Holy Crap. I Wrote a Book.

I seriously searched for like half an hour, just trying to find ONE gif or ONE Youtube clip that showed Leslie Knope on Parks & Recreation in the episode “Win, Lose, or Draw” when she goes to vote for herself on the City Councilman ballot. You know, that moment she goes and fulfills her lifelong dream, no big deal.

Unfortunately, the internet failed me and I came up short. So if you’re seen the episode, you’ll just have to reimagine the heartwarming-to-the-point-of-tears moment in your mind. And if you’re not familiar with the show, well, this analogy is probably lost on you (a fate you deserve for not watching this amazing show, I might add). That said, I think you probably still get the gist. Today, honestly and without fail, feels like one of the most significant days of my life. Granted, I know I’ve only been walking this earth for 24.5 years, but still. That’s some meaningful ish.

Today is the official launch day of Terra.
The book that I wrote.

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I wrote a book.
A REAL book.
Like, with pages (real and digital) and words that form sentences and an “About the Author” section that pays homage to my obsession with my dogs.
This is so flippin’ weird. In the best POSSIBLE way, of course.

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Because I didn’t “just” write a book. I wrote it, and then I sought out the help and expertise I needed to craft it into something amazing. Something I honestly could not be more proud of. Something I truly believe others will enjoy, definitely like, and maybe even love. And then I went on to publish it, to make some sordid attempts to market it, and here we are. Right here, right now. And yes, that is a High School Musical 3 song reference. You’re welcome.

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If you creep on my writing blog, you might have seen that I actually soft-launched the book yesterday, to ensure that everything was up and functional in time for today. And even though I got a lot of awesome encouragement from the few people who picked up an early copy yesterday, I knew that things wouldn’t feel REAL until today. Until I wrote this post. Until I made all the announcements, did my happy/disbelief dance, and got to say offically–OFFICIALLY–that my book is published. And that I am an author.

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See, I’m not what you’d call a finisher. Oh, sure, I’m a great starter. I’ve got ideas and ambitions and things I want to try coming out the wazoo. I want to do and be EVERYTHING: painter, singer, public speaker, successful entrepreneur, photographer, blogger, writer, fashion model, makeup artist. The list goes on and on… and on. But all most of those things have ever amounted to is entirely too much money wasted on supplies/equipment I no longer use, and many, many, MANY unfinished projects. That’s just how I’ve always been. A kickstarter with no follow-through. I’ve got ALL THE HOBBIES, I’ve been in and out of jobs since I graduated from college–I even switched majors halfway through… To be honest, writing this blog is the only endeavor I’ve actually taken on that I’ve stuck with for any significant length of time. So I guess credit where credit’s due, because evidently along with all my self-awareness and self-reflection and general musings up in here, I’ve also learned a little bit about perseverance. Go figure.

This is my book’s launch day. THIS, finally, is a deadline that I have met. For maybe the first time in my entire life, I did something I said I was going to do. I said I would write & publish a book by December 2012, and I did. I actually did it. And that, right there, is an amazing thing. Regardless of whether tons of people end up buying my book, regardless of whether anyone even likes it, I did what I set out to do. And I literally have never been more proud of myself. Not when I lost those first pounds, not when I got under 200-pounds for the first time since high school, not when I ran a relay across Massachusetts. No, this.

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I feel like I’ve been sprinting towards this very day for the past 6 months (not to mention the whole 24 years prior to that), so to say that I’m having some difficulties in processing the fact that the book is ACTUALLY PUBLISHED… well, it’s putting it lightly. Well, perhaps difficulty isn’t the right word to use, but I kind of used up all of my words when I spent 83,512 on my novel (yep, that’s the final word count. Crazy, right?) so you’ll have to forgive me. Really, the only thing that’s difficult about what is pretty much single-handedly the most exciting time of my life, is that I keep bursting into tears at random intervals as I write this post, and it’s making it rather hard to keep my train of thought on track.

Don’t worry, they’re happy tears. The happiest, really. The I-can’t-believe-I-made-it kind. The kind that make you literally pinch yourself–because even though you know it’s just an old cliched saying, you think, just this once, maybe you really are dreaming and you just don’t know it.

