What’s the hardest part of writing?
Is it coming up with ideas? Is it thrashing out a plot? Getting to know your characters? Sitting down to write the thing? Editing? Peeking through your fingers at the edits? Hitting the send button?
Well, everyone’s different. For me, the hardest part of writing is the time between sending a piece off and hearing back. That dead space when I know the other person has it, but I don’t know
- What they think.
- If they’ve read it.
It’s awkward. You’re dying to know, and you have to wait: whether it’s an agent, an editor, an actor, a beta, or even your mom. Patience—I work on the deep breaths.
Because there isn’t all that much you can do, other than wait. Two days ago, I had five separate pieces in various people’s hands. By yesterday, I’d heard back on two (both good news, incidentally, but I’ll leave that for another post). As for the other three…I know two will take a long time, and I’m not expecting to hear anything for a while. The other…I just don’t know.
As hard as it is, don’t obsess. Put it out of your mind. Work on something else.
(All of the above are things I keep telling myself.)
Turns out I’m still in school, and for the first time, I have a bit of breathing space with the writing/podcasting. This dead space is a great time to actually make some progress on this, my last round of essays. I’ve also really enjoyed my forays into short fiction. Keep busy, keep doing things. Don’t stop just because you’re no longer clasping the piece in question to your chest.
It’s also a matter of sensitivity, I think. Hopefully, when you give people things to read, you have an idea of what else is going on in their lives. If it’s a friend, hopefully you know when they’re in the midst of essays, or when they have a flurry of work. If it’s an agent or editor, you can assume they’re juggling many different projects at once. When it’s time, your turn will come. But you’re not the most important thing.
These are good skills to cultivate in general. Patience. Perspective. (p)Sensitivity. I keep coming back to my favourite lesson learned in New Zealand:
I guess we’ll find out.
I need to get that put on a bumper sticker or something. Although, since I don’t drive, it might be kind of pointless. A fender sticker, maybe?
I need more coffee.
I’m a worrier. Always have been, as far back as I can remember. Those “what ifs” can get vicious. And so, one of the most important things I learned while travelling is the ability to say, “I guess we’ll find out.”
Will I have enough time to make this connecting flight? I guess we’ll find out. What if I miss it? I guess we’ll find out. Would they send my backpack without me? I guess we’ll find out.
However, IGWFO only works in situations over which I have absolutely no control. When I’m stuck in traffic, when I’m travelling, when I’ve done everything I can, it is brilliant for stopping the circular, racing thoughts (oh hai, anxiety).
There is nothing I can do. I guess we’ll find out.
But, if I have even the slightest bit of agency, all bets are off.
What if Hapax-the-Novel flops? IGWFO doesn’t work here. This particular flavour of worrying is almost a really bizarre optimism. If there is any possible way at all that I can actually do something, you can bet my brain will seize on the chance that maybe we won’t have to find out.
So, what if Hapax-the-Novel flops? OMG we need to do more promoting – what else could we do, who else can we talk to, OMG are we doing enough? Are we doing too much? Not enough? What if we – what if people – what if – what if – what if….
Ah, what if: the writer’s favourite question.
But in all seriousness, it’s good to distinguish between things that I should worry about, and things that I really can’t worry about. Three separate accidents on the bus route that takes me to work? Nothing I can do. Book coming out and now we need to drive sales? Yep, I can do things
to help that.
It’s not perfect. But in twenty-one years, it’s the best thing I’ve discovered for managing my own worrying.
So. How will the next few weeks and months go?
I guess we’ll find out.
They say a book’s publication date is like a birthday. You look forward to it, and count down to it, and finally, finally it comes.
I just did the equivalent of sleeping through my birthday party.
In what I’m sure will become an amusing anecdote for the ages, I actually just realized that you can order Hapax on Amazon. I mean, yes, I had heard from Dragon Moon that it was “live on Amazon.” But I only looked at Amazon.ca – while that site has the cover art now, it still says “currently unavailable.” So, I assumed “live” meant “the cover is up.”
