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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Post #5--A draft in the agent's hands

The work was beautiful. It felt synchronistic.

We were both immediately engaged--we got home from that trip and felt ready to pounce on the project. We didn't tell each other what we were doing--there was little-to-no prep work--we just sat down and started writing. Lolly and I would put the girls to bed, and then it was time. I would grab four or five caramels, then she and I would and sit side by side in our office. We wouldn't write for long--thirty minutes maybe. But we'd get a good chunk done, and then we'd compare notes.

It was uncanny how everything lined up.

The things she was writing, I didn't write, and vise versa. She wrote scenes I was sure she needed to write, and I wrote scenes that she anticipated I would write. It was as if we'd planned it. We were continually amazed. We did check in occasionally and assign some stories to one person or the other, but for the most part our instincts remained aligned. And it was so much fun. We revisited so many wonderful memories of our childhood and youth. It was great to reminisce, and it was fun to put to paper important memories that added to the special context of our union.

At the same time, the work was slow. The months crept by, and soon I started getting anxious. I started wondering if the opportunity to be represented by the agent that contacted me had passed me by. And, after several months, the work started to stagnate a little bit. Lolly and I were busy living our life--not writing about it. I wondered if we'd ever finish.

One evening I got a tiny itch.

I opened up my email account and typed in that agent's name. Part of me was sure that so many months had passed that he would no longer be interested in our project. It had been almost nine months since he'd contacted me. Surely, he would feel hesitant by this point. It's not like he'd ever followed up with me--he'd never shown any interest except in the week following the viral post. It was entirely possible he'd moved on, and that we were pretty much on our own.

I typed the following message:

Hi,

My wife and I have been working on our memoir together. We have around 40,000 words. Were you still interested in representing our story? If so, we'd love to touch base with you.

Then I hit send. Impetuous. Always impetuous. This guy was no slouch, and it was nerve-wracking to think that I'd just shot him an email like that.

But, that's how I roll, I guess.

Not a day later, I got this:

Hi Josh,

It is great to hear from you. I would very much like to see what you guys have put together. Please by all means send it on

Don't hesitate to give me a call if you'd like to talk anything over before you press send.

We were thrilled. We didn't call him. We just pressed send. We sent him what we had and said "we'd love any feedback." And just like that, a major New York agent had the little manuscript we'd worked on together at nights in his hands. "Maybe he can just give us some tips on how to finish this thing well," I remember thinking. "Maybe he'll give us the push we need to get this thing done."

I couldn't have been more surprised by his response.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Post #4: Memoir

Isn't the thought of a (then) 32-year-old writing a memoir hilarious?

That's what I thought. I spent the next few days saying things like "Sorry, Lolly, I can't come and help with dinner right now. I'm too busy writing my memoirs…" *puts hand to forehead in a dramatic pose*

As if.

As if I had lived enough life to have anything valuable to say in a memoir. "Yes, I'm 32 now. So, I'm an expert on life, you see. I went through childhood, puberty, and most recently, college. And now that my children are (mostly) out of diapers, I think it's about time to share what I've learned in life!"

I had no idea how to do this, nor even if I wanted to.

I would sit down to write and just feel… stupid. How does one encapsulate a life? What does one take from one's own experience to pen in a book, and more importantly, what does one leave out?

Writing that last sentence made me remember something I'd forgotten until this moment. In my phone call with the agent, after he proposed I write a memoir, I asked him if he had any advice for someone so young trying to do this. His counsel?

"Leave out the boring parts."

I actually think that's some of the best writing advice I've ever heard.

I just had no idea how to do that, in any practical sense. It all seemed so huge--so gargantuan and preposterous.

I did what preparation I could. I went to the bookstore and bought several memoirs that stood out to me. (My favorite of the batch was Joyce Carol Oates' book about being widowed.) I read parts of a lot of them and tried to get a handle on the genre. There was some good, compelling stuff. There was also some trash. I found that interesting--memoir could be breathtaking, and it could also be tawdry and plastic-trinket-like.

Before long, I'd decided to just launch in. I started with--you guessed it--birth. A bit of a cliche, but it got me going. I wrote 30 pages or so, but something was missing. Something wasn't working out. I was having trouble expressing exactly what, but it had to do with perspective. I was having trouble fairly representing anything that had occurred in Lolly's life. Our stories were just so intertwined, yet the only perspective I was comfortable representing was my own (for obvious reasons). It was a significant problem, and one that I grappled with for some time. It halted me.

