Success, Failure, and Transition

You might have noticed that November — and the NaNoWriMo — came and went without much in the way of updates here from me this year. Back around the end of October, I had really good intentions and a lot of excitement about the project I was planning to work on. But things, sometimes awesome things, got in the way, as things do, and I want to comment on that. I’ve seen several authors online recently discuss how we as an industry don’t talk enough, publicly, about failure. Even the hashtag storms about acknowledging and persevering through failure in the writing industry ultimately turn into humblebrags that make people feel even worse. It can be easy — for me, at least — to get caught up in what I haven’t accomplished, even when I know that’s neither logical nor rational nor helpful. Sometimes I need to recast the way I think about success and failure and the practical realities of them both.

One thing my colleagues and I strive to do, as teachers, is to help our achievement- focused and strategic-learning students appreciate the importance and value of failure as a step in the process to success — but more importantly, also as a step on the path to increased understanding. So many don’t want to pay attention to this. But failure is necessary in order to grow, to learn from mistakes, to winnow away things that don’t work and understand why they don’t, to emerge with a more solid process or product or epiphany, to develop. If we never have to confront the hard stuff, we never really learn how to overcome it.

Okay, so, great. And what does that have to do with my NaNoWriMo this year? Well, I failed at it. I did basically no significant work on my new novel, and part of me feels like an utter failure for that, feels like a complete loser who can’t do anything right or accomplish anything of value.

And as I would tell my students, that’s a completely bonkers response.

A normal one, maybe, because that’s the culture we live in. Because being “busy” has become our toxic but normalized social currency. Because I’m disappointed that I couldn’t carve out half an hour each night to write 350 words and move the story forward. But let’s be honest: November is a terrible time for this project; the only worse month would be December! As a high school teacher and mom, I’m swamped. Routinely on Sunday nights I climb into bed, far too late for how early I have to be up on Monday mornings, and can’t stop myself from mentally ticking off the list of things I wanted to take care of over the weekend but failed to. At some point, I’m sure, I will come to internalize the fact that a Sunday isn’t forty-seven hours long, and then my emotional expectations can catch up to my intellectual understanding of just how much one person can get done in a day.

What all of that calculus fails to appreciate is what I did in fact get done. And therein lies my problem: I’m focused, like some of my students, on the exact wrong thing.

So let’s switch gears away from my failure and talk about where things went well over the last month.

The third edition of Finis. came out, and holy canoli, it’s gorgeous. If you’re looking for a really great holiday gift for the readers on your list or a stocking stuffer for that smart adolescent who likes urban fantasy or animals or both, then you can’t go wrong with this new edition from Odeon Press. The physical book has been redesigned in a lovely way, with a better size and a butter-velvet soft matte cover, and in the back of the book you’ll find a lot of new bonus content, including some nonfiction by me and a preview of the next story in this series set in Elsa’s world.

I finished running my first Kickstarter campaign, and it was a resounding success. (Thank you to everyone who joined the community for the new book!) My project is my new book of poetry, The Sharp Edges of Water. (Click here to view the KS and all of the updates and bonus content posted there.) Some of the backer perks are a little slow rolling out — not behind schedule, but just slower than I was hoping to get them moving — because school has been really busy for me lately. But I’m back to working on those this weekend.

As for The Sharp Edges of Water itself, this week has been all about proofing galleys, making sure everything looks as good as it can, combing through for errors. This book is in production, y’all! And it’s looking wonderful so far. I’m excited to be sharing it with you! The ebook will be available very soon — in time for Christmas — and if there aren’t too many slow-downs in the last stages of production (where we are now), maybe the print version will be as well! I promise to update here when you can start buying it.

So those projects really took up all of my NaNoWriMo time, and I have to give myself permission not to beat myself up over it, even though I didn’t make any progress yet on the new novel. I know I’ll get back to writing the novel as soon as my new book of poems is out. I’ve had to reorganize my priorities and make peace with the harsh time mistress of my teaching job, and that’s okay, too. When it boils down to it, on Sunday nights I have to remind myself to count my blessings. (Because let’s be honest again: that’s the only way I can fall asleep when I’m thinking about that infernal to-do list.)

