Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Fortune Cookie Portent, or How to Live with Stability in the Fictional Universe


A few weeks ago, we ordered Chinese for a working lunch. My fortune cookie read: "Your life gains the stability you desire." This is the second time in my life that a cookie seemed to be more aware of my immediate future than I was. Six years ago, I dined at a Chinese buffet with a group of college friends. My fortune cookie read: "Happiness is right in front of you." Across the table from me sat my then good-friend and current husband.

What does this mean other than the fact that I am continually afraid of the sixth sense inherent in Asian-inspired baked goods?

It means that last Friday I signed a contract and Monday, it became official. I have an agent. I am a represented writer. Do I feel a little more stable? Yes I do.

It also means I'll be re-revising a novel I had, in the core of my being, proclaimed "finished." Now, it is not-so-finished, and I have some new chapters to write and some old ones to revise and at least one that gets the giant delete button (well, the cut/paste button anyway, as it will stand on its own perfectly well for literary magazine submission purposes).

What I have here is the stress of my thesis-due-in-a-month days but multiplied by fifteen. Maybe twenty. There's a lot at stake here, whereas before, if I didn't gethergone, it just meant paying for another thesis credit and graduating in the summer instead of the spring. I mean, think about this. When I finish revising this book, I have an agent who will be showing it to publishers. Editors will hear about and/or read some of my book and decide its fate. I'm trying not to let this impact my productivity, but really, it makes me want to sit down and cry. This is a lot. Then again, it does make me feel like a writer (agent + crying= writer?), because someone wants my book. Someone thinks it's good enough. Someone was willing to take a chance on it without the revisions even being done yet, and that's pretty amazing.

All I need to do is get beyond this feeling of being completely overwhelmed. I have a lot that needs written. I have research to do and reading to do that I think will inspire me for this particular project. I need a plan. Once I have that, I just know the ground will feel stable beneath me, and it will only get better from here. On the writing front, I've begun some preliminary character sketches, so I can start living in these new stories.

On the reading/research front, books on the to-read soon list include: Winesburg, OH and re-examining Olive Kitteridge. Maybe Machine Dreams by Jayne Anne Phillips (she always inspires me). The list will grow.

Just slashed off the list: the entire Charles Yu Oeuvre. I picked up Charles Yu from the library after reading a story about him in the last Poets and Writers. The article was enchanting, intriguing, and written in the second person (I have new respect for Kevin Nance). The approach seemed to be an attempt to mimic the work of Yu himself, and I wanted to know what it was all about. The first book spine I cracked was the short story collection Third Class Superhero. The first story had an interesting premise, but in the end, didn't really say a lot. I am not much for the hip style-based, angst-filled first person antihero tales, except when I am. The rest of the stories were equally uninteresting to me, so I put it down and picked up How to Live Safety in a Science Fictional Universe. This book had the style and the substance. It said a lot about humanity, regret, living in the past (in a very literal sense), and the relationships of fathers and sons. Of course, with its science fiction meta-fictional bent, I had a huge crush on this book throughout.

With renewed faith in the Yu, I'm about halfway through Sorry Please Thank You. Though I did skip a story so far (for which I will flog myself later), these stories feel more substantive somehow, with a more relatable emotional core. There's one story about characters in a fantasy online RPG that I got a kick out of for personal reasons. It even had a nice twist, in which it's made clear that maybe the protagonist just might be heroic, unlike the first tale from Third Class Superhero. Despite this, I'm going out on a limb and saying I'm more of a Yu novel fan. What about you?

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