Friday, 4 March 2011

RETROFRIDAY - INSECURITY: I HAZ IT

Hi everyone! Welcome to my very first RetroFriday!  

RetroFriday was inspired by my own love of delving into blog archives, where I've found many treasures. I enjoy it. But I'm aware that others probably don't have the time to work backward through posts from a year ago in order to enjoy my wit and wisdom, and so I decided to do the work for you. A couple of times a month I will dredge the murky depths of The Zoë-Trope Archive in the hopes of finding gold: a post which you probably didn't get to read the first time around, or which you may enjoy re-reading. 

Today, in honour of the YA Mafia - a topic which has been alternately amusing and infuriating writers, agents and publishers all over Twitter (read about it here and here) - and by popular request, I bring you INSECURITY: I HAZ IT, a post written after dragging myself out of a nasty depression and realising that in actual fact? The world was NOT out to get me (shocking, I know).

*****

Just in case the blog title didn't clue you in to what I'm talking about today, here's a lolarious poster I made.


On Friday I was reading the Road Trip posts on YA Highway when I came across this section:
Hannah Moskowitz wrote a thought-provoking post: "Has the internet community changed YA?" Amy Lukavits responded directly with some arguments for both sides. Natalie Whipple and Ally Carter posted on similar topics, both saying you can worry about the online YA community all you want, but in the end, it's the book that matters.
And I realised that this is exactly the stuff that turns me into the B*tSh*t Crazy Lady. Exactly. This. Stuff.

When I submitted The Swan Kingdom to Walker Books they didn't really know what to do with it. But they liked it, and I had all these convincing arguments about how the popularity of Harry Potter, Meg Cabot and Dr Who was paving the way for fantasy aimed at girls and where my book fitted into the market. I talked to them passionately and at length and I think my knowledge of and love for writing really came through because, after some re-writes, they decided to publish it. And somehow...somehow...it did not sink without trace.

I remember promising myself that if I just managed to sell 5,000 copies, I would never ask for anything again, and I can safely say that it surpassed that number long ago. I mean, don't run away with the idea that The Swan Kingdom was a bestseller. Or even a big seller. It wasn't. It sold unexpectedly well, got some good reviews, and my publisher was happy about it. So was I.

Then Daughter of the Flames came out. We sold that to Walker before The Swan Kingdom was even in copy-edits, so it was the same story. And it did okay. Not as well as The Swan Kingdom, but all right. It was a modest success. Again, the publisher was happy with it. So was I.

And then came The Dark Ages. We shall not speak of them in depth. Suffice it to say that during this period of about eighteen months, many not-nice things happened in my life. My house was flooded. My editor turned down my third book. Family members became ill. *I* became ill. And while I kept writing through this, it was to very little effect. I didn't finish anything, and every time that I nearly did, my agent or my publisher didn't like it.

During this period I discovered Teh Interwebz. I don't mean this was the first time I ever surfed the net - I mean it's the first time I was ever captivated by it. And what captivated me was not internet shopping or YouTube, but the corner of the net devoted to YA writing. It was like a whole other world for me, a world where YA writers weren't working all alone in their tiny boxroom in their damp, building-site houses, with a permanent cough (I was later diagnosed as asthmatic) and going days without speaking to anyone but their dog or people who had phoned them at their crappy office job to shout at and verbally abuse them. A world where YA writers were slap in the middle of a community that seemed full of kindred spirits and dear friends. I watched their vlogs, I read their reviews on Goodreads, I laughed at their funny blogs. I told myself that I found their success inspiring and that they helped me to keep positive and keep working.

But that wasn't the whole story.

I didn't want to feel envious of this group of people, but the simple fact was that they all had things I wanted desperately for myself. Not just their success, but their LIVES. So different from mine. So full and rich and FUN. Book tours and writing retreats, twitters, mutual book blurbs, blogs where a dozen people answered each tiny post as if it really mattered. I looked at my life and found it sadly wanting in comparison. I was working a full-time office job where I was miserable and squeezing writing into every other gap there was. I didn't know a single other YA writer well enough to call them a friend and what was more I had no way to change that.

