On Revising My Novel While Reading Meg Howrey’s ‘The Wanderers,’ or: Books Are Supposed to Make You Think and Feel, Right?

I read Meg Howrey’s The Wanderers last week. To say that it was a book that made me forget the rest of the world existed might be a little on the nose, if you know what the story’s about, but I haven’t been this fully absorbed by a book in… I don’t even know how long.

I’ve loved a lot of books this year; Jane Smiley’s Last Hundred Years Trilogy, Paul Auster’s 4 3 2 1, Ali Smith’s Autumn, Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others, and Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn stand out as some of my favorites. But in many cases I’m studying the language along with the story, which means I am both in the book and outside of it.

In The Wanderers‘ case I was all in.

I empathized with all of the characters—important, in a character-driven book—but felt the strongest pull towards Yoshi and Helen; with Helen, in particular, I felt like Howrey was writing truths about my own life that I was not yet ready to admit to myself.

But hey, it’s been a week. So here we go.

Mild spoilers, if you want to skip the rest of this post: Helen is an astronaut. She values her ability to perform complex tasks on command and knows that doing what she loves—that is, going to space—depends on her being able to function at top capacity at all times. This means discipline of body, of mind, and of emotions both internal and projected. Which is to say she cannot be misperceived, especially in public. Astronauts represent things, after all.

Helen is proud of her ability to maintain this discipline and geniality. The discipline, at least, comes naturally. If she had not become an astronaut she would have found another job that utilized similar skills.

I put the book down partway through—because I am also disciplined, and it was time to go to bed—and thought about how remarkable it was to be reading this story about a woman who has chosen a career that comes with certain requirements and constraints, is honest about what she has given up in order to work within those constraints, and admits that the choice is worth it.

It was also remarkable to finish the book and understand that Howrey had written a story about characters growing and changing and learning from each other without having to give up their discipline. This isn’t a story about uptight astronauts learning how to love before floating around in zero-gee soap-and-ketchup bubbles because it’s okay to be messy now, aren’t you glad we learned that?  (Not saying being messy is bad. Saying that’s the cliché.) This is a story of highly qualified people who do know how to love, who share an intense experience that teaches them how to be more specific with their love and with themselves.

I made the burndown chart for The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2 today. It’s divided into the following sections:

  • Revisions
  • Rewrites
  • Checks
  • Permissions
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Prep
  • Reviews
  • Publicity
  • Awards
  • Promos
  • Ads
  • Appearances
  • Longterm
  • Maybe

For the book to publish in May 2018, I need to get Revisions through Prep done by March, in addition to my writing and editing work at The Billfold and my work for other freelance clients.

I write about 40,000 freelance words a month and edit 40 pieces, which might not require the same discipline as an astronaut but certainly requires me to function at top capacity at all times. (Or, at least, never drop below 85%.) Part of me thinks this isn’t anything worth remarking on; don’t all careers assume that we’ll show up on time, ready to go?

But other people, when I mention what I do, tend to remark on it. Generally along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it.”

I do it the same way that Helen does it: discipline, skill, compartmentalization. (And, by this point, years of practice.)

I also know what I am giving up. Not necessarily to have this career, but definitely to do all of this and get The Biographies of Ordinary People ready for publication. To do all of this, get Biographies ready, and prioritize the exercise-nutrition-sleep required to do all of this and get Biographies ready means a lot of saying no—whether it’s out loud, or internally before anyone has even asked.

This is where I’m supposed to write something about how I feel a little badly, the way the characters in The Wanderers occasionally remember to say that they feel a little badly, about this choice.

But the truth is that I want it more than anything. I have structured my entire life to have this choice. My job is to be good enough to get to keep making this choice for as long as I can.

Now I do feel badly, because I’ve written something that is both true and could be perceived as callous or careerist or lacking love, and part of what I do—you knew I was going to bring this up—involves not being misperceived.

This is both the literal definition of writing and the more contemporary definition of not being disliked. I know that telling you something true about myself is actually more likely to make us feel connected to each other, but I also know that admitting that I avoid some types of typical everyday stuff in order to focus more fully on my work might make you feel disconnected from me.

I could try to reconnect us by saying that we all make choices like this; we choose what we want to move towards and we choose what we want to move away from. (Sometimes we wish we could move towards or away from something, but there are circumstances or obstacles preventing us.) But that runs the risk of being doubly misperceived; in this case, the assumption that I’m saying my choices are better.

