Tuesday, December 26, 2017

New Year's Resolutions: I'm giving them an A: Avert, Act, Affirm.

I know I'm not here as much anymore.

I miss it, the blogging. I do.

It's been a year. So much has changed about our world -- our country -- been painfully unearthed, laid bare and oozing, all jagged teeth and slime, like some alien thing from the deep.

I know for many the evil has been visible for a long time, like some movie clown in the sewers, red eyes glaring, calling for others to climb in. And climb in, they did, and now they've all climbed out again, with the worst of the oozing, pus-filled aliens at the helm.

For most of us, it feels like a waking nightmare, one many of us never thought we'd see in our country. For our kids' sake, I hope we survive it. . .

But I digress. 2018 is on the horizon and there is much to do for as long as this oozing sore of a country is still dragging its sorry ass awake each morning with the sunrise, and to bed after dark. So here are my resolutions. I'm giving them an A. Or three. AVERT. AFFIRM. And, ACT.  

AVERT: When THE PULL OF GRAVITY came out years ago, though my editor adored the book, it had very little in-house support. Having taken nearly 10 years to get a book deal, I wasn't about to let the book, which garnered pretty stellar reviews and a Bank Street Best designation, disappear quietly into the ether. So I did what I knew how to do: I put my marketing hat on (yes, my undergrad degree is in marketing) and began to scour the internet for mentions of the book and/or mentions of OF MICE AND MEN being taught, so that I could try to make connections and get the book in readers hands around the country. Checking on my book morning and night, finding ways to promote it, became what I did. I'd often spend three or four hours a day reaching out to schools and trying to get the book seen. It's a habit that has continued through THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO and THE MEMORY OF THINGS. The problem is, it's both a time suck and an easy distraction (at least compared to writing something new), not to mention a rather narcissistic sort of endeavor that often only leads to comparison and disappointment. So, for starters in 2018, I am resolving to avert my eyes from all that, and to only to spend a minimal allotted time looking under the guise of marketing or otherwise, assuming anything I need to know will come to my attention. Maybe fifteen minutes on Fridays. The rest will be a battle not to search and click.

There's a second way I'm needing to avert my eyes. There is a lot of divisiveness and angry discourse taking place in Children's Publishing right now. If you want to see one small example of the nature of it, you can read THIS PIECE and then THE COMMENTS to it. The business has grown frustrating and upsetting to me in that way: that, while all of us seem to agree on underlying issues and values, the callout culture and dragging has become ugly for those of us who may not agree with the methodology, who might prefer a more mindful, nonjudgmental conversation. I, for one, try to affirm and hold up, but never tear down on the basis that there is little we can know about a person from a single tweet, or even a single snapshot of their life during a period of time. But we are living through a callout, dragging, tear down culture:

I don't know Eric Smith but have redacted the photo and name of an author I do know
and otherwise respect who is here describing another author's public excitement
about "dragging" Joyce Carol Oates as "levity."
This breaks my heart and I certainly don't feel it elevates the conversation.

Yes, I've saved many screenshots that speak to my concerns, though I won't share more than this single one here, now, because I don't want to have an online faux or half discussion. I am saving them in case I ever have an opportunity to have these conversations in person or on panels if anyone really wants to mindfully dig deep into the complexities of the issues rather than merely championing one side in an angry echo chamber.

What I do know is that it feels very much like a microcosm of the macrocosm that has been unfolding for the past years in the democratic party, where very little true listening and hearing goes on, only angry barked agendas. And, it frightens me because I believe long-term it will hurt us more than it will help. I believe we need to proceed non-judgmentally, without anger, and that, instead, we not only conflate issues (which undermines their seriousness), but also that there is a large amount of hypocrisy taking place within the movement (people doing the very thing they righteously tell others not to do, by coming up with excuses why it's okay for them, how their behavior is differentiated). In my very humble opinion, twitter has never been the right place to have REAL CONVERSATIONS. TO LISTEN AND BE HEARD. Yet, watching the twitter community is like rubbernecking -- hard to turn away from though it upsets me to no end. So, in that regard, too, unless I have a way to add healthily to the conversation, I'm going to stop reading -- Avert -- and stop wasting time, and stick to what I've always done which is do my best to hold up and share those pushing positive messages (Affirming) and  do a better job of averting my eyes from the rest. It's a waste of time which I can otherwise spend taking Action.


With amazing assemblywoman Christine Pelligrino (who won a special election in a deeply red district),
and with my personal superhero, NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at a recent fundraiser for
progressive causes.

Campaigning for a local candidate for Town Supervisor 
At the women's march with my mom and sisters. <3 td="">

So, I am hoping step one, Avert, will give me more time to Act. Whether that action is writing, protesting, swimming, doing yoga, teaching writing, or playing with the dog, it's all good. I just need to DO all the things I want to do, and NOT DO all the things that rile me up but ultimately waste time because they don't get done what needs to get done.

