Have you ever wanted to ask me anything?
Well, tomorrow you’ll have your chance. At 4:30 Eastern time (1:30 Pacific time), I will be doing an AMA on Reddit — an “Ask Me Anything.” You’re free to ask about the Memoirs of Lady Trent or something else writing-related, but you’re by no means required to; if you want to know what my favorite food is or how my recent karate belt test went, those kinds of things are all fair game.
I’ve never done one of these before. It should be an adventure . . . .This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/628834.h
As of tonight, the belt I wear in karate class is black.
. . . mostly.
My actual rank is shodan-ho, which translates to something like “probationary first degree.” It means I wear a black belt with a white stripe. After my next test (which won’t be for months), I’ll wear a black belt with a red stripe, and then some number of months after that, I will be an actual honest-to-god black belt.
This means I have made it through the “brown belt blues,” i.e. the stretch of time where you feel like you’re making no progress at all. Our dojo has three degrees of brown belt (going from sankyu to ikkyu), and it’s a minimum of 45 classes between tests; at two classes a week, you spend a long time as a brown belt. Apparently a lot of people burn out and quit at that stage. (I myself am guilty of having slacked off for a while in there.) But now I’ve rounded the corner; the end is in sight.
Except of course it isn’t an end at all. Shodan basically just means that you’re considered “trained” — I’d give the serious side-eye to anybody below that rank who set themselves up as a teacher. There’s nigh-infinite room for improvement above that, though. The lowest-ranking teacher at our dojo is third dan, and Shihan himself is ninth. So, y’know. Shodan isn’t “mission accomplished; now I rest on my laurels.” But it’s a landmark, and one that is no longer quite so hypothetical. I could be there in a year and a half, if I’m consistent about making it to the dojo.
My test on Friday was kind of brutal, mostly because I was the only adult karate student testing this month, which means I had to go through the whole thing without any pauses. (Normally you get to rest while the other students perform their kata.) Stances, standing basics, moving basics, four karate kata (two pinan of my choice, jitte, and tomari passai), two sai kata (kihongata ichi and ni), two bo kata (donyukon ichi and ni), thirty-five shrimps, thirty push-ups, running in place for a minute. It took me ten minutes afterward to change out of my gi and repack my bag, I was moving so slowly. But I passed, and that’s the important part.
It’s very satisfying to look at how much I’ve learned. Not the number of kata, but the knowledge of how to perform them: the ability to think about something in jitte and connect it to a similar-but-different move in pinan san-dan, or to catch an error in my own movement before a senpai comes along to correct me. I’ve been doing this for a little over five years, and the progress is real.
Give me another year and a half, and you might even be able to call me fully trained.This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/628718.h
For today the long-awaited office cabinet arrived.
hrm. The cherry finish is a bit darker than I was expecting from the website/other things I've ordered from them, but not out of line with some of my other pieces, so let's roll with it...
Lower shelf for laptop storage, tech and assorted cords, middle shelf for various and sundry common-but-not-everyday desk supplies, and the top shelf for All The Papers, so they no longer become cat toys.
Tonight I'm going to cut it out and then restart.
It is done.
Final wordcount is a little over 106,000 words.
Have some Florence and the Machine to celebrate.
- Current Mood: anxious
- Current Music:Shriekback - Everything's On Fire
But one of the other best things is that we're the home of the Tucson Festival of Books. Which is this weekend, March 15-16.
And I'll be there! Here's where you can find me:
Saturday, 1:00-1:45 p.m.
Signing at Mostly Books Booth (#130-131 & #134-135)
Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
World Building: Creating Imaginary Worlds
Education Bldg, Kiva Auditorium
With Cornelia Funke, Aprilynne Pike, Janni Lee Simner, and Chuck Wendig (Nancy Brown moderating)
Half hour signing follows panel
Sunday, 4-5 p.m.
The Craft of Writing
Education Bldg, Room 353
Sun, Mar 16, 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
With Nancy Farmer, Janni Lee Simner, and Suzanne Young (T. Gail Pritchard moderating)
Half hour signing follows panel
If you're going to be on the festival too this weekend, do come by and say hi!
(Mirrored from simner.com/blog/?p=5678)
There are nine days left on the campaign as I write this, and it's already funded, so the book's definitely going to happen. I'm so close to hitting the stretch goal that will allow me to hire Lindsey Look to paint original cover art!
If you can give, or spread the word, I'd appreciate it greatly. It's going to be a fun book, full of monsters and violence and banter.
