Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in my Toothpaste

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in my Toothpaste

I’ll get to the sodium lauryl sulfate in my toothpaste in a sec. But first! Yesterday was definitely a day. Mom landed in the ER. (She is okay, but in pain). I got another rejection letter from a literary agent. And I broke my website.

Mom was trying to load some old patio chairs into her Jeep to take to the ReStore in Collinsville, but they didn’t load easily. She fell, putting a pretty substantial gash in her ring finger and giving her a torn meniscus.

The ER was hopping yesterday too, so she was at the hospital for like 6.5 hours, during which time I pretty much felt like a useless eater*. They patched her up but left her with her OTC acetaminophen and ibuprofen for pain. (That’s a rant for another day.) She’s fine, but I wish she was better.

If there’s good news here, I guess it’s that I have no shortage of mobility devices to lend her and my ADA walk-in shower will be pretty useful too.

While that was going on, I got a very kind rejection letter for Who You Gonna Believe. I don’t know if the agent’s assistant said the sample was charming (or that it had its charms—can’t remember the exact wording now) because I have a brain tumor or because it really did have a little something.

But once again I find myself awash in apathy about traditionally publishing WYGB and maybe that’s a sign? The more I think about it, the more I think I should definitely be excited about the idea of finding an agent, and I’m just not.

The rejection letter drove this home for me when I read a line that said—and I’m paraphrasing—we’re just not that into it and we’re going to pass because you deserve an agent that’s obsessed.

Hit me me like a ton of bricks, it did. I should be more excited. Otherwise what’s the point, right?

Which brings me to my website blunder. I read somewhere that my permalink structure wasn’t the greatest for search rankings. There are dates taking up space before the words in the URLs, and that’s not ideal. Not awful, but not ideal. So despite a warning in my settings that said “you should almost never do this” I changed my permalink structure for a few minutes and wrecked everything.

It’s better now that I have changed the setting back, but I’m still finding random messed up links, even after clearing my browser and site cache. I’m sure that will set me back a little bit in my quest to monetize the site. Oh well. That’s what I get for letting all those “you got this” remarks during treatment go to my head.

I might as well update you on the toothpaste saga since I’m here. Someone commented on my last post that the culprit could be the sodium lauryl sulfate in the toothpaste. Well, that’s easy enough to check. Mom uses a toothpaste without it, so I can do a science myself without buying anything new.

My mouth and tongue inflammation are down, but my lymph node hasn’t changed much. Overall, I’m breathing easier, feeling less fatigued, and sleeping better. I’ll keep going and see what happens.

Turns out SLS is in everything though. So if I need to pursue this further, it’ll mean changing more than my toothpaste. Cancer and its treatment break everything. I’m so not amused.

* Feeling like one sometimes is normal. Believing myself to be one is incorrect.

A Disappointing Lack of Candy Coffee

A Disappointing Lack of Candy Coffee

I didn’t order a candy coffee with my breakfast this morning. (“Candy coffee” is what my dad called coffee with anything in it that actually made it taste good. He wanted his plain.) I contemplated it, but I slept so well last night, I couldn’t sabotage myself with caffeine today.

Now, if insomnia visits me tonight anyway, I will truly be pissed.

It’s funny because when I was younger, I’d drink caffeine all day long and still sleep so well. But I inadvertently got off the sauce during treatment when everything tasted awful, and now I’m hypersensitive to the stuff.

As the kids say, fuck cancer.

I’ve been tweaking the website and trying to find more affiliate partners the past couple of days, but it’s a pretty slow process. None of these sites are optimized for mobile devices, and it’s a real headache trying to use them on my phone.

Aside: If you’re reading this, ShareASale and Commission Junction, make a mobile app. Pronto. Us disableds deserve easier navigation.

Anyhoo, I realized it has already been two weeks since I sent those e-mail queries for Who You Gonna Believe. I sent about 7 emails total, and so far I’ve just heard back from the one. I have no expectations, though, I’m just reporting in for anyone who’s curious where that stands.

