High School! Musical!

Jack and Charlie, my fourteen year old twins, started high school earlier this week.  William, who is 10, started rehearsals for Oliver!, the musical that comes with an exclamation mark at the end, no matter where in a sentence you put it, which is weird, except for the fact that we’re pretty damned excited about the whole thing, so we’ll go with the exclamation mark for now.

Those things — High School!  Musical!  — have only in common that they’re the beginning of something B-I-G for the boys involved. Lockers! Taking the bus! Open campus! Girls! (for the boy who went to a boys’ school for all those many years before high school.) Orphans! Dancing! Gruel!  (But not dancing gruel.  Those things are separated by the mighty exclamation mark.   Dancing with bowls of gruel in your hands, though, I understand that’s on the menu.)

It just occurred to me that I could write an entire blog post punctuated only with exclamation points, except I also plan to write about my own life, which tonight anyway requires the opposite of the exclamation point, a punctuation mark I just invented called the “downer point.” It looks like a downward facing arrow.  I’d add it right here, but I’m no good at that kind of thing.  You’ll have to imagine it.

Here’s the downer:  the boys are beginning new things.  But I am not.  I think I said a month or two ago that I found a really great agent to work with. Really good guy.   Sells a lot of books.  Writes books about how to write books and they make sense and are inspiring. This is so not a downer.  This is wonderful and I am thrilled.  The downer is that he won’t be selling my book until I revise it.  The whole thing.  That’s a lot of chapters, blogfriends.  All chapters that could be better and all chapters I have to think really  hard about in order to make the better.  Have I mentioned how this is HARD?  Waaah.  Plus I’m scared.  AND I’m BUSY.  I have to drive people places and work at my job and cook and clean and …. you know.  I’m whining.  I’ll stop.

Also.   Finding your locker and not getting egged by seniors and learning how to talk to girls and having to eat a steady diet of gruel and then getting sent out in the snow to be sold to the highest bidder is actually, when you think about it, way way worse than tightening up each and every scene of your book for a guy who’s waiting patiently for you to get on with it so he can maybe sell it for you.  Just look at my kids.  They get on with it.  In fact, they’re getting on with it with so much verve and excitement and mad confidence that a new punctuation mark needs to be invented for their acts of crazy, getting-out-there-in-the-world behavior.  Something wild-eyed.  That’s how I should revise  my book, don’t you think?  Like them:  full tilt, knowing it’ll all work out one way or another and whatever happens, it’ll be interesting and fun and, if you keep your head down, the chances are pretty good that you won’t get egged by a senior.

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29 thoughts on “High School! Musical!

  1. Jade, No! Really? I love knowing that. I figure it’ll take me six weeks to finish, more or less, because I plan to take showers and continue doing my job and feeding my family — although in an insane moment of agent-love I said, “oh, this should take just a couple of weeks.” I’m sure he rolled his eyes when he heard that and thought, “sure, sure, see you in eight weeks.”

  2. Dear BL, this writing business is nothing but starting again, and again, and again, and… well you get my drift. I recommend lots of creative dreaming. The boys are excited because what they are doing is new. You, poor woman, have got to go back to the very familiar. So find yourself a beautiful spot and a comfy place to sit, have a cup of tea and think about your book as renewed, refreshed, revitalised. What’s going to make it exciting to write over again – what development could you get excited about? If anyone else knows the book besides you, discuss it with them. Another person’s perspective can be very helpful and refreshing too. But I do recommend dedicated empty space for dreaming. It’s the only thing that works for me. (And I’ve only got ghastly web pages to write for college when my mind does NOT work in a hypertext sort of way – so this is going to take quite some dreaming time!!)

  3. Good luck with all the new, for the boys and for you. Revising will probably be fun when you get to it. Glad to hear about the mercury retrograde as I get stuck into revising as the summer holidays (finally) end.

