The good news is that it generally takes a year for shitty writers to realize they aren’t getting any traction, so they’ll leave the platform to more qualified works. Or they’ll find another hobby. (Oh what a mean thing to say. I don’t exclude myself from that category, necessarily.)

7. ON CELLPHONES: AT&T 3G is awful and my iPhone works much better using the older Edge network.

8. ON TUITION: Spending one-third of my income on tuition for independent schooling for my kids is worth it. I have learned though, that there isn’t much point in making this investment now if I can’t afford to send them to Ivy League colleges, which I most definitely can’t afford in 12 years. Now I don’t know what to do.

9. ON RELIGION: I’ve become even more adamantly against the dogma of organized religion as much as I am adamantly in favor of free thinking. So I’m alright with my decision to stiff-arm the priest at a family baby’s christening to save my 4 year old from potentially having his worldview influenced by my godfearing mother-in-law.

I fucking hate top ten lists, so I’ll stop at 9. That is all I can come up with while it is past my bedtime. The thing I’ve learned that terrifies me most is that my parents are getting old; and I fear even just the potential that they may face what my grandmother succumbed to: the soul-eating mindlessness of elderhood. The most important thing I’ve learned is that my kids are the most beautiful, independent, confident little boys in the world and they make me and everyone around them happiest.

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Clogged

I’ve been thinking long and hard why I haven’t been able to write creatively (or editorially) for the past several months. I refuse to use the term “writer’s block;” it is just not a term. For the time that I’m not writing, I can’t call myself a writer, so “writer’s block” doesn’t apply.

I keep saying that when I get another job, one that doesn’t suck the life out of me, that I’ll be in a better position to free up that part of my brain that enables me to write creatively. But I don’t know if that is true, so I can’t set my expectations there or else I’m headed for disappointment. And I need that like I need an addiction to crack.

At least for the time being, it’s hard to concentrate on a fictional narrative, given this all-encompassing “holiday spirit” we are all supposed to be engaged in this time of year. Why is it that in a time of giving we are so obsessed with what we don’t have?

What I do have is what will enable me to clear my head and write, because that is what gives me the fulfillment I crave as a writer. I don’t know that the old adage of poor, hungry, alcoholic, tormented artists empirically applies. Good narrative writing requires a lot of things and discontentment isn’t necessarily one of them (or else every depressed person would have an equal shot at being the next great author).

What a good writer does need is confidence and gratification in her writing. We can’t write with the objective of getting external validation, in which all too often we get wrapped up. Independent publishing is more than just doing it on your own — it’s about making all of the details of a writing career your own, answering to no one, and making the right judgments in how to go forward. Or not.

My inspiration for writing fiction comes from having the bandwidth to notice small details and insights in the course of my days–a ladybug crawling up the curtains, the dust on a ceiling fan, a veiled comment. It’s when I don’t have that bandwidth devoted to noticing and cataloging those details that I can’t seem to write. I’m not Agatha Christie so my stories don’t involve complex twists in plots. The stories I am most successful writing involve complex characters with specific traits, involved in compelling yet often mundane situations.

So I need to free up my bandwidth to enable those insights. I am clogged up with resentment (for my boss who lied about my compensation package), commuting details (like leaving at a specific time to allow delays in the downtown 4 Express subway), kid details (oh shit I have to bake cookies for my kid’s school xmas party on Thursday), grownup details (Chase bank is a lying, cheating, manipulative bank that holds my first and second mortgage and if I don’t call them out with a letter to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency they won’t issue a new escrow statement with a cancelled gap flood insurance policy). And more shit like that.

I have to somehow find a better way of dealing with all of those shit details, compartmentalize them, in such a way that I can still write. I’m letting them clog up my life. It’s like what practicing Kundalini Yoga is like, when the instructors teach you to unblock all the blockages, whatever the hell that means.

Somehow I have to do that. Somehow.

 

Thanks for reading. It’s good to be back.

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1000 Words A Day

I’m back on it, folks.

Today will be my first 1000 word day in months. Too many months.

This next book will be beautiful and painful.

If I slip, it’s to the detriment of the characters and prospective readers…but I don’t want to let myself down again.

I need to find a better way of serializing. Posting chapters as I write on this blog may not be as successful as, say, publishing segments on Feedbooks, but then it will be hard to publish the book in its entirety.

Oh wait, there is no need to meet any word or size or format quota anymore, so fuck it!

