Monday
Dec282015

Updates, Year End, Thoughts and Goals

Oh good lord.  Ok, I love end of the year posts.  I love year long horoscopes.  I love the week between Christmas and New Years where it just feels like I have ALL THE TIME and I can actually get stuff done. 

But one of the facepalm parts of loving end of the year posts is that they exist.  On the internet.  And I have to look back at them and cringe a little.  Here's last year's.

And my first reaction is...oh, sweety.  Oh honey bear.  Oh love bug, my current-1 self, girl, you were young and stupid.  You thought 2014 had problems? 

I don't like to be in the position of trumping one year's sadness with the next, but really.  I mean, even my wedding count was off.  By the end of the year, I would have been invited to seven weddings and attended five.  Which really was like

But yeah, this year changed EVERYTHING.  Challenged EVERYTHING. 

The Update

First of all, I just need to say thank you to EVERYONE who supported me over the past few months.  It's been really rough, and I wasn't in much of a place to thank you for it or respond to comments or anything.  My surgery went well--my very talented doctor repaired a tear in my retina and cleared the blood, but that meant that I had to spend two weeks face down so that a gas bubble could support my retina.  And because being face-down isn't the best-case scenario for the retinopathy to heal, my eye still bled a little after surgery, which meant I had no vision in that eye for six weeks after surgery. 

And of course, the two weeks face down turned into three, with a fourth and fifth of progressive restrictions.  I have to say, I'm starting to believe the whole power posing changing your confidence level thing, because I can testify to it in reverse.  Spending three weeks without raising your head, constantly hunched forward, looking no one in the eye, never looking out the window or really being able to tell if it's sunny or raining or what--it does something to your brain.  Maybe to your heart.  It's crushing. 

And pathetic.  I needed so much help, and I am stupidly grateful that I GOT it--from my incredible family who sat with me and occasionally made fun of me and took me to movies with my special chair and a special mirror so I could actually watch them--YES, that kind of family--to my friends who kept me company and kept me fed (really hard to even microwave food when the microwave is higher than your waist).  To my sister in law who kept me primed with suggestions for bingewatching and even people who messaged and emailed and generally sent love and wishes. 

I didn't reply to everyone.  I know that makes me an ass, but I read every one, and I appreciated every one. 

Possibly, the biggest shout out actually goes to my editor, Mary Kate, for sending me my revision while I was face-down.  This sounds terrible, right--stress on top of stress?--but honestly, having something to THINK about and WORK on while I couldn't even open a computer may have saved me.  It definitely saved my mood.

I also know this update is overdue--but honestly, the news hasn't been great.  I'm still facing the possibility of more surgery, although over the past few days my eye is clearing some of the blood that's in there, and that feels hopeful.  Hope has been a slightly dangerous prospect for me, though, so I'm trying not to get too excited. 

Phew.  Ok, let's set that aside for a second, because despite this eye crap being the major theme of this year, it's not the only thing that happened. 

Everything Else

My family rocked this year.  My little brother got admitted to the MA bar (in addition to the PA one), my older brother got married in THE BEST wedding ever, and gave me a sister, which is amazing.  There was a LOT of medical drama this year for family members, and everyone is healthy and happy as the year draws to a close.  Like seriously, that alone is incredible.  That alone, from some of the vantage points of this year, feels like a damn miracle. 

And I can't say I had a terrible year, all told.  I finished writing TERRA, the first in the Elementae series, and promptly sold it to my editor along with the second of hopefully four total. 

Lion Heart came out--and I WENT ON TOUR!! 

BEST. TIME. EVER. 

I've done some great revisions to TERRA, and I'm like a third of the way into AERA, the second in the series. Which, in a year when my eyeballs betrayed me, makes me feel pretty good. 

Also, this whole eyeball-betrayal-crap had a silver lining.  I have locked my diabetes down.  For anyone who knows what this means, my A1C got down to 5.4% this year, which is...bananas.  BANANAS.  It is SO GOOD.  Does that mean I'm fixed?

Thanks, JLaw. 

But seriously, that was an accomplishment, and I'm TAKING it. 

Also, I've been humbled and blown away by my students this year.  I'm a teaching fellow/assistant for two different courses, and I have been so inspired by the courage, passion, ability and generosity of students there.  I started teaching at Brookline Adult Education, and good lord, that was revealing.  I'm barely paid to be there (usually cab fare was almost equal to my pay, which eye stuff often made necessary), and I was expecting to phone it in, to be annoyed and above it and all the other bratty misconceptions I had. 

And I STUPID LOVED IT.

Which kind of made me feel all,

Which, I figure, for a teacher, is actually the perfect assumption. 

So I know for sure that 2016 will bring more weddings.  Hopefully it will also bring those humbling surprises, those startling, beautiful moments when I know I'm loved and not alone, those tiny triumphs in the face of pain and problems. 

And books.  Let's hope it brings many more books. And maybe a little o' this:

Because who doesn't need a breakdancing bear.  Really.  Don't say you, because it's not you.  You need a breakdancing bear in your life. 

