Thursday, July 31, 2008

Appalling Slack

Ugh. Ugh! What's wrong with me? This whole week--well, since Monday, which was startlingly productive--has been a blur of Feeling Like I Should Be Working + Not Feeling Like Working which = Guilt + Boredom--a bad combination. I once believed, falsely it seems, that this feeling was particular to the dissertation time, but evidently it is not. I've also been pretty lethargic this week, wanting to eat and sleep a lot, which doesn't help.

So! In an effort to turn things around and not find myself facing dinnertime with no earthly idea of what has happened to the day, I am going to write a list. A public, boring list, right on this here blog.

Okay. Here's what I would like to accomplish today:
  • Reread my new, possibly terrible article, and make a set of revisions/notes for further work.
  • Practice yoga.
  • Eat lunch. (Yes, this gets an entry.)
  • Pay a couple of bills.
  • Sort through the papers on my desk and decide which can be thrown away.
  • Reconcile the differing versions of comp-related documents that I have on my work and home computers. (Should be easy, since I already copied everything from my work computer onto a flash drive, and I'm pretty sure that the work computer versions are almost uniformly later than the home computer drafts.)
  • Sketch out another day or two's readings for the one-credit seminar.
  • Finish the mediocre novel I've been reading for the past three weeks, for the love of God.
  • Select a scholarly book to start reading, and start reading it--even just a couple of pages.
See, I think that part of the problem is that I don't have a well defined activity that I need to be accomplishing right now. My syllabi need work, but I'm finding that I do better with those if I let them just gradually develop (hence the plan to work a little bit on one syllabus today, and that's all); I've finished the draft and preliminary revisions of the article, and I'm not exactly sure what I need to do with it now (although it needs work--that much is clear); I've written up my book review, and need some distance on it before I finalize it. (Besides, it's not due for a month, ha ha!) The manuscript is out for review, so I can't work on that.

I guess the problem is--research-wise; let's ignore course prep--that I've basically accomplished my summer goals. Yeah, a big problem, I know! But instead of feeling liberated from them, I feel that I should still be working. The article is definitely not finished finished, and while my goal was just to produce a draft over the summer, I should also revise it as much as I can before school starts. (And yet, I don't wanna!) It seems that I'm still in academic-work mode, but without a clear direction in which to channel that energy, and without having kicked the habits of procrastination that accompany all such work.

Maybe I need some wholly other kind of goal for the day. Hm. Here's an experiment: I propose the following alternate to-do list (some overlap is inevitable), which contains a lot less work and a bit more activity:
  • Practice yoga.
  • Eat lunch.
  • Finish reading mediocre novel.
  • Organize filing cabinet, which is still a mess from the move.
  • Clear off random piles of paper from desk.
  • Reorganize books that found their way into odd places--linen closet, stack on the floor by the bed, inside cabinet. Figure out which books would do better in my office, and put them in a pile.
  • Glance through closet to note gaps, etc. Sort out a few items for donation.
  • Pay bills.
  • Make granola.
  • Mail silly thing to brother.
  • Write in diary.
Let's see, shall we? From which of these lists will I do more today? Weary and lethargic though I may be, it is plain that I must do something with myself, or I'll feel deeply, dreadfully Lame. Thus, at noon, I begin. I shall enbolden each item as I do it, and, I don't know, think of it as a race?

(If there's one thing I learned teaching comp last year--and I think that there may be only one thing!--it's that everybody loves contests. Even when those contests are for 0 stakes. Pit the students against each other, and all of a sudden things like the proper formatting of journal article citations becomes riveting. So, although I have no competitors, perhaps it'll work for me, too. --That and the extra cup of coffee I just drank. Go go go!)

ETA: Putting the same items onto two different lists *really* makes a body feel more productive. Hurrah!

ETA2: The verdict is in: List 1 wins by a single item! Um...yay?

Accolades for Nothing at All

Sisyphus over at Academic Cog has deemed me worthy of this award-thing. How nice! What a lovely surprise on the morning that I was going to start planning my fall comp classes. It makes everything feel so...worthwhile.

But nothing comes without rules, right? So here are the rules of the award:

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Add links to these blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blog.