With my new health insurance allowance for OTC stuff, I have ordered compression socks. I got the seamstress tape out and measured my calves and everything. I don’t know if it will help my muscle fatigue or not, but I’m always a little hopeful about these things. I have to be.

Speaking of health insurance, Dan’s old coverage is still in effect. So the appointment we were worried about was covered. At least until the insurance company recognizes their mistake. But I’m not telling those jerks anything. They can figure it out themselves. I figure they owe him a lot more for their previous coverage denials than that one appointment could possibly cost.

Related: the stress of the coverage conundrum had his blood pressure all over the place to the befuddlement of his primary care physician. (The one he likes that he can’t see anymore because he has new insurance.) “This is what anger and uncertainty does. I’ve been stressing about this for a week.”

Put that shit on a bumper sticker.

Say it louder for the people in the back.

One hundred percent.

Meryl Streep standing ovation dot GIF.

Literary Agent Rejection Letter

Literary Agent Rejection Letter

I got my first literary agent rejection letter on Sunday, and I feel so alive. I’m not sure that’s a normal response for writers to have. I think I’m supposed to feel bitter resentment. But things have been pretty dull here for a while, which severely exacerbates bored depression.

I’ve counted ceiling tiles a few too many times already.

The agent’s email was kind, explaining how Who You Gonna Believe didn’t fit into her current list of working titles. But I still wonder how straightforward the rejections are. 

Like does she genuinely think the manuscript sounds intriguing, or is she just saying that because I have brain cancer and she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings?

I run into the hurt feelings thing a lot, as you might imagine. It doesn’t make me mad. It just makes me wonder. I appreciate that people are trying to be nice, but I also appreciate bluntness because it protects my energy reserves.

I’m probably one of few who would rather hear, “this is not marketable in any universe” than “it’s not for me.” Provided it’s true, of course.

Which is why I was trying to get feedback before querying in the first place. I thought it would save me the agony of deciphering. I was protecting myself.

By the way, I rejected all of those proposals I mentioned previously because I didn’t have the energy to interpret responses. (That’s not a reason listed in Reedsy’s drop-down menu, in case you were wondering.)

That’s the story of my first rejection letter, dull as it is. Maybe one day I will wish I could remember it, but for now it feels very forgettable. It was as impactful as a cookie-cutter reply from HR after submitting the first resume and cover letter of a job search.

The self-doubt comes later.

I’m sorry. What?

I’m sorry. What?

Welp, that didn’t go how I thought it would. I heard back from 4 of the 5 publishing pros on Reedsy that I contacted yesterday, and the quotes I received ranged from $60 to $500.

What?

They all got the same project summary from me, requesting a query letter review, but only one of them didn’t change the project scope in their proposal, and I’m frustrated.

One of them started proofreading my writing sample in their reply. While I appreciate the extra labor and the helpful intent, that’s a completely separate process.

Thanks, but no.

One of them told me, “I normally charge $325, but for you $225” and I felt like I was buying art off a poorly-lit boat from some character named Redd (or purchasing a used car from some dude with a combover wearing a leisure suit if you don’t play Animal Crossing).

And I’m sorry. What is happening right now?

And another was like, “I’ll write the query myself, and you can use it or not.” (That was the one that cost $500 because it required reading my entire manuscript.)

What? No.

No no no no no.

Suddenly there are four new carts in front of one poor, befuddled horse.

I’ll think about what to do, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. I was hoping to pay for help simplifying the query process, and now it’s exponentially more complicated to me. Do. Not. Want.

Should I query agents without feedback on my pitch first? Do I not know how to do this, or do I lack confidence? Both? Publishing could be rewarding, but it’s sounding pretty costly to me in terms of energy expenditures.

Even if I managed to find a self-publishing company I trusted (y’all know I have battle scars there), I don’t really want to manage the process.

Sometimes it’s easier not to have goals.

A Funny Thing Happened

A Funny Thing Happened

Not that long ago, I said I was letting Who You Gonna Believe go. I was tired of treating myself to the trauma. But then a funny thing happened.

My website was doing some serious numbers.* And that got me thinking maybe I should try to do something with this memoir I spent so much time on. Maybe I should try to make something of it. For the traffic gods.