Much love,

Annie

 

 

Wednesday
Nov112015

This Thing Happening Tomorrow

There are very few things that have been a part of my life as long as writing has. For ALMOST all of that time, though, there has been one thing--one looming thing that for so long, in so many more ways than I could appreciate, has been a guillotine slowly coming closer to my neck. 

Or, as it seems, my eyes. 

I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes when I was twelve.  I started really writing when I was around eight, and its actually really weird to me that this is the first time I'm really thinking about that overlap. 

But the point is, I was never a great diabetic.  There were a lot of reasons--control, anger, being a teen with a disease while my parents were divorcing, while I switched schools, while I was dealing with chronic, debilitating migraine headaches.  Mostly, I didn't want other people to think of me as sick.  I didn't want to BE sick. 

I still struggle with that.  Diabetes is a federally protected disability, and the weight of that hits me every time I check a form or apply for a job.  I'm disabled?  How does this make me disabled? 

For all the prevalence of diabetes, it's not one a lot of people really seem to get, but more than that, there's just something about having something "wrong" with you (not unlike being overweight!) that invites people to offer their unwanted opinions.  It seemed way easier to pretend I didn't have it. 

Not the greatest coping mechanism.  Especially because unlike, say, a gluten allergy, if I ate too much sugar I didn't really feel too different.  It was easy to ignore.  I'd like to say this was a habit I dropped in my teen years, but no.  I have never been a consistently great diabetic. 

And now it's catching up to me pretty hard core.  Seven months ago, I had a little floater in my eye--I called it a dragon, and lots of people told me it was totally normal.  It was about a month before my regularly scheduled yearly diabetic eye exam. 

But I decided to check it out sooner rather than later, and it turned out I had fairly developed diabetic retinopathy, which means that my retinas were full of bad blood vessels caused by the diabetes, and they were weak, easily broken.  My dragon was actually blood, trapped in my vitreous fluid, hanging inside my vision, invisible to everyone else but inescapable to me. 

The next few months were pretty heavy.  Slowly, one eye and then the other would bleed more.  I had laser treatments multiple times in both eyes (which feels like someone is scratching the back of your eyeball), I lost my ability to drive for six weeks over the summer.  I stayed with my mom for most of that time, and honestly, I fell into a bit of a hole.  My independence had been taken away from me, and that crushed me. 

More than that, there were days I couldn't read, and days I couldn't write.  I felt--I FEEL--pretty broken.  Both in the sense of heart, and in the sense of a toy you return to ToysRus.  I am both blessed and so grateful that I have so many people to lean on, and really resentful that I have to lean at all.  I don't know how to cope with that feeling. 

At the end of the summer, I got a vitrectomy in my left eye (link is an explanation and not an ad ;-) ).  For a few weeks, I felt light, hopeful--I started making plans with friends again, thinking I could drive anywhere.  Maybe it was over.  Maybe my new EXCELLENT habits as a diabetic had finally caught up to me and the worst of the damage was over. 

Then, actually at several book events, I had a series of really big bleeds in the right eye.  I'm proud of the fact that I kept it together for you guys, even when I wanted to cry and run off stage.  Often times I would have to ask fans to spell out what they had written on the post-its, not because I couldn't read your writing, but because I couldn't read.  So whether or not it was done with intention, thank you so much for that kind accommodation. 

It hammered two things home--first, I needed more surgery, and second, this wasn't ending any time soon.

So tomorrow is my second vitrectomy surgery.  I hope it will go well--my doctor is wonderful and skilled.  But more than that, I'm trying to figure out how to cope with the horrible statistic that I could be blind in five years.  I'm trying to cope with the spectre of that next bleed hanging over my head. 

And yet, I'm really grateful.  The days where it doesn't give me a horrible headache to look at the screen--and when I can see it at all--have been crazy productive, and I am SO IN LOVE with this new series.  I cannot WAIT to share it with you all.  And I've never felt more grateful for my teaching positions than this year--they have been feeding my soul and showing me that writing isn't the only deep, soulful calling I have. 

Also, I'm grateful for my family and friends that have been incredible, and particularly for Tiffany Schmidt suggesting that maybe this would be a healing thing for me to write about--so much of my diabetes and my experience with DR has revolved around hiding it from people, and it's never felt genuine. 

I'll keep the comments open, and if you want to comment, I welcome that, but I will admit that I may not respond.  I'm reading (when I can!). 

But I love you all--including brave authors that help me understand it's ok to be open and vulnerable, and the friends, fans, and family that make it ok for ME to be open and vulnerable.  Much love. xx

Wednesday
Nov042015

Book Therapy

Hey Friends,

So I've been thinking.

