(Extremely Delayed) Publishing Journey Update

I’ll be honest, the endless plot twists that made up 2020 did not a blogger make! I’ve neglected le blog for quite some time as I navigated seeing patients in the midst of the pandemic, balancing schoolwork, and *massive drumroll please* GETTING MY BOOK PICKED UP BY A PUBLISHER!!!!

~screams, ugly cries, and dances around for twenty-seven minutes because I’m still so grateful it feels like my heart will burst~

I am honored beyond reason to report that my book A Brush with Love was picked up by Eileen Rothschild at St. Martin’s Press Griffin!

And, to put a cherry on top of this absolute dream come true, it was bought in a two book deal! Words truly cannot express my unfettered joy at this opportunity.

There were times in this process that I wanted this moment so badly, longed for it so desperately but truly feared it would never actually happen my bones would ache with it.

I never want to minimize the difficulty of the publishing process, and I also want to be as transparent as possible about my experience with it for all of you also in the trenches, so here’s a little timeline:

me after signing with Kelli

I started querying ABWL in August 2019

I signed with my angel agent Kelli Martin from Wendy Sherman and Associates at the end of October 2019.

There weren’t massive edits done on the MS and we went on submission February 14th 2020 (yes, about two weeks before the country massively shut down… this didn’t stress me out AT ALL *nervously laughs*)

Then, rejection came in.

And ooohh doggy did this hurt. So badly. The dinging of my email resulted in a pavlovian reaction of cold sweats and heart palpitations. I will always be incredibly grateful to all the editors that were kind in their passes of the book and their willingness to even consider my writing, but at the time it was incredibly difficult.

We were also in the midst of shut-down, and the stress of being on sub while also seeing absolute tragedy happening every day, and still having to go to school took a massive toll on my mental health. I was depressed. I was anxious beyond belief, having almost daily panic attacks. I wasn’t sleeping. It was a lot to deal with and I started to sink into that very dark trap of telling yourself you aren’t good enough. I know everyone has a tendency to self-doubt, but I think artists in particular feel a certain intensity of it when it’s their work, their creative product, a piece of them, being judged and critiqued.

And then, after ten weeks on submission with more than a few rejections and a whole lot of doubt, I received an offer for a revise and resubmit (R&R). For anyone wondering, an R&R is when an editor (or agent) sees potential in the work but there are things they would want changed. They give you those revisions, you implement them, and then they take a second look. Naturally, I jumped at this incredible opportunity being offered to me.

I worked non-stop for a week straight (ADHD hyper-focus comin’ in hot ya’ll) on changing my story. I pretty much rewrote the last 100 pages, changed a bunch of up-front details, and flushed out some missing character motivations. And it was tough. It was killing my darlings and just as challenging as authors discuss. There were times I wanted to dig in my heels and refuse to budge on something. Other moments where I doubted the new work so much I wanted to delete the entire document. But, more than anything, there were moments that felt incredibly right, like I was pruning the manuscript so it could fully blossom.

It was also incredibly personal and introspective.

When taking on the challenge of writing about mental illnesses, and finding love and laughter in the darkness, I don’t think I fully grasped how much work it require I do on myself. It felt like cutting open a vein, exposing myself completely, to write about the painfulness that often comes with these disabilities. It felt raw and honest to put those feelings on the page. And, I realized, that sometimes when writing, I didn’t actually go there. I took the easy way out.

Doing the R&R made me realize that my original ending was the easy one. It was the one I could get on paper without having to look too deeply into my own mental illness and internalized ableism. It was the nice little bow that didn’t have much mess that wrapped up my story but didn’t do my characters justice. It didn’t make me cry when I wrote it, which was fine with me because I didn’t want to go there in my own thoughts and experiences.

But, through the advice of my incredible editor and the support of my wonderful agent, I went there. I set my ego aside. I gobbled up the notes and did my best in implementing them.

And then I submitted the damn thing.

AND THEN WAITED AND EVERY DAY FELT LIKE ACTUAL TORTURE WAITING GAH! Side note: that’s the thing about publishing, it is endless waiting that will make you tread holes in your carpet with all of the wild pacing you do, waiting for news.

And then, on July 15th 2020, one of the best calls of my life came through. I had lab at 2:00pm, and at 1:50pm, my agent sent me an all caps text.

And then the call came through.

I was in the courtyard at school, absolutely bawling and shaking with joy at the news that my book was being picked up by SMP Romance in a two book deal.

me making quite the scene at school crying

Nothing has ever felt so surreal or sweet or incredible.

My little book. My ode to anxious people. My story littered with oral puns and messy women and lots of love was going to be published.

There really aren’t words to describe the feeling of putting so much of yourself into something and seeing your dreams for it come to fruition. It’s scary to write about mental illness and love and finding satisfaction in life. But damn did it also feel good.

