Monthly Archives: July 2014

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whelmed

It’s a lazy Sunday here, and tomorrow is 14 Juillet (known as Bastille day only outside of France, apparently). Sundays are so much nicer when Monday’s a holiday.

This is what we’ve been doing:

and a few minutes later:

Movies, music, food. Hanging out like pros.

It is summer holidays and so far so good. The weather has been lousy, and continues so today, but I got to the market, and we have friends coming around tonight. During the week, I crossed paths with friends who have kids, and we all keep each other company. I had writers’ group. Things are going okay.

And yet, I am feeling rather under-whelmed, just at the moment. I’ve been solidly working on writing for two and a half years now… and the reasonable bit of my brain knows I’m getting better, and I’ve written LOADS, but there’s a little bit of my brain, a bit that is both a) irrepressible, and b) immune to logic.

That dangerous cluster of neurons (I took science until they let me stop. I was 15. I don’t even know how to spell neurons. No squiggly red line – good) is getting me down.

I’m feeling rather overwhelmed by how much work goes into writing (and rewriting and editing) a decent novel. I’m not a naturally gifted wordsmith. I’m not a speedy reader. I have to work hard at this stuff.

working, at the playground

Working hard. At the playground.

I’ve been working hard for two and a half years now. That’s as long as it took me to get my B.A. – which you might argue is about as useful. I had to do another year of study on top of my degree before it made me employable. And there was always more to being employable than those qualifications.

It’s possible that publication, or even finding a literary agent, is a ways off. Maybe not, but maybe. I actually had a dream last night, in which a friend, who has written a lot less than me, got a book deal. If that were to happen, sure I’d be very happy for them, but I’d also be angry. I’m a little bit angry anyway. And it was just a dream! Two people I studied with have prize-nominated published books, and one of them won the freekin’ Booker.

Now, I know, comparison is a foolish idea. But there it is. The brain goes there anyway, don’t it?

 

writer with angst

Louis, with writers’ angst.

I’m terribly impatient. And most of my anger is to do with impatience. If I stick at this long enough (and I will because I love writing) then surely it will pay off… eventually.

Exactly what ‘paying off’ looks like, might not be just what I think it is now.

I recently had one (of seven – oy vey) of my manuscripts assessed and got comprehensive editorial feedback from a professional in the publishing industry. There are lots of positives in her report, but what I was seeking (and what I got) was advice on how to lift my game.

I’ve got plenty of work to do. Perhaps not all of it is strictly NECESSARY. But I do intend to go through the entire thing again and fix up that which is (now) obviously improvable. And for a while, before I touch it, I need to just think about what I want to do. Especially about the opening chapter. (But I really am horribly impatient.)

so many words

So many words.

One of the discouraging things is that two of the editor’s concerns are to do with things I added, relatively recently, in response to other people’s feedback! (Including the opening chapter.) I made big gut-wrenching changes… and it’s possible they didn’t work. It’s always frustrating to try something and have it not work.

But it’s part of the learning process, says the reasonable bit of my brain. Writing is not all you do. Writing is not all you are.

Look at your lovely kids and all the things they’re learning. Look at that fantastic feast you’re slapping together without a recipe and when did you start understanding french on the radio???

But still. Gr. Writing a book is a slog. A first draft is something I now find easy, but that is far and a long ways from a book. In fact, what happens to first drafts, in this house…

That about sums it up.

 


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the plot thickens

… but it all comes out well in the end.

I have a whopper of a bruise on my leg. We visited the netherlands a couple of weekends back (goodness, has it been that long?) and while there, we went to a monkey-centric zoo. It was a fantastic afternoon for us all, but this place, Apenheul, is very well set-up for the kids. The playgrounds are modelled on the spaces designed for the monkeys to play in. I was always so jealous of the monkeys’ ropes and swings and climbing frames when I was a kid. There was this one rope swing and no one around, so I showed Louis and Elena how it worked.

 

I grabbed the rope, took a few steps back and leapt on. I wrapped legs around the rope, hooked my ankles and ouch. The knot, which is supposed to keep my bum from slipping off the bottom, dug right into my leg. Now surely I’ve done this a hundred times as a kid, and yes, I was always wondering where all my bruises came from, but what a shiner! I look like someone took a piece of 2×4 to my leg.

They didn’t. I was just being a monkey. We were up in the Netherlands for Luuk’s family reunion, which was so much fun I forgot to take any photos. We drove up on Saturday, went to see the monkeys.

at apenheul

The kids freaked out a little. Mainly because the monkeys were climbing on the pushchair. The next day we wandered around the palace grounds, in the town where we’d stayed.

wandering around the palace

Wore the kids out so they’d sleep before the family reunion.

The reunion was at a little hotel. We basically drank and ate all afternoon – ham rolls, apple tart, a buffet of quiches, soup, and finally a few chocolates for the road. The dutch were playing in the football, so a large proportion of the family gravitated to the tv. The hotel sent us packing at half time so some went to the food festival across the way, who had the match on, but we had tired kids, so we headed to our hotel. We listened to the commentary, in dutch, in the car. It was amazing how much I could pick up just from tone of voice.

The next day we had coffee with Luuk’s brother and his wife, and with Luuk’s uncle and aunt, and then lunch, and then we drove on to another city to visit Luuk’s grandmother.

pressies from oma
There were presents for the kids. And food. Everywhere we went. All we do in the Netherlands is eat. Yeah, because that’s so different from when we’re at home…

IMG5828

Photo I took day after we got back.

We returned for Louis’ last week of school. He is now on summer holidays, les grandes vacances. He is going to a holiday program three days a week, which is even longer days than school. I was nervous on Monday. I made sure he was at the same program as a friend. But he was ready to go off with the other kids before said friend even arrived. Monday evening he didn’t really want to leave. Yesterday he painted a castle.He’s off today, but looking forward to tomorrow.

I tend to dread school holidays. I used to be a teacher so this is quite the turn-around. But with Louis at the holiday program and Elena doing halte garderie as per normal, until the end of July, I’m able to go on as usual, or close to it.

I finished my mad-cap novel, the one I dashed out in under three weeks, and now I’m juggling two projects: edits of a contemporary novel that my writers’ group is helping me revise, and an adaptation of my other historical novel into a screenplay. I’m not sure it’s fantastic screenplay material, but I want to get all the way through the process of writing a screenplay. Writing one from scratch will be less daunting if I’ve done it before.

 

Meanwhile, Luuk and I have finally made some plans for our summer holiday. We have three weeks in which to rest and see some sights. We were initially dreaming of a couple of lazy weeks sandwiched between a little sight-seeing in Greece or Croatia, but the cost of flying there is a little daunting. If we drive, we can stop at sights along the way, but that’s a whopping great drive. We started looking at those ‘sights along the way’ and we’ve decided to skip Greece and Croatia, for now, and instead will dip into Switzerland, Northern Italy (things we didn’t see last summer), Austria and a little southern Germany.

Perhaps we’ll be more organised next year, snag us some early-bird cheep airfares, and gallop around (cough-laze-about-cough) the Adriatic next summer.

Tell him he’s dreamin’.