They’re not. I’m writing this because I’m putting a lot of intense focus on my novel right now, so I’m very interested in the choices I’m making.

I’m also writing this because I know that other people like to read about how writers work, and this is how I do it.

Mostly I’m writing this because I can’t get The Wanderers out of my head.

Back to the revisions. The reason that I am fairly sure I can complete everything on that list by March—assuming I keep the health stats up—is because this part of the writing process is mostly about discipline. It’s about me thinking critically about my writing: Is it clear?  Is every word the best possible choice, within some kind of 80:20 Pareto Principle? (Knowing which words for sure need to be the best possible choice is also part of revision.) Do the characters move in understandable ways through the narrative?

The most difficult part of that checklist will be REWRITES, which is the list of scenes I need to either rewrite in full or create from scratch. That requires emotion and sense memory and a presence of mind that is very different from the part of me that thinks “is this person a minister or a pastor?”

Which means that for the next several months, I have to be ready to jump on REWRITES on the days that I feel most emotionally capable of doing them. I already know that I’ll only have certain times free to do REWRITES (and everything else on the list), and I’ve blocked those times off on my calendar the way you’re supposed to, and I’ve already told multiple people that I won’t be available on certain weekend days because I need them, a month from now, for Biographies.

This is part of what it means to structure your life to be able to make the choices I am currently making (and knowing what you’re giving up in the process, like being less available to family, friends, the non-profit at which I tutor, etc.).

I know this isn’t the only way to revise a book. But it’s the way I’ve figured out how to revise mine. This is the second book revision process I’ve ever done, and it’s different from a lot of other writers’ first because of the way Biographies is published and second because all writers are different. We aren’t all Helens, or Pearls, or Berts, or any of the other characters that have ever helped me understand myself.

(That’s a terrible way to wrap up this post, though. Let’s revise it.)

I do want to be more specific with my love, and with myself, and with my work. I could tell you, if I weren’t coming to the end of this post, about the time I did an intensive class with Anne Bogart and learned how very specific a person could be when telling a story—and how much work it takes. (And how much love.)

And specificity requires choice, which means saying no to something in order to say yes to something else.

And now I will admit, honestly, that I do feel regret—or, more specifically, disappointment that I cannot be everything to everyone, that I am failing both them and my ideal version of myself—about the things I say no to. Right in this moment, as I write this, of course I do. ❤️

Photo credit: Ian D. Keating, CC BY 2.0.

This Week in Self-Publishing: The Revision Process Starts Tomorrow

This Week

Books sold:  4 ebooks, 1 paperback (at Readerfest)

Money earned: $10.67

Money spent: $0


Books sold: 222 ebooks, 135 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,077.31

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $4,767.71

As promised, I went through Mint, figured out exactly how much I had spent on publishing and promoting The Biographies of Ordinary People thus far, and updated the “money spent” metric. I had left out a few travel expenses, as I suspected.

Still, I’m in the black! (Pre-tax, anyway. Also, I need to set up a meeting with my accountant to figure out how book sales will affect my taxes.)

I don’t have a lot to share this week; I’m still working on getting those last promos set up, and I’m going to start revising Volume 2 tomorrow. My goal for this weekend is to knock out all of the copyediting notes I left for myself in the printed copy of Vol. 2 (see above) and to create a burndown chart listing every additional revision and rewrite I have to complete, along with everything else I’ll need to get done before I publish the book next spring.

(When do I need to submit for awards? When do I need to launch the pre-order? Etc.)

It’ll be a lot of work, which is why I set aside several weekends to get the revisions done, and will no doubt set aside several more weekends in 2018 to get the prep and promo work done.

But I’ll keep you posted on my progress. ❤️

Thoughts on Disneyland

I’ve always been the kind of person who feels emotion through stories. This isn’t to say that I don’t experience more immediate emotions, but that the two best ways for me to process my emotions are by thinking and writing or by thinking and reading. 

So when I thought of where I wanted to go on vacation—a vacation that I decided to book because I thought of the part in Ballet Shoes where Pauline says “we need a holiday, the other two are crying,” which is to say that I thought of that part instead of crying myself, and then read the entirety of Ballet Shoes to process that emotion—there was only one place I wanted to go. It might have been the only place in the world that would have counted as a vacation for me, and by the end of this you’ll know why.