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Thank you, to everyone who helped me make this a reality. In particular, thanks goes out to my editor and general muse, Aileen, without whom Terra would be a completely different kind of beast. (Seriously, you guys would have been retching from the amount of sappy, saccharine cheesiness in the book, haha. What can I say? I love me some cheese!) And to my brother and sister, for whom I think the dedication above speaks well enough. (Click on the picture for a larger image if you can’t read it, and prepare to “aww.”) But also, just thank YOU. You, my blog readers, who have been endlessly supportive with regard to so many different aspects of my life. This would not be happening if it weren’t for you.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of Terra, just click here to see a list of all the places it’s currently available, or follow one of these links:

Kindle
Nook
Kobo
Paperback

It’s $9.99 for the paperback, and at a special price of $4.99 right now for the eBook! Support for iBooks and Google Books will be following, hopefully soon! Oh, and the paperback version hasn’t been linked to Amazon yet, but word is that will be happening shortly as well. So again, thank you. For your support, for your encouragement, and just for coming along for the ride.

<3,
Gretchen

Real


Photo by Taylor

I got my first proof copy of my book. The actual manuscript itself isn’t done in terms of revisions/editing, but I wanted to make sure the size I was planning on printing it at was good, and that I knew how to format the interior correctly and whatnot.

I may or may not have done a little happy dance when I opened it. Makeshift placeholder cover and all. (Spoiler alert: the incredible, beautiful, talented Cassie from Back to Her Roots is designing a cover for me! And already it’s AMAZING! Ahhhhh, excitement!!)

I didn’t want to get into too many of the nitty-gritty specifics here, so head on over to my writing blog if you’d like to read more about my thoughts on this proof copy, the process so far, and whatnot.

Also, for those of you who might have been wondering, it’ll be available in eBook format on Kindle, Nook, Google Play, Kobo (you know, in case you’re one of the 3 people I know that has a Kobo? Haha), and — hopefully — iBook (though I hear Apple’s standards for submission are very rigorous). The paperback version will be available as well, through Amazon as well as directly from CreateSpace (an Amazon subsidiary). And you will obviously be the first ones to know when it’s actually ready for publication and is released!

Thanks, as always, for your enthusiasm and encouragement (and generally just putting up with me talking about this nonstop, haha). You guys are the absolute best! We’re still on track for a mid-November release, so… eep!

I’m Aliiiiiiiive!

Yes, my friends, it’s true. I have not quite fallen off the face of the earth yet. “Yet” being the operative word, of course, but still. Instead, I’ve been making good on my promise to work myself into the ground and finish my book. And I’m VERY happy and excited and terrified to report that I’ve made good on that promise!

I finished (my first draft of) my book! Cue the fanfare! Streamers, balloons, parade-ready elephants!

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This is the face of equal parts terror and excitement.

Sean took me out for celebratory pho and ice cream last night. Hey, we’re Whasian. What else would you expect?

I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed thrilling myself over and over again by shouting at random times “I WROTE A BOOK” (as well as collecting your “Likes” on Facebook for the same statement, natch). However, I should make it clear that this is really only the beginning of the process. I have a lot of revisions, editing, formatting, publishing, and marketing efforts to move forward with. Don’t believe me? Here, I’ll prove it:

So, yes, I’ve finished the actual “Writing” part of my ever-growing to-do list, but I’ve still got about a floppity jillion things left to do. Can’t lie though, I’m super (mortifyingly, terrifyingly, generally maniacally) pumped for this! I cannot tell you how good it feels to be working toward something I’m so passionate about. Even though it’s not my full-time job (one day, maybe?) and even though it’s taken a lot of time out of other parts of my life for the moment, I am so, so, so proud of myself for working so hard to get to this milestone. I mean, I wrote a book! A book! Over 71,000 words came out of MY head and onto MY computer screen! THAT. IS. CRAZY!!!!

Okay, taking deep breaths now. Anyway, my point in coming here was not in fact to make this post a giant not-so-humblebrag about my sidelife as an aspiring author. It was, in fact, to reassure you all that I’m not intending on pushing this blog to the sidelines. Obviously, I’ve been continuing my little blog-cation, as it were, for the past week or so, but my weight loss, my healthy life, and this blog are all still a big priority for me.

Honestly, and I really say this sincerely, I think that my pursuit of my passions is helping my healthy lifestyle more than anything has in a looooong time. I am constantly jazzed by this project, and it has helped put so much perspective into my life. Instead of spending time agonizing about food and my weight, I’m concentrating on my book. What scenes to adjust, what loose ends there might be, what setting elements I need to spend more time researching. And that feels liberating.

