Category Archives: teenagers

Leaving Town

What did we forget to pack?

Confession: I need a shot of adrenaline in order to leave town.  Other people routinely lower thermostats, lock doors, and depart on schedule, but in the fraternity house we call home, I can’t find the thermostat behind last night’s pizza boxes and we’re lucky if our doors are closed.  Nobody organizes so much as a toothbrush without a packing list and the packing list can’t get created until the increasing pressure of a departure date triggers an adrenaline boost.

Warning: dependence on brain chemicals can have unintended consequences.  For example, one’s desk must be cleared before leaving town and clearing one’s desk becomes so fun and easy on adrenaline-spiked blood that hours are squandered resolving dust-covered medical claims and writing past due thank you notes while the mail and the newspaper cry out to be stopped.

But: This summer, my energy boost took a detour.  Instead of toughing it out in my household office: where work-in-progress goes to hibernate and creative writing takes a backseat to hauling vitamin water, my husband established a window corner of his office just for me: a table, an internet cable, and a chair with a lovely view of the world below.  Cool blue walls and busy co-workers encouraged progress.  No one there fusses about summer reading, whines for snacks, or obsesses over 4-player screen mayhem.

Behold: in the serene setting of my “corner office” the needs of my novel became clear.  Ideas and words packed themselves into efficient paragraphs and problems cleared the revision list.  The closer departure date loomed, the more I accomplished.  I allowed the adrenaline boost go straight to my writing.    How could I worry about thermostats when the motivation of my male antagonist was stark staring clear to me?  The only packing list I could generate was the one my protagonist needed to get out of that lake house before it was too late.

Alas: at the very last possible moment I came to my senses and we left town like a moving target.  It comes as no surprise that some teenagers packed only flip-flops, t-shirts, and cell phones.

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Filed under Cindy Jones, hazards of writing, Motherhood, My Jane Austen Summer, teenagers

Memo to Younger Writing-Self

Me and My Literary Agent

I will never be able to go back in time to visit earlier versions of my writing-self, but if I could, I would offer my younger writing-self a firm pat on the back and tell her that the endless rejection and setbacks would eventually result in a published book. 

Last weekend, I got to do the next best thing.  As a speaker at the Writer’s League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference in Austin, Texas, I was able to tell my story to an audience of aspiring writers who occupied the same seat I occupied four, six, and nine years ago.  In addition to advising them How to Solve Their Soggy Middle Problem and What to Do After Landing an Agent, they got a healthy dose of reassurance from me that, although it might seem as if they took a wrong turn and got sidetracked in rejection and setback, the same path leads to publication, and they are indeed on the right track.  I told them that if they exercised patience and continued to persist through countless revisions, pushed their imaginations two generations beyond capacity, and actually did what the Writer’s League of Texas told them to do, they would one day return to the very same hotel ballroom to sign copies of their published book and deliver their own Craft of Writing Talk. 

But that’s not all.  If they would stand in line to pitch their idea to agents now, they would someday find themselves leaving the Pitching Session early to meet their literary agent for a long conversation about their writing career–over a glass of wine in a quiet corner of the hotel lobby.  And if they would network diligently now, they would someday be invited to mingle among agents and editors at the Conference Faculty Party, not your usual cocktail party chitchat.  And I can witness that the glow from spending a weekend among people who get to work in the publishing industry would persist even after they returned home to a refrigerator full of The Colonel’s leftovers and a kibble bin refitted as a feeding trough by two enterprising dogs. 

I wonder if there is anything my future-self would like to tell my present-self about raising teenagers through structure-free summers.

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Filed under Agent, Cindy Jones, My Jane Austen Summer, teenagers, The Writer's League of Texas

Earth to Cindy

Calling Cindy...

My family was hopeful that after the launch of my debut novel, things would return to normal.  And ideally, I would have dropped everything and gone back to matching socks, if only my novel-in-progress had not been weighing on me like a term paper for a class I’d stopped attending.  Since I was already short-listed for Space Cadet of The Year, and considering how little time remained before summer, it hardly seemed worthwhile to switch gears.  If I could just take the momentum from my book launch and apply it to finishing next novel, I could be present for an earthling summer and sort socks in time for camp.  Unfortunately, over the previous year I’d only demonstrated ability to focus on next novel while in solitary confinement, at least 450 miles from home.  Sacrifices would be required to replicate the intensity.  Earth would have to go.  

