Sep 15, 2010

Day 3

I know I couldn't maintain this kind of pace every day of my life, but right now I'm having a blast.

Yesterday was Day 2, our first full day here at the week-long intensive.  I got up, ran for 8 minutes (about 3/4 of a mile), showered, dressed, ate a small breakfast and then came into the classroom to set up.  Class was from 9:30-12:30 and so full of new ideas (and homework) for my book that I couldn't possibly transcribe them all here.  At first I tried writing notes inside the 3-ring binder they gave us, but that quickly turned into typing like a madwoman to keep up.  I have five pages of notes, just from yesterday.

Immediately after class was lunch, then an hour nap (I had to do it...I wouldn't have made the late-night critique session otherwise), then my two 30-minute appointments.  First was with Lorin, the program director.  She's a lovely person, and an experienced professional, and by the end of our meeting I had a few answers I'd been looking for.  After Lorin was my meeting with Roman, who is one of the funniest guys I've met in a long time.  He loved my story idea because those are kinds of stories he loves (sci-fi/fantasy, otherworld, superpowers).  Me, too.  So we chatted and both he and Lorin said they loved my actual writing, but of course there are things I need to work on.  It's okay.  I have thick skin.  This is what I paid to hear: what's working and what's not.

After my meetings it was on to dinner, then right into the critique session.  They sorted us by genre so there's only three of us in our group: John (fantasy), Mitsy (mystery/suspense/psychological) and me (urban fantasy).  Since it was only us and we had a full two hours scheduled to critique each other, we each got to read 10 pages of work and then have an in-depth discussion.  Awesome.

This morning I was up again at 6:00...ish...and ran for 13 minutes, which is a full mile for me.  My goal is to be at 1.5 miles by the end of the week.  I have no excuse not to meet that.  I've not been overeating and haven't missed it.  I eat whatever they put in front of me (so long as it's not fish, ick) and then get on with the other, more important, stuff that I have going on.  I wonder how I can bottle that feeling and bring it home with me.

Now I have to get to the homework that I didn't have time for last night.  John and I are of a mind...until our book is good enough to get Don to sign us, it isn't good enough yet.  Back to work.

Sep 13, 2010

Bowie, MD - Charlotte, N.C.

I drove here yesterday (Sunday) in excellent time.  Six-and-a-half hours, mostly through rain, with one stop for gas and a bite.  Then checked-in at the Doubletree, unloaded the car (including the full-sized laser color printer, ugh), unpacked, napped, read, wrote, called home, watched t.v., then finally forced myself to sleep.

I'm calm, but I can feel the anxiety building in my toes and threatening to make its way up to my heart and head.  It's a good anxiety, though, the kind that fuels me and gives me the energy to plow through challenges.  This particular challenge is a week-long writing intensive held by Free-Expressions and taught by Don Maass, the agent who I'm determined to have sign me someday, no matter how hard I have to work.

And it is work, believe me.  I am presently surrounded by notebook paper, highlighters, pens, index cards (blank and full) and of course my beloved Macbook Air.  I have multiple files on my Cloud--that mysterious place in the ether where I'm able to backup my documents and retrieve them from anywhere--dealing with character and story continuity, research notes and, always, the endless drafts of my novel.

Any author who tells you their story came from a dream and wrote itself is a lying sack.  This is work, joyful work for those of us who truly love it--and I do--but it's still hard shit to do.  My next seven days will be long and riddled with seminars, critique groups, enough writing and rewriting to make my carpal tunnel a fiery mess, and probably more than one eye-strain headache.

I couldn't be happier.  This is the life I was meant to live.

The whole group of us meets tonight for the first time, to eat dinner then attend an opening session.  They're going to hand out copies of schedules, workbooks and "other goodies" before packing us off for the last good night's sleep we'll get this week.  It's 3:40 p.m. now.  Back to the index cards and computer files, and the smile that just won't go away.

Aug 17, 2010


When exactly did I forget the tattoo on my back?  Today, yesterday--every fucking day, it seems. 

That's enough.  It has to be enough.

