Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A video about my mom

For anyone who doesn't know, my mom has Early Onset Alzheimer's.

She's 59, and she'll likely die within the next few years.

It's one of the most devastating diseases I've ever seen.

It's really difficult for us, as her children, to explain to people just how horrific this disease is. It's also difficult to know how to grieve the loss.

I write poetry and transcribe her journals. My sister Maquel writes a blog. My other sister Jenni creates photo montages and slideshows. My brother Chris writes songs on his guitar, and also lives with my dad and her to help take care of her.

My youngest brother, Chad, has been staying with me since Christmas. He has had a really hard time with her illness since getting home from his LDS mission in Tennessee--she changed a lot in those two years, and it really rocked him. He has spent a lot of hours--over the course of months--compiling a video that showcases what happened to her during his two year mission. He has done this to help himself cope with the grief he is feeling, and to feel more empowered in the face of this devastating tragedy. The video highlights the severity of the changes that happened to my mom during those two years, and tries to capture a least a part of the loss we all feel.

While it's a little bit difficult to watch, I hope you take a few minutes to view his video and come to understand more about the nature of this disease and how it is affecting my family. (And the fact that you're supporting Chad by watching means a lot too--thank you. Also, Chad links in the video to a gofundme campaign he set up to help my dad--who was forced to retire early to take care of her--with her astronomical medical expenses.)


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Post #14--Hope Springs Eternal

A few weeks ago I randomly started writing the story of something horrible that happened to my writing career in the summer of 2013. This is the last post in that series. You probably won't understand the impact of this post without reading the ones that come before it. They're all really short:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 79, 10, 11, 12

(Yes, I skipped 8 and 13 on purpose because they don't relate to the story. Also, #1 doesn't really contain story stuff, but it's teeny, and it's the post that got this ball rolling.)

_________________________________________________________________________________

One of the stages of grief is anger.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Post #13--Ultrasound

I've worked for hours on the final post in this little series. It's LOOONG. It feels very cathartic to almost be done.

But, yes, you read the title of today's post correctly.

Lolly and I have an announcement to make:

We are having another spawn!!!

This afternoon, we left the girls at home with their Uncle Chad while we went off to the doctor to have the gender ultrasound. This December has been uncharacteristically sunny, but today there was rain. We drove in the dreary Seattle weather like we have in the past, and pulled up to the office we'd been to many times before. But this time, there was a finality to it. We know that this baby will be our last, and that after it comes, the Weed family will be complete.

We were both nervous as we sat in the waiting room.

Baby gender is such a strange thing. It determines so much.

For us, a boy would mean: lots of new experiences, having to buy all new stuff, and the thrill of something different. A girl would mean: having the special quality of having all kids of one gender (which I hear is very bonding for them), not having to buy new stuff, and settling comfortably into something familiar.

Soon, we were in the little office with the tech, and she was looking at every single feature of this child's body except its junk, and we were feeling nervous, and after seeing the baby's brain, femur, heart, arm, face, profile, placenta-home--just short of isolating each individual strand of DNA--the tech finally said: "Oh, and the baby turned. I can finally see its gender. Do you want to know it?"

And I now repeat the question. Do you want to know the gender of the final Weed child?

If so, scroll down




Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Post #12--Things Fall Apart

I'm back to trying to describe the indescribable.

After day nine, came day ten. Then day eleven. And with each day came either nothing, or, a few times, another breathtaking rejection from another publishing house.

But still there was hope. There were 16 proposals sent--and all the rejections had been so encouraging, so kind and warm. So hope-giving.

And so devoid of offers.

All of that is easy to describe.

What is indescribable is what was happening within me as this all took place. My dreams. Dreams that I had had since a little boy. Goals I had been striving towards actively for years. Words uttered in blessings. Spiritual promises I had felt deep inside my soul. All of these things seemed to be finding fruition in our agent and our book and these publishing houses. It had all come together with such surprising speed, and with such a undeniable confluence--it was so obvious to me that the Lord had orchestrated all of it. He had made this happen. 

So why was it not working?

