I fellow blogging friend, Mikalee Byerman, recently awarded me the “I Am Such a Dick… and You Are Not” blogging award. Ok, freeze! I can hear the groans, and snarky comments already… Yes, I am aware that it’s a questionable award; and I’m aware that Mikalee made it up herself… BUT, in the blogging world, Mikalee is a rock star. The fact that she dug out her previous Ms. Nevada trophy (a kick a$$ trophy, click the link, just to see that) and handed it over to me
and a handful of other bloggers, is major kudos for this girl. I am (slowly) discovering that there is an entire kool world out there, of keen writers, who blog. I am honored to even be mentioned in the same sentence, let alone awarded something, by one of the Queen Bees, along side some excellent other bloggers, but I’m also greedy. I want that trophy all for myself!
The post “I Am Such a Dick” is a bit lengthy, but worth every minute, because Mikalee goes on to give kudos to loads of cool blogs that I would not have found if it weren’t for her post. The 7×7 Award, in and of itself, cost me
hours quite a bit of time on line: reading old posts, that had me laughing and smirking out loud, snorting (I am a snorter, much to my kids’ embarrassment), and moved by some beautiful writing. In fact, her post cost me a ton of time… because I had to check out each of my co-awardees (ignoring the fact that at the very end, she goes and gives us all the trophy!), read their posts… and as the song says: “one link leads to another” ( Maybe those aren’t the exact lyrics, and I’ll get back to that point…). Blink: a whole bunch of time was gone. Like I need an excuse to be up too late, recently.
Anyway, that award led me to Harper Faulkner’s (yeah, isn’t that the coolest name) blog: All Write, and his post: “So, my wife says:,” and that is where this post, the one you’re reading, really takes off. That post, which was not my favorite of his (I posted that one to my Facebook page), but it struck a chord. My writing seems to elicit a similar dialogue, as Harper’s wife’s comments. What are your writing goals? Why a blog? Who do you want to read it? If you’re writing for yourself, why post at all? (I can totally relate to the conversation that HF’s wife had, as I’ve had an identical conversation with my husband, Middle Man, Principessa, and a few dozen friends…) What is a blog anyway? What about your book? (HF’s current post hit me in the face with that issue) and that last question, always leads to: What’s your book about? and then: Are you going to post your book on the blog?
So many questions, most of which I’m still on the fence about. Or, if I’m not exactly on the fence, I am aware that it’s a big wide ocean I’m swimming in, and I just hope to stay afloat… which actually has nothing to do with fences. Reading the post “So my wife says:” pushed me to write this post, which I’ve been toying with for months, to address all these questions. I’ll jump in and start with the “Blog issue.” Why a blog? Well, it was something I was toying with for a very long time. In fact, I first told a friend about my blog name/idea four years ago. That is how long I procrastinated. The name came to me first, asI began to imagine an outlet for the many conversations I was having with friends, peers, etc about, (primarily) parenting. I wanted a place where I could put out some of my thoughts, and not have to argue them with my husband and my exceptionally clever kids… who perpetually find loop holes in pretty much anything I put out there. Over time, my posts have morphed into any subject that impacts me, that I want to “discuss.” I’m a mother, a wife and a women, so the title still works, as I see everything through those distinct glasses, first.
When I signed up and opened an account with Word Press, I knew virtually nothing about blogs, bloggers, or blogging. I thought of it as a bit like journaling, with a potential audience. My first posts were generally read by (cue the crickets), No One. I would go to my stats page, and see that not a single person had read the posts. They were pretty basic, those initial posts. No photos or visuals, period. I had no links or diversions. I just got writing, and didn’t consider much else. Over time, however, I read some of the tutorials on the Word Press pages and learned that I’d have to take some chances and “advertise,” if I wanted readers. Hmm, that was a quandary. Part of me, like HF, was writing just to write. To “practice my craft,” to settle my soul, to “put it out there,” etc. But, if I wanted to do just that, then there was no point in checking stats. It slowly sunk in, however, that I did in fact want readers, feedback, an “audience.” I wanted to write something that others would read, and respond to. Negative or positive, the response was critical to my own growth as a writer. Finding my voice, my writing style… finding my way… along the way.
Not coincidentally, I was working through some difficult times, that got filtered through my writing, and those posts turned things around. I ran away to Yellowstone, to clear my head and find some direction. There, I just wrote about what I was experiencing, and how it was impacting me. I began doing what the Word Press people suggested: I started by sending the posts in emails, to good friends. Some of those friends passed the posts on. Then, despite my anxiety about it, I put my posts on my Facebook page, I began to toot my own horn. I did more reading, and learned to include some photos, add links to things that might interest people, and I started to get some comments, and see on my stats that people were starting to read the posts.
In the beginning, that was a really weird feeling, to be honest. I remember sitting in my various cabins in and around Yellowstone, in my own solitary confinement, and then getting notes from friends, and then people I never presumed would read my stuff. There were good questions, things that made me think about how I wrote about my journey, what my reader might be curious about. Still, many nights, as I sat alone out there, I felt very exposed and strange wondering: Will so and so see this? What will he/she think? Am I targeting myself for criticism, from people I might not actually have this conversation with? Almost predictably, it was the people I knew, that I felt the most vulnerable around. The fact that I had a very early follower from New Zealand (FYI: I can see the general area that a subscriber comes from, but not their personal details, unless they make that public) was thrilling, encouraging, and also very strange for me. Someone I had no link to otherwise, was reading about my personal experience… and commenting. That whole phase of working on the blog was so strange, and transformative, in ways that are hard to explain now.
While I figured that eventually I might have some regular readers, honestly, that part didn’t really sink in until I got Freshly Pressed, on August 5th, with The Grass Is Always Greener On Someone Else’s Head. And frankly, it didn’t just sink in, it slammed me in the face. I had no idea that I’d been Freshly Pressed until I arrived at my 30th High School reunion (talk about stars lining up) and others told me. I wasn’t checking my blog regularly; I was only posting when I felt like it, and I’d accepted that only 10 people (max) would read any given post. Until, suddenly there were 7,000 (eventually) people reading one post… 400+ of whom commented. Literally, on the day it was posted I was with ex-classmates at a pre-party , and they asked me: What’s a blog? What do you want to have happen with your blog? My answer, which was (unbeknownst to me) ironic-the-minute-it-came-out-of-my-mouth, was: “I just hope people start to read it, and eventually I may use it to help get my book out there.”
Pow! Bam! Kaplooey! I had comments coming in by the minute, literally (I answered every single one); I had people reading my post, and giving me lots of feedback. Ask and you shall receive. That big, wonderful high lasted for about two weeks… and then, it peetered right out, and I was back to 10 readers per post. Talk about 15 seconds of whoop, and then some serious ego adjustment. That part was a real low; I can’t sugar coat it. So, I went back to the idea of writing to practice the writing, and hoped that people would find me. They have. I also, secretly, hoped that maybe I’d get Freshly Pressed again… but then, realized how greedy I was being. When you read the stats (read further) about Word Press, it’s an incredible thing to get Freshly Pressed at all! When I got the honor, I’d only been blogging for five weeks, and did not really appreciate what had just happened. Now that I do, I’m that much more grateful that I got noticed at all. Instead of seeking that kind of recognition, I’m back to doing the writing, and trying to improve. That: the hard work part, has payed off.
I’ve had my blog for 6 1/2 months now, and I have 141 regular followers; I’m quickly approaching 15,000 hits (something I feel really proud of) and the blog is growing daily. It has provided exactly what I was looking for: a place to write, get feedback and work on improving the writing. I feel like my “voice” has just naturally found its way to the written pages. That voice is sarcastic and snarky at times; vulnerable and raw others, funny, boring, interesting, but morphing as I go. I’ve gotten four blog awards for my work: The Liebster Blog Award, 2 Versatile Blogger awards, and I am officially Not a Dick (as noted above). For those of you who don’t blog, those awards may seem silly, or random, or even not real… but they mean a lot to me! The blogging world is full of all kinds of people, writing some amazing things. As of today (see official stats), bloggers on Word Press post an average of 500,000 blogs per DAY; 308 million people read 2.5 billion pages, posted per month! CBS, NBC, CNN, TTN, and many other notable entities use Word Press. To get recognized in that arena, is something I don’t take lightly: I feel really proud of what I’ve done, in barely six months!
So more FYI about the blog itself: In each blog, you will see words, phrases, etc that are highlighted or underlined. Those are “links.” On my posts, those links are currently in pink. If you click your cursor on any given link, it will take you to another thing that I think will be of interest. Sometimes it’s the blog I’m siting, a music video I want to share, or for more fun: sound effects. If you actually hit the link above, that says “cue crickets,” you can hear crickets. It’s just for fun. I also include a blurb at the end of each post (“Tooting my own horn”) that asks readers to comment/like/share my work. There’s a reason for that. My blog only grows and gets noticed when my stats warrant it. Each time someone hits “Like” or “Share” or (very importantly) leaves a “Comment,” those stats get noticed by Word Press and my blog then gets noticed by more readers. That’s what I want, so that is the goal of posting that blurb. To clarify, as I’ve gotten so many questions about theses things: If you click on the title of any of my posts (or any blog you read), you will be taken to that individual page, where only that post is shown. At the bottom of the posts, you should see the words: “If you liked this, please share it,” with a “Share” button/link. Beneath that, with a fine line dividing it, you will see: “Like this” with a “Like” button/link. Up at the top of each post, to the far right of the title, is a similar button/link with the words “Come along for the ride!” There is a “Subscribe” link there. When you subscribe with that link, you agree to get an email update each time I post a new blog entry. You support me and my writing. You do NOT get spam, end up on Word Press lists, or have your information shared. I see that I have a new subscriber, and the name that you give. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve responded to comments from subscribers, and had no idea, none at all, that I actually know that person… because they signed up with names like “art lover,” and “someone.” To do that (remain anonymous), you actually sign up through Word Press directly, so that you can comment on any blog you read, not just mine, and create an online name. Details, details, details! Can you begin to imagine what it was like initially for this totally non-tech writer! I was totally out of my element… and am still figuring things out, as I go. But right now: it’s all good.
Final questions: Will I post the book on the blog? and What about the book? No. I don’t think so. Never say never, but that is not my plan, to post it on the blog. For newcomers: I have written a book. It took me (technically) about 5 years to write it. In fact, I spent about one (real) year on it… the rest of that time it was A) sitting on my desk, ignored; B) Lazily being edited with my writing group (lazy on my part, vigilant on theirs) and C) I finally got a clue and worked like crazy to really edit it and do some serious re-writing. In the end, I re-wrote virtually every chapter. It was an enormous task, that I took very seriously. I read about a small publisher, Rozlyn Press, that was opening its submissions to any new/unpublished, female writers, from September until December 31, 2011. That, is a rarity in the publishing world, so I jumped. I worked on those last edits, sitting beside my mother, as she died. I submitted the manuscript: 529 typed pages, titled Tuned In, on December 30th. I told my mother, before I told anyone else. She died 10 hours later, as I held her hand, on December 31st. It was a marathon, let me tell you: a serious New Year’s marathon. I am proud of doing it, seeing it to completion. And now it’s out of my hands, literally and figuratively. Of course, I don’t expect to just sit back. I know the odds. I expect, once I’ve had some time to grieve and pull my head together, to look for an agent (prostitute myself) and push my manuscript. I trust the incredible writing group that has given me endless feedback, and the über great editor that read the whole thing, and gave loads of brutally honest, excellent feedback. I have (mostly) made my peace with the editorial words: “Cut this, needs a scene, show don’t tell,” and the question mark.
