Friday, April 27, 2012


When I was in the 5th or 6th grade, I checked out a book from the school library about an American ballerina (whose name I do not remember).  What I do remember from the book (aside from its puke-yellow binding) was that the ballerina went through a lot of trials and tribulations before she made it.  I think she tried to be an actress for a while before her ballet career took off, and during her teen years, she went to a lot of casting auditions.  She would perform pieces that she wrote herself.  Usually they were melodramatic monologues from the point of view of an a abused and misguided teenager who somehow found herself alone and pregnant, and she would stumble across the stage bemoaning her sorry state and wondering why it felt like she had rabbits jumping up and down in her stomach.

The casting directors would invariably laugh at these performances, but sometimes they would ask her to give a repeat.  They'd even call in additional people to watch.  She'd get her hopes up, thinking that surely they must regard her as a talented actress if they wanted to see her perform again.

But she never got the part.  They weren't asking her to perform again because they were impressed.  They were calling additional people over to laugh at her-- at this ridiculous girl who didn't even fully understand how someone got pregnant, but had written a monologue about it anyway.

This.  This is my greatest fear with The Novel.  That I would parade it out there, and end up looking like a teenager talking about rabbits in her stomach.

And it feels like this is exactly what happened.


I went to a writer's conference last weekend, and I guess it was supposed to energize me and reinvigorate me, but instead it made me want to lie in the dark for days on end in a catatonic state.

Please, this is not a rant against the New York publishing industry.  I remain ambivalent towards the whole thing.  This is just the way it is.

To get your book "traditionally" published, you have to have an agent.  Once an agent agrees to rep you, he/she sends your manuscript to various publishing houses and hopes to get lucky.  To get an agent you have to "query" them.  A query is essentially like the thing you would read on the back cover of the book.  It is not a synopsis and doesn't reveal the ending, it is just supposed to "hook" someone into wanting to read your book.

Here are some statistics I gathered from the web: the average agent receives approximately 5,000 queries a year and agrees to represent 4 of them.  Yes.  4.

Of those 4, I'm not sure how many actually make it to publication.

With odds like that, I feel like I might as well go back to academia.  There, at least, you only have to contend with about 200 applicants per position.

In my next life, I am going to choose an easy career.

At any rate, I "pitched" my novel to an agent at the conference.  She was really nice.  I chose her specifically because I had researched her and thought she might be interested in my kind of thing.  She reps YA (young adult), which is what I thought my book was.  But at the conference, I quickly found out that I was wrong.

The problem is that the main character of my book grows up throughout the course of the story, and this is not done in YA lit.  I guess I should have known this.  I mean, what you are supposed to do when you're writing a novel is read every book that has ever been published in that genre and write something that is exactly the same except with a new and exciting twist.  Agents and publishers like to call this "doing your homework."

I really, really hate that phrase.

Now, I have read a few YA titles (a full-time job and child-rearing and writing the g*ddamn novel definitely do cut in to my spare time), mainly those suggested by my BFF (a literary expert), and of course I noticed that the main characters do not grow up throughout the course of the book, but I guess I didn't connect that it was forbidden.

Nobody was mean to me at the conference and in truth, nobody laughed at me or called over a group of people to watch me repeat my rabbit-in-belly performance.  The agent I spoke with was actually helpful and gave me some suggestions (unfortunately, none of which seem tenable to me) to make this book into a YA fiction.

I think the pivotal moment came when she asked me, "Who do you see as the market for this book?"  And I stumbled, "Well, young adults of course."  But as I said that, I knew I was lying.  Or at the very least, wrong.  The agent was right, the industry is right.  A young adult (i.e., 16 year old) really isn't going to want to read about a character who grows up and faces the world of getting a job and paying bills, etc., even if she does end up having to come back and face the mess she left behind when she was 16.  An an adult isn't going to want to wade through the first half of the novel-- 40,000 words of a teenager making horrible life decisions that influence the person she becomes.

Sorry I'm being vague about the plot.

So as I sat there in the pitch session, it came crashing down on me that I have spent 15 months writing a novel that has no genre (it is neither YA nor adult fiction) and has no "market" or "target audience."  I am, quite possibly, the only person I can think of who might actually want to read this book.

It was a very sobering thought, once I saw it for what it was.

