25 December 2011

Sleepless (Merry Christmas, John Green!)

It's 3am (okay, 2:53 am) on Christmas morning and I can't sleep.*

First, I am exhausted. I have helped thousands of people find books, NOOKs, and other assorted items for their loved ones this holiday season. I have had to break the bad news to a quite a few people that the book on x and y (together, of course), simply doesn't exist. I know Uncle Clever Name likes to fish and is also into vintage cars, but so far no one's written a book combining those interests. No, really. I'll humor you with a search on this fancy computer, but I'm still going to come up with zero results. I've been doing this for nearly 14 years. Yes, I do know a little bit about books.

Second, a terrible and insignificant thing happened this week. If you've been reading this blog, or at least the NaNoWriMo portions, then you know that I am a huge fan of John Green. He has earned a great deal of my respect for the human being he is and for the books that he's written. Earlier this week, bn.com did something awful. They didn't bomb a school. They didn't crash an airplane into a skyscraper full of innocent people. They broke a book embargo. John Green's SOS (Strict-on-Sale) for his forthcoming (in theory) new book The Fault in Our Stars. It was inadvertently shipped to several people who had preordered the book online.

It was a mistake. And to John Green, it was a very, very, very unfortunate one. There was a great deal of effort that went in to making certain TFIOS would arrive for everyone to read at the same time. John Green doesn't want spoilers out there ruining the experience for people. I 100% accept and appreciate that. (I've worked many a Harry Potter releases and I've been behind the jerk who opens the book to the end and begins reading aloud. I believe there is a special punishment for people like that...as well as for one of my dearest friends, who upon returning to English class in 9th grade after picking up our next assignment from the book room promptly opened it up and declared "Marcus is dead," and so for the entire book, I knew that Marcus would die. To date, I have still (obviously) not let that go.)

I have not spent ten years working on a book the way that John Green has worked on The Fault in Our Stars, but I do know how it feels to work on a book for two years. I know how it feels to put everything you have and even everything you didn't know you had into a book. I am (in complete disclosure) crying right now as I think about what that feels like. Writing is at once a lonely and public profession. We may write for ourselves and so much of that work takes place inside our head, but we also write to be read. I don't know what it's like (personally) to have 150,000 copies of my book printed and released out into the world. Maybe someday I will, but for now, I imagine that it's a pretty amazing experience and one with a great deal of emotion surrounding it.

I woke up on December 21st to see John Green's tweet "For reasons I cannot currently discuss, I am ABSOLUTELY FURIOUS right now. Like, I can't remember ever having been more pissed off." With a quick stroll on the internet, I was able to figure out what was going on. Then I texted College Brother who'd preordered his copy from bn.com to see if he was getting his early.

A few hours later, John Green released a statement. (found here) In it he said, "We all make mistakes, and it is not my wish to see Barnes and Noble or any of their employees vilified." It wasn't until I read that, that I began to realize that while I had absolutely nothing to do with the early shipment of these books, as an employee of B&N, there was a part of me that felt responsible. It is an irrational feeling of responsibility, but the way I feel nonetheless.

Yesterday John Green posted to his Tumblr the following question someone had asked, "Has there been a statement from B&N regarding the whole shipping fiasco, by any chance? Like, have they even acknowledged that they screwed up royally (either to you or the general public)" to which John Green replied, "They have not. Have I mentioned how easy and convenient it is to preorder The Fault in Our Stars from Amazon, or your local independent bookseller, or Books-a-Million, or Target, or even WalMart?"

Maybe it was all the abuse I've taken this holiday season (80 year old ladies literally screaming at me for no good reason, etc), but this hurt me. A lot. It's part of why I'm writing a blog on Christmas morning after working 60 hours last week instead of sleeping.

Has John Green never heard (or has he simply forgotten?) how Amazon has broken Strict on Sale dates (among its many crimes)? How WalMart sold Harry Potter books early? Target is far from famous for holding back titles. In fact, I think it's pretty safe to say that every book outlet (Costco too) from B&N to your local independent bookseller has made the mistake (and in some cases, done it with purpose) of breaking an SOS.

