“We make time for the things we want to make time for.”

Someone with a more extensive knowledge of quotes than I have probably knows the source of those words, but a wise friend once said it to me about writing, and it always comes back to me when I’m not moving as quickly as I’d like to with whatever I’m working on writing-wise.

This first month of school has been trying on absolutely every level. Completely by choice, I left behind a job I loved at a school I loved, kids I adored, and the comfort that comes with being in charge of my surroundings (at least as much as a teacher is ever in control of her surroundings.) In changing things up, I’ve struggled mightily with the level of preparation I need to do daily and weekly for a subject I’ve never taught, and also with not knowing the lay of the land at my new school. On top of that, I have about 125 new humans to get to know from top to bottom, and since my focus is “at-risk” kiddos, I have issues and personalities to deal with that vary so widely, and are sometimes so challenging, that I barely make it to 2:15 before I lock my door behind them and cry. I wish that was an exaggeration.

The first 17 days of school have felt like 712 days, and I’ve been so physically drained that I’ve had moments where I felt like I needed to drop to my knees on the spot or risk throwing up what little food I’d had time to eat that day. I’ve gone to bed around 8:30 every night (this is strange for me, as I’m a night owl who thinks any bedtime before 10:30 or 11 is ridiculous for a grown-up), and on many nights I’ve simply cried myself to sleep. This has felt more like being a first year teacher than a fourth year teacher. And then yesterday happened.

Maybe Day 17 of a new teaching job is akin to that first postpartum day when you finally stop teetering between physical pain and exhaustion, and heart-wrenching love for your newborn. That day when you actually move through the paces of your new, changed life without once lamenting the things you’ve left behind, and without once bawling over a song on the radio. Luckily for me, my wonderful husband has been teaching high school four times as long as I have, and he comes up with ideas just off-the-cuff that seem like nothing to him, but are like mini epiphanies for me. “How about we go to Toys R Us and buy a bunch of board games, and you make Friday ‘Strategy Game’ day?” No big deal for him, HUGE deal for me. I busted out the board games yesterday and watched in awe as kids who normally don’t speak to each other got together over intense games of Jenga and checkers. A group of boys who give me heartburn when I’m up in front of the room asked me to play Apples to Apples with them, and we sat down and had an awesome time together. My usual lunch time crowd is about two kids (at my old job I always had a full house during lunch), but then yesterday all of a sudden I had…13. Then two girls who’ve been really hard to get to know came to me at separate points during the day, in tears over totally different things, just wanting “someone who would listen, and you know, you’re pretty cool.” And just like that, I started to win.

This is the first weekend since well before school started that I feel even somewhat relaxed, even with needing to go in to school and plan a few things for the week ahead. I no longer feel like the new teacher in front of a roomful of strangers, and this has given my heart some peace so that I can unclench a little bit and behave like the old me. So, while I’ve wanted to make time for writing each and every day, I’ve had plenty of other things to keep me away from it. And really, after giving and giving all day long, what’s left to give? At least at this point I’m finally starting to draw some energy from them as opposed to just giving it, which in turn allows me to come home and carve out a small space in my day for my own passions. I wrote this week, and I’ll write more this weekend, and slowly–on hands and knees–I’ll drag myself to the place where I can make time (and find energy) for the things I want to make time for!

What I’m working on now.

Other than surviving the first month of school (which is a whole other story for a different time), I’m trying to finish the first draft of my current work-in-progress. About six years ago I wrote a traditional romance and shopped that around. At the time I got a decent response. There was some positive feedback, and lots of, “The centerpiece of the story needs to be the romance itself, but instead you incorporate a really interesting location and secondary characters, which makes it not just traditional ‘romance’…” And that was fine. Getting a personal letter back from Harlequin with an invitation to submit future works was pretty exciting, but I’ve never been hung up on just writing romance (as I don’t really read straight romance), so I took a moment to appreciate the feedback, and then I moved on.

I’ve re-visited this story a few times over the past six years, coming back again and again to the fact that I really liked the place and I wanted to explore the potential of the other characters more. The setting is a fictional island in the Florida Keys called Christmas Key, and the residents are mostly retirees with interesting backstories (think “The Golden Girls” meets “Cocoon”), but the mayor of the island is a thirty-year-old single woman whose grandparents bought the land and devoted the last years of their lives to developing it. I’ve got ideas for about five books in this series, and I’m closing in on the completion of book one’s first draft, and I’m getting ready to share it with my first readers for feedback and input. This is the time with any story where I get antsy and ready to put it out there so I can start thinking about changes and revisions. It’s also the point where I question whether anyone but me is going to enjoy what I’ve written!

I’m also toying with the idea of entering this book in the Kindle Scout publishing program, which is essentially a crowdsourced form of publishing. My impression is that it’s a fairly new option, but the gist of it is that you submit a complete work with a cover, and then people can vote on books that they’d like to see in print. If your book is selected (through the most votes/support), you get a deal of sorts with Amazon, and while the royalty rate is a bit lower than when you do it totally solo, you get the opportunity for more visibility via Amazon’s advertising and promotion. I don’t really see the downside at this point (unless it was going to become a breakaway hit that would net me millions on my own), as the rights revert to the author under certain circumstances, and you retain the rights to various publishing options. Anyway, I’m still exploring that and reading up on it, so get ready for me to implore you to vote for my book if I decide to go that route. Honestly, I still view writing and being able to get my words out there as a pretty freaking awesome and fun thing, so really, at this point it’s all gravy!

I am looking for some first readers who would be willing to give honest, constructive feedback, so if you’re into that sort of thing and you think that women’s fiction set on a tropical island sounds like a fun read, shoot me an email–I’d love your help! redbirdsandrabbits@gmail.com

Now I need to go and plan what I’m doing with my juniors and seniors in English class this week, because…errr…I still have a day job!