Author Road Trip, Day 5 & 6: Bend to Portland

In Bend, Oregon, we stayed with my uncle–the same uncle who has appeared in several of my posts. (Click HERE for one, or the previous sentence for another.)

My husband on my uncle's deck in Bend. He gets to see this view every day.  (This is the same uncle who has appeared in several of my posts.)

My husband on my uncle’s deck in Bend. He gets to see this view every day. I was jealous, too.

With my uncle.

With my uncle

The Deschutes River, Bend

Took a hike along the Deschutes River

We drove north from Bend along Rte. 26.

The pine forests were so magnificent, we pulled off to the side of the road to stare at them.

The pine forests were so magnificent, we pulled off to the side of the road to stare at the trees.

Vineyards in Hood River County, near Mt. Hood

Vineyards in Hood River County, near Mt. Hood

We crossed the Columbia River and drove in Washington for awhile. Despite the rain, the views were magnificent.

We crossed the Columbia River and drove in Washington for awhile. Despite the rain, the views were spectacular.

View of downtown Portland from the Pittock Mansion in the West Hills

View of downtown Portland from the Pittock Mansion in the West Hills

Reading at In Other Words, Portland

Reading at In Other Words. I got to meet some of the other women in The PDXX Collective, a group of feminist writers based in Portland.

Me and my good friend and writer, Melanie Coffee, outside the bookstore

Me and my good friend and writer, Melanie Coffee, outside the bookstore

We made it home Tuesday afternoon, and on Wednesday I traveled two hours away to the lovely town of St. Joseph, Michigan for a reading at Forever Books. It’s a wonderful store; stop in if you ever find yourself in the area.

Me with store owner Robin Allen

Me with store owner Robin Allen

The town is right on Lake Michigan.

St. Joseph is right on Lake Michigan. Sorry for the dirty car window.

Next Wednesday evening, I’ll be in Milwaukee. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you! Click HERE for info.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

The Rooms Are Filled

Happy Publication Day!

  • Today, at long last, about three years after I started writing, is publication day for The Rooms Are Filled. The book is available everywhere books are sold, like here and here and hereIf you’re game, please share this news with your friends, family, and book clubs today. There are some easy sharing buttons below.
  • Here’s an inside peek into the life of this writer on pub morning: I’ve just dropped my children off at school, I’ve poured a cup of coffee and am considering a shower, and then I shall figure out how and whether I can add photos to my newsletter emails. Then, I will pick my children up.
  • I also have the first chapter of the book up on JukePop Serials — you know, the old-fashioned way of publishing. If you’re interested in reading a bit before you buy, click HERE.
  • *TONIGHT*: Google Hangout at 7pm Central. It’s online, so grab a drink, put on your pajamas, turn on your computer, and join us! My two friends will be interviewing me live. We’ll chat about the book, writing it as an at-home mom, and publishing. Please click HERE for details.
  • I am getting wonderful feedback about the book (and not just from people who love me). Feedback like this:

“The only other book I remember reading in 2 days was The Poisonwood Bible. I’m generally distractible, but I couldn’t put this down.”

“It was as good as any of the books I’ve read recently — and I mostly only read books on the top seller lists because I never know where to look for recommendations. In other words, there could be room on those shelves for you. It stayed with me long after putting it down and I can’t wait to read your next one.”

“A painful read but one anyone who has ever been on the outside can relate to. Beautiful.”

I wrote a book I’m proud of, and I’m enjoying the ride. Thanks for being a part of it.

Jessica

PSOn to Minneapolis! See where else I’m headed HERE. And let me know if you have friends there I should invite!

The-Rooms-are-Filled

Publication: What’s Most Important

It’s getting close to publication day and I realize this is the first and last time I’ll ever have the “first book” experience. I’m trying to savor it, to step back and see this for what it is: an amazing moment and the accomplishment of something that’s been in my bones for a long, long time.

This lead-up to publication hasn’t all been easy, though. I got a bit frazzled for awhile there, and I wrote the following post that’s over at She Writes today: One Month from Publication and I’ve Figured Out What’s Important. I hope you’ll check it out to see what I’ve learned these last few weeks. I think it applies to any big goal, writer or not. And if that doesn’t tempt you, there’s the promise of gravy. You’ll see.

Thanks!

I’m Grateful That My Novels Failed

Badzin130x222Welcome writer Nina Badzin, who is grateful for a dream that didn’t work out. She continues my guest writer series. Happy Thanks-giving, all:

In January 2007, when my second child was three months old, I started writing a novel. I imagined hardcovers, book tours, speaking engagements–the aspiring novelist’s dream. (I’m not sure why in my imagination, a writer only wrote novels.)

By the end of that year, I finished a book called The Friends of Ivy Stein. A woman from my Mommy and Me class, who offered to read it, used to work as a foreign rights agent before moving to Minnesota. The book had potential, she said, and she wanted to send it to a former colleague in New York. (We will refer to this colleague as Agent One.)

This was it, I thought. I’m going to be a writer. But in the four months I waited for Agent One to get back to me, I did very little writing other than a few short stories. I checked my email incessantly and obsessed about whether Agent One would ever read my book.

Finally the email I’d been waiting for arrived. “I’d like to set up a phone appointment,” Agent One wrote. Bingo, I thought. If it were bad news, she would have sent me an email stating exactly that. Instead, she wanted to speak on the phone.