In the title of this blog post, I promised transitions. Well, let’s talk about that too. The Monday Earworm is going to take a little vacation until the new year, because you know what’s coming up later this week? The triumphant return of 12 Days of Christmas Music That Doesn’t Suck! I know, I know, contain your zeal. I’ve been curating this year’s playlist and have encountered some new music that I hope you will enjoy. And aside from various types of announcements here and there, that’s probably all you can expect from me on this blog until the holidays are over.

And that’s about all I’m going to say about this for today. Have a good one.

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A Book We Totally Need Right Now

Today I’m devoting my blog space to promoting a project by my dear friend, the artist Paula Billups. I can’t explain it as well as she can, so I’ll just step aside for a moment so you can read her thoughts on the matter.

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I am a painter whose reason for working is to show something of what it means to be human and what it means to live in this world with a compassionate heart and a wide-awake mind.

The current Administration’s recent policy of separating families seeking asylum at our country’s border, and imprisoning the children as well as the separated parents in cages, aroused my compassion, as well as my determination to put my skill to use in service to these disenfranchised families. As is true for any individual, I can only make use of those advantages and gifts I have to draw public attention in the direction I would like to see it go.

I announced I would make thirty paintings in thirty days and sell those paintings on my Etsy page. I donated 100% of the profit from the sale to the Texas Civil Rights Project, an organization which assists disenfranchised people and is in a position to relieve the misery and legal difficulty these refugees face. All thirty paintings sold within hours of being posted.

This book is a collection of those thirty paintings and the descriptions I wrote at the time I made them. They sometimes reflect the joy I felt in the beauty of New England summer days, and sometimes the sadness that came over me while working, because I know that although everyone deserves to feel as free, happy and safe as I did in my daily work, many do not. I am conscious that we, by way of our government, are sometimes the source of that suffering,

It is November 28, 2018. As I type this, the deadline for reuniting these families has long since passed. Yet little children still sleep alone tonight, traumatized and shattered. Heartbroken parents reach arms out to empty air instead of to cradle their little ones. What we have done to them is an atrocity. We know this because we know how we would feel, were we these people. We know it is cruel, because we feel pain at the thought of it.

We are called to use our individual abilities and our voices to counteract institutionalized cruelty, to change our way of doing things in the arena of small moves. We must look around us and see, with all our limitations of being “only one person,” what thing we can do right now, right here.

Offering these paintings was what I could do when it all began, and offering this book is what I can do now to help these members of our human family.

As with the paintings, 100% of the profit from the sale of this book will be donated to the Texas Civil Rights Project.

***

If you’re interested in this wonderful art book — which would make an excellent holiday gift, I might add — please visit this link to buy it.

Questions People Keep Asking Me (and My Answers to Them)

So people have been asking me several things about my recent Kickstarter and my upcoming book of poetry, The Sharp Edges of Water. Here is a handy guide to some answers, in case you’re wondering these things too! (And please note that it’s being posted here on my blog and on my Kickstarter page.)

I backed your awesome project. Now when will my perks show up?
First of all, thank you! I appreciate the support. Second of all, when you’ll see your rewards kind of depends on which level you backed it at. For those whose names were not hidden from me during the campaign and who backed at a level that included acknowledgement on my social media (Facebook and Twitter), I started those announcements several weeks ago. Now that the rest of the names are available to me, I’ll continue those announcements this week. Everyone who backed at those levels will also be acknowledged, by name, on my blog here pretty soon. For those who backed at the handwritten thank-you note level, expect your cards to go in the mail in the next week or two. All other perks will be coming later, once The Sharp Edges of Water is actually out in print. (More on that in a moment.)

I backed your awesome project but forgot to choose a reward level. Will I still be able to get the perks commensurate with how much I pledged?
Yes! Unless, for some reason, you don’t want any of those rewards, in which case just let me know — but I am more than happy to give them to you!

I pledged at a level that includes personal acknowledgement in the book itself. What will that look like?
Thank you again! Everyone at those levels will see their name in the Acknowledgements of the book itself. Some of you will be listed as Kickstarter backers, and some of you are also being acknowledged for other personal reasons which don’t have anything to do with Kickstarter. I’ll call you out just once, though.

