personal

Rambling thoughts…

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What happened in Paris on Friday, November 13th shocked me to the core.

I was getting ready to go out with a friend and when we postponed, I sat at the computer and saw what was going on.

The horror.

And I texted my family to make sure they were safe, that no one we knew was at the soccer game, that my dad didn’t take my nephew there like they’ve done before because they love soccer and we live close by. I remember going with my Dad years ago to watch France against Scotland in that stadium.

And I cried. A lot.

On that day and the days that followed, I cried. And I called home. And my husband hugged me a lot.

I reached out to friends who I knew were in Paris, and to friends who I didn’t know if they were in Paris that evening or not.

They were okay. But people died. Families will never be the same.

Like they died in Lebanon, like they die in Syria and many other countries. I knew it, but I didn’t realize what this meant.

Seeing Paris like this…it became real. And it’s sad to say this, that before, I hadn’t realized, I hadn’t wanted to realize because the pain is strong.

Maybe, it’s because every single time I went back to Paris, and sat in a cab to whatever business trip I was going to, a wave of happiness came over me, a wave of memories, of my childhood, of admiring and loving this city. Friday night in Paris, for me, is all about chatting about the world, laughing, drinking wine and eating. It’s going to a concert, or to a soccer game.

And I’m sorry that it took something so close to make me realize more bitterly what millions of people are going through every single day.

I had no words. And I still don’t have any answers.

I took a step back from social media because what I saw and keep on seeing there angers me, it also makes me sad, and it scares me. The hate and simplistic answers scare me. The judgement, the spread of lies. There should be a button called “have you fact-checked this before liking, commenting, sharing?” on Facebook…and then there should be another one that says “are you sure, are you really sure you want to do this?”, “I understand you’re scared, but that’s not the solution.”, “And if you’re not scared, then what’s your reasoning because I don’t get it. And if you’re scared, maybe just say you’re scared instead.”

Seeing the news about Muslim people being attacked in France in retaliation sickens me. It scares the shit out of me to see how people can react with so much hate towards innocent people, like the ones they’re claiming to fight.

I don’t have the answers, I don’t know the answers, but I know my answer is not and will not be to spread more hate. It will not be to change who I am, and what I believe in.

Otherwise, they win.

And who is they? They’re not religious. They’re not representatives of the religion they claim to be killing for. They kill anyone.  Sophie Aram said it better than me: “You only have to be alive and free to be a target of those assholes.” (her words in French in the video below resonate a lot with me).

They kill and don’t care who they kill.

Terrorism has no religion.

Terrorism has no fucking religion.

I don’t know if I believe in God, but I still remember how after one evening of catechism, our Priest told us that it was better to behave according to our values (helping people, being kind, forgiving…) and not be a believer, than to come to church and not follow those values.

I wonder if those values are remembered by those who claim themselves to be religious.

The refugees who are coming to Europe, they’re fleeing this violence, this hatred, those people. Shit, are we so quick to forget that little boy who drowned, whose face had become a reminder of our duties as human beings? Is there a risk? Of course, there is. Just like there’s a risk in Europe itself.  After all, most of the attackers were from Europe.

The mastermind they’re looking for right now is from a middle class family, raised in Belgium, was not religious, was a petty criminal…

There are idiots everywhere, they are bad people everywhere. And people looking for a place to carry on heinous acts because they want to.

I am grateful for the policemen and everyone risking their lives for us.

I think this standing ovation at the National Assembly from politicians from all parties was a strong message.

I’m grateful for the rally of support near and far.

I am grateful for the ones who continue to make us smile.

There are problems that need to be addressed, problems within France, within the European Union, within the international community. This much is clear and can’t be denied. This much is true. Countries all around the world suffer from terrorism. Innocents are being killed every single day. But division is not the solution.

I believe in “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.”

I believe in Voltaire, and Zola, and Hugo…

I believe in humanity. There were acts of kindness, acts of courage.

