Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stupid answers, cont'd

Kazzy wants to know what kind of toothpaste I use. I kick it very, very old school. I use the Crest paste that does not whiten or remove tartar or do anything more than baking soda and water would. That's what my dentist told me to use. It's surprisingly hard to find a toothpaste without all the bells and whistles. My second favorite after that is that kind that Emeril advertises. I don't remember the name but I liked the vanilla mint kind.

Terressa wants to know my favorite brand of chocolate. Great question! I really like the Trader Joe's milk chocolate bar right now but I always have a pound of See's chocolates on hand as a writing incentive. I fill it with all my favorite pieces and I never share. No one else is allowed to touch it and even I can only touch it if I've written at least a thousand words in a day. Needless to say, I've thrown some really bad crud down on paper some days in order to get my chocolate. And I don't mean that literally because I do all my writing on my laptop but that doesn't have the same ring to it and I'm a writer so I had to make the image work, see?

I will answer both Kelly O's and Aunt Linda's question the same way: I think you both know the answer to those questions. Let's let any of my other relatives who read my blog continue to live their dreams by not revealing the answer here, shall we?

Sarah wants to know the plus and minus of being a CODA. Sarah is a very, very cool girl who is deaf with hearing kids. CODA stands for Children of Deaf Adults. If you're new-ish around here, she's asking me this because both of my parents were deaf. By far the biggest minus was that it affected my relationship with my mom. This was for a lot of reasons but some of the simplest ones were things like how I couldn't pick up the phone when things got tough at college and talk to her about them. It just wasn't the same going through a relay operator to discuss stuff like that. Maybe it would be different now with all the technology advancements like videophones but this was when email was still like, "What's that?" Instead, I would pick up the phone and call Pawpaw (my grandfather). So I always had someone to talk to; it just wasn't my mom. Variations of this played out in many, many ways over the years. The best part of being a CODA (although it takes getting older to appreciate it) is that it teaches you great communication skills, especially because of all the interpreting you do for your parents where you have to figure out what people are really saying. Also, I learned to be independent at a very early age and most of my CODA friends did, too. At first, it totally bugged me but now I really appreciate it. Also a bonus: people think I'm cool for knowing sign language.

Luisa wants to know when I decided that I knew the writing life was for me. Tricky question. I've always been a storyteller and come from a long line of storytellers. Before I even knew how to write, I would stand by the side of my father's typewriter and dictate poems that he would type out for me. I still have some of those and for age six? They're pretty dang good. I remember writing a scary haunted house story in eighth grade that got passed around during earth science every day in a spiral bound notebook and everyone waiting for the next installment each day. I remember writing a very Poe-esque short story as a junior that was published in our school literary magazine. I quit writing any kind of fiction in college and didn't have much to do with creative writing again until I began teaching it. It was a question of time. I taught eighth grade creative writing for five years and I kept thinking, "I ought to write a book." Actually, I thought that all throughout college too, but time. It wasn't until I stayed home full time that I felt like I would be wasting a God-given talent if I didn't take a stab at it and so I did. I've never had literary ambitions. I just want to tell good stories that people enjoy. I write with a lot of humor and I write characters that I understand very, very well. I have no designs on the great American novel. I just want to entertain.

Ambrosia wants to know how I keep my house clean on bed rest. The answer is, I don't. It's a mess. And I'm not actually on bed rest so that's even worse because I don't have an excuse. I'd say my husband actually cleans almost as often as I do and he definitely does the dishes more. But I cook a lot and I DO clean. There just tends to be a day or two a week where I don't get to it and I don't care. My house is clean about 70% of the time and I'm fine with that as long as I know it's not bothering my husband AND as long as I don't have company coming. But I figure if they find me in a messy house and judge me, Oh well. They're probably dead right most of the time anyway. I accept that as a consequence of putting other things first sometimes.

CaJoh wants to know if I feel I've grown as a writer over the years and whether or not blogging has helped or hindered my writing style. First, I've grown as a writer FOR SURE. My voice as a writer is much more authentic now. I don't read my stuff and think, "Wow. That sounds impressive." I read it and think, "Yeah, that sounds like me," and it's hard 1) to write that way and 2) to recognize when you are and aren't doing that. So it makes me happy that I can. I'm sure blogging has had some effect on my fiction, but I'm not sure what. I can't point to a direct correlation so I don't know if it's helped or not. I can say that my blogging has improved tremendously in the 18 months I've been at it because I found my voice here, too. My first three months of posts are especially cringeworthy but I like to see that I've grown. What I express is ME now, not a persona I was trying to define, like it was sometimes at first.

Kimberly asked if having two books accepted for publication changed the way I see myself. I love this question. The short answer is no. The longer answer is that I definitely feel validated and I guess there's been a change in the sense that I feel like a Writer now, not someone who writes. I should do a post about that some time because it's a very key distinction for me. However, the reason I'd say mainly no is...