Thus it falls to me to nominate bloggers Medieval Woman, Notorious Ph.D., Squadratomagico, Maude Lebowski, Jennifer Lynn Jordan, What Now?, and Flavia. Hurrah!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Yikes.

I just wrote a bad book review.

I really didn't want to write a bad book review, but honestly, the book was not good. Oh, no. I tried to be charitable, but it was hard.

Luckily it's highly unlikely that I'll ever run across the author in the course of my career. Still, I feel...unpleasant...and yet strangely powerful...yes, powerful...knowledgeable.... I can feel my own authority growing, seething beneath the surface.... Oh, but I feel bad for the poor author, because it really isn't a very nice review.

I'll reread it tomorrow and see whether I can't soften it up a bit.

Oh, Computer!

I'm getting little green lines here and there on my laptop's screen. This is troubling, is it not?

And they seem to be worse today than they were yesterday.

Ugh. The stupid thing is only two years old. What the hell?

I'd really rather not buy a new computer this year. My minimum computer lifespan is three years, which means that I'm replacing this sucker next August at the earliest.

Feh. Feh, I say! This is not helping me get through the tiresome and extensive revisions of my not-very-brilliant article draft.

Perhaps the worst part, though, is that the thought of getting a new computer gives me a bit of a thrill--so now I want to go looking for a new one, even though I seriously cannot afford it right now (MLA airfare is coming up all too soon). And, other than the raggedy monitor and the broken DVD player (my own fault, the latter is), my little Vaio is working just fine. I must relax. More important things are at hand--such as figuring out why there's such a dearth of secondary criticism in my essay. I mean, I know I'm writing about a pretty under-studied text, but I can't shake the feeling that there's a distinct lack of rigor here....

Friday, July 25, 2008

Revising and Proposing: An Uninformed View (II): The Proposal

I know that I was going to write this like a week ago, but I've been working on this new article (check out my word counter!! --Even though it's a bit of a lie, because I'm going to be losing quite a bit in the extensive revisions that the thing will require). But the waiting is over, friends! You can now read my undoubtedly dull post about What I Put Into My Book Proposal.

(Book proposal update, by the way: The editor at Press 1 received my MS, looked it over, liked it, and has found readers. I should hear back within a few months. Now, if it gets accepted, that will be far too fortuitous to really happen in the world of nonfiction, so I'm not getting my hopes up. Just so you know. Really. No hopes! I swear!)

Anyway, here goes--with the usual caveat about my lack of publisher, this being what just one person did, not having seen any other finished proposals (although Medieval Woman's prospectus helped me to get mine on track), etc.

Each publisher has somewhat different requirements for submission, but I quickly found that the same basic set of documents covered most of my bases. Those documents included:
  1. a cover letter
  2. a proposal/prospectus
  3. a table of contents
  4. a CV
  5. a sample chapter or two.
I'll only talk about the first two, since the others are pretty self-explanatory.

The cover letter.

My proposal cover was somewhat shorter than a job app letter--just a little over one page. Paragraph 1 was very short but gave the title of the work, a word count, and mentioned the fact that the manuscript was complete. Paragraph 2 was more challenging: Here's where I gave them a quick, readable, and hopefully engaging description of the book's project. The important thing here, I think, is to keep the writing free from overly specialized jargon and technical detail. The editor might not know all the ins and outs of your field, and even if she does, you want to show that your prose is comprehensible. But at the same time, you don't want to sound like you don't know the language of your field. When I wrote mine, I tried to think about why my research is exciting, and to highlight that, as though I were writing it to someone in a related but not identical field (a Victorianist, perhaps). So this isn't quite a dissertation abstract, but rather a brief statement of why someone should read your book.

The rest of the letter was easier. In paragraph 3, I gave my credentials (title, where my degree is from, statement of what parts of the book were being published as articles and where); paragraph 4 summed up the awards and fellowships I'd received to work on the project; and paragraph 5 told the editor what I was including with the letter (much as you would end a job letter) and mentioned that I would be happy to send the full MS upon request. Easy enough.

The proposal/prospectus.

