Fear, Loathing, and Searching for an Agent

Yup. I finished my book. For real this time. Or at least for real until I’m rejected a jillion times at which time I will have to reconsider all my life choices.

I have a query letter, an outdated synopsis, and a healthy fear of pitches. (I really need to update that synopsis.)

There is nothing like looking for agents to make you think that everyone is better educated, better dressed, more cultured, and far prettier than you.

(It goes without saying that everyone is more glamorous than me because I live in a farmhouse devoid of right angles. Pastoral mystique? Perhaps. Thoreauvian charm? Of course. Ghosts of chickens? Maybe. Glamorous? Not ever.)

I gotta take a break and let the self-hatred die down a little.

How’s by you?


Here’s the Catch: Nothing’s New

I am a killjoy curmudgeonly Grinchilated specimen of humanity. I dislike Christmas, and the New Year annoys me. It is amazing I have friends at all.

My poor spouse was setting up his Playstation while I was in the room. (It was pretty cute, our 14-yo nephews were so appalled that Uncle Spouse didn’t have a working PS that they chipped in to buy one for him.)

His favorite game (an intelligent dystopia) says, “New Year, New You!” And that is when I realize that this is the problem. There is no new me. There is just the killjoy curmudgeonly Grinchilated person that a few people know and love and roll their eyes at.

And so I am at my desk trying and failing to write. I have no responsibilities today other than to keep the dog in the style to which she has become accustomed (on the couch curled up on a fleece blanket) and either make my spouse dinner or make him take me out. I have a lot of noise in my head, but no material complaints.

What are you doing today?

Job Titles I Considered for my Business Card

Saving Your Ass for $25/hour*

(*The Spouse came up with that one to describe my previous jobs.)

Writing Nudge

(This one requires a Yiddish pronunciation, “noodge.”)

Comma Slinger

Ask me about components of a doi!

(I can also explain ISBNs. It’s a two-fer!)

Defender of the Serial Comma

Will Write Poetry for Food.

Explaining the distinction between em and en dashes and then reassuring you that you don’t have to worry about them and I’ll take care of it since 2004.

Did Marketing Kill Me?

Actually I killed my website. I didn’t mean to. After a long time of procrastination, I bolted and bought a domain. This is much less regal than it sounds.

I thought it would be easier for me to learn by doing. So I mucked around in the trenches for a few hours and then realized that all the work I had done didn’t show a thing.


Turns out, if you are a thorough person, and read all the bullshit emails you are sent, you might have realized that it takes 72 hours for a new website/blog to go into effect.

I’m hoping once I have an actual domain (bwahahahahaha!) the website copy will be there. I’m hoping once I have a website, people will want me to help them get their writing done. And pay me.

Until then, you’ll find me cussing, defending my dog from defensive mama birds, and trying and failing to read books about mathematics. Oh yeah, and editing.

My life is a thrill a moment. And yours?

Things I Hate In No Particular Order

Pretentious author photos: I get that you have long curly hair (I do too, yawn), but does it have to be fanned out? And since I’m on the subject of curly hair: don’t flip your hair for effect while reading poetry to an audience as an otherwise-gifted reader once advised me to do. No one wants to see that shit.

Instagram. I’ve developed an instagram non-presence to feed my stationery addiction and also to do research for a top-secret project. It’s great to drool over pens, paper, art, and Japanese stationery items I had no idea I needed BEFORE NOW.

However, the “normally I use my [average page flags] for hopes and dreams in my planner, but yesterday I used them as a to do list. And I got everything done!” made me scream inside my head with murderous rage. I do not live in an insta-perfect world. My sheets are dirty. I can’t manage my time. I had two separate set of plans for today, both of which have been changed. It’s mud season. I don’t live in Southern California. My hopes and dreams really involve getting a new editing job and putting some words down on the page. Did I make you laugh? Because that would be awesome. Is there bourbon at the end of the day? Fuck hopes and dreams.

And since I’m hating on instagram, let’s talk about quotes. You know the ones. Peppy “you’ve got this, boss babe!” quotes in pink or “you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to perfectly be” (I made that up and might now have to go commit hari kari on my special edition olive green traveler’s notebook [see, I’m part of the problem]). I’m so glad you have time to make a floral wreath (that looks exactly the same as every other instagram floral wreath) around your perfectly lettered quote, but I’ve got some garden-variety depression to deal with and a stupid domestic squabble I need to have with my spouse. ‘kay? Learn how to write and develop your own damn quotes.

You know what I don’t hate though? You guys. Show me some love back by unloading your hatred here. What do you hate today?


I set out to revise 2500 words a day in November. I failed. Thanksgiving happened. An invitation to submit to a poetry chapbook contest happened. It’s mid December, and I’ve finished the read-through revision of lucky draft 17.

(Yes, my soul died slightly writing that.)

I have more to do, of course. There are some parts I glossed over and some places I need to add things. But I have a structure and an epilogue. And I have a couple willing victims to read this damn thing.

I am hopeful and pessimistic and aching.

Tell me something interesting; distract me from the existential void of revision.

