And weirdly enough…

I made the Honorable Mention list for the Writers of the Future Contest.

http://wotfblog.galaxypress.com/2008/09/final-honorable-mentions-for-3rd.html

And that was the first story I ever sent to them. Huh.

The Juxtaposition between Mourning and Celebration

So yesterday was my co-worker’s funeral. Today was Family Fun Night at my son’s school.

It was surreal, seeing so many people dressed up. Ours is a laid-back office, so seeing dresses and suits with ties was distressing. Most of the office is still in shock. It would’ve made a difference if our co-worker died from an accident, or had a heart attack, or died of natural causes, or got shot by an assailant.

What happens when the assailant is yourself?

The only time I dealt with suicide was back in high school, when a guy from my Spanish class killed himself. I didn’t know him all that well–he pretty much kept to himself. When we heard what happened, I remember feeling sad, but not really broken up over it.

But this is different. We knew this guy. We saw him all the time. He took my hubby and me out to dinner. We saw them at church last week. He walked by my desk every single day. I would say “Hi,” and he always had a smile for me.

It makes what he did last Tuesday so out of whack, many of us still have trouble believing it.

I’ve been trying to sort it out in my head and on paper. Mainly there’s sadness, but there’s also anger too. Why didn’t he tell anyone he was in distress? Was there anything we could have done? Could have said? Would he even listen, or was he so far gone that nothing would have reached him? He was always cool, always calm, always collected. Nothing seemed to faze him.

I don’t get it.

Today, we went to Daniel’s school for their annual Family Fun Night. Daniel took me to his schoolroom and show me the picture he drew, the cubicle where he hangs his jacket. We ate soup and salad, watched a Celtic band. Daniel threw a tantrum because he didn’t want to wear his crocs. Later, he jumped in the bouncy house for about five minutes, then came out and put his crocs on, saying, “Okay, I’m done.”

And all throughout the evening, the thought kept running through my mind: He will never experience fun with his family again. He won’t get to see his kids laugh or cry. He won’t be there to dry their tears or laugh at a joke with them. I can’t stop thinking of it. No matter how hard I try.

On Saturday, I went to the farm. I pulled beets out of the crumbling dirt, roots and bugs dangling down. I washed them in ice-cold water, plunging my hands in, feeling their knobbly hardness, marveling at the crimson red of the skins, the striped pink of the stems. Later on, I washed cherry tomatoes, my fingers reaching through the clear water, searching for the smooth orbs. I felt them round and fleshy in my hands: scarlet, tangerine, orange-yellow, grass green. I popped one into my mouth, felt its warmth flood my cheeks with pulp and seed.

Each following day that comes, we will step a little further away from his death. The pain will soften, the sorrow lessens, and we will start remembering more of what he was rather than how he ended. I can feel it happening now, each minute that passes. In the meantime, I’m going to hug my son a little more, hold my hubby a little tighter. I’m going to try to experience life just a little more before mundanity makes me forget.

Sunshine warm on my face

Yesterday started off with my son coming into our bedroom with his pants around his ankles, where he proceeded to pee on our carpet and then tried to dig his way back into his room via our closet.

It ended in learning about the death of a co-worker who was instrumental in moving us to Madison.

Daniel’s bizarre actions confirmed something I suspected–my kid is a sleepwalker. It doesn’t happen often, thank goodness. It’s just a little spooky, that’s all. What parent wouldn’t be unnerved to watch their kid’s face go from crocodile tears to utter blankness as they try to coax the kid back to bed. Then, 15 minutes later, have the kid wake up crying, saying he ‘got lost’.

And 15 minutes after that, he completely forgot about it.

The next time it happens (and I’m pretty sure it will), I won’t be so freaked out about it. Heck, maybe the third time, I can even have fun with it: Daniel, Mommy says to sweep the floor. Oh, how cute that he can clean in his sleep!)

Daniel’s antics, though, were made a little bittersweet in learning that the man who interviewed my hubby for his job had died. Back in November, this man brought Jon and I up for his interview. He took us to dinner, drove us around Middleton (a suburb of Madison). He was a very nice man, and his death has shook the office immensely.

I remember the last time I dealt with a co-worker’s death. It was way back when I worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. One of the ladies I worked with died of cancer. I didn’t really know her that well, but I did go to her wake. Her death, however, made very little impact. Oh, people were sad she was gone, but in such a large office, no one was truly affected. Only her co-workers missed her, but because she sort of kept to herself, it was pretty easy to forget her. I can’t remember her name now.

But in the office I work now, people are mourning. We held a chapel service. We prayed in small groups. People congregate in the corridors, talking in hushed whispers. People I only say hi to stop, wanting to talk a little more, or even hug, wanting the comfort of touch.

I don’t think this man will be forgotten. Not after all he has done.

Today, when I picked up Daniel from preschool, he picked a leaf and held it to his cheek. “It feels warm!”