I couldn't go to the conventions where these guys all met and hung out, or share tour dates with them. I live in the UK. Most of them lived in the US or flew there regularly. Besides, their circle was already formed - they knew each other through writing fanfic or being critique partners or because they shared agents. They didn't know me from Adam. The occasional 'LOL' reply to my comment on one of their blogs didn't mean that they knew me or cared about me.

I began to feel like my entire writing career was, basically, pointless. I began looking at The Swan Kingdom and Daughter of the Flames and thinking 'Why did I even bother? No one likes them. No one's ever heard of me. I wrote high fantasy when I should have written urban fantasy/paranormal romance and I didn't promote enough or connect with the right people and I flushed my chance down the toilet. My life is exactly the same now as it would have been if both those books had never been written. I'm the scum at the bottom of the writing barrel. I ought to just. Give. Up'.

See? B*tsh*t Crazy Lady.

Because...what the HELL? Since when does who I know, or whether or not famous-name-writer follows my blog, or if I got to go to BigDealBookExpo have anything to do with the value of my work? Thankfully, at the point where I really felt the lowest, the lightbulb went on. I realised I had gotten totally caught up in this imaginary fantasy world I wanted to be part of and forgotten the important thing - the most important thing in the world - which is:

I'm a writer.

That's what I am, what I've always been, and what I will be until I die. I love stories. I love books. I love crafting imaginary worlds and living within them, I love bringing characters to life and laughing and crying with them. I love words. I love the spaces between words. I love commas and semicolons and fullstops and even the occasional exclamation mark. Exposition, description, dialogue, action; I adore them. And NOTHING and NO ONE can ever take that love, that passion, away from me...except me.

I think the reason this snuck up on me so easily was that I never WANTED to 'fit in' before. I was determinedly, stubbornly, proudly the odd one out at school. Even when I was picked on and bullied at every turn, I continued to be me, refusing to wear the fashionable clothes, talk the 'in' talk or act like one of the popular kids in any way. I carried on reading books in public, putting my hand up in class and getting A's no matter what anyone did to me. That aloneness, that knowledge of who I wanted to be and how I wanted to act got me through a lot of hard times, but it was based on the fact that those people who tried to make me miserable at school weren't worth imitating or fitting in with, and I knew it.

But the authors whose books I love are admirable. They're worthy of my respect. They're not trying to make anyone miserable, they're just living their lives. It turns out I'm vulnerable to that (probably we're ALL vulnerable to it) in just the same way some kids at my school were vulnerable to wanting to be popular.

It's so silly. Bestselling writers? They're not superheroes in the Justice League. They're individuals, like the rest of us. They all have their sorrows and troubles and periods of insecurity and depression. Being one of them wouldn't fix that about me. And yearning to be something I wasn't and can't ever be - a bestselling American urban fantasy author who goes to conventions and flies all over the world having adventures - was making me hurt myself and, more significantly, my writing. And my writing is the Number One Thing in my life that I should always protect and nuture and make time for, because so long that as I do that, I will be happy.

Guys...if any of you are freaking out right now about how you don't fit into a group, about how your whole life or your writing is pointless or how you should do or BE something else than what you are...stop it. Okay? You are so much more special and strong and wonderful than you realise, and even if no one else in the world knows that I DO.

I might never have met you. I might never meet you. But I know that you are wonderful and you don't need to change in any way that doesn't make you happy. You don't need to be anyone but who you are, or dream any dreams but your own. So the next time YOU feel the B*tSh*t Crazy Lady taking you over? Remember that. Preserve and protect the special thing that makes you who you are, no matter what. And be happy.

46 comments:

Vivienne said...

