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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
JUN
05

The Best Kind of To-do List

Last time I talked about reading, which I confessed I didn't devote as much time to as I wish I did. I have to split this time with writing, see, but that means I don't devote as much time to writing as I wish I did either. Especially in the early months after one of my books comes out, I become a bit lax. (Although Yuppie came out in October, soooooo I'm not sure I can keep using this as an excuse.)

Sending out a survey related to my next book project has re-energized me, and I spent last weekend writing several pages. It was a long weekend because of Memorial Day, and I had added three check boxes next to the "write" item on my to-do list, meaning I was going to write each of the three days. The best part was, by the time the third day rolled around, the only thing left on the list was the third "write" check box. In case this is in any way unclear, what I'm saying is that the only thing on my to-do list for Monday was WRITE! It was truly a writer's dream.

I'm pleased with the direction this new project is taking, and if it ends up being about the same length as most of my other books, then I'm about 30% done with the initial draft of the manuscript. And so progress is happening, even if it will be a long time before I get another chance to write for three days in a row. I'll take what I can get.

APR
17

Carlsbad Flower Fields and a Survey

This is one of those times that I quiet the inner voices of frustration and panic over how ridiculously expensive it is to live in San Diego County and consider that the financial premium is sometimes worth it. Because it's just so damn beautiful here. The ocean, the weather, and, more specifically, the Flower Fields in Carlsbad that bloom each spring.

For those of us who live here and take time to notice, we can see the evolution of the fields coming together over the entire year. I don't know much about flowers, BUT I do know it sure looks like the overall maintenance of the fields is a large undertaking. And there's nothing quite like seeing the fields in full bloom, which they were this weekend, looking nothing short of spectacular. If you're in the area, don't miss this. If you're planning a visit in the next few weeks, don't miss it either. If you're in any other category, put this on your bucket list for an April in your future.

Easter is a lovely time to reflect, not just about the religious significance if it holds that for you, but also about spring and re-birth in general, new paths or projects that can leave us refreshed. I'm continually working on myself and my own next steps, both small and large, and one of those is to continue plugging away at my newest writing project. If you're at all interested in contributing to that project, I'm currently looking for perspectives from women...those with children and those without. Click the link below that applies to you if you have 3 minutes to take a brief survey. Your anonymous comments may end up making it into my next book!!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PTNNQR3 Children

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PTGJWQQ No Children

MAR
06

Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree

There's a children's song that likens apricot blossoms to popping popcorn, and I have to say, it really does kind of look like that. This is my first blossom season as the owner of an apricot tree, and the whole thing is pretty charming. I now own three different types of fruit trees, and it's interesting how it makes me more aware of the seasons. Or maybe it's the passage of time. Or maybe it's that the passage of time is now more formally segmented in these seasonal cycles. Don't get me wrong, fruit trees are a bit tricky to figure out, and I'm still learning. But overall it adds a new element to the year based on where the trees and their crops are at any given time.

My lemon tree produces fruit all year round. Meaning the tree is covered with lemons in various stages of growing, from tiny green bulbs to medium-sized fruit gradually turning yellow, to fully-grown lemons that are ready to pick. There's less pressure with a lemon tree, in that you always have what you need when you need it. And when you pick one, there's another one growing right behind it. My orange tree produces throughout the year as well, but it's more in batches, where the oranges tend to grow at the same rate, meaning they're ready at the same time. And then there's the apricot tree, which works all year to produce one harvest. It's one and done, perfect for making a big batch of jam to enjoy throughout the year, but it does mean more pressure, in that if anything goes wrong, you're not going to get any fruit and will have to wait a whole year before getting another chance.

I would guess you can categorize almost everything in life as being like one of these trees. I think of writing like a lemon tree, in that there's no one single right time for it. It happens all year round, anytime, as you need it or as it finds you. There's no season for writing, per se, and I think that's what we could say about any of our hobbies. They fill the time when we have it and provide everything from escape to relief to satisfaction. For things that require more time, work, and preparation and ultimately produce a single brief but amazing result, these are like apricot trees. I'm working on one right now myself, and have been for months. It's something I've wanted to make happen for many years and involves multiple parties and schedules and quite a few logistics that need to align. I'll only get one shot at it, and although the result will be amazing and completely worth it, it's not something I'll get to experience again. I guess that's what makes apricot trees so special.