“That’s from the sunshine,” I told him. “It’s been sitting in the sun.” I took the leaf and pressed it to my cheek as well. He was right–it did feel warm. Eventually the leaf got dropped somewhere. I forgot where it fell. But my cheek still feels warm from where I pressed it. I hope it will stay warm for a long time.

Goodbye, Dave. I know I said this to you before, but thank you for bringing us here. You’ll be sorely missed.

Should I be happy?

It’s been pretty busy here at the Cafe as I race to get some stuff done in the face of deadlines, writing-wise. Been checking stats of how people come to hear of the Cafe. It’s getting to be a cliche of what bloggers will put down as far as how their blogs are discovered through Google Search strings. It’s interesting to see how people come to the Cafe through Google…

But how, exactly, does one come here from searching Google for “hottest female fantasy author”?

Just wondering.

When to write and when to polish (and when to wax poetic…)

So last week I was listening to the Adventures in Scifi Publishing episode where Shaun Ferrell interviews Neil Gaiman. Towards the end of the podcast, About 30 minutes in, to be exact, Neil said something that troubled me a little. It’s part of the advice every writer gets nowadays–to write, and write every day. That part, I have no trouble with. What Neil said next, though, did. He said, and I quote:

“It’s much, much better to go off and write 10,000 words filled with glorious mistakes than to think for three weeks and write a 1500 word little jewel, then polish that jewel for the next month or two until it glows, and you have one perfect little thing. While, someone else has written 30,000 words that probably won’t be usable, but they’re 30,000 words better now. They’ve made 30,000 words worth of cool mistakes that they won’t be making again.”

This bothered me because At first, I was pretty irate. Who does Neil think he is? How dare he–an established, well-known famous author with several books under his belt–tell me–a part-time secretary, full-time mother trying to juggle writing time with housework/preschooler’s naps–how to be a writer? It’s easy for him to say “write something every day”. He doesn’t have kids running through a tiny two-bedroom apartment throwing train tracks everywhere and complaining every five minutes, “I’m bored. This is boring. I’m boooooored.” (By the way, can you guess what Daniel’s new word of the day is?) Don’t he realize that I got to take whatever time I can get? I don’t have the luxury to pick and choose what I work on. Hey, if I was an established, full-time writer, I’d sit on my butt and churn out stories every day, revise a few more stories, find markets for them, send them out, and still have time to clean the house, cook dinner, read to my son, fly to the moon, solve crime, negotiate for peace in Sudan, stop global warming…

Mind you, now, these were the very first thoughts that came to mind when I heard Neil say that.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since. At this very moment, I am juggling two revision projects–one of which I’ve been revising over and over since last November, trying to get it as perfect as possible before sending it to…well…actually I need to find a market for it. Granted, it’s not a 1500 little jewel–it’s more of a 12,000 honking big jewel I’ve been polishing for quite some time. And since I’ve been revising it, I’ve done little else in writing–just that and Willow, really. Haven’t worked on any new stories or essays. Haven’t sent anything new out. In fact, this Agony Booth recap I started a week ago is the first new anything I’ve done since…since…

What was the last story I worked on?

Of course, I can make excuses. I can say that I was so stressed out at the beginning of the year with preparing our house for sale that it sucked my creative juices dry. The only way I could stay sane was to edit my existing stories, and it helped me out to focus solely on them. Actually, I won’t make that an excuse. That stressful time really did help me focus better on my story.

But at the same time, one can only revise and revise and revise without getting worn down. I need to have that spontaneous feeling again of whipping up a story out of thin air. I need to get back to the delight of wondering what word I will put down next. And I’ve been taking steps in doing that. I’ve been pushing myself to do more freewriting. Actually, I’ve been attempting to ease myself into it since July, and so far, it’s been a bit better. I just need to figure out timing and all.

When I first started this post, I was going to dispute Mr. Gaiman’s statement by saying, “You can write, write, write all you want. But what use is it if all those words are sitting on your computer, never to be polished into a story?” However, now I have to admit; he’s right. I need to start writing again, and by writing, I mean writing new stuff. It’s in the new stories that you learn how to write better because you are constantly working with new material to play with.

But I would further add that writing should be balanced with revising. At some point, you do have to take a story and polish it. You don’t see editors asking for first drafts of stories. They want something that’s your very best. And to be really honest, I like my stories to be jewels. It’s how they stand out. At least, I like to think they do. And then you have to submit. Because after all that work, if it’s still sitting on your hard drive, what good does it do you?

Write. Revise. Submit. Finding the balance between the three. ‘Course, there will be times when you can do only one. You may get so drained out of a family crises that you may just want to just revise something. Or not work on anything at all. That’s the best thing about writing–it’s pretty flexible to whatever circumstances you’re in.

Now if the whole Obama/McCain election was just as flexible, we’d be in good shape.