Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 18, 2014

Roller Skating and Writing

My daughter went roller skating for the first time ever. She refused to hold the wall, the skate mate, or my hand. She had no fear and falling did not faze her all. Every time she fell, she hopped back up—and when I tried to help her up, she waved me away. “I can do it, Mommy.”

I can learn a lot from my preschooler.

I never learned to roller skate. I always refused to let go of the wall. As a writer, I want to let go of the walls, to soar and glide. But all too often I am afraid of falling. When I fall, I feel foolish—and who likes to feel foolish? But my daughter didn’t care when she fell. She had no care for what others thought—she just got up and tried again.

I need to remember that I, too, have the tenacity to keep getting up, to keep climbing upward, to keep working at my craft. Sometimes, though, I need a reminder that I can do it. I need to remember that I have learned many facets of the craft over the years, and although I have many more to learn, I am moving forward.

My daughter’s attitude allowed her to be confident on her wheels, and even to glide a little by the end of the session. A little self-confidence can go a long way. It lets us try new things and not fear failure. It makes us realize that even failure is not the end of the writing dream, it’s just a detour.

We just have to get back up, smooth our clothes, and push off again.

Like my daughter, I may end up with some bumps and bruises, but if I can conquer the fear I can learn to soar and glide—on the page, that is.

I think it’s too late for me and roller skates!

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Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 11, 2014

My Birthday Wish

Okay, today is not my birthday, but it is birthday-adjacent, so I have been thinking about birthday wishes. More precisely, I have been thinking about how birthday wishes evolve as we grow.

When I was a kid, I wished for things—the latest toy, game, book.

As I got older, the wishes became more about events. I wished for the arrival of elementary school graduation, my driver’s license, high school graduation, my voter’s card, college graduation, my first job.

After college, things shifted again. For a long time my birthdays seemed to simply mark the passage of time, with nothing much to show for it. I began to dread birthdays, those reminders that another year had passed and I still lived at home, still worked at jobs I loved but which paid little, still had no romantic prospects, still had come no closer to my dreams. Birthdays came to represent failure and loneliness, and I usually wished that next year would be different.

Life never stops changing, and eventually that phase of my life ended. I married a wonderful man. I pursued my writing dream full-time. I had a daughter who lights up my life. I have more than I need to be comfortable, and all that I need to be content. In other words, I have very little to wish for. I am incredibly lucky, and I know it.

So in the past few years, I find my wishes turning toward other people. The health and happiness of my friends and family. The continued joy in my daughter’s life. Peace on Earth. A cure for cancer. An end to the back-biting politics in our country. I so wish that other people could be as happy as I am.

So this year, my wish is not for myself, but for all of you:

I wish you and your loved ones health and peace.

I wish you strength in times that drag you down and joy in times that lift you up.

Most of all, I wish that you find the dream you seek and that it makes you happy.

That is my birthday wish for you.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 4, 2014

The Next Step

Those following this blog know that I got my final edits back from my publisher right before Thanksgiving. Those in my Facebook network know I returned those final edits on Sunday—yay! After rejoicing in getting that finished, I wondered: what next?

The immediate “what next” is getting “blurbs”—asking fellow authors in your genre if they would consent to read your book and, if they are inclined, to give a quote for the book. As a massive introvert and a person who hates to ask for help, this is actually quite hard for me. So I sent some emails asking if people would consider reading my book and am now waiting for the responses while quietly sweating and shaking.

Other things that will be happening are finalizing the title and cover art (I am looking forward to that!), final edits (on their end), formatting, setting up a marketing plan, and producing promo materials. Much of this, thankfully, will be handled by the wonderful team at Evil Jester Press, although obviously I will have a finger in the title and marketing.

So what am I to do for the next few months while all this is going on behind the scenes? Aside from freaking out, I need to think about things such as the dedication and acknowledgements for the book, creating support materials for the book such as book club questions and a teacher’s guide, finalizing my new website, continuing to network within my genre, and honing my social media strategy.

And I need to keep writing on my other projects.

And take care of my preschool daughter.

And sleep. Maybe. We’ll see.

So much to do, so little time!

Oh, and Christmas. I forgot Christmas.

Welcome to the life of a published writer. (I still get giddy when I say that!)

I’ll keep you posted as things progress!

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Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving–It’s About Hope

This is not a regular “I’m thankful for…” post. There is much I am thankful for, of course, but today I am reading about many of the awful things that are happening in the world. So much anger, and hatred, and fear. And it makes me sad. It makes my heart ache for the world my daughter and her friends will inherit.

