Monday, May 28, 2012

I'd Rather Write A Query Than...

I moved recently. I managed to go two months without having to pay rent, and yet I'm still broke. It doesn't help that I keep avoiding hospital bills until they take me to collections agencies, so then I HAVE to pay them. Oops. (Turns out, knee surgery in November was a poor life decision.)

This means that I'm trying to pick up another job so that I won't have days off. (Time is money, honey) Baxter will be cranky, but he needs to see the Vet, and eat food, too.

With that said, I've been spending a lot of time filling out job applications. It turns out I hate them. It also turns out that while I thought I loathed query letters, I prefer them to job aps. Here's a list of reasons why query letters are better than the run of the mill fill in the blank job applications:

Supposed to symbolize writing vs real job stuff

*Job applications have you fill out basic information: name, soc number, birth date, high school, college, special skills. Query letters only ask what is important; contact info, this is my novel, this is my publishing background. Boom. Done.

*Job applications require references, phone numbers that are years old, old manager's names. Some even require previous living locations. Yea..I barely remember what I had for breakfast, you expect me to remember six months ago? Pass. Query letters involve character names. Maybe a conference name or two if applicable.

*Job applications are PAGES long. Query letter is a PAGE long.

*Job applications force you to BS your way though it, "I'm a people person! I love this, and this, and I think I'd be awesome at this job!" Query letters don't care. "My name is Lynne. I've been published in, and I've attended these conferences." I've heard of people getting agents without having anything published before. We're judged solely on our ability to convey emotion, verses our ability to convince managers that we're awesome.

*"Have you ever been fired from a job before?" *Darts eyes back and forth* "Why?" Umm.....shit. In a query letter, you don't mention how many times you've been rejected. Awesome.

*You can use the f-word in a query letter and still get a request. (I know this, because I've done this). You can't do that with a job application.

*If things go well, that query letter will get you more money than this minimum wage job will.

So, while I need a new job, I'd rather be spending time here, on my computer, working on query letters and submissions. Just sayin'

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Your Work, Out Loud II

Ever since last summer's PNWA conference, I've been itching to find people to read my work out loud to me. Well, last Wednesday, it happened.

Baxter liked her couch...
Claire (you'll remember her from this blog, this blog, and this blog) had me over to her house after my last day at the school. After a round of shopping so I can now feed myself for MONTHS (Thanks again, Claire), and inheriting a dying plant, we drove back to her place....and I managed to get lost, of course :)

She'd printed some pages off so I could mail them out, and I (as always) was insecure about them. While she shuffled around her house (unloading dishes, cleaning, taking care of dinner, etc), I read the first two chapters out loud to her. This is good for me because I always need practice reading out loud, plus, maybe someday I'll get to read at a conference, or book tour, or...a middle school. (Wait, I've done one of those now!!)

When she finished her chores, she sat on her couch, I sat in other one, and she took over reading.

This was from Week 2
Crazy thunderstorm hit, it was safest to stay
Together, we read 34 of the 50 pages. The amazing part? I didn't cringe. At all! There were a few type-os (but instead of put, when instead of then), small things like that, but overall, I was comfortable with the sentences, the repetition here, the pauses there. I loved when she would pause mid-sentence and say, "What a b*tch!" about the horrible aunt, or when she'd ask, "Wait, where did the money come from for the cabs?" or "Why does it seem like Sarah is in love with Mike?". Most of the time, the questions were answered soon, or later. Or, I was at least evoking a feeling in my reader that I was aiming for.

When you have someone read your work out loud, you truly hear how someone other than yourself reads those words. The type-os are easier to find, and you can truly hear if your narrator is coming through the way you want them to.

I still recommend this exercise if you can find someone to read for you. It's a new kind of terrifying.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Things I Learned From Middle School

And you thought I was kidding.
I have knee and hip issues, at the age of 24 :)

The last three Wednesdays have changed my life. For those of you who don't know, I'd been invited to a Middle School to speak about the trails in my life, and talk about the fact that I'm still standing. I'm not on drugs (instead, I'm on Osteo-Biflex and Vitamin C), I'm not contracting STDs, a whore, and for the most part, I like myself...most of the time.