One last note about fruit trees. Their seasons remind me that while nothing is permanent (the winters of our lives turn into springs), the pattern certainly is. Meaning getting through a metaphorical winter doesn't mean there isn't another one coming behind it--one that could be even more devastating. But springs truly do follow every winter, so I'll leave you with the lyric of one of my Grandpa's favorite songs: "Deep in December, it's nice to remember, although you know the snow will follow. Deep in December, it's nice to remember the fire of September that made us mellow. Deep in December, our hearts should remember and follow."

FEB
19

Catching Up

I didn't realize an entire month had gone by since my last post, but before we discuss anything else, we simply must discuss this chicken. Er, this not chicken. As a vegetarian, I've been thrilled with all the fake meats that have become so prevalent (and dare I say...popular?), but chicken is notably harder to imitate than ground beef. That said, I was pretty excited about KFC getting in the Beyond Meat game. Admittedly, I was a teensy bit less excited after eating it, only because I guess I had hoped somehow that the texture would be more chicken-like, but coated in that delicious coating and dipped in a tangy sauce, it's another solid non-meat option when opting for fast food. (Word to the wise, 6 of these "nuggets" are MUCH more filling than 6 standard chicken nuggets. And in more wise words, Quorn has my favorite meatless nuggets. Try them if you haven't.)

What a month it's been. From fake meats to making my first-ever lasagna (with, you guessed it, Beyond Meat!), there have been two work trips (including a complimentary upgrade to a $1900 per night villa the likes of which I will never find myself in ever again), one family trip, a new at-home work station, a private showing of a record-breaking $1 Million dollar pearl, multiple meet-ups with dear friends from my hometown, a new kitchen table (it only took two of us an hour and a half to put it together), my first runs both on a treadmill and in sub-30-degree temperatures, a probably related new running injury, and, naturally, as much Olympics viewing as I've been able to fit in.

All this said, I've done NO WRITING over this same time period. I've got it on my list for this blessed long weekend, and I'm looking forward to getting back into it. It's always a bit hard when a new book comes out to let the launch mode you've been so focused on go and to move back into writing mode. Especially when you're starting a new project, it can take a while for things to start cranking. But just from the stray hours here and there while preparing for the launch of Yuppie where I did manage to buckle down and write something, I'm already almost 20% done with what MIGHT end up being my next book. So I'm excited to see where this new little manuscript baby might take me. I'm equally excited to see how much progress they've made on fake chicken by the time it's done.

SEP
12

Welcome to my Laboratory

What you're looking at is chicken. Vegan chicken, that is. It's a recipe I recently got from my sister-in-law that has become a regular staple for me. It requires ingredients like Vital Wheat Gluten and Nutritional Yeast (both of which I had previously never heard of), although what I can't get over is the way the recipe produces a dough...a dough that then gets steamed into a solid state and somehow becomes these, for lack of a better term, blobs. Honestly, when I'm making it I can't help but feel like I'm some kind of scientist in a laboratory, you know, just growing chicken blobs from dough. As you do.

I've oft lamented the fact that I can't really create anything with my hands. I don't know how to make stuff. Art, crafts, homemade gifts. I don't have any skills that translate into creating anything that anyone would want. Or consider particularly well done. Writing really is my only creative vehicle, and on most days, this is enough. But on other days, I yearn to CREATE something from nothing. So I get a weird enjoyment out of creating these chicken blobs.

I turned my home into a laboratory again this weekend by attempting my first-ever batch of homemade mosquito repellant. Mosquitos really aren't an issue here in Southern California, and in all time I've lived in my house, I haven't had a problem. Imagine my surprise when a sneaky (and greedy) lone mosquito proceeded to bite me 10 times over the course of a 30-minute window while I sat in the backyard reading. My reaction was swift and unyielding, in that I am TAKING BACK MY YARD. It's now full of citronella plants, and I crushed a bunch of leaves yesterday and spent hours brewing my homemade concoction. I won't say it smells great (it doesn't), but I did sit outside yesterday for an hour, surrounded by my plants and covered in my homemade goop, and no mosquito dared approach. Creation at work.

And finally, again in the spirit of creation, I'm brainstorming some cookie ideas (ingredients and flavors), because what laboratory could be more fun than a baking laboratory??!! I'd love to be good enough at making cookies that people seek them out. Not a shop, necessarily, but maybe a friend will ask me to make cookies for her kid's birthday party. So the creation will continue. I think it's such a natural part of life, to want to take things that exist and turn them into other, more desirable, helpful (or delicious!) things. Here's to creation, of all sizes and scales!