Now, make a total flip-flop by shifting all my thoughts about food to thoughts about my book isn’t necessarily a good thing. I have an obsessive personality. I know that, and I try to be aware of it. But I also think that considering how much I’ve been struggling with my eating mentality lately, I think that this is really is a good thing. This book project is something that’s constantly shifting. I have goals to meet and things to check off my to-do list, which means that it’s not some static, abstract ideal that I’m focusing on, but something tangible. And it means that eventually, I will reach an end point.

The biggest problem with when I get obsessed with food is that there’s no end point. We’re always going to need to feed ourselves; we’re always going to need to eat. There’s no forward motion, no light at the end of the tunnel. So my obsession just continues to swirl and grow upon itself until it becomes all-consuming, which is how I end up writing super depressing posts about how the struggle will never end and everybody X’s out of their browser feeling glum. No bueno. So, as always, I take it one step at a time.

And with that, I shall bid you adieu for now! I guarantee that posting will resume its regular schedule (on regular topics) very soon. But in the meantime, I hope you can share in my excitement and anticipation and absolute, unbridled terror with regard to my book! And moving forward, I will try to keep the book talk (mostly) contained to my writing blog (which you should feel free to follow!), though I can’t make any guarantees about that.

And okay, one last thing, juuuuuust in case there are any of you who are intrigued by what my book is about but don’t want to click around on the other blog to find out. Here is the official “blurb”/back of book synopsis:

“In the distant wake of a plague that has decimated the Earth’s population, humanity is split in two. The rich and powerful live in skycities that float overhead, while those who remain on the ground have gathered in settlements strewn across a dying planet. 18-year-old Terra Rhodon makes her living as a scav, scouring the earth for discarded scraps and metals to recycle for profit. While on a routine scavenging run, she discovers something that shocks her home settlement of Genesis X-16 by netting her a payout nobody could have predicted.

Terra suddenly finds herself with more money than she knows what to do with, but her confusion over what she found has her asking questions no one will answer. Driven by her hopes for a better future, Terra’s persistence ultimately leads her to Adam — a beguiling boy with a secret that has the power to change humanity’s existence forever.”

And, as I mentioned last week, the first two (sample) chapters are available there, too! Okay, I’m done now. Forreals. Happy Tuesday, y’all!

The (Literal) Light at the End of the Tunnel

As it turns out, my post Friday, suggesting the use of no-cook meals, was rather timely. Because you know that incredible storm that traumatized me against wanting to drive ever ever again? Well, its effects have lasted through the entire weekend! Thankfully we got our power back this morning, hence the hilarious title of this blog post. Huzzah!


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Well, actually, consider that a considerably hushed huzzah, since as you can see from the above picture (of Great Falls street, so scary!), it may still be quite a while until normalcy is resumed. Most of Falls Church (including our parents’ place) is still without power, and a ton of traffic lights throughout all of Northern Virginia are still out too. Hopefully this is the home stretch though, and everyone’s power will be restored before long. It’s going to be another hot day today!

So, aside from the power-induced happiness that I’m feeling on this Monday morning (which is also informed by the fact that my amazing friend Ai Rei is coming to visit me for a WEEK starting today – SQUEEE!!), I have another announcement to make. Most of you probably won’t care about this at all, but I’m finally putting my (lack of) money where my mouth is: I’m done talking (er, typing?) about my love of writing, and I’m both delighted and petrified to announce that I’ve started writing a book. It isn’t the kind of book that means I’ve leveraged my blog into a book deal. Alas, my life is definitely not exciting enough for that. Nope, I’ve begun writing the kind of book that I would want to read. So, basically, one aimed at teenage girls. It’s (going to be) a young adult, science-fiction-esque book that I am kind of crazy excited about, in a totally vain and self-absorbed way. Wheeee!

In addition to the writing of the book itself, I’ve also started a second blog to chronicle my (mis)adventures in writing and, eventually, self-publishing. My plan right now is to dive into the world of self-publishing via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing once the book is finished (I’m about a quarter of the way there). The new blog is called “Gretchen Writes“, and if you’re moderately interested in following my thoughts over there (though I would completely understand if you couldn’t possibly care less), please feel free to subscribe!

And that’s about all I’ve got for this Monday morning. For those of you affected by the storm and power outage, I hope you get power back soon! For the rest of you, stay cool anyway. 2 days until the Fourth of July!