While I was there, I met some incredible young ladies. Week 2, I proposed a Board of Inspiration because it is one of the things that goes with me EVERYWHERE. My sister, years ago, laid the groundwork, moved and left the board behind with quotes that said, "We inherited a broken future, so we're building a better one," and "Change is Good," and "You can't lose." I took it over, and started adding my own pictures where hers had been.

Nearly every day I find something I'd like to put on it (and actually today I posted some new things I found during the move into the new place).

I told the students to put things that make them happy; quotes, pictures, etc. Things that when they're sad, they can look at and know they're loved, and the life is worth living. That was it. From there, the teacher and I let them get their papers, tape, and scissors. I walked around the room a bit and saw quotes, and TWLOHA, and many other things. My heart lifted.

Week 3 was this last week, and they did presentations. I was blown away by each girl, not only just because they were volunteers (I hate public speaking and getting in front of crowds, it makes me anxious).

With that said, here are some things I learned from or because of these young, amazing, women:

1) YOLO (You Only Live Once)-I'd never heard this saying before. The first week, several of the girls were throwing it around. The second week, many were putting it on their boards. Most were still saying it. They told me it stands for You Only Live Once, and I kind of like it. (Now, I hear myself saying it in my head, which means it's only a matter of time before I say it out loud...ugh. :) )

2) Wise Beyond Years-There were some girls who were putting (what I considered) questionable things on their boards. I wanted to ask why they were putting these pictures, pictures that broke my heart, on their boards, but left it alone and waited for the presentation. One of the girls talked about one such picture, and fully explained why it was there. I literally teared up while she spoke. She is in 8th grade, and wise beyond her years. I am glad that I didn't suggest not having it there, because she was right, and I was wrong.

My more-so updated board
There is a blank spot on the lower
left for a picture of the students.
The letter near the bottom is from one :)
3) Strength-After the first week, I sat with many of the girls who broke down and told me horrifying stories of their lives at home. Lives that are too close to what I've been through. Yet, they're still in school. They're still pushing. I was humbled by the girls who felt safe enough to cry in front of me. All of them had a story, whether they wanted to be an author, or they just wanted someone to love them.

4) Life Has Changed Since My Day-When I was in Middle School or High School, we passed notes. They chat on Facebook or gmail now. I can feel the generational gap already.

5) Bravery-During one of the presentations, a girl looked at the audience after explaining a picture and said, "I'm not sure any of you know this...but you do now." When I was younger, it was incredibly difficult for me to talk to peers about what I was going through. These girls started to own what they've been through, started being brave and talking about it. It's part of life. They shouldn't be ashamed.

6) I Can Make Teacher Approved Handouts!- The first week, I talked a lot about suicide, depression, and cutting. When I was done, the girls asked me how I continue to keep going, and I gave a short answer, 'Set goals, give yourself something to look forward to...' etc. I had two weeks after to consider what I'd said, and made my first ever hand out. It consisted of 10 coping mechanisms (happy mechanisms?) that I employ on a daily basis. I hope it will actually help some of them.

7) I Can Make Permission Slips!-I made permission slips to make a video on YouTube for TWLOHA. At the school there are a lot of legal rules with using the girls' images, videos, etc. I had to get my slips approved by the principal. I felt like such a big kid. (Video is not made yet, will have it up when it is).

8) Love, Hope, and Inspiration-When I left the second week, there was a swarm of kids in the hallway. One of the girls took me by the arm, screamed, "Get out of the way, Lynne's coming through!" and it was probably better than walking down a red carpet. When I returned Wednesday, one of the girls came up to me in the hall and asked, "Can I have a hug?" (I didn't know if I was allowed to hug students, weird sexual harassment cases and all.) When I checked my e-mail later that night, I had e-mails from some of the girls telling me that I was an inspiration to them.

9) Never Stop Pushing-I cannot stress this enough. There is always a choice; keep going or give up. My choice because of meeting these girls has been taken away. There is no giving up, I want to show these girls that they can do anything they want to, no matter the circumstances they've been through.

10) Each Story Is Important. No explanation needed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lessons from Living Alone

Packed the car super tight.
As of May 21, 2012, I am the proud renter of my very first apartment! It's a two floor, one bedroom place of amazing. It has a washer AND drier, and a dish washer. And the best part?

NO (CRAZY) ROOMMATES!!!!!!!!!!!! Except Baxter, of course. 
(And the drier is a huge perk. I've been without one since late November.)

