Managing Mediocre Mental Health

As everyone knows, I have anxiepression and, it turns out, ADHD.  I’ve only just started on the road to learning how to manage ADHD, but by this point I’m an old hand at the anxiety-depression combo. There are always surprises, but by and large I think I’ve got a good idea how to manage it during good times and bad.

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Tip one: stay hydrated (I use these bottles as reusable, then recycle them, don’t worry.)

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Pitching on Twitter

#PitMad was this past week with over 40,000 tweets (and retweets). By all accounts, it was a rousing success. It trended for six hours and hooked up countless aspiring authors with agents and editors.

For those who don’t know, PitMad is one of the many Twitter-based pitching events, where writers tweet their book pitch and tag it with the event’s hashtag. If an agent or editor wants to see more, they like the tweet. It’s a really exciting, moderately stressful event, but a great way to get your writing out there.

I got my agent(!!!) the old-fashioned way, by querying directly, but Twitter pitching is really interesting to watch. It’s kind of like prom for writers, watching everyone rework and tweak their tweets, getting them perfect for the big day.

Entirely by chance I’m in a writing group with someone who works for Pitch Wars and we had a meeting yesterday. Since I’m sure I know people who are interested in pitching future twitter events, (here’s a list of some this year) I took notes on my friend’s thoughts from this PitMad.

  • If your tweet starts with a long sentence, people glaze over. Try. Shorter. Sentences. They’re more attention grabbing
  • Don’t use a big name comp title for two reasons
    • It makes it look like you don’t know your genre very well.  If the only YA novel you know is Twilight (which also came out ages ago and is therefore not a very relevant comp.) that says you just don’t read a lot.
    • It shows you have unrealistic expectations. Look for books that do well, but aren’t breakout stars. This is one case where shooting for the moon is the wrong way to go.

And as with all pitches, make sure you get someone else to look over it before you post so you don’t put out a mortifying typo.

Did anyone out there do PitMad? How about other Twitter pitches? Got any advice for other writers? Let me know!

P.S. My mss is at 64,000 words!

MegaCon 2018

This weekend on something of a whim, Kevin and I  went to MegaCon Orlando. It was my first time at a chain con-you know, the kind where they’re massive and part of a major business. I’m much more familiar with smaller, fan-run cons like Shoreleave and MISTI. (It turns out I also prefer them, but we’ll get to that.)

We bought Saturday-only tickets and, thanks to our tendency to over-estimate how much time we’ll need to get ready, we arrived an hour before the con even opened. Since it took just silly amounts of walking to get anywhere in the convention center, that worked out.Read More »

Sourdough Starter

You can always tell how well I’m doing with my work by how well other things around the house are going.

A couple weeks ago I made sourdough starter, so you can guess how I’m doing at work.

I’ve always wanted to try having a sourdough starter. I try baking periodically with varying degrees of success, and this seemed like having a pet that also makes you bread.

Plus, sourdough is delicious.

So while Kevin was in Richmond for a work trip and I was desperately stalled on a scene, I started a, well, starter.

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I know, it’s so impressive.

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On Being an Ex-Book Hoarder

Basically all my life, I’ve been “Bess, you know, the one with all the books.”

My mom loves to tell the story of my first grade homework, which was to count the number of books I owned and report backs. As she tells it “We got to 111 and I realized we needed to start going to the library.”

(We later stopped going to the library because I was caught reading the romance section. I’d already finished sci fi and fantasy, YA, and kids.)

So yeah, books are a pretty massive part of my life and my identity. Ergo, I’ve always known that when I grew up I’d have a massive library. People stopped helping us move because of the endless numbers of book boxes. When we moved to Maryland, the number was somewhere north of 2,000. (Books, not boxes.) I was extremely proud of that. Like a person with long hair, my massive collection of books was integral to my identity.

But like some long-haired humans, my priorities changed.

I’d built this incredible library (complete with chandelier and window seat) in our Maryland house. Bookcases lined the walls. The light wood floor made it open and warm.

But I wasn’t happy. I didn’t like owning a house and feeling weighed down and trapped. In previous years of apartment living, it had been pretty simple to uproot myself and move wherever the wind blew. I wanted that feeling back. (Kevin did too.)

My priorities had shifted. All those books, carefully collected over the years, felt more like an anchor holding me back. They weren’t my pride and joy anymore. But they were still part of my identity and I didn’t know who I’d be without them.

I talked it over (at length) with a variety of different people. Then I started culling.

The first round was the easiest. I chucked the books that I kept like hunting trophies. “I read this and killed it. Now I never have to read it again.” That cleared out a few hundred books.

After that it was round after round of books that I liked okay, or kept because I had read them, but wasn’t going to read again.

