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Pardon me while I vent on the state of the publishing industry…

I graduated from college with a journalism degree over a decade ago. (Wow, I just made myself feel old.) Admittedly, I ended up with a journalism degree because I couldn’t do an English degree and graduate in 4-years with a double major in International Relations. Now, years later, I realize that the English degree would have been better suited for me. But at the time, I was more focused on having a writing background in general, and having loved writing for my high school newspaper I thought a journalism degree would be a good fit. About a year before graduation, I realized I didn’t want a career in journalism, but I still completed my journalism degree. I chose to let my International Relations degree lead me down a different path, and for a while that path worked.

In recent years, I’ve found myself relying more on my Journalism degree to carve out a life and career that I enjoy. It turns out it was the better fit for me than the IR degree ever was. Now, I am incredibly thankful that I have it because I know it gave me a great foundation, even if it is a little rusty, for the work I am pursuing.

One of the realities of career in journalism, or writing in general, is that it is incredibly difficult field to break into or to even stay in these days. Yes, freelance gigs can be found, but a full-time staff position at a newspaper is a much bleaker prospect. Today, Gawker.com posted an AP article on a recent survey of newspaper editors which only served to reiterate the grim picture in the newspaper industry these days: (more…)

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As I’ve meandered along (ok, scraped, clawed, & tortured myself) through this novel-in-progress of mine, I’ve never seriously expected to make a living from it. Of course I’ve had the occasional daydream of such a life & of calling myself a working novelist. But what I’ve come to realize is that I’d be happy just being a full-time working writer. Admittedly, I’d like all my future writing to be spent on work I love, and not on work I need; but still, I’d just like to be able to answer that inevitable What do you do for a living question by saying I’m a writer.

Writer Steve Almond, author of (Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions and The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories, has an funny/interesting essay in Sunday’s LA Times Books section, Can’t Say No: Why One Writer Can’t Turn Down Any Assignments, about what it means to be a working writer & why being considered a writing “slut” isn’t such a bad thing.

It really wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Image: OldPixels.com via flickr

Image: OldPixels.com via flickr

A friend sent me this article in today’s New York Times*:

Recession Fuels Readers’ Escapist Urges

Essentially, Motoko Rich’s article focuses on the success of the romance genre in the bookworld in the midst of the current economic realities. While other genres have seen stagnation or a decrease in the numbers of books being moved, romance has seen bigger numbers. The conclusion is that readers, amidst all the doom & gloom, want their books to have a happy ending. Apparently, the sci-fi and fantasy genres are also experiencing an upsurge. People want to escape. (more…)

Currently listening to: All Right by Sigur Ros

Today, a member of my writing group emailed me this article from Writer’s Digest by Elizabeth Sims:

Get Messy With Your First Draft

Sims writes about letting yourself be free and open when writing your first draft. Tell your control freak side to surrender. Just let go & write. Don’t worry about structure. Don’t worry about ideas that come out of nowhere or tangents that don’t quite fit, get them all down on paper regardless. Don’t judge your writing. If you do this, you’ll find your second draft to be an easier going because you will have more good stuff than you know what to do with.

I think I followed Sims advice to a certain extent. My control freak-structured-side & my creative-day dreamy-writer-side have been at war for years. So, I did worry about structure & I did over think a lot of things. But I did explore the tangents; & I think for the most part, I let whatever was floating around in my over active imagination come out. And what she says about having an easier going on the second draft because you’ll have more good stuff than you know what to do with, I have to say, it’s kind of true. Admittedly, I’m struggling with transitions, tense, & other issues, but I’ve also had moments where I’ve realized that it’s ok to kill a darling because there is something else that’s even better. Now, that’s kind of cool & helps restore my faith that I will, eventually, get this done. (more…)

Well, today I managed not to have a breakdown. A few tears, but nothing devastating. Still an incredibly heavy feeling hanging over me all day. To say it was a good day is weird. But I guess relatively speaking it was an okay day. I know that this was an anomaly.