I printed the existing draft and read it aloud, plunging deep into the world of my characters, maintaining an iron grip on the narrative line while my grasp of reality flirted with black holes.  I solved literary problems while driving the car, but my passengers rolled their eyes as I passed destinations, again and again.  I rallied for the dinner hour, but was no good for conversation, and relied on the puppy for homework patrol.  At the very moment it seemed our household chaos could not possibly get worse, oldest son arrived home for the summer and unloaded a year’s worth of dorm life just inside the back door.  He left a narrow path to the kitchen but that hardly mattered for obvious reasons.

For the record, I entered a grocery store during all this, but the minute I tossed the first item into my cart, a distressed text message originating from afterschool sports screamed:  WHERE R U??  I had to ditch.      

Yes, I managed to finish the novel, but for the first time in my life, I truly understand my late grandfather.  I laughed at the absent-minded professor stories, but now I know why he backed out of the garage before opening the garage door and why he sometimes wore his pyjama bottoms to work.  And I’m with him on driving to the university and taking the bus home.  At the most distracted point of this episode, I hauled three teenagers out of bed for a very early morning obligation at church and then had to explain to them, and the assembly of church people whose morning I disrupted, that I was operating in a different week of the month.  If they had flipped their calendars ahead one week they would have understood exactly where I was coming from, or where I was at that moment.  Someday it will seem funny.    

And then I reached the end.  I pressed send, launching new novel through cyberspace and into my agent’s orbit.  After a brief personal celebration, I reorganized The Sock Department of our Laundry Room, patronized three grocery stores, and relieved the puppy of command.  At one point a teenager grumbled, “don’t you have a book to write?”  It’s nice to be back.   

THE END

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Filed under Agent, Cindy Jones, hazards of writing, launching things, teenagers

Life After Launch

I have been a published author for a full week which qualifies me to observe that the old uneasy feeling of handing my precious manuscript over to my husband or my writing group and then WAITING for the verdict, now seems cozy and quaint, compared to the dizzy sensation of surrendering 40,000 copies to the United States of America, its territories and possessions, the Philippines, Canada, and the rest of the world, with the exception of countries listed on Schedule A, and WAITING for the verdict.   

Regardless, it has been a full week and although it was great fun to be surrounded by family and friends on my book’s big day, the party’s over and, as one of my sons pointed out yesterday, we still have no bread.  Now that the book is out in the world where she will have to rely on her merits to survive, it is time to resume grocery shopping, address maintenance issues deferred for the last five years, and lower the boom on homework procrastinators.  And promote the book.  Although they claim to love their new “sister”, one family member asked when are we gonna get all these books out of the living room?…  (She’s not going back to the hospital).

Many thanks to all who joined me at Borders for the launch event.  You honored me with your presence.  And thanks to Bob Jones who provided pictures to share with those who are far away.  For more pictures, click the Facebook badge to the right of this post and check out photos on the My Jane Austen Summer Facebook page.

Released!

 

Surrounded by friends and family

The bookstore is only 4.7 miles from home but it took 10 years to get there!

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Holiday Post Partum: The Grocery Store

They sell snow sleds in Santa Fe supermarkets. (say it fast)

I made my first post-holiday trip to the grocery store a few days ago, a necessity since we were living on Christmas cookie crumbs and smoked turkey from the bird delivered to husband’s office weeks ago.  From Thanksgiving to Christmas I’d shopped in a hurry for things like maraschino cherries and artichoke-spinach dip, navigating a flat-bed and four teenagers who came along to make sure I bought banned items like sugar cereal and pop-tarts in adequate supply for Cousin Week.   

First thing I noticed in my post-holiday shopping were the wide open spaces.  Gone were the mountains of candied fruit bits, condensed milk, and brown sugar draped with tinsel garlands.  Santa displays no longer obscured the dairy aisle and frantic shoppers casing the grocery store for a thoughtful gift had moved on to new emergencies.  I enjoyed the calm and felt uplifted, (except for the valentine hearts, but let’s not go there). 

Walking right past last month’s false friend–the heavy whipping cream–I drove my cart to the produce section where I hugged the romaine.  The bananas said, “Where the heck have you been?”  My old friends were still there: the grape tomatoes, the pre-washed vegetable medley, and carrots.  Dear, sweet, baby carrots.  “I survived the holidays,” I said.   

And then I remembered.  But I was afraid to look.