The conversation started out positive. She liked my narrative voice and specifically said, “You’re definitely a writer.” But within minutes her tone changed. Ivy had seeds of a good novel, but the characters and the plot were not compelling enough. The reason she’d wanted to talk rather than email was to tell me that one of the story lines and characters drew her in more than any other part of the book. She suggested I keep one character, Jill, expand that story line and get rid of everything else. I quickly came up with a title–The Everyday Guide to a Joyful Life–and Ivy was history.

It felt good to work on a novel again. I was also thrilled that the short stories I had submitted to literary magazines while I was waiting to hear from Agent One were eventually all accepted. One of those stories was the first chapter of this new book, a fact that gave me confidence when I was ready to send out query letters for A Joyful Life.

Instead of trying Agent One again, I became a querying maniac. I researched agents and watched for the red blinking light on my Blackberry as if I had nothing else important happening in my life. (Just remembering that old Blackberry makes this story feel sort of quaint.)

There was a point when eight different agents had answered my query letters with requests for partials or full manuscripts. One of those agents (we will call her Agent Two) spoke to me at length on the phone and asked me to work on a revision with her exclusively. She wasn’t signing me, she said . . . yet.

I had an almost-agent! I worked on the revisions Agent Two had in mind and sent her my new and improved book weeks before my due date with my third baby. I was still in the hospital when I got the news from Agent Two that the revision wasn’t working for her. I had two choices, she said. I could rewrite the book for her one more time, or I could end our exclusive agreement and send this version to other agents.

I took a third option and put the book away. I had lost interest in Jill and her predicaments anyway. If I didn’t care what happened to her anymore, why would a reader care? Then I gave myself a writing maternity leave before starting another novel from scratch.

I wrote the first 25,000 words of about three new novels over the next year and a half. But I kept coming back to the same issue I was having with A Joyful Life. I couldn’t keep my own interest in the characters and ideas.

Enter the blogosphere. Every so often while working on these books, I would turn to writing blogs for advice. I became a regular reader of one in particular, a group blog called Writer Unboxed. When they had a contest in 2010 to fill their newest blogging spot, I decided to go for it. Although I didn’t win, I was a quarter finalist, which meant they would use of my contest submissions as a blog post. I submitted the other essay I’d written for the contest, “Confessions of a Query Letter Addict” to a different writing blog called Write it Sideways. Within a few weeks I had guests posts on two writing blogs I loved, but no blog of my own.

That quickly changed. On November 18th, 2010 I bought the URL with my name and the rest is history. I am so grateful for the writing life and routine that I have now, a reality that probably wouldn’t have existed if I had been able to get that first or even second novel published. I strongly believe that even if those books had made their way into the world, they might have been the last words I ever wrote. Those novels were not meant to be. Those agents weren’t meant to be. That’s not the kind of writing I want to do anymore.

What does the future of my writing career hold? I don’t know, but I’m certainly grateful that the answer is still full of possibilities.

Nina Badzin is a contributing writer for Brain, Child Magazine’s blog and a freelance writer with work in a variety of websites and anthologies, including The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward, and Mamapedia. She blogs at her personal site, www.ninabadzin.com, and lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

Maiden Names

It’s true that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but we wouldn’t really see it that way, would we? If it was called Stinkweed, for instance, it might smell the same but we’d begin to notice a slight garbage odor.

I called my book The Rooms Are Filled because it speaks to one of the main themes, recognizing the riches in your life, and it matches the tone of the novel. If I had called it Minnesota Michael Moves Away, which holds true to the plot, you might have thought it was a book for grade school students.

One reason Google caught on, I think, is because it has an interesting name that you can also make a verb. People love to verbify nouns.

Names do matter. We call our children Slade because we think it’s cool. Or Declan because it’s interesting and Irish. Or, in my case, Henry because it’s solid and traditional. I wouldn’t have named my child Slade and his parents wouldn’t have named their child Henry. Names matter to us.

I first understood this as my wedding date drew near. Until then, I hadn’t given much thought to whether or not I would take my husband’s last name. I suppose I just assumed I would.

I surprised myself when I felt strong resistance to the idea. For a year after our wedding, I remained Jessica Null. I didn’t want to drop my maiden name completely; I didn’t want a hyphenated last name; I didn’t want to be the only Null in my family; my husband didn’t want to take my name; I didn’t want to use Null as my children’s middle names. Finally, I decided to drop my middle name, Ann, and become Jessica Null Vealitzek.

When it came time to consider the name that would be on my book, I chose Jessica Vealitzek. I like how it looks, I like how it sounds. I didn’t want readers to have (more of) a mouthful to say.

But it has never felt right. I was Jessica Null more than half my life. I was a Null when I learned to write, holding a No. 2 pencil in my chubby hand. I was Jessica Null when I won a national high school writing award, when I got my first newspaper job, and when I earned my master’s in creative writing. I was a Null when I first thought of the idea for this book.

I was also a Null when I cried my first night at camp. I was a Null when my parents divorced, when I made the softball All-Star team, when I swam all the way to the buoy, when I made the decision to marry the man named Vealitzek. Of all things, I am a Null. More, even, than I am a Vealitzek. And if names can be living things, it felt like a betrayal of an old friend to leave it off the book.

That old friend has been riding along all these years, faithful and constant. It has helped define me. Without it, I am different, changed.

Yesterday, I emailed the publisher. The Rooms Are Filled is now written by Jessica Null Vealitzek. That’s the truth of it, and the heart of it.

Whether or not anyone will be able to say it in one breath remains to be seen.

images