“For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.”
Little Gidding II - T.S. Eliot
Here's to all the voices we have yet to hear. Some will be good, some will make us want to jump off one of the 8 Bridges of Portland, and some I pray will bring us to new greatness that we never imagined possible.
Happy New Year. I'll be back with amazing, or at least overheard, things in 2012.
"Oil falls for first time in 7 days...."
"NYC has 3rd fewest homicides on record in 2011..."
"Google+ may have 400,000,000 users by end of next year..."
"Gingrich slumps to 14% support by likely Iowa caucus-goers..."
Our world is made up of numbers. These happen to have come from Bloomberg News (which I was listening to while desparately trying to decrease the numbers that have been added onto my waist lately). We take for granted that numbers are important.... the cost of food at the store, or the score of our favorite sports team. It is so normal for us to evaluate these numbers for accuracy and relevancy that we usually don't stop to think how we even do this.
So, it is only when numbers surprise me that they get my real attention; and perhaps too much of it. Last week, during my book promotion, my numbers on Amazon surged. I was amazed to be awoken by my husband to the news that I had already 'sold' over 500 books that morning, Dec. 22nd. Through the course of the day we watched these numbers, trying to get our heads around what it meant.
We couldn't put it in financial terms, for example, since it was a give-away promo. Instead my brain tried to work out what this meant for marketing, for future promotions, for plans on my second book. It wasn't until the promotion was over and the sales turned to actual sales that the thought suddenly struck me.... these are my readers.
I am not sure why it took sales at my normal, $2.99 price for me to register this, but these numbers finally had new meaning for me. Each of those people who downloaded my book had somehow found it and were reading it. Hopefully they were liking it, but at least it was (virtually) in their hand. More than all the numbers put together, this fact delighted me.
It also reminded me of the two primary reasons I published my book on Kindle.... one was to learn more about the world of digital publishing; how to create a digital book and then how to reach readers. I am still trying to figure out how the readers found my 'free' book on Dec. 22nd. Was it through my friends on Facebook and Twitter? The way that Amazon listed it that day? The marketing from fantastic reviewers? This is the learning part, and there is still a lot I don't know... a lot the numbers don't tell me.
But, my second goal for publishing was to finally get my book into the hands of readers. And this was probably the reason I felt so excited when the realization hit me that more than 2000 people now had Betting Jessica.... Last year at this time my character Jessica only lived in my head and on the pages of the novel I had finished years ago. There was a hard copy which my mom and husband and a few friends had read, but otherwise.... the characters were like unloved dolls sitting on a shelf.
Now I get to wonder.... what do these readers think of Jessica and Erik? Do they picture them the way I do? What would they say to them if they could. Finally the characters are alive... something I like to think makes them as happy as it does me.
My sales may continue to grow now.... or they may stall. Either way there are 100's of 1,000's of things still to learn about publishing. These numbers are important, of course, but the very most important number is only 1 - that is, the one reader who, as I write this, has their kindle in their hands and is laughing at something Jessica has done. That one reader inspires me to finish revising my next novel, so that those characters too, can live.
"But what do we do today?"
At seven years old, the concept of anticlimax is difficult to understand. For that matter, although I know I will feel this way every year, the day after Christmas still hits me like a ton of bricks. And, it is not unlike the feelings I have after completing a novel.
What happens now? I think. At first there is a sense of something missing, like immediately after hiccups go away. The story has ended, but the characters live on in my brain and it feels disloyal to leave them behind. At the same time there is, of course, a sense of relief and accomplishment at having completed the whole story. Even after three books, as I write I still question whether I will be able to finish whatever creative process I am working on.
And.... just like with creative writing, the day after Christmas is all about the clean up. I put my house back together, find places for all the new toys and yummy treats and create beauty out of the chaos. Although this is a completely different process than the magic of Christmas day or the magic of story development.... it is just as fulfilling. I love that period of writing when I get to go back into the story and put it in order. For a while it is even uglier than when I started.... like clearing out a tupperware closet before stacking it all back together again in perfect columns. But WOW.... when the words get moved and the sentances transformed I am awestruck by the beauty of structure; the solidity of something that was once pieces becoming whole.
My house, doesn't quite look like that yet, I will admit. And rather than jump into it, I am off to go bowling... most importantly, my daughter unfortunately hasn't discovered the sense of power that comes from editing (aka, cleaning up). But... there is still time. For today we can just live in that space between creation and completion.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
Isaiah 11:6 - King James Bible (Cambridge edition)
May your holidays be filled with love and peace, however they are celebrated.
"This would make a great holiday present."
Really??? I stared at the faux fur hot water bottle and tried to imagine the person who would be excited to find it under their tree on Christmas morning.