What a gorgeous post. I want to give you big hugs. What drew me to you in the first places was your originality and ability for humour. Twitter opened a world of books to me that I may never have found on my own. I am over the moon to have been given the opportunity to talk to you and to love The Swan Kingdom.

Zoë Marriott said...

Aw. *Hugs Vivienne* Thank you. I wish I had joined Twitter years ago - I feel like I've made some real friends who I can't wait to meet in real life. The point of posting this really was to say to all the authors worrying about the YAMafia that, look, I can understand these thoughts, but they're coming from your own fears and insecurity. Be happy with yourself, and the suddenly the world seems a more friendly, less Mafia-ish place.

Lynsey Newton said...

OMG I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH! *bookmarking*

Zoe, we all thing you're fabulous just for being you! And I too am really grateful to have found such a supportive community not just with bloggers but with writers too. And Viv *points upwards* is a blogger and aspiring writer like me. *whispers* and she's lovely! x

Zoë Marriott said...

Thanks, Lyns. I'm very glad Walker invited you to the Undercover event and we got to meet. *Hugs*

Saundra Mitchell said...

Dude, I'm right there with you. We can be bizzazashiz together.

Zoë Marriott said...

LOL - thanks, Saundra. I'll make the silver-foil hats if you'll keep your eye out for the YA Mafia. I hear they're sneaky...

Megha said...

Thanks for reposting! It was different reading it this time, although I've read it numerously before. It holds a really important message. Something I should have realised last year. THANK YOU :D

Zoë Marriott said...

You're very welcome, Megha - glad you enjoyed it.

jaclyndolamore said...

I'm glad you reposted this too. I definitely identify with it, even though I've been in the jetsetting, retreating author shoes a few times. I still feel sometimes like I'm isolated living in Orlando and I want something I don't have, etc... But, like you, I always come back around to my passion for writing and I have lots of friends when I stop and think about it.

Zoë Marriott said...

I think it's just an essential part of human nature (and especially writing nature, since we live in our heads so much) to yearn for what we don't have, to play out imaginary scenarios where our lives are different. I don't even think there's any harm in it, until you come to the point where you're forgetting what you DO have, and the important things you need to be grateful for. I'm so incredibly lucky, really, and it feels great to realise that and embrace it :)

Jenna St. Hilaire said...

Beautiful post, and I can sympathize! It doesn't take much to make me insecure... but you're right. We have to write as ourselves, not trying to catch what's popular.

Props on writing high fantasy for girls! That makes me happy. You just got your work on my to-read list. :)

Zoë Marriott said...

Thank you, Jenna! Sometimes I'm annoyed that writing what I really want to write means I'm not in the first wave of trends. But I do hope high fantasy will eventually make a come-back and become fashionable and hot again. Ironically, just as I'm pretty sure that the urban fantasy and paranormal romance market is saturated, I've come up with an urban fantasy idea that I LOVE. *Shrugs*

Megha said...

Zoe, first question; do you like Harry Potter?
And now...
I seem to have this obsession of keeping new things *coughMY-BRAND-NEW-USBcough* next to me, and the book I'm currently reading. I don't want to fix that, because I'd RATHER keep this stuff with me (XD), but do you do this? ANYONE? No?

Isabel said...

I love this post. It makes me cry every time I read it. Thanks for re-posting.

I love you :)

Zoë Marriott said...

Megha: yes I do like Harry Potter, in a general sort of way. I love, love, loved the first four books, but felt they got a bit long and info-dumpy after that, though I do still own them all.

Isabel: I'm glad you like it, and I'm very fond of you too.

Isabel said...

Thank you! I really wish we could meet...

