Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sane People Need Not Apply...

Got a story inside you? Is it smoldering to escape? Ever dream of seeing your name in print? Do you have this gnawing sensation in your gut to sit down at your computer and create a file... a writing file? Or maybe you have even bigger aspirations? You’re hankering to write the next great American novel, aren’t you?
OK. A lot of people just ran for the Pepto. If you’re reaching for the pink stuff, stop reading. If you’d rather be dragged behind a truck naked, nipples down, than to put your crazy notions in a file on your desktop, there is no need for you to continue reading any further. Click straight out of this blog, and we’ll see you next week.
Now that we’ve separated the normal people from the nutjobs, we can proceed. For all both of you who are left, I want to let you know about a guy who is just as insane as we are--only he’s been published. His name is Chris Baty, and he wrote this whacked-out book called, “No Plot? No Problem!” He challenges new and experienced writers alike to enter a contest for National Novel Writing Month, which is the month of November. He calls the contest: NaNoWriMo. (It takes a little practice to say it.) All a body has to do is write 50,000 words in 30 days, and said body wins the contest.
Put the Pepto back in the medicine cabinet. It can be done. In fact, I did it the first year I entered, 2005. I made the mistake of telling a hundred and twenty 12-year-olds that I was doing it. I happened to be their WRITING teacher, and I was scared spitless to fail. They’d ask me every day, “How many words did you write last night?” If it turned out I’d only written around 400-500 words, they would retort snottily, “So, basically, you didn’t really write last night.” Then they figured out how to get on my contest page to monitor my progress. (I’m “daisychick”, by the way. Be a buddy.) My kids were a rough crowd! That’s why there was no way I was going to write less than 50,000 words in that teensy-weensy, tiny, itty-bitty, miniscule span of time. It’s a breath. Literally. And you’ll have Thanksgiving to contend with. Nothing like those caffeine-induced late nights, trying to get your 2000 words in for the day!
Last year I entered and didn’t post one word. Of course, I didn’t tell a hundred little drill sergeants either. I wonder if I’ll tell any short people this year?
So, there you have it. Who’s in? Go to www.nanowrimo.org and register for yourself. JUST DO IT! You know you want to. You didn’t read this far without being at least a little intrigued.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Where Do I Fit?

If I had about five bucks for every person who told me, “Daisy, you’re a good writer. You should be published,” I’d have enough money to start my own publishing house. As it looks this morning, that may be the route I’ll have to take just to get myself out there in print. So, if everybody who has ever encouraged my writing could just send me five dollars...
I’m in a dilemma. It seems my nonfiction work is too “Christian” for the secular publishing houses and too “secular” for the Christian publishing houses. Well, we’ve just ascertained the very crisis of my existence, haven’t we?
A few years ago I wrote a piece for a writing class called, “Don’t Bother Telling Jesus I Say the F-Word--He Already Knows”. It’s basically an attempt to answer one of my lifelong burning questions, Why do I remain faithful and vested in the church when it has been so unimaginably weighed down by human frailty and failure? Why do I stay this course and continue to pursue this journey? It’s decently written and has a kick-ass ending. Everyone who has ever read it has LOVED it--except for really “churchy”, religified people. My fab friend Donna, an author who has been published a-half-a-gazillion times or so, ran it by an editor friend from one of these Christian publishing houses (which shall remain nameless) who actually loved the piece personally but said it definitely needed to be toned WAY down if I ever wanted to sell it. He went on to say that the piece in its present form would paint me as a “bitter malcontent” and that the message would not be received by the very people who needed to hear it. To that, I said, “Bullshit.”
Not to be bitter or anything.
(Wait a second. Now that I’ve blogged this, I really hope that guy wasn’t C-Mac. Oh shit, it might have been!)
It was suggested that I write a “how-to” book. Those kind of books are the current trend and very marketable at the moment. Something along the lines of “Spirituality in Ten Easy Steps.” I guess it wouldn’t hurt to mention here that THIS IS PRECISELY THE KIND OF SHIT I MAKE FUN OF! And then get called “bitter”. Some people, however, just aren’t too Chipper on pontification. Yes, I capitalized Chipper.
In a nutshell, secular houses don’t want Jesus in the book (let alone in the title on the front cover!) and Christian houses won’t be associated with the F-word. Given my druthers, I ‘druther be published by the non-Christians. They’re safer. Here’s the scary thing about being published by Christians. If they pick up a book and the writer goes out and does something scandalous, thereby forcing the sales of that book to plummet, that author gets to buy back every book that was printed by the house. So, you know, people who have written these Christian “best sellers”, who have these megachurches of people to whom they can market these books, who THEN get caught doing the hanky panky with the church secretary or gay prostitutes (gasp!) get to foot the bill for all these books sitting in a warehouse somewhere because now they’ll NEVER be sold and the publishers aren’t going to be the ones left holding the bag! YOU ARE! It’s right there in your contract.