I updated the digital cover, started promoting links and using excerpts to garner interest, and the next thing I know I was reading and proofreading the damn thing. Without angst, without feeling like I was waterboarding myself with toilet water.

I even thought to myself a couple of times that maybe I can write. I was barrelling through chapters like they were well-composed. Or at least well-enough composed. Maybe letting the work stagnate was a bad idea.

Then last night, I had a dream where instead of my ex-husband refusing to leave, he just walked away when I told him to piss off. That never happens!

I was laughing at parts of the story and remembering how much joy and laughter entered my life when Dan showed up.

I think I’m healed?

I’d still like to actually reach people with it. Have someone edit it. Format it for ebook. Turn it into an audiobook. But I’m not really in a position healthwise where I can accomplish any of that, let alone all of it. So I’ll just let those dreams simmer.

Anyhoo, I’m going to continue proofing today and think about how I can get more people to read it. I really do think there’s a there there, if I can just clarify the vision a little.

* Another funny thing happened. Turns out my search numbers were inflated by 4/20, and after everyone was good and high, things settled down some.

How to Write a Memoir in 10 Steps

How to Write a Memoir in 10 Steps

To be perfectly clear, I know this isn’t the most orthodox way to teach someone how to write a memoir in 10 Steps, but I submit that if you’re hung up on the literal how-to’s of writing a memoir, you aren’t really ready.

I don’t feel like diagramming sentences today.

That, and rudimentary how-to articles are largely about giving you the confidence to do a thing anyway. You can absolutely do this thing, but you should prepare first. Because if the surprising stuff turns out not to be a surprise, you’re basically unstoppable.

How to Write a Memoir

1. Get Thick Skin

2. Relive Your Trauma

3. Give People Fake Names

4. Find Enablers

5. Hold a Grudge Loudly

6. Be Discouraged

7. Read Other Memoirs

8. Feel Small

9. Write for Spite

10. Dig Up Your Past

The 10 Steps

1. Get Thick Skin

Forget what others have said about you (well don’t literally forget, you might need the fodder) and be prepared to look at your past self objectively. Lassoing that objectivity is even harder than it sounds, but it’s possible.

There are some faults you’re going to want to absolve yourself of in your writing—for me, naivety and cluelessness topped the list—don’t do it. You have to be willing to let readers see the warts. If your story is going to be relatable—if you’re serious about memoir writing—you must be authentic.

Absolution may still come to you, but not by glossing over the bits you don’t like. Be ready to criticize yourself. A lot.

2. Relive Your Trauma

I wasn’t prepared for the buried trauma that writing a memoir would resurface. I thought I was, but I was kidding myself. I literally had to take breaks and ultimately end my memoir to stop the constant onslaught of PTSD triggers.

3. Give People Fake Names

This is probably obvious, but there’s a certain kind of person you’ll need to write about who still Googles herself 15 years later. To avoid the headaches, just change her name.

Because even your best attempts at keeping ties severed may be thwarted.

My ex-husband actually joined my Patreon even though I did my best to rename people and switch up identifying characteristics. That’s a real thing that happened.

There are legal considerations too, but I am not a lawyer. If you have qualms, hire an attorney, please.

4. Find Enablers

Aside from needing money to pay bills after having brain surgery, there were a couple of motivating factors that kept me writing:

A former employer (who I name-drop in the preface of Who You Gonna Believe) and a couple of online friends behaved in such a way that I believed I could write. 

All of them read my blog at some point and encouraged me to write a memoir. I channeled them when I doubted I could succeed.

5. Hold a Grudge Loudly

There’s a great quote that I have seen floating around the internet attributed to Anne Lamott. (I see it a lot without attribution too, so who knows?) It goes something like: You own everything that’s ever happened to you. If people wanted you to write nicely about them, they should have behaved better.

You might feel like it’s in your best interest to withhold certain facts, but you don’t owe anyone your silence. You hear me?

6. Be Discouraged

Some people will say that memoir writers just want revenge. I, for example, fit the divorcee and undiagnosed cliches, since so much of the story is about my lousy ex-husband and my subsequent long slog to a medical diagnosis.