At times I wondered if this was even something I wanted to do. Was I feeling pressured into it? Did I actually want to write this book? Something felt off to me about the whole thing, but I couldn't pinpoint what.

One weekend, Lolly and I were in Utah doing some presentation or another, and we had dinner with one of my dearest friends, Zina Petersen. Zina was my professor back when I was at BYU. She's also a brilliant writer herself, and we often critique each other's work. She asked how the writing was going, and I tried to explain this problem I was having--the problem with perspective. "I just can't seem to give Lolly's voice a valid place. I don't know how to work around it." She looked at me over our dinner of quiche and clam dip, then she looked at Lolly, and said simply: "The two of you should write it together."

It hit us like a lightning bolt. Of course! The story wasn't my story. It was our story.

Of course we would write this together. We were linked in everything. Our story had been the story of two people from the very beginning--since I was three years old, when we first met--not just one. This would be a project undertaken the same way our marriage itself was undertaken--side by side, with love, and eyes wide open. It made perfect sense.

We got started right away.





Monday, December 15, 2014

Post #3--Timeline

So, here's the sequence of events, kind of.

2009--I wrote a novel. It about killed me. Queried, got a positive response, but realized I hadn't edited the manuscript and that I'd queried prematurely. (For the record, it still sits, unedited, rotting in my hard drive. Someday, I say. Someday.)

2010--Started The Weed. My blog was about ADHD. I had a lot to say. For about a month. Then I tried medication for the first time and things tapered off.

End of 2010--I read a blog post online that made me laugh. I realized in that moment that I had wasted so much material talking about ADD in a serious way. Something clicked. From that day forward, randomly, I started writing humor posts. I became obsessed with it, started submitting my stuff to small contests, started gaining followers. It was fun.

Concurrently I was very purposefully building a writing platform. The undergirding of the whole operation was to build a platform to eventually be able to sell my book. From the very beginning, blogging has been about eventually selling books for me. I love it in and of itself, but the driving force for me is always that bigger picture.

2011--More humor posts. Still a lot of fun, but things started to get a little strained. I felt very constricted only using humor Most of my followers by that point had joined because of the comedy. I felt boxed in, but I also really loved it.

Beginning of 2012--I started really getting back into my novel, trying to finish it. I felt like that would be the next step. As you can see from this post, I had big plans. You can probably tell that I had no idea what was going to happen in two months.

Also near the beginning of 2012 the feeling of inauthenticity grew as I wrote humor posts. One day, I sat with writer's block and Lolly came in and said "I know what's going, Josh. You feel inauthentic." Then she hesitated before saying "I think there's a part of you that wants to come out of the closet." I'd never seriously considered it, but we both felt something powerful in that moment. That conversation sparked a months long process of getting blessings, receiving personal revelation, etc. all indicating that I needed to share our story. It wasn't until the middle of the year that I realized I needed to do that on the blog. I cannot emphasize the level of complexity the first six months of 2012 involved.

2012, June--I followed my gut and came out of the closet on the blog. Then the blog exploded and became something else entirely. It morphed into an account of a gay man married to a woman.

But this blog was never really about me being a gay man married to a woman.

And it was always about writing.

Which is why, when a major literary agent contacted me through the blog a week or so after my viral blog post, I paid attention. Suddenly, I wasn't querying agents. An agent had just queried me. And he had sold some major things. Things you've probably heard of.

It was all very breathtaking.

I set up a phone call and we chatted. I was all nerves and excitement. I told him about my novel, about my aspirations, but he wasn't really interested in any of that. "Let me know," he said, "if you end up writing a memoir. I'd be very interested to represent a memoir." And with that bug in my ear, we hung up.

I didn't speak to him again for a very long time.



Saturday, December 13, 2014

Post #2--Back Story

In its earliest iteration, this blog was a writing blog.

Actually, no, scratch that. In the earliest iteration, this blog was about ADHD. But even then, the whole idea was writing.