I wrote two proposals. The first one is in the garbage. (Metaphorically--in fact it's still on my hard drive, but I haven't looked at it in a really long time.) That was because it was long: I wrote a whole extensive multi-page narrative of what the book is trying to do, what it does in each chapter, and on and on and on. Then I read Medieval Woman's prospectus and completely redid mine, trying to keep the thing to two pages (single-spaced). My advisor read both and without question voted for Attempt No. 2, the short one. So brevity might be something here.

It was not easy to get that two-page summary written. In fact, it has since expanded somewhat--to about 2.3 pages, single-spaced (and I 1.5-spaced it when I submitted it)--but it's still pretty concise.

It starts off with yet another one-paragraph summary of the book, this one a little more "technical"--more along the lines of an abstract--but that also focuses on the problem that the book is trying to deal with, with a quick indication of my answer to that problem. Then I have a one-paragraph summary of each chapter. Since I have eight chapters, that's a lot of little paragraphs; I expect that it'll be easier to keep the document short if you have, say, four chapters. But I think that doing your utmost to keep these short is a good thing, ultimately, as it forces you to think about what's really important in each one. You don't need to tell your reader all about everything that each chapter is doing; the one really key thing is enough. Write many drafts. Revise a lot. Cut, cut, and condense.

But the prospectus isn't over when you've managed to boil the book down to two pages. Most of the publishers that I looked at also want a comparison to existing literature. I got away (or I decided that I could get away) with only comparing my work to four other books; I have no idea whether that's adequate or subnormal, but there you have it. All four were published within the last five years and deal with issues related to mine, but what you're trying to do in this section (and I labeled each section with a little header, by the way) is to show how your book is different from each of the others--what gap in the literature your book fills. So show that you have at least some idea of what's in these other books, but you don't need an extensive summary. I wrote one or two sentences on what each of the books was doing and what it's merits were, followed by a very definite and assertive statement of what my book does differently. Use strong declarative language here--that's the major piece of advice that my advisor gave me on this, and it's important. Show no doubt that your book is unique and significant.

Then you'll need a description of the proposed audience. This doesn't have to be long or detailed, I don't think; "[Title] will be of interest to specialists in X, Y, and Z" is probably adequate. --Although I, incapable of leaving well enough alone, also had a second sentence that explained that it might also be interesting to people in Q, L, and C, even though it seemed a little pretentious to imagine that I have anything to do with some of these disciplines. Whatever. Of course everyone will want to read my book! What could be more obvious?

I think that that's it for the prospectus. I didn't particularly enjoy writing it; it was hard. But I'm happy with what I've got, and with luck I won't need to completely revamp it anymore.

Formatting-wise, I single-spaced my letter and, as I said, 1.5-spaced my prospectus. (It looked better than double- and was more readable than single-.) I also did something that I do on all of my job application materials: I included a footer with my name, the name of the document, and the pages (e.g. "Heu Mihi -- CV -- page 2 of 4"). If a page of your prospectus gets separated from the rest--say, during photocopying--you want it to be as easy as possible for the editor to figure out what it is, right?

Okay, that's that. I hope that this is helpful, if only to provide another set of ideas for how to organize a proposal; I'm certain that this isn't the only way to do it, and I don't know that it's the best way, either. But it is a way. Good luck!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Making weak verbs strong again

I really want to conjugate "revise" as "revise/revose/revisen."

Does anyone else have this impulse, about this or other verbs? I know that there are a bunch more that I get in my head, but I can't think of them right now.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Last Person in America

I got my economic stimulus check yesterday. The teller at the bank looked mildly surprised when I deposited it this morning.

That's what I get for having the last two digits of my SSN in the upper 90s. And for actually paying taxes this year instead of having a refund directly deposited.

