On March 10, I had the honor of speaking at the AAUW Literary Luncheon in Laguna Beach. I’m always a big ball of anxiety leading up to these events, even though I end up having a great time. I never learn.
With Elizabeth Letts, Annabelle Gurwitch, and Kathryn Slattery (one of the event organizers).
My fellow authors included Elizabeth Letts, New York Times bestselling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion and The Perfect Horse, and Annabelle Gurwitch, hilarious author of books like You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up and Wherever You Go, There They Are. They both gave great talks and I nearly cried in mine (oversensitive new mom alert). You can watch/listen here:
The release date for Cherry Blossoms is October 30. It will come out as a hardcover, paperback, and e-book on the same day so you can take your pick.
Here’s the official synopsis (I consider it “official” when it’s on Amazon):
From the author of the critically-acclaimed debut People Who Knew Me comes the story of one man’s determination to abandon his will to live.
Jonathan Krause is a man with a plan. He is going to quit his advertising job and, when his money runs out, he is going to die. He just has one final mission: A trip to Japan. It’s a trip he was supposed to take with his girlfriend, Sara. It’s a trip inspired by his regrets. And it’s a trip to pay homage to the Japanese, the inventors of his chosen suicide technique.
In preparation for his final voyage, Jonathan enrolls in a Japanese language class where he meets Riko, who has her own plans to visit her homeland, for very different reasons. Their unexpected and unusual friendship takes them to Japan together, where they each struggle to make peace with their past and accept that happiness, loneliness, and grief come and go—just like the cherry blossoms.
Haunted by lost love, Jonathan must decide if he can embrace the transient nature of life, or if he must choose the certainty of death.
And here you can watch a little video of me in my backyard talking about the book:
Most creative types know that a visit from the ever-elusive muse is a welcome and wonderful thing. You can’t always control when inspiration strikes. It comes and you take advantage of it because you don’t know when it will come again.
Unless you’re busy.
Then it might not be realistic to strike while the proverbial iron is hot. Then you might have to put inspiration on hold and tell the muse, “Rain check?”
This is how I picture my muse. Source: Popperfoto / Getty Images
In the first few months of motherhood, there were no visits from the muse. I was entirely consumed with my tiny human. I am still consumed with her, but we are no longer total strangers to each other. I can read her better; she can read me better. We have a good thing going. As we’ve settled into a bit of a routine (I stress the words “a bit”), the muse has come a-knockin’. And, more often than not, I have to take that rain check.
Not surprisingly, I don’t have the time I used to have. When I return to my full-time job in a couple weeks, I’ll have even less. This means I’m learning to be comfortable with not having the same opportunities for flow (oh, flow, I miss you). My writing life has become…choppy, for lack of a better word. A little writing here, a little there; a whole lot of Post-its and notes in my phone. It’s less organized and focused than I would like, but this is the phase of life I’m in.
If you’re also too busy for your muse, here are some tips that have helped me:
Take Post-its everywhere. Write down ideas and notes. It will keep your mind clear and your inspiration fresh. Alternatively, you can use the Notes app in your phone, but I find writing things down imprints them on the brain better
Make smaller goals. Instead of, “Finish short story this week,” make a goal of “write X words this week” (pick something manageable). It’s best to underestimate your abilities at first. That way, endeavors feel like successes instead of failures
Pick a task that aligns well with your current schedule. For example, I get very small chunks of time to work and I’ve noticed that jives well with editing projects. So, I’ve been digging up incomplete novels and stories and working on those. At some point, I’ll embark on a brand new novel, but I don’t know when. Maybe when my kid is 18
Keep a journal. Sometimes, it helps to just write SOMETHING. If you’re feeling mentally backed up and you have all kinds of ideas you want to get to, just write about that. It will ease the anxiety
Read. I can usually find pockets of time to read, like before bed or at various times in the middle of the night when the baby wants to eat. Just a few minutes of escape into another world via reading can help keep the creative juices flowing
Go easy on yourself and remember life is all about phases. I get impatient sometimes because I want to write NOW. There’s a sense of urgency because I don’t know how long the inspiration will last. I fear I’ll lose it if I don’t act on it. But I’ve learned that the really compelling ideas, the “sticky” ideas, will be there waiting when you are ready. My next book, Cherry Blossoms, is a good example. I started writing that book 9 years ago, set it aside for years, and then picked it back up and finished it this past year. It’s obvious to me now that I was meant to finish it when I did. I wasn’t ready to finish it 9 years ago
Speaking of Cherry Blossoms, I’ll have more to share in the next month or two. I should be seeing the cover art soon–so exciting!
The little one is napping, so here I am. One of the most humbling things about motherhood (and there are lots of humbling things) is admitting that I have so much less control over my schedule. I used to pride myself on my productivity. I would wake up with a specific to-do list and if I did not accomplish everything on that list, I was agitated. I still make a list (weekly, not daily), but my expectations for crossing things off of it have changed dramatically. I am fine with the same list rolling from one week to the next. If I’m honest, sometimes I put things on the list that are super easy to get done so I can cross them off and feel accomplished. I’ve changed, but yet I haven’t.
Right before the holidays, I got my first round of edits for Cherry Blossoms. The old me would have tackled the edits in one day. New me, the me with a baby, tackled the edits over several days–a half hour here, a half hour there, while the baby slept. I met my deadline. It’s fine. It’s just an adjustment in mindset. I’ve had to learn to be patient. There are benefits to patience. When things take longer, my subconscious mind gets more of a chance to weigh in and sometimes it has some cool things to contribute.