I believe in critical thinking and am grateful for my high school professors who encouraged me to think, to question, to analyze. I’m grateful for my parents for leading by example.

I don’t know what we should do. What answers we should give.

But what I will do is that I will not make rash judgments. I will research, read in the languages I know to gain a broader perspective.

I will continue to read the uplifting messages coming from thousands of people, coming from people who have lost someone (like this man who lost his wife and mother of his child), coming from people who remind us how wonderful we all can be.

I will continue to think.

I will continue to try to make someone smile every day.

I will try to be better.

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I understand why no agents signed me…and they were right.

Anna and the French Kiss

 

Tomorrow (June 26th) is my official release day.  And throughout the past months, I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection about my selfpub journey.

Results? One very long blog title and possibly, a very long, rambly post. Why? Because I think every publication journey is different, because every publication choice is different, and because in my view there´s no right or wrong answer to some of the questions.

The important thing to remember is to weigh the pros and the cons of each option.

  • Some people decide to go the self-pub route because they do not want to go through the traditional path. It´s a conscious choice from the get go, they decide it at the beginning of their journey.
  • Some may want to have a hybrid career, they want some books, some genres to go through the self-pub route and others to go the more traditional way. Some may have agents. Some may decide that in the middle of their career, some want to build upon an audience they already have.
  • Some people decide to go the self-pub route because they tried querying, they may be disappointed or even disgruntled by the process. For whatever reason.
  • Or, and that’s the case for me, some tried the traditional way, but never got “the” one. They did dream about getting “the” call, but weren’t quite sure how it would go afterwards. They had more questions and uncertainties than answers. They  know their book is good, they know their book needs work, and they think they can be good at the self-pub route. They enjoy the organizational and coordination part. They want the perks of self-publishing and understand what they “lose” in the process. Because, again, each path has pros and cons.

My point here after a rather lengthy introduction is to thank the agents who took the time to read my manuscript, to give me feedback. And to tell them: “I understand why you didn’t sign me. And you were right.”

The book I presented to them was not the book that you may or may not buy tomorrow…It’s similar, yes, but it is very different. The subplots have changed, some characters disappeared to make room for more depth for the others who remained standing. The road of Natalya took a different turn, Camilo and Rita became “real” while before they were parodies of themselves.

Natalya became stronger and weaker, she gained qualities and her flaws became more pronounced. She became “real”.

To make this happened, I went back to my CPs and beta readers notes (THANK YOU AGAIN!) and hired two editors. Both Sara and Maya gave me very detailed feedback on what I needed to do, on where I needed to go. Years before, I didn’t “get” it the first time around, nor the second time, nor the third time I revised ONE, TWO, THREE.

  • I was not ready to kill my darlings.
  • I was not ready to trust my writing.
  • I was not ready to trust my instincts.

Because I knew in the back of my mind that One, Two, Three was not ready when I queried it the first time. The second time back in early 2013, I thought I was getting there.

But why would an agent bet on “someone getting there”? especially after they receive a revised manuscript that is not ready, that didn’t dig deep enough into the characters, that didn’t go under their skins.

Yes, some loved my story, they saw the potential in it, they hesitated, they almost made THE call. But honestly, I’m not sure how I would have handled one more revision at that stage.

Fast-forward to January 2014: when I made my announcement, when I decided to choose my own magic, I was ready. I felt ready. It felt right.

ONE, TWO, THREE went through two very intensive content editing rounds, one intensive copy editing round and one proofreading round.

I loved my story now, I love it even more now because I let myself really connect with the characters. I’m still afraid.

Afraid people may not love Nata & Tonio, may not enjoy their story. But I know, that the story I am putting out there, is a story I am proud of. It is a story that was meant for the self-pub path.

Because going that route meant setting a deadline, meant finally trusting myself.

 

 

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Some updates…and a reminder to dig deeper. Always.

I’m talking about writing and about life. My last revision before my copy edit is really digging deeper about my story and my characters. It’s difficult and sometimes painful…and I’m about to put Natalya through something even more traumatic but…crossing my fingers that come June the people reading my story will “feel” with her.