Today I'm working--yes, actually working!--on the new article I've been meaning to get to all summer. Perhaps I'll even have a word count on that meter on the right by the end of the day (although word-counting is complicated by the fact that my writing process is basically to produce an outline, and then add increasing layers of detail to the outline, until I'm actually writing whole paragraphs into it. As the Laziest Scholar, I need to trick myself into producing words). But I'll get to my post about what I put into my book proposal soon--it shan't be particularly exciting, but given that I would have benefited from a few guidelines when I was first drafting the thing, perhaps it will be of some service.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Revising and Proposing: An Uninformed View (I)

Because a couple of people asked about the process of revamping my dissertation and sending out a book proposal in the comments to the last post, I thought I'd just do a proper post on what I did to revise my dissertation and write up the proposal. Now, I do not in any way pretend that this is an expert view. For those of you who haven't been following my scintillating career, here are the caveats: I have not published a book. I have not had a book accepted for publication. I defended my dissertation a year and 3.5 months ago. I have only ever seen one or two proposals other than my own. The only "credential" I have is that two publishers have deemed my proposal to be interesting--or, at least, acceptable--enough to ask for the complete manuscript. So this is not intended as a definitive guide to moving from dissertation to book or to writing a book proposal, but rather just a run-down of what one person who's in the midst of the process has been doing.

First, revising.

I like to think of myself as The Laziest Scholar, so, in truth, I did not do extensive rewriting as a part of my revision process. Or if I did, it's only because I tricked myself into doing it by working on just a few sentences at a time, here and there, and then occasionally banging out a new transition paragraph (usually in the space of about 15 minutes). The revision process will, of course, differ vastly from dissertation to dissertation; Germano's From Dissertation to Book is helpful in giving you a sense of what the scope of your revisions might be, although I confess that I found the book to be frustratingly general at times. (Which is not really a failure of the book--I mean, he's trying to address a very wide, multidisciplinary audience--but I wanted a little more in the way of concrete advice. Perhaps because I wanted someone else to do my revisions for me?)

Anyway. Here's what my dissertation needed; perhaps some of it will be applicable to others:
  1. Better titles. Seriously, my titles were clunky messes of nonsense. Well, no, they weren't that bad. But I'd tried really hard to make each chapter title parallel, so each one fit into the following formula: "Pithy Phrase: Something and Something in Text [or Author]." I have eight chapters, so this got a little old after a while. In the revision process, I grappled mightily with my chapters and decided to jettison the parallelism, so now I have some chapter titles without colons. Yes, you read me right! No colons! In some of them! I also tried to make the titles a little more engaging. Titles aren't my strong suit, so this caused me some stress; in coming up with a new title for the book itself (a vital move, as it shows that you really have revised the dissertation) I generated at least a page and a half (typed, single-spaced) of possibilities before settling on the one that seemed to best represent the content of my work. By the time I finished the dissertation, see, the title I'd chosen Lo Those Many Years Ago wasn't very accurate, and boy did it sound stale to my ears.
  2. Subheadings. I added subheadings to each chapter. This not only made it feel more organized, but it's probably what forced me to do the most substantial revisions in each chapter, because it made me really think about what I was arguing and the order in which I was arguing it, and how each section built (or failed to build) upon the others. I know that not everyone likes subheadings, but they seemed to work for me. Also, the two chapters I'd spun off into articles both had subheadings--in one case the reviewer recommended/ordered me to add them, and in the other the editor simply inserted them into the final piece. And once I saw them there, I liked 'em.
  3. Actual restructuring. But no, not all of my revisions were cosmetic! Indeed! Upon meeting with my advisor post-defense to discuss what I should do to vamp the thing up into book form, she recommended taking a chapter from the middle and integrating it into my introduction. Providing more detail on this point probably wouldn't be helpful, as it's rather particular to my project, but I wound up following her advice and it made a big difference, I think, in terms of setting up the substance of my argument. What I basically ended up doing was merging two chapters and then splitting them apart in a different way and using them as a kind of two-chapter introduction to the rest of the project. To extrapolate from this to more general advice, I guess what you might do is to think about how your project would best be introduced now that you've seen it through to completion--trying to disregard how you actually did introduce it and conceptualize it more abstractly. I was lucky in that I had my advisor basically do this for me and point out the flaw in where I'd originally put the material from those two chapters, but I suppose it's something that a diligent scholar might be able to do for herself, too.
  4. A new introduction. I wrote--from scratch--a 12-page introduction to the book in which I did my best to make it sound really exciting and to keep my approach fairly broad. I wrote the first draft of this intro (which was only about 6 pages long) in maybe forty-five minutes; I'm a fast writer of drafts in general, but in this case the speed was deliberate. See, I knew that if I took too long with the intro, I'd start getting too specific and worried about the details: what I tried to do instead was to provide a rapid-fire overview of what's really important and why it's important to study it. I revised this like crazy, of course, and added a lot of text later, but that first quick run-down was extremely helpful in getting me to write something that wasn't hopelessly technical and (most likely) rather dry.
  5. Subordinated scholarship. I didn't have a literature review per se in my diss, but I did, of course, demonstrate that I'd read about 80,000 articles in the process of writing it. As I revised, one of the main things that I did was to simply delete references to other scholarship that didn't actually advance my argument (but that, most often, just talked around it) and to put most of the rest of my secondary research into footnotes. Hence, I have a lot of long footnotes, but the chapters themselves seem much cleaner and I found it a lot easier to keep my argument on track when I wasn't pausing every half-page to point out that three or four other people might be said to agree with me.
  6. A highlighted narrative. You all know this one: Find the "story" that you're telling in the dissertation and make sure that everyone can follow it, using nice clear introductions to each chapter and conclusions that lead the reader on to the chapters that follow. I wrote a lot of these transitional conclusions from scratch as I revised, because I really couldn't be bothered to produce them while I was working on the dissertation. They were sort of fun to write, though, actually, because I could just talk in my writing about what's interesting in my project without worrying about developing the scholarship itself.
  7. Stronger assertions. None of this "it could be argued" or "it might be possible" bullshit. Nope: I'm right, my argument is important, and you'd all best agree with me. If you know what's good for you. I mean it.
Just an additional point on the process: I thought that I was doing all of these things back when I was writing the dissertation itself (except for no. 3, of course). But when I went back and reread it a few months after the defense, it looked less bookish and more dissertationy than I'd imagined. But that's probably because this was the first book-length piece of scholarship I'd written; it's only natural that it would take a bit of revising to get it into a truly readable state. I don't think that there's a natural distinction between "dissertation" and "book"--at least, not in literary studies--but rather that a dissertationy book is just a book that hasn't quite moved towards a more general scholarly audience.

