April. I had so many writing goals for April that, on the surface, felt dashed by COVID-19. I was planning to attend a writing conference for the first time where I would meet with an agent and an editor. In preparation for that, I polished and re-wrote and polished a 20-page piece for their review, and I raced to finish a first draft of my memoir...just in case they were interested in reading more.
One Tuesday afternoon in March, as I was picking up my kids at school, my daughter’s teacher asked about my writing. Apparently my daughter had told him I was writing a book! As we got to talking about it, I not only learned that he was an aspiring writer himself, but that he was a reader for a friend of his whose memoir would be published this month. I told him I would look up her name when I got home so I could support her.
Only, when I got home I discovered that Maya Lang, author of What We Carry, was the one supporting others. My daughter’s teacher shared a secret link on Maya Lang’s website that she designed just for my daughter’s classroom. Dedicated to my daughter and the rest of the kids by name, she offered advice for the writing process...and a funny picture of her dog helping her with her revisions.
As I poked around the website a bit more, I discovered that Lang was scheduled to speak at the conference I was attending, and not only that, I was registered for her session. I would get to meet her.
I felt a rush of warmth from the realization that I was beginning to feel included in a rich writing community. I was starting to feel “in it”!
I toggled over to my email where I planned to pen a letter to my daughter’s teacher, sharing my elation in this serendipitous series of events, and that’s when I saw a new subject line in my inbox:
With sadness, Muse 2020 is cancelled.
I stared at it for a while, trying to make sense of how I could go so quickly from feeling that “my dreams are coming true” feeling, to utter loss of opportunity. I thought about the preparation I’d done for the conference. I thought about the new dresses hanging in my closet, ready and waiting to be worn. The news seemed to squelch all of the momentum that had brought me to this point.
And, in many ways, I was right. Three days later, my kids were sent packing from school with a plan to return in two...maybe three weeks. I became a homeschooling parent. I lost my writing time at Starbucks. My writing class moved to virtual sessions, which felt a bit odd.
And the organizers of the conference told me (and the other registrants) to stay tuned. We might still have our agent meetings…
As April loomed on the calendar, I lamented that I hadn’t done more to prepare for the phone meetings that were finally established. I was mentally and physically exhausted and would have to attempt two coherent conversations with adults over the phone from my bedroom while one of my sons had a virtual piano lesson in the living room and my other three children ran up and down the stairs playing various games.
In the end, those two 20-minute conversations gave me great insight into my writing. But wow, were they difficult at the time. The main takeaway: I have a lot of work to do. The agent and editor were not clambering to read more. I was in a bad mood for a few days.
Then my writing class finished its last session, and that felt like another loss of community.
Subsequent weeks seemed both to drag (as we felt increasingly cooped up) and fly too quickly (as I felt the loss of time to accomplish my writing goals). It was easy to slip into melancholy.
Then, I realized that I had a deadline coming up for my writing group. We pass around 10 page excerpts of our work about a week ahead of meeting together to discuss (which now takes place over Zoom). That lit a fire under me to get back to work.
Plus, I realized that while I couldn’t attend the conference this year, I could read more of the works that the speakers had published. Viet Thankh Nguyen, for example, was a keynote speaker. I read his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Sympathizer last year and wrote about how it influenced my own writing. On the other hand, I hadn’t heard of Reyna Grande, another keynote speaker, but fortunately, just before the public libraries closed for COVID-19, I checked out her two memoirs.
aim to. Reyna’s characters pop off the page with all the true complexities of human nature. And since an editor recently suggested that the characters in my own writing fall flat, I want to dig into the sequel to attempt to learn the skill of character development that Reyna has mastered.
Some days it’s really hard to focus on a book. But I have been reading.
So recently, when I received an email from one of the coordinators of the Muse conference announcing the availability of a digital version of Maya Lang’s memoir What We Carry, I eagerly replied to get a copy. I wasn’t able to meet her at the conference this year, but I can read her book. The community is still here.
I don’t know what will happen to the writing center I have come to appreciate so much. The fate of so many businesses is uncertain at this time. But I’ve grown so much in my writing and in my appreciation for the writing community over the last year that I’ve been a part of it, and I can’t thank them enough.
And now a quote from a favorite movie, Love Actually:
“Life is full of complications and interruptions…”
But goals delayed are better than goals abandoned.
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.