I LOVE the Harry Potter series. Used to be my favorite. (Now it's not even close :)) I went to Scotland - Edinborough, or however you spell it - and that's where J.K. Rowling lives, and when I went there a couple of years ago I was ecstatic; I thought I would be able to meet her. Silly me. Silly, silly me :) I was such a fanatic back then =)

I'm literally dying because my Gmail hasn't been working AT ALL since yesterday morning, and I have a REALLY SPECIAL EMAIL from Megha that I want to read!!!! *Wails* Let's hope it's back to normal by tomorrow. A prayer to the gods of technology...

Plus I haven't had any time to write since Sunday. Apologies, Megha and Alex! :( I got home at 8:00 last night.

jenny-moss said...

Great post.

Zoë Marriott said...

Isabel: Edinburgh.

Jenny: Thanks!

Megha said...

I'm currently reading Harry Potter. First time I've got so deep into the book. I actually like it a lot!

Isabel said...

Megha: YAY!!!! :) What book?

Okay. My Gmail is STILL NOT WORKING. We're gonna, like, call them today, somehow. THIS IS SO..... I don't even know. Man, I can SEE the stuff in my inbox! And I can't read or reply to any of it!!!!!

Isabel said...

OMG. Turns out I'm part of .2% of the population of Gmail users that have temporarily lost access to their accounts because of a bug. But that was on Feb. 28, when I still had access. Now most people's SHOULD be back to normal, they say, and to contact them if we are still experiencing problems...

And they say the people with more mail in their inbox is going to take longer. Great. I don't have a heart for deleting emails, so I'm one of those. But this is partly good news. I know the problem and other people have had it too. It has a reason and they are fixing it. I'm sorry to everyone who I'm going to take a few more days maybe to respond to their emails. It's frustrating for me, too. At least I didn't lose all my mail! *Shudders*

Isabel said...

ZOE, I'M A FOLLOWER!!!!!!!!!!! YAYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!

About time, huh? Well, you're at 195. Five to go!

Megha said...

YAY! If only more people had Google accounts, because that became a problem in the SotM giveaway.

Isabel said...

Yeah. Gmail seriously rocks, I think.

(Talk about loyalty, Gmail, after all I've been going through over the past few days! Luckily I found out that my Gmail is working on my dad's computer. Better than nothing!)

We're nearing 200!!!! Eeep!!!! (Probably not eep for you, Zoe, though, because you'll have to make that video LOL!

Isabel said...

I am now a follower of Veronica Roth's blog. I love it! Thanks for introducing it to me.

Isabel said...

Zoe: I'd like to send you an email, but frankly, I have no idea how *hides*. If not, I can just tell you in the comments, but I'd rather do it by email, if you can explain to me...

Isabel said...

I'm reading The Charmed Return right now, and I must admit that it is somewhat of a disappointment. The plot line is frankly rather pathetic, and going back to this series after a year of waiting makes me realize that the writing isn't very good. For a last novel... well, I would have preferred if Frewin Jones had just stopped at The Enchanted Quest instead of forcing this last random novel into the series.

All in all, I'm frustrated with this book. It's really too bad, because I love this series and was really looking forward to The Charmed Return. *Sigh*

Zoë Marriott said...

Isabel: Hey, great - I can finally see you in my sidebar there!

You can email me through my website. Just click on the link up there on the top right and use the email address and instructions on my website front page. OK?

Rhiannon Hart said...

Such an inspiring post. I am getting a major case of The Insecurities right now as my first book is coming out this September and I'm scared it will sink without a trace. I entertained the bats#it fantasy of retracting the book, paying back the advance and going into hiding for the rest of my life. The fantasy lasted a split second, but it was still terrifying. I just need to remind myself that it's my story, I love it and it means a lot to me personally. So good you understand the feeling!

Zoë Marriott said...

Thanks. That's the problem with having your dream come true - because suddenly it's not a dream anymore. It's reality. Reality can't be perfect the way dreams are, and that is a scary thing to realise, 'specially if dreams have been your haven for a long time, through all the rejections and hard work. But I'm sure that your book will NOT sink without a trace, and having a dream come true is also an amazing, thrilling thing which a lot of people would sell their left butt cheek to have happen. So go you! :)

Isabel said...

