The Memoir is on Pause

The Memoir is on Pause

I hit the the 50,000 word threshold on the memoir last week, and then I put the manuscript away. It’s very nearly ready to hand off to Dan for structuring feedback. However, there are a few reasons I’m waiting:

  • My postcard writing for the Midterm Election has been moved to the front burner. (I’ve written nearly 240 to date with address to write at least 100 more.)
  • I’m not “feeling it” at the moment, and pushing forward before I’m ready will only result in wasted effort. (Ask me how I know.)
  • I want to print the manuscript, because I need a tangible thing to craft at this stage. But my printer’s out of ink, and it’ll cost about $25 to print the current MS at Staples or Kinko’s. So, next paycheck.

While the memoir is on hold, I’m working at making videos for my YouTube channel.

Sometimes I can’t tell if things are genuinely hard (and would be for anyone) or if my brain is slower because of the cancer and treatment. For example, it took me three long, crank-filled days to figure out why my phone kept forcing videos to record in portrait mode instead of landscape.

Anyway, if you’re interested in looking at the progression of my work, watch my videos on coloring and Zentangling. They’re going to get better, I promise!

Let Me Introduce You to My Workspace

Let Me Introduce You to My Workspace

This is a picture of the end table next to me right now. It’s a little chaotic, I’ll admit. It’s maybe not how I’d keep things if I were perfectly healthy. But maybe it is. I don’t really know. I’m not the most organized person in the world. Anyway, this is the current state of things.

  1. Mountain Dew goes really well with weed. (See #6.)
  2. My phone case/wallet. It’s a really ugly imitation of suede. It’s hideous, but it’s functional.
  3. My only prescription med right now, and it has nothing to do with cancer. (I know, that’s amazing, right?)
  4. The earrings Dan picked up for me three days ago at Meijer “just because”. The are cats wearing witch hats.
  5. The double-sided Sharpie I use to write postcards to voters. One side is fine point. The other side is ultra-fine point.
  6. My MMJ vape. The changes in weather got me all like “OUCH!” I try to remember to take it every day just in case it feels like shrinking my brain tumor. But some days I forget.
  7. Vitamin D capsules. The doctor wants me to keep my levels up, and I just don’t spend a whole lot of time outside.
  8. The Sibley Guide to Birds. If you look closely, you can actually see the bird feeder out there in the back yard.
  9. An almost empty basket of Halloween candy. It only contained a partial bag of treats, but still. I’ve consumed way too much sugar in the last couple of days. (See #6.)
  10. Windex electronics wipes for cleaning my laptop and cell phone screen.
  11. Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir. I’m using it as a desk reference while I continue writing my memoir.
  12. The Sassy Bottle™. Izzy likes to be a little jerk and scratch at the furniture. Turns out she likes being sprayed with water too, though. So now it’s a game and we’ve taught her to claw the upholstery for attention. Cats, man.
Somebody Talk Me Down

Somebody Talk Me Down

I can’t focus on the memoir today. Yeah, I made it to 40,000 words this morning, but only because I was able to copy and paste some years-old writing. While I was in Scrivener poking around, I looked at a few previously written scenes and immediately became depressed.

They are horrible.

I know this is what first drafts are like—particularly for someone like me who’s never written a whole freaking book before. But, ugh. It’s depressing to feel like you’ve got 40,000 words and a month worth of your life invested in something that is completely unsalvageable.

Dan tries to console me when I get like this, which is about three times a week. “Neil Gaiman, or someone, I don’t remember who, posted a few lines of their first draft on Twitter once to show how hard he had to work to get it right.”

“Yeah?”

“It was one of the worst things I’d ever read. Everyone’s first draft sucks, Swiss. That’s why first drafts are never published.”

“Yeah, I know. I guess.”

It doesn’t help that I’m reading a couple of really great books (An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green and Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover) right now, and both are kind of brilliant. As far as Green’s novel goes, you couldn’t compare two more different books—his YA novel and my memoir—but that doesn’t stop me from doing it anyway. However, Westover’s memoir fits squarely in my book’s genre and the writing is better and her life is about 10,000 times more interesting than my own, despite my once marrying a compulsive liar and then later being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Anyway, it is just as they say, comparison is the thief of joy.