Tonight, while double-checking something for the Hapax-Chat portion of Chapter 8 of Hapax-the-Podcast, I looked at the American version: Amazon.com.
There’s an “Add-to-cart” option. Apparently, if you order in the next 41 hours, you can get it by Tuesday. Unless I’m highly, highly mistaken, I think my book is out.
I’m also having trouble typing. How odd.
But seriously, I feel like this is enough of an adrenaline jolt to keep me up tonight. Suddenly, there is a HECK of a lot to do – more promotional stuff that I’d been planning, but for which I’d been assuming, “Not now, not yet.”
So, I need your help.
Please, please help me spread the word. Tell your friends. Leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, iTunes (for the podcast), on your own blogs. Let people know about it. Do let me know. Reviews and comments are seriously an author’s best friend. Don’t be shy.
Here are the links:
Without you guys, how can the Hapax be heard?
I’m going to go sit down for a minute now….
The sun was out for the first time all day. My boss had just called to see if I could work next week (in my favourite building, no less!). My roommate and I were eating freshly baked cake. I was whiling away the last hour or so before I needed to leave for a pool party. Life was pretty good.
“Whoa. What’s wrong with my hands?”
Small, flattish red bumps covered the backs of my hands. They seemed to spread as I watched, covering more and more space, though not really venturing past my wrists. I checked my feet, and found a few around my toes.
“Hives,” was Gemma’s diagnosis. In general, she’s not the type to accept much nonsense. As her boyfriend and mother both have epi-pens, she is even less inclined to do so with allergies—especially when you don’t know what’s causing them. And so, I was quickly dosed up with Benedryl, given copious amounts of water, and, when the hives refused to fade and my throat started tightening, bundled off to the emergency room.
Here’s an effective way of getting attention in a hospital: state, “I have hives, my throat feels tight, and we have no idea what’s causing it.”
We moved quickly through triage (I could only laugh at the question, “Have you travelled outside of North America in the past thirty days?”) and into a curtained-off corner of another room. For the next while, I answered questions, while Gemma provided additional details.
Yes, I thought I might be allergic to wasps, but have never actually had that tested. No, I hadn’t been stung by a wasp. No, I hadn’t used any new detergents or soap. No, I hadn’t gone walking barefoot through any parks. No, I’ve lived in this house for a year. Yes, I had started drinking almond milk instead of regular milk, but I’d been doing it for over a week and hadn’t had any since that morning.
“Well,” one doctor said, observing the new splotches on my feet. “I think you’re having an allergic reaction.”
Apparently at a loss, they decided to give me more Benedryl, this time via an injection into my muscle. Here’s an effective way of getting hospital staff to treat you like you’re six: stare at the giant, pokey needle, clutch your friend’s hand, and stammer, “Will it hurt?”
I still maintain that a fear of needles is perfectly rational.
They left us a while longer while the antihistamines did their work. The spots faded, but all the combined Benedryl took its toll as reality felt increasingly dreamlike and I drowned beneath a wave of drowsiness. I tried to chat with Gemma, but I think my side of the conversation stopped making sense. However, I do remember that we both decided it might be a bad idea to take a picture of myself looking sad in a hospital bed, post it online, and caption it, “In ER. Just got a huge shot. Doctors have no idea what’s wrong with me.”
But, eventually, the doctors decided the hives had calmed enough to let me go. They wrote me a prescription for an epi-pen, gave me instructions to come back immediately if I experienced any facial swelling or throat closing, and sent me on my way.
As soon as we got home, I hit my bed, slept for an hour, woke up for a brief conversation with Gemma, and fell asleep again until just now.
I’ve been told that hives recur, and since we don’t know what caused them in the first place, they may come back. So, just a general announcement: if you see me with bumpy, angry-looking hands and feet, don’t worry. I probably don’t have the plague.
Lately, one of my American flatmates and I have been bonding over our childhoods. This has mostly centred on Disney and Pokémon, but it turns out we have another thing in common.
We both watched Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders.