Zoe: Yes, that's what I look like! I know the image is small and blurry, but if/when I email you you'll see it more clearly.

Thanks for explaining. I'll go check that out now, even though ATM I can only email on my dad's laptop, and I'll only be able to do that tomorrow.

Isabel said...

Oh, I found it! My email address is igriffgor [at] gmail [dot] com, so you recognize it when you see it and know it's not a spam, just in case I forget the Alexandra thing. I'm so excited to email you! I don't know exactly what your response will be, and it's okay if your answer is no, but I'm hoping it might be a possibility! You should expect my email sometime tomorrow, hopefully. I'll get to it as soon as possible, I promise. Thanks.

I'mDifferentButMe said...

It's good to know that I'm not the only person with insecurities :) You said that The Swan Kingdom sold more than Daughter of the Flames, I couldn't believe this, in my opinion (not that the Swan Kindom isn't any good), Daughter of the Flames is so much better. I think that more people definately need to read it, it's incredible. In fact, mine's probably the most read book on my shelf. Although, on most Daughter of the Flames, the person's facing the left, mine faces the right. That's a random thing that I love about my copy of your book.

Isabel said...

I'mDifferentButMe: I agree with you entirely. I absolutely ADORED DotF, even more than I loved TSK. I wonder why it's not as popular...

Zoe: You should have received my email by now. But you can't fully trust my Gmail - please tell me if you still haven't received it.

Zoë Marriott said...

I'mDifferent: Well, of course I love DotF too, and I wish I knew why it didn't sell so well, but one of the hardest things to realise when you're a writer is that often sales don't have much relationship to the quality of the work. Often it's all just about luck. I'm just hoping it will do a bit better when my publisher reissue it next year with new cover artwork.

Isabel: Don't worry, I got your email - I'll get back to you when I have the time to give you a thoughtful response, okay?

Isabel said...

Thank you so much. Most authors might take weeks to get around to these kinds of things, and some never respond at all. That's the upside of not getting a million fan emails every day, and not having 1000 followers. :)

Okay, anyone who reads this blog who is still not a follower and has a Google, Yahoo, or Twitter account? Become a follower. Now. Just five to go!!!

I'mDifferentButMe said...

Ooh, I can't wait to see the new artwork (I have a habit of collecting books in different covers if I really like them). But I agree it is mostly down to luck. I know, that I found DotF in a Garden Centre (seriously, don't ask)but I had to order The Swan Kingdom from the bookshops to get it. Your books are wayyy better than the vampire hype (I tried reading the Vampire Diaries I seriously couldn't get through them.

Isabel said...

I just placed an order on Borders online for The Demon's Lexicon and The Iron Witch. Very excited to read both of them. I'll make sure to tell you what I think of them both, especially The Demon's Lexicon.

Zoë Marriott said...

I hope you enjoy them, now that I've bigged them up so much!

Isabel said...

I do too! I know The Demon's Lexicon is going to be good, though - it HAS to be after all the praise you've showered on it.

Hence:

"SQUEEEEE!!!!!!!"

LOL

Isabel said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my email. I appreciate it :)

Marissa Doyle said...

Thank you so much for this post. I needed reminding. :)

Zoë Marriott said...

You're welcome - I know how easy it is to forget.

Liz said...

I love this blogpost! I am so proud of you. I am so proud that you can share this with us and that you are in general a pretty damn gorgeously lovely person and know where we all come from with insecurities etc because you've been there and can put in words, whilst being charming and amusing, all that we go through.

You, lady, are a star. Thanks for being there, for listening and being clever and so together.

L xx

Zoë Marriott said...

*Blushes furiously* Aw, shucks. I don't know what to say now, 'cept, well, feeling's mutual, my dear. *Hides face in pillow*

Jolie Teigeler said...

Thank you for this post; I needed it right now.

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