APR
17

On Not Working

I recently took a week off of work to stay home and do nothing. Well, I did sneak out to check out the Carlsbad Flower Fields (where I snagged the blooms pictured above). So I didn't entirely stay home. And I did go through my new manuscript 4 times to re-work some paragraphs and transitions after getting it back from my editor. So I didn't entirely do nothing. But I honestly couldn't remember a time where I'd ever done that before...took a week off work and didn't actually go anywhere.

I highly recommend it.

The thing about not working but getting paid for it is that there is literally nothing better. I mean, who wouldn't love to not have to work? But most of us have to provide for ourselves. It's one of the complaints I bring up in this new book...the frustration around people who reference working girls as "career women," as if there is any other type of woman for us to be.

And speaking of this new book, one of the last edits I made before turning it into my editor was a revision to the section where I talk about the notion of being a workaholic. I am decidedly NOT one, even though I draw satisfaction from the work I do, so I try and limit work to 8 hours a day as much as possible. In making the point that I like working, just not all the time, there's a line in the book where I had said, "I want to work, just not for more than 8 hours a day." Yet the line didn't sit quite right. Because I wish I didn't have to work. I wish I could have more weeks like the one I just had, sitting in my house editing a manuscript with an occasional outing to appreciate the beauty of nature.

"I want to work--and by that I mean I most definitely don't want to work..." is the beginning of how I ended up amending the sentence to make it more accurate. It's sitting better with me now, having admitted that I wish I didn't have to work at all. Alas, it's our lot. So we'll have to settle for quick trips to the flower fields of life whenever we can get away. My suggestion is to take those trips whenever you can get them, to carve specific time out just for this, and to not feel guilty about a few days away from the office. It will all be there when you get back, just as you left it. The flowers, on the other hand, are fleeting. So go. See them. Then come back and make any revisions you need to.

MAR
28

Enjoying the View

Considering I've lived just a few blocks from the ocean for the past several years, it is perhaps a bit disgraceful that I've spent so little time at the beach. It's safe to say the novelty wore off relatively quickly, and equally quickly my life became full with new friends and pursuits that cut into my beach time. (I also write books. Have I mentioned that?) I can think of other reasons, too. My fair skin that burns easily, the incessant and annoying tourists that crowd this little beach town between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and, of course, COVID-19. But it's there, the ocean. And every time I see it, I have to remind myself that it's real. That I live here.

Another rather disgraceful fact about living here is that I don't leave my little beach town all that often. I'm not really talking about vacations or work trips, which are a regular part of my life. But when I'm in town, I rarely hop over to the next town, or the next after that, or to any number of the seaside communities that surround me. My life is here, my office is here, and I just don't find myself exploring very much, certainly not as much as I used to. You can blame part of this on COVID-19 as well, but you can also blame part (read: most) of it on me just being lazy. It's simply easier to stay put. (Plus, traffic. You cannot underestimate it.)

And so I've been trying to explore a bit more lately, putting a few miles on my car and seeing corners of my community that are new to me. It probably seems simple to you, but especially after a year of largely staying at home due to the pandemic, it can be a strangely powerful feeling to be driving down a road and realize that you've never been there before. (Even more strange if the road is, hypothetically, only a few miles from your house.) Last weekend I visited a city a few hours north and spent some time appreciating the same ocean, just on a different stretch of shoreline, and it filled me with a rather unique sense of happiness. One that I think stems from knowing there is so much world left for us to explore, and that most of the time we don't have to go very far to find it.

JAN
23

Character Development...Meaning my Own

Because my cat likes to remind me that she doesn't get nearly enough face time on this blog. And because this is literally where she positions herself every time I get out my laptop to edit. Which I'm doing a lot lately as I prep my new manuscript. I thought I pretty much had it the way I wanted it but recently decided to make some changes to the final chapters that potentially affect the overall structure of the storyline. So now I'm needing to read through the whole thing several more times to figure out if it works. Which is all to say that my cat has really been having to fight with my computer for my attention. Not that she has anything to complain about. COVID has been the best year of her life. (I'm sure your pets would agree.)