I had a friend who once said that if you go to a new place by yourself, you’ll understand yourself better. I went to Disneyland alone because I hadn’t gone to a new place by myself in a very long time. I hadn’t taken a vacation that was just me in years. I’m lucky to have family and friends to visit, or to go places with, but this time I needed to go somewhere by myself.

I wanted to see who I was, as my former friend put it, when I was somewhere else.

I also went to Disneyland alone so I could take as long as I wanted to look at things.

Of course I was going to Disneybound, because I love dressing up and because there’s always something fun in perusing a group of characters—or wizard boarding school houses—and deciding which one of them is most like you.

When I was very young I imagined myself as Alice; once the Disney Princesses became a thing everyone assumed I was Belle, because she liked books, even though I more strongly identified with Ariel, who decided what she wanted and made the necessary sacrifices to go after it.

But I don’t feel like Alice or any of the Princesses, anymore. I’m not dreaming of a different life, or going to the ball for the first time. I’ve been to the ball, I’ve worn the dresses, I’ve had the kisses. (I’ve read the part of War and Peace that describes that phase of life as a brief moment that only some people get and been sad because it doesn’t last forever; I’ve thought about it later and felt happy that I had it at all.)

Now I am a thirty-five-year-old bespectacled spinster who is focused on improving her craft, which is why I Disneybounded as Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ Eglantine Price.

Which, by the way, no one recognized except one person on Instagram.

I remember not liking Bedknobs and Broomsticks as a child because it was mostly about adults. Now I’m exactly the right age for it. I love that Eglantine’s “I want” song—which was cut from the film, but it’s on the soundtrack—is actually a “keep trying” song, because she’s at a point in her life where she doesn’t have to wish that she lived in a different town or with a different species or whatever. Instead, she wants the same thing I do: to get better at what she does.

And… she does end up at a ball, eventually. Wearing a gray suit with box pleats. (If there’s one thing that should have given my Disneybound away, it was finding a gray dress that had box pleats. I had to scroll through so many Amazon listings.)

I paid the $10 extra (per day) with my tickets not for the MaxPass part, but for PhotoPass. I know how to take selfies that make me look like the vision of myself I have in my head; I wanted to see how the Disney photographers would view me.

That’s about right. I squint when I smile, and I look more boxy when I’m not leaning forward to do the “head slightly bigger than it should be because we’re used to seeing those proportions in art” look. (Or the “drop the jaw to make your face less square” look.)

I’m less pretty when I don’t craft my own photographs, in the same way that I’m less engaging when I’m not writing something or talking on a podcast. It is disheartening to pay $10 (per day) to know this, but I came to Disneyland to understand myself, which means understanding how I appear to others.

On the plane ride over, I sat in front of a mother and her two children (the dad sat across the aisle). The kids wanted to touch and look at everything; they wanted to talk constantly; they didn’t want to sit down even after their parents and the flight attendant told them, multiple times, that the plane was about to land.

I thought of myself at that age. I liked to look at things, and I’d been taught not to touch things, and if my parents had told me to sit down and be quiet I would have sat quietly and thought about things. (I spent so much time, as a little kid, sitting quietly and thinking.) It occurred to me—and this assumption may be completely wrong—that these kids experienced the world externally and I experienced it internally.

I’m not sure I know what experiencing the world externally is like. I do know that’s one of the reasons I wanted to go to Disneyland instead of, say, staying home and reading another book—or even, like, going to a national park, because that’s another place that would prompt me to be quiet and think about things.

Going to Disneyland engages the entire body, all the senses, and—as I found out—every single emotion. You can climb things, you can fall, you can walk for miles, you can hug characters or sing along with the Dapper Dans, you can be sprayed with water or doused with scents, you can buy a slice of pineapple that is so juicy that a stranger to whom you’ve just started talking will get up from the table and bring you a stack of napkins.

The thing that bothers me about the Disneyland renovations is the way they lose some of this engagement by removing the rider from the center of the story. Take the Alice in Wonderland reno, for example; the original ride was constructed as if the rider was seeing the world through Alice’s eyes—or, more specifically, through their own eyes, imagining themselves as Alice. (Or, if they were the kind of child I was, imagining themselves as themselves, in Wonderland.)

The renovated ride asks the rider to watch Alice. It’s a three-dimensional movie, made explicit by the loops of Alice animation that weave between the animatronic cards and flowers.

