Sunday, October 2, 2011


Don't you hate it when I'm all, "I'm going to tell you a story!" and then I don't?

So I owe you a story.

I believe I mentioned something about a slight breakdown a couple of weeks ago. I am fine, by the way. But the episode produced a tiny gem of a moment that I have polished and re-examined a few times in the last two weeks.

I'm a writer. Either I'm a writer, therefore I'm neurotic, or I'm neurotic, therefore I write--but I'm not sure because I've been both since as long as I can remember. Writing won me essay contests. Writing won me my college scholarships. Writing got me my job.

But I always wrote for a reason. It wasn't really the story-telling kind of writing. Because I'm a pragmatist. I do things that make sense. Sometimes. And when I do things that don't make sense, I get upset at myself because I can clearly see they don't make sense and then--VOILA! Le Breakdown.

So I wrote but I didn't do much storytelling. Still, I would always say I was going to write books because I love telling stories. I grew up listening to my grandfather, one of the greatest storytellers to ever live. And you can't spend more than a few minutes with me before I tell you some kind of story. It's almost compulsive.

And this idea that I should write a book was almost compulsive, too. But for a long time I didn't write. A whole space of years between the birth of child number one and the career and the marriage and the caring for of ill parents and the planning of funerals and . . . I did not write.

But it felt like I should Write. A story.

I don't know. It's that thing we're all brought up with: if you have a talent, share it. No squandering under bushels, y'all. Bushels bad. Bad, bad, bad.

And finally I had time. A second baby, no job to worry about each day. But I didn't write an epic. No big old weighty work with a meditation on life and death wrapped in some layered family drama. That's steak and fingerling potatoes in a rich burgundy wine sauce. No. I produced a . . .

Well . . . a confection. Not even a rich one. More like a meringue, as in lemon. Slightly tart. Definitely frothy.

Those are the stories that come to me, probably because those were the ones I liked to climb into on exhausted Friday nights when I was single and too tired to date because I'd been caring for a kid and my parents and 150 other people's kids in my classroom all day. Or at least I used to read those, until it got too hard to find ones in the national market that weren't, um, filthy.

And so I wrote the kind of book I couldn't find. There were a few fun ones in the LDS market. But a very few. Most of the romances were more issue driven, not utterly silly like mine.

It was fun. I felt good about finally using my talent after the nagging feeling I'd had for years. And I wrote a book. And it was accepted. And then I wrote another. And another. And then a fourth. And then my first book actually came out. And being an author became more than writing. It was suddenly all about marketing and . . .  anyway, it was fine. It wasn't my favorite part of the job, but I'm good with people so none of that stuff was hard.

But it was very time consuming. From the time to draft a book to the time to edit it while trying to hit a deadline on a new project and then launch a book while trying to hit a totally different deadline and then OH YEAH BE A MOM. That.

And my husband was so super supportive through it all. He cheers for me when I hit writing goals, celebrates my milestones with me, brags about me to all of his friends, tells me what an amazing writer I am all the time, praises me, wants to know how my stories are going.

I'm so lucky.

But when this new book came out three weeks ago, I was also feeling incredibly guilty. Yes, this is a "hobby" I actually feel prompted to use. And yes, I get paid a little. My oldest has some shiny new braces, courtesy of my August royalty check. But this all costs A LOT of time. Book signings, conferences, critique groups, and the writing every single day.

So I stood on the verge of a new book release, which kicks the madness up crazy high for about a month, and I wondered, Is this all worth it for a silly meringue? Meringues don't change the world. Meringues don't even feed people. Steaks in rich sauce feed people. Potatoes feed people. Not so much fluffy pie toppings. What am I doing?

And here's the thing. This is super long already, but I've already written this whole thing, so I'm going to do you nice people a favor and cut it in half and post the rest tomorrow to give your heads a rest. So since I've been rather steak-y today instead of my usual meringue (and we're reading that as in lemon meringue, not dancing a merengue, right?), if you would like a tart dessert, may I recommend Regarding Annie? You will enjoy her. And I'll be back tomorrow with my whole watchamacallit? Point.


Susan said...

That was just mean-ness, Melanie! I read all that and then you left me hanging like a soap opera.

Barbaloot said...

I'm kind of curious what a dancing merengue-type post would entail...

And lots of us ENJOY this so-called
froth, so I'm glad you write it:)

Maggie said...

I ask myself this all the time. Is it worth it? But then, in the end, it doesn't matter if it's worth it or not. We have to write.

Sarah said...

Perhaps this is what your point will look like, but in my opinion sometimes we need froth. Sometimes we need pie. Not just want it, but need it. It makes us smile and laugh and have a reason to sit around a visit. Same with frothy books -- they make us laugh and smile and give us a break from all the steak and potatoes that life likes to throw at us sometimes. So PLEASE keep writing them. I enjoyed your first book and the first chapter of your second and can't wait to read the rest.

Kristina P. said...

My life is froth. Bring it on!

Melinda said...

Everybody's favorite part is dessert, yes we need the meat and potatoes but everyone WANTS the dessert. :) Can't wait to read the rest of the story!

Brittany said...

Yeah, I needed this. Hurry up with the rest please.

TheOneTrueSue said...

I have to see how you end this before I can comment. I can really really relate to the cost vs benefit analysis going on in your head.

Carolyn V said...

I have to wait until tomorrow? *sigh* okay.

Charlotte said...

Can I just say that I have read both your books on a Friday after a very stressful week and they were exactly what I needed. I'm with you, there aren't enough of these books that I can just enjoy and relax into a story for a while. I was just thinking you need to publish a whole lot more books because I have a whole lot of stressful Fridays that could use your brand of pick-me-up.

Karen Peterson said...

Bushels ARE bad. I need to knock it off.