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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Monday Earworm: Space

When I taught AP Gothic Lit. I included this song as a springboard into discussion about female vampires in 19th-century literature. Now that I’m going to be teaching a different AP class this year, I might still use this song as part of a unit on feminist literature — and why sometimes people who don’t understand the concept of feminism very well still assume it to be threatening.

Please feel free to add your thoughts to this discussion in the comments below.

 

So, What’s Been Happening, And What Comes Next

I hope you all enjoyed my Poem-A-Day series this year for National Poetry Month! I loved curating it and am already working on next year’s series. (In case you missed the poems from this April, though, click here to begin with the 1st and then follow the links at the bottoms of the pages to read them all.)

And then what came after National Poetry Month? May, also known as National Stress Out About Grades Month, or the Month of AP Exams and (in Texas, at least) Finals and More Grading Than Ought To Be Allowed By The Laws Of Human Decency. (Yes, I’ve heard the adorable arguments about assigning fewer papers so I’ll have fewer papers to grade. Doesn’t seem to help. Funny that.) At any rate, May is universally stressful for teachers here, and, well, that’s where things are with my day job. But I’m getting close to the end of all of that, because summer. I have, at the time of this post, 29 essay tests, 7 screenplays, and 29 in-class writing assignments left to grade before my final exam on Friday morning.

I can do this.

I think I can do this.

At any rate, it’s a finite problem. The semester always ends.

And once it does, I’ll be back to posting here on the blog. Not every day, dear readers. But the Monday Earworms, which seem to be popular, will probably come back, and there’ll be more substantive posts here and there as well. Maybe some poetry — maybe even some of my poetry.

What else is taking up my writing time these days? Thank you for asking.

Look for a new book of poems to be out later this year. (That’s Priority One at the moment, due to my editor in probably fewer weeks than it seems like.)

I’m also shopping around a high fantasy novel that’s the first of a trilogy.

For those of you who loved Finis. — and I’m so happy and grateful to those of you who have sent me emails and tweets and letters and marvelously illustrated cards about how much you’re still enjoying it! — there’s another story set in that world, currently in revisions. (Want to know whom it’s about? Think wolves. I’m really excited about this one!) Finis. is now also available at a new venue where you can purchase it as an ebook, or even read it for free: click here for the Myth Machine experience.

And because I just don’t have enough to do, I’m developing a textbook for the AP Gothic Literature class I’ve been teaching for the last quite-a-number-of-years.

Finally, as if that weren’t enough, I’m about a third of the way into writing a brand-new standalone novel. This one doesn’t have a working title yet, but imagine a Steampunk-flavored ghost story which includes political intrigue and romance, and you might get a little idea of what’s coming. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I had that manuscript ready to send out this time next year?

Yes. Yes, it would. We shall see.

Monday Earworm: Bee-Gees and Pink Floyd

So Spring Break is over now, and re-entry after a holiday from school is always challenging. I’m frequently reminded of the day my mother took me to the parish school where I would be entering kindergarten (for the second time, at this new school, because the diocese didn’t think I was old enough for first grade). I stayed at that school all the way through eighth grade graduation, and their insistence that I start kindergarten with other children my age (despite my academic and intellectual abilities) was perhaps one of the few genuinely good administrative choices I ever witnessed there.

But I’m reminded of it because, that day she took me there to register me, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” had been playing on the radio in the car, and I remember singing the song’s chorus (the only part I could remember) over and over as we walked through the school building, and I kept misplacing the word “inspiration” for “education.” So I was singing, “We don’t need no inspiration…” And I asked my mom what inspiration meant, and she either didn’t or couldn’t really tell me.

I’m sure there are other deeper psychological reasons for my associating that song with the awfulness of my experience at that school, but I’ll leave that for another time.

This morning on the way to school, my kids and I cheerfully sang and danced along with the Bee-Gees’ “Staying Alive” on my iPod. (We are disco fans. They especially love it when I dance like John Travolta at the stop lights. Just the arms, of course, because, come on. No idea what the other motorists think. Not really sure I’m concerned about it, either.)

So in honor of how challenging it is to come back to school after a break longer than an ordinary weekend, I give you this. Enjoy.