More days passed. More vacillation between exultant hope and bitter fear. At the three-week mark I had to admit it to myself: I was starting to wonder if this was going to happen at all. The unimaginable fear that nobody would buy the book became more plausible. It made me sick to my stomach, but the thought occurred to me intermittently. But that felt like a lack of faith! I had to have faith! After all this, after all these things coming together for our benefit--after this situation being so perfect, and all the stars aligning, why would this not work?

It is also impossible to describe the crushing totality of dreams that weighed upon me. When that much money is suggested, when that much success is at your fingertips--when your life's dearest dreams are so tantalizingly close to your grasp after years and years of work and sacrifice and so many hours of quiet, isolated effort--you cannot help but visualize the realization of these dreams. You cannot help but imagine how your life is about to change. We did. We talked about it. We talked about it as if it was going to happen. We believed. You cannot help but count chickens before they hatch in a situation like this. They have all but hatched! You are looking at the eggs, feeling them, warm and speckled and filled with potential life!

And at the end of week three, the sorrow started to filter in. It was gritty and filled with bitterness. I remember sitting with Lolly, both of us crying with exhaustion, and saying words filled with agony. "If this doesn't happen," I said, "then I just don't understand. It just… feels mean. It feels like the Lord set me up to fail. That He was trying to hurt me, dangling my fondest dream in front of my face, and then, just as I am about to touch it and feel it in my hand, yanking it away."

I remember being in the Stake Clerk's office one morning at around the same point, fulfilling my responsibilities as assistant over finances. The office was empty, and I was alone. I checked my email for the four trillionth time, and found, as always, no exultant news about the purchase of our book. And then I realized: "It's not going to happen."  I felt the weight of it so profoundly that I actually had to lie down on the floor. I just lay there, alone in that office, barely able to breath, feeling the minutes pass, feeling the crushing weight that had followed me for weeks push me to the floor like a physical force. I had to be on the floor. I was being smashed. The pain, still commingled with the weak, tinny anticipation of "maybe he'll call today. Maybe today is the day!" was almost more than I could bear.

That's the one thing about fantastic heights: the falls are terrible.

Eventually the email from our agent came. The text said "calling now" and the body was the submission list--that long list of names and publishers, all followed by the dreaded word: pass

They had all said "no."

He called. He had no explanation. "I'm so sorry," he said. "I'm usually so good at this. I have no idea what happened. I'm completely baffled." He went on to explain that usually he can get a sense of what the market wants, and that he's made his career on knowing what works. He was sure this would work, and he was so sorry it hadn't. He also explained that he can usually gather what went wrong by the rejections--usually there is a common theme, or a running current between them. Sometimes there's even a direction you can go to fix things. "But your rejections were all totally different. No rhyme or reason. No running theme. No identifiable problem."

No rhyme or reason. No explanation. No sense to be made of it. Nothing to work on or improve.

They had all just said "no."

The finality hit with a deep, guttural thud. And so did the full sorrow.

And so did the anger.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Post #11--Keep the faith

This is the part that's impossible to put into words.

Imagine waking up every day knowing that the most amazing thing that has ever happened in your life could happen that day. And then imagine going to bed that night, having had it not happen, and the disappointment that brings. And then waking up the next day knowing it could happen that day. And then it not. And so forth.

Then, imagine those days piling up.

Imagine knowing that something you have created is in the hands of some of the most powerful publishers in the history of the world. Imagine knowing they could be reading your words--things you yourself wrote--at this very moment.

And then imagine not hearing from them.

Imagine the roller-coaster of thrill and disappointment, of self-doubt and hope that creates. Imagine the whiplash, all internal, of thinking any email and any phone call could be "the one." Imagine trying not to check your email four trillion times a day. Imagine how much you learn to hate your phone, and the fact that it continues--doggedly--to not ring. Imagine watching it, sitting on your desk, trying to will it to buzz.

Anything. You just want to hear anything.

Then, try to imagine 9 or so days in, seeing that first rejection.

The first one came from Penguin Books.

