The Problem With Writing (Alone)

As I’m sure any of you who read this post already know, I recently won an award for Late Lights. This, by all accounts, should have boosted my confidence. I’m an award winning author! I’m good at this! Right? Well…

For me, the award has carried more personal baggage than prize. And for that matter, every positive review I’ve gotten has done the same (don’t get me wrong, reading the two bad reviews were among the worst moments of my life (possible hyperbole)). Rather than feeling confident about my future, instead I’m weighted down with thoughts about seemingly inevitable downfall. Is this the high point of my career? Will any of my work ever be well received again? What if I can’t find a home for my follow up (a distinct possibility)?

And the fact that I sit here in my living room, by myself, only makes it worse. My mind becomes an echo chamber of self-doubt. Since graduating from my MFA program I’ve been without a writing community. I’ve been alone, with only my non-writer friends to buoy me. And despite their sincerity, their enthusiasm for my work just doesn’t carry the same weight as from a fellow writer.

But recently, something has changed. My old MFA buddy, Elissa Washuta (My Body is a Book of Rules, forthcoming, and I’m pumped as hell about it) invited me to a closed facebook group. The group includes writers of every stripe — almost all of whom, it seems, is somewhere on the spectrum between moderately and extremely successful. Usually hearing about other people’s successes sparks in me an ugly kind of resentment, but in this case, everyone is so nice. People are helping each other. People are encouraging each other. And while my self-doubt hasn’t ebbed an inch, this somewhat abstract camaraderie has fueled a kind of motivation to get my projects completed that I haven’t felt in a while.

I’ve been desperately wanting a writing community of my own for the past six years. I finally have one — sort of.

I’ll take it.

Late Lights is an award winner!

Last night at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Late Lights cleaned up with two wins (one for best novel under 80,000 words, and one for best novella) — the only book at the ceremony to be so celebrated!

For those of you who are writers, you know how easy it is to doubt your talent and your product. I’m walking away with these wins reinvigorated, and confident. We all know that awards don’t always mean what they’re supposed to, and moreover, not winning awards often means absolutely nothing. That said, it’s nice to win.

Thanks to everyone for their support and cheer!

I Won?

Just got word that I’m the winner of the Next Gen Independent Book Awards’ for general fiction/novel (under 80,000 words) for Late Lights! #LATELIGHTS

The Huffington Post is Wrong (and Annoying)

Back in March Huff Po Books published an article titled, “The Ten Most Annoying Teenagers From Books.” This piece erked me for several reasons (not the least of which is the title, which screams I-Have-Nothing-New-Or-Important-To-Say-So-I’m-Going-To-Make-An-Unimportant-List-To-Grab-Reader’s-Attentions-Since-That-Seems-To-Work-For-Cosmo).

First of all, this is one of the few corners of the internet where readers can get supposedly valuable information about books, AND where readership is beyond the double digits. Given the amazing platform, doesn’t it seem like a waste to publish (and publicize) an article that is not only uninteresting, but unproductive? Readers have either read the books listed and already have their own opinion, or haven’t read the books, in which case the article is totally unhelpful. Don’t get me wrong, I often find it interesting anduseful to read reviews about books I haven’t read yet — these reviews can often shed light not only on the book itself, but can also be illuminating in terms of craft and style in a way that is generalizable. However, where the author of this article had the chance to actually say something interesting about these central characters it instead complained about their personalities — which brings up an even bigger problem: since when do all characters have to be likeable, anyway? Was Humbert Humbert likeable? What about the Raskolnikov? Of course not.

The bigger problem with this article is the thesis of the article itself: These characters are annoying and let me tell you why. How is that new? We already disparage and dismiss teenagers. We already think they’re melodramatic and spoiled. Do we really need an article to argue that, in addition to the kid next door, the beloved Holden Caulfield is also annoying? What do we gain by trying to cut down one of the few books teenagers actually like to read? Moreover, the author seems to miss the point of the book The Catcher in the Rye, writing, “Whine, whine, whine. We feel so sorry for you that you’re rich and in expensive boarding school.” Actually, most readers do feel empathy for Holden, that’s why the book is so beloved.

This article is exactly the kind of dangerous, blithe writing that keeps authors from writing about teenagers, and keeps society from taking them seriously.

Shame, shame.

Read the article for yourself and let me know what you think: