Post office adventures and early mornings
I'd like to give myself full commit-to-the-bit credit for my pseudonym act, since I literally drove out of town early one morning before work to a rural post office, where I registered for a legally required physical mailing address for this very email newsletter. Feel free to send me postcards!
I'm getting a bit obsessed with small post offices. I live in a small-to-smallmedium city, and our post office is large, well-lit, and sterile. There's usually a line of people staring at their phones waiting for one of the registers at the front to open up, and it's all very organized and and tends to be a fairly impersonal errand.
But, over the holidays, I had to mail a package in a tiny village with a population between 55 and 60 (long story, not relevant). The post office was about the size of my office at work and stuffed with tchotchkes, and the postmistress's teacup poodle was wandering freely. I was the only customer, and I got my package sent within moments, plus I got to enjoy a friendly bit of banter and a quick cuddle with a very charismatic poodle. I had a similarly pleasant experience with my new PO Box for this literary alter ego, too, and found myself thinking, okay, so this is why people romanticize the small-town American South.
And then I read a bunch of ugliness on social media about a nearby library with a rightwing board that's demanding a policy wherein the board has to approve every single library purchase in advance, and I immediately stopped romanticizing the small-town American South and started wistfully scrolling Zillow for beautiful Vermont farmhouses.
I'm in rejectomancy hell right now, with a few stories parked for weeks in exciting long-shot venues. In a few cases, I can tell rejections are coming in for submissions sent after mine, thanks to the diabolical tracking tools at Duotrope and the Submission Grinder. Did I make a short list, or are they just working through their holiday backlog in a scattershot way? Are the editors sending passionate defenses of my work back and forth or has no one even opened it yet? These things are COMPLETELY UNKNOWABLE.
And this morning I got a hold notice from the publisher I've been chasing ever since I started writing seriously. Hurray!! Also, anxiety!! Also, this place has a fast turnaround ... unless you get held for further consideration. So, I wait some more.
In the meantime, I did get another flash piece switched over to my new name, if you'd like to read it:
Catoptromancy, X-R-A-Y, 2019
I'm really fighting to develop a consistent writing practice (really, the story of my entire writing career). I've found exactly one (1) method that works, and y'all, I hate it so much. It's the morning. The early morning. Early enough that there is no chance of child care or work problems, and that is early - that pre-dawn darkness that young me happily and routinely staggered into from the other side of the clock.
The problem is that my head gets full of other stuff incredibly quickly once my day gets rolling. It's logistics right off the bat as I get my kiddo ready for and delivered to school, and by then the work texts are already flying, the daily schedule is getting adjusted, and I'm at work in my head well before I actually arrive. Then my workday tends to be a parade of "got a second?" "have a few minutes to meet this afternoon?" "Sorry for the long email but I need ..." plus a long list of projects that I have a very systematic angle of attack on, interspersed with random crises of various levels of intensity. In other words, by the time I get home, I'm usually completely tapped out, and I have nothing left for the fictional people I've made up for myself. So I have to beat the rush if I'm going to write anything ever.
Here's how it works: I wake up, listen to the peaceful sounds of uninterrupted animal and human slumber around me, and I lie in bed moaning to myself about how badly I don't want to get up. No one else in the house has to do this, why is this so unfair? Then there's a lot of back and forth about the merits of just going back to sleep. Most of the time, I can get my ass out of bed by reminding myself that any more sleep I get after the initial wake up is going to be shit sleep, so I might as well drag myself over to my computer and get the writing done.
The rule is that I have to either write 500 words or for a total duration of 15 minutes. If that's all I manage, well, I showed up. Even if it's just 15 minutes pissing and moaning in my journal about how I have nothing to write about, it still counts, I still get credit. This often exactly what happens.
Some days, though, it works, and I blow through my quotas and wind up with something I'm excited about. Writing begets more writing is also undeniably true for me.
And that's really as close to a process as I have - wake up before anything else can get in my head, and then hope something from the other side of the mirror shows up to introduce itself to me.
I devoured Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher, and look, I haven't had that much fun reading something in a hot minute. I've spent most of my adult reading life chasing the high of childhood fantasy reading, and this came about as close as I ever get to that purest of pleasures.
I've also started Madukka the River Serpent by Julie Janson, an Australian Darug Burruberongal writer. One of my best Christmas gift givers keeps me well-stocked in Australian lit. Last year they gave me The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay, which is easily one of the most batshit things I have ever read and you should go check it out (also from Australia, and also completely batshit, The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett).
My daily life affords me a window of one (1) 30-40 minute TV show a night, and more often than not I can't even manage that. In other words, don't look to this newsletter as a good source of TV recs, because my pace is glacial and my range is limited. That said, so far, The Last of Us is fucking great.
Uh, I turned 40 recently. The hell?
Okay, I hate the social narrative that age is something to be ashamed of, and I have earned every little wrinkle around my eyes very honestly. I'm glad I've laughed and cried and made enough mistakes to look like I've been around for forty years, you know? It's just a number, but man is it a bit of a vertiginous one. There were things I thought I'd have done by now, and one that's really hurting is the lack of a published novel. I was just so sure I was on track for that. There are also some lingering questions about hypothetical second children that are weighing really heavily on me and WOW is that outside the scope of this newsletter that I'm purportedly writing to further my writing career instead of burdening you all with my messy and largely unresolvable reproductive dilemmas.
It was just a birthday that landed with a lot of extra weight this year, and maybe I should leave it there.
We also got walloped by a winter storm and a 36-hour power outage that involved solar lights, a hotel stay, and a lot of preemptive panic about what a whiny climate refugee I'm going to be.
And finally, baphomet bless online writing communities where you can post a link to your newsletter and have supportive people sign up, actually open and read the thing, and then tell you nice things about it (hi Netherworld folks, I love you).
Stay safe out there, and thanks for putting up with me.