She’s leaving me, and it’s my own fault.
My daughter wants to be an actress. “Acting is hard,” I told her. “You’ll have rejections, and critics, and people constantly telling you you aren’t good enough.”
“But I can deal with that,” she said. “I’ve watched you deal with it with your writing, and you always come out on top.”
She really wants this and I’ve been the example that they can have what they want if they’re willing to work hard enough. She wants this like she wants air. She wants it like I want a four book deal with Harper. And so when she got the brilliant idea to go to Tuacahn High School in St. George, I couldn’t say no, because I know what it’s like to want something so huge. I know what it’s like to drop pennies in fountains and make wishes bigger than the sky. I let her apply.
Three days ago, I got the email that said congratulations.
I cried and held this information hostage until I could process it and deal with it on my terms. And I cried some more (and continue to do so). Friday, while she was at the regional science fair, I made her favorite dinner, pulled out the china, and crystal, and sparkling white grape juice. I made place cards with messages in them for the kids.
For the boys, the cards were little notes of how proud I was of their accomplishments and their work. In hers were the words, “Congratulations! Tuacahn said yes!”
All the while, I swiped tears from my cheeks and hummed the tune slipping through my fingers by ABBA. Wasn’t it just a moment ago she was placed in my arms and pronounced MINE? Isn’t there a parental contract that we’d get to keep her for eighteen years? After several years of infertility and praying for a child, we were given a gift so beyond delightful, and now I am giving her permission to leave four years before her contract with me is up. Foolish, foolish mom.
And yet, how could I say no? How could I hold her back from reaching? Wouldn’t that make me a hypocrite of the worst sort?
So I made dinner, set the table, lit the candles, and held my breath while she read the words inside her card. I won’t lie that I cried some more, but found myself surprised when her hazel eyes met mine and they were also brimming with tears. She was excited and scared–overwhelmed. When our eyes met, it was with the knowledge that our lives were shifting, and the roles that we play for each other will change with that shift.
She can still back out, she has some time to decide for certain. It’s a grown up decision–the one to grow up. There are friends here, life here, brothers here, dad here and ME here. It’s good to know I am part of the reasons to stay. It’s good to know she’ll miss me. But ulitmately, I think she will go. Not because we are pushing her that direction. On the contrary–we are staying absolutely out of this decision. It has to be hers. But she will choose it because she has made wishes bigger than the sky.
I asked her, “Would you think I was a bad mom if I confessed I’ve been praying for you not to get in?”
She hugged me and said, “I think you’d be a bad mom if you’d been praying for anything else.”
Several moths ago, at dinnertime, one of the kids asked, “Will you celebrate when we move out?”
Mr. Wright said, “Yes.”
And we will. We will celebrate the lives stretching out in front of them like blank pages in a book waiting to be filled with grand adventures. We will celebrate and, apparently, we will cry.
My husband has always wanted me to write a mystery novel. I mean ALWAYS. He’s even bought me all kinds of “how to” books on writing mysteries. I’ve got books on weapons, poisons, motives–the works. It is a huge disappointment to him that I haven’t cracked the spine of one of those how-to books. But the next best thing to ME writing one is my best friend writing one, isn’t it?
I think so.
Josi is so incredibly busy planning writing conferences, and doing book stuff that I decided to forego the usual interview for her. I mean really, we all know that Josi is awesome and rocks the literary foundations of the world, so what more do we need to know about her (aside from the fact that she’s incredibly organized, snarky enough to make me laugh out loud, has awesome taste in food and music, and obviously has awesome taste in friends, because she does like me enough to answer her phone when I call)? Besides, once a person reaches Goddess status, it becomes just too much for us mere mortals. This is why I decided to interview one of the main characters of her new book (the mystery I will never write . . . sorry, honey).
There are all kinds of characters in the book who I could interview. I could interview the detectives, the murderer(though the murderer seemed a little unstable and wasn’t up to answering questions), the murder victim (though she was dead boring), the murder victim’s son (but let’s face it, what could he tell us since he was missing for the entire book?) or I could interview our heroine, Sadie Hoffmiller, but I hear this sassy culinary detective is on another case . . . somewhere in England if rumors are right.