If you don’t know it, I’m not surprised. Honestly, it was a shock to discover that someone else had even heard of it, let alone watched it. It ran from 1995-1996, and embodied all that is wonderful and awful about early ‘90s kids’ shows. Think Power Rangers with unicorns.
Plot summary: in “New Camelot,” in the kingdom of Avalon (groan), three teenage girls are Jewel Riders. Instead of riding jewels, they use their special, shiny stones to ride on/talk to a particular animal. This animal is their “Special Friend” (snerk). I’m not entirely sure what Jewel Riders are normally supposed to do (a mounted police force?), but in this series, the Evil Person has locked Merlin in the Wild Magic. The girls must find all seven Crown Jewels to free him (insert jokes about Family Jewels here, here, and here) and stop the magic of Avalon from breaking down.
The scary thing is that there’s a nugget in there that could be promising. If the world is built on magic, how would people cope when magic disintegrates, and the structure of the universe itself crumbles?
Apparently, I just like destroying worlds.
But alas, the idea dies in its execution. Dialogue dripping with cheese, inconsistent rules, hilarious mistakes in animation, and an utter lack of internal logic or character motivation pushes it into realms of camp I’ve rarely seen.
And yet… I loved it as a kid. The show ended when I was five, yet fifteen years on, I could still hum the theme song. Clearly, it left quite an impression on my young, malleable mind. So much so, that I recall making up and acting out a story in which Simba from The Lion King (another favourite) helps the Jewel Riders.
I was creating Princess Gwenevere crossover fanfic before I knew what crossover fanfic was.
With the benefit of all my age and wisdom, I wonder what appealed to me so much. I never really had much time for princesses. The talking animals might have done it, or the classic quest to Find the Magical Artifacts. Or maybe it was the fact that Merlin was missing and the magic was dying. At five, I couldn’t have articulated it that way, but those are the aspects of the show that I remember most.
I suppose it’s really no surprise that Hapax is an apocalyptic fantasy….
I always knew this week would be hard. I’m typing this on Good Friday. Aside from all my family members’ birthdays, Easter is the main holiday I’m missing. This blog isn’t the place to get deeply into it, but suffice it to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the past few Easters with my church choir. The music is beautiful, as is the service, and I love the way Easter’s symbolism converges with the agricultural calendar.
All this to say that I’m a little wistful this weekend, an ocean away from the people and places that mean so much to me. I knew this would happen, and I was already prepared for a rough week.
Then I got sick. The shaking chills, plugged ears, swollen glands, tight-chested, coughing-until-you-feel-you-can’t-breathe kind of sick. I’m on the mend, but it was worst Tuesday night. At about 12:30 am, while I lay in bed, gasping and sweating, a movie and laughter blared in the room next to mine. I’d already asked them to turn it down once, and I certainly wasn’t leaving my bed again.
That night, for the first time, I thought: You know what? Screw it. I want to go home. I miss my friends. I want my apartment back. I’m sick, and alone, and living in a glorified dorm. Screw it.
I had enough sense to realize that my illness was likely behind this outpouring of emotion (at least in part). So, I told myself that if I felt as miserable in the morning, I would see the International Student Advisers.
Luckily, I didn’t have to. Then, after choir yesterday, I got to talking with one of the friends I’ve made here: a girl from California. The Californian admitted that she’d already been to the Advisers, and admonished me for not calling her in the depths of my misery.
It’s hard for me to ask for help. But sharing our homesickness was like taking a sigh of relief – just knowing there’s someone else who feels the same. It’s a nice reminder that opening up can be a good thing.
And so… back on track, and looking forward to my trip to Oamaru – the Steampunk/Victoriana capital of the South Island (who knew, right?).
Well, just had the first bout of academic-related anxiety of the term. One minute, I was innocently flossing my teeth. The next, my mouth went dry and my heart pounded. My mind whirred with dates and calculations, trying to reconcile all my out-of-town weekends and commitments with assignment due dates.