I turned slowly, and gazed over the heaps of grapefruit and clementines, fearful of what I wouldn’t find.  The apples sat in plain view:  red, green, and golden delicious.  But they looked smaller than they’d been in the fullness of autumn, in the days before holiday chaos and cocktail party-thinking led me down the path of caloric ruin.  I parked my cart and approached my old friends, seeking the beautiful apple that had spent every lunch at my desk, satisfying both sweet and crunchy cravings while I contemplated word choices.  If my apple was gone, I would survive the seasonal absence, but I wasn’t ready to let go yet.  I hadn’t said goodbye.  The large sign proclaiming its name was missing and I didn’t immediately recognize it among the varieties whose tiny labels said, Fuji, Jonagold, and Macintosh.  I lectured myself on the folly of sucking up to sour cream in the crush of the holidays, and my grandmother’s voice said, see how you are?  And then I found it.  The most beautiful name in apples:  Honeycrisp.  I tore off a plastic bag and gathered as many as I could eat in a week, grateful to have more time with my lunch buddy before the constraints of its season forced its absence from my life.  “The holidays are over, little apples,” I said.  “Let’s go home and write a novel.”

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The Holidays: Part Two

If you are behind in your Christmas shopping, haven’t ordered your cards, and couldn’t bake a cookie without a gun to your head, you have come to the right place.  In comparison to me, everyone can feel good about their progress.  I am in React Mode.  If something bites me, I deal with it.  Otherwise, I’m spiralling downward to holiday disaster at an ever-increasing speed.  Take yesterday.  My mother finished her Christmas shopping, boys and puppies got away with who-knows-what, and people sold Second Novels while I searched for an old photograph.  I spent hours digging through boxes and drawers while my to-do list waited for me to come to my senses.  I stayed on the trail of the elusive picture to my utter and totally unnecessary peril.      

It started when the boys unpacked the red and green bins last weekend.  They pulled out photos and decorations seen once a year, relics of the past.  They talked while they worked and it was clear they were looking back.  And I looked back, too.  Year by year, all the way back to their births.  And I realized that there was a last Christmas when they were all four little boys.  And we took a picture of them that year. 

I found it.  Or at least I found a scan of it. 

I have now safely re-scanned it for posterity, or at least until my computer gets upgraded.  I will spare you the details of how I feel about this picture and why I had to have two hankies (make that three) to finish writing this post.  But in this chaotic season, in this year of birds leaving nests and debut novel launch preparations, it feels good to hold onto things that are not moving.  And to be able to put my hands on them.

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The Holidays: Part I

Little Person Wearing Tutu

In the spirit of Pilgrims and Indians, I shut down my Word files the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and invited Niece and Nephews to spend the afternoon with me.  We would prepare our Thanksgiving Turkey and take the puppy for her first walk ever.  The Little People, as their older cousins call them, never refuse an invitation.  (Aunt Cindy is still fun!)  They wear superhero attire at all times because The Call could come at any moment.  Niece wears a tutu and Nephews dress as Spiderman or X Man.  Don’t be fooled by their height, they know an empty gas gauge when they see one and two of them can read traffic signs.  At the grocery store, all of The Little People wanted to carry the celery.  At the lake, all of The Little People wanted to walk the turkey–I mean puppy.  (Aunt Cindy is still funny!)   When I mentioned we might have time to read Thanksgiving stories, oldest Nephew said, “Oh yeah, baby, baby!”  (Aunt Cindy still does cool stuff!)      

It was all fun and games until the Teenagers came home.  Three-year old Niece ditched her Thanksgiving book to run slo-mo (think: Elvira Madigan in a tutu) into the arms of her home-from-college cousin, while Nephews dropped their onions and celery to take up Nerf arms (superheroes, see?) against the invading teenagers, all of whom declared there was to be no noise and no making messes. (Aunt Cindy loves the irony!)  Action-adventure notwithstanding, a Rockwell moment occurred when we took the perfect turkey out of the oven.  So good-looking, it could have starred in a Hallmark Thanksgiving Special, and if the teenagers hadn’t seen it come out of my oven, they would have accused me of take-out.  

Little People never take an intermission and the holiday was a three-day symphony, all movements conducted allegro con brio.  With two grandmas, the turkey smell, and total chaos of Batman versus the Pilgrims, football and piddling puppy, and–I am not kidding–the adoption of three baby kittens (not me), we counted our blessings, and nobody got seriously traumatized or lost, except maybe some of the kittens.  At one moment in the melee, my mother remarked that I seemed to be showing signs of readiness for grand-parenthood.  Not the point, mom.  In fact, you got that exactly backwards.  (Aunt Cindy’s still got it!)  

We’re finding Nerf bullets and getting sticky off everything in time to launch The Holidays: Part II.

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Filed under Cindy Jones, launching things, Motherhood, My Jane Austen Summer, teenagers