So I interviewed the only other character available who was present for all the exciting stuff: the lemon tart. He was very obliging and doesn’t seem to mind the lime light even if he wishes it were lemon.
Me: So, wow, you were Anne’s last concern before she met her untimely demise. How does that make you feel?
Tart: Well, of course that makes me feel pretty special, but then . . . all tarts are special. Do you have any idea what kind of work goes into making a masterpiece like me? If you’re leaving this world with a lemon tart on the mind, you’re leaving this world happy.
Me: I do imagine you would feel special, but it might be a bit extreme to say she left the world happy. She was murdered after all.
Tart: Murdered schmurdered. She had a perfect lemon tart in the oven. She was happy; believe me.
Me: I’ll have to take your word for that. So what did you think of Sadie?
Tart: I knew right away she was one classy dame, right? She was the only one of the inefficient bozos to notice I was still baking. You have no idea how hot it gets when you start overbaking. When Sadie rescued me, I knew right away she’d figure out the whole murder thing.
Me: And figure it out she did. You have to admire a woman who can solve a murder case and make perfect applesauce on the side.
Tart: Hey. Why don’t you stay on topic huh? We’re not talking about any second rate applesauce. We’re taking about lemon tarts here. Didn’t you notice I am the cover model for this book? Didn’t you see my great pose? Applesauce has got nothing to do with this, got it?
Me: Um . . . er . . . right. Oh hey, look at the time. We’re going to have to cut this short but I appreciate you talking to me before your big finale.
Tart: Finale? What finale? Hey, who are all those guys with the spoons looking at me all hungry like that? Wait a minute! You set me up! Sadie! I’m sorry I insulted your applesauce! Sadie! Come save me!
Me: Well folks, that’s the end of our interview. I mean it . . . he’s all gone now. They didn’t even save me a bite. But you can take a bite out of a delicious read by going out and buying your own copy of Lemon Tart by Josi Kilpack today! And to share a little in the excitement, Josi’s Lemon Tart hit number one on the Deseret Book bestseller’s list. Josi really does rock!
What’s on the mp3 player: Eve 6 Inside Out
Last week , some weird things took place.
I received an email Tuesday asking me for the full manuscript on a query I sent out. I sent the query as an afterthought since I was sending it with another book the agent had asked for the full manuscript on. And hindsight tells me I sent that query prematurely being that the book wasn’t done, but I thought the agent would take longer in getting back to me.
She was fast.
And the book still wasn’t done.
And I panicked. So I took the day off work Wednesday and wrote. I’m surprised the keyboard didn’t catch fire because I wrote 5000 words by noon. I felt pretty excited about that, but the book still wasn’t done. I needed a break so went to the store, chatted with that cute man I’m married to, came home, checked my email and guess what I found in my email box.
ANOTHER email requesting the full manuscript of this same yet uncompleted novel, but by a different agent. Exhilarated, and feeling under extreme pressure, I went back to writing. At 12:30 am, I ended the day after having written 10, 979 words and completing a manuscript. That is the equivalent of 44 pages. In one day!
And the ending was awesome. And the writing was easy–it just flowed. Thursday, I spent doing edits. Friday, the manuscripts were mailed off. I wasn’t going to post any of this because I feared that the agents in question might read my blog and discover what a flake I am. But by gum I am so proud of the fact that I wrote 44 pages in one day that I cannot help but tell all of you about it! Who knew I was capable of that much writing in one day. And instead of being drained and exhausted when I was done, I was lit up and filled with energy. What an absolute rush! It wouldn’t have happened if Mr. Wright hadn’t been so supportive and been so willing to take the kids to a movie to give me the night in an empty house. And if Thursday night he hadn’t been willing to take the boys to pack meeting and then stay up with me until 2:30 am while I read out loud to him.
It really smoothes out the editing process to read out loud to someone with a discerning ear. I know how lucky I am to have him.