So on this adventure, I've started learning some life lessons already. I'm here to impart some wisdom upon all of my lovely followers:

Considering I have nowhere else to put my clothes...
This isn't so bad
Life Lesson #1-Put everything that you can away the moment you move in, maybe even as you bring boxes in. The longer the mess stays...the longer the mess wants to stay.

Life Lesson #2-Wash your dishes before you move. I am currently rocking a sink full of dirtiness, and well, like Life Lesson's probably going to stay there for awhile. Even though I have a dishwasher, because I don't have money for the fancy liquid.

Life Lesson #3-Make a list of things you need. Prior to this, I've lived by myself for spurts, but usually the place had been fully furnished, or at least had most typical things. Usually the times I'd lived alone, I'd also lived with someone so I received left over toilet paper, dish soap, aluminum foil, etc as they moved out. Here, there is no microwave, no strainer for wet dishes, no light in the bedroom, no dressers. Also, no pizza pans...which out of everything may be the most problematic.

You can't even tell it's inflateable!
Life Lesson #4-Two fully inflated air-mattresses stacked on top of each other is a dream come true. I would have slept really well last night, but  didn't close the bedroom window, and it turns out the train goes by at midnight, and semi-trucks pass all night. Tonight, I'll be closing my window.

Life Lesson #5-With the two-fully inflated air-mattresses, make sure you have blankets that fit the bed. (Mine are currently in storage. Oops)

Life Lesson #6-If you spit on the floor, you're going to have to be the one to clean it (I learned this one today)

Life Lesson #7-It can get lonely, so make sure you have things to do. Coloring books, blogs, novels to edit, books to read, people to text and harass at all hours of the night, running shoes, a dog to play with when you're bored. Oh, and twitter. Need the twitter, always. Also, if you don't own a TV (yea, that's right, I'm old school) an iPod helps cure the quiet.

Life Lesson #8-If Wifi is not included, try to pirate it from your neighbors :)

Life Lesson #9-You can do anything now; walk around naked, towel walk, sleep naked, make stupid faces, have dance parties. There is no one to impress, no one to tell you to put clothes back on. It's rather liberating. (Don't worry guys, naked-ness freaks me out. Clothes stay on, though I am prone to wearing a sports bra for a shirt. Here, my sister won't yell at me :) )

Life Lesson #10-Make it yours. Does my bedroom really need a punching bag stand in it? Probably not, but is it there? You betcha. If you look in the second picture I posted, you can see my Board of Inspiration hanging up already. I also have a closet that's full of CDs. Another closet that's full of shoes--left side is active shoes (skate shoes, running shoes, Vibrams, etc), right side is dress shoes (including the hooker boots).

Overall, I'm stoked about this arrangement. I have to drive close to an hour every day to work, but for $400/month, I'm pretty excited.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Set An Example

"You Can't Kill Yourself....You Have Twitter Followers Now"

I haven't blogged in a week because I've been digesting what's happened. Last Wednesday, I was invited to a Middle School to talk to students about my life and offer hope that they can overcome child abuse, eating disorders, depression...etc. I talked with a lot of students, had my heart broken, and I walked away thinking that I'd done some good.

My stuff, in a somewhat neat stack
I returned to the basement that night, after being so excited about the difference I was making, and found that several of the girls had already friended me on Facebook, followed me on Twitter, e-mailed me...I returned the e-mails, pitched my author page on Facebook to them, and went to sleep happy. I was making a difference.

Thursday, I woke up, in the basement. I was cold, cranky, and not wanting to move. The happiness faded. I looked around the area and my stuff was surrounding me like a prison cell. I got off the couch, and my back and leg hurt because of the way Baxter was sleeping on me. I did an interview with one of the girls as an author, things I've learned, advice to give to aspiring young authors (still the whole Don't Give Up! business)...But something started eating at me. I went to the post office, ran other errands, and got gas. At the pump, someone from the Advertiser Democrat interviewed me, so I'm in the paper today for an opinion column.

But the more I evaluated my life, the more I started feeling like a hypocrite.

Friday, I went to work. My knees hurt, I got frustrated with small things, and thought, Who am I kidding? Who am I to be talking to girls about having hope? I live in a f#$ing basement! I get paid a little above minimum wage, with a college degree. I have bills that I can barely pay...