The Pirates reno, although it keeps some of the first-person-POV by having characters address the riders directly, no longer allows riders to build their own interpretation of what they’re experiencing. It’s the strongest memory I have from my first trip through Pirates of the Caribbean—arguably the strongest memory of that entire Disney visit. The two drops, and then the ride opening up into this space that felt like I was inside a dream. The lights weren’t bright enough, and the scenes kept changing. (I would later learn that this dream sensation was, perhaps, Disney’s intent.)

Now it’s about spotting the Pirates of the Caribbean characters. You don’t get to fill in the gaps with yourself, because they’ve all been filled in with Jack Sparrow.

Here’s my other thought about Pirates of the Caribbean: they’re removing the “buy a bride” auction scene and replacing it with a scene in which pirates with guns—including the infamous Redhead—force townspeople to “surrender their loot.”

So they’ve removed fat-shaming, lust, and subjugation of women and replaced it with… armed robbery! But hey, the Redhead has agency now? (Arguably she had agency before; it’s clear that she’s making her own choices in that bride auction scene.)

It’s hard for me to read the claims that Disney no longer wanted children to see the bride auction and think that buying/selling/leering at women was okay, because the inverse is “but we’re fine with them thinking that threatening people with guns is okay.” Pirates has slowly stripped away all of its non-Johnny-Depp sexiness, including a number of scenes involving dubious consent, but there’s still an extraordinary amount of violence; at one point the pirates burn down an entire town, and I’m pretty sure none of the residents consented to that.

I don’t even bother with the renovated Star Tours.

My favorite ride, officially, is Mr. Toad. The first time I rode it I was expecting to be safely pulled away from every danger at the last minute, the way rides (and stories) usually worked; learning that the ride actually killed you and sent you to Hell—and this is a first-person-POV ride, you are not watching Mr. Toad from a distance—was as formative an experience as seeing the Narrator get killed in Into the Woods.

I ride Mr. Toad again and again because when I was young I didn’t know stories could do that. I keep worrying that they’ll renovate it, or tear it down.

I brought three pennies to Snow White’s Wishing Well, because I was thinking about how many pennies I could bring, all the wishes I might want to make, and then I decided that three seemed like the only fair number.

And yes, I took my wishes very seriously. I don’t believe in magic but I do believe that people can create magic, which is to say they can imbue items or people or experiences with meaning. They can imagine, to borrow what seems to be the theme, something more—and then it exists.

I stood across from a woman who crossed herself after she tossed in her coins, and it was comforting to know that she and I both, as the Disney T-shirts like to put it, believed.

I dropped my first coin, and I will not tell you what I wished for but I will tell you that it came true instantly. (Think of The Magician King, and Asmodeus asking for a scar to be healed.) I dropped the second coin, and we’ll see what happens with that. I dropped the third one, and it hit a metal bar at the center of the well and made a noise like The Price Is Right trombone sound, which is to say it sounded nothing like that at all, but I knew that wish would probably not come true.

It was the kind of wish that relied on someone else’s actions, anyway. Maybe you can’t make those kinds of wishes in a well that you only believe is magic because you’ve decided to believe it is magic. (Or, at least, more important than other wells.) Maybe the best wishes for that kind of well are the ones wished on yourself and your own actions, since you’re already in the position to believe they’ll come true.

When I read the news the next morning I thought that of course I should have wished that we wouldn’t have a nuclear war. (If I’d read the news two days later I probably would have felt guilty for not wishing that we would have fewer devastating hurricanes and wildfires—or that we would successfully prevent future damage, and mitigate the damage done by, global climate change.)

I spent my second day at the park, when I remembered to check, scanning the ground for dropped pennies. I figured if I found one, it could count as a bonus wish—but I never did.

