november vibes

I have some catching up to do here

Hello and welcome to my reemergence. I didn’t plan for a hiatus, but life has been doing that thing it does, where I have nary a moment to myself. Currently I’m alone in my house for the first time in probably three weeks, and it is so calm and lovely. I have a fall candle going. I drank a whole pot of tea. I decided to recommit to you, my lovely newsletter readers, all 13 of you, and start this up again. It will probably stay sporadic because consistency is not my middle name. Sorry not sorry.

So the rundown: the big news is that I finished my novel rewrite! As I mentioned before, after I spew forth the first draft, I print the whole thing off, open a blank document, and start over. All the sections where I dragged out whatever terrible sentences would get me from Fun Part A to Fun Part B got reworked. I took out stuff. I added stuff. I refined the plot. I changed major incidents. I blitzed through the last five chapters in a week, which was astonishing. So that major accomplishment is complete. I wrote 55,000 words twice.

Now I once again have to wait. The second draft is out with my beta readers, and I will do my best not to nag them to read it and give me their notes. It helps that my teen has already blazed through it and given me their thoughts; they really liked it, and that’s a huge relief. There’s maybe nothing as scary as letting my own teenager read my work because what if they hate it and then hate me? Luckily I am safe for now.

You would think that finishing the rewrite would be euphoric. It is, for a minute or two, and then my spirits plummeted to the depths. For a few days I was convinced that it was dreadful. I could think of nothing but flaws. I wanted to tell my beta readers to ignore the email and never speak of it again. I was certain that my writing is trash and so am I. It’s such a strange phenomenon, but I suspect it comes from the vulnerability of working really hard on something that feels like a piece of my soul, and then giving it to people specifically to find out what needs to be fixed or altered. Vulnerability hangover is the pop psychology term, I think. It is definitely a yucky feeling.

Writing novels is such a terrible idea. It is a vast amount of work; I have not been paid for any of it so far; I have to continually offer up something that matters very much to me and into which I poured my heart, then wait for rejection. I’m starting to peek back into the publishing market and it is bleak. It is maximally saturated with hopeful authors. So many of them are millennial women who also got top marks in English in high school; I feel like I am just adding to the noise. The major publishers are accepting less to save their bottom line. Self-publishing is booming, but I am not convinced that that extends to the middle grade market. It feels fairly hopeless, to be honest, but I’m still going to try. I feel like I’ve written this exact paragraph already in this newsletter and maybe it’s a little too woe-is-me. I don’t know. I do believe in my novel. I think it’s really good. I think it’s the sort of book that could do well.

Anyway! I’ve also been doing other things. Nursing sick kids, for one. I made some excellent Halloween costumes this year. Driving children to their various activities; this is now a major part of my life, and probably will be for several years. It’s quite the adjustment. Reading, knitting, playing video games. I am in the late game stage of Hollow Knight, and that feels like a major achievement for me. I am not a prostar gamer and Hollow Knight is really hard, so getting this far is a big deal. I’m trying to get into Threads as a way of building an audience, something I am dreadful at. Feel free to follow me there, if you want.

Looking forward, this month is about leaning into the November vibes for me. I am not interested in leaping straight into the Christmas season. I want a slow month where I lean into the desire to hibernate. The time change this weekend is a real bummer, so it’s time to light the candles and curl up in the blankets and read the giant books. I always start a long read on November 1, and this year it’s Moby Dick. I can’t wait. Previous long reads include Little Women, Anna Karenina, Middlemarch, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, A Tale of Two Cities, and Lord of the Rings. I mostly read them at bedtime and it takes several months to get through them. I highly recommend this strategy, especially if you’re an A-in-English-class type.

One final note, because I would feel negligent leaving it out: free Gaza. Ceasefire now. Antisemitism is wrong. Anti-Muslim hate is wrong. Bombing children is wrong. Bombing civilians is wrong. Call your reps, boycott, donate if you can.

Free Gaza.

Books: Well, I did just mention a whole list. But I just finished two memoirs, one personal and one more academic, and they were both excellent. My Past is a Foreign Country by Zeba Talkhani – the subtitle is A Muslim Feminist Finds Herself, and it was really interesting to read about a life so different than mine. The other was A Sentimental Education by Hannah MacGregor, which was a challenging read but in the best way – it made me think about a lot of my assumptions, and the academic tone was a refreshing shift from all the fiction I’ve been reading.

Music: I just came across this song/video and it’s so beautiful.

Food: Soup is king. I need to make a big ol’ batch of Helen Rosner’s Roberto soup because it’s phenomenal. Also, if you don’t follow Helen, you should.