Thoughts from Places: Duluth

Silver Sea #narnia

Silver Sea #narnia

Sigh. It’s Thursday evening, and I have to go home tomorrow. In some ways, I’m glad: I’ve gone a little loopy and have hit a wall. On the other hand, if I had all day tomorrow to write, I think I could still hammer out a lot of work.

I didn’t get as much done as I wanted, but I did get a lot accomplished. I feel simultaneously proud of my work and also terrified of just how much more effort needs to go into this manuscript before it’s ready to show the world.

Space. It’s so nice. I don’t only mean physical space, but also head and heart space– it’s just that physical space can sure lend to that, eh?

Being alone with a manuscript can make you go crazy. Back in December of 2012, I spent a week in a small town working on (believe it or not) this same novel, and here is what I had to say about it:

When it’s just you and your manuscript in a tiny house for a week, both truth and lies are going to ricochet like crazy off those old walls and you know some barbs are going to get stuck in you.  You’ll go from imagining your impending wild success to realizing that you’re a complete fraud.  The only reassurances you can find are electronic—Facebook, texts.  You drink them like water, but even then, you think what do these people know anyway?

This has been happening a lot lately, you think. This up and down, this rollercoaster.  You’ve tried to tell yourself it’s just the writing life, the way things are.  And to some extent, this really has to be true.

Here I am, 18 months later, and that book is being published, and I still lived on that rollercoaster all week. I wonder if– for me– writing will always be a rollercoaster of emotions. Yesterday I hit a low low where I couldn’t fathom how Truest would matter to anyone. Yet, by that evening, I was re-writing a scene that I could not stop laughing over. I was honestly losing it laughing in my condo over things my characters did and said.

Tonight I feel stress creeping back in as I face returning to civilization tomorrow. (Honestly, it’s been so nice this week: no make-up, pajamas all day, I don’t even leave my condo.) I feel time biting back down on me; I feel the pressure of my contract all over again. I wish I could stay another week. I wish I could somehow have more space.

Interesting thing about this resort where I’m staying: I started writing my second draft of Truest at this place, two whole years ago. And now (please, Lord) I am writing my second-to-last draft (I hope I hope I hope). I have learned about a million things about fiction and the writing life and young adult literature and about the industry since then, and my book– my gosh, my book!— has grown and changed so tremendously that it’s nearly unrecognizable (in a good way!). But I am still the insecure writer who is trying to fake it till she makes it.

Some people would say I have made it. It doesn’t feel that way to me.

Time for more revisions. I really hope you’ll love my book.

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writing retreat this week!

On Saturday, I drove about three hours to a small town in Minnesota (pop. 1,200) to retreat from friends, family, work, distractions, responsibility, chain restaurants for the week so that I can focus on my novel.  I have so been looking forward to this!  And now that I am here, I am even more excited.

This town is one of the sweetest little things ever.  You can drive from one end of it to the other in about 20 seconds since the town covers about 1.5 square miles.  I ventured out to find the grocery store and eventually located the large (and old) brown building proudly claiming to be “Dean’s Country Market.”  Inside, the far left is a gift shop and the right is the grocery store.  I was looking for some Advil, but instead I found two choices: low-dose aspirin or some kind of “non-aspirin”-labelled bottle.  Love the variety and selection!  Oh, and the taxidermy on the walls in the meat department!

grocery

For those of you who don’t know, I am not actually a Minneapolis native.  In fact, I grew up in a small town much like the one I’m retreating in now, so all of the small-town-life makes me smile and think fondly of where I grew up.  It also makes me think of Green Lake, the fictional Minnesota town where my novel takes place.  This week will be a wonderful reminder of what life is like for West, my protagonist.  It also reminds me that Silas, my character who just moved there from a large city, should probably be a little more shell-shocked.

I’m happy and snug in a tiny BRIGHT GOLD bungalow.  I am so unused to complete solitude that I keep imagining that someone is going to come over/drop by, and it’s just not true.  I honestly believe that I could stay in this house for the next seven days, and I would see no one and hear nothing but the bark of the neighbor dog and the rustle of the train on the nearby tracks.  Even though I am an introvert, I feel quite sure that I will be lonely by Saturday.  Leave me lots of blog comments this week so I don’t feel so alone!

At the same time, right now I am thrilled to be alone.  The days are stretching out before me with such a promise of productivity.  This week will be about words.  I plan to write and edit like a maniac, and when my creativity dwindles, I will read the books I brought along, and when my mind can’t process anymore, I will sleep– lovely, deep, long bouts of sleep from which I will allow myself to wake up naturally.  Who cares if I sleep till noon and then am awake till three AM?  I am all alone.

When I retreated this past summer, I was in Hudson, Wisconsin, so I had access to a Target, Dunn Bros, Perkins, and even home, since I was only 45 minutes away.  This week, if I am people-starved, I will head to the public library, the cultural center, the Eagles Cafe, or the Bake Shoppe.  The people at the cultural center (where I checked in and got the house key) are so nice that I want to just shoot the breeze with them like one of the locals.

My hope for this week is to revise as many chapters of my novel as possible.  I just finished revising chapters 1-4 based on feedback from my writing group, but– nice timing, right?– I am headed into this week to revise chapters that have not yet been critiqued.  I am hoping that I will have great intuition!

Leave an encouraging comment– I need human interaction and encouragement this week!

back to summer camp

So, I know that on June 1st I said I would not be returning to my beloved camp this summer, but plans changed.  A few weeks ago, my friend Aaron sent me a text asking if I would be willing to serve as a counselor for Last Chance camp over Labor Day weekend.  Since my heart had felt the absence of time up there, it was pretty easy to twist my arm.  My roommate Desiree and friend Ashley went up too, as well as my brother and a TON of great friends.  It was fun to look around at the other counselors and see so many wonderful camp friends– there is just something special about the people you’ve spent time with under the pines in northern Minnesota.  If you don’t know what I mean by that, I’m sorry for you. 🙂

Anyway, it was a wonderful weekend, even though I forgot all my OCD meds.  Stupid, stupid, stupid!  I took Benadryl at night so that I could sleep without my Risperdal, but in the afternoons (when there were no planned activities), I could feel my spirits sag.  But I survived.  And laughed a LOT, so much that I lost my voice for a day.  Kinda love that.

In other news, I have continued to apply for writing contests and stuff, and I found out that I won a week-long writing retreat in December.  I’ll get to spend a week in this arts retreat house, focusing strictly on my novel, and I can’t wait!

More news: I discovered the band Mew last week.  They are from Denmark.  I like them a lot.  I have been reading a bunch and buying books faster than I can consume them (but what else is new?).

Life feels really good right now.  I feel like God is unleashing blessings on me, and I am praying that I will praise Him regardless of any of it.  My primary goal in life remains to stay connected to my Savior at all costs.  I am so glad that He is a pursuing God.

Okay, off to write some more!  Some book reviews coming up soon!

What about you?  What have you been up to lately??