I've softened somewhat over my years as a writer. I didn't think too much in the beginning about people's feelings, or about adjusting language (or removing certain stories altogether) based on how others might feel to read about themselves or my opinions and perceptions of them. Partly because I was never out to get anyone, so nothing I said really seemed that bad, and partly because telling the story I wanted to tell and being honest about my experiences was always the most important thing. Not to say that it still isn't, but I've had a bit of a change of heart when it comes to sharing certain things. And there have been several changes I've made in my last few manuscripts that I probably wouldn't have made ten years ago. Or even five. 

It becomes quite a balancing act then, to make sure I'm still preserving the intent of a certain storyline, as well as the tone by which I mean to convey it, while also minimizing the potential for negative reactions from those being (anonymously) mentioned. Don't get me wrong...this doesn't mean this new manuscript won't still ruffle some feathers if the right people give it a read (which, for the record, almost never happens with me being such a no-name author), all I'm saying is that I think about it more now. And I am, on occasion, willing to change or edit or cut if I can't quite bring myself to say something in particular. Like I said, I've softened ever so slightly. And I think it's important, at least it has been for me as I grow and develop as a person on this planet. Of course, none of this means anything to my cat, who is at this very moment staring at me and wondering when I'll stop typing and pet her. 

OCT
03

Vintage October

Somehow I managed to go the entire month of September without blogging, so I'll just catch you up by saying it included a resort getaway in 120 degree weather, an attempt at golfing, an expansion of my super amazing herb garden (pesto on the menu this week!), an almost full return to my pre-injury running distance, and, of course, about a million read-throughs of the new manuscript. And by a million I mean like 4. But still. It does become rather easy to become so fatigued with your own writing that you're pretty convinced that it's terrible.

Editing really is an interesting process. I find as I get older and write more books that it does get easier to cut things out if they don't need to be there or if they make the story worse. Certain stories I've fought for in the past, sure they were good enough to include, or maybe it's just I really wanted to tell them, whether or not they fit. Certain stories it took my editor recommending I scrap them for me to realize that them fitting is more important than how attached to them I am. Sort of like the time I moved to New York and had to get rid of almost all of my possessions, in that once you make up your mind that only the best most favorite things can be kept, it becomes relatively easy to part with everything else. If I've learned anything about life, it's how little you actually need.

And now it's October, and for the first time (thanks to my sister), I put up Halloween decorations! I've got a great costume in the works and some pumpkin spice muffins ready to roll as soon as this California heat dies down a bit and I can use my sorry excuse for an oven without fraculating the entire house. Fall does make me pine for New York, and for Cleveland before it. Fall is just the best, and sometimes it seems like it would even be worth putting up with snow again for. (I know, I sound crazy.) But really, there's nothing like fall in Ohio, if you can just get past all the Ohio State crap in people's yards. I hope that however you're celebrating fall and Halloween this month, that you take a moment to reflect on simpler times and years. This picture was a nice reminder of such a time for me. There have been and will be better times for all of us, and at the very least, there will be another of my books to read in 2021! 

JUN
07

Reading Your Work

I recently did an interesting thing. I read through all my books. Since I've only recently become a Kindle user, I'd never before read them on Kindle. So I decided it might be interesting thing to see what they all look like, what the experience is like reading them electronically. There are small annoyances, like having to either click forward to see footnotes and then click back, or waiting until the end of the chapter to see them, at which point you forget what they were supposed to apply to in the first place. But, as I've previously mentioned, reading books on Kindle is, well, kinda nice. 

The oddest thing about reading your own books is that there are parts you don't remember putting in there. There are events and experiences you may have forgotten, or at least forgotten how exactly it is that they went down. And for my first book especially, granted I wrote it over ten years ago, the writing struck me as...not great. Or at the very least, it made me wish I could re-write it now. Of course, that book more than any other deals with childhood and adolescence, and the more simple writing style was to some extent what I was going for.

This is all to say that the most striking thing about reading all my books, in order and back to back, is how much better the writing gets. My editor mentioned this to me after reading the Newbie manuscript, but until reading them all myself this past week, I hadn't really understood what she meant. Part of me is a tad embarassed over this, when it comes to the older books not being as polished as perhaps they could be, but it also makes me proud to see the progress I've made as a writer. Besides, everyone has to start somewhere, right? I can only hope that I continue to improve over time. Now 60% done with manuscript #5, I'm certainly getting lots of practice!