I forgot to pledge before the deadline — oops! — but still want to join the community around this book. Is there a way to do this?
How sweet of you! (This is actually the question which gets asked the most, believe it or not.) Yes, there is a way, but Kickstarter has already moved into the financial administration phase, and so they recommend you handle this directly through project creators after campaign deadlines have passed. This means that you certainly can still support the project, but you’ll just do it through me directly rather than through KS, and the bonus side effect is that KS won’t take any fees out of your pledge and also won’t charge you for shipping your perks out (if you choose a level that requires that). If this is something you want to do, let me know and we’ll work out the logistics based on your individual circumstances and preferences, but I can generally handle this through a variety of ways. Again, let me know by leaving a comment on this post or by emailing me directly at forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com (with the subject line “Kickstarter Pledge”), and I’ll help you with it.

I noticed (or didn’t notice) that I was asked to answer a survey after the campaign ended. What’s that for, and do I really have to do it?
So glad you asked! That survey is just to give me your contact information so I can send you your perks once they’re ready. It takes probably under a minute or so to fill out and will really help me, so if you haven’t done it yet, please do!

I backed at a level that includes an invitation to the private launch party. Where is that going to be and when? And can I just get my rewards there?
Lovely! I hope you can join us for that. The party will be in the Houston area, but we won’t have a date until the books are actually on their way to me because sometimes publication timelines can be squishy. You will get an actual invitation to the party, though, so watch your mail for that. (And if you haven’t filled out the survey yet, be sure you do so I’ll have an address to send that invitation to!) And yes, I will have the rewards there, so if you want to get yours then rather than have me mail them, you’ll get them even sooner.

So what is the progress on the book now?
Well, last night I finished proofreading the final draft of the entire manuscript. At the moment I’m trying to obtain permission to use the epigraph in the book, which is a quote from someone else, and this coming Sunday is my new author photo shoot with the utterly amazing Lauren Volness of Lauren Volness Photography. This afternoon I’m working on the notes for the book designer, the excellent Jesse Gordon. Once all those pieces are together and sent off to Jesse, we’re in the final phases of production. That will hopefully not take terribly long, and then it’s just a matter of proofing the galleys and ordering the books. SO EXCITING!!

So, those are the questions I got asked the most often, but if you have any others, please just leave them in the comments below, and I’ll answer them as best I can. Thank you again to everyone who backed this project! You’re wonderful and have made my day over and over again.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who are celebrating it this week, and Happy November to everyone else. Cheers!

Odeon Press

I’m pleased to announce that the 3rd edition of Finis. is now available! It was picked up by Odeon Press and contains not only a gorgeous new look (for the print version) but also more back matter, including a preview of the next story set in Elsa’s world. I hope you’ll check it out! You can click through Odeon’s site to find links to buy the new edition.

More spiffy and exciting details about my new book of poems coming soon.

Ten Hours To Go…

I was advised by my friend Jenny, when I undertook this Kickstarter campaign, that it would be “a roller coaster with a desert in the middle.” She wasn’t wrong. After a splashy opening weekend, there were stretches of several days at a time when essentially nothing would be happening, and I would worry that the project wouldn’t fund or that I had done a poor job of the whole mess.

That’s not how it turned out, though. Like most things in most artistic careers, there are ups and downs and in-betweens, and while being a writer requires a thick hide and persistence, managing a Kickstarter does, too.

I tried not to bombard people with updates while still providing meaningful and interesting content. I tried not to blast about the campaign on social media too much while still keeping it on the radar. These are hard balances to strike, and I’m not sure I got it perfectly right, but then I’m not sure there even is a “perfectly right” for every audience. I can say that I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from people about the way it has been running, and the campaign has ultimately been funded, so there’s that. The whole process so far has been a positive experience.

beautiful cover art and design by Lucianna Chixaro Ramos

At this point, we’re working on stretch goals, which will allow me to take the book “on tour.” I’ve already received a few invitations for events in 2019 in three different Texas cities, so that’s a great start. I’d like to reach a wider audience. So if you were on the fence about joining the community supporting this book, you still have a few hours left to do so. Click here for the link.

Thank you, thank you, thank you so much to everyone who has already done so. Seventy amazing people so far have contributed to the realization of this book, and I’m super excited to share it with you. With any luck — and with what I hope will be a smooth production schedule and process — it will be out in time for the holidays!