Ahem.  Sorry.  Like I said, thinking--most of my life these days is about education, arts in education, teaching writing, and writing itself.  And it has always seemed...discordant to me that somehow I wasn't able to represent this online.  I think it's super important to help writers be better writers; I wouldn't be ANYWHERE without the aid of mentors (some knowing, some not) like Mitali Perkins, Susan Dennard, Sarah Aronson and my amazing writing group of Tara Sullivan, Annie Cardi and Katie Slivensky

So how do I contribute back into this community?  How am I active in this community? 

I don't have the total answer yet, but one of the things I really want to do is a little book therapy.  This means that I want to take your questions--but not about MY WORK.  I want to take your questions about YOUR WORK. 

I still can't read your work; I know too many lawyers (brothers, oy) that advise me it can get really dicey for both of us if I read your work.  BUT I can totally dialogue with you about your writing, plot, structuring, setting, pacing, character, EVERYTHING problems.  How does that sound? 

For now, please comment below this post if you have a question you'd like me to answer.  If you do so, please leave me at least some way to contact/identify you (email, social media, website links all fine), a name, and the question.  Please also understand that if you submit a question, this is for the express purpose of talking about it in a public forum! 

So...let's experiment together! 

Much love, 

Annie

Wednesday
Sep022015

Writer's Tools: Mad Cap Outlining

I'm NOT an outliner.  For some, this is utterly anathema, but there are many, many writers that know what I'm talking about.  And honestly, I'm the first person to espouse live and let live--whatever works for you as a writer, go for it. 

But I hit a point in my career where that wasn't possible.  This was, in many ways, a totally joyous thing--after Scarlet, my publisher was willing to consider sequels, and for them to consider sequels, I had to write OUTLINES.  God-awful, why-would-I-write-this-instead-of-a-book, if-I-could-tell-a-story-in-one-page-I-wouldn't-waste-my-time, this-isn't-my-skill-set, how-do-I-know-what-my-story-is-about OUTLINES.

I was pretty lost.  And I muddled my way through it--I figured my way into a half-decent outline for Lady Thief, but the one for Lion Heart was all wrong.  It put me in a bad position when it came time to write the book, because it was A book, but it wasn't THIS book. 

But from Lady Thief to Lion Heart, and in everything since then, I kept modifying and learning about my own processes, and how they seem to change for every single book that I write.  So this is just one of many tools that I've found useful; this is also something I've presented to the New England chapter of SCBWI at their annual conference and again at their Encore! presentation. 

Materials:

I think it's important to write answers on post-its or something A) bright and b) movable--I think it changes the way your mind is engaging, and for revision, plotting, or outlining, that's crucial.

When to use this tool:

This is something you can do when you're exploring an idea, but it's also useful at many stages.  I've used it for revision very successfully, and also when I was about 10K into a novel and trying to figure out if it had merit, in addition to the revamp of Lion Heart that I mentioned. 

HOW TO USE THE QUESTIONS:

You'll notice they come in categories like CHARACTER and SETTING; I think most of these can be used multiple times with different characters, locations, etc.  In stakes and conflicts, the prompt questions are referring to your MAIN CHARACTER, but could theoretically be encompassing other characters as well. 

So enjoy!  Questions are here:

  MAD CAP QUESTIONS

Monday
May112015

A Little More Love

Hey Friends! 

So we're getting close with the preorder campaign, but not quite close enough.  And I REALLY want you to have all the letters.  Because they were so much fun to write, and what's the point if true fans can't enjoy them? 

So here's the deal--Tiffany Schmidt and I have teamed up for some book bestie shenanigans on a Thunderclap campaign.  It will go live next Tuesday and release a torrent of social media posts unto the world, which frankly sounds pretty entertaining. 

Since I want you to get the letters, if we hit 125 supporters on Thunderclap, I'll release the third.  If we hit 150, I'll release ALL FOUR.  BUT the only catch is that if you haven't preordered, you're not on the list to get those letters.  But that also means that all you have to do is follow the original instructions, preorder ONE COPY, and you will probably get to enjoy all four letters.  I would also recommend you support the campaign!

All the chicanery ends 5/18 at 11:59pm EST! 

 

 

--

Original Instructions:

What to do:

Email anniesbookstuff@gmail.com with something attached that shows you preordered the book.   Confirmation, receipt--these all work! You can preorder at YOUR LOCAL INDIE, BARNES AND NOBLE or AMAZON.

Also, if you preorder from Buttonwood Books, I can SIGN it at my launch party in May.  Preordered and signed!  Boom!

You don't need to include your name or email at that point--I'll send you back a form to fill out.  This is because A) it will be easier for me to keep track, b) it will show you I got your email, and C) it will be an easy way to COUNT. 

Because COUNTING matters. 

I have FOUR letters.  Every book you preorder counts once, and here's the trick:

Letter #1 will be released to you immediately. 

Letter #2 will be released if I receive 35 preorders.  Not a huge hurdle guys!  Tell your friends. I'm pretty sure 35 of you have ALREADY preordered, so just get what you're due ;-).

Letter #3 will be released if I receive 125 preorders/Thunderclap supporters!  

Letter #4 will be released if I receive 150 preorders/Thunderclap supporters!