As far as the resistance goes, I know we're all exhausted, but we're just getting started. We need to turn the country blue in 2018, and that means there is no tiring of marching, of speaking out, of making phone calls, of trying to help in whatever way we are each able.

Which leads to me to this: AFFIRM.

It's this simple: There are many ways to help in this world (and, likely, an equal many ways to do harm). I am resolving to help in the best way I know how, which is to always be as mindful as possible, to leave judgment (and righteousness) behind, and only to lift up and amplify where reasonable, right, and possible, while NEVER tearing down.

These are my resolutions for 2018. I will also renew two longstanding resolutions: to be a good confidante, and to take the stairs.  Oh yeah, and to stop sleeping so late, even in the face of the endless cycle of depressing news to wake up to.

These are my resolutions for 2018. What are yours?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

This is a writer's brain. . . it's exhausting.

I want to write a book. Like actually complete a book. I doubt I can, but I want to try.

*writes book that takes years. quickly discounts accomplishment*

I just want to get an agent. If I could only get an agent . . .

*after years of rejection gets agent*

I just want to sell this manuscript.

*after years of revision and rejection sells manuscript*

I just want decent critical reviews and a handful of readers.

*gets those. quickly discounts same.*

I just want more readers and to sell another book.

*does so. quickly discounts same. lather, rinse, repeat. Often multiple times.*

I just want a starred review.

(*fuck off. still waiting*)

I just want to win an award.

*gets a few. quickly discounts same.*

I just want to win a "real" award. The kind that comes with a sticker on the book.

(*again, fuck off. Who asked you? And see what I mean about discounting same. . . ?*)

I just want to write a book that matters.

*What does that even mean? And anyway, hard to tell. But let's just, for argument's sake, say that a handful of readers' notes could make one believe that maybe possibly they have done so. quickly discounts same.*

I just want to write the kind of book that's unique, that's different, that's never been done, that takes someone's breath away. . .

* . . . *

(I just needed to write that out so I could actually plow forward and write what I'm working on now. . . )

- gae

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Recurrrent dream

Last night, you appeared again
like you do
every so often
your eyes, lifted slightly,
begging for return.

I resisted
           -- knowing --
but somehow
fell back into rhythm,
into promise,
into line.

Into long-languished

Last night, you appeared again,
guilted me,
wilted me,
gutted me,
opened me up, swallowed me whole. I thought i could
stay away
be better
be done.

Last night,

our waking encounters -- so constant these days --
                           (polite enough, yes,
the familiar hug shared between old friends)

took hold,
shook me like a dog shakes a ragged toy
               in his jaws.

Broke my neck,
broke my spirit,
left me limp,

Loosed my desire,

shaking it free,
like so many skittering marbles,

Last night you appeared again,
and this morning I awoke,
tangled in sheets,
in the gray light between waking and sleep,

            only the dizzy buzzing of my phone,
propelling me forward
to coffee,
to home,
to brushing my teeth,

feet planted
almost firmly upon
                              cool tile floor.

This morning, like so many others before it,
I drove the dawn-draped roads,
grateful for rising light

(damn the dormant longing
now stirred in my bones).

As others suited up,
            pulled neoprene sleeves tightly over them,
against the

in only a serviceable swimsuit,
(one that can no longer hide
how the years have paunched my belly
and loosened my skin)
waded in,
and let the shock of cold,
(the silken motion)
envelop me


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Relinquish, Renew, Resolve . . . 2016 into 2017

I know many aren't, but I'm a fan of the New Year's Resolution.  Sure, time is a construct and all that, but I still like the whole "tabula rasa" vibe of it all.

January 1 = blank page. Clean slate.

A chance to start over again.

Okay, well, make that January 2, because there are too many good leftovers in this house the day after New Year's Eve.

Still, I admit it is hard. This year more than ever before.

Those who read me regularly in any forum know how I feel about our world and country right now: It is hard to feel hopeful and renewed in any sense, hard to feel creative or to plan. Hard to feel anything other than panic and despair.

No mincing words. If you are a democrat, a liberal and/or a progressive, if you are a person who truly cares about our earth, other people, and our world, if you try to live by the motto, "first do no harm," 2016 was a motherfucking assclown, and 2017 is poised to make last year look tame.

So, at first, I was thinking, "Fuck it. I make no promises. I just need to get through."

But I quickly rethought that, because if I'm going to get through, I'm going to need to commit to some things to help get me through. Because, quite frankly, the message running through my brain for the past several weeks: "Eat all the crap! Sleep late! What does it matter, we're all going to die in a nuclear wasteland?!?!" isn't going to help me help my kids. It isn't going to preserve our planet for their kids. It is no frame of mind for the resistance.

What's that old motto? I can tell you what it's not: It's not when the going gets tough, the tough sleep in and eat all the cookies."

