Jan 19, 2015

Acknowledgements and Realizations

This is not going to be a well-edited post. I just don't have the energy this morning. Hope that's OK. This is just mind-spatter on a nice, calmingly-blank canvas. That's blogging for me, I've realized lately. Mind-spatter. So if I've misplaced commas or m-dashes (or over used them, I've got a serious case of dashitis) I'm sorry. And if my sentences are awkward and a bit disjointed, I'm rather unsurprised.

Writing has been very hard for me this month. I feel like I'm sweating blood, finishing up this rewrite. Part of that, I know, is because I'm not absolutely certain I'll have an audience for this story. And the great joy of storytelling is creating pictures and feelings and realizations, and love for your characters, in another person.

I am a bit cut loose. My previous publisher does not feel, to me, right for another book. I don't know why. Maybe part of it was, they only managed to sell 600 copies of Mile 21, in spite of the fact that it won the Whitney Award. I tried everything I could, too... I worked pretty hard. They got it into the Deseret Book Catalog, which is something I would not be able to do on my own, so I do appreciate them. But perhaps they can't sell fiction too well right now. Perhaps they're focused on nonfiction, selfhelp, etc, because that is what is making them money. In the current downturn of the book market (actual books on bookshelves) I understand. But I don't want to continue with them.

The problem with this is, now I'm cut loose again. I'm like a new author, starting over. I have to get people to pay attention to me. I have to sell my story to someone who gets scores or hundreds or perhaps thousands of submissions in their inbox every day. I need some luck in addition to the abilities I've tried to develop. I think I tell good stories. I hope I do. People seem to like them. But I have to convince an agent or publisher, now, who not only is looking for a good story, but a good story they can sell.

I'm sooooo not a salesperson. I hate selling stuff. Even the little bit of selling I've done on facebook/twitter feels a bit gross to me. I'll do it because I have a genuine belief in my stories, but it's not my personality.

IN addition, I'm still mourning over something that happened a while back. Someone in my ward spread a rumor that I'd written Mile 21 about her, about her life, capitalizing on her personal tragedy.

The funny thing is, I had 2/3 of Mile 21 written before I even moved into the ward. I did ask her for a bit of help about two topics that she had knowledge about, and she helped me. I actually was her visiting teacher for a while and so when the book was published, I gave her a signed copy because she helped me and thought nothing of it after that.

It was incredibly ugly. I am struggling. I don't understand why someone would say such things, particularly without coming to me first with their concern. It wasn't true, and it hurt. I feel terrible that there are people who would think me capable of that. I don't know how to feel. I guess this is the first time I've come into contact with the ugly side of having my stuff out there... it will affect me in real life.

It's making me worry about what I write. Even though I think I write to make people happy, or to heal, or to think. That book, Mile 21, I actually wrote for an old acquaintance of mine who lost her husband to Leukemia. But it still wasn't her story... I really don't know her story. It was *a* story of hope and healing and dealing with the reality of grief.

Guys. I feel pretty hurt. I acknolwege that.

I spent this last year completing a goal, to have two books done by the end of the year; one epic fantasy, and one LDS contemporary fiction. I've done both. And I'm on the final stage of my rewrite of the fantasy. I'll soon begin the rewrite of the contemporary fiction.

I think I need some prayers. That someone in the wide world of agenting and publishing will give my fantasy a chance... I feel that I have put the work in, and I know I'm a good writer. And I think it's a good story. It deserves a chance.

Also, that Deseret Book might consider my contemporary. I really don't feel good about placing one of my novels with anyone else in LDS publishing right now.

Honestly, I feel kind of adrift right now. I started a project with a friend (he knows who he is, and I'll tag him in a facebook post) with the idea that I could carve out perhaps two hours a week for the project, only it quickly developed into something more consuming than that, and I had to back out.

I've also not been able to participate in poetry slams, writing contests, and even comment on blogs and be a part of the LDS arts community as I have before. I need to try to do that, but when? I might be coming to a realization.... right now, I have time for only writing. IN addition to the more important thigns like mothering, and church service, I mean. I don't have time to do much else other than get my wordcount in. It can be a rather isolated life, being a mother of a large family. It's particularly lonely for me, because church does not feel like a safe place right now. After what happened with something related to writing, specifically. And also, I have recently come to the realization (or acknolwedgment) that I likely have PTSD, in the wake of what I went through (now 13) years ago. There are some feelings I can't control, and they make me feel guilty and also sad and also very, very tired after a long Sunday of lots of church service. The funny thing is, I love church. I love the talks, I love the lessons, I love the spirit. It's just that along with all of that, I do not, do not, easily trust the people. And I feel almost physical pain, trying to get rid of strange assumptions and intense emotional overreaction. Its' funny because when I see these people outside of church, I don't feel that way. It's just... in church....

It's just kind of mixed up. I feel pretty overwhelmed by feelings right now. I understand, now, why my body shut them off for so long. Dealing with this is really painful and kind of heartbreaking. I love church, and yet, church hurts me. IT helps me and gives me the spiritual nourishment I need, and yet it seems to also exhaust me. I love serving in my calling, *love*, and I know it's part of what is keeping me going, but it is also very exhausting and it brings me into contact with a lot of the things that frighten me. Having to lead people. Having to moderate conflict and bring things together and interact with a *lot* of people. Heavenly Father's really running me through the gauntlet right now, and it's exhausting.


The Weed said...

I think it makes complete sense that you would feel traumatized by that. I have heard a lot of writers talk about how this is a thing that happens, and how difficult it is--people you know see themselves in your characters, notice some similar circumstances, and then naively assume they have inspired your book. It's really quite a narcissistic thought, isn't it? "Clearly, you were writing about me." Or "clearly you don't have enough imagination to write a piece of fiction without having known me." So presumptuous. The fact is, all lives have things in common: births, deaths, traumas, etc. There is bound to be overlap with the specifics (most families have between 1 and 4 children, most people have siblings, lots of people experience similar traumas etc. etc. etc.). To assume a piece of fiction is based on you is the ultimate delusion. And frankly, it comes from weak and insecure minds I'm guessing.

You are absolutely right to draw a boundary around your own writing and your own family, and let the rest slough off. Sometimes we have to just barrel down and get the basics under control.

Thanks for your real and vulnerable post.

Sarah Dunster said...

Thank you, Weed. BTW. You've been a breath of fresh air friend for me. I'm grateful for you :)

Emma Tank said...

I think that's why all movies at the end have that disclaimer that says, "This movie and all of its characters are fictional. If there is any similarities to real person or events it is entirely coincidental." It's like that guy who sued J.K. Rowling because his name was Larry Potter and he had a scar on his face. Thus a book about wizards must have been about him. Anyway, try not to let it bother you. Heavenly Father is preparing you for great things, and He is there to help in trials. We'll be praying for you too!

Krista Quintana said...

Having read Mile 21, I know that you have the writing talent. Jumping in the world of publishing, having already been published or not, is a scary thing. I know that you'll succeed. You're a great example of someone who always pushes forward, even when it's hard.

Sarah Dunster said...

Thank you, Emma Tank :) and thank you, Krista. It is comforting to have friends who are writers. Others do not as easily understand. It is a unique, multifacteted, and often rather intense experience, being a writer. Thankbyou for prayers and good thoughts. Returned.