I just received a check in the mail. I *think* it may be from one of my roommates paying me rent I'd forgotten he owed me. If that's not it, then it's a really really nice gift from a stranger. In either case, it's most definitely appreciated, and comes at a really useful time.
It's a good thing I got *some* good news today, 'cause in other ways, today was utterly horrific. No, I'm not exaggerating.
Guys, let me tell you about my novel. It's a beautiful novel, I sincerely believe. My protagonist is a strong woman, who's had a tough time of it (which is about to get tougher). She deals with moral issues, cultural issues, gender issues. The novel examines all sorts of philosophical areas through the lens of her vision and experience. It's lushly written, rich in specifics, and a little weak on plot.
Yesterday I handed in what was supposed to a proposal for the novel. It wasn't. It didn't get any of that across. Instead, I handed in a plot synopsis (you note above that plot is my weakest area). Beth and Tappan trashed it. Moderately gently, but trashed all the same. Ditto the class. Thankfully, some of the class had read the first chapters of the novel, and prefaced their critique with comments to the effect that the novel was beautiful and what I'd handed in had nothing to do with it. That's about all that saved me from utter despair.
As it was, I got progressively more stressed as we went around the room. By the time Beth and Tappan talked I was physically shaking and my hands were ice cold. By the time I responded, I was working damn hard to keep the quaver out of my voice so I could present a professional demeanor to these two editors who might at some point be very important to my future. I think I managed that at least.
I learned a lot from that failed proposal. I learned what not to do, and got some indications on what to do. I learned to concentrate on my strengths. I learned that I do need to replot the last third of my novel. I learned that my novel may not be marketable without a real magic element. Since I was the first to volunteer for this, it made sense that I did everything wrong. I learned that my fellow classmates appreciated that. :-)
In a few hours, I get to conference with Beth and Tappan and talk more about what to do right. I'm nervous, but feeling somewhat calmer after eating lunch and getting lots of sympathy and encouragement. In the interim, they will read the first few chapters of my novel -- I hope they get a better impression of what it will be like. I desperately hope they like what they read. I'm trying hard not to be too panicked about all this. *deep breath*
Hopefully, this whole hellish experience will help me write a damn good novel proposal. That's what this is all about. I'm here to learn -- so every time I make a mistake, I learn something, right? This is only somewhat convincing.
What a day. I think I'm going to go back to my room and weep now.
5:35 - Hope I didn't freak anyone out with that last line. My emotions have been seesawing like mad, but really, I'm fine now. Better than fine, actually -- pretty damn happy. See, I met with Tappan and Beth, and they had had time to read some chapters of my novel and the earlier synopsis (which they liked much better) and "Amanda Means Love" and "Slow Illuminations" and "My Mother the Alien" -- and they were very encouraging. In rather an odd way, I must admit -- after half an hour of discussion, they basically told me I probably shouldn't be submitting novels to them....but that was because they thought I might be better off submitting to mainstream markets. In the discussion we all realized that yes indeed, I do appear to have literary pretensions.
It's an interesting question -- what to do with my life right now. They said that I was at a crux, and could choose to shoot for the fantasy market squarely (and risk getting stuck in it) (but probably make a decent living there), or aim for the wider 'real' market (and risk disappearing entirely). My momma always told me to aim high, and I got to admit that the idea of 'settling' for just the fantasy audience (much as I love them), when I could potentially have a much broader audience to preach at, sticks in my throat.
I described my novel to them as sort of a mix of Jane Yolen tale-telling, Guy Gavriel Kay scene-setting, and Amy Tan cultural/personal issues. They liked that. I liked that. I think it could be a damn good novel - lush and rich and deep. I don't know for sure that I have it in me right now to write that, but I think what I decided today is that I'm going to try. Do my plotting. Do my social/historical research. Brace for some more failed attempts. And brace for possible rejection -- or even worse, indifference. I must admit, I'd rather a glorious failure than a mediocre pass.
I'm feeling very talky today -- I hope you guys don't mind. It's been an exhausting day. I'm mostly taking the rest of it off (ordering pizza with Leah and Alex and helping them plot their novels). Let me leave you with two poems I wrote recently in class (the first was during a particularly boring lecture; the second series was in an attempt to maintain my composure during class today. I find haiku soothing.)
I believe I am taking refuge in formalism these days. I haven't attempted a sonnet in months.
A hooker shivers, lost on Fifth and Main,
with fourteen years behind and four to go.
She doesn't know. Mascara in the rain.
That thin black coat must last her through the snow
soon shivering down. A soldier sits alone
in sodden park. His eyes are fixed, his stare
leads to a girl in Vietnam. Her moan
caught in his throat; released to fractured air.
The same that breathes in sleeping child, in night-
time bumps and grinds, in muffled laughter screams.
Yet in the rain the cracked black lampposts make
a space for hope. Pools of wavering light
illuminating city's tortured dreams.
Rejoice or fear? Soon this place will wake.
And the other...
Fractured Haiku II
Curve of your long arm
dressed in pale skin. It would glow
if laid against mine.
Lying against me
are only empty sheets. I
know this cannot last.
This can't last, I know.
Home waits, yet in this small world
we've made, home is not.
Home is not spoken.
The syllables of the heart
echo in our tales.
In our tales we find
the truths we dare not speak. All
whispered in the dark.
Whispers in the dark
a would-be lover's promise --
my lips long for yours.
My lips against yours.
Can you taste my body's shape
curving in your arms?
That's all, folks. I'm not going to even attempt to explain those to you -- consider them products of Seattle rain, sleep deprivation, close quarters and UST.