Compass points to good news
I was going to try to play this cool, you know, at least until the end of the newsletter, but you know what? Nah.
My hockey novel, HEADING NORTH, was accepted for publication by the wonderful folks at Braddock Avenue Books! You can read the full post here at my website (updated and spiffed up a bit in honor of this announcement).
Or just enjoy the Publishers Marketplace deal report, which I have shamelessly posted everywhere this week, so apologies if you’ve already seen this on one or more platforms:
If you are feeling stymied in your work, please know that I started this novel a full decade ago. The first draft was finished in 2013. The relationship between the novel that was accepted and that original first draft is more cousin twice removed than sibling. It takes as long as it takes.
That doesn’t mean I’ve felt especially patient at any point in the process, or that all that time was spent in happy and productive process, but is rather another acknowledgment of that terrible (wonderful?) writing truism. Often I will share something like this with my students—that such and such a novel took twelve years to write, or that every topic has already been written about so there’s no real pressure to be “original,” only rather to do whatever you’re going to do in your own particular way—and then ask, “Is this freeing? Terrifying? Discouraging? Reassuring?” Inevitably, the whole room offers up a kind of collective all of the above in a mix of sighs and shrugs and nods and the occasional despairing whimper that ends in a laugh.
Everything, consecutive or concurrent.
It would be nice, of course, to feel just the one thing—a solid, clear reaction—but the mix of sensations is helpful to me, if I can get them to appear in the right circumstance: to feel reassured at the start of the project in order to let go of the pressure, is a good way to begin; to feel a little terrified (as in the sense of the sublime) when I can see something coming together in a way that is exciting and unexpected helps me to preserve some important edges. But it’s not often that the right sensation comes at the right time. Being terrified at the start means so much not-starting; infuritatingly, predictably, there’s the thought, arriving exactly when it’s not wanted: oh God, here begins another decade of not knowing if anything’s actually working. Or the lackadaisical “well, nothing’s ever going to feel fresh again, so just write into the comfortable places” third draft that turns a book into a sofa.
In those moments, I try to keep company with other books that conjure the right feeling, or have a conversation with someone who’s been here, too, or do something else, when all else fails. (Manual labor is good for what ails me, creatively speaking.) And eventually things align again. Being with this novel for a decade is a good reminder of that.
What’s your good news this week? Big, small, or otherwise—a little bit of good news goes a long way these days. Please share!
What I’m making: Last month, I purchased a small wooden tapestry loom. Seriously small—the tapestries it makes are two inches wide and about six inches long: a bookmark, a bracelet. If I sewed two of them together, I could have a generous coaster. I am currently making my first assay using a not-very-planned assortment of dark wools, onto which I am intending to embroider something vaguely Starry Night-esque. Gold, silver, white, swoopy. You get the gist. Mostly, this is a tiny proving ground for new endeavors: something entirely decorative to push me out of my comfort zone. I have long avoided making anything like this, and I know why: I worry that it won’t look the way I want it to look (which is altogether ironic, given that I’m also avoiding planning how I want it to look). I’ve said before that part of the appeal of making things is the fast feedback (so unlike a novel), and when you’re knitting a lace shawl from a pattern, for example, or weaving up some twill dishcloths, it’s relatively easy to see if you’re in the ballpark and you generally know what it’s going to look like before you begin, given that most patterns come with photos. I am trying not to know too much about this little thing, so I can perhaps psych myself into a bit more freedom than I usually employ.
What I’m reading: I just started Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain. I’m hooked.
What I’m writing: I’m skittering along as best I can with #1000wordsofsummer, Jami Attenberg’s fantastic generative writing brainchild, as I write toward the ending of the second draft of a new project. This draft is putting into practice all of the things I learned about the previous draft in Kate Senecal’s year-long novel revision workshop, offered through Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop. Kate’s an amazing workshop leader; if you’re looking for a class, short- or long-term, check out the PVWW classes!