A short list of Disney Magic:

  • Discovering the Rose Court Garden and sitting in the wedding gazebo
  • Everything about the Grand Californian Hotel, from the architecture to the lounge pianist
  • Walking into the park at 8:05 a.m. and feeling like I was one of the only people there
  • Hearing Maynard give the safety instructions in the Tiki Room
  • Eating my first Dole Whip
  • Stopping to listen to the Disneyland Band and watching the very precise drum major
  • Walking into the perspective shift at Toontown
  • Coming around the curve on the Storybook Land canal boats and seeing a near-full moon
  • Walking through Pixie Hollow after dark and catching the Matterhorn, perfectly framed, between two blades of grass
  • Riding the Jungle Cruise after dark
  • Riding Peter Pan’s Flight for the first time and being once again amazed at the way Disney can blend both story and craft while still leaving enough space for emotion and imagination; I love Mr. Toad but Peter Pan’s Flight might be the one perfect ride currently in the park, in terms of what it provides and what it asks of the rider

And of course as soon as I say that Peter Pan’s Flight is perfect I remember that the way the film presents Native people isn’t that great, and even though that song isn’t in the ride it’s still part of Peter Pan—and when my gondola swung by the cliff where the Native chief was drumming, my imagination briefly dropped out so I could think “fuck, that song.”

I also don’t know how to emotionally respond to Small World; I spent the entire ride alternating between optimism, fear that our various political leaders would not heed the song’s message (which reminded me that I needed to look for that penny), and a feeling called are they seriously flying on magic carpets?

I’ve been to Walt Disney World, but I love Disneyland best. It’s small enough that you feel like you can know it, the whole thing; in two days you can do everything you want and still have time to ride your favorite rides twice.

One of the reasons I booked this vacation is that I kept thinking that if I won some big prize or a bunch of money, or met a magician who would sing about my charms while pushing me around on a library ladder, I would go to Disneyland. Then I decided I didn’t have to wait for someone else to give me a reason to go.

In two days, I did everything I wanted.

The second time I rode Pirates I sat in front of two parents who were enacting the familiar familial bitch: you should have done this, I told you I did, well I would have done it this way, and so on.

When we went into the tunnel, and everything became dark, I heard the woman say “this is Mommy’s favorite ride.”

I didn’t turn around to look at who she was talking to. For all I know, it could have been an infant. But it could have been a young child like me: sitting quietly, taking it all in, and thinking about it.

I left Disneyland feeling like I’d had all my emotions, all the way through, to the end. (I know the word for this is catharsis, and it is literally the Aristotelian goal of storytelling. Disney is really good at what it does.)

We don’t get to have emotions to their end very much anymore. I didn’t realize it until I opened Twitter and was hit with rising blips of FEAR! INDIGNATION! ANGER! SHAME! that changed as fast as I could read.

But being in Disney was like dreaming, both in the “lights too low, flowing between scenes” sense and the “clear all the gunk out of your brain” sense.

I left Disneyland in a state that was beyond happiness. Full and empty; satiated and clear-headed. (Also, sunburned. Despite multiple sunscreen reapplications.)

And yes, I know myself a little better now.

I hope you do too. ❤️

This Week in Self-Publishing: Starting the Next Round of Promos

This Week

Books sold: 7 ebooks, 0 paperbacks

Money earned: $16.56

Money spent: $16 (on a Fussy Librarian promo)


Books sold: 222 ebooks, 134 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1077.31

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $4,290.85

I’m trying a new way of sharing metrics this week! Hope it makes things a little clearer. I know the “money spent” metric is still a little off, because I forgot to add in bus tickets to the Portland reading and Lyft rides to airports for the Missoula reading. I’m going to go into Mint and get a better “money spent” number for next Friday.

This month, my goal is to set up book promos with four sites: Fussy Librarian, BookSends, Reading Deals, and Manybooks.

Here are the requirements and costs for each:

Fussy Librarian

  • Must have at least 10 Amazon reviews with a 4-star average
  • Must be priced under $5.99 (does not have to be on sale)
  • Costs $16 for a literary fiction book


  • Must have at least 5 Amazon reviews “with a high overall average”
  • Must have an attractive cover
  • Must be on sale for less than $3 and at least 50% off full price
  • Cannot previously have been on sale for a lower price
  • Costs $20 for a literary fiction book on sale for $0.99
  • Costs $30 for a literary fiction book on sale at $1.99 (but they don’t always accept $1.99 books and prefer lower sale prices)

Reading Deals

  • Must have at least 5 Amazon reviews with a 4-star average
  • Must have an attractive cover
  • Must be on sale for at least 33% off full price
  • Costs $29


  • Must have at least 10 Amazon reviews with a 4-star average
  • Must have an attractive cover
  • Must be on sale for at least 50% off full price
  • Cannot have been on sale for a lower price in the past three months
  • Costs $29

Since Fussy Librarian doesn’t require a sale price, I can schedule it to stand on its own; then I can run a week-long sale and stack the BookSends/Reading Deals/Manybooks promos one after the other.