It said some really nice things. The editor said she "agonized" over the decision. She complimented my writing. She said our book would add a "unique and compelling voice" to the national conversation. She said she took a long time to think about it. But in the end, she decided to pass. Her hesitancy centered around audience, and but more than anything it centered around her feeling "torn." She knew she wasn't the right fit.

And that makes sense. We wouldn't want someone who didn't feel good about the project representing the book.

But still, that rejection came as a jolt. Suddenly, it wasn't just all fantasy-world. These real people were reading our real book proposal, making real decisions about it. They were making decisions based on market, and they were making decisions based on "fit" and they were making decisions based on readability.

But in the end, they were making decisions based on their gut emotions. And sometimes they were going to say "no."

"Keep the faith," said our agent. He was an expert at this. He had seen rejection before, of course.

If there is anything Lolly and I are good at, it's keeping faith. Surely we would hear a "yes" soon. Surely the Lord had inspired these events, had made the stars align, so that he could inspire the right person to represent our story. Surely, He hadn't just set us up to fail and be disappointed--bitterly, painfully disappointed.

Faith. We had faith.

We went forward, waiting for our "yes."

All it takes, as they say, is one.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Post #10--The Waiting Game

Suddenly, we were "on submission."

'On submission' is short for "on submission to publishers." It's the period of time where your agent is taking your manuscript or proposal and is sending it to their contacts in the literary world. In my case, our proposal was being sent to every major publishing house I had ever heard of. Like seriously, pull a book off your shelf. Look at the publisher. Do you recognize the name? Then that was one of the publishers my agent had sent our proposal to.

There are no words to describe what this process feels like.

I've read around online and people talk a lot about how hard this part of the process is. They give recommendations like "only check your phone once a day" and "try to be social to get your mind off of the anxiety." I didn't have any idea what to expect. Lolly and I just wandered around in a daze of anticipation. There was such a thrill about it all! It was truly amazing.

Just imagine: at any moment, any second, I could get a call or email that would change my life forever. A call that I had been dreaming about for years--and in some ways most of my life. The call in which I'm told I've sold my first book.

Breathtaking

During the first week of being on submission, Lolly and I were so optimistic. It just made sense that this was happening. It fit in with everything the previous year or so of our life had been. Being on TV, speaking to large audiences, etc. This was just another obvious step in our journey. We were sweetly excited, talking about hopes and dreams. The word naive could perhaps be used, but I don't feel like it fits exactly. We were just hopeful and happy. And very, very excited. And grateful--often filled with gratitude for what was happening.

And then we got to week two.

It's very natural as this process goes forward for a writer to start to doubt that things will end well. The question starts to creep in: what if nobody responds? What if this thing doesn't sell?

We wanted some reassurance. We talked to our agent. "Guys," he said, "I can't make any promises. But I just want you to know how much I believe in your project. I've been doing this for a long time. A really, really long time. And… how do I put this? Let's just say, at this point in my career I don't take on a project unless I expect it to sell with a six figure advance. I believe in this. Totally and completely."

Six. Figure. Advance.

My head was spinning. I'd never even contemplated anything like that.

He really did believe in this, and he had the reputation to back it up. Hearing that helped Lolly and I to take heart. Waiting was excruciating of course--more excruciating than I could ever begin to describe--but we knew we had a project that people believed in. We knew our story was worth telling. We knew our agent believed in us, and in our project… enough to stake his reputation on his. Enough to expect really big things--amazing things.

Now, it was just time to wait.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Post #9--Proposal

Looking back a year-and-half, I can see the warning signs that were interlaced with all the excitement.

That's how hindsight works.

At the time though, they were undetectable.

At the time, this felt like an absolute culmination of all things in my life. It felt cosmic. It felt like God had done the crazy-viral thing with our blog post, and then now He was orchestrating this thing with the book. Every step forward felt like confirmation that God wanted us to get this book out in the world, and He wanted it to happen fast. It felt so exhilarating. It felt like the fulfillment of promises He had made to us long ago--certain promised blessings we had been awaiting for years. It felt like an "I love you," from God. It felt like it had his signature all over it.

It felt like He was guiding the process, step by step, just as He had guided us so often in the past.