As for Sunday, I think it went okay. I felt really good about the first service, but something seemed weird/off in the second service, and that started freaking me out and then the paranoia kicked in. I didn't get a real chance to talk to anyone afterward, so I didn't get a lot of positive reinforcement, and that also triggered the paranoia that no one wanted to talk to me because of the "if you can't say anything nice" thing. It's probably all in my head. I'm just going to remember the first service when I felt like I did well and wasn't even that nervous. One reason I didn't get the chance to talk to anyone after the second service is that everyone else I was singing with slipped out after singing instead of sitting through the whole service a second time, and it didn't even occur to me that I could do that until I went back to my spot in the choir loft and the person sitting next to me acted surprised that I hadn't left. But then I was already up there, so it would have looked weird to leave again, so I heard the sermon twice.
Thinking back on the thing about me not really having a lot of "vice" in my life, it's possible that self-denial itself can become a vice if it's done for the wrong reasons or if you expect a reward for it. For me, I suspect it has to do with my tendency to go for difficulty points in life. I also have a weird thing about delayed gratification, where I enjoy looking forward to something more than I enjoy doing or having the thing I'm looking forward to. Anticipation might be my real vice, so if I gave that up for Lent, I'd have to actually do stuff instead of just planning it and looking forward to maybe someday doing it.
A whole team of psychiatrists could probably make careers out of studying me.
It's theoretically spring break here, which means I don't have dance or children's choir. But I'm behind on the book, so I will be making use of the extra time to be super productive. I hope.
Children’s book veteran Kelly Bennett has been publishing picture books and children’s nonfiction for a quarter century. She joins the long haul series today to discuss something many writers think about: when (and how) to quit–and when (and why) not to.
ReTIRED and Better for It!
I’m honored Janni invited me to discuss Writing for the Long Haul. It’s an interesting topic, especially as I recently quit.
Someone asked me once. “What made you think anyone would want to read what you write?”
Snarky as the question sounds, it wasn’t intended to be an insult. It was posed as a query, more of a “Why did you become a writer?”
The idea that I could . . . should . . . must be a WRITER struck me like a tractor trailer on an empty New Mexico highway. I was driving Route 66 from California back to Oklahoma, in a metallic green Cadillac with my two children—then 2 and 4—when it smacked me upside the head. (We were listening to kiddie music on an 8 track.) Unlike many authors I know, I had never before considered becoming a writer. While I had earned high marks on school writing assignments, I was not a writer. I didn’t even keep grocery lists, let alone a journal. Nevertheless, I answered the call.
At the first opportunity, I enrolled in a writing class. Along with introducing me to the business of publishing, that first class also brought me together with Ronnie Davidson, a kindred spirit who soon became my writing partner. Within that first year we’d sold our first book. However, as our co-writing career took off, my personal life crashed. Frankly, as passionate as I was about writing, if it had not been for Ronnie, and the support and accountability that comes from being part of a team, I probably would have quit.
By writing team, I mean Ronnie and I sat side-by-side every school day for as many hours as our schedules allowed, with Ronnie at the computer keyboard (one of the earliest home systems) and me scribbling on a legal pad, bouncing ideas, plotting, creating, and finishing each other’s sentences . . . As a team we set goals—primarily to publish—and set our course of action. What we wrote—poems, puzzles, How-To, Travel, parenting magazine and newspaper articles, memoir, True Confessions, fiction, non-fiction—didn’t matter. The fun was writing and publishing, and being paid (no matter how small the check; every dollar was one less I had to make waitressing.)
Being part of a writing team came naturally to me. As a kid, I preferred team sports—volleyball, kick ball, badminton—over individual sports. Even in Tennis, I preferred doubles. So, when after more than 12 years, 6 books and a binder-full of articles to our credit, we dissolved our writing partnership, I floundered. For the first time, I questioned the call. Was I really meant to be a writer? Or, was I only a writing partner? Could I even write by myself? Did I want to?
Fast forwarding through the ensuing agonizing self-appraisal, I determined, partner or not, I was a writer. I plunged into a new writing life. Partly out of fear, partly loneliness, this included becoming active in writing organizations I had only been vaguely connected to while team writing, including a critique group. Through them I found the supportive community I craved and began realizing success in my solo career.