You might be asking “what about BookBub? Isn’t it the biggest and best promo site of them all?” Here’s my answer:


  • Must be on sale for at least 50% off full price
  • Cannot have been on sale for a lower price in the past 90 days
  • Must pass a selection process that favors books with quality reader reviews (which I have), quality industry reviews (which I have) and recognizable accolades like awards or bestseller status (which I don’t have)
  • Costs $580 for a literary fiction book on sale at $0.99
  • Costs $1,000 for a literary fiction book on sale at $1.99

So… yeah. I know that I can, in theory, get BIG REWARDS from a BookBub promo. But I don’t think I have an accolade that’ll hook ’em, and while I have both $580 and $1,000 I’m not sure I’m ready to invest it yet.

Like, way better to wait until after I get that accolade, right? Because they put all that emphasis on “books that have earned rewards or bestseller status or famous blurbs perform significantly better than books that haven’t?”

Which means my current plan is to save BookBub for next spring after I know whether I’ve won any of the awards to which I’ve applied. It might even be smart to save BookBub until after Volume 2 releases, so readers who love Volume 1 can immediately buy the second one.

I’ll still be able to do the “stacked promo” technique with the other promo sites too, since the “can’t have been on sale in the past three months” limit will have worn off by then.

On the subject of Volume 2: I’m doing Readerfest this weekend, but I’ve blocked off the following three weekends just for revisions. I know it’ll take more than just three weekends to revise and rework Volume 2, but I have a burndown chart of everything that needs to be addressed and I’m going to see how much I can get through in that time.

I can definitely knock out all the piddly stuff; the copyediting and consistency notes I made on my first revision pass-through, the fact-checking, etc. Ideally, by the end of these three weekends, the only major revisions left will be the handful of scenes that need expanding or reworking.

Which will be the hardest part.

Which is why I’ve given myself three months in which to get ’em done.

Part of me is like “you’ll totally be able to finish your revisions by the end of 2016, and even if you don’t, you’ve got January and February as overflow months before you need to do the final proof and send it off for formatting (and then do the final final proofread).”


And, really, I have no idea what will happen. I only have a good guess based on the way I’ve been able to get things done so far.

Also, I really really really really want to revise this book by the end of the year, which is the best kind of motivator. (For me. Your motivational tools may differ. I tend to work the hardest on the things I want the most, which… wow, I feel like I could write a whole post on what that means, and how I’ve constructed my life to make that kind of work possible, and the privilege/discipline/logistics/knowledge of self involved. DO YOU WANT A POST ABOUT KNOWLEDGE OF SELF because I could do that.)

Anyway, that is this week’s update, and I gotta go do the rest of my Friday work for my freelance clients now! As always: ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

Seattle readers: I’ll be at Readerfest THIS SATURDAY

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

I wanted to give you an update about Readerfest, Seattle’s newest book festival! Here are the deets:

  • Saturday, September 9
  • 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • The Brig & Amphitheater at Magnuson Park in Seattle (6344 NE 74th Street, Seattle, WA 98115)
  • Authors, musicians, storytellers, theater, crafts, vendors, AND PROBABLY MORE
  • FREE

Here are the deets specific to me:

  • At noon, I’ll be part of the “What Makes a Story ‘Literary’ Fiction” panel, with authors Nancy Kress and Spencer Ellsworth.
  • At 1 p.m., I’ll be at the Big Booksigning—so come get your book signed, or if you already have your book signed, just come say hey!
  • At 3 p.m., I’ll be part of the “My Path to Publication” panel, with former Seattle youth poet laureate Angel Gardner and author Robyn Bennis.

In between those panels, I’ll probably… be listening to other panels? Jammin’ to the music? USING THE TOILET? (Definitely that last one.) If you see me around, feel free to introduce yourself. I am ready to hang and chat.

The best thing I wrote in the past week… or more like the past month… was this big project with Reviews.com in which I researched over 100 meal replacement shakes—and taste-tested 13 of them—in order to determine The Best Meal Replacement Shake of 2017. During this process, I… um… fell in love with Huel. (I KNOW, I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD BE A SHAKE PERSON.)

I could go into detail about my food habits (I like eating the same thing every day) and my digestive system (see “USING THE TOILET,” above) but all I need to say is that if you come to Readerfest you’ll probably see me drinking Huel for lunch.

