Hot Cocoa. Again. Please.

I just need to blather for a while, friends. Got your hot cocoa? Good. Let’s go.

I got some tough feedback on my novel last week. And I fell apart. Temporarily. As in, for about half an hour. This is improvement, folks. It’s just hard– so hard– so unbelievably hard– to pour your soul into something and then have it found wanting. (Nevermind that I myself find the manuscript wanting. It’s an entirely different thing to hear someone else voice it.) I tried to hold it together. I tried not to cry. Then I figured, what the heck, and let myself. Then I couldn’t stop for a while. I had a couple minutes where I thought, I can’t do this. This isn’t the life for me. I’ve moved on from that dark place. For now.

What sucks is that there’s more (and worse) coming. Last week were the preliminary thoughts. Soon there will be the smack-down. I’ll probably cry again, probably consider abandoning the life of publication for a while. But I’ll also probably bounce back, revise like hell, and come out on the other side with something I’m proud of.

I read somewhere that writers have to have thin skin in order to write well but thick skin in order to publish. How do you have both? I know I wrote about compartmentalizing. I’m trying. I’m trying.

Star Wars was amazing. I’m so ready to be in the “safe zone” where I can talk through things without worrying about spoilers. Let’s just say that it was so refreshing to see a female lead like Rey. Daisy Ridley knocked it out of the park, and tonight I found myself tearing up over this article. (Warning: spoilers!)

I got the sweetest message from a reader on Instagram. truest messageMoments like this make the pain of publication so worthwhile. And notice that I said the pain of publication. I’m starting to separate things a little bit: the writing is a joy. The publication process is what’s so hard, I think. (And don’t get me wrong– I have an editor with a heart the size of the ocean. It’s not her. It’s me.) Even above where I wrote about “considering abandoning the life of publication”– I wouldn’t consider abandoning writing. I have to write. It’s my calling. I would feel so vacant if I wasn’t creating.

But publishing. Man, is it ever hard. At least, it is for me. I wonder if I will still feel this way after I can no longer count my books on one hand.

I’ve read four hard books in a row. About mental illness. Abortion and depression. The Holocaust. Losing the physical ability to pursue one’s dreams. I haven’t reviewed them all. I’m not sure that I will. I really like for my blog to be a place where I can really sing about the books I’ve loved. Not that I want to read fluff! I’m never really one for fluff. But maybe I need a little fluff. The last four books just pressed me deeper and deeper into the earth. I need a book to hold out a hand to me, pull me out of the hole. Any suggestions? These are the next ones on my radar, but I’d love to hear your suggestions.

next reads

It’s snowing in Minneapolis tonight. It’s not supposed to stop until 6 pm tomorrow. And I’m okay with it. For tonight. For this exact moment.

How are you, my friends?



If We Were Having Hot Cocoa

Let’s each get a big mug of hot cocoa. With marshmallows.

hot cocoa.jpg

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you that this break has been incredible. I can’t remember the last time I had a real, true vacation. Basically all of my “vacations” are really writing retreats, which actually amount to a TON of hard work. But I had six days off over Thanksgiving, and my manuscript is currently with my editor, which means … a real vacation!! Now, that said, I thought about my novel a lot, and I even wrote and worked on it for a while, but whenever it felt stressful, I shut it all down. I’m so programmed to work on it, but I reminded myself that I will have plenty of time to work (and stress out) in just a few weeks when I get my next round of revisions.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you that I fell into a tiny reading slump. I think it was because during my recruiting travel season, I had so much time on the road to listen to audiobooks, and now that’s over, so I have to readjust. That said, I’ve started Bone Gap by Laura Ruby and am loving it so far!

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you that I have been thinking about what story I want to tell after Yes Novel is done. I have three story ideas in my mind, including the first draft of a manuscript that I put down after 65k words to switch projects to Yes Novel. That is the one I think I want to pick back up. Before, I needed to step away from it because I couldn’t feel confident about the ending I wanted it to have. Now– largely due to Huntley Fitzpatrick, her novel The Boy Most Likely To, and our conversations in Chicago– I think I’m ready to write it now. Not only ready to write it but ready to stand behind my ending. Gosh, even as I write this, I’m starting to doubt myself. Nevertheless, I hope it will be my next story. I’ve dubbed it Hair Novel. For reasons.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you all about the panel I was on called “I Was a Teenage Writer.” There weren’t a lot of people in the audience, but it was still really, really fun. There were five of us debut novelists on the panel– including Mackenzi Lee, a fellow Katherine Tegen Books sister– and we each read something from our books and something we wrote as teens. Mine was really, REALLY dramatic poetry about a boy, and it was really fun to share and actually not at all embarrassing! I loved it.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you how much I love Addendum. Addendum is a local independent bookstore that is the only bookstore I know of that specializes in YA. Katherine and Marcus, the owners, are so terrific, and they’ve been so fun to collaborate with this year– for my launch party, for the panel I mentioned above, and for Indies First. Yup, that’s right– I got to be a bookseller for a couple hours on Small Business Saturday. Okay, so my only customers were my friend Tracy’s children, but they were the perfect customers! Together, along with help from Addendum, we found a chapter book for Emma, a Christmas book for Ava, a “pink” book for Elsie, and a dog book for Owen. I think everyone went home happy.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you I’m done with Christmas shopping. This year was easier than usual, partly because I’m broke. But I’m still excited– I love giving gifts, and there are a couple I really want to enhance by personalizing them. Cryptic at all, Sommers? Gotta be.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you 2015 looked a lot different than what I’d imagined. I know I write a lot about having my book published and all I learned from it. I’m sparing you. I could probably write a lot more. The biggest thing that I’m learning is that I need to love the work and love the process, or I’m going to be miserable. I think it was something I read recently from Anne Lamott (which, by the way, if you’re not following her long, lovely posts on Facebook, you’re missing out on so much!), and it was basically asking if you wanted to be the person who loved the work or the person who loved the reward. Because if you’re the latter, you’re going to spend most of your life kinda miserable. But if you can be the former, you’ll be satisfied. Now, that’s easier said than done. For me, learning to love the work is an exercise in life skills. It involves good friends and Ativan and more faith than I can ever muster on my own. I’m not sure, but I’m hoping that faith accumulates due to a history of successes and a history of failures that don’t destroy us. I want so desperately to throw my arms wide and say, “Come at me, life; I choose to enjoy you.” But I also have an anxiety disorder plus additional problems with panic, the devil on my shoulder. Thankfully, I have more than one angel on the other shoulder– so many of them: my parents, my siblings, my entire TEAM of friends, and a small army (okay, just six) of “kid therapists.” I have hot showers and a fantastic bed and a great job and a brilliant editor and a creative mind (though it sometimes works against me). In 2016, I’m going to do my very best to choose to enjoy life– and to take practical steps that will allow me to do so. Some will be solid (Ativan) and some will be mysterious (prayer). I welcome them all.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d ask you: do you want a shot of flavor in your cocoa (I like hazelnut)? Have you done any Christmas shopping? How are you feeling as we head into December? Do you have any advice for me on choosing to enjoy life?