Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What a Week!

Last week was a big one in the VanderMeer household. It started with my husband Jim and I celebrating our anniversary by having dinner at Wild Ginger in Seattle. I'd never been, and it was fabulous!

We also celebrated my birthday. My
kids and my hubby make my birthday feel like a major national holiday, so I look forward to it every year. After a really special day together, I went to bed feeling like a rock star.

Then there were the birthday celebrations with friends! Martha (you'll see her photo soon when I do a post about her) and I went to lunch on Wednesday, and Debra and I went to dinner on Friday. Debra and I walked down by the boats while we were waiting for our table.

See why I love my birthday?

To finish off the week, we went to our first Seattle Sounders soccer game on Sunday. It was so fun! Those guys are amazing athletes!

The news that I'm a finalist...HUGE. When the phone call came, I was at Safeway. My son called me on my cell and told me that I'd better come home because someone from PNWA called about the contest. I wanted to abandon my grocery cart, but I had to finish shopping. We were having a dinner guest from Jim's NY office and I was pressed for time. I not only had to make dinner, but I wanted to make it appear that we live in a clean house.

My daughter called when I was in the car. She'd been given the message that I was a finalist, so we screamed briefly into the phone together then hung up so I could get home. When I pulled into the garage, the kids ran to me and we all stood there, screaming and hugging. It was so cool.

My first point is that my kids are awesome. Only certain people "get" what a big deal good news is in the writing world. My family is in the thick of it with me, and they totally get it.

Which leads me to my next thought: to remember to strike a balance. It's so easy to get wrapped up in our novels--and it's also necessary. We need to place ourselves inside our characters to see them as real people and be able to write them well; we have to be so absorbed in them that we can clearly imagine their lives before, during, and after our books. There is something enormous within each of us that drives us to spend countless hours getting our stories down on paper, polishing them, and sending them out, knowing the odds. In doing so, however, I never want to miss out on the very real lives of the people whom I love every day of the year, birthday or regular day--big week, dull week, or bad week. I hope when my kids are grown, they feel I succeeded in the balance category; my family, after all, matters more to me than anything.

My third point is about celebrating. This is a tough industry, so I think all the good moments should be appreciated if not celebrated. And "good" is a big word. First rejection letter? Welcome to the club. There's a fraternity of writers surrounding you who applaud your efforts. How about when you start to get good rejection letters? And yes, there are such things. If it is personalized, gives advice, refers you to a colleague, or invites you to send future work, it falls into the "good" category. First finished draft of a manuscript? A partial or a full request from an agent? These moments are worth embracing.

This is just one literary contest and the odds are that I won't make it beyond the finalist stage. But I hope I will. I wouldn't have entered if I didn't have hope. I also hope I get an awesome agent before long, I hope I get a book deal after that, and I hope the book deal kicks off a long and successful writing career. For now, though, I'm just psyched to be a finalist, and I'm so touched that my kids screamed with me in the garage.

Yeah, it was definitely a great week.

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