And I will always be so thankful for that R&R, that push to dig down, make my characters get ugly and messy, make them more human and more complicated and more flawed, also made their love that much sweeter. Their happily ever after that much more satisfying to write, and I hope it made it more satisfying to read.

LONELINESS IS REALLY HARD AND WEIRD, OKAY?!

Quick question, did anyone have Murder Hornets on their End of the World 2020 BINGO card? No?

Since the world is just… *gestures vaguely at everything,* I’d thought it might be a good time to talk about loneliness. Loneliness is an interesting feeling. For a word that means an absence of something, being lonely is quite a heavy, oppressive place to be. And I think a lot of us are feeling lonelier than usual with the shelter in place orders. Even if you’re quarantining with family or roommates, being in isolation can still leave you feeling, well, isolated.

And I think that’s a huge reason why so many people are disregarding the severity of the pandemic and fighting for their “right,” to go to beaches or malls or get a haircut or whatever other stupid fucking thing they are protesting we open back up for. This prolonged period of isolation is one of the scariest situations for modern history, and the fear and chaos is compounded by the fact that staying safe and isolated also means putting ourselves in that scary place of being alone with our thoughts. We all tend to be afraid of the pesky feelings that rise up within us when we are forced to stop and listen to what our mind has to say. Despite our ability to constantly be plugged in with others, there’s still so much vulnerability in having to sit with ourselves and actually see what’s in the ignored corners of our minds.

Being trapped in the four walls of your home can drudge up all the things we work so hard to keep buried. In our normal lives, we can sprint from thing to thing, person to person, place to place, and interact without having to face ourselves. But when we have nowhere left to go but the circuit of wherever we’re staying, things come up. Things like past traumas done to you, or traumas you’ve done to someone else. You think of happy memories and sad ones. Mistakes and accomplishments. You think of the relationships that sustained you when it was too challenging to have one with yourself. The past and the future both swarm in and make us think when we are this alone. And we don’t always see things we like.

We are being forced to look at our lives in the most stripped down versions of what they are: the relationships we have, the ones we lack, the things on the outside we usually turn towards to numb the reality we don’t like. I think what also creates another layer to the loneliness is how all of our social structures are crumbling around us. Things that often seemed so vital and important have been proven to be obsolete. We are seeing the extent from which industries can work from home, we are watching our government disintegrate, our economy crash. It’s terrifying.

So, instead of enduring these periods of forced introspection, people choose to run from themselves and go out into the world during this dangerous time. (Please note, I do not condone any behavior that violates the shelter in place. This is serious, and it’s vile to me that people could be so selfish as to risk the lives of people and the well-being of healthcare workers and those that can’t shelter in place. Believe me, I would rip out my own fingernails at this point for a yard I could go sit in instead of my 600 sqft. apartment, but I’m still keeping my ass inside).

How I’m tryin’ to be

One thing that keeps coming up for me is the loneliness I feel in my careers. I’m a dentist (in training) and a writer, and the two have minimal overlap. As a dental student, I don’t have strong bonds with my classmates. Which is hard as hell. It’s extremely difficult to go through the stress and pressure of becoming a doctor and lacking a sense of network and support through it. It can feel like I’m floundering alone in a sea and need some life support. As a writer, I don’t really know anyone. I have so many friends in the reading community, which is what inspired me to take the leap to writing, but I don’t have personal connections with other writers. And I’d like to make those connections! I really would. I just don’t know how. I have so many questions and thoughts and concerns and just THINGS I want to talk to other writers about, but it often feels like sitting at the edges of the fringe, waiting until I become successful enough to be let into that inner circle. (Could I be more melodramatic? hahaha).

And being on submission right now adds an extra element of loneliness. I just kind of feel like I’m floating in this state of unknowing and it’s challenging for me to sit with. As a person that likes control, not having any is a challenge for me. I just wish I had someone to talk to that’s been through it, that can talk me through the (many) lows, and celebrate with me on the highs.

But these are all things I’m learning about myself during this time. I’m being forced to look at where that loneliness comes from, and the power I have to change it, if I’m brave enough to take the steps.

Maybe I’m naively optimistic, but I do hope that good can come from these dark times. It will take work, hard fucking work, but maybe we can know ourselves a bit better after this, if we are willing to stop and be fully alone with our thoughts. Maybe we can find pieces of ourselves that have been buried beneath the rushing of normal life, and learn to nurture those gifts so they can shine. We all have the potential to heal and learn and grow if we’re brave enough to look at the scary bits inside.

Why Am I so Mean to Myself?

Holy shit, I’ve been so damn depressed the past three weeks. My boyfriend and I started sheltering in place March 14th, and it’s been quite the emotional roller coaster. I’m so thankful for our shoebox sized apartment, I’m thankful for our sweet kittens, I’m thankful that I can talk to my mom everyday, I’m thankful that my boyfriend and I are still laughing with each other everyday, and we don’t want to kill each other yet.