Modesty, Validation, and Acknowledging Our Strengths

Talent. Strengths. Passion. Career. I know I’ve been waxing on and on about this stuff for a while, so depending on how you’ve felt about it in the past, I imagine you will be either delighted or disappointed to read the following. See, in my current quest to figure out not only WHAT I want to do (which, as you will probably be shocked to hear, is NOT to be stuck in a cubicle for the rest of my natural-born-life), but also HOW I’m supposed to do the things I want to do in a fiscally responsible, not-gonna-move-back-in-with-my-parents kinda way, I’ve done some thinking. Go figure. And while my recent revelations may cause some of you to be like, “Uh, duh?”, I’m going to talk about them anyway. Probably in a fairly nonsensical and stream-of-consciousness kind of way. Because I can. Thbbbt. 😉

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It actually all started when I attended the Kristin Chenoweth concert a couple weeks ago. In between beautifully-sung songs and anecdotes about how her mom accidentally (but continuously) calls Fuddrucker’s “Mudf*cker’s”, she also told us quite a few stories from her pre-celebrity days. She talked about what it was like to be little and to have her first solo in church, performing and getting her first role on Broadway and as she spoke, there was no false modesty. She didn’t fish for complements, or underplay her talent. She is, and apparently always was, an absolutely incredible singer. We know it. She knows it. And why wouldn’t she? I mean, how annoying would it be if she were to say something like, “Well, I can sing fairly well, I guess…”? I’d want to smack all 4’11” of her. Hearing her talk about herself that way didn’t make me think she was conceited or immodest, even though in everyday life, my first instinct would be to mark someone as such if they were doing the same thing.

So obviously the rules that apply to celebrities don’t necessarily apply to us regular folk, it’s true. I mean, hello? Lindsay Lohan is still getting work. Wtf. Regardless, the whole experience still sparked something that I thought deserved a little thought. Our society of polite interaction and political-correctness puts a premium on modesty. You might be extremely talented, but you’re not supposed to be the one saying “I’m a gifted artist!” or “I’m a great writer!” or “I’ve got a fantastic voice!” No, that would be bragging. Society tells us that validation is supposed to come from other people. And eventually, even if we start out believing in our own abilities, it is still discouraging not to be able to tout our own strengths. Having to rely on the validation of others’ opinions gives self-doubt a lot of wiggle room.

I feel like that doubt is what ultimately prevents us from pursuing the things that we really want. Take me, for example: I want to write. I think I know that I’m a good writer. With drive and perseverance, I might even be great someday. But I don’t feel like I can really say that. What I CAN say is, “I love to write,” or “I’m passionate about writing.” It feels conceited to even think, let alone say, otherwise. Even if my intentions are correct (though, let’s be honest, when are they ever really? Haha), it still feels like bragging. So I rely on other people instead. And when their comments don’t come, or when they’re not what I want to hear, or when I’m not constantly showered with reassurance, the doubt crawls back in. I start to think, “I’ll never make it as a writer, why bother trying?” And then the mental battle ensues once again.

This applies to more than just creative talent, of course. How many of us that are on the weight loss track didn’t really feel like you were making any progress until you started to get comments and compliments from others? I lost THIRTY pounds before I started getting regular comments from people I knew, and thus it wasn’t until I was thirty pounds into my weight loss that I felt that I had succeeded. But before I lost 30, I had lost 25. And before that, I had lost 20. And so on, and so forth. Shouldn’t I have felt proud about those accomplishments, too? That thought never even occurred to me. It was only “Well, I guess I need to keep going because nobody’s noticing.” I probably fall victim to this line of thinking more than the average person, I’m sure, because I have a long and sordid history with my self-esteem. Some of you might be reading this and want to roll your eyes, chalking up my feelings to my own self-worth issues. That’s a fair reaction, although I do honestly think it goes beyond that. I can’t possibly be the only one who feels this way, after all.

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I don’t have an answer for how to really fight against this way of thinking. I’d like to be able to say it’s as simple as coming up with a mantra that you repeat as you fall asleep, or sticking a Post-It to your computer screen, or writing on your mirror in lipstick, all to remind yourself that you’re awesome! You’re amazing! You’re a rockstar! But c’mon. That doesn’t exactly tackle the root of the problem, does it? I want to be able to get to a place where I don’t NEED a constant visual reminder to acknowledge that I’m good at something. That I’m possibly — GASP! — fantastic at something. And, perhaps most importantly, I don’t want to feel guilty about thinking that way when I do.