The year before, I'd written my first novel. I knew I needed to build a platform in order to be able to sell the thing. I'd queried a couple of agents--one major one was interested, but passed when he couldn't open the attachment of my partial. His interest was thrilling though--a rare thing that early in the process, especially from an agency so huge. I knew I was on the right track, but I had no platform. I knew I needed a blog. So, I started The Weed.

And now, five years later, here we are. A lot has happened.

So, writing.

It's kind of a big deal to me.

I really don't know how to talk about this.

There's this thing that happened a year and a half ago (summer of 2013) that majorly impacted my life. I haven't written about it publicly because it was so hard--one of the hardest things that's ever happened to me as an aspiring writer. It's one of the hardest things that has ever happened to me as a person, period.

In some ways, it changed my life and the way I view… everything.

I feel like not talking about this is part of what has killed my blog. Like somehow I've been keeping a secret. I'm starting to see this clearly now--it's something like this: this blog has, on a very fundamental level, always been about writing. So to have a really major, really horrible, event pertaining to writing occur and not talk about it here did a major number on my brain. Like my mind interpreted it as a betrayal to this space. It rendered me and my participation here inauthentic.

My brain doesn't really "do" inauthentic.

So, I've just been absent. Silent. Incommunicado.

When I started writing a post randomly yesterday, I had no idea why I was doing it, or what I was doing. It felt random and abrupt and angsty. I just knew I needed to occupy this space again--quietly, personally, independently, intimately. I wrote about my day, called it "post #1" and pressed publish. The only thing I was sure of was that I couldn't have comments on, and that I had to do this.

Brains are funny.

Today it occurs to me that what my brain is trying to do is to give me a safe space to tell this story.

It's time. Given where I am today, it's definitely, definitely time.

This might take a while. It might take a lot of posts, or it might just take a few, but it will probably be a little messy and disjointed. I'm okay with that. I need to get this out there. Without fanfare, without a ruckus. I don't care who sees it.

I need to get this out there because there's really no way I can talk about now without explaining then.

And I need to be able to talk about now.

I have no idea how to end this.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Post #1

Hi!

Here's my day so far:

I woke up at the crack of dawn, by which I mean to say 8:32am.

I rolled over and tried to sleep while my daughters were screaming about getting their hair done.

At 8:53, Tessa came in and climbed in bed with me. She made me play "alligator" where I pretend to be a big alligator that eats her. Then she jumped on my face.

Next I rolled out of bed and walked downstairs and drank a glass of warm water because I have this thing where I'm trying to get a routine in my life and my brain has decided: drinking warm water in the morning is the perfect routine. Obviously.

Oh wait, before that I did pointless crap on my phone for 57 minutes.

Forgot about that.

Next I came into my office to "write."

Sometimes, when I say "write" I actually mean ricocheting through endless cycle of checking Facebook, checking email, checking Yahoo News, looking for Youtube clips of authors and artists that inspire me, checking a million blogs that never get updated, etc, etc, etc. over and over and over and over and over until my brain feels like it's filled with numbness and Q-tips and quicksand and sadness.

All I want to do is write. All my brain wants to do is ANYTHINGBUTWRITE

In case you are wondering, that is NO FUN.

(As you can guess, at this moment I am "writing.")

 I have no idea how to end this.



Friday, October 31, 2014

I AM a big deal.

Sometimes people ask me "Josh, what's it like being a Mormon celebrity? Like, seriously, is it hard to be such a big deal?"

Gotta admit, it can be hard to be someone who exudes relevance all the time.

I'm wearing a tux. I am relevant. 

Like, for instance, it's really time-consuming to write in this blog. Once a quarter.

It's also hard to know what to be for Halloween. Do I go as some other relevant celebrity? Or do I just go as myself, and risk getting lost in the sea of other people who have decided to be Josh Weed for Halloween?

Decisions.

The most challenging part, though, is when people play coy. Like the other day at a coffee shop...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

This Man Discovered Five Ways to Know an Article is Total Link-Bait Crap (Before Clicking Through).

In this article I will share with you an awesome secret that will change your life and will make internet gurus hate you!*

Hi!

If you're anything like me, you spend a good deal of your life these days clicking on links you encounter on Facebook and other social media platforms and then wondering things like "why am I looking at this list of cereal from the 80's" or "I never knew there could be this many pets in vases" or "Did I *actually* think this list of '20 Characteristics all Confident People Share' would include tips beyond what my next door neighbor could have thought of when he was in 8th grade?

