Protecting this Delicate Thing Called Hope

So much of writing for me is sitting my ass down and writing, even when I don't want to.  I have really good discipline.  I can write for fifteen hours straight sometimes, and then revise and edit for days and weeks afterwards.  The hardest part of writing I can do and have done since my first workshop back in 2002.  The other crucial part of writing for me involves psychological and emotional maintenance (aka self-care), which is just as important.  Normally, self-care for me means not only exercising, meditating, getting enough sleep, eating well, and going on dates with LB every week, but also ignoring my own negative thinking and putting myself out there again and again (even when it feels POINTLESS) and not getting discouraged (even when NOTHING is happening), which has been particularly difficult this summer. 

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Ideas for the Future

I may rage against the machine when a particular rejection stings, but I'm the kind of dude that gets back up (literally) the next day and tries another way to make it work.  Writing, after all, is the one thing I'm great at.  Resilience is another.  And Ima figure out how to get my novels in the hands of my future readers because that's who I am.

In the next month, I'll be sending AMNESIA to several indie presses that I think might be receptive (among others, FC2 and Curbside Splendor) as well to a few laser-targeted literary agents who represent multicultural literary fiction.  One of them will be Zadie Smith's agent, because of the obvious similarities between The Amnesia of Junebugs and White Teeth. 

With a clean break from Kaya, I have the power to (re)consider all my options, not just the obvious ones.  I have the possibility of finding an even larger audience and a much more supportive editorial department.  I have the right to try again and find the right press for my manuscripts as a hapa writer of fiction. 

I may be bruised, but I'm still standing.  I'm still going to make this work.

Warren Frazier Asks for Partial of NINJAS

Less than eleven hours after I sent him a query letter, Warren Frazier emailed me back and asked for a partial, which is of course both appreciated and shocking, to be honest.  I'm not sure I've ever had an agent ask for a partial of NINJAS in such a short amount of time, but I'm definitely not complaining.

I won't get my hopes up at this point because it's just a partial.  Additionally, NINJAS is very voice-driven and stylized, so it's not for everyone.  I give agents fair warning in the query, but seeing voice-driven stylization on the page is always different.  Also, Warren Frazier represents some motherfucking heavy-hitters in the literary world:  Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Olen Butler, Adam Johnson, and Jess Walter, among others, which includes three Pulitzer-Prize winners ("Bob," as Julianna Baggott called him back when we talked long-distance on the phone from Argentina to Florida in 2008, Adam Johnson and also Frederik Lovegall, who won a Pulitzer in history for his book, Embers of War).  So, I'm nothing if not realistic.  Still, when an awesome agent is reading one of your novels, there's always a little room for hope.   

My Fixation on the Novel

It's odd.  If you'd told me 7 years ago that I'd be working on my PhD in English/Creative Writing, I would have laughed at you.  If you'd told me that I'd be working with writers like Percival Everett, Aimee Bender + TC Boyle, I would have said:  Lay off the weed, dude, it's conflating your dimensions.  If you'd told me then that in the next 7 years, I'd publish stories in journals like ZYZZYVA, African American Review, Fiction, Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, Quarter After Eight, Fiction International, Quarterly West, Stand (UK), Notre Dame Review + the Connecticut Review, with more to come inshallah, I would have said: Stop fucking with me man, it's not gonna be that easy.  And yet, even though all that shit's true, + even though I'm crazy grateful for every one of those things, the truth is, I'm not satisfied with my writing career at all, if in fact I can even call it that.

I want to publish my first novel The Amnesia of Junebugs.  I want to publish my second novel The Ninjas of My Greater Self.  While I think both novels have flaws for sure (which novels don't?), I think they're great for different reasons + deserve to be in your local bookstore as much as any other original work of literary fiction.  I have no doubt about that.  I don't doubt it for an instant.  Sure, I see momentum in my own emerging career.  Yes, I have a much stronger backbone from years of workshop critiques + gratuitous attacks by opinionated haters who don't write half as hard as I do.  Yes, I'm publishing stories in journals that I love + admire, that I grew up reading during my MFA years, journals that agents read.  Yes, I believe in myself 100% + would have killed to have been published in some of the journals my stuff appears in now.  But I'm sick of being in professional limbo where your entire life, your whole artistic career is put on hold while you scramble to get your novels published.  This isn't the goddamn 1920's--you can't live off of short stories anymore, even if you publish them in the glossies with your agent's help.

What I want is the novel.  I want my novels in bookshelves.  I want to be able to delete from my inbox a bunch of snarly, hitman-type book reviews by half-actualized, curmudgeon literary fiction writers who write these self-indulgent, in-your-face masturbatory sentences written out of envy for my own ascension.  I want to stop being a default critic of an industry I feel shut out of + start feeling like a player inside my own vocation. 

Seven years ago, I would have been happy with this progress, but not now.  Now I want more.  I want bigger dreams, I want insanity, I want my writing to receive scrutiny, adulation, innuendo, indignation, joy + Eros, I want my books to be dog-eared + heavily creased at the public library, smelling of black tea + engine grease, I want to turn on complete strangers with my sex scenes + move a reader to tears with my characters, I want cum stains, lipstick marks + tear drops on the pages of my novels. I want my unique literary voice to be part of this world, not an aspiration of grandeur.  I want to give public readings, do an interview while drunk + chat with people in bookstores about characters as if they were real.  I want my words to have resonance beyond the voice inside my own head.  I want cultural and artistic accountability, I want the consequences of affecting people, I want to share my creativity to the world, I want the unique privilege of participating, critiquing, embracing + affecting culture.  In other words, in my own selfish, arrogant, egomaniacal, grandiloquent way, I want to be an artist.  I want that.  I want all of that shit.

The way I see it:  My only hope is to either win a book contest, snag an agent or publish my novels in one of the indie presses.  That's when my career will really take off, when I become competitive for creative writing jobs at universities, when I stop questioning my literariness, when I start connecting with readers, when I start standing tall + being what I can only aspire to right now, which is myself.