MAY
15

Reopening: Beaches Edition

It's an interesting thing living at the beach when all the beaches are closed. Though for the best, it's part eerie and part sad to look out over the coastline and see not a single person on the beach or in the water. Of course, the headline here in California has been that the beaches have begun to reopen. Well, they opened, then closed after opening day saw crowds blatantly ignoring social distancing precautions, and now have reopened again. 

In my own corner of the coast, I confess it's nice to see people back on the beach, and so far the crowds have been light. You can't sit or gather or "hang out," you've pretty much got to keep it moving (ie. surfing, walking, and running), which I'm sure is contributing to the low turnouts thus far. We'll see how things change as summer arrives, but it's nice to have the beach back as a possibility, if only as an alternate route for my daily walk.

Other ways I pass the time include attempting copy-cat recipes for Disneyland treats (the withdrawal struggle is real, folks) and plugging away on my new manuscript, which is now more than 40% done. It's certainly not ALL bad, staying at home, but I'm definitely looking forward to more things reopening. Particularly my waxing salon (that struggle is especially real). I'd love to look out over a crowded beach and instead of worry over the potential spread of a virus simply think to myself that it's just summer. 

APR
14

Quarantine Cats

This post communicates so much. That I've devolved into a near constant wearing of sweats and padding around the house in my socks. That my cat continues to live her best life. That I'm reading much more than usual. That I am indeed a gem. And that my single 10-pound weight means that I am obviously very strong.

What it doesn't so much communicate but what is absolutely true is that I am now more than 20% done with my new manuscript. My new book!! It continues to be a fun project to work on...since there are literally no other options. I may finish this one in record time. 

MAR
30

Quarantine Silver Linings

In a world where working from home has become the new norm, headlines are grim, and fear and anxiety reign supreme, it can be difficult to stay positive. And when we do manage to shift our mindset, feeling positive can feel, well, a bit inappropriate knowing there are so many out there who are suffering. But striving to stay positive has to be a part of our daily routine, and I for one have started to really focus on the small, happy things that are coming from this otherwise awful situation.

The writer in me is grateful for the extra writing time I'm getting. I've started working on my next book, my FIFTH (yikes!!), and I'm really enjoying the process. I know I'm totally biased, but I really think writing is one of the best creative outlets, and given how much extra time everyone is getting at home, if you're a person at all inclined to write, to wax prolific on any number of topics or plots, then open those blank Word documents and start typing!

The employee in me is grateful to still be working, and that, at least for now, my job is one that I can do from home. I know many are not so fortunate, and even though it's a tad boring and my house is super tiny, having the ability to work here is a huge blessing and I feel that every day.

The reader in me is grateful that Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is the book I got stuck with before all the libraries closed. I had been waiting for my turn for months, and it is one of the best books I've read in years.

The partner in me is grateful to have a significant other who is so technologically savvy, and who has set me up with a functioning work station and is so quick to help with anything I can't figure out. He's even gifted me a Kindle as an early birthday present so I can continue to have reading material. (More on the Kindle in another post. I have thoughts.)

The pet parent in me is grateful that my cat is so damn happy to have me home.

The daughter/aunt/sister in me is grateful that my family has been so much more connected. We've been using FaceTime and Google Duo, and even though we're ALWAYS apart, we've really not been leveraging these options until now. On Friday night alone, we talked with each of my siblings, and over the weekend I got to participate in some virtual game time with my nephews and watch my new baby niece shake her little fists. It delights me to see all the family time everyone is getting.

The consumer in me is grateful for Amazon workers who still deliver packages, to store clerks restocking the shelves, restaurateurs still cooking food for takeout, and producers still releasing binge-worthy content.

Most of all, the human in me is grateful for the doctors and nurses who are working tirelessly to help and treat those who are battling this virus. I'm not sure I'll be able to say at the end of this that neither me nor anyone I love got sick, and that's a terrifying thought, for all of us, but let's do what we can to foster positivity and be grateful for every little thing.

FEB
15

Back in the Saddle

I always give myself a nice long writing break after a book comes out. It's relaxing. So much so that when I start thinking about starting the next book, it makes me feel a bit stressed. Like, am I ready for that? Do I want to do that? Do I really want to do that? And so I stall. Until I can talk myself into putting my big girl writer pants back on and getting on with it.