Didn’t do much today. We played some online Scrabble & rented some movies. I’m lowering my standards & watching Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Went to dinner with a friend. Nice to get out of the house.

There is still so much to do & deal with, but I’m not rushing it. It will be there tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that.

I guess in a way I was able to ignore the reality today. Yes, I had to take care of a few things that did nothing but remind me. But still, I guess I was able to put it out of my mind or at least suppress it.

This morning I decided to create a daily TO DO list. Nothing major. Today just included: go to bank; return phone call; tighten screw on the bathroom doorknob. Got it all done, except the doorknob–couldn’t find a small enough screwdriver. Just going to try & have a few little things to do each day. Who knows, maybe it will help.

I started to do some research for a freelance article. The idea comes out of all this. We’ll see where it takes me. Doing the research gave me something else to do today. A way to feel like I’m being productive or at least moving forward, even when I don’t want to.

I need to start going through her things. I’m dreading it. I want to do it while my brother is still here. I can’t fathom doing it alone. But I’m not ready. I know that when we start it’s going to sink in that this is permanent. She’s not coming back. I will never see her again or have a conversation with her again. Even though I know it’s real, it’s unimaginable.

I can’t think straight. I feel like I’m losing my mind. I really don’t know what I’m doing. This is surreal. I really wish there was a how-to manual for this, but there isn’t.

Just one hour at a time.

Image: dsygrl9 via flickr

Mood: Frustrated with my procrastination

Currently listing to: Wisconsin by Bon Iver

I’m expecting a book order from Amazon today. Just 3 books this time around, as I’ve realized I have quite a book backlog on my nightstand.

  • The Bell by Iris Murdoch (one on my summer reading list)
  • Best Friends by Martha Moody (a gift from a friend)
  • Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos (I keep starting this book, but can’t get past chapter 2. I should just give up, but I hate to leave books I buy unread.)
  • The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte (another one that I keep starting & can’t get through. It must have been a bad book buying day when I bought this, because I bought Love Walked In the same day.)
  • Archetypes for Writers by Jennifer Van Bergen (one of those craft books. Looks interesting. Just haven’t been in the headspace to read it.)
  • The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley (just bought last week. Will get to it.)
  • The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf (this is one that I just open up & read a story here and there when I have time.)

…and soon to arrive:

  • Straight Up & Dirty: A Memoir by Stephanie Klein (read about this book here & it sounded like a fun read. Also, I like Klein’s blog & keep meaning to read one of her books.)
  • The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg (I read her book Open House a while ago & liked it. I’ve been meaning to read something else from her. Noticed this is written in 1st person, so that made it appealing given my current needs–read below.)
  • Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design by Danielle La Porte & Carrie McCarthy (this book is part of my quest to figure myself out. Never hurts to be more self-aware.)

…and currently reading:

  • The End of the Story by Lydia Davis (half-way through & really liking this. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking to read.)

I’ve just been a slower reader than usual the last couple of months; but a apparently a very prolific book buyer. I don’t know what’s going on. Probably just a phase. Will say I’m really liking the book I’m currently reading. I think part of my reading funk has been because I can’t seem to find exactly what I want. Because my plan is to work on draft #2 in 1st person, I really want to immerse myself in 1st person. But I’m having the hardest time finding books that I want to read. Yes, there are plenty of good books out there written in 1st, but I guess I’m just looking for a certain voice. I keep walking into every bookstore I come across, pulling books off the shelves, & reading the first page. More often than not, it’s not what I’m looking for. But I guess I’m realizing that what I’m looking for is what I’m trying to write. My head wants to hear a certain voice that letting in any others, any that aren’t quite right, is just difficult.

I know what this all means. I need to write my own book.

On that front, the reading of draft #1 is taking longer than I expected. Not because I hate it or anything, I just keep saying I’ll get to it, & I don’t. This is starting to frustrate me. Yes, my procrastination & I might soon come to blows. I want to get started on draft #2, sooner rather than later. So, to get that going, I need to finish reading this & figuring out what I can take from it & what I need to do to make it better the next time around.