Odd as it sounds, publishing can wreak havoc on our writing lives. It did mine. Having a “career” requires us to split ourselves in two: part creative writer, part business-minded author. Whether it’s true, or it’s just my excuse, the last few years I’ve been so busy moving, marrying off children, caring for aging parents, traveling, etc. etc., I haven’t had much time for anything else. Of necessity, what time I did have went to “must dos” and “should dos”—promotions &; marketing, presentations, social media—author stuff. As a result, the “want tos”—everything I enjoyed about writing, including writing and fellowship—went by the wayside. I came to one day and realized my writing life was no longer a joy. It was a job. And, judging by my actions—splitting with my agent, neglecting revisions, not sitting my butt in the chair—a job I might not want.
I was wallowing somewhere between miserable and pathetic when it dawned on me that, called or not, I did not have to be a writer. There were a zillion other careers out there, a zillion other things I could be doing besides writing. So I quit. Being free from the publish-and-promote-or-perish pressure felt grrrrrreat! . . . Honest.
While on hiatus, I attended a retirement dinner for a colleague of my husband’s. After the dinner was over one of the young, non-native English speaking attendees approached him. “Mr. Michael,” he said. “After you get your new tires, what will you do?”
New tires! We all enjoyed his naiveté, and some among us filled him in on the “real” meaning of retirement. (Although I’m not sure we should have.) In a Chauncy Gardnerish way, he was correct. In retiring, Michael was replacing a worn set of work tires with a comfy new set for rolling into the sunset. Yes, retirement is an end. But it’s also an opportunity for new beginnings.
I didn’t want to quit. Writing is my chess, my Suduko, my Candy Crush. Even when the writing isn’t going well, I’m happier writing than not writing. I had been called to writing. And not heeding that call was driving me from crazy to cranky. I wanted to retire so I could begin a new, fulfilling writing life.
Just as there are different kinds of tires—on road, off road, snow, etc.—there are different ways to approach our writing lives. After deciding that I wanted—want—to be a writer, I visualized what I wanted that new writing life to be. Next, I set goals to ensure I don’t forget or ignore my “want tos” again! These include:
- Staying connected to my team by attending one writing retreat, workshop or conference (as a participant, not a speaker) bi-annually chosen to inspire and energize me.
- Interacting with my readers regularly (preschoolers and elementary students) at paid events, and as a volunteer.
- Challenging myself to try new things (by taking classes and group study).
- Scheduling quarterly check-ups to evaluate my professional life with an eye to maintaining balance between author duties and writing—with prime time going to writing.
Writing for the long haul is no different than other professions, harder perhaps considering the paychecks may not be as plump or regular. It’s easy to stay busy attending to the “must dos” and the “should dos” while ignoring the “want tos.” But, attending to those “want tos” is what brings us joy. And while I don’t recommend doing anything as dramatic as calling it quits, I do suggest doing what I should have: in the same way you take your car in for servicing, schedule regular career check-ups. Ask and answer those defining questions:
- Why did you become a writer?
- What kind of writing life do you want?
Depending on your responses, make necessary adjustments to your writing life. Could be it’s time for you to re-tire, too. Oh, the places we can go on a brand new set of tires!
Kelly Bennett started telling stories when she was two, using her mother’s mascara to write on her neighbor’s car. She’s gone on to publish more than a dozen picture books and nonfiction children’s books under her name, as well as several books co-authored with Ronnie Davidson under the pen name Jill Max. Her most recent titles include Vampire Baby, the Writer’s League of Texas Book Award Winner One Day I Went Rambling, Your Mommy Was Just Like You, and Your Daddy Was Just Like You. She’s a graduate of the Vermont College Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. Visit her online at Kelly’s Fishbowl.
Previous Writing for the Long Haul Posts
- Pete Hautman on the book that will save us
- Elena Acoba on touching reader lives
- Steve Miller on building a writing life
- Sharon Lee on remembering we’re not alone
- Betty G. Birney on always challenging ourselves
- Nora Raleigh Baskin on making deals with the writing gods
- Sean Williams on unpredictability and luck
- Deborah J. Ross on writing through crisis
- Sharon Shinn on managing time
- Marge Pellegrino on feeding the restless yearning to write
- Sarah Zettel on embracing ignorance and writing your passions
- Uma Krishnaswami on honoring unreasonable exuberance
- Jennifer J. Stewart on finding community and support
- Sherwood Smith on keeping inspiration alive
- Mette Ivie Harrison on defining success
- Jeffrey J. Mariotte on why we write
- Judith Tarr on reinventing ourselves
- Kathi Appelt on the power of story
- Cynthia Leitich Smith on balancing business and creativity
Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.
This work by http://www.swantower.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
I don’t know why there appears to be one of Snow White’s dwarves lounging in front of this flower clock (which is in the Lal Bagh Gardens of Bangalore) . . . but he amused me.This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/628464.h