It just epically sucks when it happens to you.

And while I feel horrible that it happened, horrible that the business I work for, a company that has done a great deal to promote John Green through its Discover Great New Writers program, displays, and booksellers. It was an unfortunate mistake.

This holiday season, I personally put a great many John Green books into the hands of a great many aunts, uncles, grandmas, moms and dads. I helped make that record breaking week for Looking for Alaska. I took great pleasure yesterday in helping the young man wearing a "Keep Calm and DFTBA" t-shirt looking for David Levithan's (brilliant) Lover's Dictionary.

For some (mostly likely fatigue induced) irrational reason, I still feel bad. I have looked forward to January 10th and the release of The Fault in Our Stars. I still am. I am looking forward to January 29th when John Green will be in Portland and I will in attendance with College Brother, grateful to have purchased my tickets before the event sold out.

And if no one else from Barnes & Noble will say it, I'm sorry John Green. I'm sorry this mistake was made, I really am. I'm sorry for you. I'm sorry for your fans. I'm sorry that the release of this book, which is clearly very important to you had to be tainted with this scandal. I'm sorry it had to be a part of your Christmas this year.

Later this morning, I'll head over to my parent's house where I'll see College Brother (who received his copy of TFIOS yesterday...still unopened in its box) and we'll likely talk about this in person.

Again though, I really am sorry Mr. Green.

And for everyone else, have a very Merry Christmas and DFTBA.

*please forgive any typos. It's very late/very early

(further disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent Barnes & Noble's positions, strategies, or opinions.

19 December 2011

Are you there Blog? It's me, Jessica.

This is truly that point in the year when time becomes that elusive, evasive, coveted thing. I have worked every single one of the last seven days and by the end of yesterday, I was definitely feeling it. Exhaustion was present from my tongue to the core of my bones. Muscles ached, cheery holiday songs were belted out at the top of my lungs and all my eyes wanted to do was close themselves, perchance to dream.

All week long I've been wanting to write, to edit. All week long, ideas have been free flowing, tossing themselves in the air in front of me, frolicking, taunting...either not knowing or not caring that if I do get a chance to sit down, I'll likely fall asleep.

It has felt very much like that last week in October, that week where the build up towards NaNoWriMo has gotten so great that I don't think I can stand it another day until November begins. Only this time, it's January I'm waiting for. I can't wait to pull out the past 13 months of writing work and spread it out before me, piecing it together, making it better. I want to get reacquainted with every sentence, every word.

I'll confess that I did take a few found hours last week to read through the first 50 pages of the 2011 manuscript. While there is a lot of work to be done on those pages, there were a few delightful surprises I found in there as well. It was like dipping your finger in the batter. It only made me want to finish the project even more.

Today is the only day I have to call my own between now and December 30th. (Technically, I am off on Christmas Day, but it's hardly a day I can call my own.) I slept in (remember the days when getting up at 7am was called getting up early?) and made a small breakfast and some coffee and found myself here in the library. (In a side note, later this week my dad is going to install the crown molding around my bookcases!) My husband has also taken today off and in a few more hours he'll be up and we'll begin the days adventures, hopefully involving a trip to see the Zoo Lights, but mostly involving no trips to any stores and general relaxation.

This is a day I hope to savor, taking small sips and deep breaths...

"Movin' right along in search of good times and good news, with good friends you can't lose, this could become a habit! Opportunity knocks once let's reach out and grab it (yeah!). Together we'll nab it, we'll hitchhike, bus or yellow cab it! (Cab it?)"
          from Movin' Right Along by The Muppets

Zelda looks as excited as I feel.

13 December 2011

Hindsight is Always

I woke up this morning entirely too early for my own good. I stayed up late killing an entire village, including one (other) werewolf. Long story...

While I was pretending there was still a chance I would fall back to sleep, I got to thinking about my book and about editing and about life. I was thinking about how nice it was going to be to go back through and edit, knowing what I know now. It's kind of like getting to go back and piece your life together after you already know how it's going to end. It's not the same as rewriting history, it's more like getting to go back and view the gaps with an altered understanding. It's the ability to see things through a new filter, a new prescription, a new found sense of what the world is meant to be about. Even now I can look back at events and experiences in my own life and understand how they got me to where I am today.

