Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nothing...

So I'm sitting here, trying to think of a blog topic, just hoping that something profound falls into my head and spills out of my fingers, when it hits me...that I've got nothing.

Luckily, I'm a writer and realize that this is what the Writing Life often is--sitting at a blank screen and realizing you're empty. You stare at your computer, or notebook, or the walls and hope you haven't run out of things to say.

Some days the words flow. Other days, they don't. But you sit down and stare at that blank screen anyway. You wrestle with the words and somehow get something down on that page/screen. Often, you go back and what you've written is the kind of stuff you pack into a shoe box and push under your bed, because you will die of embarrassment if anyone realizes you wrote that.

But sometimes it's good. Sometimes you can't tell that you had to wrestle each word onto the page. Sometimes you look at it and think, Did I write that?

People seem to have this image of writing as an easy, glamorous job. You sit down, the Muse shows up, and you transcribe her words onto the screen. Not so. For me writing is more like hunting the Muse down, then banging on her door until she answers.

For example, it wasn't until writing this line that I remembered that my short story Nothing is out today. That's right. I'm writing about nothing and titled my blog post Nothing after forgetting that my story with the same title debuts today. This was even after posting a link to it on my Facebook page! Welcome to the Writing Life!

In this post, I'm talking about having nothing to say. My story Nothing is quite different. It's about a woman struggling with body image after undergoing a mastectomy.

I think that body image is something we all struggle with at some point or another. Even without undergoing something as radical as a mastectomy, our bodies change as we age and some days you just don't recognize the person staring back at you in the mirror.

But in the end, does it matter? I've never had breast cancer, but I have Crohn's disease and have had several surgeries as a result. In the past seven years I've had five surgeries. Each one has scarred my body and my mind. And yet, I'm more comfortable now with who I am than I ever have been. Even with all of my scars. Maybe because of my scars.

And I thought I had Nothing to say...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What's it worth?

Nathan Bransford has a survey on his blog asking how much you think an ebook should cost. This got me thinking, not just about ebooks, but about pricing for books in general.

Because of the whole Amazon/Macmillan debacle, there’s a lot of discussion about profit models, how much it costs to produce an actual book vs an ebook, and everything a publisher has to pay for out of the small profit they make. All of this is great, and I’m all for everyone being able to make a profit. Most people in the book business (from writers, to agents, to editors, etc.) are here because they Love books. Trust me; it’s not for the money. I’ve worked as an editor on two literary magazines and had several pieces published. With the money I’ve made I might be able to buy a Starbucks Latte every day for two weeks. Maybe.

So while I’m glad there’s a lot of talk about how little profit is actually made in the industry (witness recent layoffs) I feel like there’s something missing in the discussion, and that is what you’re actually buying when you purchase a book.

We didn’t have much money when I was growing up. Okay, we were broke. Often there wasn’t enough food, and the only meal I ate was lunch at school. Our house was old and falling apart. When it rained, the holes in the ceiling were so bad that water poured down the walls. It was so cold in the winter that I spent most days curled up on top of the registers, waiting for the heat to kick on (which was infrequent because we kept our heat set at 55—except for the times my brother and I snuck over and turned it up.) This wasn’t a short-term thing. Things didn’t start getting better until I was 21, and my parents declared bankruptcy because my dad had a massive heart attack, and we didn’t have health insurance (another post for another time.)

My point in all of this is that even when we couldn’t afford anything else, my mom made sure we had books. We bought them when we couldn’t afford anything else. When I was curled up on the heat vents, I had a book. When rain was running down our walls, I found a dry spot and read. We had books because my mom understood that they were valuable. Not because of the paper or the binding or the artwork on the cover (although these are all Great Things) but because books hold Hope. Books hold Dreams. Books make you Think. They open the world to you.

Why is it that one of the first things dictators do when they come to power is burn books? Why do people ban books? Why is the Freedom of Speech the first thing listed in our Bill of Rights? Because books are more than paper and ink. They are Power. So whether it’s in traditional book form or an ebook, I know when I hand over my money I’m, getting more than paper and ink (or pixels on the screen.) I'm getting Dreams, Power, and Hope. New worlds are opening, and to me that’s priceless.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More News...

So, since I last wrote - November? Could it be that long? Where does the time go--oh, yeah, four kids, a husband, school, and this pesky thing called writing. I suspect we're all in the same boat.

Anyway, I have some more publication news. My short story "Nothing" will be published in the Winter edition of Melusine. Also, yesterday I got the news that a narrative nonfiction piece I wrote last semester ("Being Enough") has been accepted by New Plains Review for the Spring edition. This particular piece means a lot to me because it is about my mom and my daughter, Grace, who is autistic. I write about the impact that they each have on my life simply by being who they are.

I feel like we're all under so much pressure to do something extraordinary with our lives--you know, have a big impact, make a big splash--that we begin to feel insignificant if we haven't accomplished something BIG. My feeling is that loving those around you is BIG, and if, at the end of our lives, we are able to say that we've loved the people around us and have been loved in return that's enough.

When I think about the people in my life who have passed away, it's never the stuff they've done that I miss. It's their presence. I miss who they are, not what they did. When someone you loved has died, wouldn't you give anything just to sit next to them again? To feel their arms around you, or hear their voice again? I know I would, and I suspect it's the same for you.

I wrote "Being Enough" with this in mind. My hope for everyone reading this is that you realize you are "enough" just the way you are.