Now, I don't know how good my manuscript is or anything, and it's possible that I'll need to do a lot more to it to get it published. When I defended last April, my committee really pushed me to send out proposals as quickly as possible (and I took more than a year to do so; they evidently didn't push hard enough--but I'm glad that I took the time, as I'm confident that the work is in better shape than it was). I don't think that this was because I'm a natural genius with an instantly publishable dissertation, but rather because my diss was on a semi-"hot" topic in medieval studies that's getting more attention lately, and if I waited too long, the moment might pass. So, just to reiterate my caveats, because I'm sort of embarrassed about presuming to give advice on book-writing: I may not know what I'm talking about, at all, but it can be useful to read about what someone else did, no?

OK, this post has grown much longer than I expected it to. So stay tuned for Revising and Proposing: An Uniformed View (II): The Proposal!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Was it the new improved word count?

Received another expression of interest today: Press 2 wants to see the manuscript, as well. This came mere hours after I contacted Press 1 to let them know that I would happily send them the whole thing by the end of the week. Fortunately, I don't think that Press 2 is substantially better than Press 1 (I have no idea how to rank these things, but in my mind they're roughly equivalent--I would guess that my work was more suited to 1 than 2, but I could definitely be wrong. Press 2 seems slightly better to me only because it's from a U that's near where I grew up, so the name of the school is more emblazoned on my mind than is 1's; however, Press 1 sounds less "niche" than 2, but that might only be to my highly subjective ears. I will now quit all speculation in this vein).

So I guess that I need to tell 2 that the MS is out elsewhere, but I'd be happy to send it to them in a couple of months? Unless, of course, 1 decides within the week that my writing sucks and they hate me, in which case I'll be embarrassed.

Wow! I haven't felt this popular since that week when I was sixteen when four different boys gave me their phone numbers.

