Grief Writing

I think I have finally figured out how to write about my mom.  Just like the grief, I can’t take it all at once.  I break off little bits and pieces at a time, just enough to nibble on.  If I took a big ol’ bite, I’d choke to death.  Like it was a spoonful of Nutella and I stepped on a Lego.  So, I’ll write little vignettes.  Snap shots of her life, of mine, of her death.

Let me tell you this really quick.  My mom was my best friend, my companion, my son’s third parent.  She was entwined and ingrained in our lives as closely as anyone can be that is not a spouse.  I go home to her house every day.  Park where she parked.  Feed the animals she brought home.  Water the lawn she tended.  I live there, in my childhood home, in the house her and my dad picked out together.  It’s so full of memories, all I can do to change it is move the furniture around.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  And there is nothing you can say to someone who is grieving that is going to change anything.  I have found though that there is one thing, and only one thing, that is actually really nice to hear.  I love you.  So if you know someone who is grieving the loss of someone close, try those words.  Those words say so much more than “I’m sorry”.  They say “I’m here with you” because I didn’t realize how alone I wasn’t until she died.

As hard as it is to write through the grief, it is just as hard to submit those grief writings for publication.  But, I do what I always do.  Just close my eyes and click.

Ah, freedom.

I’ve taken the leap.

I thought before today that I was living the dream, whatever that is, by being a poor college student working part time.  Of course, the education was supposed to help me land a real job, where I could work for 40 hours or more a week and never have time to write.

Sounds like a dream come true.  Not.

So, to hell with that idea.  I dropped all of my classes during the first week of the second quarter and have no intention of returning to the credential program.

From what I understand, teachers spend the day in class, spend their prep periods and lunches grading papers, the weekend and the evenings planning lessons and grading even more papers.  They work all day, and at home and on the weekends.  Summers off sound great, but teachers get those off because they put in a whole year’s worth of work in 8 months.  A teacher friend of mine said that she knew a fellow teacher who logged her hours meticulously and discovered that if she worked a 9 to 5 job, she would have gotten the equivalent of exactly two weeks off a year.  If I became a teacher, my life would be teaching and I would write on the side.  That is the opposite of what I want.

This girl has got to write.  I’ll teach on the side.

Tucker Max

I just read the best/worst book.

A few weeks back, I implored my FaceBook friends to recommend books to me, in any genre, to add to my summer reading (which I realized I was missing nearly half way into the summer).  I was given several good recs including Anne Rice, Dr. Seuss and Neal Stephenson.  My buddy Chad had told me about this book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max a few months ago.  Said it was laugh out loud funny.  Mentioned it again when I was cruising for suggestions.

I don’t generally buy books that are sixteen dollars unless they are books about quantum physics.  For some reason, I eat that shit up.  Anyway, I figure, what the hell, it’s the summer, which is the only time I really go crazy for books.  So I buy this book.  A picture of Tucker Max is on the front.  He looks like a douche.  The book even says I’m going to hate it.  The word “reprehensible” is on the cover.  Where do I sign up?

Officially, I blame my older brother for making me into the type of woman who loves this book.  Years of farting and crude jokes have desensitized me to the extent of laughing at the drunken misadventures and random sexcapades of this jerk Tucker Max.  A jerk who happens to be hilariously funny and a damned good writer to boot.  I’ll admit, at one point, I was a little pissed by his attitude towards women, but then when I read about his hotel pooping incident in which he managed to crap in his own hair and receive a lifetime ban from Embassy Suites, I figured karma had worked enough magic that I didn’t have to hold a grudge and I could just laugh at the guy.

Honestly, the book is a great read, highly entertaining, but I wonder how many women have read it… and liked it.

Courage to Click.

I’ve been thinking about this process, the querying process.  I realize that many writers find this task utterly daunting because of the many (and basically guaranteed) opportunities for “rejection”.  Yes, rejection in quotes.

I decided to look at the query as a kind of reverse interview.  Let’s say you are a manager at a restaurant for example.  You post a sign in the window or a link on the website: “Now Hiring”.  People come to you, applications filled out, requesting interviews.  You grant them.  You talk to several people, assessing their qualities, gauging whether or not they can be an asset to your company, your team.  If yes, then you hire, if not, then you don’t.  Rather simple.  Not personal.  You hire the person you think will be the best fit, not because you didn’t like the others, but they weren’t exactly what you are looking for in an employee.

In the query process, the writer with the manuscript is the manager with the opening, not the hopeful person looking for a job.  The query is the author’s “Now Hiring” sign.  Granted, the author has to send out individual queries, which is about the equivalent of the manager going door to door with a job description, asking potential employees one by one if they would like the job.  When the person you query says no, it isn’t a rejection.  It is an employee saying, “I’m not right for this job.”  It is an agent looking at the job description, and telling you they are not the right fit.

The goal is not just to find an agent/publisher/employee, but the right one, the one that fits.  If you’ve done the work as a writer, you’ve got an opening for a job that’s solid, a job that someone out there wants.  And once someone wants it, you still are the one who decides whether or not to hire.

Thinking about the process this way is what gives me the courage to close my eyes and click “send”.  If an agent doesn’t want the job, it is not personal.  It’s not about the job, it’s about the fit.

Starting the process.

So I wrote a query letter.  The first query letter I had ever written actually.  I’ve read a few things (read tons) about writing the query, finding an agent, publishing contracts, etc. maybe a month ago, lying on the sofa scrolling through Chuck Sambuchino’s blog.  So I thought I was ready.  I was not ready.  The first draft was so terrible that it could not have been edited enough to make it good, so when I hit the X to close the document and Word informed me that I had not saved, and asked me if I would like to do so before closing the file, I clicked “no”.

I’m not sure why after spending months elbow deep in this story that I could not come up with a synopsis.  Do I not know what my own book is about?  I asked my beta reader to help me come up with a synopsis.  I actually asked him to write it.  He did neither of those things.  So I went back to the internet and found a tidy little template for writing a query: a hook, a synopsis, a bio and done.  I read successful queries, then attempted to write one as clever and conversational as the book is, you know, to reflect my style.  This second attempt was savable.

Now to send it.  Several days have been spent looking at agent bios, publishing companies, and taking notes.  I found this nice little group of agents that might be a good fit and decided to send off my query and a portion of my manuscript.  The prospect fills me with something like dread, in that it makes me want to vomit, but also something else which makes me want to cry.  It could be joy, fear, or hope.  Maybe a mixture of all three.

Here goes nothing!

Philosophy; use caution.

Nothing is real.

I’ve been haunted by this thought for more years than I can remember. But I could not quite put my finger on how it could be possible that none of this was real.

When I was 16, I started listening to VNV Nation. When they came out with their song “Rubicon”, I was floored. The line, “I can’t prevent the thought that nothing’s real,” echoes in my mind still, after all these years.

Then I read Kant.

Nearly a year ago, I took a philosophy class at CSUSB. The last third of the class, we focused on Kant’s empirical realism.

Empirical realism says that nothing is objectively real, objects that we perceive can only be empirically real or subjectively real. Because we are subjects, we are permanently and irrevocably only able to derive subjective truth from any experience.

I wish that I could explain how beautiful that is to me, and how it fundamentally changed the way that I view the world and my place in it.

What we perceive is empirically real; reality exists only to the extent that we can sense it. What lies beyond what we can sense, what exists beyond the subjective, is a mystery. Thinking this way has brought the mysterious, the magical, the miraculous, back to me.

Sometimes I get too jaded for my own good.