Which is my way of saying that I have officially gotten on with it and begun a new book. I'm only a few thousand words in, but it's been a delicious reminder of how much I really do love writing. It's not a chore (aside from actually finding the time to do it), and each topic gives me the chance to delve into a different chapter of life and remember what it was like. This one I am particularly enjoying, but for a completely different reason than why I enjoyed writing Newbie so much. 

This book is not without risk, which is something I'll have to evaluate as I get further into it, but for now, I think there's a way I can write it and keep myself out of trouble. One can only hope.

DEC
15

Launch Aftermath

Aftermath is probably the wrong word, but it's always interesting as an author to go through the first couple of months after a book launch. Of course, my circle of readers and fans is quite small, so take anything I say with a grain of reality salt, but it's nice to hear tidbits of feedback as they come in from readers. I heard from a friend on the east coast that she'd just finished Newbie and loved it. A coworker bought a copy and asked me to sign it. My sweet mother bought a bunch of copies to give as Christmas gifts. I donated a book basket at a Christmas party auction last weekend and the lady who won contacted me through my website and told me how excited she is. And this picture was taken from a recent work trip where one of our client attendees brought in her copy for me to sign.

I mention these, and revel in them so much, because my aforementioned small readership means I don't get too many of them. So I feel ridiculously tickled every time it happens, knowing each happy reader is something extraordinarily special to me. Should you ever find yourself with a copy of one of my books and enjoy it, of course I hope you'll tell someone else about it, but I also hope you'll drop me a line and tell me what parts make you smile. I guarantee it will make my day.

MAR
22

Changes

It’s a strange thing, getting your manuscript back from the editor. On one hand, she’s paid to help you make it better. On the other hand, she gone done marked up this precious thing you’ve spent years working on. And you’d really rather she just find it perfect as is. I realize this latter scenario isn’t realistic. And if she’d told me it was perfect, she probably wouldn’t be a very good editor. But this does mean that I’ll be spending the weekend sifting through a sea of red marks, trying to sort out how to now make the book better based on her edits, feedback, and suggestions.

The editing process in general requires a lot of restraint on the part of a writer. You have to actively stop yourself from being too attached to any one part of the book, from getting a bit defensive at the constructive criticism aimed at this thing you’ve put so much heart and soul into. Because this is the way you want it. This is the way you like it. This is the way you wrote it. It hits me fresh with each new book, the manuscript returned to me peppered with suggested changes. It initially feels quite icky. Oh, hell no am I cutting that part. Or turning that complex sentence into three short and simple ones. Psssshhhh. But it helps to remember that readers won’t necessarily interpret things the way I believe I’m putting them across. They won’t necessarily know what I’m referencing by mentioning, say, a John Cusack movie while inside of Serendipity (doesn’t that one seem obvious, though?), or, perhaps, a poem about what happens to a dream deferred (Langston Hughes, anyone?).

The important thing about this manuscript--and all other manuscripts my editor has handed back to me over the near decade I’ve been working with her—is that there were no major problems that needed fixing. From timing to organization to structure, this one was given a pass. Which is really what I’m looking for with a manuscript, hoping I’ve gotten it to a point where any changes that need to be made are of a small, grammatical variety. Sentences shortened, typos removed, awkward wording replaced. Having achieved this once again is what I’ll be striving to focus on as I go through the marked-up pages this weekend. Cake, right? Let’s hope.

FEB
18

The Hand-Off

This picture is really just because my cat feels like she doesn't get mentioned enough on this blog. Also because I was out of town and we are happy to be reunited. But mostly because the activity in this picture (reading) is significant. Having turned in manuscript #4 to my editor, it means I once again have time for books and the reading of them. 

My editor is the only one who reads my books before they're typeset. This is probably stupid. But it's what I'm most comfortable with. I figure people have different opinions, and the more hands I have in the pot (in the form of people who have read the manuscript), the more feedback I'll get--most likely differing feedback--and at the end of the day, it should come down to my own opinions of how I want this book to be. Not anyone else's.

Needless to say, what my editor thinks of the books is incredibly important to me. Not just because she catches typos and things that could probably be worded better, but also because she's my only test reader. The only one I can ask if a certain thing is offensive or if the timeline is confusing. And so I wait in what I would describe equal parts excitement and anxiety for her to send her edits and overall feedback, hoping beyond hope that she thinks it works, and that she enjoys reading it. 