Digging deeper is also about knowing people. About seeing beyond the surface and about connections. On Wednesday my great-aunt passed away, and with her it almost is like the end of an era. See, my great-aunt lived a long life. For the past 4 years though, she couldn’t speak due to a stroke, but she still managed to somehow communicate and stayed herself: she didn’t like being bothered, she was elegant and wanted to be elegant, she smiled when seeing my father or my husband, and hearing stories.

The relationship we had with her wasn’t always the deepest and it could be complicated at times, but I always found her interesting. And then, almost a decade ago, she helped me.  I was not feeling well, heart palpitations and a bit faint, and she kept her cool, she stayed with me (my sister was also with us and calming me) and she made sure I stayed calm. When the doctor came, they mentioned right away that it was probably a panic attack due to too much caffeine (and at that time too many cigarettes), the heat and stress.

Through this, I have the feeling that I got a bit closer to her and then, I dug deeper. Yes, she could be a snob, yes she also could say hurtful things without sometimes realizing it, but she was so much more than this. She always baked what we liked when weI came over,  she did little things like this with a smile, she invited us and talked about so many interesting things, she herself always tried to learn, she was relentless and funny, and she was her. She was a character.

And when visiting her we also always had the link with the past in a way. With our past.

None of that is gone with her, it’s part of us.

Walking back from a meeting in Paris yesterday, I thought about her…she lived there for a while, and she always talked fondly about the city. For a moment, I looked around me, and felt at peace.

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This is still hard, but I know that I’m happy I dug deeper when I had the chance.

Observations, personal, reading, revising, writing

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

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When one thinks about artists in the spotlight, very rarely will the word “writer” come up. And sure, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and others do not grace the pages of US Weekly or People Magazine every week. TV channels may not discuss their latest book at length like they may do with the latest performance of whatever actor…but writers like any other artists put their souls out there.

Reviews.

They´re everywhere.

You cannot entirely hide from them.

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They come from within, from our wonderful critique partners, our great beta-readers. Then, from agents, possible editors and then from the readers themselves.

After reading this post by Shannon (if you haven´t read it, you definitely take a look :D, I´ll wait) and a comment by Christa on my post from last week, it hit me both as a writer and as a reader: Not everyone will like my work. Not everyone likes the books I could not put down. Of course we know it but there is a moment where it seems to become more real.

And then, I remembered that old saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”…readers bring their own baggage, past and taste to the books they read just like writers laugh or cry words on paper.

Getting published is really putting yourself out there, in the big big, sometimes scary world. There is no “Dealing with reviews for dummies”.

I checked one of my favorite books on Goodreads.com, The Ripening Seed by Colette and it has quite a bit of bad reviews. At the beginning I got a bit distracted thinking how is it possible? Can´t people see the art? The beauty of her words? The cynical look at the bourgeoisie world while still going through the motions of growing up? There are also great reviews of this story but usually the eye has a tendency to focus on the negative. But all the negative reviews of the world will not take away the feeling of awe I had while reading my mother´s copy of this book as a teenager or the flutters in my heart as I reread it years later. What should matter to me the most is how I felt about something.

As writers, we owe it to ourselves to go the extra-step, the scary step in our writing (like I mentioned in my Monday post last week) but then we´re standing out there naked. And let´s face it, being naked in front of possibly millions of people reading your words is SCARY.
So, I think we also need to protect ourselves once our words are out there. We need to have a safe place we can go to and need to know that yes we may be awkward in dealing with all this but what is important is that at the end of the day, we remember that we had the courage to go in the big scary world, that some did love our words and that, sometimes as a reader and as a writer, it is ok to just do that:

….as long as we walk with our heads high the next day and continue to be happy with our tastes as readers and proud of our words as writers.

Oh and if I ever get published and start freaking out, can someone remind me of this post? 😀

Looking forward to reading your thoughts on this!