Then the thought hit me; I have a college degree. I can do anything I want. 

Bone crushing fear took hold of my heart, I can't fail. 

It is no longer an option for me.

If I'm depressed, if something bad happens, I cannot kill myself now. Why? Because I met these incredible girls who look(ed) up to me. If I relapse, all this hope that I've been spewing will be complete bullshit to them. Keeping myself alive, keeping me going now is the only choice I have. (That whole Practice What You Preach Business.)

More of my crap. I need to downsize.
I can't mess up, can't turn to drugs, or liquor, and homelessness. All of those things are failures. Now, because I said I'd come speak to a middle school, I have to do something with my life.

This is a lot to live up to.

Last week, I received rejection letters, I didn't get the job at the vet clinic I'd applied to. I am still broke, frustrated with life, living in my friend's basement, and constantly on the cusp of giving up.

But, I don't, and I haven't, because now, I can't.

Since these epiphanies, my sister has mentioned Teach for America, as well as supporting me no matter what. I'm considering applying, but I don't know what will happen between then and now. After speaking with these girls, I do know that I want to do something that can actually affect people and start creating change and hope. (Yes, writing novels can do that, but I'm not published yet, so until I am, I need a back up plan!)

Yesterday, I went back to the school and had the girls start their own Boards of Inspiration. The idea is that this board will have happy things, things that when they're sad, will help them get through the hard times; uplifting or funny quotes, pictures, inspiring words. I walked around the room, and saw several of them were putting TWLOHA pictures on their boards, and my heart flew (I wore their shirt to speak on the first day. Yesterday, I wore a Boycott BP shirt :) ).

A lot of the girls seemed really happy to see me, and I felt blessed to be back.

When I left, I went to Claire's, dropped off some food, and then went to my UNE manager's house. It was his 18th wedding anniversary, and they fed me lobster. His wife asked why I was asked to speak at the school, and I told her about my hospitalization, my eating disorder, my depression. She looked at me point blank and said, 'You had an eating disorder?' and I answered,  'Yes. Your husband was one of the people to help pull me out of it.'

When I left, they told me that they were proud of me, and if I need any help getting a place to live financially, they'd help me, no questions asked.

So here's what I've come to conclude. I'm not full of bullshit. I struggle with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder every day of my life. Each night that I fall asleep without hurting myself is a victory. Each morning I wake up, is another day to influence people, to be a role model. I have scars on my leg, and wrist, but I try every day to push through. I won't tell them that life will be easy, because I, and most people know that THAT is a lie. Instead, I'll tell them that they can get through anything, because they can, and I am living proof of that.
Yay for being happy!

Thus, I've decided that I'm sick of living life the way I've been, it's time to start making changes. I moved to Maine to find happiness, and at Sunday River, I found it. Now, it's time to start making a difference. It's time to start being someone that truly deserves to be looked up to. I told Claire last night that while these girls may think I made a difference in their lives, they've completely changed mine.

First things first, find a place to live.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Influencing The Youth

"Whenever You Knock Me Down, I Will Not Stay On The Ground"
~Justin Bieber (Yea, that's right, totally quoted him)

The Middle School

I was invited to a middle school yesterday to speak on the trials I've been through in my life, and it went in directions I was completely unprepared for. My friend, Claire invited me weeks ago, and two nights ago I finally had some time to more fully prepare for what I was going to say. Claire asked me point blank, "What's the number one thing you hope they remember after you see them?" I responded, "That they can survive anything."

So, I sat there thinking, what are things that keep me going? And I went to work; I removed some pictures from my Board of Inspiration, and added some things I've been meaning to add for awhile. I laid out my clothes the night before (jeans and a TWLOHA shirt after some people gave me suggestions on Twitter), packed my bag full of books I've been published in, and other things that inspire me (like my James Frey book), and went to sleep, giddy, excited, and partially terrified.

In the morning, I woke up, showered (amazingly), attempted to straighten my hair which was immediately destroyed once I walked out in the humidity, loaded up Baxter and drove an hour to Fryeburg. I called both of my sisters on the drive, and they both pushed me, told me that I'd be great, that my (our) message is something worthwhile.

I parked my car, arrived a little early, and looked at the school. It was huge, I didn't know anyone but Claire there. Then Patrick called me from Germany to wish me luck, and tell me I'd do great. The lyric from Vanessa Carlton starting going through my head, "I try to live up to the moment, and hope that I don't blow it," and headed into the school.