What's killing me is time (and apparently a lack of ability to get even 6 hours of good sleep). I've got a plate that's full and I'm kind of wondering if I could get away with hiding my Lima beans under something else for a while. Maybe no one will notice...

In addition to the writing/editing that I've been wanting to do, there is also a great many other things requiring my attention. The Great Ukulele Quest of 2011 has finally reached its epic conclusion and my ukulele arrived (undamaged and as re-scheduled) last week. Thanks to the help of my husband, it has been tuned every day and the strings are finally starting to stretch and settle. I've learned a couple chords and am looking forward to learning many more...in the new year. But for now, I mostly have to catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye.

I've also been trying to read. I had to read a book for work. I don't know that I'm allowed to tell any of you what it is, but I will say this...it's the kind of book you really want to talk about once you've finished and because it doesn't come out for more than another month, there's really no one I can really talk to about it. I am also slowly working my way through WinterTown by Stephen Emond. He's an author I wasn't familiar with until I found his book out of place at work and took a peak inside. He blends storytelling with artwork in a lovely way. I'm about halfway through reading it and am looking forward to finishing it very soon.

In a completely unrelated note. It is still entirely pitch black outside. Wish me luck as I venture inside my own book for a little while...

from Stephen Emond's WinterTown

09 December 2011

Mock Judge

A week or so ago I received a desperate plea for additional judges for the 2011 Metro Mini Mock Trial. I looked at my calendar, realized I had the time slot open and hastily replied that I would. As soon as I had agreed, I began to panic, wondering if I was really qualified to be a judge in this competition.

As this week has progressed, I've been thinking a great deal about high school, about the three years I spent participating in programs sponsored by the Classroom Law Project. These programs, these experiences, changed my life. They contributed a great deal to the person I am today and gave me a confidence I was able to carry forward with me for the rest of my life. It is an important program for so many others that I am grateful now, having acted on pure impulse, that I said I would help out. Maybe this is a way for me to give a little something back.

Today I read through the case materials and tonight I'll sit in a courtroom, learning what it's like to be on the other side. I can't help but wonder how this new experience will affect me.

04 December 2011

On the 4th Day of December, 2011

This afternoon the sky is a cloudless blue. The moon is making her debut ahead, the sun is shining down on my back. My fingers have missed these keys.

December 1st is always a bit of an odd day, after the intensity of November. Time is an elusive and mysterious mistress. As my favorite Doctor describes, ‎"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." 

On the first of December, time becomes a different thing for me. The hours line up before me with such potential, such possibility. I find, that having stretched time itself to its very limits in November, filling it with so very much, once the calendar rolls over, I am a bit lost. At once I feel the freedom of being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I can watch a movie. I can knit. I can stare out the window. I can go for a walk. I can have long conversations on the telephone. I can learn to play the ukulele (I cannot bring myself to spend the time to write out this last week's efforts to thwart my efforts to learn...but, seriously, it's getting to be downright frightening and/or ridiculous).

The one thing I have been unable to do, is to let go of my characters. 

It has taken all my willpower to keep the file closed, to give myself some time and space before returning to the work. But I cannot keep the story, the characters, from invading my mind. This morning a saw a ghost (so to speak) and all I could think of was how perfect it would be to use in the novel.

For the first time, I truly understand the story. I see it completely from beginning to end, start to finish. I know what it takes to get from point A to point B in a way that wasn't exactly clear to me a week ago. And my mind is racing to get back to the work to drop in some clues, to fill in some gaps, to undo some missteps, to finish. I have never ever ever ever wanted to edit so desperately. I need to finish this story. 

But for this minute, this moment, there are things that need to be accomplished and I have promised myself a full week away. Soon it will be a week.

My calendar is already marked for my beach getaway in January and I cannot wait to have that space, that time, and my ocean cheering me on.