The Last Thing I Needed


Guess who got really sick with the flu this week while facing a Big and Important Writing Deadline, among other Urgent Writing Projects that need finishing, along with Many Other Things Not to Be Revealed Here, only because they are boring household things I really need to take care of but you probably wouldn’t care to hear about, not to mention that today is Halloween?

Yes, me.

I think I’ll finally be able to emerge from the house tomorrow.

(I hope.)


I stumbled this month, in more ways than one.

The first time:

Two weeks ago, I was at my writing café, which is not too far from my apartment, a coffee shop off a quiet street and up a set of wide metal stairs. I’ve been climbing and descending those stairs for years without a problem, so that morning I spent an hour or so tinkering with a new novel at a favorite table in the back and then I left, heading to my usual writing space, where I planned to spend the day. I was in a moment. I felt inspired for the first time in weeks. I felt ready, at long last, to write again.

That’s when I slipped.

I’m not really sure how I did it, but I was coming down the wide metal stairs out front, and my feet stumbled on the way down, and when I hit the sidewalk I couldn’t keep my balance. I had my laptop in a backpack, and I remember being aware that I shouldn’t crush it because my novels were in there, so when I fell to the sidewalk I fell forward, to keep my laptop (and my novels!) safe. And so I landed on my ankle.

The pain was a quick flash, and made it so I couldn’t stand up. I was so very dizzy. A woman walked past, chattering on her cell phone, and she asked me quickly if I was okay. I said yes I was fine*, so she kept walking. I was still on the ground at this point but after a minute or so I hobbled over to the stairs, sat on the bottom step, and tried not to pass out. A man ran over from the delivery truck outside the supermarket next door to see if I was all right—he was very mad that the woman with the cell phone walked away and left me—but I assured him, too, that I was fine, just a little dizzy and with a sore ankle. He asked if I could move my foot and I showed him I could, so he announced that my ankle wasn’t broken. After he left, I sat there for a long while. Once I wasn’t dizzy anymore, I hopped all the way home.

I was unable to walk for about a week. My ankle swelled to great proportions, and turned weird colors, but I iced and elevated and stayed in and slowly got better. There are too many stairs between my walk-up apartment and the street, so I couldn’t go out. But one day I hopped down all the stairs and to the corner for a cab and went to get an X-ray, and thankfully it’s not fractured.

I’m okay now. I can walk, even if my leg and foot ache for some reason and I think I’ll need to ice it again when I get home.

That was the first time I stumbled this month.

The second time:

This one was worse. Because this time it was with my writing. I’m having a hard time talking about it—but it’s not at all the end of the world, it’s just a roadblock, and I’ll get through it. In fact, it’s an opportunity to be new and better than before. One day this will be an interesting story about my publishing journey—one day in the future when I have some distance from it. Then it’ll be something I pushed through, something I can be proud of accomplishing.

I’ll tell you all about it next year.

In the meantime, I’m grateful to my brilliant and amazing editor, my beyond supportive agent, and kind family and friends.

I’m feeling good now. I’m picking myself up and I’m moving forward and everything will be okay.

It will?

It will.

What else does this month have in store? All I know is I’ll be extra-careful on the stairs.

I’m under deadline again, so if you don’t see me for a few weeks, that’s why.

*  I don’t like to ask for help. This is true in my writing as much as it is anywhere else.

No Going Back Now

Yesterday, thanks to the beauty of Twitter, I realized that people could now maybe, possibly, actually be reading the final version of my new novel.

I realized this, and my heart almost stopped!

Oh, there’s still a ways to go before ARCs (advance readers copies, for reviewers), but I think it hit me just now: This is happening.

For real.

It’s even more strange to imagine anyone reading this novel because I don’t show too many people my writing. I showed this manuscript to even fewer people than the manuscript I wrote before it—and I didn’t show that many people the last one. Most of the people who’ve read this new novel have really only seen the first few chapters. For some reason, the more years I write, the more I want to keep my writing close. You’d think I would be the opposite.

Why have I turned so shy?

Or I wonder if maybe it’s a weird kind of confidence. Not that I think I don’t need feedback—this novel would absolutely not be what it is without my editor. Maybe it’s just that I’ve taken all the feedback from all the years of writing before and am still incorporating it, on each new project, and I think (I think) I know what to do to get it to a certain place. Who knows.

Maybe keeping my writing close is a reaction to all those years of workshops—feedback from so many voices, often saying opposing things, until your mind knots up in utter confusion and you put your stack of scribbled-on stories in a box* to revise later and, ten years go by, and I guess that story’s dead.

Or maybe it’s simply that I’m a private person. (Yes, even though I have a blog, I swear I’m private.) And this novel felt so close to me, I couldn’t imagine sending it out in the world.

Though soon it will be.

Out there. In the world.


Even though I’m shy and private and possibly sometimes a tiny bit confident, maybe, I do have some envy over writers who have critique groups. I think that’s pretty great to have critique partners you band together with and continue sharing manuscripts all through the years. How wonderful that must be.

How about you? Do you keep your writing close or do you show a few cherished, lucky people?

And to those of you long past workshops—grad school or otherwise—has workshop ruined you or do you miss them?

* See my closet. Or under my bed. I still have the comments from my workshops in grad school on stories I barely even remember writing!

Finding the Words

Sorry, once again, for the silence. There was some time when I just couldn’t find the words—personal things are going on with someone I love and it’s really all I can think about. There isn’t a moment in the day when that’s not on my mind. No… it’s more like the moments come and go and each time I am in one it’s new all over again. Sometimes I’ll be doing something, like setting the alarm clock or working on a freelance project or buying milk at the grocery store, and then it will fall on me, the knowledge, and I crumple.

But, also, there is something to be said for being positive. For standing up in the face of shit and being hopeful, defiantly hopeful. So hopeful you will make the hope turn true. And I am hopeful. I have so much hope in me, you’d never stomp it all out.

So I’ve been here, but quiet, consumed with what life is handing us. Life, also, has handed me this book, and I want to tell you that I finished it.

Imaginary Girls went through a summer, and part of fall, of great drama. I worked so freaking hard for so freaking long, and if I didn’t come out of my writing and revising and re-revising hole, this is why, so I hope you’ll be understanding. I didn’t talk about it here because, you know, I think there are some things best kept to yourself when you’re in them. Just know that Imaginary Girls got some work done, serious work. And now I am here to say that I am so thrilled with what that manuscript has become.

I love it.

One day—believe me, I will let you know when!—there will be pages to show and the ARC and the glorious cover, and though it’s hard to be cheerful now with everything else that’s going on, this book is the best thing happening in my life right now, so I’m clutching on to it to lift me up. Not to mention that, in coincidence, this book was written for someone very important. One day, I’ll get to give her this book and she’ll know.

I can’t wait.