What Excites Me About ALA

ALA Anaheim begins tomorrow. I am leaving on Saturday to be a part of this convention of awesome, and thought it might be fun to list what I’m most looking forward to. Ready? Here it is:

  1. Everything.

I’m not kidding. I’ve never been to any convention about writing. I’ve been to one local workshop and many education related events, but never anything strictly regarding the business of books. To say I’m excited is like saying John Green is an okay writer. He’s awesome and I’m losing my mind in anticipation.

I live in New Yorkand have been to Californiaone other time. I roamed San Franciscoand the Napa Valley and had one of the best vacations of my life. I have never been to Anaheim but know enough not to expect the funkiness of Haight Ashbury or the lushness of the vineyards. I will, instead, be in the heart of the city, surrounded by like-minded people: readers. We will all be there for one reason, the stories. I find that unbelievably compelling.

Additionally, I have a few events planned that I am thoroughly looking forward to: YALSA happy hour with fellow writer Bethany Crandell, dinner with my Running Press family and my signing on Sunday (1:30 – 3:30, Perseus booth #2476). And of course, the time in between where I’ll get to walk the floor and mix and mingle and enjoy the company of librarians, industry executives and other writers.

This may be the first time I am going to feel like a full fledged writer. I spend the majority of my time as an English teacher who has been published. Which is quite all right, because I love teaching and the insight interacting with my students brings. However, ALA marks a shift in this equation. Writing is being moved to the forefront and assuming an equal partnership with teaching. I like it. No, I love it.

Therefore, I want to extend my thanks to Perseus and Running Press and everyone there who has helped bring Tap Out to life. It is impossible to describe the swell of pride I feel knowing that so many not only considered my work and said yes, but that you keep doing so, are willing to send me to ALA, and are a vocal support of my work. This reader, turned teacher turned writer is ecstatic, and I have you to thank.

Now, if I can keep my head about me, I’ll be certain to report back after the weekend with a breakdown of the good times.

Until then.

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Time to Till

The summer is when I get the bulk of my writing done. As a teacher it’s very tempting to sit out by my pool on a daily basis and watch the clouds pass overhead. Or sleep in and behave as if I’m retired. But I keep a very similar schedule as the rest of the year. I’m up early, albeit an hour later–6 am, and at the computer for as  long as possible. Usually that’s until I need to leave for work. Over the summer it’s however long the stamina lasts. Some days it’s a couple hours. Others, I’ve got to remind myself to eat.

I love this time and I hate this time. The pressure is truly on because if I don’t establish my next idea, if I don’t solidify a solid premise that I want to spend the next few months with…well, I’ve missed my window. It’s not that I can’t or don’t write well during the school year, it’s just that the time and consideration a new project takes is considerable. The hours I need are now. I cannot be wasteful.

I’ve been fortunate. Most of my seeds have come during June and July. Some as late as August. That’s not coincidence, though. Because as I’m working during the year, I’m also writing shorter pieces, taking notes about what my students are concerned with, overall just paying attention to the landscape I visit every day.

Now, with school finishing next week, I’m off to ALA and then some family time. But I’m already turning my starter stories in my palm, looking for the best. I’m outlining and thinking about hooks and hoping I have the germ of another sweet idea.

It’s time to plant, so that come fall I’ll know that the harvest with be bountiful.

For my other teacher/writers out there, happy sowing.

Ease of Mind

I submitted my WIP to Kate McKean right before memorial Day weekend. It’s a good thing I did so because I felt confident about the draft and I needed to clear my plate because my wife was having her wisdom teeth pulled. Based on her fragile health as of late, I knew the recovery was going to be consuming.

And it has been. But ten days out she’s doing much better and the dust is settling around here. However, the time away from writing has left me with two points to ponder: 1. What’s next. 2. Is that WIP really as good as I thought it was?

This is my vicious cycle: write, revise, worry. Tap Out is being given away at Book Expo America this week. By the end of the month I’ll be at ALA Anaheim supporting my work, and yet I know the entire time I’ll be in the throes of worry.

Writing is 24-7, and mostly in my head. I am constantly thinking about what story I want to tell next. I work with teenagers and am always considering their current struggles and how they fit within the market. When I’m not actively engaging with these thoughts, because life dictates my time otherwise, I’m left to dwell and to second-guess, even though I know better.

The fact that I have such consternation is not a fail-safe against poor writing, but it is a measure of self-monitoring that comes from experience. I know when I first began writing, I loved whatever I wrote, even though I knew it wasn’t publishable. Now, I love the process even more, but with publication comes responsibility. I worry about my writing like I do my own children. Am I cultivating it correctly? Am I teaching my girls the right lessons?

There’s no way of knowing beyond just writing. I have to get the words down and then have them reviewed. I have to be willing to let my daughters make their own decisions and hope the world is kind to them.

But it’s not easy.

I do have a plan, though–at least for what’s next. I’ve toyed with three possibilities and I’ll start in on whichever I’m most drawn to. Because the overwhelming element in the process is passion. It is because I care so damn much that I want whatever I put forth to be better than the last.

It’s the only way for my wind to be at ease. Until it’s not…