Friday, March 27, 2009

Labor Pains

At the risk of sharing too much, my husband and I are considering a second child. We've always wanted a second child, we always assumed we'd have a second child, but the years have slipped away and we have remained a one kid family. I know, I know, you're thinking big woop, you're not exactly the first family to consider a second child. But its been more than five years since we had our son and the prospect of going back to a house with diapers, wipes, and and cabinets I can't open, not to mention the sleep deprivation, oh my word, the sleep deprivation, well, you get the picture. Its down right scary. And that's just logistics; what about the "will I have time for this child, will I have time for my son, will I love this child as much, what if he or she isn't nearly as cool as the child I do have, will I ever have a quiet moment with my husband again, will I ever do yoga again, exactly how fat am I going to get and will it ever come off?" I have, if you can believe it, been accused of over-thinking things, which is clearly just unfair. Or maybe it isn't, I don't know, I should give that some thought.

When Laura and I asked our agent if there was anything we could do while the editors consider our book, she told us we could start another book. We've always wanted to write another book, we always assumed we'd write another book, but the years have passed and the second book has remained a mere twinkle in our eyes. And in many ways, it feels like The Pecking Order just got out of diapers and is finally able to feed itself. Writing a new book means brainstorming, character development, plot structure, writing, and editing, oh the editing. And that's just the logistics; what about the "will I have time for this book, will it be any good, am I really a writer, will Laura and I gel in the same way we always have, will I ever do yoga again, exactly how fat am I going to get and will it ever come off?" I have, if you can believe it, been accused of body image issues, which is clearly unfair. But do you think this blog makes me look fat?

Attempted self aware jokes aside, the prospect of another book is, like the prospect of another child, scary and overwhelming. But, in the end, the joy, love, and pride the first one brings is enough to make you (kind of) forget the pain and do it all over again. And so Laura and I begin again . . .anyone have an epidural handy??

Thursday, March 26, 2009

5 Random Things You Didn't Know About Abby

Those of you who've read our One Novel to Live blog entry know Abby Taylor is the protagonist of our novel, The Pecking Order. Laura and I both readily admit Abby began as an amalgam of the two of us at our most manic, most stretched (which was the original title of the book, by the way), most certifiably insane (now we're just uncertifiable). For the good of everyone involved, Abby has now, like all good fiction characters, taken on an identity and a life completely her own. If you know either one or both of us, you don't necessarily know Abby, but here are five tidbits to introduce and entice you. We hope you'll get to know her very well and very soon.

  • Abby calls only the most deserving people in her life by their given names. The rest receive only monikers--think The Pecker, The Blowhard, Man Slippers, and Sweat Rings.

  • Abby's been known, after equal parts peer pressure and booze, to remove her underwear in public places.

  • Abby's husband, Adam, is the love of her life, but kids, work, and the occasional ill-timed fart have rendered them celibate by default.

  • Abby's learned the hard way that a particularly messy diaper and a quick-footed toddler can wreak havoc at a dinner party.

  • Abby believes she can have it all, believes she can find balance, but when we first meet her, she has no idea where to look for it.

Here's to hoping you can take that journey with her.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Morning After

So, I’m feeling like a victim of Lestat today. Wow, does that reference date me, or what? No Edward Cullen for me—when I think of vampires, I think of Tom Cruise in the Anne Rice Vampstravaganza. (Sometimes I think of The Lost Boys, too, but I associate that movie less with blood-sucking and more with my own teen angst and a monster crush on Kiefer Sutherland). The point is, all hyperbole aside, I’m feeling drained. The last three days since securing a literary agent have been a whirlwind of excitement, incredulity, well-wishes, and congratulations. Of blog posts, Facebook notes, and many, many emails to and from Kris of the “can you believe this is happening” variety.

Today I woke up tired. And anxious. It’s like my boyfriend proposed and I ran around and told all my friends and picked a date and couldn’t focus on anything else for three days, and then I realized the wedding was a year away and even though I had a shiny new bauble on my finger and only wanted to focus on auditioning bands and tasting cakes, I still had to go to work and clean the litter box and pluck my eyebrows and . . . OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS . . .what if, in that year, we have a huge fight and don’t get married after all? So, yea, that’s how I’m feeling. I’m thrilled at our prospects, but, ever the realist and conditioned to contemplate failure (see, e.g., self-flagellation after every single test I’ve ever taken in my life), I’m also nervous about the process and, ultimately, the result. As best we understand, our agent is submitting queries (and then, if requested, the manuscript) to specific editors at the major publishing houses. If an editor likes it, he or she takes it to a larger group of editors. If they all sign off, they prepare a sales and marketing plan and determine whether to publish us and what they can offer to us. And, at that point, our screams of joy shatter the very screen you are reading this on. Now, don’t get me wrong, just getting the agent is cause for celebration and we are still beaming—but right now, there’s a teeny tiny part of me that can't help but worry my fiancĂ© will leave me and I’ll feel embarrassed for getting so worked up about him in the first place.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Big News