As per my exchange requirements, I’m taking five “papers” (classes), even though the usual workload here is four. Three of my five papers are significantly easier than their U of T counterparts would be, and I’ll be writing essentially the same essay for two of my classes (the key word here is essentially – I’m an honest scholar!). All of this to say – under ordinary circumstances, I’d probably be fine.
These aren’t ordinary circumstances.
I’m in New Zealand, after all. This is the time for weekend getaways – I’m spending one at a sheep farm, another travelling with choir. I have Easter in Oamaru: the Steampunk Capital of NZ (who knew, right?). There is so, so much to do just on the tourist-y side. And yes, any credits I earn here are pass/fail – so long as I pass, the actual mark will never show on my transcript.
But I’ll know.
Then there’s the writing, which is, at least, thoroughly enjoyable. I’ll be honest: I have not touched Hapax-the-Podcast since I left Canada. I’m making friends, I’m having fun… but I can’t listen to my actors just yet. Anyway, even if I wanted to, I can’t do much with the audio until edits to the text are done. My main problem there is the paralyzing sense of, “But I can’t let it go! I could still fix this one last thing!” That’s just something I need to get over.
Oh, and those chapter outlines for my next project? Yeah. About those…
But it’s ok. It’s all ok. Every term, I look at the mountain of work and swear it can’t be climbed. And every term, I somehow manage.
NASA has contingency plans for the backup plans of Plan B.
NASA’s got nothing on me.
Frosh. Freshmen. Freshers. First-years.
No matter what you call them, every university has them.
O-Week (Orientation Week) has finally started here at Otago, and I’m finding myself in a strange, in-between place. I am not a first year. I put in my time as a frosh nearly three years ago, thank you very much, but I’m as new to Otago as any of these kids clutching their free posters and giveaway tote bags.
Here’s the difference, though.
Frosh have a certain look.
They’re wide-eyed and trying to look in every direction at once. Their smiles are just a little too bright, their laughter a little too shrill thanks to that edge of nervousness. They travel in clumps, checking their new compatriots a little too frequently, obviously in that awkward phase of making friendships through happenstance.
I’ve been in New Zealand for just over a week, and I can pick them out.
Now, I was a first-year once, too. I know I had the very same look. We all did. The first week of university is vital for meeting people, and I’ve been trying to remember how I did it the first time around. Unfortunately, I can’t. All of my university friends seem to have just… grown into my life. Little by little, chance encounters turning into anticipated meetings, until it seemed like they had always been there. Even now, you can tell that’s happening with this crop of first-years.
Now that I’m old and jaded and cynical, I’ve apparently stopped sending the “I’m-so-desperate-for-friends-please-come-talk-to-me” vibe that first-years all broadcast to each other. The fact that a pair of them asked me for directions seems to suggest that I look like I know what I’m doing. I’m not one of them, and yet, as a “new kid,” I am.
The first week of university is one of those experiences that can’t really be recreated. There are some events on offer for exchange students, like the coffee hour I went to this morning. There, we smiled, asked and re-asked the dreaded three questions (“What’s your name? Where are you from? What are you studying?”), but it wasn’t the same. I suspect that these friendships will be more like the ones I’ve made in my various places of employment: not so much growing as building, the foundation laid brick by conscious brick until one day you realize how solid the structure is.
Only on exchange can you simultaneously feel like a mature student and the Über-Frosh.
This is the obligatory awkward first post. I don’t much care for these. It’s like writing the first letter to a pen pal, or the first conversation with a new roommate – what do you say?
Hi, my name is ____. I’m from ____. I like ____. Oh Lord, please fill this silence with something.
Hi, my name is K.T. Bryski. I’m from Canada, though residing in New Zealand for the next six months, which means there will be six months of “travel blog!” thrown into the mix here. I like writing, science fiction/fantasy, and eclectic periods of history. My first novel, Hapax, will be published by Dragon Moon Press this October, and will be available as a podcast sometime around Septemberish (though it’s not for a while yet, I figured I ought to be up front about it – save the date!).
Well, now we can move into the fun stuff. Alas, it shall have to wait until next time – I’m on my way to dinner with my new flatmate, her friend, and other international students. Yay, socialization!