Rejection

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Submitted some writing work. Results due yesterday. Felt really good about the piece. Poured all of myself into it. Targeted to a small publication and what I wrote seemed right in their wheelhouse. Was hoping to get some traction, finally.

Nope.

When I put that much into what I write (which is the only way I know how), a rejection of the work feels like a rejection of me. I know I have to get over that if I’m going to ever make any headway.

But still. I’m blue.

I’ll give myself the weekend to mope. Come Monday, I’m gonna toss that leg back over that horse and get back to work.

*sigh*

Freedom

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That’s quite a word, isn’t it? Meanings can vary depending on what situation you are looking at. And it has more weight or less weight, as well, depending on how you’re looking at it.

When I read Jim Belshaw’s opinion piece“Writer Given Gift of Freedom yesterday in the ABQjournal, the word freedom was used in a way quite meaningful to me.

I’m both happy and raging ass jealous to read about a lady named Summer who gets to live my ultimate dream. My personal definition of freedom. Congratulations to Summer who is the winner of this year’s A Room of Her Own Foundation $50,000 Gift of Freedom award.

Until today I was unfamiliar with A Room of Her Own, but I’ve now fallen in love with them based on this snip from their mission statement on their webpage, “… bridging the often fatal gap between a woman’s economic reality and her artistic creation.”

Which seems to be based on the Virginia Woolf quote in the middle of the page, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write.”

Brings tears to my eyes, really.

But back to Summer. She lives in San Cristobal and believes she can make this $50,000 grant last her for two years, giving her a chance to take a break from her regular hardworking job and allowing her to write for a living.

From the article: “The obstacle of having to make a living while you’re trying to write a novel or finish your short stories is gone,” she said.

Damn. It’s truly my deepest and fondest dream. To no longer be bound by gray cubicled walls, incessant emails, and the political bureaucracy. To break the bounds and let being creative be “what I do for a living.”

I have a currently unfinished book that still swarms in my head. The characters live there, keeping residence until I finish telling their story, tenacious little buggars that they are. This is my fourth novel so I’m familiar with the drill. I will be haunted by the characters, without respite, until I type the words “The End”. With that they will finally give me peace.

Taking two years off, and having the funds to do so. Ah. Yes. A little slice of heaven in my book.

So lots of props to Summer. It can’t have been easy to win this grant. I’m sure competition was steep. It makes me smile to see a writer doing it, making it work, taking the time to let the Muse be the only boss she answers to.

$50,000 wouldn’t run two years where I live but I’d sure love to have a go at it. Maybe in 2009? I see they’ve posted the application….hmmmmmm…..

Pardon me, I’ve got some dreaming to do on a no-wanna-work Friday.

A sad state of affairs

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I can’t say I’m entirely surprised by the news from this article. It’s a fact that reading actual books in the US is on the decline, and has been for a long time.

As a writer, struggling, hoping, dreaming of being published, of course, this is sad news to me. For every resounding success like the recent Harry Potter series, there are plenty like me, lying like rubble in the street, lost to the big machine that is today’s publishing industry.

My most recent and most disheartening rejection to date came last year. I wrote a book I’m really proud of, edited the hell out of it, made it right and submitted it to a well known local agent. To my utter joy, the agent asked for a copy of the entire manuscript. This was really something heady! The farthest I’d ever gotten with an agent! Only to be told that despite the fact that she loved the characters and enjoyed the story, she didn’t think there was a wide enough audience for my book.

*sigh*

I know that agents have to do this, right? They have to find something that one of the big conglomerates will love enough to put some dollars behind. Something that will have a mass appeal, and will sell. Preferably something written by an author who already has proven success. A simple fictional baseball book isn’t going to get ‘er done. (so I turned to the rocky road of self-publishing)

And why? Because people aren’t reading like they used to. I was taught how to read by my grandmother, an amazing woman by all accounts. A feminist before her time, and a teacher in heart, mind and by career. I was young, maybe three or four and she taught me to read, and I’ve not stopped my love of words and books since. And because I love books so much, it saddens me to read the article I mentioned above.

“One in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday”

Ugh. None? No? Zero? It makes my eyes water a bit, like the sting of a strong, cold, bitter wind smacking me upside the face. Awakening, sharply to the reality that my chosen path of creativity, the way The Muse flows through me isn’t necessarily the most popularly consumed art form.

Nobody ever said being an artist was going to be easy. It’s the old saying, well-trod but apropos at this moment, a chiding reminder from my incredibly multi-talented cousin, “you don’t write because you want to, you write because you have to”.

I take solace in the fact that my goddaughter, all of seven, reads voraciously (and at a level much higher than her years). Her mother, a good English teacher, made sure both she and her sister learned to love books.

So there’s hope yet. Maybe for every kid who grows up not reading books there are a few like my precious girl who read plenty. And maybe Nina Karen can one day find a “real” publisher to take a chance on me.

Until then, I’ll write because I have to. Because it compels me. Because it’s who I am.

Viva los libros!

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I’m a fan of books, I just am. I have to say that The Flamenco Academy (chronicled here a few days back) has really fired me up lately. I haven’t read a book in a long while that made me feel like there is hope for popular fiction. And that a book set in New Mexico was so well done makes me double happy.