Gratitude List

Oh yeah, it’s been way too happy in these here parts. I woke up after a difficult evening to find out about mass shootings in San Bernadino. It’s time for a gratitude list.

1. I’m fucking grateful it’s the end of the semester, because I can no longer come up with meaningful class exercises. On Tuesday, I looked up from my wordiness exercise, and realized that we were all fucking bored, and gave an impromptu lecture on resume verbs.

1a. I’m fucking grateful that my students take classes on this subject and still didn’t know how to write a resume or cover letter. And I’m pretty sure it’s only partly their fault.

2. I’m fucking grateful that my own campus police is being militarized, because someone has got to keep the Canadian geese in order. Fucking things shit everywhere and then my dog rolls in it.

3. I’m fucking grateful for my shitty evening yesterday because complacency is the enemy of art.

4. I’m fucking grateful that my institution of higher education decided that hanging lights in trees and blaring Christmas carols from the student union was better than actual change such as paying adjuncts more, fighting rape culture, or funding a fucking GSA.

5. I’m fucking grateful my neighbors showed up in mass to protest an addition they hadn’t even seen plans for because otherwise I might think I was a smug happy suburbanite. I’m fucking grateful I can write that sentence to show what a bougie bastard I am when there are real fucking problems in the world. Fuck.

6. What are you grateful for?

Snow White and the Seven Drafts

When I first saw Brevity’s blog post on Seven Drafts, my reaction was unfit for print. Well, it was unfit for professional publication, but for our jaded readers here, suffice it to say it went something like, “fuck you and the fucking horse you fucking rode in on.” (Do recall I’m on lucky draft 17.)

But once I calmed down, I read more and began to appreciate Williams’ excellent advice. Vomit draft. Of course! Story draft where you make sure the whole story makes sense. Optimistic, but I could see how that might work. Don’t let me keep summarizing, go read it yourself.

I have done the polishing draft (I can’t really call it a personal copyedit as those words are too close to my job as a copyeditor) a ton. But I have never done the story draft. I see you beta readers out there shaking your head. Mm-hmm, we could have (and did) tell you that for free, my dear.

[Management: Indy Clause just added and deleted three sentences trying to justify her whole stinkin’ lack of plot, blaming it on everything from the very nature of memoir to Reagan-era politics.]

I guess I know what I’m doing today.

Please ask me more grammatical/writerly/editorial questions so that I don’t have to gaze into the existential void of my writing life.

The First Chapter

I open a memoir and read the first chapter with excitement. Wow, this author can write! Such beautiful images. God, what a good book this is going to be. So many good books in the world!

And then it happens. The middle slump, the loss of focus, a rushed end. Acknowledgments in which the author admits he wasn’t sure he knew how to write and he thanks his agent for his encouragement. Where’s your sense of showmanship, man? Keep that shit to yourself.

Maybe the author should have written an essay rather than a book. Maybe the author should have spent a longer time with the manuscript. Maybe she should have thought harder. Maybe he should have made sure the rest of the book was as polished as the first two chapters.

Feh. I now understand the frustration of my high school teachers who wrote, “does not live up to potential.”

What books have you read that are good the whole way through?

Book Writing Math

The most basic equation in book writing is the standard page equation.

1 page = 250 words in a standard font with 1″ margins and double spaced

It’s a professional equation and emotionless. It does not have the weight of “I need to add 10,000 words” or the even more frightening, “I have to cut 10,000 words.”

And since we’re going into a spiral of mathematical, book-writing doom here, may I remind you of hours. This is the worst for poets.

“I just spent 2 hours on 50 words.” This is why poets do not know anything the standard page equation. They instead create a mathematics of rhythm and sound, and retreat into their happy word-spinning place.

I just spent 4 hours on 1,895 words. I was interrupted once by two nephews coming up to have lunch. They awarded me with cheese doodles and I politely kicked them out once they were done eating. At hour 2.7 I half unloaded the dishwasher in the vain attempt to avoid a particular writing problem.

Freelancers beat themselves up about hours. How much of that hour was I really working? God, stay off facebook! If I don’t finish this paper, I will never get paid!

Is it worth to take a job that will take x amount of hours and pay y? Is my pace equal to my acceptable hourly rate? Is it more cost effective for me to hire painters and spend my time editing or paint the room myself?

Never ever calculate how much money you are earning per hour while writing.

I set out to fix a chapter today. I blew off work to do it. I have to get the bulk of the Fucker out of the way before the semester starts. I can afford to take a day here and there to write.

I can’t decide whether to be ecstatic that I mostly fixed the chapter that I thought I couldn’t fix this morning or to feel concerned because that was 4 out of many-mumble pages.

But I also felt good enough about the ever-dreaded section 5 to save the document as my next draft. I’ve turned a corner. I’ve rephrased one of my major themes. It’s lucky draft 16, baby!

Fortunately my brother-in-law came with a wide variety of interesting beer, and while it is not quite beer o’clock yet, I have only 1/24th of the day to go. Or maybe I’ll crack one open early to celebrate.