And anyway, it isn't how I want to spend my last days if they are those anyway. So if it takes a construct that I'm used to, so be it. I liked who I was becoming before that bloated, gloating, orange carnival barker ransacked the landscape of our country. Time to plow forward with new resolve.

1. Relinquishing & Resolving:

Boyz to men: 
It's time to LET GO. 

Story one: November 8th at around 9:30 pm, the quickly-escalating texts from boys, who were both away at school, began to roll in:

"Are you worried?"

The younger one is taller. . . 
"What's going on. . .?"

"Are you scared?"

"What's going to happen if he wins. . .???"

I did my best to steady myself.

"It's still early. . . " I responded. "No way our country will elect him."

"Yeah, a little. . ."

As the night wore on, texts wouldn't suffice. I found my breath -- barely -- and made the calls to them.

"Yes, it's awful. No, I can't believe it. But, we'll be alright. We've weathered bad periods in history before. . ."

My voice shook as I lied. I didn't believe my own words.

How could I let this happen in their world. . . ? 

In the days since the election, my boys have made more peace with our country's politics than I have. Maybe it's youth. Maybe it's willful distraction and putting aside. One thing is for sure. They know the biggest truth of all, now: I cannot protect them from the evils of the world.

The fact of this truth is excruciating. But they are practically grown men. The only thing I can do is let go.


Story two: Last week, as I began to type this post, my younger son was on the road from LI to PA, making a drive he had never made before. To those who don't live in NY or Chicago, or LA, I imagine a kid's first big drive from home to anywhere is different than if you live here. But for those of us who live on Long Island and have tried to get from LI to anywhere else, skirting the city to get on to the GW Bridge or Throgsneck, or other such similar maneuverings, is its own kind of dangerous hell on earth. It looks like this, but in motion: The trucks. The aggressive driving. The confusing, last minute, lane changes.

Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. . . 

Before our older so made such a drive, he did it WITH us multiple times, so we could instruct him and be another set of more experienced eyes. But with our younger son, the opportunity kept alluding us, and the one time we did have him try, I was too nervous in the backseat and made my husband pull over and switch drivers.

Suffice it to say, as I worked on this post and watched the clock tick, it was an excruciating exercise in working to let go -- but a fantastic opportunity to practice. Every time, I panicked, I whispered to myself, "He is smart. He is capable. Let go."

In a few hours, he had arrived safely, in good time, and did the ride home a few days later, no problem, as well.


Story-ish three: My older son has been engaged in a really wonderful form of therapy called DBT therapy which has a huge mindfulness component to it, and once a week, he, my husband, and I participate in a large group session with him. As such, we get to learn the units and components of DBT. There's a piece called "Radical Acceptance," and, as part of it, we work to get rid of the word "should." 

Spend a day doing that alone -- subbing out the word should -- and you'll see how much our brains are constantly focused on what we think should be rather than what is.

So, this is my biggest resolution for 2017: Let go. LET GO. Get rid of the word should.

2. Renew and Resolve 

1. Go back to healthy eating. Hello again, Whole 30. Already under way.

I've got my "don't grab my pussy"-cat hat
and I'm ready to march on 1/21. 
2. Commit to Political Action. Before my forties, I was never very politically involved. Though I was a vocal Bill Clinton fan, Obama's first election was probably the first one I felt incredibly strongly about, enough to feel deeply, deeply invested on election night. The truth is, I never have had huge confidence in my political "smarts," in that fact that I know enough from an in-depth perspective, to fairly have an opinion worthy of sharing  with others.

Well, guess what 2017? You elected the wrong guy, a bad guy, one who stirred the worst underbelly of our society, so I'm done worrying about all that.

I'm reading trusted, neutral sources. I'm sharing action. I'm marching. I'm speaking out. And as a proud member of ATLI , I plan to fight back any fear, insecurity and lethargy on my part, and get more and more involved.

And, last but not least,

3. Be boldly and confidently creative. I made a silly joke on Facebook the other day that I was going to become an arrogant egomaniac in 2017. But I'm only half-kidding. Put it this way: Four books sold to some of the most reputable publishers in history, and three released into the world to pretty good reviews all around, and I'm ready to believe that I am truly a writer worth reading. I'm ready to write with confidence. I'm ready to believe that my stories are published because they're goddamned worthy of being out there.


But yeah. Fuck it. I am.

Something like that anyway. And on that front, 2017 has started out strong:

  • In addition to appearing on many year end favorites and best of lists, THE MEMORY OF THINGS just won me my third Nerdy Book Club award (thank you, NBC!!) and comes out in a fancy new paperback incarnation in August 2017. 

  • My IN SIGHT OF STARS revisions were just accepted by incredible editor, Vicki Lame, and 

So amidst all the muck, stay tuned for great writing from a writing badass in 2017.

Happy New Year to all. Feel free to share your relinquishments and resolve in the comments below.

xox gae