Writing is Identity

With so many great blogs out there about books and writing, why blog about books and writing?  Especially since my blog is supposed to be about body image and identity.  Well, writing is identity.

I’ll confess, ever since I got back from the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC last weekend, I’ve been struggling to come up with a decent post.  A (minor) shoulder injury has put off my next installment of “To Dance Again;” my kids haven’t done anything special to inspire a new mixed-race-parenting piece—nor have I had any ah-hah moments about my own biracial, Jewish, black, ex-dancer-shrink-ness.

Frankly, though I’ve been proof-reading, not really writing, I’ve thinking of nothing but my writing, which is itself an identity topic.  My writing is made up of all the pieces that make me myself.  (I think most writers would agree.)

I am in full writer mode this week.  My kids get it: they scrounge for their own snack and start their own homework, work out their own little squabbles, knowing that somewhere upstairs in the fire-hazard, dust-bunny haven of the study, is Mommy-as-Writer-Lady (they know I’ll be down to cook and feed and hang out later).

I haven’t posted here for a whole week; I’ve been too busy giving my novel one last comb through before sending requested pages to agents I met at the conference.  (Still insanely giddy over the fact that they were interested enough to ask!)   And now that I’m finally posting, what do I post about?  Writing!

Here’s why I write: Certain aspects of being human either vex, amuse or fascinate me.  I need to get them down in my own quirky way, ultimately to see whether or not others feel as I do.  In The Marriage Plot (which I haven’t finished yet), Jeffrey Eugenides’s Madeleine finds in Barthes “the reason she read books in the first place … a sign that she wasn’t alone.”  In Heidi W. Durrow’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (which I will post more about at another time), when Rachel says, “…the other black girls in school think I want to be white … I don’t want to be white … I want to be nothing,”  I think, yes, it’s something I’ve felt before.

So maybe you’re not biracial, black or Jewish, maybe you’ve never obsessed about whether your thighs touch when you stand with your feet together, maybe you’re not an only child or even female.  But when you read me you just might see a small part of yourself reflected back.

Now, let me take this opportunity to say what a thrilling, magical weekend I had at the Writer’s Digest Conference (#WDC12 in Twitter-speak).   I met so many fascinating people: other aspiring authors, some successful ones, editors, agents and others in this great, old, but rapidly changing field of publishing.  Though everyone says, “go to conferences with an open mind, ready to learn everything you can,” I’ll admit I went mostly to pitch Birch Wood Doll.  Once I got there, though, I inhaled information, from “Writing about Yourself in the Digital Age,” with A.J. Jacobs , to “Conflict and Suspense” with James Scott Bell, to a fantastic kid-lit seminar with Mary Kole , which convinced me to make my next project a YA venture.  Of course the Pitch Slam—60 agents, 400+ unpublished authors, 3 hours—was the high point.  I was fortunate enough to walk away with business cards from five of the agents on my top-six list.  I got home and immediately read through BWD again for typos and awkward phrasing, sent everything out on Tuesday and found myself coming down with a cold and an utter loss for words.

Fortunately, I had signed up for a Pitchapalooza workshop at Watchung Booksellers  last night.  I decided not to pitch Birch Wood Doll, since my pitch had been successful at the WDC.  Instead I challenged myself to formulate a pitch for the (as yet unwritten) YA book, just to see if “The Book Doctors” would think it sounded worthwhile.  The good news is that they did.  And with that project to look forward to (yet another novel heavily featuring body image and identity) my blogging voice seems to have returned.

Lastly, to the wonderful fellow writers I met last weekend—Grace, Joanna, AG, KSZ, Harry and others—I am rooting for you all!

19 responses to “Writing is Identity

  1. I’m so excited for you that you’ve got some well-deserved interest from agents and I can’t wait to hear what your YA idea is.

  2. Lisa,

    So glad the conference went well. I downloaded a sample of The Marriage Plot and couldn’t decide whether to go forward. Recently finished “A Simple Heart” by Flaubert. Have spent the last couple of days at a meeting with clients writing stuff, making videos, staying up late in my room writing my own stuff, obsessing over eating 3 macaroons, looking for sign posts to my other writing life, and thinking about whether or not to take Amelia to Porgy and Bess. Fearful that it could scare her deeply.

    So thanks for this post. I needed it. Nicole

    • Thanks for the comment, Nicole. It sounds like things are quite hectic! I think Amelia is lucky to have a mom who is so caring and thoughtful. I think whatever you decide about Porgy and Bess, the experience will be enriching because of the way you will help her process it. If you decide to wait, I think that’s OK too. Trust your wonderful instincts!

  3. Great news and congratulations! With 5 agents interested in reading your BWD, you may just get it published. Sorry about your shoulder.

  4. Thanks, Wilma for your encouraging words.

  5. My word, you’ve made some serious inroads! I had to smile at “I haven’t posted in a whole week.” We won’t hold that against you. It’s so thrilling to hear about these new developments.

    Hope your shoulder improves very soon so you can dance again.

  6. Wow — you sound inspired and inspiring. And it sounds like the weekend was a huge success!

    I’m finally getting into book mode — started in earnest on my non-fiction book — Lessons in Love — and am excited! yeah!
    thanks for the kick in the you know where. You rock!

  7. Love your blog, Lisa. And congrats on your manuscripts going out so quickly. I am very impressed…and really hope you’ll be hearing a yes soon. Pitchapalooza too? You go girl. The Writers Digest Conference was really affirming, informative, and inspiring. Excited for what lies ahead!

  8. Writing is a dream i have since I’m a kid. I never started, but I know i will one day. Thank you for this post

  9. Sounds like a great time – *almost* makes me sorry I’m not in the NY area. I’m a cold wuss though – love my :LA.

    You know, it was great being a mom, bonding with other moms, watching our babies grow up. It’s even better now, in some ways, as a writer, at the beginning of her career, bonding with other writer-moms as we watch anxiously over our baby-manuscripts. Someday, I will say I knew ya when!

  10. So true–the mother/writer connection. Enjoy your LA! Though it was 60 degrees here today!

  11. So glad to read that you had a great time at the conference, and that you got some great results from the Pitch Slam. Sounds like it was worth the trip. So happy for you and all the work you’ve put into Birch Wood Doll. Reading your post makes me more excited about my upcoming conference. Yaay! Also, sorry about your injury. I hope you’re better, soon. Note to self: No peeking in the mirror while looking exquisite as you perform fabulous moves. 😉

  12. Thanks Regina, for your comment and kind thoughts. I can’t wait to hear how the Backspace conference goes!

  13. Congrats, Lisa — we’ve only seen each other fleetingly since you were at the conference. Glad to hear of the great connections you made and hope to hear even better news for you in time.

  14. Thanks Kathleen. Yes, let’s catch up soon!

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