walks in ten months late with coffee
If you opened your inbox this morning to see this message appear like the Ghost of Christmas Past, well, hello. I’m back. I’m sorry. Both for my absence, and for the length of this return to A Faster No. (In my defense, a lot has happened in nine months!)
In my last newsletter, I announced my return to full-time employment, as a talent recruiter at AWA Studios. I got laid off in March in a bout of restructuring. There is… a whole lot in between those two events that I can’t really talk about. All of which is to say: after I was laid off, and faced the prospect of returning to freelance editing (and this newsletter, neither of which my former employer wanted me to do whilst being employed there) or finding another 9-5, I had to take a minute to figure out what I really wanted to do. I’ve had a pretty tumultuous few years, as have we all. I took stock and realized:
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I was tired. I was burnt out. I was really, really tired.
The thing about a tumultuous period is that you spend a lot of time and energy and mental capacity just trying to navigate it, let alone doing the things you have to do. Working as an agent during a pandemic is more stressful than working as a freelance editor during a pandemic, but they both have their challenges. Working a desk job at a company that… well. Again. Can’t talk about it, but a 9-5 has its own challenges. I let a lot of things drop: friendships, important messages, freelance projects, and then I got downsized.
So I took some time (and the unemployment supplied to me by New York State) to think about it. It was in conversation with my former client (and still-friend) Maurice Broaddus that he reminded me about the novel I told him about, the one I’d started writing in September of 2021 and had worked on in fits and starts. I’d gotten stalled out at twenty-eight thousand words, and felt lost, and had let it go dormant.
What was keeping me from finishing it, he asked? In the end it came down to: what are people going to think? For a long time, especially at the beginning of my agenting career, the received wisdom was that it’s a conflict of interest for agents to also be authors, especially if they’re trying to sell into the same category. A lot of people still feel that way.
But I used to write, before being an agent. I’d dabbled here and there while agenting (see the NaNo 2013 attempt, which a hard drive crash mercifully destroyed.) Nothing long and certainly nothing profound, but I used to write, used to think about writing a real novel one day. I started the novel Maurice was talking about in late 2021 and almost immediately psyched myself out of finishing it, worried about what people might think.
But that’s borrowing trouble, isn’t it? Don’t I have to finish and actually successfully query the thing first? Let alone securing a publishing deal, doesn’t the thing have to exist qua thing for people to have negative opinions about me writing it? I say the same thing to readers of this newsletter and people I worked with as an editor. There is absolutely no guarantee of success in publishing; the only thing you can do is the work.
So that’s what I did with my hiatus. I took four months and I did the work. I’m sitting on a first-and-a-half draft of a fantasy novel, clocking in just over a hundred thousand words. It still needs work, I still have to query it. (I’m also sitting on a romance novel that I will be self-publishing.) I’ve written just over two hundred and fifty thousand words in four months. I think I can call myself a writer now.
The funny thing is, the commitment to writing—to keeping a schedule, more or less, and taking on a set of household responsibilities as my sister carried the household financially—feels like it has restored my ability and enthusiasm to do other work. To dive back into freelance editing and working with authors again. I gave my brain a four-month reprieve and it actually worked. Something something the capitalist treadmill something something. Have I completely remade myself anew? No, if my repeated half-listens to the Woodstock 99 documentaries are anything to go by. But I feel excited about things again, in a way I haven’t felt for a long, long time. And that’s a pretty nice place to be.
So, in the immortal words of King George III: what comes next?
First thing’s first: I’m restarting A Faster No, this here silly little newsletter. It will cover all the same things as before, with a little less hockey and a little more insight into my own creative process, as well as lots of general craft talk and publishing advice. (Thank you to those who responded to the survey, by the way–you were all very nice about my Alex Ovechkin gifs, even if you didn’t particularly care for them.) It’ll still come out weekly on Friday afternoons. It will still be free.