Sometimes I get so bombarded with the bad news in the world, it’s hard to remember the good. Because there is still a lot of good. People still help each other. Science solves medical riddles. We save some of the environment for our children. We send missions to other worlds. Amazing stuff.

Because of the history that followed the Pilgrims’ arrival—the slaughter and disenfranchisement of the Native Americans by immigrants that followed—Thanksgiving can sometimes become politicized these days.

But if you take out the politics, if you disregard the dark history that followed, the particular story of that first Thanksgiving is about hope. It is about the Pilgrims’ hoping to find freedom, of course, but the hope runs deeper than that. It is the story of two disparate groups of people who came together in friendship. Who reached out to each other. Who, for at least one moment in time, met each other as equals—as human beings with different skills, different worldviews, but who recognized the basic humanity in each other.

Three hundred and ninety-three years ago, one group of people was compassionate enough to not let a group of strangers starve to death, and another group of people was humble enough to listen to new ideas and be grateful for the help of strangers. If those two groups, who didn’t even speak the same language, could work together in peace, can we do any less?

So today I am holding on to the hope. The hope that we in the 21st century can find a way to follow the example set for us almost 400 years ago. That we can look past differences and find our common humanity. That we are not too proud to accept help, nor too selfish to give help. That we are smart enough to see each other not as “us and them”, but as human beings.

That we can look into each other’s eyes and see ourselves.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Be well and be safe.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 20, 2014

Final Edits While Failing NaNo

I said a couple of weeks ago that I was “sort of” doing NaNo. That I would be trying to finish the final 23 chapters of my book (around 23,000 words). Here’s how it’s going.

I got a good deal of writing in two weekends ago. I now have 17 chapters left to write. It felt good to break the 20-chapter barrier, I’ll tell you!

But I don’t know if I will make it by the end of November. Why?

Because in that same blog post, I had said that if I got my edits back from my publisher, it would derail my WIP’s progress.

And I got my final edits back from my publisher last week! YAY!!

While the edits were relatively minor, I still am not finished. I printed out the manuscript Monday morning and am now giving it a final read-through with my trusty red pen. I am reading it aloud, so where I can do this is limited (my daughter’s dance class was not an option). I have completed reading 30 pages of 190.

This is going to take a while.

And that is why I’m not sure I will finish my WIP by the end of November.

However, I am so excited about these final edits, because that moves us closer to the book being “real.” Once the edits are complete, it can be placed on the publishing schedule. We can start working on the cover. We can finalize the title. We can start getting blurbs. We can talk about marketing strategies.

It’s getting real, folks. The crazy ride that is a debut novel is starting.

Strap in and enjoy the ride!

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Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 13, 2014

Pushing Through

All of us have times in our life where we just have to push on through. Just clench your teeth, put your head down, and walk straight into the metaphorical wind of whatever you are fighting against. Living with anxiety disorder, I have done some version of this pretty much every day of my life. In fact, I attribute my stubbornness in overcoming a lot of writing obstacles to the fact that I have a lot of practice in not giving up.

This past month I have been pushing through a lot. I’ve just been feeling physically awful for much of the month. I’m not sure how much is physical and how much is a result of an anxiety flare-up like I haven’t had in years. But I’ve been pushing through because when you have a 5-year-old, you have things to do. So I’ve done a lot of pretending lately.

Pretending my stomach doesn’t feel like the acid is churning like a whirlpool.

Pretending the acid isn’t crawling back up my throat.

Pretending my head isn’t pounding.

Pretending my brain doesn’t feel foggy and silent.

Pretending my brain doesn’t feel under so much mental pressure that it might explode.

Pretending that I don’t feel as if I truly will go insane.

Pretending that I don’t want to scream or cry.

Pretending that my legs aren’t weak and shaky.

Pretending I don’t feel unstable or vertiginous.

Pretending everything’s fine when all I want to do is go back to bed.

I am good at pretending. Most people never know. I want it that way.

At the moment, I think all this is anxiety-related. Some of it feels familiar, although it doesn’t present like it did the last time I had a major flare up (years ago). But all of the above COULD be anxiety-induced. October was a very stressful month, both good stress and bad stress, and now that the stress is over, as usual, I “fall apart.” And the end of November is always a hard time for me. My best friend’s birthday is November 29th. I lost her to cancer almost 12 years ago. The grief sneaks up on me every year at this time. So that’s likely a component of the anxiety, too.

I will continue to push through, because that is what I do. And, really, it’s the only thing to do, so I can get to the other side of this and move on. I’m dusting off my “anxiety coping mechanisms” and hoping they’ll help.

So that’s a glimpse into my world and what I’m pushing through to reach my dreams. What are you pushing through? What have you pushed through to get to where you are?