On the other hand... gifts are funny that way. Since I was young I've had a knack for picking out completely inappropriate presents: silver jewlery for a friend who's allergic to that metal; a relationship game for a couple on the verge of separation; Harry Potter for a conservative christian family.It's not like I intend to get it so wrong. It is always done unwittingly; either because I am clueless or just because of fate. Probably, though, it is karmic payback for a critical comment I made about a present when I was 5 years old.
"He bought mom deoderant," I jeered with a giggle to my sister; unaware that my brother was hidden in a nearby rack of clothes, listening to our every word. Needless to say, it took an awful lot of coaxing to get him to come out after that.
I am fairly confident my bad luck with presents goes back to this lapse in judgement. But, while my gift giving may be filled with setbacks, I continue to try anyway. Because, as I learned when my mom opened that present of Secret on a stick, and gave my beleaguered brother a heartfelt hug and kiss, it is always the thought that counts the most.
So, I hope you'll all know that it is with thoughts of a fun and relaxing holiday that I offer my gift to all of my friends and fans... Tomorrow, December 22nd 2011, for that one day, my book, Betting Jessica, will be free on Amazon.com
I'm sorry it is not wrapped:>) but if you haven't read it I hope you enjoy it... or feel free to gift it to somone who would. And a very, very Happy Holidays to you and yours!
With love, Deanne
... The soft ripple of water streaming down the fountain tiles.
This joyous season of craziness and music and crowds and over-stim has completely destroyed me..... so what better time to sneak in the massage I have desparately needed all year long? I find it funny to write this after my last blog article re: darkness and despair, and yet it makes sense in a weird way. Because, no matter what the escape is, it is especially true at this time of year that stepping out of the daily grind is a very good way to find my own inner light again.
I am a huge fan of massages.... for one thing because my body feels so much better, but for another reason because I have the most interesting conversations with my fantastic masseuse. I am not one of those (usually) who lays there quietly while I am being massaged; especially not with Winter (and with a name like that, of course she is wonderful and artistic). I love talking with Winter about life and about our art; writing for me and music for her.
Today our conversation was partly about how to learn from others artists rather than getting lost in comparisons with them. It is so easy to lose confidence when faced with the amazing talent that surrounds me. But this year I challenged myself to stop avoiding this resource and start learning from it. I joined the Rose City Romance Writers -http://www.rosecityromancewriters.com/
) and worked to get more involved with my writer freinds.
There have been many fantastic highlights of this past year for me: going to Italy and publishing my book particularly come to mind. But of everything, the best thing I did for myself this year was to open my heart and brain to the advice, critique and common sense of my colleagues.
And in doing so, when I actually find moments of quiet like at the spa today, their supportive voices fill my mind with promises for the year ahead. Here's to a stellar 2012 for all of us.
“It wasn’t an accident.”
The words ricocheted through my brain, disconnected from the event which inspired the comment; a young child yelled at by his mom for spilling, or uh… possibly tossing, his hot chocolate.
For me, though, these words immediately brought to mind a conversation from years ago:
“It was not an accident,” my friend told me. “It was suicide.”
The idea of suicide was impossible to get my head around - then and now. Perhaps I am simply too big a commitment-phobe; but dying seems like a pretty big decision. How does someone reach that point where they believe death is better than life? My friend was fragile; this I knew about her. It wasn’t the first time she had tried…. And it should not have been a surprise.
Don’t get me wrong… there have been times in my life when darkness has surrounded me; when I have felt that the life I am living is somehow unreal and disconnected from the world. I remember these times particularly at the holidays, when darkness and light are metaphors for so much more; and when so many people experience real depression and alienation.
Usually at these moments, when I dwell in the loneliness of being an individual, I find myself faced with a vision of
real difficulty; a homeless person begging on an icy cold street; a mother of 5 kids with a shopping cart full of macaroni and cheese and food stamps to pay for them; an old person, alone in the window of a dark old house, staring out at nothing.
I am grateful for these moments because they force me to realize that I am only grazing the surface of what it is to despair. And…. I am brought low, humbled by what some others must see; that in fact I am surrounded by light and that the darkness is only because my eyes are shut.
The puddle of vomit spread across the gym floor, scattering the poor little kindergarteners sitting near it. While they moved away, the children's lack of concern had me wondering if throwing-up happened so frequently that they were used to it.
'Tis the season for hot chocolate, long lines, jingle bells, in-laws and.... spit-up. I'm not sure why this is true. Every year, though, without fail, we get sick from something right before winter break. Instead of praying over the miracle of Jesus' birth, I find I spend my night-time prayers convincing God why it would be really horrible to get sick right now.