I went out with one of them for like three weeks, and that was the end of my brush with adolescent popularity.

Sigh.

I had pink hair back then, you know.

But to resume: I do feel, at least, confident now that Press 1 isn't just joking around. And at the very least this means that my proposal is actually in pretty good shape! I guess that full YEAR of working on it is paying off!

I hope, though, that it wasn't gauche of me to send out multiple proposals at once. I'm under the impression that that's totally legit, and that it's just the MS that needs to be monogamous. Here's the mnemonic, coined by me: Promiscuous Proposals /Monogamous Manuscripts. Remember it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Follow-Up to the Euphoria

Okay. I've calmed down a little since my last post. And now, of course, I am besieged with doubts. I emailed my grad advisor and immediately got an Out of Office until Aug. 1 Autoreply, so s/he's of no use here. Who better to turn to, then, than the wisdom of les internets?

Here's my quandary. It can be boiled down to raging insecurity re. my work and a healthy dose of Impostor Syndrome: If this publisher is interested in my MS--and interested, moreover, after having had hardly any time to look at the proposal, which I sent out towards the end of last week--then how on earth can it be a reputable press?

Now, I KNOW that it's a reputable press, because a) it's peer-reviewed, b) it's the UP of a major U, and c) I used at least one of its books extensively in my dissertation and it was very good and tremendously helpful. So I suspect that I'm just self-sabotaging. Or maybe they just respond positively to every book proposal, but that would be a massive waste of time for them (as well as for me, because if I send them the MS--as I no doubt will, of course, despite my fretting--then I can't send it to anyone else for about three months). And it would be kind of a lousy thing for them to do. Right?

So okay, what's the alternative? The editor saw my proposal this morning, thought that it looked promising, and sent me an email.
...
...
...

What does it say about me that my immediate reaction to that sentence is "Yeah, right"?

So I don't know, trashcousins.* I just searched the Chronicle fora for the press, and the only thing that anyone has to say about it is that it's reputable (if not top-top-tier, which I knew) and that it has a very fast turnaround time. Both good things. So I guess my real question is this: Why am I so lame?


*Yes, I'm trying very hard to work this word into the vocabulary, but I don't know how well it's going to do; it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. The two stresses in a row (trash/cuz) makes it hard to say. And also it doesn't sound very nice. It's a term of endearment, though, really it is!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

An editor!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! to whom I sent a proposal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! wants to see!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! my complete manuscript!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Not an editor at #1 Big Shot Press, but at A Perfectly Respectable UP....)

How many more exclamation points could I get into this post?

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Words

This is kind of fun, although I can't figure out along what principle it determines the sizing of the words:



(Via Belle. Click to enlarge.)

Lo! I had been feeling inadequate!

In working up my many varied manuscript proposals, the word count had always made me cringe: just under 83,000 (actually closer to 82,000, but I rounded up because that just sounded lame). Longer books aren't necessarily better books, but I try to deal with a lot of things in mine--think two whole major genres of medieval lit encompassed in six close reading/analytic chapters and a couple of synthesis chapters, and that's pretty much what I'm working with--and 83,000 (or, fine, 82,300) seemed awfully...thin.

Then yesterday, as I was updating my word count post-revision, I discovered that Word's word-counter doesn't include footnotes. I mean, obviously it doesn't, but for some reason that never occurred to me.

Word count with footnotes? 95,600.

I assume/imagine that bibliographic footnotes don't (or shouldn't) count towards the total, but there is no living way that I'm going to go through 320 pages and figure out the word count total for bibliographic footnotes and subtract that from the total--nope, not happening. I have a number of substantive footnotes, though. Lots and lots of them, actually, as one of my primary Revision Strategies involved popping all the other scholarship on my texts into footnotes (you know, the paragraphs that go, "I think X. Scholar A also thinks X. In the words of Scholar B, 'X is correct.' Scholar C thinks that X could be nuanced in Y way, but ultimately X is the way to go"). So I've decided to split the difference and then round up slightly in my favor (hey, I might add a couple more paragraphs before the manuscript is complete) and to decree that my manuscript is now complete at 90,000 words, including substantive footnotes.