I came home and lay down in the dark for a long time, trying to figure out how I am going to get over this.

There are mortal flaws with the book as-is.  In the many long months I've spent trying to revise it, I really cut down on the second half, when the main character is an adult (so that it would seem more like YA fiction), and I think that it doesn't even make sense anymore.  I'm essentially left with nothing, after 15 months of pouring myself into it.  It's embarrassing.  Honestly, I'm ashamed.

I feel very much that the best thing for me to do now is just move on.  I cannot put any more effort into this genre-less, unmarketable book without it killing me.  Unless it already has.

If I would really put myself through the ordeal of moving forward with this, I need to figure out what genre it is and how to retro-fit it into that.  But once you get out of YA, the world of fiction seems to become very murky.  I honestly don't know the difference between literary fiction, commercial fiction, genre fiction, contemporary fiction, women's fiction, etc.  The internet tells you 75,000 different things (which is why I think the phrase do your homework is ineffective and even offensive).  I'm beyond the point of being able to evaluate this on my own; I'm too close to the material and I've reworked it too many times.  I feel like I would need to have somebody outside of my own head to read it, but at this point it has become so deconstructed and so utterly horrible that I would be mortified to let anyone look at it as-is.

I guess I just need to take some time to figure out what to do.  Maybe the end result will be that I take up sewing and swear off writing forever.  Until then, here is the official website for the novel that no longer exists.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I'm not even going to ask what else can go wrong

Leading up to marathon #12:

I made a clerical error with my training plan and did my peak mileage week (including a 20 mile training run) 2 weeks before the marathon instead of 3 weeks.  Now, I'm a firm believer in Hal Higdon and have used some version of his training plans for each of my previous 11 marathons, and he always has you do a 3-week taper.  Anything less and your body isn't rested/recovered for race day.  Well, long about 18-weeks ago when I was entering my weekly long runs on the calendar, I made a mistake and entered the 20-mile run for April 1st, a mere 2 weeks prior to the race.  I didn't even realize it until shortly before I headed out for the run, when Rob said something to the effect of, "So you're shooting for a 2-week taper, then.  That's ballsy."  I freaked the hell out.  But.  There wasn't much I could do about it at that point except hope that a 2-week taper turns out to be the Best Thing Ever.  We'll see.

A day or two after my poorly scheduled 20-miler, I was taking the trash down to the curb and twisted my ankle and fell flat on my face.  It was bad.  Like, bad enough that I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to stand up and walk outside, not only from being mortified that half the neighborhood saw me, but also because my ankle seemed broken.  I couldn't put any weight on it, I couldn't even move it.  Walking to work that day was interesting to say the least.  I did lots and lots of ice and Aleve for many days afterwards.  It remained swollen and it hurt to touch or rotate, but interestingly enough it did not hurt to run.  I regained a cautious sense of optimism that the marathon might be possible after all.

Just when I seemed to be on the mend (Thursday), I was out for a routine 3-mile super easy run-- my last run before the marathon.  And I tripped.  Not on a pinecone or my shoelace or even a crack in the sidewalk.  There was nothing there.  I just tripped.  And twisted my ankle in the same exact spot as my previous injury.  Oh my god it hurt.  I sat there on the sidewalk, leaning up against a light post and wondering how I was going to make it home.  Eventually, I told myself everything would be okay and got up and ran.  I'm now about 2-days out from this repeat ankle injury, and interestingly it hurts less than it did before the whole thing began.  Maybe it was like my previous series of knee-related running injuries, which began when I tripped and fell on a "gum ball" (wrenching my knee in the process) and then completely disappeared 6 weeks later when I tripped and fell on another gum ball.  Go figure.

You may begin to notice that tripping and falling is a common theme in my life.

Because bad things never happen in 3's, the next set-back I encountered was Rob's cold.  He started coming down with a cold about 2 weeks before the marathon (around the same time I noticed my clerical error and fell down the driveway).  I thought, great, I'll probably catch this and be sick for the marathon.  But then I reevaluated and determined No, that would never happen.  If I caught the cold from him it would be within a matter of days, and while I might be uncomfortable for a little while, it would all pass long before the marathon.  Not so!  Rob's cold has continued to linger, most uncharacteristically, for this entire time.  He has been fairly miserable, and I have nervously observed this trajectory while waiting for the other shoe to fall.