Board of Inspiration (It's much more
complete after the presentation)
I found the office, and checked in. There were kids talking about getting sent home for, "smoking dope, but I didn't do it," and for a brief second, I thought maybe, just maybe I am meant to be here. I talked to those kids about my eyebrow rings, my lip ring, and then went up to Claire's room.

We ate lunch (which is awesome, she's such a good cook!), and I wrote a phrase on the white board that I'd heard my entire life growing up, "You'll never amount to anything."

The kids started filtering in, buzzing with excitement which was infectious and terrifying. I was shaking from the moment I'd walked into the school, and now there were several girls sitting in front of me, hoping I'd say something worth while. Suddenly all those moments of overcoming anxiety, and volunteering to read Bingo cards, and practicing were coming into play. This was real life, I was about to talk to real people, who were here to listen

Claire introduced me as Lynne though she knows me as Stephanie, and I started talking, about my dad, the drunken night he'd lost custody. I talked about what my sisters and I have accomplished. I told them about cutting, my eating disorder, depression, my mother. I read them three pages from Character Defects, that I wrote based on a fight with my mother, and why I wrote it.

And then I told them about having hope, and being positive. I told them about my Board of Inspiration, to set goals, to give themselves something to look forward to. As I spoke, I tried to watch the audience, and there were girls tearing up or silently crying as I talked about what my parents did to me. When it was over, I was asked to go into the hall and speak with some girls in small groups.

Me and Claire (respectively)
Doin' our thing, trying to give
I heard things in those groups that made me want to excuse myself and cry in the bathroom, with them, for them. People talk about censorship a lot in novels because they're afraid of what it'll do to the children. These young women in front of me went and are going through more than I, or you, can possibly imagine. I wanted to find their parents and violently shake them in the hopes that it'd knock some sense into them. I just can't understand how these girls could possibly be unloved, abused, or hurt. All I wanted to do was hug them, tell them that it'll be okay, and that I'm so, so sorry.

They were all so amazing, so honest, and so afraid of what they're going through. All I could do was tell them that it'll get better, that they can get through anything because by breathing, by being at school today, they're proving it.

When it was all said and done, they gave me hugs, thanked me, and asked to take pictures of me like I was someone or something worthwhile. One of the girls even wrote me a letter thanking me for helping her, and I started tearing up (it will end up on my Board soon).

I didn't do much, I just told them about me, and listened to them.

Some time later, I was at Claire's and checked my e-mail and there were already e-mails from some of the girls I didn't get to speak with, and their stories reaffirmed that I'm doing something right by sharing my life with them. I spent close to an hour composing a response to one, and then an hour chatting with one today who is an aspiring author.

The bottom line, is that some people ban books and censor things because they think it's terrible language, or too intense for their young minds to understand. The truth I witnessed yesterday was that these terrible intense things are daily life for a lot of our youth. It needs to change. Their voices need to be heard and understood.

To end this on a bit of a happy note; Claire sent me home some brownies and a lot of food. So I ate brownies for breakfast this morning, yay!

Also, we're planning do to a follow up with the girls soon, any suggestions what I should come back with?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

High School Dances

Thanks to Kelley Lynn for hosting this blog hop!

My friend (blue) Crazy Carolin, and me (dark red)
Sophomore or Junior Homecoming
As the title suggests, the hop is about high school dances, which is awesome because I LOVED high school dances. I went to every homecoming, coming home, and prom available....and even went to some extras (because my sister invited me to hers since she went to school an hour away from me.)

Though I hated dress shopping because my shoulders and hips are too wide, I loved finding shiny shoes, getting new make-up, getting my hair done, and being the only girl getting ready who knew what she was doing....which was funny, because I never wore make-up to school.

Sadly, all of my dances took place in the era of film cameras so I only have the photo above, and some from prom. This story, however, takes place with Alex and me at Coming Home.

Coming Home for those of you who aren't familiar with the term, is where girls ask the boys, AND then the couple wears the same outfit. At my school's Coming Home, you also had the chance to get hitched. Teachers would pose as ministers and marry the students. They supplied bogus wedding certificates, and cheap re-sizeable rings.