And what does that mean for me? Well, obviously, if I get published by Christians then I would have to stop dancing in gay bars. I might have to start Mormon-bashing. For sure, I would have to stop flashing my boobs. This clearly sucks. ‘Cuz, let’s face it, I have really nice boobs. I would also have to stop saying the F-word, which I think is really fucking ridiculous, because it’s a great word. If my principal would let me use it in my English classes I could teach five of the eight parts of speech in about twenty minutes, and the kids would not soon forget them, I assure you. Case in point:
1. Obviously first, Interjection: FUCK!
2. Verb: This writing dilemma is really fucking with my head.
3. Adverb: I wish people weren’t so fucking afraid to publish my work.
4. Adjective: After all, I produce great, fucking writing.
5. Noun: So, if I never, ever find a place where I fit in the publishing world, I’m really tempted not to give a fuck.
But I do. I do! I do! I do! I do! I want to be published. I want to pull a book out of the stacks at Borders and see my name across the cover. I want people to read it and love it and keep my words in their hearts. I want them to be just a little bit different because I’ve impacted their thinking in some small way. Perhaps churchy, religified people would be kinder. More compassionate. More Christlike, even. Not to mention the fact that I’d love it if people could just “get” me. If I could just communicate to them without being interrupted by their expectations of me, in the form of words on a page, then maybe--just maybe--someone would understand how a Jesus girl could say the F-word and still go to Heaven. Maybe someone would be inspired to go about his life just a little more authentically. Maybe I could help someone to worry less about what people think--even church people--and more about what God thinks. I want to know God’s thoughts. The rest are details. Ode to Albert Einstein right there. I want to write about God’s thoughts without having to lose any part of myself to other people and let other people know that it’s probably OK to do just that. Possibly even preferable. Ode to Daisy Martin right there. So audacious to “ode” yourself, isn’t it? And I really used “I” a lot in that paragraph. Donna’s been getting on to me about that lately. IIIIIIIIIIIIII gotta quit that.
Anyway...
Anne Lamott told me to write what I wish were available to read and carve out a place for myself in the literary world. And you know HOW she told me to do that? She WROTE IT DOWN! AND I READ IT! So I am doing it, but only God knows who will step up and print it! She’s a Jesus girl, and she says the F-word. Probably not as much as I do, but she says it. And SHE gets published!
Philip Yancey doesn’t say the F-word, or maybe he does, but I’ve never seen it in print. He BAGS on the church! And HE gets published! (Read “Soul Survivor--How My Faith Survived the Church”.) Somebody PLEASE tell me he’s been called “bitter”. PLEASE tell me that someone has questioned his salvation status! Pretty please? I would feel SO much better!
Now, I wouldn’t even begin to suggest that I’ve honed my craft as well as these two powerhouse writers. Philip is Superman, and Anne is Wonder Woman. I’m a Power Puff Girl compared to them. Right now, though, I’m the Invisible Woman. Impressive tricks up my sleeves, but who sees them? And if I can’t get “marketable”, then who will ever see my work?
Honestly and truly, I’m not dissin’ the publishers here. I’ve been writing for free for way too long. On that, we all agree. I WANT to be marketable! That wasn’t always the case. One short year ago I was lamenting that some editor would hack up my work, my craft, my art, my CHILD! How could I put my “baby” into someone else’s hands who would cut off digits and limbs without a thought? Shave its little head? Pinch off its little toes? Someone who would remove an arm and put it where the nose once was? Or remove the buttocks to replace its beautiful face, making my glorious creation a deformity of its former self to the point that no one, including myself, would even recognize it was mine? Would I even want to claim the baby as my own after that? Well, that whole mess is so last year. I may have had some narcissistic trust issues. No more. Now I submit my work with complimentary scalpels, sutures, and shears right there in the proposals. Cut. Chop. Move it around. Accept. Reject. Give it up for adoption. I’m completely unaffected here back at my drawing board.
There are plenty more creations to create.
Here’s where I’m at right now: The Martins are building a $15,000 sunroom, and our kid is going to college in a year and a half. MOMMY WANTS A PAYCHECK! But am I ready to ‘ho myself out? I might be. ‘Ho-ing IS legal in the state of Nevada...
If I need to write about spirituality in ten easy steps, I might just give it a whack. I’m thinking step one would obviously be to throw any book in the trash that claims it can lead you to a closer walk with God in ten easy steps. After all, it just takes one. Readers could just disregard the other nine, making it a pretty easy read. Not sure how I’d write that one. I’m just damn sure I could.
Again, I poke fun. I pontificate. I digress.
Still not published.
Frustrated does not equal bitter, by the way.