That's what I hope for all readers, of course. That they settle in for a few hours of escape, feeling upon the book's end that they've truly been somewhere, even if that somewhere is simply somewhere other than where they usually are. 

DEC
31

The Letter

Every New Year’s Eve I write a letter to myself. I type it, actually, on the vintage typewriter I bought with my tax return while living in New York City. I do this partly because the typewriter was expensive and I’m still trying to get my money’s worth. And partly I suppose because I love the look of typewritten letters. I want ink on a page. The clap of letters being lined up together. The ding of running out of space on your current line. To me it is charming, and somehow more meaningful than simply pushing print.

The letter I write to myself each year is usually one of advice and encouragement. There are things I want myself to focus on, to do better at in the coming year. There are things I want myself to let go of; to give myself a break on. The letter I wrote a year ago today may be one of my favorites so far, despite the majority addressing a certain personal goal I had for 2017 that I did not achieve, the result of which was a much more difficult year. On the eve of 2018, then, I encouraged myself to own it, accept it, and to do better in the new year.

Which I did.

And I have my letter to thank for that, as it sat on my nightstand table and reminded me on a daily basis of what I deserved. I'd had Scotland on the brain when I wrote it, having returned from a vacation there a couple of months before. I had climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat, in a windstorm, and taken in the one of the most beautiful views I will ever see in this world. And so I leave you with my favorite line from last year’s letter, a sentiment that I have perhaps only in 2018 come to truly understand.

“You saw the greens and blues of a world too beautiful to be spent alongside those not battling the wind just to stand next to you.”

Here’s to a new year, a new letter, and a new chance to do/get/be what we need most.

DEC
02

Manuscript #4: Done

Every weekend I put "write" on my to-do list, which is why this weekend is significant. It's the first time in a couple of years that "write" has been replaced with "edit." Because my fourth manuscript is officially done. There's a lot of work still to do, but I cannot emphasize what a big deal it is to get the writing all down. To finish the last few paragraphs and know that you've come to the natural stopping place. That it all feels done. 

Of course, for me, when I say the manuscript is done, this doesn't mean that it's ready to hand over. I have months of editing to do, not to mention organization and chronology, since I'm the odd memoir writer who does not write in anything resembling chronological order. I just pick a piece or scene or topic and write it up, then pick another one the next time I get a chance to write. So right now it's not in the order I want it to be for you readers. 

Like I said, there's more work to do, but my goal was to have the first draft, to have all the book's innards, written by the end of the year. It feels like a Christmas present to myself that I was able to follow through. Bring on the editing. And also that beach walk.

OCT
26

Manuscript Babies

 

This picture was taken without my knowledge while at Disneyland last week with a certain little person in my life. This little person is quite different than his older brother, whom I took to Disneyland last year, and as a person with no little people of my own, the differences between the personalities of little people is not something I’m able to observe very often. That’s one reason why last week was such a surprise to me. I was expecting the week to go much differently. Neither worse nor better, it was just different. Because they are different. We spent much more time observing details than we did careening down mountains. And I have no complaints about that.

When it comes to differences, I can’t even really compare animals because I only have one (best girl I have, that’s what I tell her). So that leaves me—the childless cat-lady author—with nothing but manuscripts to compare. True that they are my babies, in a way only someone without children would say. True that they exist because of me. That they make me worry and cry and stress and don’t make me any money. That I love them all unconditionally. That they are each my favorite but for very different reasons.

I’ve been making steady progress on my new manuscript, up to 90% finished now. 90%!!! It’s that weird part of the writing process where you’re so close to being done (exciting!) but long finished with your favorite and best parts (demotivating!). See, I don’t write my manuscripts in chronological order. I don’t write from start to finish. I make a list (which constantly changes) of things I know I’ll want to include in the book, and then I pick one and write it up. Then pick another. And another. But I’m no fool. And I pick the things I want to write about most first. If that sentence sounded strange, what I mean is I first pick the things I most want to write about. The Goods. The Juice. The Triumph. The Bitch Who Lived Downstairs.

Which means I’m left now with the dregs, if you will. The stuff I keep passing over each time I select a topic to write. The stuff I haven’t chosen until now. It’s not bad. It’s just not the stuff I couldn’t wait to write down. But the end is near, and that’s pretty incredible. A new sibling to my other manuscripts, one which I’m sure to love equally and with abandon. Even if he takes cross-eyed selfies when I’m not looking.