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Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 6, 2014

Self-doubt and Creativity

Most creative types I meet have at least periods of self-doubt. They wonder if what they are creating has any value, if it will touch anyone, if it’s worth all the trouble and sacrifice.

I have had this issue myself at times. More than once I have contemplated just walking away from writing. Or maybe just going back to writing for myself and never showing it to anyone.

Because sometimes I am positive that what I write is no good and never will be.

That no one will like what I write and no one cares anyway.

Lately I have been feeling that way when I read about other authors who have their characters talking to them. I know what they mean—in my younger days, my characters were that real to me. They had minds of their own. They did things I did not expect.

But they don’t anymore.

I have characters, of course. They are real to me. I know them well. But they do what I tell them. Of course, this is my first time trying outlining, which may have had an unintended consequence.

But maybe it’s something more sinister than that. Maybe I do not know my characters as well as I think I do. Why are they being so obedient? My answer, of course, is that I am simply not as creative as the other writers I am reading about. And then the self-doubt crashes in on me.

But no matter how doubtful I feel, I never give up. Because I can’t stop writing. It’s been almost 40 years I’ve been writing, so any idea that I might be able to stop is laughable. I am a writer, for better or worse, for richer or poorer.

The one boon of self-doubt, for me, is that it pushes me to be better. After all, if I feel like my work is not good enough, and I cannot stop writing, the only answer is to find a way to improve my craft. So hopefully the self-doubt is a blessing in disguise.

Stepping back from my self-doubt, I think perhaps this complacency of my characters is a signal that I am not yet completely recovered from the 4.5 year, post-baby creative drought I experienced. While I am miles ahead of where I was then, perhaps I have a little farther to go before I get back into the full author groove.

Maybe next year, when my daughter starts school full day, and I suddenly have more concentrated time to work.

It will come. And I will be ready and waiting when it happens.

Because no matter how much self-doubt piles up, I will never stop writing.

Have you ever stopped writing, or seriously considered it?

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Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 30, 2014

Doing NaNoWriMo – More or Less

National Novel Writing Month is upon us. I have never done NaNoWriMo, because my life does not allow for that intense of a commitment. This year, I will not be officially participating because I do not meet the requirements—I am not starting a new book from scratch, and I have no chance of getting to 50,000.

However, I do have a WIP that has another 23 chapters/scenes left. To complete the first draft will require 20,000-25,000 words. I had wanted to finish my first draft by the end of October, but life totally got in the way.

So I think this year I will take advantage of NaNoWriMo to help push me to the end. I can ride the enthusiasm and collaborative atmosphere to get this done. Stating my goal here makes me accountable, because now I know people are “looking at me”.

Maybe some year I will have the time to do a proper NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words in a month would be amazing! This year, however, I will be happy if I reach half that number—as long as the last two words I write are THE END.

Have you ever participated in NaNo? Have you ever used another writing challenge to spur you forward?

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Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 23, 2014

Social Media Boon

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 16, 2014

Culling the Artistic Output

I have a four year old. Anyone who has a 4-year-old in their lives knows that kids of that age are pack rats. My daughter refuses to throw away ANYTHING. Every rock she finds, every leaf, every scrap of paper, every junky toy from fast food restaurants. I do believe that our house holds the world record for empty toilet paper rolls—my daughter insists on keeping them because she wants to paint them. So my house is flooded with piles of “stuff.”

The problem is compounded by the fact that my daughter is an artist. She loves to draw and paint. And since many of her pictures are, shall we say, modernistic in their swirls and colors, she can draw many pictures in a short amount of time. Her output is tremendous. However, it leaves us drowning in paper—paper that my daughter will not part with.

So I use the time-honored parental trick of waiting until she is out of the house to clean up. I admit sadly that many of her works of art find their way into the recycle bin. I spent seven hours this weekend digging out from the art-drifts. My daughter will never notice the pictures are gone, because I kept the ones I knew were close to her heart.

Scouring my house and having to decide what art to keep and which to pitch reminded me of the editing process all writers have to go through. Each sentence is a work of art, yet we have to cull them. We need to keep the ones that resonate, and send the rest to the recycle bin. And that’s hard, because each sentence contains a piece of our heart and soul.

Sometimes, we have to employ an outside editor to come in and scour our manuscript for us while we avert our eyes. We need the objective eye to help us separate the art from the mindless squiggles. We need them to dig us out from under our own art-drifts.

It’s never easy, paring down our artistic output. But the culling is necessary to bring out the best of our work and connect with our readers. The lesson learned from all this? Our art is more than just knowing how to polish what we leave in.

Sometimes the art is in knowing what to throw out.

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