But I’m also a wreck. Sometimes, it feels like my body absorbs the pain of the world, sucks it all up, and places it in my chest, where it balloons to the point that it threatens to crack my ribs. The first two weeks of the pandemic hitting the U.S. were some of the worst anxiety weeks I’ve had since the major medication switch back in August. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, my body wouldn’t stop shaking. I felt fear and sadness and hurt for the people suffering. I felt worry for my own family, my own physical and financial security. I felt rage at people refusing to take it seriously. I felt despair. Then, I got a round of rejections from publishers (I know this is par for the course, but damn did it hurt so badly), and I felt such acute and personal rejection (thanks ADHD and Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria). I felt so damn much that I think my body kind of shut down and said “Okay, that’s enough feeling for the next month,” and powered off into a numb depression. I couldn’t feel much of anything besides exhaustion and this dull, pulsing sadness.

It’s been rough. I’ve felt ashamed by my reaction, by my anxiety when I’m not personally sick. When I haven’t lost a loved one to this crisis. But I’m also trying to be patient with myself. My empathy, my sensitivity, they often feel like burdens, but I’m trying to view them as super powers. As blessings. Feeling so much hurts, but after feeling so down these past few weeks, I realize I’d rather feel too much than feel nothing at all.

I’ve slowly been fighting out of it. It isn’t easy to claw your way out of that dark blueness. It take so much energy to resurface, to pull yourself up and breathe and feel and think again. But yesterday, for the first time in five weeks, I felt like myself again. I felt happiness. I felt gratitude. I felt okay.

If anything, this pandemic has forced me to slow down. My body, my mind, my spirit, have been in a dead sprint for the past two years through school, and the pain and sadness and trauma of the past six weeks has forced me to stop moving at that break neck speed. Our school has accelerated our lecture schedule, but do you know how hard it is to try and actually learn during a global crisis? It’s fucking HARD. I can’t keep going at this rate. My brain is an oversaturated sponge, threatening to painfully burst if I keep forcing it to sprint and work and keep up with some weird outside expectations on how I should be performing.

And one of the problems with slowing down is how you start to actually hear yourself think again. And holy shit, the things you hear are not very pretty. Something about this time and this space has allowed me to hear the thoughts, those tiny little buzzing noises that usually are too low to consciously register, but still burrow into corners of your brain, plant roots, gain purchase, and hurt you.

For example: yesterday morning, I had an exam. This was the third exam in two days. And, since I’m trying to be nicer to myself, I got up at 6am instead of 4am like I customarily do to study. I was sitting on my couch, guzzling down coffee, scrolling through a power point, when a thought flashed across my brain, so fast I almost didn’t catch, almost didn’t hear it. But my brain said “Hold up, what the fuck did you just say to me?” I did a little rewind and realized the words “You’re disgusting,” had flashed through my head, almost undetectable in all the other clutter up there. What the actual fuck is that?? Why am I so mean to myself? Here I am, waking up at the crack of fucking dawn to study, to try my hardest, and the best thing I can think to say to myself is I’m disgusting???

There is no way we as humans are meant to say such awful things to ourselves, to hurt ourselves like this. And yet, we do. I do, at least. Little thoughts like failure, loser, faker, disgusting, unworthy pass through my brain all the time. They shoot across my mind’s eye like silent little missiles, collecting in a corner until they start taking up more and more space. Until they fill so much room they think they are entitled to hurt me.

And what’s odder still, is how, even in the face of calling myself cruel words, it’s a challenge to be nice to myself. It feels so uncomfortable to take those nasty words, crumple them into a little ball, light it on fire, and then shower myself with nice words. Words like hard-worker, determined, honest, lovely (like, I almost couldn’t type that last one! My fingers stalled out on the keys. They were like, “uhhhh no you shouldn’t call yourself that. Not publicly. Because what if people reading this think you actually think of yourself as lovely?” See how fucked up all of this is??).

I don’t have an answer yet on how to abolish this mean way of thinking. It honestly feels embarrassing to even admit all of this. There’s always shame, there’s always fear, there’s always What if I’m the only one? But, even if I am (which I highly doubt), articulating this yucky tendency might be the first step in freeing myself from it. My mom’s therapist told her to write out twenty-five of her strengths and say them out loud everyday. I did this, I honestly made myself LAUGH at how hard it was for me to come up with twenty-five whole strengths, like, girl, you are a writer, you can’t think of twenty-five words that are nice about yourself?? Ridiculous. I’ve also started doing a little bit of journaling. I just try to write how I felt that day, thank God for the blessings He’s constantly bestowing on me during this time, and give myself space to really feel everything right now. The future has never felt so uncertain, but even in this awful time, there is beauty, we just have to search a little harder to find it, but we can enjoy it all the more because of that.

Bonus: here are a bunch of pics of my cats cuddling.