  4. Yes–that is a wonderful way to go about it. I know it’s hard to think you have a ready ms and be told you have to revise it. I’ve been there many times. In fact I’ve been there having to start from scratch again more than once. I’m finally starting to think of it as “this stage”. Kids know they’re growing and changing and they have both trepidation and excitement about each new stage, reaching for it, measuring themselves against it (look mommy I’ve grown! mine have just turned 8 and 11), reveling in it. I’m glad you brought that up. It’s something to think about.

  5. How exciting for your boys! And I’m sure once the revision starts, you will get into the swing of it. Personally I enjoy revising much more than writing.

    Interesting to hear about mercury retrograde — just as I’m starting to take a NEW online training course for work…if things go wonky, I”ll know why.

  6. Oh, Lily, has to be said: I’m sorry. It IS hard. (How do I make a “downer point” anyway?) The idea of revisions when there’s so much going on in your life is so just… overwhelming. I completely relate. You have every right to whine. Whine at me on Twitter and I’ll take it. I know you can do it, though. I have complete and total faith you will find a way to make this work. Your agent will be thrilled with your revisions, and soon that book will sell. And then I can read it 😉

    You can do this. I’m ending this comment with an exclamation point because I know you can!

  7. Did your agent give you constructive ideas on how to revise, or do you get left on your own? On the up side it is one step closer to knowing you’re going to see it on bookstore shelves. Good luck–I’m sure once you start it’ll be great. Easy for me to say, right. But then you gave a teaser, so I know I’m curious about the rest…. 🙂

  8. There is not a punctuation mark that can contain the wild-eye enthusiasm of youth. I refer you to your post of 5/27/09. A thing of beauty, indeed.

    As for the downer point, it’s a good thing that it can only be imagined, for in that manner it remains intangible and fleeting. Otherwise, it could become a weight.

    Good luck with the revisions. Think of a wild-eyed thing of beauty: calculated, practiced, and exhuberent, something worth the hard work.

  9. I’ve just finished a manuscript, I’m about to send it in to my editor, and I am deeply afraid of what revisions will be required of me. I hope your revision process is fruitful and good.

    Now I’m off to bed hearing, in my mind, the voice of William singing “Who will buy this wonderful morning?”

  10. I can understand that a revision like that seems daunting, but look at it from the bright side: sounds like you have a great agent – and he is interested in selling your book! You are way ahead of a lot of people there 🙂 Good luck with the revision, I am sure you can do it!

  11. Debbie — exactly. I need to drink a lot of water, and keep myself from getting injured somehow!

    Thank you so much Ingrid! And I’m looking forward to seeing you in the bay area this month. xo

    Dear Ben, those Oliver! songs are crazily addictive. More so than most musical theater. Fear not the revision process — I mean, I promise to fear not if you promise to fear not.

    Cam, you are a very wise woman. Punctuation should never be weighty! And thank you for that image of the revised ms. It should be very sustaining when I’m about to panic.

    What a good question, Dani. He did something very helpful — we worked through revisions on one of the chapters to be sure I knew what he had in mind and then he suggested I do that sort of thing with the rest of the book. It’s really just a matter of making sure that nothing is wasted in the scenes — that there’s no spinning of wheels or dead spots. Once you know what dead spots in a ms look like, it’s not terribly hard to cut them out and replace them with better things. It’s just time consuming.

    Nova, I really think there should be a version of twitter devoted to whining — twhiner or something. !!!!!! to you too.

    Gumbomum — good luck with that training. It’s lovely to think of you embarking on something like that. xoxoxo

    Dear Lilian — I can’t tell you how comforting it is to hear that revision and re-revision and re-re-revision is completely normal. I know it is, and I know it’s necessary, and I’m thinking it will be fine to just get on with it!

    Charlotte — I’m sending you all good wishes and much inspiration and fun with those revisions. I hate to have the holidays end, but it’s good to get started on a project like that when everyone else is hunkering down to work too.