Dear God... Please don't let any of us get the flu right now. How can we go to our friend's party if we are sick? Or make cookies in our warm cinnamony kitchen? When will I be able to finish my Christmas shopping or gift wrapping? God, I know no one wants to be sick, and next year, well, we can talk about it then. But this year you have to keep us healthy. There aren't many more Christmases where the magic will be so present. So, please, please, please. Amen.
The funny thing is that I am all about free-will when it is convenient. There are times, though, when I secretly hope that God can make a quick switch in the way things are supposed ot happen; like in the Adjustment Bureau. The young boy who is sick goes to cough and finds himself spun, by an invisible hand, in a different direction. Instead of the germs floating toward me they float off to the ether somewhere.
The fact is though, I don't really believe life / God works that way. So, if my daughter is unlucky enough to end up next to the kid who is throwing up... well, that's just the way things happen sometimes. Will Santa still visit, of course (and probably add another gift to make up for the illness). Instead of Christmas cookies we'll make homemade noodles for soup. Our gifts will be crafty rather than store bought; and.... if sadly, she does get sick, at least my in-laws will be there to help take care of her and us.
Maybe, this is what the kids know... the reason they didn't seem concerned. Life is filled with messy throw-up, but if we can overlook it, we will see the beauty that still surrounds us.
"Can we leave now?"
Fortunately for the second grader I was standing near, my daughter's singing voice drowned out his loud complaint. Truly... at one point the music director came over and moved the mic farther away from her. I was soooo proud!
We are a singing family. I can't deny it. I have sung to my daughter since she was in my stomach. Back then I mostly sang the blues though since pregnancy wasn't my favorite. We moved to the fun and silly songs of babyhod.... The Wheels on the Bus, Round and Round the Mulberry Bush, Chrisopher Robin, Goodnight my Angel.... songs that have stuck with me and can still bring me to tears (no jokes about my crying easily).
For a while, though, she became embarrassed by my constant singing. I got a lot of, shhhh Mommy, during that time and I wondered if I would ever get back to singing with (or to) her. It may have been the songs I was singing... Barney tunes are really difficult to get out of your head!
My husband and I now laugh about how much our daughter loves (and sings) music. In fact, I have noticed, lately, that just as she used to shush me, she is geting shushed, by friends and by her parents. Still, it feels like a whole new way I can connect with her. She loves rock and country and it has been such fun to find new songs that we both love and can blast out in the car (especially if my husband is with us and it is a country song - not his favorite!)
No matter what type of music though, Taylor Swift, Billy Joel, or even Barney, there is nothing, I think, as beautiful, as hearing children sing. This was brought home to me last night when the pre-kinder class was singing Away in a Manger. So beautiful and sweet and innocent that Jesus felt very present to me. Which made me wonder.... did Jesus like to sing? And if so... I wonder what somgs He liked. My guess is something with a really
"I always think that’s cool; when you drive up this hill and break through the fog into the sun. It’s like you’re flying above the clouds."
Ooooh, juicy words. I love to hear poetry used in everyday language. It is like the brown sugar in the oatmeal making everything taste better.
In this case, the Starbucks customer was commenting on the extremely strange weather we have been having; apparently the lowest pressure front recorded in history here in Portland. We've been surprisingly rain-free, but our sunny days take shape between layers of fog. And.... it's freezing. I find myself humming along with , Baby It's Cold Outside, and really meaning it. Any precipitation would be snow at this point. I wish for it, but have discovered it is useless to believe I can control the weather.
This was actually something I learned at a young age. I had a valid reason for being convinced I was one of a few people with some authority when it came to weather. I didn't much like growing up with the last name, Sprinkle; I am sure you can imagine all that was done with that by way of elementary school teasing. The only thing that made listening to "a sprinkle a day, helps keep odor away," in any way worthwhile was the idea that I alone could wish for (and get) snow or rain or sun.
But, growing up in California I was mostly wise enough not to test my powers with the snow thing... the sun and rain, however, were clearly at my command. Still, after years of sunny Christmas holidays, by the second or third grade I felt ready to call on my authority to produce a sledding hill on our street. I guess I must not have realized that even with snow, our flat street would not have been conducive to good sledding. It was a moot point. Of course it didn't snow; and I began my downward spiral of realizing there was not, in fact, any good reason why my last name, at best was a type of cupcake topping, and at worst rhymed with tinkle.
There isn't much teasing you can do with the last name, Wilsted though; and for the most part, I am entirely grateful about that. Hopefully my daughter will have one less thing to have to defend. But every now and then, such as when a catchy name might help me sell a book, a little part of me misses that juicy last name.
And in fact, I did keep Sprinkle as a middle name; Because, let's be honest. you never know when the weather gods might need a little assistance. Oh, please let it snow......