Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Waiting


Waiting sucks. This must be what it’s like to be a dog. Always waiting for a treat, for walkies, a scratch behind the ears, to go potty.

Of course, we all spend a lot of our lives waiting, too...in line at the grocery store, at the DMV, for tax refunds to show up in the mail, at traffic lights. And for me, being the only male in a house of wives and daughters, sometimes I have to wait to go potty, too.

But none of those compare to waiting for your first book to come out. As a writer, I never thought I’d say this, but its actually worse than waiting to hear back to hear from an agent or publisher to see if they are interested at all.

I’ve already gone through the final edits and revisions of Killer Cows with my publisher, and am now waiting for the galleys (how it’ll look when finally released) as well as the cover art. After that, I’ll have to wait even longer...almost a year.

At work, colleagues and students keep asking me when the book’s coming out, and when I tell them, they get this look on their face like, "Hey, why are you taking so long?" as if it were up to me. Hey, if it were up to me, I’d have already quit my day job so I could write full time (which is what some of my friends think I’m about to do). While I’m flattered they think I’m going to suddenly be rich, I’m not Stephanie Meyer (at least, not yet). I’m not expecting people to line up outside of Barnes & Noble at midnight to be the first to snatch up a copy of a book called Killer Cows.

At this point, all I want is to hold a copy of it in my hands. Maybe autograph one to myself. But I can’t right now. I have to wait...just like my dog.

No, I didn’t think my publisher was going to magically say abracadabra and blink my book into existence, but during my initial contact with her after she offered a contract, when she said Killer Cows was scheduled for release in the latter part of 2010, part of me was shocked. This wasn’t at all like the short stories I’d published, when the time from acceptance to print was just a couple of months. Barring any other obstacles, the time from acceptance to print for my book will be roughly a year and a half.

A lot can happen in that amount of time. The world could end. The local mega bookstore, where I always dreamt of seeing my books on the shelves, could go out of business. I could drop dead of a heart attack.

So I wait, just like my dog. It helps that I still have another completed novel to try and sell. I’d like to think that, with a bonafide publication to crow about to agents or publishers, that job might be easier. But even if not, it’s a nice diversion, and helps me forget how long I still have to wait before Killer Cows is released.

But maybe this is a good kind of wait, like when I was a kid on Christmas Eve, unable to sleep because I knew Santa was coming. Just like Christmas, it is pretty cool that what I’m waiting for is inevitably going to happen.

At any rate, as I write this, my dog is staring up at me right now, eyes huge, ball in mouth. He knows playtime is inevitable. I can relate, so even though my own personal wait is still long, I think I’ll end his.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Toys Gone Wrong

I’m sure many of you are familiar Mattel-owned American Girl series of pricy dolls, each of whom have their own biography which reflects the historical era in which they ‘lived.’ I always thought that was a cool idea, especially since the dolls provided historical insight from a girl’s perspective. A bit heavy-handed of a message for a toy maybe, but better than watching my daughters play with those hookers-in-training known as Bratz.

Then, while watching a news feature covering the release of the latest American Girl doll, all I could do was roll my eyes and say, "You’ve got to be kidding."

Gwen Thompson, the newest edition to the American Girl line, is homeless. Her back story includes being abandoned by her father, forced to live in a car and being picked on by her peers. A spokeswomen for the company came on TV to state the purpose of the doll was to increase awareness of, and sympathy for, homeless children.

That’s all fine and good, but couldn’t you do that with a TV show or school-sponsored program? Have we become so overly sensitive that the very toys we give our children must remind them of how bad other people’s lives are?

I’m not insensitive to the issue of homelessness, but come on...

It’s a toy. Toys are supposed to be fun. You don’t see a line of ‘God-I-hope-it-starts-this-morning’ Hot Wheels. You don’t see Little Tikes kitchen playsets complete with ants crawling on the counters and government-issued cheese in the fridge. To the best of my knowledge, there are no video games in which the object is to pay all your bills and still have enough money left for groceries.

What kid is gonna want this doll? What kid is gonna rip open a package on Christmas day, see her homeless Gwen Thompson doll, wrap her arms around her parents and say "thank you for making me aware of the issue of homelessness in this country"?

In a way, the very idea marginalizes the whole homeless issue, being that there is an American company trying to make a profit by appealing to one’s sensitivity, while ironically charging nearly a hundred bucks for this doll.

Then again, I’m reminded of some of the toys I had when I was a kid, and now lament the time I wasted playing with them. Such as my toy lawnmower which blew bubbles when I pushed it around the yard. Then one day, mowing the lawn became one of my chores, only this time, no bubbles. I wasted all those fleeting childhood moments pretending to mow the lawn when I could have pretended to engage in an activity that wouldn’t be something I’d need to do on a regular basis in real life.