Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rosalind's Piano Debut

Bianca has been preparing a song on the piano, Rhapsody in Blue, for a couple of months now.  Getting the rhythms just right, memorizing all the accidentals and difficult chords.  She's gone over and over it each morning as she dutifully practices her piano.  She loves the song, loves its jazzy rhythm and cool meandering gait.  She auditioned several weeks ago and made it into Herriman's talent show line-up.

Last week, as Bianca's piano teacher was preparing her mentally for her performance, they did a character sketch on a sheet of lined paper.  The character's name was Rosalind Nimico. She has red curly hair and a doesn't-care attitude.  She's brazen and brave.  It's a mechanism for letting Bianca believe she's not Bianca, but Rosalind.  Someone else completely is on the line, no consequences for Bianca if she messes up.

At the dress rehearsal last Friday night, Bianca got up to the stage and in the middle of the song, she froze. She lost her place in the song and her fingers wouldn't do that work they'd labored so hard to do.  She stumbled along until she finally found a path and then finished the song. Over the next 24 hours, I was in fix-it mode.  I was thinking total Tiger-Mom and decided she'd play the song 10-15 times the next day until it was right there in her mind, easy to catch and hold on.

On Saturday night, Bianca went up on the stage--brazen and brave--and she performed.  And wow did she perform, her body swaying and her head and hands feeling the piece like it was second nature.

After the performance,  I asked her about her movements while she played. She looked at me and said, "I don't know, mom.  That was Rosalind.  She gets really into her music."

One second. . .

Yesterday I went to the bank. A sensible thing to do on my way to pick Bianca up from school after I filled the car with gas.  I pulled my car to the side of the building, placed my stack of checks ready to deposit from selling my book to friends in the neighborhood under the little silver bar, and then let go. In that one second between letting go of my checks and the teller pulling in the drawer, the wind took hold and lifted. In that one second, I grasped for papers like flying birds and pulled down some, but two paper birds escaped into the wind. One a deposit slip, the other a signed check. A friend's check. I couldn't grasp at the moment that I shouted to the teller that my check was already in the street that my friend's bank account number was circling and soaring through the air--ready for anyone to grab and use. I didn't understand how my clumsy hands would torment my mind as I thought of compromising the bank account of a friend who took a chance on me and my book.  Sure, it was only $11. The money means nothing, except that every single penny is worthwhile to me when it comes to making sense of the money I spent on publishing this book, and it makes me sick every second I think of who might be lurking, waiting to find a check and do the worst they can with it.

I sat in my car with my head buried in my hands and cried, even as the guy in his suit and tie leapt out in the street trying to find the check that was, by then, at least to Provo with the strength of the wind. And in that moment, the culmination of a really crappy day just hit me. A ton of bricks at my head. From this morning when I plucked my Portia from her gymnastics class after being somewhat callously tossed aside by the instructor when she bumped her head and was left alone crying on a mat. And the scene I made, hands and voice shaking as I told the instructor I was pulling my daughter from the class immediately. From feeling excluded recently. From second-guessing myself, feeling that maybe it hadn't been "brave" to publish my raw book as someone in church had mentioned in passing, but rather foolish because now I felt a vulnerable mess to everyone I saw. I was a vulnerable mess as I left the bank, went splotchy-faced to my daughter's school and picked her up.  I felt a vulnerable mess as Bianca and I crept around the Wal-Mart parking lot searching every scrap of paper stuck between bushes and against street curbs, hoping that maybe we'd find our paper birds taking a rest from flight, our needles in a haystack.

As we returned home, dejected, I imagine hopefully (and probably a little foolishly) a real bird circling around and snatching the paper from the sky or stuck inbetween some leaves of a tree and gobbling the numbers up. I imagine a person finds the check and rips it up because kind people still exist in the world. I went home and fell into my bed and cried under my covers until it was dinner time.  In sleeplessness 5 am the next morning, I feel dread calling my friend and telling her what happened. I spend hours reliving that one second when my fingers are able to grasp that check and my small (but enormous to me) fate changes. If only I could have that one second back.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It’s all in the Details. . . Or is it?

I’m a detail girl.  I worked as a proofreader for a while after graduating from college.  I delight in finding overlooked errors when I’m reading a book or magazine (not so much satisfaction reading take-out Chinese menus as they’re everywhere!!!) and sometimes I even go to the extent of marking it.  It’s one of my strengths: attention to detail.

Or so I thought.  And then my sister called me last weekend and showed me about ten errors in the printing of The Pulse of Hopeful Life (one of which is large but it makes me sick to think about so I won’t mention what it is as I’m hoping you didn’t notice). I couldn’t sleep for two nights. I called to try to have the text changed in the book but I’d have to pay for it.  And I don’t want to pay anymore.  My break-even point for publishing the book keeps climbing (and the profit point on amazon, where I sell most of my books, is lowest). I had read the book straight through right before I approved it, but I guess I miss things. I can’t believe it, but I did. 

A couple weeks ago, I let Bianca enter her very first composition competition (that wasn’t Reflections).  The contest had a children’s category, and Bianca worked so hard on her song.  She had it sounding great, then she had to go back through and add dynamics (crescendos, louds and softs, retakes, etc.).  She did it all, and then we printed her song out, binded it, and sent it off.  The other night, she asked me to play it with her and there was a glaring long, wrong note that she must have changed by mistake.  She started crying.  All her work ruined and for one tiny mistake!  

I’d been worrying about the little mistakes in the entry I sent off to Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest too because the formatting got shifted for the excerpt phase and pushed words together (deleting the spaces for some unknown reason).  I went through it and tried to fix them but knew I couldn’t have gotten them all.

I’ve turned into a worrier lately, and it’s these little details that seem to bother me the most.  Does it ruin everything if there’s an error? How much is dependent on perfection?  Is the merit still there if not perfect?

Well, Bianca decided to try her luck, and she emailed the contact at the Pike’s peak Young Composer’s contest and told him her dilemma.  Yesterday, he returned her email and said three little words:  “It is fixed.” 

How simple it can be sometimes!  How much sleep we lose!  I know I should probably just pay the money to have them fix the mistakes in my book.  Then I can feel the beauty of those three words:  It is fixed.  And sleep a little better. 

As it turns out, there was a glitch in the system at the Breakthrough Novel contest, and I was not the only person suffering from that. The reviewers knew it was a glitch, thankfully, and my excerpt made the cut to the next round of the contest (down from 5000 entries to 250 now).  Thankfully, thankfully people most of the time can see past the mistakes to the real beauty.  I know the rest of my manuscript isn’t perfect (a reviewer from Publisher's Weekly will read the story in its entirety).  I’m tempted to go back and re-read it but I know it will just drive me crazy when I see a mistake or typo or repeated word.  Hopefully the reviewer will be able to see past that too.  Onto April 26 when I find out if I make the cut for the next round (down to 50 entries).  I can feel more sleepless nights in my future!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's been a long road. . .

I started writing The Pulse of Hopeful Life (formerly known as "Forever Blue" and "Dandelion Bouquets") nearly six years ago. I wrote just for me, though, as an alternative to paying for expensive therapy sessions after Miranda died. I'd read once that writing in story format can be more healing or therapeutic than just writing down exactly what happened. So that's what I did. I created this woman, Andria, who experienced the horrific thing in my life that I couldn't seem to see past and I let her do all the things I knew rationally I couldn't do but deep down was afraid I might. It was easier to distance my emotions and my feelings when they became Andria's irrational feelings and not mine. Turns out, it also helped me to have something to focus on.

I still grieved and writing the novel was very difficult for me--especially the details surrounding the accident (the one event in the novel that did happen to me). But I did it, and it turned into a novel. The manuscript went through several writing groups and lots and lots of edits, through several agents, one very promising one, and then nothing. So I had a decision: I could either put it away, or I could take matters into my own hands.

Now it's out. It feels weird (and wonderful) to think there may be people reading my novel at any given moment and not know who they are or where they are. I feel exhilarated and petrified all at the same time. I'm trying to keep my expectations low--after all, it was either this or leaving it in a dark drawer in my desk (okay really, in a dark computer file somewhere on my laptop). I'll be shocked if I even break even on the money I put into it. I don't need to hit it big (although I wouldn't turn that down either) but really, if it makes a difference in one person's life then it's worth it, right? Maybe it can help someone else down the line who has to suffer the sort of grief I had to or maybe help other people understand others who are suffering.

I don't know how motivated I'll be to market the book (I was a business minor in college but it's a lot different when you're self-promoting your own book, just because there are emotions involved). This is the hard part for me. Maybe the library, local book stores?!? We'll see. But for now, it's on amazon.com and it's on goodreads.com and until the books I ordered arrive, there's not a lot I can do but sit back and watch things unfold.

So, here it is on amazon:

And if you do get around to reading it, I'd love it if you'd leave a review on amazon or goodreads:

You never know what will happen, right? After all, I heard yesterday that Michael Crichton self-published his first novel.