The naysayers discouraged me, not gonna lie. But then a funny thing happened: I realized they weren’t my readers and weren’t ever going to be my audience. Caring about their opinions was like asking the guy who sells gym memberships if my dress made me look fat.

7. Read Other Memoirs

You might just learn stuff you didn’t know would help you write. My favorite reads while I wrote Who You Gonna Believe were by John Lewis, Jenny Lawson, Leah Remini, and Mary Karr.

By the way, I highly recommend The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr.

Shop Recommended Memoirs

8. Feel Small

The odd thing about memoir writing is that it makes you self-aware. You see that other people have profoundly different stories to tell and feel like maybe your life isn’t that big of a deal. I say that’s a good thing.

Not only did a sense of smallness help me see my trauma as a mouse and not a monster, it helped me relate to my audience in a new way and craft a better story for them.

9. Write for Spite

So maybe spite isn’t what fuels you, but it was a big motivating factor for me—knowing that the awful people who denied so much of my truth couldn’t stop me now. That was empowering.

Yeah, I can be petty. I wrote to spite them, but also to spite the person they imagined me to be. The person I knew I wasn’t.

10. Dig Up Your Past

As a practical matter, memoir writing can be hard because our memories are faulty. I found I could settle the timeline of events if I dug through old blog posts. 

You might also find helpful details by talking to friends and family, reading a journal you kept, or poring over pictures. 

Social media timelines and archived chats are also useful if you have them available.

So that’s it. How to write a memoir in 10 steps. Easy, right?

if you’re looking for memoir publishing services, try a company like Modern Memoirs.

Fucks Are Finite and I’ve None Left

Fucks Are Finite and I’ve None Left

For Patron fans of Who You Gonna Believe, I have some good news: I’m really, really close to dropping the next chapter.

For non-Patron fans and the morbidly curious, I have some bad news: that new chapter is not going to be available to you right away.

There are a lot of reasons for keeping the upcoming chapter Patron-only for now. Mostly, though, it’s because Patrons have always been given early, ad-free access to new content as a thank you for financially supporting me while working on myself and Who You Gonna Believe.

Chapters 1–25 of WYGB, I have decided, are so old now that they will remain free to read. (Also putting them back behind the paywall is tedious, and I don’t feel like doing it.)

Some might call this next installment my Me Too* story. The abuser’s identity, like Rodney’s, is masked by the obfuscation and omission of details. For my sake, not his.

Chapter 26, debuting in September, comes with a content warning for sexual and psychological abuse of a minor. It’s not graphic, but I understand the benefit of avoiding this kind of stuff until you’re ready.

There’s an introspection in memoir writing—mine anyway—that leads to new understanding, and as a writer I’ve had to decide how to handle that. I think the option-weighing is what stymied me for a bit.

Anyhoo…

Fucks are finite, and I’ve none left.

* This movement was founded by Tarana Burke. Please support Girls for Gender Equity.

No End in Sight

Hello, and happy Tuesday! A few months ago, I was interviewed by Brianne Benness for the No End in Sight podcast. No End in Sight is about living with chronic illness, and for episode 72, I had the opportunity to talk to Brianne about brain cancer, misdiagnosis, and finding community with others in the chronic illness community, not just people with my specific diagnosis.

That episode was recently published, and I’d like to invite you to check it out:

Listen now

(Or, to find this episode in your podcast app, just search for No End in Sight and look up episode 72 “Emily.”)

If you just really can’t get enough of me talking about junk, there’s a new Tangled Talk episode up on my YouTube channel today too. I’m Zentangling my way through my March Bullet Journal setup while Izzy “helps.”

Apparently, there’s also no end in sight for the content I’m going to plug in this blog post. Because I also want to let you know that February’s chapter of my webserial memoir is available for your reading enjoyment too. If you’re a patron, you can read Chapter 22: Larry, Moe, and Curly right now. If you’d like to become a Patron, you can get access to this and all previous chapters (to read anytime you like) and support my work in the process.

Become a Patron

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