Days before, I'd found out Alex had cheated on me (gasp!) but because I was young and in love, we figured we'd try to press on...if I didn't murder him, first.

Plus, I'd already bought the tickets and filled out the paper work so he could come, so damnit, he was coming whether he wanted to or not!

Alex and Me (and my friend's brother in the background)
After going to Hot Topic and buying shirts that said, "Don't Make Me Go Zelda On You", and getting white tear-away pants from Aeropostal, we were ready to go.

The dance was mostly fun. Most of my friends had found out what he'd done, and so there was a drive-by kicking from my friend Erika, some people would walk by and call him mean names, and I was still teetering on the edge of snapping and punching him in the face at any moment.

Then the DJ made the announcement that the weddings were now open, and suddenly the anger evaporated. Replaced, was a desperate need to marry Alex. Though I was still incredibly pissed and hurt, it seemed like only the rational thing to do. Since I'm the girl, I wasn't going to propose...even if it was a fake wedding. Instead, I decided that if he didn't propose, I'd have another reason to pick a fight with him.

My friends kept running at us, showing us their rings and certificates, and I was oozing with jealousy. I wanted to get married, too! I loved the stupid kid, and it was part of Coming Home! Every time we danced, I looking over, pining at the adorable couples getting married. It's not fair! That should be me!

At some point, Alex disappeared.

After five minutes of pacing back and forth on the dark dance floor, I figured out he wasn't in the bathroom, and the anger started surfacing again. I wasn't sure where he'd gone until a friend ran up to me, grabbed my arm, and dragged me to the vending machines, where Alex was waiting. They both smiled at each other, and she left.

"What is this?" I asked, probably not in a nice way.

Alex proceeded to take my hand, and drop to one knee. "I think it would be in your best interest to marry me," he said, and my heart and stomach fluttered.

"My best interest?" I laughed, not caring if the whole school was staring at us.


I probably played it off like I wasn't giddy, or excited, and when he got up, I kissed him because he was mine, and I was happy. We went to the "chapel" (a small sign at the top of the stairs that said something like "Chapel" or something like that), and when they asked if we did, we said I do. We signed the paper, and were both distracted when the photographer took our wedding picture, so it was the worst picture...ever. (I wish I had a copy to show here, but it's in my storage unit, sorry!)

We spent the rest of the night with my friends, and playing with our rings. Months later, I want to say it was for my birthday, he made a photo collage consisting of our wedding rings, a copy of the certificate, our wedding photo, and some lottery tickets we'd scratched off.

I had a lot of adventures in high school, but this was probably one of my favorite ones. Hope you guys check out the other entries!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sitting The Bench

This is my excited face
So there I was.

Until my friend, Swaney, convinced me to try out for the soccer team, I figured my life was complete without soccer. Then one day after gym class, she came up to me, and suggested trying out. When I told her I've never played before, she told me it didn't matter, I could run. Sure enough, I went to try outs, and was on the JV team.

The only picture I could find
of Swaney (black) and me (salmon)
It was my freshmen year of high school, my very first game. That glorious spring day, I was sitting on the bench, when the ref blew the whistle and the girls on both teams launched into motion. They ran around on the field, people around me hollered things I didn't understand. I only knew to kick the ball    --> that way, down the field.

"Schmidt," my coach yelled after about five minutes.


"You're in, sub (enter some player's name, here)."

This was it, the moment I'd waited for, my moment to shine. I jogged to the half-field line like my shin guards didn't stink, totally ready to pull a teammate out and take her spot.  I get to play, I get to play! I was like a puppy with a tennis ball being waved in front of its face.

And then I stood there.

And watched all the girls run, and move, and run and move. The ball bounced back and forth, between players, teams. Girls took hits in the chest, head, thigh, with amazing control. I...was still working on that aspect of the game.

One of our players passed the ball back to another girl on our team. Wait, we're supposed to have strategy here? Not just kick the ball? Suddenly everything I'd been trained to do for the last month or so, was wrong.

I left the mid-field line before the refs could sub me in. "Hey coach?" I asked.

She looked at me, surprised that I was still standing there, "What's up?"

"So...I've never actually played soccer before, and this is my first game. Is it okay if I sit for a little bit longer until I'm ready to go in?" I asked.

She chuckled, "Yea, I'll ask you again in a bit."