I had those words--You must do the thing you think you cannot do--engraved on myself because I meant them.  I lived them.  They'd gotten me through some tight situations when I wanted to cave and run away, but I remembered them and stayed, I did the right thing and made myself proud.  I practiced it, and over and over it helped make me who I am today: I don't lie.  I don't cheat.  I treat my family with respect.  I have honor.  What I lack is self-discipline, and it's past time that changed.

I know what I love and what I'll miss.  I also know that I'm lucky to be able to miss so many things.  I've had a full life so far and plan to keep that going.  Life doesn't end because I have to make trade-offs.  I read today about a woman who deliberately surrounded herself with the things she knew she couldn't have, just so she could face them head-on.  I was shocked, but then I understood.  I'm that brave.  I'm that tough.  I always have been.  It's who I am, who I trained myself to be, for better or worse.  Often, it's worse.  But if that's so, then let there be a better, too.  If one edge of this sword occasionally cuts and hurts, then let the other edge cut and help, let it make a path through the shit. 

Let me use my born gifts to achieve all that I know I can, and should.  Let it start now.

Aug 5, 2010


I weigh 199 pounds as of this morning.  The scale keeps climbing and it feels like I can't stop it.

I realized--actually, I've been realizing--that I need help with this weight issue of mine.  I hate taking handfuls of pills, and I hate asking anyone for help with anything.  But if I don't do something, I'll be a 200+-pound porker again in no time.

Yes, I'm angry.  Beyond angry.  I don't understand why I have this stupid addiction, this absolute need to eat all the time, and to eat foods that I know damn well aren't good for me.  But I can't "just" stop.  It's so much more than that. 

Taking away a food addict's favorite meals brings about a slew of emotions.  There's disappointment, followed by the kind of angry-hurt that makes you want to cry.  Then outright sadness bordering on depression, with pure hopelessness hot on its heels.  Verbalized, it goes something like this: Why can't I have that?  I like it.  It reminds me of happy things.  Why can't I be happy?  But I want it!  It's not fair.  Other people get to eat that and be happy.  What's wrong with me?  What am I supposed to do now?  I don't care if someone says it's bad for me--fuck them!  I'm my own person, *I* get to decide what I eat, not them.  I'm not a child, don't tell me I've been bad.  You don't live my life!  You don't know what I need to get through the day.  How am I supposed to cope now?  Why does something so nice have to be so hard?  Why does it have to be so awful for me?  How can it be awful if it makes me happy?  Please give it back.  I don't want to try other things to make me happy.  It won't be the same.  That's mine.  I don't care about how I'll feel in an hour.  If I can't have it, what's the point of anything?  I don't have the energy to fake being happy.  I don't want to fake it!  I'm tired of faking it!  What's the point?  Nothing matters, nothing feels good, nothing will make this awful feeling go away.  Leave me alone.  I don't want to talk.  I don't want to do anything but sleep.  If I can't eat, I'll just hide away and be miserable alone.

This is what I feel every time my happy food is denied me.  Every single time.  How can I describe this to my loved ones, the people who want to help me "get over" this?  How do I tell them that there's no "getting over" any of this?  I will never--no, not ever--be happy to eat oatmeal for breakfast instead of a sausage-egg-and-cheese on a bagel that reminds me of growing up in Jersey, that fills me up and makes me feel stabilized for the rest of the morning (and sometimes into the afternoon).  How do I explain that I will never willingly reach for a handful of raw carrots instead of a bag of chips that brings to mind images of cuddling on the couch, laughing at the T.V. while sharing a bag of munchies.  And how do I not snap their heads off when I try to explain that Friday night pizza night is not meant to be substituted with grilled chicken and steamed vegetables?  Sorry, no it's not.  And please, PLEASE, Dr. Phil/Oprah/Weight Watchers/Jenny Craig/NutriSystem and every fucking weight loss guru on the planet, don't tell me that it's okay to have whatever I want, so long as it's in moderation.  Fuck you.  One slice of pizza does not make a Friday Night Pizza Night.  I'm speaking to you as an honest addict, so listen up.  A food addict's joy comes from delving deeply into the world of culinary delights.  One piddly slice of pizza might take a whopping 5 minutes to eat, if I used a knife and fork.  How can one delve into 5 minutes of anything?