On Approaching Forty Thousand

On Approaching Forty Thousand

When I finish writing for the day, I usually reward myself by researching the publishing process (I know surprisingly little about traditional publishing) and/or watching bookish YouTube videos. Today, I went to YouTube and stumbled on YA writer Nadine Brandes. I watched the video where she opened a UPS package from her publisher containing the hardcover of her book Fawkes and I was like, THAT. IS. SO. EXCITING. And after that I watched the Fawkes release day video. When I got to the part where she picked her book up off the shelf at Barnes & Noble? I might’ve cried my pants (peed my eyes?) a little bit.

The super-reserved, daughter-of-a-stoic part of me thinks that if I talk about how badly I want to publish this memoir I’ll jinx the whole process. But the rest of me is ready to blab about how I’ve already started bookmarking the web pages of potential literary agents.

I’m feeling pretty good about being this close to 40,000 words after only a month. I mean just look at the lovely shade of green that progress bar is turning! When I originally settled on the goal to write 50,000 words I thought it seemed impossible. And truthfully, I think I need closer to 60,000 words for a real book. (Somehow 50,000 seemed much less daunting. *shrug*) But now I think the first goal is a foregone conclusion and the second goal is well within my reach.

A couple nights ago I was talking to Dan about the themes I was seeing emerge from the scenes I was writing, and he was like, “Wow. That’s actually pretty cool.” So then I mentioned how I was even tossing around some working titles.

“What do you think about [Blankity Blankity]?” I asked.

“That’s not bad. Or maybe just [Blank].”

“Oh. My. GAWD,” I said. “That is fucking brilliant.”

“My fee is 15%.”

So now I have a working title, which is also super fun. (Sorry, not ready to disclose it just yet. It’s too early and the whole story arc it’s based on could still easily fall apart and then we’d all be disappointed.)

Dan, my littlest Lit Major, has also promised to help me organize my scenes into something readable once the draft is complete. The plan is for me to finish the first draft, drink a margarita, and then print it out and hand it over to Dan for the cutting and pasting and reordering of scenes. I won’t look at it myself for a minimum of seven days once it’s on paper for the first time.

If you’d like to sponsor that margarita or the replacement ink cartridge I’ll have to buy after, you can donate to paypal.me/EmilySuess.

Rescuing Memories from My Chemo-Brain

Rescuing Memories from My Chemo-Brain

God, I love Google Drive. Writing a scene today triggered a memory of mine from 2013. I wrote a resignation letter to my boss at The Shittiest Job Ever™. And this letter? It was something else. I remember telling my dad about it at the time and he was like, “I’m not telling you not to send it, but are you sure it’s wise to leave like that?”

He wouldn’t have been a very good dad if he hadn’t wondered out loud about my maybe possibly kinda burning bridges. But I was 33, not 23. So believe me, I had thought the damn thing through.

“Dad,” I said, “You don’t understand.”

The letter WAS TWO WHOLE PAGES LONG and CC:ed to HR not just because it was standard procedure but because they also needed to have it spelled out that there were capital-R Reasons I was leaving without giving the standard 2 weeks’ notice. It was the most fuck-you thing I’d ever written that didn’t contain any actual cuss words.

Anywho, I was thinking, Gee I really wish I had saved that, when I  vaguely remembered sending it to a co-worker and a couple of friends via email after the fact. I searched Gmail for “resignation letter” and found the link (that I’d sent out more than five years ago) to the Google Drive doc. Was it still there? I clicked excitedly. Yes!

Reading it opened a memory floodgate in a corner of my brain that was just collecting dust post-chemo. I don’t have plans to write at any length about that job in my memoir because it’s largely irrelevant to the story I’m telling, but a steady trickle of memories from that same period started pooling at my feet—memories that I had only partially been able to recall began flowing in much more complete form. Which, you know, makes writing about them exponentially easier.

As of today, I have 34,027 words in my first draft.

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