I reclaimed my seat on the bench with my other teammates giving me questioning looks. "I'm not ready," I told them.

A few minutes passed, I watched the girls, the way they moved with the ball, they way they played off of one another like an actual team. The game seeped into my veins and ignited something like passion.

"Schmidt?" my coach called. "You ready yet?"


I ran again to the line, subbed out a player, and entered my first game. The puppy and tennis ball feeling never left me. I ran fast, and I ran hard, and I stole the ball...more than once.

I'm pretty sure we lost that first game, but I didn't care because I was ready to play. After that day, I started every game. I was no longer a bench warmer, and all because I waited until I actually was ready to play.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

It's simple.

Those of us who are unpublished, and un-repped, we are the bench warmers. We're watching the game go back and forth Hey did you see so-and-so just got a deal? They're being published in May 2014, Omg, Omg, Omg.

We're also the coaches who send our star player (our novel) out to play when it's its first time in the game. The agents are the voice in the backs of our heads saying, "You're not quite ready yet," instead of saying, "No, you're not good enough." And so after several moments of panic, and mild depression, we resume editing.

We get scared, we sit down, we keep the bench warm.

But when we're ready, when our star player is ready, maybe we won't rock that first game, but hey, at least we'll know how to play.

Moral: Keep editing, keep pushing. Don't give up. You're not getting rejected, you're being told to sit down for a few more minutes.

Also, stop by tomorrow for more high school stories thanks to the blog hop :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Breaking Points

Last August I went to Seattle to attend PNWA, and it was one of the highlights of my life. Every day at the conference was amazing, my friend who housed me, rocked.

Daylight in rain, just sun
But the second morning there, Jen walked me to the bus stop and asked if I'd be okay getting home that night because she would be at a friend's function. "Yep!" I said with full confidence, "I'll be fine!" (Famous last words, right?)

The panels were great, and dinner was yummy, but a full day of sessions started wearing on me, and I felt the way I do when I stay up writing til 3am and just need to sleep. Right now. I texted Jen to tell her I was on my way home and walked out of the keynote speaker I'd been waiting for.

When I got off the bus, it was about 9pm. It was dark. When I'd walked here this morning, it was bright enough to merit sunglasses. Now in the darkness, nothing looked familiar, and so I had to trust my instincts. (For those of you who don't know me, my instincts are wrong, 99% of the time....thus begins our story.)

I took a left, and started walking on what I thought was a somewhat familiar bike path. Jen said she was still with some friends, and I told her I thought I knew where I was going. Then came a fork in the path. I didn't recognize it at all. I looked left, didn't recognize the walk. I looked right, and nothing looked right, either. I started walking anyway.

Then my phone beeped to tell me my battery was dying. Time was rapidly becoming a factor. I needed to get home, now.

It gets so dark there!
I walked, and walked. Each step caused my one strap messenger bag to weigh more and more. I constantly transferred the bag from one shoulder to the other in the hopes I'd even out the back pain, but it didn't work.  It was the first time I asked myself, Why the hell did I buy so many books today?

I continued on the path. Everything was looking more and more foreign. I started questioning if I'd even gotten off at the correct bus stop. I called Jen when I reached a sign that mentioned some sort of a park. "I don't recognize that name at all," she told me. A sinking feeling took hold, but I refused to cry.  I can do this, I just have to keep walking.

She suggested getting off the path and walking on the road so I could at least read road signs. My battery light flashed at me, time was running out. "I'll try to start looking for you," she said, and gave up going to her friend's function because I was an idiot and bad with directions.

The high heels I'd been wearing
(Don't worry, I was wearing
dress clothes for the conference)
I got off the bike path and onto the road, and called Patrick who was in California at the time. Whenever I've been in a jam, or gotten lost before, he'd always bailed me out. He said he'd map quest me some directions, and there was a ray of hope.

I took off my high heels and we found a cross intersection. My heels now felt like a pummeled pumpkin, but I continued on after he told me which way to go.  Low and behold, the next street sign matched up to what he was seeing. He'd found me!

It was so dark outside and lamposts were few and far between. The neighborhood looked like I was going to get jumped at any time. Because I'm a writer, I imagined every worst case scenario possible, but reassured myself that it would make for a good memoir.

"I don't get it," Patrick said. "The road you're looking for should be right there."