So I know this has been covered plenty of places elsewhere, but here’s my top five list of the best works of New Mexico fiction. These are just the ones that are in my opinion, the books I read that make me proud to be a New Mexican.

Without further ado (in no particular order):

1) Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford

This is a quintessential read for anyone living in New Mexico. It ranks not just as one of my fave NM books, but one of my fave books of all time. The main character, Josh is brought from Alabama to New Mexico by his parents and is introduced to the clannish people of Northern New Mexico including the bully Chango. The scene where he and his buddy get liquored up remains a classic. I almost always quote from it when I, myself, tie one on. A classic, truly. And an easy choice for the list.

2) Bless me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

One of those books that gave me a wry smile as I read it. One of those where you nod as you read, thinking “yeah, that’s familiar”. Anaya is a beautiful writer and it is an honor to be a fellow New Mexican with a man of his caliber. This coming of age story is a nice contrast of old vs new, how Hispanic culture rolls into American culture in a way that is beautifully unique to New Mexico. It’s lyrical in the storytelling and a must read.

3) The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols

Yeah. This had to be here. You know it did. When I’m homesick I put on the movie to see the land as much as anything. It’s a salve for my soul, always. The book was a little tough for me to get through, but worth the effort. It really captures the feeling of that time in New Mexico in the 1970’s. It always takes me right back to that time, effortlessly.

4) Cavern by Jake Page

A thriller about a group of spelunkers who explore a hidden cavern and discover a near extinct species of bear…who is none to happy to be bothered. Not a particularly great novel by most standards, but it does speak to a bunch of interesting things including a fairly detailed explanation about how the caverns, including Carlsbad Caverns, were formed. Both my parents worked for a while at the WIPP site, so this book also showed the ongoing battle of all the government agencies involved out there. DOE, Environmental groups, BLM and private interests do war daily and there is some discussion of WIPP in the book and how it may affect things in that geographic area. My mom turned me on to this book and laughed at how true to life some parts of the book were portrayed. Working at WIPP left her a bit…scarred…so it was good for her to see it in print, sort of validating. For me, it was a fascinating read and name checked a lot of places I know from living in Carlsbad, including some truly dive bars (including one frequented by miners, ranchers, roughnecks and college kids. They stopped serving beer in bottles because there had been too many fights. But on a good night, the dancing was unbeatable).

5) Anything for Billy by Larry McMurtry

Ok, not technically a New Mexico book but about a New Mexico legend (Feh to the Texas town that claims ownership. FEH! I say!) and certainly New Mexico figures into the story. I am a massive fan of McMurtry and this is my favorite of all his books. He portrays Billy as a young, impulsive, spoiled, petulant brat. It’s fabulous. To me it was a fresh look at an old legend and to do that takes talent that Mr. McMurtry has in spades.

You’ll note my list is strangely devoid of Hillerman books. I’m actually not a fan. My mom is an avid reader of his stuff. I am not. : shrug : I’ve got no issues with Hillerman, it’s just not my taste.

Lois Duncan is another author I’m proud to know is New Mexican. As a kid I avidly read all her stuff. Loved her writing and always got geeked out when we saw her at the Coronado Club at Kirtland Airforce Base. My mom would always point her out. Her husband worked at Sandia Labs like my dad so she’d wait there (like we did) for her husband to get off work. Those were fun sunny summer days as a family. For some odd reason I associate Duncan with that time in my life.

I know there are probably a bunch of good choices I’m missing, but for now, that’s my list. I reserve the right to add, delete and change the list as we go.

It tortures me.

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Ever read a book that tortures you, draws you to it until you are forced to read it every moment you get, and you are thinking about it every moment you aren’t reading it?

I haven’t had a book haunt me in a long time. But I’ve got one going now.

The Flamenco Academy by Sarah Bird.

Picked it up at the library in the new fiction section. In fact I didn’t even find it, my partner did. He handed it to me saying, “it’s set in Albuquerque”. I read the cover blurb and thought, “ok, I’ll give it a try”.

Little did I know….

It HAUNTS me!

Maybe it’s supposed to? Maybe that is the heart of Flamenco? To haunt those who enjoy the art? Maybe it’s all one big metaphor I’m either not smart enough or not drunk enough to understand?

I’ve learned a lot about Flamenco from these pages. I admit, I knew very little going in. Heck, I didn’t even know there is a Flamenco academy at UNM. Who knew? Lots of people, evidently.

The fact that the story is so painfully wrought, touches a *little* close to home with some of the emotional issues AND is set in Albuquerque? Oy. Torture.

About three chapters in I slammed it down and told my partner, “I can’t read this” and got snotty about it.

Then I picked it back up and kept going. I’ve been going to sleep too late every night with the “just one more chapter” philosophy that *never* works. One more turns into one more that turns into one more.

There is this negative review of the book on Amazon. The reviewer says “If you have any intellect this book will drive you crazy.” Well, I have some intellect and it does drive me crazy…but not in the way the reviewer meant. Just…crazy.

I can’t say I *love* it, I can repeat that I’m tortured by it. I remarked this evening that I can hardly wait until I’m finished with it so the torture can end.

For now, I’m about three quarters done and this book OWNS me.
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Update: I finished. The ending left me….unfinished.