I’m now down to somewhere in the 500s, a number that I’m pretty comfortable with. They won’t travel with me for short-term moves, but they’ll come out for all more permanent moves. This is the number of books that I love, reread constantly, and would genuinely be upset to not have ready access to.

The point here though, isn’t to flaunt my biblioholism. (Well, maybe it is a little.) It’s because I see many of posts from booklr that are about how many bookcases you need/how many books you own and it’s a bragging point. Which is totally cool. Books are amazing and it’s incredible to be surrounded by them.

But it’s also cool to not be surrounded by them. There can be a lot of pressure in a community to conform to the standards of its most popular members and it’s hard to manage your response to that pressure.

If you can’t afford to be a book hoarder, don’t want to have five million boxes to haul every time you move, or simply don’t want to be that way any more, that’s completely fine. It’s a bit of a transition, but ultimately it’s so much better to be who you are rather than continue to follow the pressure to be who you were. Like cutting off three feet of hair, you’ll be amazed at how light you feel. (At least, I did.)

And be gentle on yourself when you make cuts. If you’re not ready to let go of a book, keep it. Regretting a book you can’t get back isn’t worth the extra space on your shelf. You collection will naturally settle into a level that’s comfortable for you.

It’s good to check in with yourself periodically (those who can’t do, teach) about the goals you have and rules you’re conforming to, just to make sure they’re rules and goals you’re still comfortable with. Or at the very least, to notice when they’re not anymore.

Anyone else have a “confessions of an ex-something” tale? How did people take it when you changed in front of them? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. My mss is at 54,000 words!

Judging your age on book characters

I’m hitting my quarter-life crisis a few years later than most of my friends, but the thing that set me off was a re-read of Fruits Basket.

A young character refers to an older character as “oji-san” and the protagonist is shocked because “oji-san” is only 27.

I’m 28. When I first read these books, I was the same age as the protagonist (high school). I am now older than oji-san.  In the eyes of the young character, I’m pretty sure that makes me an antique.

I’m also the same age as Phryne Fisher (of the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries fame).

Soon I’ll be looking on all these characters as “youths” and shaking my cane at them. Who do I have left to admire and look up to? Miss Marple?

(I feel old.)

Did anyone else have an age-related crisis thanks to a book or series? What was it? I love messing with my emotions! Let me know in the comments.

P.S. My mss is at 51,000 words!

The Big Orlando Move

We’ve been here a little over a week now. The apartment is starting to look like an apartment and we’ve gotten the hang of some of the building’s quirks, like inside hallways and valet trash pickup.

There’s still a lot to do, of course. Nothing’s on the walls and we don’t have a bed yet. (I’m actually getting used to sleeping on an air mattress. Give me a real one and I won’t know what to do with myself.)

Part of why there’s still so much to do is because Orlando is one of the most fun places I’ve ever lived. We’ve been to a farmer’s market, tried out a ton of restaurants, gone to an event at the farmer’s market, and visited both Disney World and Universal. In between times we’ve been building the Lego castle (you can see our progress on my Instagram).

This was definitely a good move.  Of course, part of it is that we’re still in the honeymoon period and tomorrow starts work. It’ll be an adventure to see if we can keep our minds on task when the whole city is begging us to come out and experience it!

Do you have any recommendations for places to go or things to do? What’s your favorite place you’ve ever lived? Let me know!

P.S. My mss is at 48k words!

Waipi’o Valley

Although no one’s read it yet, anyone who gets their hands on my current manuscript is going to know immediately that I’m madly in love with the Big Island. We lived there for two years and figure that, whenever we settle down, it’ll be back there. Neither of us have ever felt that kind of connection with a place before.

The downside to setting a book there (besides that fact that draft 0 was more ‘love story to the island’ than ‘murder mystery’) is that my memory is made of old sponge. It’ll hold information for exactly as long as its relevant, but no longer. What was my first address? Dunno. How do you find the median? Not a clue.

So I’m doing a lot of research.  And parts of that research won’t make it into the book, no matter how much I wish they could.

For instance: the mysterious Waipi’o Tea House.

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RSCDS, or Finding Community

Five or six years ago, I was in grad school.  It was probably one of the more miserable years of my life. I was sleep deprived (getting up at 5 every morning to catch the bus to the train to school, and up until 1 or 2 completing work), struggling (my stat’s professor saw me in ever single office hour she had), and all-around miserable. I didn’t realize it until after I quit (a very good day), but I had fallen into a major depressive episode.

In the midst of all this, I did have one good point. I’d made a friend during the orientation and we rode in together each morning. We’d talk about anything and everything and one of our conversations ended up covering one of his hobbies- Scottish Country Dance.

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