So when you all start wondering about this crazy writing gig you’re getting involved in, and you’re thinking maybe you can’t finish that book, you just remember, if Jules can do it, so can you! I had no idea I could write so much at once until I did. And you won’t know what you can do . . . until you get it done.
And I also found out I am the new Webelos leader. If you know my feet dragging attitude toward the scouting program, you’ll understand the irony that I would be asked to do this. Hopefully this will be a good experience where I can grow as an individual or something like that . . .
And last but not least you guys had some excellent high school woe stories. I laughed and cringed and felt your pain. And the winner is Blue. I’ll email you and get your address for the high school sucks prize. And just so you all know, high school kids should always be nice to future writers. We always get the last word. And those mean girls? Oh yeah, they are the victims of incompetent villains in my books.
Stephen King says that anyone who looks back on the ages between 14-18 with any enjoyment has something really wrong with them. I am inclined to agree.
I now have my own teenager and I watch her maneuver through girl world and girl fights, and boys you secretly love who will never know your name, and I think, “I am so sorry you have to go through this!” There are rivalries, jealousies, broken hearts, hurt feelings, real fear of failing, socially suicidal situations, and angst. They couple the word “teenage” with “angst” for a reason.
One of my single worst middle school experiences was when some cheerleaders threw my books into the garbage can while I was using the restroom. When I came out of the stall, the girls in their stupid short skirts were gone, and my books were gone. But I’d heard the thump of the garbage can and knew where my books had disappeared to, so I reached into the bathroom trash to retrieve my books. I had no other choice, no matter how the entire idea revolted me. It’s not like new ones were going to be sent via fairy godmother.
The cheerleaders came bursting back into the bathroom screaming, “Scrounge!” at the top of their lungs. I’m sure if I’d been placed in this day of camera phones, there would have been pictures to accompany the humiliation of the moment.
This little moment left me somewhat scarred. It left me insecure, and unstable within my own skin. It didn’t help that this same year included another incident where Mrs. Angel (who really was a sweet woman) told me I was pretty. No one had ever told me that in my whole life except my parents and grandma and they only said it out of obligation. She said it in front of one of those same cheerleaders from the bathroom incident. The cheerleader laughed out loud and rolled her eyes at the boy next to her–the one I had a mad secret crush on. Of course after that I knew I was ugly. The cheerleader had spoken, and the boy I adored in the privacy of my own mind had agreed.
I shudder to recall these moments–and yet, there were also first kisses, first loves, best friends that lasted all the way to adulthood (hopefully we’ll all become snarky old purple haired ladies going to lunch together and cussing in public)
Rae and I spent the evening last night discussing her version of girl world, her rivalries and jealousies, her heartbreaks and wounded ego. And I remembered (with far more clarity than I desired) how I had been in her situation. I had been sulky, afraid, and frequently acted like the victim. “Well, no one must like me because no one sat by me at lunch.” I would say this while never striving to get up, look around, and seeing if anyone else might be sitting alone and needing a friend.
Rae is better than me. She is stronger than me. She is smarter and more compassionate than me. She seeks out others to serve and befriend while I shrank from such things and instead felt sorry for myself.
Things did change due to a few people who were more like my Rae, people who sought me out and took me in (undeserving though I was) Things changed and I grew up.
It only came to my attention that I hadn’t really grown up about a year ago. It was at church and I sat alone, feeling slightly unloved and unwelcomed because I sat alone in relief society. The very word society means some sort of togetherness and there I was, not together at all. Nevermind the fact that I came in late and opted to sit in an area of the room that was mostly unoccupied. And when another woman came in just a bit after I had, and she sat three seats away, I allowed my discomfort to melt into self pity.
But during the lesson, I noticed how she shifted in her seat uncomfortably, much like I had been doing. I noticed her biting into her lip (I don’t bite my lip, but I have tons of other nervous habits). I looked at this woman and saw her as she really was. She wanted someone to sit with and be comfortable with, but she had not yet learned to feel comfortable in her own skin enough to make the first move. She didn’t sit close to me out of her own fear and insecurity, not because I was a plague to be avoided. (I’m really not. I shower regularly and use pretty scented lotions.) I wondered if–once upon a time, this woman’s books hadn’t been thrown in a garbage can too.