This may all be pitiful and pathetic, but it's the truth, with nothing held back.  I'm close to tears just writing about it.

Yes, it's time to admit that I need help.  I can't even begin to explain how much I hate knowing that.  This isn't how I was raised.  I was taught to deal with my own shit, suck it up and bear down and do what needs to be done.  Be strong, fierce, or someone will take advantage.  But now this.  I feel completely helpless.

I will  not be a nice person to be around for some time.  I am a true addict, that much I know beyond a doubt.  And like all true addicts, the backlash for taking away that which makes me normal(ish) will be misery in human form.  I have no idea how I'm going to protect my family from that, except to pull away from them.  They won't understand.  They'll insist that they can help me through this, but for anyone else who's under that illusion, please hear this: no one can help an addict.  It's all up to them.  Sure, you can pay for expensive treatment, you can be understanding of their mood swings and special needs, but that's it.  There's nothing else for you to do except stand by and wait.  Telling us you love us is nice, and we'll appreciate that later, once the mania dies down.  In the meantime, we don't care.  That's harsh, but I promised truth and there it is.  The only thing we care about during detox is ourselves and the immense pain we're going through.  Every single spark of energy is going into staying the course instead of breaking away and gorging on the stuff we've been trying to throw out of our lives.  If we lose concentration for too long, it's all over and we're back at ground zero.  Breaking an addiction is one of the most selfish things an addict has to do.  And it breaks my fucking heart to put my family through it.

My loved ones are always the reason that I don't follow through with bringing my food addiction under control.  I hate hurting them, especially my son.  I'm a bitch to begin with--now imagine me going through withdrawal.  It's hateful.  I'm hateful.  I try to hide it, but it never works.  Eventually, I go back to eating the bad stuff just so I can smile and stop crying.  And so I can become a part of the family again, because detox means I have to sequester myself so I don't destroy my relationships with my loved ones by taking my insane anger and depression out on them.  This is why I wished so badly that I could afford a real detox place, one of those fat camps where you go away for a few months and break the cycle of addiction in a peaceful environment where you can cry all you want in your private room, away from your family.  But that's beyond impossible.  We couldn't possibly afford to lose my income for three months, and even if we could, those places cost $3,000-5,000 per week.  And there are no scholarship programs, and don't even think that insurance would cover any of it, especially not for someone like me who's less than 100 pounds overweight.  People in my category are on their own, to sink or swim as their willpower sees fit.

I'll be shocked if I actually hit Publish on this post.  It's embarrassing to admit feeling all these childish things, to be so weak that I can't break this shit on my own.  I consider myself to be a strong woman in most ways, but I'm not strong enough for this.  It makes me feel like a disgrace and I'm not sure where to go from here.  I want to go up attitude-wise and down scale-wise, but lately it's only been the opposite.

Jul 20, 2010

Six Months

I never take things in small steps.  I'm always going for the big goal, the one that becomes insurmountable simply because it's a fucking mountain and I'm a mouse.  I hate that I do this to myself (all the time), but it's even harder to imagine setting smaller, boring, wussy goals.  They're not really wussy, but that's what my brain tells me all the time.  I'm working on shutting my brain up a little more often.

I have a deadline, an important one, and it's related to my writing.  I leave in September for a week-long writing seminar held and taught by one of New York's premier agents.  I've been wanting to go to one of his workshops for years.  As part of the program, he'll critique the first 50 pages of your manuscript.  For those not in the know, that's a BIG EFFING DEAL in the publishing world.  Getting a single page of your manuscript out of the slush pile--the industry term for the pile of unsolicited manuscripts agents and publishers receive from writers who want their work read in the hopes of landing a book sale--is nearly impossible to begin with, and even if your pages do manage to get into the hands of an actual reader, it's probably someone's assistant.  Or an assistant's assistant's third cousin who was hired for the weekend to see if there's anything good in the slush pile.  I wish I was kidding.  I'm not.