So, I will not post the entire book here. I may, over time, share parts of it and try to drum up readers… if, oh that magical thinking if, it’s every published. But, here faithful readers, who read to the end of this long post, is the Tid-Bit. I am sharing for the first time ever, the “pitch” that I threw together in that last hour… as I realized I was horribly sleep deprived, that mother was in fact going to die, and I was not going to miss my chance to submit my manuscript, if I didn’t pull my $#it together. I’m not sure it’s the final pitch, as I think it could use some “oomph,” some nuancing. But I sent it, because I had to, and it was the best I could do under the circumstances. I’m sharing that pitch, and I’m sharing the first/opening paragraph of the book itself. I did share that already, but only on a quick FB post, that only a couple of people noticed. I’ll answer the (final, final) question that will inevitably be generated for some of you: No. This is not a memoir. It is fiction. However, I read somewhere that most first novels are autobiographical, and will concede, there are undeniable similarities… the rest, is fiction. I stand by that, however it looks to some readers. Feedback is welcome, even if it’s anxiety producing to hear anything. If I want it published, it will be read… and then I’ll have no say regarding how people respond. Might as well jump into friendly waters first… I am the captain of this ship.
“Tuned In” is the story of Maya Koenig, a housewife and mother who, after almost throwing a jar of capers at her husband’s head, realizes that somewhere along the way she became miserable with her life, and with herself. As she considers the choices that she’s made she begins to piece together how they have led to her current life, and from there, what direction to take next.
The story unfolds in chapters that alternate between first and third person point of view, and between the past and present. “Tuned In” begins with Maya’s painful childhood, starting with the tragic death of her father, and the lessons she has learned about men and life from her mother Liv, a woman who also struggled with these issues. As Maya looks back on the lovers in her life, and what she learned from each of them, she tries to find a reason to stay with her husband Seth, a surgeon who is distant and does not understand his wife.
A final mysterious encounter forces Maya to choose between the path she chose so long ago and the one offered now by a new lover, Jeremy. He is young, passionate, and meets many of the needs that Maya feels go unmet by her husband, Seth. For Maya the question becomes “Is she willing to risk all that she and Seth have built together to go a new direction?”
Maya is passionate, wry and insightful and the reader is taken deeper inside her world as each chapter unfolds. Song lyrics are used to link events, in this compelling look at the roads we face in life and the choices we make. How do we choose, and how do we live with the consequences of those choices? “Tuned In” is a story that speaks to each of us about the meaning of true happiness and how we each find our own peace.
Tid-Bit, The opening to Tuned In:
DIGGING IN THE DIRT
“The more I look, the more I find As I close on in, I get so blind I feel it in my head, I feel it in my toes I feel it in my sex, that’s the place it goes I’m digging in the dirt Stay with me I need support I’m digging in the dirt To find the places I got hurt To open up the places I got hurt.” Digging In the Dirt, Peter Gabriel
Though it’s been more than thirty years, I can still see the snow. The moon must have been full, because I remember that I could see everything below me and everything around my house so clearly. The snow had an almost magical, blue hue to it, shimmering, and the trees stood out starkly against the muted light. The cold air hit my face and my heart raced. It was so beautiful and peaceful beyond my window. And so I jumped.
* * *
© Dawn Quyle Landau, all rights reserved 2011
Now, that blurb:
Stop! Really. Read this. Please note: If you enjoy these posts hit “Like” and make me smile. It also helps my blog grow and that is the point. Go back and hit Like. Thanks. Then, be nice and “Share” them with others; ’tis the season. Better yet Like them; Share them and then do something nice for yourself: “Subscribe.” You won’t get any spam, you can sign up with an anonymous name (I won’t know who you are, unless you tell me), and you will get an email each time I post. Think of it as a Holiday gift to yourself. You know you want to. Go ahead, make my day (sorry about the gun, but this is serious business).