I managed to evade the cold for for almost two weeks.  And then Thursday (consequently, just hours after I re-twisted my ankle), it hit.  My throat hurt, my head hurt, I felt chilled to the bone, and my left eye was red and swollen shut.  "What's the matter with you, do you have a stye?" one of my coworkers asked.  A stye??  What the hell is that.

I urge you, never, ever to Google the term "stye" while you are on your lunch break.

But at least I learned that styes are not life threatening, and they are treatable by the relatively simple process of applying a warm compress.  Excellent.  After about 2 days of that, the redness and swelling started to go down, and I feel like I will probably be able to wear my contacts again by tomorrow.

And another thing: the weather forecast for tomorrow is a high of 77 and thunderstorms.

Bring it.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dear William (32 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 32 months old!

We had the warmest March on record, which makes me nervous for the future of the planet, but allowed for us to spend some nice days outside in the meantime.

You got a boo-boo while running around and tripping on your feet:

Boo boo


You ate lunch with your sunglasses on:


Cool lunch


You ate a Clif Bar in the back yard:

Back yard Clif Bar


You went hiking with your dad:

Boys hiking


You directed traffic on the sidewalk:


Directing traffic


You spent some time reading with the family:



You spent some time reading alone:

Following along


You spent some time playing with Mama Monkey and Baby Monkey

IMG 0686



You went to a Pow Wow with your mom.





You sing a lot of songs, William, including Elmo's World.


We all had a great time this month, William!  We are looking forward to more great things to come.


Your mom


Sunday, April 8, 2012

There is a fine line between "hip and edgy" and "Lucille Bluth"

Something about this haircut has just been rubbing me the wrong way.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it until finally I realized: I am walking a very fine line between "hip and edgy" and "Lucille Bluth."

This isn't all bad. Lucille Bluth is my all-time favorite fictional character. If only I could be as bad ass as this: 



And now for the evidence: Bluth6Bluth6 6




Bluth1Bluth1 1




(Wow, it is really hard to make this face and while taking your own picture with your iPhone). Bluth5Bluth5 5




(Also, making this face is a lot harder than it looks). Bluth4Bluth4 4


Thank you, Lucille Bluth, for being my inspiration.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I did it











Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hair today, gone tomorrow

My mother has been my hairdresser for my entire life.  Seriously.  I have never had anyone else cut my hair, ever.  I have never even set foot in a "salon."  Wait, I take that back.  When my best friend got married, I was in the wedding, and all of the bridesmaids met at a salon and we got "up-do's" (that was in 2004, and I really was scrawny back then).  But aside from that, I have never been in a salon. The whole idea of a beauty salon freaks the hell out of me.  I am pretty low maintenance when it comes to my appearance.  I feel like it is better not to make an effort rather than attempt to make an effort and fail.  I am probably the only 32-year old woman in the developed world who had never been in a beauty salon (okay, aside from that once).  I don't understand how it works.  I don't understand the tipping process.  How much do you tip? Do you hand it to the hairdresser or do you add it to your credit card bill (like when you're paying at a restaurant)?  The whole idea of going to a salon is terrifying and overwhelming.

But now my mother and I live in separate states. True, we have lived in separate countries on more than one occasion but each of those experiences was only one year in length.  During these occasions, I cut my own hair when necessary.  This St. Louis thing seems more permanent though (for better or for worse).  I feel like it might be time to explore the option of having someone other than my mother or myself cut my hair.

I've extensively consulted my coworkers and the graduate students, and I've discovered that there is this hairdresser up on The Loop that about half of the department goes to.  Apparently, he is some kind of hair genius.   He can make straight hair curly, curly hair straight, etc.  One of his customers even referred to him as a "hair therapist."  I don't know exactly what that means, but it's a good thing, right?

I made an appointment with him, and I'm going tomorrow.  At this point, I have not had my hair cut (by my mother) in over 8 months and it is a total disaster of frizz and ringlets and split ends so sharp they hurt to touch.  In fact, my hair has become such an affliction that I feel like I might need a doctor instead of a hairdresser.  This guy on The Loop is going to have his work cut out for him, that's all I can say.

If the results are decent, I'll post pictures soon.

Thanks for reading.