Well, this all going to sound very arrogant, but I've answered all these questions truthfully so far and to keep that up here is going to preclude false modesty. Here's the thing. I have a lot of personal fears about whether people will like and accept me but if you were trying to figure out whether to hire for me a job, I'd be able to break down for you with astonishing accuracy exactly what my assets are and how to best use me. I don't have many doubts about anything I tackle professionally because I know I'll do whatever it takes to master it and I'm a total sponge. I love learning new things. To be fair, I don't tackle things that I don't have an affinity for. Hence, I am not and will never be a rocket scientist, fashion designer or preschool teacher. I would totally suck.

Writing was a little unnerving at first but I was pretty sure I had the talent for it; I just worked very, very hard to soak up enough knowledge to make sure I also had the skill. I KNOW how to learn. I read, I went to workshops and conferences, I listened, I asked questions and I applied. Each of my manuscripts has shown me how much I'm learning and growing. Each of them shows me how much I still have left to learn. But I DO see progress and that's what I expect from myself. I'm following the same M.O. I've always had when it comes to professional goals.

I know, that's incredibly boorish, right? But you asked. I feel a real sense of accomplishment and pride in being a published author, but not really any surprise. It wouldn't occur to me that I wouldn't achieve a professional goal I set for myself. That's why the inevitable setbacks in my writing career are probably going to hit me harder than they will most people, but I just truck along worrying about what I can control, not what I can't. I'm sure I'm in for some kind of breakdown when things don't go right in my writing career, but I don't know when that will happen and I can't expend emotional energy worrying about it. In the meantime, just know that the moment I got my acceptance from my publisher, it was truly magical. It's a blessing to occupy a space in time where you are feeling your dream come true.

Migillicutty wants to know what kind of shampoo I use. I use Pantene. Sometimes I use Head and Shoulders when my scalp won't cooperate. And I use a fantastic Bumble and Bumble conditioner that actually helps with my incredibly dry hair.

And oh, my goodness, I have BLATHERED again. I'll save the last few questions for my next post. Tomorrow (or whenever Christmas Eve is for you when you read this) is my birthday and I'm going to be soooo self-indulgent. I'm not exactly sure how this is different from say, your average Tuesday, but I will say that I will consider each comment tomorrow as a birthday present from you to me and I thank you in advance. Merry Christmas, all!


Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Happy Birthday, Melanie!

(and Merry Christmas.)

Kelly O. said...

Happy Birthday, and I will keep our little secret. Thanks friend.

Kristina P. said...

I have to admit, I am rather envious of all you "real" writers out there. Motherboard asked me to contribute to MMB, and to have to write more than a late night comedy skit is rather daunting.

Happy birthday to both you and Jesus!

Erin said...

Happy birthday to you Melanie!
Merry Christmas tomorrow!

I loved getting to know you better via reading these answers.

L.T. Elliot said...

Happy Birthday, Melanie! *Hugs*

L.T. Elliot said...

Okay, I did two comments on purpose because everyone deserves to be told "Happy Birthday" on a different occassion than a holiday (no judgement to anyone! Promise!)

My cousin has a Christmas b-day and it was hard for her.

--I totally believe that you have the talent to be confident in writing. (You also should have the confidence in knowing what a hottie you are too!)

Merry Christmas, Melanie!!

Becca said...

I'm singing you a song my kids sing each other: HEY, it's my birthday, la-la-la-la-la.

Also, Merry Christmas.

Also I just love you. I'm glad you're around.

Happy everything!

Tracy said...

Great post, Melanie. I really appreciate your thoughts, and I'm glad you've had the confidence to continue the pursuit of your dreams.

Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!

DeNae said...

Happy Birthday, Miz Melanie! And I can't wait until you answer my question!

Luisa Perkins said...

Fun answers! I hope your festival of celebrations has been fantastic!

Annette Lyon said...

The writing answers make lots of sense to me! I know exactly what you mean on every point. (No boorishness from this corner.)

Aubrey said...

That first acceptance from a publisher is definitely something you never forget, and I thought your answers about being published were completely honest and not boorish in the least.

I need to get myself to See's and buy a box soon; you know, now that I'm actually writing again. ;)

Happy Birthday! (late)
Merry Christmas! (late)

But I can still say Happy New Year on time, a little early, even. I'm completely on top of that.

Kazzy said...

Ooooo, vanilla mint...

And you always have a pound of chocolate on hand? How smart is that?

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Terresa said...

Thanks for answering my chocolate question.

See's chocolate (dark almonds & their truffles) are my faves. And I agree, TJs has some good stuff, too! Although I don't know if I have the will power to wait to write XX number of words until I can indulge. You are one strong writer!!

wendy said...

very interesting things to read about YOU
and happy birthday

for those of you out there who actually know how to "write" and not just pen disjointed thoughts together like me ---so jealous

have a great New Year ok

kanishk said...

I loved getting to know you better via reading these answers.

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Nishant said...

I will keep our little secret. Thanks friend.

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