The proposal came next. Our agent sent us proposals from some of his past clients--proposals from real, live books that had been very successful. It was so crazy to read those. It was crazy to see how the process had worked for them, and how it was now happening for us.

Lolly and I worked on the proposal at nights--finishing the polish on the first 20 pages of our book, and then writing the proposal itself--boasting our book's finer qualities, on what it was, on how it contributed to the literary world.

The work on the proposal felt very different than the synchronicity that we had felt as we worked on the actual book. Working on the book itself had been amazing--it had felt organic and exciting. But as we worked on the proposal, we kept hitting road-bumps. There was a lot of conflict between us, suddenly, about how things should go. Things felt strained. We would come together to work on it, and instead of feeling exciting and fun, there was a dark pall over our interactions. It felt very stressful and bleak.

Like I say: hindsight.

We plowed forward. After all, this was a very stressful thing, very potentially life-changing. It was a process that was bound to contain some conflict. But if we worked hard we could get through it.

It took longer than we expected, but after about six weeks and a million emails back and forth with our agent, we had finally perfected our proposal. And it looked good. We had a full perfected draft of the first 20 pages, and the proposal itself,  and chapter summaries for all the chapters we hadn't written yet. It was a compelling story, with a good arc. We had done our job well, and our agent was very excited.

But I didn't feel connected to the template as we had it. It felt… obvious. Dry. Commercial. Insipid. It absolutely worked, and we had done a good job. It told our story, and in a compelling way. But I didn't feel a yearning to breathe life into it this proposed book. I didn't yearn to see its ideas or story spread around the world.

I just wanted to sell it.

Hindsight.

Finally, in the middle of the night after hours of work, Lolly and I gave that perfected proposal a final-looking-over. We had worked hard, and we were relieved and excited to be putting this book into our agent's capable hands. He had already looked it over many times, and was excited to put it out there, too. We had all worked hard on this, and we were all very ready for the next step: selling the book to a publisher.

We had done all we could do. It was time for us to let the process just happen--letting our agent do his job. After we sent this, it was just a matter of waiting. Any day we could get the phone call that would change our lives forever. We could get a call for an offer on our book. We would meet our editor. We would know what publishing house we would be associated with. Would there be a bidding war? Would we like our editor? Would we feel connected to the publishing house? Would everything feel right?

It could be days, or it could be weeks, or it could be one or two months. But it was going to be soon.

This was actually happening.

We pressed "send," looked at each other, and smiled.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Post #8: Snapshot of my life right now

We interrupt this story to bring you a snapshot of my life right now:

My sister and her family pulled up to my house two hours ago. The kids are running around the house screaming. Luggage is being brought up the stairs, gifts are going under the tree, there is hugging and laughter and the eating of snacks, and there is lots of chatter. There is a baby crying as he's being put to bed, and there is the screaming of grumpy but ecstatic cousins, and there are lots of footsteps on the stairs. There is"let's not play that tonight, let's wait till the morning" and lots of "let's get on your pajamas! It's time to go to bed," followed by a lack of follow through, and children doing basically what they want.

There is lots of chatting between my sister Jenni and me. Chatting about wonderful things, and also chatting about loss and pain and disappointment. Chatting about the tragedies that can occur in a family system, and about how all we can really do is cling to each other and try to feel love. There is pain and joy in our chat. There is loss and redemption, already, even after only two hours.

If there's one thing we Weeds can do, it's get real. Fast.

I live for moments like this: A bunch of people in a house, existing together, feeling each others' warmth, listening to each others' voices.

Being with each other.

This is family. This is Christmas. This is what life's all about.

(Next post is about "writing a book proposal is really hard." Stay tuned.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Post #7--A fun ride.

I could barely contain my excitement.

I had trouble conceptualizing what my life even was. I had always known I would break into the literary world… but this? A memoir? A co-written memoir about my marriage?

I had never, in a million years, considered that this would be my bold break into the world of books. And yet, it was happening.

Like the email instructed, I called the agent for the first time since we'd talked nine months before.

I called my agent. MINE. 