So big agent guy is going to read 50 pages of my stuff.  One would assume, then, that I'd want to break my fucking back to make sure it's the best 50 pages I've ever written in my life.  And so I have to work and polish and rewrite and revamp...and submit in the next 25 days. 

Related to that, in a bizarre way that's fitting for my life these days, I took a hip-hop dance class last night.  It was more work than I'd ever thought possible, and I ache from shoulder blade to ankle, but I can't remember the last time I sweated that much in a 60-minute period. 

Which got me thinking--what are my goals, my REAL goals, right now?  It always comes back to two things: lose weight and publish my book.  But those are huge goals, bigger than my whole head, and so I procrastinate.  But I can't waste the money I've spent on this workshop, so I have to get those 50 pages ready in time.  Al helped me come up with a time budget, allotting a few pages a day until deadline.  It's still hard work, but it feels a little better.  That said, I ain't done it yet, so the jury's still out on how effective this method will be.  Usually I'm the cram-study type who works best when there's a ticking clock in the background.  But I hate that tense feeling, plus I'm too old for all-nighters anymore, so I'm giving this a try.

Which led to the idea of weight.  I wondered if, at my current pace, how long would it take me to finish my book?  And by finish I mean polish, revise, revamp--the works.  I figured six months.  Sounds like a lot but it's really not bad at all.  Time does fly, as we're all painfully aware.  So, what about weight?  What could I do there in six months?  With 40 pounds left to lose, over six months, that makes 1.5 pounds a week.  Now, before you go thinking that's nothing, I've been stagnating at 192 for months now, for fuck's sake, and it's been driving me nuts.  So that might be more of a challenge than it seems.  But maybe it'll help to see it written out.  Who knows?  Priority number one is to finish my pages and stay away from the really bad foods and keep moving my body.  Yes, those are three priorities, but let's not nitpick.

But if anyone wants to join me at hip-hop class, it's Monday nights from 6:30-7:30 in Bethesda.  Just wear sneakers, bring water, and try not to hate the Soulja Boy music.

Jul 16, 2010

Elif Shafak: The politics of fiction | Video on

Having moved a lot in my life, I can totally relate to the idea that "My imagination is the only suitcase that I could take with me."  And she's right: authors shouldn't just write what they know but rather what they feel.

A beautiful presentation, for writers and everyone else.

Elif Shafak: The politics of fiction Video on

Time for a Change

I updated my resume yesterday and submitted it to a few jobs.  With the state of things these days, who knows if I'll get any interviews, but that wasn't the point anyway.  The point is change.  With the marriage and the move, I've been feeling the need for a change.  Question always is though, what kind?

My ex called me a miserable bitch the other day.  At first, I was pissed.  Then I really thought about it.  I guess I was a miserable bitch when I was with her.  I don't mean because of her, just that during that time period of my life I admit I was miserable a lot of the time.  I can remember several tearful nights when I would go on and on about how useless it all was, how awful life was for me and why even bother to make an effort anymore.  It sounds so dramatic now but I really felt that way then.  Change takes effort and it usually hurts, so I procrastinate. 

They say that the most common cause of procrastination is setting a goal that's too big.  I've always set huge goals for myself and have only partially achieved any of them.  I don't do well in bite-sized pieces of things.  I want it all in one big gulp.  I don't want to finish revising a chapter of my book; I want to finish my book, period.  I don't want to lose five pounds in the next month; I want to lose forty in the next three. 

I loved the movie Forrest Gump.  Mostly because it was a great parody of how a person who completely focuses on one thing at a time can conquer the world.  I'm terrible at that, the one-thing-at-a-time thing.  But here I am, thirty-six years old, good at a bunch of things, great at nothing.  I want to be great at something.  And even though I sent my resume to jobs I'm technically qualified for, I don't want to be great at techie stuff or secretarial jobs.  I want to be a novelist.  I want to write books with characters who are impossible to forget. 

Why is it always so fucking hard to put your energy into shit you actually love, as opposed to shit you just know how to do well?  When it comes down to it, does my brat upbringing mean that I'll always wuss out when the really hard work comes into play?  If I'm so fucking smart, why can't I do this one thing?