The best thing I read in the past week was Elle Beau’s #Poonique Story, a 15-chapter saga about getting recruited by a MLM, going all in, and getting out. It’s honest, hilarious, and provides an inside look at the manipulative techniques MLMs use to keep their salespeople invested both emotionally and financially.

Thanks for reading. ❤️

This Week in Self-Publishing: The Second BargainBooksy Promo

Patreon revenue (total): $6,909

Book revenue (total): $1,060.75

Book sales (total): 215 ebooks, 134 paperbacks

Book expenses (total): $4,274.85

Money spent this week: $0

(I think it’s time to restructure these metrics again because all those parentheses are getting confusing.)

I’m going to keep this week’s update short so I can get everything I need to get done DONE before the long weekend:

My second BargainBooksy promo ran on Sunday, and it went pretty much exactly as I predicted. I sold enough books to earn back the cost of the promo—14 ebooks times $2.67 in royalties equals $37.38, and the promo cost $35—but I didn’t sell as much as I did during my first BargainBooksy promotion.

Interestingly, those 14 sales got me to #31,807 in all of Amazon, and #226 in my category:

Which, as Pronoun emailed to remind me, meant I was in the top 8%:

This was on fourteen sales, y’all.

But hey, I earned back my investment! As soon as I get back from vacation, I’m going to start submitting to the big promo sites and planning one of those stacked promo things where I’m on a new site every day for a week.

I’ve heard that’s how to get your ebook to #1 in your category.

I wonder how many sales that would take.

This Week in Self-Publishing: On Medium Claps and Climate Change

Patreon revenue (total): $6,909

Book revenue (total): $913.75

Book sales (total): 201 ebooks, 134 paperbacks

Book expenses (total): $4,274.85

Money spent this week: $35 (on this month’s BargainBooksy promo)

It’s been a month since my first BargainBooksy promo, which means I’m eligible to BargainBooksy again. The promo goes live on Sunday, so I’m predicting a spike in sales over Sunday-Monday-Tuesday, but I’m going to bet that it will be a slightly smaller spike than I got with the first promo, because… a lot of BargainBooksy’s readers will have already seen the book when it promo’d last month, and the people who bought the book aren’t likely to buy it again.

What about the people who didn’t buy the book during the first promo? There’s this theory that showing people something more than once makes them more likely to buy it—which is why we’ve all got products following us from one sidebar ad to another—but there’s also the FUCK YES or NO theory, which suggests that people who have already said no to my book aren’t likely to say yes to it.

Who knows? I am excited to see what happens.

And now that my website is all built and I’m lookin’ all profesh, I am excited to start submitting to some of the more exclusive promo sites.

That’ll be next month.

So I didn’t plan to transition This Week in Self-Publishing away from Medium right as they introduced the claps thing, but… I am so glad I don’t have to deal with the claps thing.

A quick summary: Medium decided to junk its former “recommend” metric and is now ranking all articles (past and present) based on the number of claps they receive.

Yes, an individual reader can tap the clap button more than once (but not more than fifty times).

No, not all claps are equal. Medium will rank some clappers’ claps as clappier than others’ claps based on how often they clap and how many claps they clap:

Our system will evaluate your claps on an individual basis, assessing your evaluation of a story relative to the number of claps you typically send. All this will help the stories that matter most rise to the top.

I think the clap system is crap. Especially the part where Medium is going to start distributing writers’ pay based on clap value:

For the creators in the program, each month you will be paid based on the level of engagement your stories get from Medium members. Essentially, we look at the engagement of each individual member (claps being the primary signal) and allocate their monthly subscription fee based on that engagement.

Which puts writers in the embarrassing position of having to make like Allison Williams in Peter Pan Live! 

Not that this is all that different from the way Kindle Unlimited divides up its pie. But it feels different. With KU, authors get paid by the number of pages read, which—although there are plenty of ways people have tried to game that system—is a fairly straightforward metric. You either keep reading or you don’t.

With Medium Claps, a binary metric (recommend/don’t recommend) becomes a… um… fiftynary metric.

Either you clap once or you don’t.

Either you clap twice or you don’t.

Either you clap three times or you don’t.


You could argue that it’s the same as “either you turn page one or you don’t, either you turn page two or you don’t,” but the clapper doesn’t get anything from additional claps, the way the reader gets more information/entertainment/story/emotion from additional page turns.