"There's just what looks like an elementary school!" I cried into the phone. Just as Jen's phone number flashed across my screen, my phone gave one last valiant vibration and went black. I was cut off from the world.

Now, completely alone, and walking in the wrong direction, I checked my watch. It was 11:30pm, I'd been walking for 2.5 hours. I was lost, cranky, tired, and sore. My arthritic knees hated me and begged to stop moving. They were ready to give out at any moment, and so walking was rapidly becoming a factor now. I wanted to cuddle Baxter, to be home, to be at Jen's and drink some soy milk. Instead, I continued walking the same stupid streets I'd passed sixteen other times.

I passed an older looking man, dressed completely in black in this ghetto neighborhood, and asked, "Do you know where (name a street) is?" He pointed in the direction I'd just come from, "Are you walking honey?" Me, "Yes." "It's about ten blocks that way. About two miles...." he looked apologetic, and I wanted to scream.

Please no, I prayed. Please just let me be home. 

Jen, my lovely host, and wonderful friend
Instead, when the man was out of sight, I sat on the curb and cried. I stopped caring if I was going to get raped or murdered. I didn't care if I got shot. I was lost, Jen would never be able to find me. And the worst part was that I was going to miss the rest of the conference.

I'd reached the breaking point.

Out of some run down driveway, a small pure white cat emerged and crawled onto my lap. It wasn't Baxter, but I still spoke to it anyway. "Hello little friend," I sobbed. "I'm so lost, and I don't know where I am, and I hate this stupid city and buses." I whined to the cat for a long while while my aching feet and knees rested. Finally, I told my small friend I had to leave, and that I couldn't take it home, and resumed walking, taking sketchy streets with bars on windows, and found an open door.

Still hysterical, I stumbled in and rambled, "I'm lost, and I don't know where I'm going, and my phone died..."

The man behind the counter looked at me, and said, "Ma'am, I can't understand you. Take a seat, calm down, and we'll try to help you."

I sat in a seat, and cried more. An old man who smelled like he hadn't showered for the last few years sat beside me and asked, "You lost little girl?" and I cried harder and nodded my head. When the tears started to subside and I could breathe again, I looked around me. The man appeared to be missing some teeth and I wasn't sure that you could even consider what he was wearing to be clothing anymore. Meanwhile I was in a new dress I'd bought the day I'd arrived, and my new shoes. I'd even gotten ambitious and put make up on, which was now probably smeared all over my face.

To my right was what resembled a soup kitchen or pantry, at least the way they look on TV shows. To the left were stairs and empty chairs.

I'm in a shelter, I concluded.

Finally, I approached the desk, and explained the situation. They asked me if I knew of anywhere, and I didn't. Did I know Jen's phone number? No, and my phone was dead. Was I alone and on foot? Yes. Did you know it's not safe for a girl to be lost around here? I had a feeling, which has been solidified, thank you.

It took me a solid five minutes before I could even remember the name of the road where Jen lived. They informed me that I was on the other side of town, and the bus stop where I'd been dropped off at has a split where the roads all match each other. I should have crossed the road to get on the other bike path.

Just as I'd started to cry again, one of the men offered to give me a ride. Because I was still in the mindset of not caring whether or not I died, I took a risk and got in his small car.

Soon enough, I got to Jen's found the spare key, and went in. I dug out my phone charger, and called her to tell her to come home, I was safe. It was now after midnight. I called Patrick, who had left me several worried voicemails, and let him know I was alive.

When Jen came into the apartment, we both burst into tears and hugged. "I'm so glad you're safe!" she told me.
Eventually, I was reunited with my little man :)

So, why am I telling this story?

Because, this kind of thing happens to me a lot. That moment where you reach the breaking point and have to live in a friend's basement because you got fucked over on your living situation, or getting lost in Seattle, on foot, with no cell phone.

Submissions are a lot like this. Query letters, partial requests. All of those things are like this. We get rejected. We all reach the point where we sit on the curb and cry, and are completely ready to get shot in the face and die. (A little dramatic, but you know what I mean :) ). But then there's a little white kitten who crawls into our laps and whispers, Keep writing, keep editing, keep going. And so we get up, brush ourselves off, and stumble into something we never knew existed.

I believe that things work out. I also believe that things can get hard beyond belief. But if you reach your breaking point, keep pushing. You may still make it home.
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