Kris and I often refer to our relationship as yin and yang, by which we mean we are complementary opposites within a greater whole. (Note that I used the word “complementary” as opposed to “complimentary.” I’ll never forget a business trip to San Francisco, when I stayed in a hotel that had a room service menu certain to raise Grammar Girl’s ire. The menu listed “tea, with compliments.” Imagine my dismay when, after a particularly harrowing day listening to Constitutional Law updates and statistics on the high number of alcoholics in the legal profession, I ordered said tea and it arrived with lemon, honey, cream, and sugar, instead of flattering remarks about my beauty and sense of style. False advertising, I say.) Our friendship is the circle, itself, and each of us, at any given time, tends to occupy the yin (black) or yang (white) components of that circle—the comma or the apostrophe. This is most apparent in our attitudes toward our book, The Pecking Order. Over the past few years, I can’t count how many times Kris or I considered throwing in the proverbial towel (which, in this case, would have involved throwing the laptop out the window), only to call the other and hear how excited and optimistic she was about the book’s prospects. Or how many times one of us emailed words of encouragement out of the blue, not knowing the other was slumped in front of a monitor with writer’s block, finishing a second box of Junior Mints and flirting with the blues. I believe this symbiotic dynamic—which cannot be manufactured, but must exist organically between two people—is largely to account for not only the ease with which we write together, but also the depth of our friendship (other factors include a shared affinity for French macaroons, a mutual desire to simplify our lives, and the fact that both of us have children who are preoccupied with bodily functions).

But today . . . today we are all yang. Today, that circle is bright white and burns with the intensity of the Vegas strip. For, today . . . cover your ears, I’m about to scream . . . WE ARE REPRESENTED AUTHORS! WE HAVE A LITERARY AGENT! Remember that agent who expressed interest in working with us on a rewrite back in November? (Of course you do, because you diligently read each of our blog posts and stay up at night worried about our future, right? God bless you.) Well, she worked with us. We rewrote. She read. She loved it. She’s our agent! Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that . . . this is the culmination of four-plus years of hard work, of carpal tunnel, crashed computers, wrestling with mail merge, deciphering the intent behind phantom agent emails, and accepting disappointment. Of many, many, dark, yin moments. But through it all, we never let hope die completely; at least one of us always kept a toe (desperately in need of a pedicure, most likely) on the light side. We know we have a long road ahead of us, filled with prospective editors and rewrites and who-knows-what-else. But, man, does it feel like we cleared a hurdle bigger than Ryan Seacrest’s monthly salon bill. We’ll post updates on the process and our progress but, in the meantime, if you happen to see one of us . . . you’d better bring your sunglasses, because we are shining!

If You Love Something Set It Free and Other Bad Cliches

There are certain things I remember from the '80s that no one else seems to remember. The Land of the Lost, for example. That might be one of the best shows ever (They fall over a waterfall into the Cretaceous Period! C'mon, how can you go wrong with that?) and, yet, no one I know can have a meaningful discussion about Chakka or the Slee Stacks. The movie North Shore and that zany surfer Turtle. Why does no one remember Turtle? At times, I've gone so far as to wonder whether I manufactured these memories --perhaps my jelly sandals were a little too tight, my fluorescent leggings a little too bright, who knows.

But of all my '80s memories, Blue Mountain greeting cards, for some reason, are one of my favorites. You know, the cards with their own special rack, the ones with the purposefully frayed edge, sappy cursive writing and putrid pastel colors. They are like Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy, only completely serious. They generally have three full paragraphs of sap that would put any soap opera monologue to shame and, at the age of 14, I was certain the author of this stunning prose saw straight into my heart. I still remember perusing the rack, nursing a broken heart because Chucky Lang broke up with me after a few short weeks of whirlwind-baseball-field-snack-bar romance, and coming across a card that was printed with some overdone cliche about loving something and setting it free and when and whether it would come back.

If you've read this blog, you know how Laura and I love The Pecking Order. Well, sometime in 2008, we both set it free. I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but we both felt the release and it was liberating. When we started writing, we held the book so tightly our knuckles were white. We tried to squeeze from it an exit from the firm, which was sucking out our souls like one of JK Rowling's Dementors, not to mention wreaking havoc in our marriages, our friendships, and with our health. We just knew that along with an agent would come balance and happiness and wholeness and consciousness in all its splendor. Forget The Secret; what we needed was an advance.

In time we both realized in our strange cosmically connected way that maybe there was something to what Oprah, Eckhardt, our pastors, and our yoga instructors were saying. Perhaps, just perhaps, happiness and wholeness and consciousness would not be found in the pages of our yet to be published novel. Sure, we had worked hard to write it and even harder to find it a publishing home, but what we really needed to do was (to use another bad cliche) look inside ourselves. And as it turned out, we had work to do there, too. And with that work, we unshackled The Pecking Order at long last and put the responsibility on the right parties. Don't get me wrong, neither one of us sits around meditating or moves through life in complete zen; we still occasionally yell at our kids, snap at our husbands, and curse in traffic, but not nearly as much. And what we've learned is something I was taught twenty years ago by the Blue Mountain greeting card - if you love something, truly love something, set it free and it will come back to you better and bigger than it ever was. And thank goodness (see Big News), unlike Chucky Lang, The Pecking Order did.