Medium’s asked all of us to do more work, and make more decisions, for nothing.

Which is why I’m glad that it happened right when I started this-here blog.

On a completely different topic, I was very interested to read the Seattle Review of Books’ review of Amitav Ghosh’s Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable.

As Jonathan Hiskes writes:

In The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, Ghosh examines why contemporary fiction struggles so mightily to respond to climate change. The title phrase explains how future historians will regard writers and literary tastemakers of our current era, Ghosh says. The sort of fiction that wins prizes, appears in literary journals, and draws invitations from high-minded festivals acts as if climate warning signs don’t exist. Merely mentioning the subject risks being relegated to the lower-prestige world of science fiction, as if “climate change were somehow akin to extraterrestrials or interplanetary travel.”

If you’ve read The Biographies of Ordinary People, you know that I make plenty of subtle references to climate change. A book that anchors itself to specific years and seasons needs to allude to steadily warming temperatures and winters without snow.

But I also left some stuff out. Back to the SROB:

Ghosh became an accomplished, celebrated novelist, and he wondered why he never drew from the tornado in his fiction, which frequently incorporates significant weather events. He concluded that it was too improbable. Serious contemporary fiction, he realized, relies on a pact with readers that they can expect a “realistic” world.

My hometown was one of the towns affected by the Great Flood of 1993, a 500-year-flood that happened sooner than expected. When I wrote Biographies, I time-jumped over 1993 on purpose; writing the flood would require me to put my imagined Kirkland, Missouri in a specific part of the state and formally link it to my actual hometown, which was not one of my goals with this book. (You did read the Author’s Note, right?)

So I kept the climate change and cut the flood.

And the tornado.

I guess that means they’re still there for me to write about someday, if I want to. ❤

Registration is open for my Hugo House class on how to manage—and grow—your freelance income!

Registration just opened for my newest Hugo House class, “How to Manage—and Grow—Your Freelance Income.”

This is a one-session course on Saturday, October 7, from 1:00–4:00 p.m. It’ll be held at Hugo House in Seattle, and although all students are welcome, it is specifically designed for writers who have started their freelance career (full or part-time) and are looking to increase their income.

Here’s the official class description:

To build a successful freelance writing career, you need to learn how to both manage and grow your income. This means tracking your current income, knowing how much work you need to book in order to hit short- and long-term income goals, and budgeting for both high and low cash-flow months. This course will look at the mechanics of freelance income management, and students will leave with spreadsheet templates to help them track and grow their own freelance earnings.

I’ve been publicly tracking my freelance income since 2012, and I’ve grown my income by $20K each year for the past two years, so… I have some experience with this. 😉

Early Bird pricing is in effect through August 28, which means prices are currently $70.10 for Hugo House members and $79.00 for non-members. After that, prices will go up to $80.10 and $89.00, respectively.

My classes have hit capacity before, so sign up now if you’re interested! Leave any questions in the comments, and I hope to see you there!

If I didn’t start a blog to share quotes like this, then what is a blog even FOR

The thing about Twitter is that no one who uses it needs an explanation of why it is the worst. It is an endlessly self-renewing bonfire of outrage and confusion, and in order to sustain that bonfire it converts bullshit into fuel in a way that makes the 24-hour news cycle look prim and ascetic. As Erin Gloria Ryan tweeted the day after Charlottesville, “Twitter is great because it makes you feel like you are always right in the middle of the worst thing currently happening in the world.” Even when nothing much is happening, that is its purpose: to swing like the flaming eye of Sauron onto whatever fresh outrage it can find, and direct the dread orc-legions of Mordor to converge on it.

We are all orcs, in this simile.

But in the aftermath of something genuinely traumatic like the twin horrors of Charlottesville and then the press conference, we forget our mistrust of Twitter and hang onto it like Nicholas Cage clinging to the top of the careening fire truck at the end of Con Air. It’s all we have, and that includes people who work for the government. Let’s be clear: civil servants don’t receive some top-secret email blast from the NSA giving them the straight dope on whatever’s going on—even the NSA was checking Twitter during Charlottesville, and they found out about the press conference the same way everyone else did, and with the same gathering horror everyone else did.

Sam Ashworth, from his Rumpus essay Dispatches From the Swamp: Storm’s Coming.

Photo credit: Dolan, CC BY 2.0.