In my research of the literary world, I had learned that the way to get published was that a person wrote a manuscript, finished it, perfected it, and then queried an agent, offering to let him or her see it. If the agent liked the finished manuscript, then he or she would try to sell it to a publishing house by sending that finished manuscript to editors who might be interested in purchasing it, offering an advance. 

An advance for the product. For the finished product. 

But our agent was flipping that on its head. "Sometimes, with memoir," he explained in our phone call, "it's best to just have 20 or 30 pages completed and then a really well-constructed proposal. That way an editor can know what they're getting into, and can help guide the process if they want to." 

I was shocked. What was he saying? Was he saying that we were ready to start submitting to publishers? Already? Like… now?

"So," he continued, "we'll take a few weeks to have you and Lolly write the proposal and get the first 20 pages in tip-top shape. Then we'll go on submission."

My mind reeled. On submission in a few weeks. 

Suddenly, the timeline in my brain shifted drastically. When I sent him the email the week before I'd been expecting to get some encouragement, a nice head pat, and a "send it to me when you're done." I was maybe thinking that, in a dream-land, he would offer to represent us. 

I had never, in a million years, expected that within a week I'd be starting to work on a proposal that would be seen by every major publishing house in the industry.

Later that day, I sent him an email:

Hey, great talking to you this morning. Sorry if I seemed a little subdued--truth is I'm kinda freaking out over here at what's happening, and trying my best to remain staid. We are incredibly excited by the possibilities...

Anyway, we're totally pumped to have you as an agent. We feel that we're in good hands.

His reply came quickly:

Totally understand. It's a lot to process. Just know that I've been doing this for a long time and I'll be here for you guys every step of the way. It's going to be a fun ride, I promise.

So quick, so abrupt--in one week we'd gone from working on a half-written first draft in our little office at nights to, all of the sudden, being represented by an amazing agent who was having us write a proposal which the biggest names in publishing industry would soon be seeing with their very own eyes. 

It was terrifying.

But also… it was thrilling. This was actually happening! 

The train had left the station, and we were on it. We had just had our ticket stamped, the conductor had validated our seats, and we were speeding toward our destination. It was time to sit back. Relax. Enjoy the view. Enjoy watching as my dreams came true, and in the most unexpected and exciting way I could have ever imagined. 

Lolly and I read his email and then took a deep breath.  Our new agent had been doing this a long time. His track record was solid. He was going to take care of us. He said it, right there in black and white. A fun ride. It was going to be a fun ride.

He promised.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Post #6--The best possible news.

I was in my office between sessions when I got the agent's first response:

I just started it today and am already impressed. More to come very soon.

I can't describe the sensation that little email created… two sentences, that meant so much. He had read it. He was reading it and he was impressed. He was going to write more very soon. He was going to write me and tell me something. Was this the thing that happens to writers when they finally get an agent? Was this about to happen to me? Was I about to score a top-tier, millions-of-dollars-making agent?

I stood up and took a walk to center myself. I walked the serene, empty, dead-end street next to a stream and a forest that I like to take walks on during my work day. I sent the email to Lolly from my phone. We both sent frantic texts of what could this possibly mean??? and this is so totally amazing and awesome and such.

Something big was happening. It felt like it was happening really fast, too.

Break-neck fast.

The next days were agony, of course. But the best kind of agony. The kind of agony where you know something really good is coming, but you just don't know what the good thing is, exactly.

The second response came on a Thursday, three days later. I remember the exact moment of the day it came, the exact client I had just seen, and I remember what I was wearing even (which is very atypical of me--usually I don't remember things like that). I checked the account he and I were communicating through for the four millionth time, and there was his name in dark black. He'd sent something.

I took a deep breath and clicked on it, and started reading the words I had been craving to see for years--the words I have wanted an agent say to me since I'd first sent a query. I was shaking with excitement.

I would absolutely love to try and sell this for you guys. It's really such an amazing love story--so well written--and it is going to be a very special book. 

Can we get on the phone and talk things over? 

This. was. happening.

It was happening so fast. And things were about to get even faster. Fast like a shooting star: brilliant, luminescent, and then… gone.