Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Every Beautiful Thing leaves me beautifully shaken up

Every once in a while, it's good to be reminded why New York is such a great place to live. But it's not only the major Broadway shows that make it a cultural experience, it's much smaller, breaking-all-rules off-Broadway productions. 

Every Beautiful Thing may seem to be a standup comedian show at first, but as soon as Johnny Donahoe opens his mouth, you realize it's anything but. Presented in a tiny, intimate setting where you can't immediately figure out where the stage will be, as soon as you walk in and take your seat you know this show will be different. There's even something special about the audience--which is a good mix of younger crowd and older, mature show-goers who frequent Barrow Street Theatre--all of whom seem esctatic to participate in the show and eagerly take the paper slips passed out by Johnny before the show. 

It's a comedy, but its dark humor and deep messages surprised me, more so than I understood while watching the show. It was much later, days perhaps, that some of the messages sank in. 
I expected to come out of the show entertained after sharing a few laughs, but instead I found myself . . . somewhat depressed by the feelings that the story invoked in me. 
You aren't expecting to be learning life lessons attending a comedy show, and when you suddenly get something so utterly meaningful in a 90-minute show, it leaves you somewhat distressed. 

Can I say that I loved the show? I can't; Every Beautifull Thing and I didn't share a single love at first sight moment. But it did shake me up and made me think about the show for days afterwards, so I suppose it accomplished its objective. 

There were a few places where I wished the narrative was better written, and I did think the show may have benefited from a happier ending. 

It's not the beauty that we seek, it's the resurrection of something new that's been brewing in our minds, and this show did it for me. This is the reason I absolutely recommend that you consider changing those Broadway tickets for a beautifully sad masterpiece.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My first experimental baby, aka the first novel

I started writing my first novel, The Day I Became a $py in January 2012, the day after my second child slept through the night and gave me back (most of) my late evenings. 

On those long winter nights, I whipped up a minimum of several thousand words per day, and in four short months the first draft of my novel was born. It was raw, that initial copy, full of rookie errors (adverbs overuse, anyone?) and emotional telling of characters' feelings ("he looked into her eyes and felt the universe existed for their love only"). Still, it was an amazing feeling to scroll through four hundred pages of my masterpiece. 
A few months and a few rounds of editing later, I was ready for a professional beta reader. I chose a paid one, because you know, those have got to know what they are doing, and since I was a newbie, I needed an expert. More editing followed, this time fixing much deeper problems ("we can do better here; make her scratch his face raw for what he's done, dammit!"), and finally we agreed that the novel was ready to face the world ... or at least select agents I chose to submit it to. 
Early on, I decided that I wouldn't self-publish. I was new to the industry, and I needed an agent as a reassurance that my work was good enough. 
I was lucky, getting positive response from one of the first agents I submitted the novel to, and I signed up. I thought, whoa, that wasn't so bad. My expectation was way too inflated once I received that offer for representation, and I was already starting to imagine my novel on the bookshelves of my local Barnes and Noble. I had a dress picked out for my first signing; that was my gift to myself when I signed the contract. 
Nine month later, my baby is in the back of my agent's 'going nowhere manuscripts' pile, as none of the editors she submitted it to decided to publish it. There was plenty of positive feedback, of the type "it's me, not you", also known as "your manuscript doesn't fit with our publisher" response, enough to tempt me to crawl into a dark bar and condemn the publishing industry to anyone willing to listen. 
But then, I received one rejection that stood out from the rest. It was very detailed and explained point by point what was wrong with my manuscript. And just like that, it clicked in my head and I understood all of my mistakes, and when I did, the rejection started to sound as a blessing in disguise. I realized what I had to change in my writing, and how to take my next manuscript to the next level. 
Now, a few months later, I have another manuscript with my agent, the one I worked so hard to make perfect, and my agent is optimistic. Maybe it will sell, maybe it won't, but one thing is certain: my publishing journey wouldn't be the same without my first novel and without the rejections that opened my eyes on what needed fixing. 
I am not ready to give up on my first novel just yet. Another major rewrite is in progress, and this time even if big publishers won't be interested, I won't be afraid of hitting that big and scary "self-publish" button.