Unless someone tells me otherwise, I am going to serialize Maggie & May and I would love to have your recommendations on other ways of doing it besides on my own widely read blog. (That was me making a sarcastic, self-deprecating dig.)

I want to hear from you!

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The Unintentional Experiment

My experiment is over. The world does go on without me. I wasn’t sure, but now I am. The world most certainly does go on, seamlessly, without my active participation and youthful exuberance.

This was not me being coy or savvy. Just out of tune, slightly depressed, bogged down with day job, and yes, that anticlimactic “I-released-a-book-and-am-feeling-like-it’s-no-big-deal-but-it-really-is” feeling.

But today I’m getting back into it.  I must. Maggie & May must be written; Harvey Keitel must receive a copy of Back(stabbed) at his Goatsingers production studio; and a new job for yours truly must be sought.

Finally the summer heat and drought is over so I have no more excuses to be depressed over the weather. My kid #2 is nearly diaperless. I bought new headphones, so I no longer have to fight the anatomical fight of poorly fitted earplugs with shitty sound. It’s a new day, goddammit, and I’m going to shit all over it on my own terms rather than feel shit on myself.

I have Gupter! mags to distribute. I have stories on Year Zero to comment on. I have book signings, reviews, and promo copies to guerilla drop of Back(stabbed). I have a cake I must bake and apple sauce to make.

There are past months issues of The Atlantic and Harper’s to read. There are McSweeney’s posts to catch up on. There are tons of commentary to make on the ridiculous, silly know-it-all blogs of publishing industry folks to bug. There is more postulating on the end of the publishing industry to make.

There are leaves to rake. There are stupid fucking halloween costumes to deal with (I hate halloween). There are pumpkins to carve and later on, to hose off the stoop since they will undoubtedly rot in the ugliest way.

The unintentional experiment is over and my ass must get moving.

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Big Fucking Deal

It occurred to me at 3am last night when I was awake wondering where the rain was. I’ve been obsessed with the rain–or more accurately, the lack of rain. It’s been a distraction all summer. In our little corner of the shore, we’ve had exactly 3 days of rain since May. It’s depressing to me. Every beautiful, shiny day there is no rain to interrupt the tedium of shining beauty. I am suspicious of the beauty. It shouldn’t be. No one deserves this much perfect weather. So instead, I focus on the drying, wilting aspect of a rainless summer: the high water bills for keeping our little garden intact and the sunburns.

And that’s what occurred to me last night as I lay awake: I’ve displaced my expectations for a texturally interesting and climactically diverse summer with the feelings of melancholy for releasing my book with no fanfare.

None, whatsoever.

So I wrote the book, with all the effort that any author–independent or otherwise–writes and releases a book. And it’s out. And that’s it. Sure I’m promoting it, but not so much. I mean really, one can only beg reviewers to review it so much. And one can tout it only so much on Twitter without people getting sick of seeing your same 140 character description and link. And the blog, well, what else can you do on your own blog to promote your book but keep a sticky post with the info?

I grew weary of calling and visiting every indie bookstore in a 50 mile radius to carry the book on consignment, only for them to look at me like I have ten heads. I grew weary of begging cafes and bookstores to let me do a reading, because I got sick of getting the brushoff. No one really gives a shit, problematically, so fighting against the tide just isn’t in the cards for me right now.

I’m not hanging around Amazon, so forget that. I wrote to Bonnie Bernstein at ICM, Harvey Keitel’s agent, in the random hopes she’d pick up the email and call me back about the book. But my overnight energy to get the book made into a film was dashed when even my two friends in the film industry didn’t email me back.

Meh.

So I wrote and released a couple of books. Big fucking deal.

Now when’s it going to rain?

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EVENT: Knickerbocker Circus August 22 NYC

CHECK IT, FOLKS: I’ll be supporting Katelan Foisy at her book release party for Blood & Pudding. Her artwork is amazing and there are going to be a boatload of wildly interesting people doing readings of their work also including John S. Hall, Mike Lala, and Eric Nelson. And me.

August 22 7-9pm at Bluestockings Bookstore, 172 Allen Street on the LES, yo.

Check out Katelan’s beautiful website and details of the event, including the totally cool event poster HERE.

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Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn. It’s Here. Read it. Love it.

the book is Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn and you should read it.

Hit Feedbooks for all FREE electronic versions of the book.

Send me an email if you would like a free .mobi copy for your Kindle so you don’t have to pay $2.99 on Amazon.

You may BUY the book HERE. Better than Amazon.

Lenoxparker at gmail dot com.

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