I’m reopening my Reedsy books for freelance editing commissions. I know that being a writer is still going to be considered a conflict of interest for folks interested in hiring me–and that’s okay! I want to work with authors to build their stories up, in all the same genres as before. To celebrate my return, I’m running two specials:
September 30-October 5 EOD: Back To School Special! For $25 you can get a critique of your query and the first ten pages of your novel, from today through October 5 (my birthday, coincidentally). To take advantage of this limited-time offer:
Pay the $25 fee using Venmo (linked here). Paypal is also an option if you’re based overseas and have access. Use the email below for that.
Snap a screenshot of your receipt.
Send the screenshot and your query + 10 pages to me at email@example.com.
I’ll confirm receipt of your payment and materials. All critiques will be returned within two weeks of receipt.
Please note, manuscript pages should be sent in MS Word format, 1” margins, 12pt Times New Roman font, page numbers in bottom right corner, header with Author last name and title, and first line special indent 0.5”. Incorrectly formatted pages will be reformatted according to these specifications, which may result in the shortening of your submission.
If we book an editing session together before October 31, you can choose either a query critique or a 30 minute coaching session on top of the regular editorial call as an extra.
But Jen, what about the book? Well. I gotta do more work. I’m in my hopefully final round of revisions, at which point I’ll be writing a query (agony) and querying (agony, misery, woe.) I look forward to sharing that journey with you. Thank you for coming this far with me.
That’s right! I’ll be appearing on Rebecca Heyman’s Instagram Live to do a First Line Frenzy session on Friday, 10/7 at 12pm EST.
In the survey, a lot of folks asked about how to submit questions for me to answer in the newsletter. I’d love to make that a recurring thing! You can leave a question one of two ways: either by leaving it in the comments (which I’d prefer, as it encourages discussion) or by replying to the email when you receive it. Those replies go straight to my personal email for me to read.
THIS WEEK IN HOCKEY
I said less hockey, not no hockey. I’ve been a bad fan over the last few months, but I was unreasonably excited for the Avalanche to win the Stanley Cup! Even more so when Erik “Toothless Horse Girl” Johnson got to spend the first night with it over Nathan McKinnon. I’m excited for a new season, however, and will probably include a non-zero amount of hockey content going forward.
On Tomas Straussler Becoming English by Tom Stoppard (Talk Magazine 1999)
Her memoir does not raise the blind very far. My mother wrote it when she was 70, in 1981, which happened to be the year Ota, the boy in the sailor top, died. There is no mention of this brother, and I did not learn of his existence until later. As to the names or number of her sisters, or what happened to them, the memoir is equally uninformative. She writes about life before and after her marriage and about my father. She describes her parents and my father’s parents, but does not say when, where or how they died. The word Jew or Jewish does not occur.
Tom Stoppard Finally Looks Into His Shadow by Maureen Dowd (NYT)
“I was scooped up out of the world of the Nazis,” he said. “I was scooped up out of the way of the Japanese, when women and children were put on boats as we were being bombed. I was just put down in India where there was no war. The war ended, my mother married a British army officer and so instead of ending up back in Czechoslovakia in time for Communism…here I was, turned into a privileged boarding-school boy. I was just going on, saying ‘Lucky me.’” Eventually he was scooped up by the London theater world. But at some point, after some backlash, he turned the concept inside out. What about those who hadn’t been lucky?
READING: For The Wolf by Hannah Whitten
WATCHING: Extraordinary Attorney Woo
LISTENING: My Chemical Romance “Welcome to the Black Parade”
WORDS WRITTEN: 5388
This has been A Faster No, a dispatch on publishing, writing, books, and beyond. Is there something you’d like me to talk about? Leave it in the comments or reply to the email! You can support the newsletter here. If you purchase a book from any of the links to Bookshop.org I get a small commission at no cost to you. I am available for developmental editing and editorial assessment services via Reedsy.
Thanks for reading A Faster No! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.