Pardon me, I seem to have a frog in my throat

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My blogging has ground to a halt, a dangerous thing to happen to a blog. The thing is, there have been a series of events that seem to have…stolen my voice.

(WRITER WHINING ALERT!)

First there was Camp NaNoWriMo. I was busy being a novella writer and, I know I’ve mentioned this before: I’m a horrible multi-tasker. So July, no blogging.

After the full month’s break from my romance novel, I decided to try a contest. One of those ones where you submit your query and first chapter and hope for…something. I had no illusions, no realistic thoughts that I would get picked. My bar was set low. Submit. Practice sending my work into the wider world.

But then, all around me, writers started hearing back. Acceptances, or reasons why their particular story wasn’t accepted. People who got accepted by one judge got feedback from others as to why that particular judge had declined the submission. People who didn’t get accepted received emails from their chosen judges anyway. Sentences, some even paragraphs, of feedback.

Now this is not “part” of the contest and I had no reason whatsoever to expect anything. Feedback is something extra the judges may or may not choose to do. But I let hope take over and my goal shift. I wanted feedback. Was it the query? The premise? The writing that didn’t click? I heard from one of four of the judges I submitted to, a one-sentence reply I clung to like a rescued baby mermaid, and I hoped I’d get a little something more from the others. Something. Anything.

But no. Crickets.

Hope turned to brussels sprouts in my mouth. I reminded myself I had expected nothing. Told myself I was being unreasonable, unprofessional. Admonitions morphed into the conviction that I couldn’t handle the rigors of the publishing game, where success equals an even lower batting average than in baseball. I wasn’t cut out for this, and obviously, my story was dog poo because no one could find the wherewithal to even send me a little note.

(I gather this bleak state is one writers sink into quite readily.)

I convinced myself nothing would come of my book, and stopped writing altogether. No novel, no novella, no blog. Intellectually I knew nothing could come of a book one didn’t SUBMIT. But like Ramona the Pest, I crossed my arms and stomped my foot. Figuratively, but still…Yes, I am childish.

And then, In the midst of this self-immersed, apocalyptic doomscape, I received a horrible text message. One of my sorority sisters, Maria, who had been battling a rare—and incurable—form of cancer, was in the hospital, her family by her side. My world stopped. Everything went into suspension.

I saw her in January, lively, vibrant, laughing, drinking wine with her sorority sisters and sharing a wonderful, loud, chatter-filled meal. It was as if we were back in the big dining room at the ADPi House eating, talking, laughing. That wonderful night I forgot Maria had cancer, that her prognosis was dire. There was no way the woman I saw was going anywhere but back home to raise her boys to adulthood. She’d outlived her diagnosis by more than a year, after all.

A day after the text message, confirmation came. Maria had taken her eternal flight.

What were my petty complaints compared to the death of my friend, for God’s sake? What of Maria’s sons being left without their mother, her husband left without his wife, her family left without their daughter, their sister. Grief grabbed hold of me and squeezed. Maria had bugged me and bugged me about reading my book; I’d wanted to have her read it before cancer took her away. Chalk up another unmet goal.

Where before I was childish, now I was breathlessly mute.

I’ve lived a pretty charmed life, haven’t often been touched closely by death or grief. I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt like the pebble that starts the snow ball that becomes the body of the Guiness Book of World Records-sized snowman. One thing after another just seemed to layer onto my woes. My words felt small and stupid and unimportant. I lost a dear friend. And my will to say anything.

It’s been a rough month and a half, but slowly the metaphorical sun has started to shine and I’ve started to poke my finger through the slush that was the snowball. The words are building up inside me again. I still have a frog in my throat, but I have a lozenge on my tongue.

I think the sunshine is Maria. Maybe she got in my subconscious ear to remind me of something important: I have to keep going. I can still hit a goal, albeit a revised one. She may not hold my book in her hands, but if I send it out into the world again, somewhere in the great universal ether, Maria will know she helped bring it to fruition. I’m holding on to that.

May the universe embrace you and wrap you in the joy you gave to everyone you touched on this earth, Maria.

Maria Sofia Rimkus 1964-2014.

Maria

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11 thoughts on “Pardon me, I seem to have a frog in my throat

  1. I totally get what you’re saying about getting hopeful (despite telling yourself not to), then the letdown, then the malaise. Though, in my own recipe, I tend to add dollops of anger as well. And I’m still stuck down there.

    But I’m glad you’re seeing the sunrise again. Sometimes sadness can give one the perspective one needs to escape sadness, paradoxically.

    And I must know how one turns hope into Brussels sprouts, as they’re one of my favorite veggies.

    • Gack! You like those little orbs of stewed compost? To be honest, I had “ashes” instead of brussels sprouts, but it seemed so cliche.

      You’re right on about sadness helping to cause a bit of perspective adjustment. If only one didn’t need the sadness part. *sigh* I haven’t gotten to the point where anger can set in (no submitting, yanno) but I can see where that might creep up on me, too, Alex. We romantics…alas, so much feels.

      You know I’m always at your service, though. For general bolstering and manuscript gushing over.

  2. She was lovely, Elaine. So unfair sometimes but I bet you’re right: she’s shining on you, even as we speak. Shining and giving you a little nudge in the rear, just a gentle nudge to get you back to the business of living and doing what you love to do.

    I kind of know how that feels, not the deep loss part, but the lost part, like you’ve been . . . depleted, maybe. But it’s been right there waiting for you, I know it.

    That contest, was that the Blog Pitch Mentor thingie? I entered that thing and got two responses, both forms. Both short. Neither telling me anything I didn’t know the minute I read, Dear Author. Doesn’t matter. Stuff like that–rejections, not hearing back–it doesn’t define us.

    As for you, my dear, I know how special you are. I’ve been on the receiving end of your kindness and wisdom more times than I can count.

    What goes around, comes around, Elaine. You can count on that.

    xoxo kk

    • Thank you so much, kk ❤ Yanno, I get into these funks and, to my shame, I go into my little shell and neglect how much my writer friends mean to me. I'm forever glad to you for not dismissing me as a flake and moving on. It'd be easy to do. One of these days we'll celebrate, kk. You hold one end and I'll hold the other.

  3. ((((((Elaine))))) I’m very, very sorry for your loss. As for writing, well. Writing is freaking hard, and the submissions process is harder. You know I’m more than familiar with those cycles of up and down about all of it. One thing I can say for sure, you’re wrong about brussels sprouts, they’re delicious. 😉 Extending a cyberhand, ❤ ❤

    • 😀 I guess I’ll defer to all you brussels sprouts adorers and bite my tongue (which also has the added bonus of making sure one doesn’t get past my teeth).

      It’s amazing how a seemingly small thing (both good and the not-so-good ones) can have such an outsized effect. Having gotten at least partially out of this hole, it’s much easier to accept the good and shrug off the not-so-good. I’m grateful for your always-ready smiles, hearts and hands, Mrs. F ❤

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