I made a decision to put an end to that girl who was so odd as a teenager. I put an end to that high school self filled with fear, uncertainty, and lack of self worth. And now I come late on purpose to class so I can seek out the one, whoever she may be, who sits alone and wishes not to sit alone. I’ve made some new friends. And by accepting, I feel accepted.
I realayed this insight to my daughter, thinking to pass on a hard-earned nugget of wisdom. She laughed and said, “Duh, Mom. How else are you supposed to make new friends?”
See, I told you she’s smarter than I am.
But in light of the concept of high school or middle school woes–if you have a nasty experience festering inside you, feel free to share here. We can all take deep breaths and feel grateful to be past that. Whoever has the nastiest high school moment will get a prize worthy of one who has suffered wrongfully at the hands of adolescence.
Sorry about the lack of internet presence recently. I’ve been in the mad throes of editing and writing and at the end of the day had nothing left over for blogging. (although I was well behaved and maintained a few posts over at writing on the wall)
I was only gone four days during the LTUE time period. One given over to eBay for a training where I feel more ignorant now than before the training, and three given over to the Life, the Universe and Everything science fiction and fantasy symposium at BYU. In those four days, my house fell to chaos. Dishes, laundry, vacuuming. But they were all happy, healthy, and getting along when I got home, so I couldn’t even be disgruntled over the mess.
Besides, a bit of chaos is a small price to pay to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world. The symposium’s Special Guests were Tracy and Laura Hickman. They were amazing. I know a lot of authors, but had never met the Hickman’s before. I loved them. I shared a room with my good friend Karen Hoover and spent three days soaking in the culture of fantasy and science fiction.
I had a great time seeing Lee Modesitt, even if it was only for a short while, and loved getting to be nanny to Jessica Day George’s baby for an hour. I am so grateful to those friends I have in the writing community who make me feel like I can do anything. And interestingly enough, Mette Ivie Harrison’s editor at Harper is the same one who asked for my full manuscript. I simply MUST find a way to work that to my advantage. How cool would it be to share an editor with Mette, who is one of the sweetest people I know? VERY.
I also got a button from Dan Wells (author of the up and coming book I Am Not A Serial Killer) The button has his book title on it which looks a wee bit like a self declaration (which it is since I’m NOT a serial killer). The button looks great against my black leather jacket so I doubt I’ll be taking it off any time soon. It also looks nice with my Jack Skellington button. I love Jack.
And at my LTUE signing, I sold out of my stack of books before James Dashner did. This makes me so happy. Forget the fact that James had a few books more than I did. I still sold out baby! I love that. And one of my way awesome fans brought me chocolate to my signing. I love chocolate bearing fans and totally laughed at all the girls screaming my name and shilling my booksigning. You guys are awesome. Everybody loves signing shillers!
Things have been great in my literary life. I’ve done a lot of free lance editing work and have found some great success and joy in that. And I am so close to finishing my work in progress I can smell the ink on the manuscript. This is very exciting for me. If you all missed LTUE, what can I say . . . I’m sorry. It was great. I hope you do all get to make it to the storymaker conference since it is going to be awesome and I am going to be kicking butt with the other sergeants at writer’s bootcamp this year.
Conferences are a great way to network. I’ve met many amazing people–people who have gone on to be beloved friends–at conferences. I’ve met editors, agents, writers I admire, and have gained an incredible education on the craft of writing from these same people. And if you’re anything like me, you probably will write your first book and think, “Wow! I rock!” And it will be amazing to you–beautiful in every way. You don’t know what you don’t know. My second book (unfortunately published and not yet out of print–sigh) is so riddled with adverbs that someone really should have called the adverb police and had me arrested. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I learned those things from conferences, and networking, and reading a few books on writing. If you want to write, I endorse the conference network.