As I read through an article today about 50 ways to lose weight that included such educational gems as "eat more veggies" and "lift weights"(seriously, these were actual tips) I realized the truth.

I am wasting my life.

You are probably wasting yours too. And seriously, guys, we have to stop it.

I have devised this handy list to help us differentiate between stuff we should be spending our time on and articles that are constructed solely to get clicks.

These five tips are iron-clad, Jean-Claude Van Damme-intense, surefire, tried-and-true ways to make sure you don't end up wasting any more of your life reading stuff you could have thought up yourself if you did a five minute brainstorming session or had a camera in a zoo.

Ready?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Totally not weird or gay

I'd like to introduce you to my new friend:



This is Ben Shafer. 

He and I met a few of months ago when we were both performing Rob Gardner's "Lamb of God" (which is incredible, btw) in Tacoma. We hit it off immediately, and he was like "Josh I want to be your best friend ever" except he didn't actually say those words. Well, actually, he pretty much did say those exact words, but it wasn't upon meeting. It was waaaay later. Like that night after friending me on Facebook.

Question #1 for Ben was: are you a homosexual?

Though he wept like a bleating lamb while singing his solo for the performance, dresses like a True Live Seattle Hipster, and occasionally plays basketball dressed like this:



his answer was simple. "I love vaginas and breasts waaaaaay too much to be gay. But I really love gay people."

Pretty definitive.  

I find myself a little bit baffled by our friendship. I've had some really, really good friendships develop for me in the last couple of years. Guys who will probably be my friends to some degree or another for the rest of our lives. But Ben and I seem connected in a way I've never experienced before.

1. We both like ice cream. Seriously.
2. Neither one of us is color blind.
3. We both eat cereal in the morning.
4. We both like music.
5. We are both homo… sapiens.

I mean, need I go on? The connection should be pretty apparent…



No, but in all seriousness, it's been interesting to find a friend like Ben. So many of the things about myself that I have often felt weird about, or excluded from maleness because of, he exhibits. Shamelessly. It's just part of who he is, and he owns it. For example, he enjoys having deep conversations about relationships, philosophical concepts and religion for like, hours. Like, he prefers that to doing stuff. I've always been that way, and have always felt a little weird about it--like there were very few other guys out there like that. But being friends with him makes me feel way less weird, which is a nice feeling. Also, he also isn't afraid to share his feelings. Guys, I'm gay, and I'm terrified to share my feelings 80% of the time. It's interesting to have a friend who is so openly affectionate to those around him. It's good for me. Then there's all the other stuff, like that we are both musicians and our musical tastes are almost identical and we both write poetry and we both served in the same mission at the same time (though only met once for like five seconds) and our kids are similar ages and our senses of humor are complementary and we both have really cool wives (like really, his wife, Whitney, is amazing. She's also the Fruit Ninja's cousin. It's NBD).

I think what it comes down to is that sometimes you meet people that you just feel tailor-made to relate to. Sometimes you realize after you've met a person that there is a connection there. A connection that transcends time. A connection that…

Well, I think this expresses it best:




Yeah. Totally not weird or gay.*

I promise.

All kidding aside, I am curious to hear others' thoughts about friendship. Do you have a best friend (or multiple best friends) and if so, what are the things that keep you connected? Do you spend lots of time with your best friends, or is it a meet-up-every-year-like-no-time-has-passed situation? Are you closest friends with people that are really similar to you, or do you tend to be friends with people who are your opposite, thus keeping things interesting? When you get together with your best friends do you *do* stuff, or do you end up just hanging out? I'd genuinely love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

*Clarification: I actually am gay. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

This Post is Not About Fathers

Oh! Hi there!

Um, this is awkward isn't it? It's been a while. How are you doing? Good? How's your [sore body part of choice] feeling? Better now that you've gotten some rest? And your job? Going well? Sure hope so. Did your son/daughter finish learning how to do that thing he/she was trying to learn how to do since last I posted? I certainly hope so. Weather's nice, isn't it?

All right. Enough small talk.

Did you miss me?

I sure missed you.

Sorry I've been gone so long. I don't have a good excuse. But it all started when...