Huzzah! A properly book-length book has magically appeared on my hard drive!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Distraction.

Shirtless men are wielding sledgehammers directly outside the window by my desk.

Perhaps I'm just not meant to get anything done today.

Lethargic Miscellany

I've been in a slightly weird state since I got back home. I don't know exactly why. Was it the return to all the old and varied stomping grounds? the 9 solid days of being with other people? the fact that I no longer have any immediate plans to get out of town? I'm not sure.

Here are the symptoms. 1) I'm tired. Exhausted. Yesterday I quite literally did nothing (except go swimming) until 5 pm, and even then all I did was go to the grocery store. I can't even account for the passage of time. And then this morning I'm still tired. Eventually I need to get back to work, I suppose, but it's hard when my head feels like it's about to roll off onto the desk. 2) A bit of moodiness and irritability, like the things that seemed really great a few weeks ago have all kind of lost their luster. I hope that this is just connected to the weariness and/or is a feature of my recovering from too much socializing, because it's not great.

It's possible, too, that I haven't entirely worked out all of the issues that I thought I'd worked out in the spring, and perhaps there are some leftover stresses, some things with which I still need to fully make my peace. I don't mean to be cryptic here, but I don't particularly want to be any more specific than that, either.

In any event, it is my hope--nay, conviction--that getting back into my usual routine and back to work will shape me up.

**********************************************
In that vein, let's move on to brighter topics:

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* I have a $100 gift certificate to Amazon (courtesy of my credit card rewards system--I've been hoarding them for years, I kid you not) and have not yet decided how to spend it. A part of me wants to be totally frivolous and buy something like the complete Buffy series (which is more than $100, I'm quite certain), but perhaps there are better uses for my money. Like some nice work-related books that I need. Or a whole packet of novels. I don't know! And here's what's going to happen: The gift certificate will become so fetishized and precious that I'll never be able to bring myself to use it, and will actually spend money at Amazon for future purchases just so that I can keep the coupon. In order to prevent that from happening, I'm willing to take suggestions.

* I've received several very polite rejection letters in response to my manuscript proposals. A rejection letter is not normally a bright topic, of course, but I'm impressed by just how very polite and nice these rejection letters are (to paraphrase: "Dear Professor Mihi, Thank you for your very interesting proposal, it looks wonderful, just not right for us right now, etc etc'"). I've sent out loads of short stories and a handful of agent queries for novels over the years, and the rejection letters are not so nice ("Author: We received your submission and whatever tripe you've written, it's clearly not for us. Next time you might actually look at our journal before inundating us with your garbage; that way you'll know just how sub-par it really is."). So, even though I'm reasonably certain that I'm still receiving form letters (with my name and MS title plugged in), the tone of the letters is helping to preserve my optimism. Also, I've so far only sent my proposal to really absurdly top-tier publishing houses, so I can't get too discouraged yet.

Best of all:

I have a new favorite word: Trashcousin!

On my travels, I met a child (she turned four this week) who called everyone "trashcousin." The term apparently denotes some favor, or at least affectionate familiarity--as in, "Hey, trashcousins! What's happening?" It has something to do with Oscar the Grouch, but a Google search on the word yielded nothing, so I can only assume that it's her own creation. In any event I am now determined to get this into at least local circulation, as it seems like a word worth preserving. So, trashcousins! It's time I shake off this lethargy, maybe put on my glasses (contacts are too much work this morning; besides, I'm still in my pajamas), and read that chapter that's been idling on my computer lo these many weeks. Thanks for reading, trashcousins!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wow. Go away for a week and come back to instant fame!

Just a quick note because I'm about to die of fatigue:

I got home this evening after a two-day drive. I checked email and took a look at my stat counter (expecting low hits because, after all, I've been away). But no! There were many many hits! Many more than I've ever had before!

Apparently I have been linked here. And apparently I have "plenty to write about." Which is good to know, because I usually feel like this blog is kind of circling over the same non-issues week after week. It would seem, however, that I've succeeded in interesting someone.

Expect more updates on the non-issues in my life soon, for I do have plenty to write about them. Whether I actually get around to the writing is, of course, another matter.