    Litlove, I adore you. I just do. Thank you — this idea of dedicated empty space is exactly right. For me, this is the time and space when I walk or hike. xoxoxo

  12. Bloglily! Hey, I haven’t been communing much lately, but I do recall that you’d found an agent…Who, prey tell? (Maybe send me private note?) I still haven’t dived into agent-searching again…Tires me out just thinking about it. But I’m glad you! have! one! (Revisions: phooey. However, hopefully you’re agent’s “suggestions” make sense to you.)

  13. With all this support out here, you simply must get those revisions done! But I agree, I’d feel daunted too. However, I have faith! You can do this…plus, I’m dying to read your book 🙂

  14. Hello dear Lisa, I sent you an e-mail on this subject! But, yes, the “suggestions” make perfect sense. It’s lovely, really, working with someone who’s so clear.

    Hello Becca, it’s true, isn’t it? I think it’s incredibly useful to put your challenges out there — that seems to keep them from overwhelming you. And I’m really thrilled that you want to read the book. I’ll be thinking about you as i re-write!

  15. Best of luck with the revising, Lily. And that’s exciting re the boys entering a new stage. The downer point sounds a bit like the Spanish question-mark which is upside down. Hope you get excited about some of the revisions.

  16. it’s absolutely frightening how much work goes into revising, but I think (I hope) that once you begin it takes on a life of its own. I will be doing the same thing this fall, albeit without an agent. Just…begin. That’s the only way, isn’t it? Just begin with page one and move from there…a lot of us are anxious to read this book, bloglily!

  17. “twhiner” I’d sign up for that. Revising is both a downer and exciting, I think. A downer because “I-THOUGHT-I’D-FINISHED! WAH!” Exciting because you’re making it better! And you know in your heart of hearts that there’s always stuff to be fixed.

    Musicals – I signed up for one once but my father pulled me out of rehearsals because he objected to the lyrics. Maybe in the next life.

  18. U-Dad — What musical was that?? “Who can buy this beautiful morning” is typical of Oliver’s world view. People may pick pockets, but they have fun doing it. And yes, you’re right, in one’s heart of hearts is the knowledge that you can indeed make your book much better.

    Exactly Courtney — that’s very sensible. As Mark Twain says, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” I’ve actually begun, and in fact am up to chapter 6 of 4o-some chapters, but I do think it will help enormously to think of this as a scene by scene thing rather than an all at once thing.

    Thank you, Pete — I hope so too! One thing I think is true of anxiety is that it takes away from us all the excitement and happiness we might feel about things that are new and/or hard! xo

  19. Bloglily, I don’t have much to add to the cheering voices above other than my general huzzah and an ONWARD! You can do this — it is the start of a new phase of the book, not a redo of something old…and it’s going to be stronger, better and even more awesome than it already is. Rock it out, friend! You can do it!

  20. What a time of excitement for the BlogLily tribe! Good luck to William as he learns the theater ropes, and the twins as they navigate the travails of high school, and YOU, doing the revision dance yet again. But mostly to the twins. High school is HARD.

  21. Marie — so far, so good. They’re both really busy — windsurfing, singing, skateboarding, playing soccer, and I asked them to join at least one activity at the school. That, and taking the bus, finding good food for lunch, and dodging eggs doesn’t give them very much time for anxiety, I think although really what would I know about the inner life of a teen? (I mean, I remember my own inner life, but that was in a different time and with a different family). The good/bad thing is that their high school seems so far to be more socially challenging than academically challenging, which is the opposite of the nice, small private schools they’ve been in all their lives. But they seem very ready for the change, and I think things do get harder as they get further along. Thank you for the good wishes. xoxoxo

  22. Lovely Lily–
    you go girl!

    i must admit I’m dying to know what he wants you to do. It’s been such a long and multi-leveled learning experience. And you’ve been so determined and good natured and disciplined. I’m impressed, as always.

    can’t wait to read the new it.
    xoxoxo
    op

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