Day: February 14, 2009

Feeling professional

When I was twelve, my mother gave me some genealogy papers to copy. They were pedigree charts. I’m not sure why she asked me to copy them by hand because I’m fairly certain that copy machines already existed, but she did. I remember sitting at a small table with the book sitting in front of me. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was still in my church dress. I used a pen to carefully transfer information from one page to another. I imagined that I was in an office, doing office work. It felt so grown-up and important, even though a part of me knew that I was only playing at being grown up.

Howard and I have been publishing books for four years now. Much of the time I have felt a little bit like I did all those years ago while copying the genealogy sheets. I’ve felt like I was playing at being a publishing professional. I was like the stage magician waving my hands around and hoping that no one would notice the cards poking out from the ends of my sleeves. We tried to present a calm and professional exterior while behind the scenes all was a scramble to keep on top of things. But over the years we have learned a lot. We don’t scramble in frantic fear of getting it wrong anymore. Now we just scramble in a frantic hurry to get it done on time. And I’ve learned that the scramble is normal for the publishing industry. I still have days when I feel like I’m just pretending to be professional, but then I have a week like the one just passed. It is hard to feel anything but professional during a week when I work on book layout, participate in a newspaper interview, send off a contract, put new merchandise in the store, answer loads of email, and ship out multiple store orders.

Today Howard and I laid out plans for the book after Scrapyard. Resident Mad Scientist will take us about 4 months to compile. I took stock today and realized that we are down to our last 500 copies of Under New Management. We’re going to have to re-print that along side Resident Mad Scientist. We stood there discussing it and I had one of those “wow, I’m really a grown up now” moments. There I was planning ahead on printing two additional books and it was not stressing me out at all. Good heavens, I contract printing of things in China. I create whole layouts for books. I’m on a first name basis with people at Baen Books. When did all that happen? I still remember when the thought of owning a business was frightening to me, when I secretly hoped that Howard would just be happy collecting a paycheck. (We were only a year married, and I figured out quickly that paycheck collection was not the way to happiness for us.) How did I get from there to here? I look back and I can trace the path. It has been a long one and I am so glad that I traveled it. Am traveling. We’re far from done.

Rambling thoughts on a writing contest

In January I participated in a forum writing contest called Weekend Warrior. It lasted five weeks. Each Saturday morning three prompts were posted. Participants had until Sunday evening to write a story of 750 words or less. It was a good experience, but it was very hard on me. I had to quit after the third week because I’d completely drained my emotional reserves while simultaneously neglecting a bunch of house/family stuff that I felt guilty about. The scheduling for the contest was all wrong for me. If I spend Saturday feverishly writing, I end up growling at the kids who are home all day. The growling was even worse because we were all stuck inside due to icy weather. Saturday is also the day that I usually focus on getting the house clean, so my house clutter intensified over the course of three weeks. Then there was the fact that my stories were being scored against other stories. Week after week I had to face the fact that I’m not as good at this as I want to be. I wanted to wow people and I never did. In the end I had to stop. I had to rebalance myself and realize that mid-January was probably not the best time to try to stretch myself in this particular way.

And yet it really felt good to lose myself in the writing. It was fun to have a scheduled time to turn my brain over to story and plot percolation. And the deadline gave me the impetus to truly schedule the time. In theory I’m trying to make Thursday mornings my writing time, but in practice I frequently fill the time with other things instead. Next week will be completely absorbed by getting Scrapyard finished. Then there will be LTUE. Maybe after that I can settle the schedule back down. I just counted and I have five finished stories waiting for revision. I also have two projects partially drafted. It would be nice to get some of these out where they have a chance at publication. If I had not participated in the Weekend Warrior contest 4 of those stories would not exist.