So, instead of saying “I plan to…”, I’m going to say: I AM WILL FINISH READING DRAFT #1 BY THE END OF THIS WEEK.

And: I AM WILL WORK ON AN ARTICLE IDEA THAT’S BEEN FLOATING AROUND IN MY HEAD THE LAST COUPLE DAYS.

I love books. (I’d be amazed to find a writer who doesn’t.) And I especially love the books I own. I know in today’s recycling crazy world, selling your used books is the thing to do. I appreciate the idea of sharing the story. But, I hold on to mine. I keep all my books. Since college I’ve held on to every single one. Admittedly a few have disappeared after being borrowed into friends’ hands & homes causing me to consider some kind of library overdue book policy for the more blatant offenders. I remember the title of each missing book. I know, I should learn to let go. But I can’t. My books are part of who I am. Looking at them, I can recall where I was when I read them & what was going on in my life at the time. The fact that I picked up each one in a bookstore, choosing that one out of thousands, bought it, brought it home, & read it, says something about what was going on in my head at that moment. When it came time to pack up and move from DC back to LA, the movers were nice enough to tell me that I could cut my moving fee in half if I’d just give up the books. But I couldn’t. I paid the $1000+ and they came along with me on this next chapter in my life.

Today, they reside in my living room. They & I have made do with white Ikea bookshelves until such a time when we can find a home with built-ins. Space considerations require that each shelf is filled left to right, top to bottom. But we’re together and that’s all that matters.

With that in mind, I was a little disturbed by this article in today’s Wall Street Journal. In her article, “Why Libraries Are Back in Style,” June Fletcher writes that there is a rising trend in personal libraries, or “memory rooms,” in people’s homes. I love that home libraries are back in style, but I’m horrified by the reason why.

This trend in libraries is not about the books Fletcher writes, “…their appeal is often about creating a certain ambiance.”

She adds:

What can make libraries more soothing than other formal rooms isn’t so much books but the framed family photographs, awards and mementos that share the shelves and define a family’s interests and identity, says McLean, Va., architect Chris Lessard. “They’re memory rooms,” he says. Because libraries are public rooms, oftentimes the books are purely decorative and don’t say as much about the family who lives there. The books that people really read, like paperback novels and how-to guides, often are kept out of sight elsewhere in the home.

….

Tucson, Ariz., interior designer Terri Taylor says she spends a lot of time scouring flea markets and bookstores for books with fancy bindings for her clients’ bookshelves. She selects books to match color schemes rather than for their content.

Yes, my “library” is a memory room, but it’s the books themselves, all read by me, that provide the memories. I have never looked at them as decorative items used to accent the knick-knacks I’ve picked up on my travels or the photos of family & friends that I’ve placed on the edges. There’s no color scheme. Although, I have tried to institute a category system. Basically, fiction with fiction & non-fiction with non-fiction. Simple but it works. It’s all there. I never hide my books & the record of what I’ve read. Hardcover and paperback peacefully coexist. The great literature, the chick lit, the history tomes, the career advice guides sit side by side. I’ve always believed that if someone really wants to know me, they should spend some time looking at my bookshelves. It’s the one place where I seem to have no problem admitting to all my odd and passing interests, & sometimes questionable taste.

I was relieved at the very end of Fletcher’s article to know that there are still people like me who appreciate books & libraries for what they are:

Similarly, author Jay McInerney and his wife, Anne Hearst, happily mix dog-eared paperbacks with first editions of Fitzgerald and Joyce in the overstuffed bookcases of both their Manhattan apartment and their Hamptons house. Mr. McInerney thinks the visual jumble of thousands of mismatched books is appealing. “If you’re not reading what’s on your bookshelves, you should find something else to decorate with,” he says.

Proof that there are still sane people in the world!!

Image: erik via flickr

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