Mya helping me with edits. And, yes, I know the seat is supposed to be on the floor.
With the edits done, I went back to work on another novel I’ve had waiting in the wings for a couple years. The draft was mostly complete, so it’s been the perfect project to chip away at during nap times. I’m not sure my brain is ready to take on a brand new novel right now. I’m happy to finesse and edit novels I had in drawers (well, digital drawers… I don’t print anything these days). I’m also thinking of wrangling some short stories I’ve written into a collection. I’d like to have a draft done before my maternity leave ends (I go back to work at the beginning of March).
That’s all for now. Hope your 2018 is starting off well!
It’s that time of year again, time to look back at my year of reading. Last year, I read 78 books. This year? 81! You can scan the covers, or peruse the full list below. What were some of your favorite reads of 2017?
You’re napping in your swing, finally. Usually by the time we get you to nap, you need to eat again. I have 10 minutes to write this before the inevitable hunger cry commences.
Our first selfie, while watching the ceiling fan. These are the days.
It’s been a rough few days. We’ve all had a cold. I got my first round of edits for Cherry Blossoms today. The editor said the manuscript is pretty clean, which is a relief. Still, I can’t bring myself to open the file because I know I won’t be able to start work until we are all feeling better (and, even then, I’ll have to work in 15-minute spurts, whenever you do us the pleasure of napping). Being a parent demands an entirely new brand of patience and creative efficiency.
I’ve also started dusting off another manuscript I had kept in a drawer for a couple years. Much like Cherry Blossoms, this story has always stayed with me and I want to finish it. I feel the need to complete these undone stories so I can write new ones.
The old me would be working feverishly (quite literally right now) all day. This new me takes what she can get. I have to be an opportunist. I do not have the luxury of waiting for perfect moments to write. If a free half hour presents itself, I attack. No hemming and hawing allowed. It’s rather liberating. I realize now how much I used to get in my own way.
So, thank you, for helping me put things into focus. I used to struggle with what my priorities SHOULD be (“should-ing all over the place,” as I like to say). Now, there’s no struggle. It’s all so obvious.
My next novel, Cherry Blossoms, has a male narrator. I didn’t plan to write a story with a man’s voice; it just came to me that way. This story, like most of my stories, started with one line: “I have eight months to live.” And the character saying that line in my head just happened to be a guy.
I started this book back in 2009, then set it aside when I got the idea for People Who Knew Me. I never forgot about Cherry Blossoms though. It was always my intention to finish it. But when People Who Knew Me came out, I found myself marketed as a “women’s fiction” writer. This was very much a surprise to me.
When people used to ask me what kind of books I wrote, I said, “General fiction, slice-of-life stories.” I’ve never thought of myself as writing “women’s fiction.” Furthermore, I don’t even know what that means. There is no counterpart, no “men’s fiction.” To me, there is something very problematic about this paradigm. The implication is that a book written by a woman, with a female main character, would appeal only to a woman. In fact, I’ve had many men contact me to say they loved People Who Knew Me. One even said he thought the cover did me a disservice: “There’s a woman on the cover, which makes it seem like this book is only for women, when it’s really a story that would appeal to anyone.”
What’s interesting is that plenty of male authors have female main characters: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, Little Children by Tom Perrotta, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, to name a few favorites. Of course, these books are not labeled as “women’s fiction.” They are “general fiction,” targeting everyone.
What’s worse, many women who write male characters are told they shouldn’t use their real name, as if they won’t be taken seriously as a woman writing a male voice. JK Rowling’s real first name is Joanne. Her publisher encouraged her to use initials instead of her real name for the Harry Potter books. Also, she writes a series of crime novels with a male main character under the pen name Robert Galbraith. I highly doubt a male novelist was ever instructed to use a female pen name when writing a story with a female main character.
When discussing Book #2, I was told a book with a male narrator would “never fly.” I tried to force some other stories that would fit the “women’s fiction” category, but it just wasn’t authentic. In the end, I wanted to finish Cherry Blossoms. So I did. And then I found a publisher who loved the story as much as I do and didn’t place any importance on the narrator’s gender.
There are some books written by women that feature a male main character. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is probably the most well-known. Donna Tartt (The Secret History, The Goldfinch) writes male main characters very well. What books have you read that feature main characters that aren’t the same gender as the author? Did you take note of this, or did it affect your enjoyment of the story at all?
I am excited to announce that my second novel will be published by Turner Publishing around this time next year!
The book is titled Cherry Blossoms. I started it back in 2009, abandoned it for years, and finished it as part of my 100-day writing challenge a few months ago. I have always loved this story and I never stopped thinking about it. I’m so happy it will finally make its way off my computer and into the world.
More details about the book are coming. For now, I’ll leave you hanging because my baby is crying.
I have been meaning to write a post to let you know that I had my baby but having a baby doesn’t allow much time for things like writing blog posts. At the moment, she is in the swing next to me, awake but content. I am learning to take advantage of these moments.
Her name is Mya Jane and she arrived on October 4 to rock my world in the best way possible. I wasn’t sure how I would adjust to this new mom life with very little sleep and personal time. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how wonderful it’s been. We have had some difficult days, with hours of wailing (the baby, not me…yet…haha), but we have also had some peaceful, joyful days (like today…so far).
I’ve been reading at night while I breastfeed, but I haven’t had time or energy to do any writing. I am hoping to start working on some writing in a month or two–as she sleeps more at night and takes more consistent daytime naps. For now, I am enjoying these newborn days and watching a ton of bad TV. My brain cells will regenerate, right?