6) I still have a full-time job. And believe me, designing bridges isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. 7) And on top of all of that, I still have a wife and a house and two dogs. And a mother and a father and a brother and a sister and nieces and nephews and in-laws.
So I’m going to be totally honest here. The last six months were murder. Seriously. There were some mornings where I didn’t think I had the energy–both physical and mental–to pull myself out of bed, much less make it through the day. There were some nights where I worked on writing stuff until 5 o’clock in the morning, took a two-hour power nap, and then went to work. There were some nights were I didn’t even have two spare hours for a nap.
So, I had to give some things up. First on the list–blogging. That was pretty easily to do, actually. As much as I missed it, I figured that I could always pick it up when I needed to.
The second thing was much harder to give up. I pretty much became a social hermit, cutting off ties with many of my friends. My thought was that if my friends were real friends, then they’d understand, and they’d still be there when things calmed down. I still believe that to be the case.
And family life was…strained. And I’ll leave it at that.
But, you know what–it’s July. And I’m still here. And so are my friends. And so is my family. And so is my job. And so is this blog.
I thought about taking a semester off from the program for a brief second, before pushing that thought out of my mind. Now, I know a lot of people take semesters off, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But in my case, I needed to push through. I needed Vermont College. More than anything, for those that don’t understand writing–for those that see it as something easy, as a hobby, as something not worthy of blood and sweat and tears–Vermont College gave me a legitimate reason to write.
And you know what else? I’d do it all over again. In a heartbeat. Without thinking twice.
I am a writer. As much as I wish otherwise, it’s more than a job. It is more than a passion. It’s a way of life for me, and for better or worse, it’s who I am now. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from Vermont College, it’s that.
Another thing that I’ve learned is that I’m going to be honest from now on about my writing. I write. It’s important to me. Plain and simple–I want a writing career.
More importantly, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a writing career. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be successful and get paid to do what you love to do.
Now, a writing career means a lot of different things, which I’m still trying to define. And, I’m not saying that I’m plan to march into my job tomorrow and quit–I promise, that’s the last thing I want to do. (Plus, engineering is a big part of who I am as well. I’m not sure if I could give that up.)
All I’m really saying is that, for a long time, I side-stepped and avoided talking about what I really wanted out of writing. I marginalized and belittled it. It wasn’t a real career…it was just something I did on the side.
Well, those days are over. My name is Varian Johnson, and I’m a writer. And I’m not ashamed to say that I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of it.
The next six months are going to suck, but not nearly as bad. I’ve got a critical thesis to write. I have a new novel I’m working on. I have to get edits in for RIGHTEOUS pretty soon. And I’d actually like to spend some time with Mrs. V.
Okay, so enough with the backstory. There you have it. Perhaps a little personal, but sometimes it’s okay to be personal, right?
Or maybe I’m still feeling all touchy-feely from Vermont. It can have that effect on you, you know.
Be sure to check out the chat tonight (Wednesday, July 23) from 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. eastern on the Brown Bookshelf forum about how indie bookstores can work with authors and their local community to ensure their survival. Both Jenn Laughren from Books Inc. and Jaz Vincent, owner of RealEyes Bookstore, will be checking in.
I just got back from my latest Vermont College Residency, as like always, I riddled with a mix of joy at being back at home, and at sadness for leaving such a magical place. As always, the residency was great–full of great lectures and workshops, laughter and tears. My class felt especially close to the graduating students, so while I was happy to see them go, part of me wanted them to stick around just a little bit longer.
I’m heading into Semester 3: The Critical Thesis Semester. I have a good idea about what my thesis will cover, and if that doesn’t work out, I have a back-up idea. I’ll be working with Margaret “Here’s your thirty-page response letter” Bechard this semester. I also have a super secret novel that I’m hoping to work on with Margaret this semester.
I just wanted to give a quick shout out to my friend April Lurie. Her new novel, The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine (Delacorte, 2008) was officially released yesterday. This is my favorite of April’s books–she strikes just the right balance of humor and drama. And I’m not the only person that likes the book–it’s already been nominated for the BBYA list!
I hate starting a new project. Every time I start something new, the following thoughts pop into my head:
1) Why am I doing this? I don’t get paid enough to be this miserable. 2) I’m such a hack. No wonder ____ said _____ about my last book. 3) I could write a novel about ___, but ___ has already done it. 4) I could write a novel about _____, but ____ could do it so much better than I could. 5) I should write something funny. 6) I should write something serious. 7) I should write a fantasy novel. Yeah, Hakim Potter at the Deathly Ghettos. 8) I should write a middle grade, so that I can win a Newbery. 9) I should write an adult novel. That way I could be on Oprah. 10) I should just quit while I’m ahead.
Eventually I’m able to push through these thoughts and get something down on paper. Sometimes it just takes a while. A long while.
In other news, I wish I had something more to add about the sale, but really, there isn’t much more to say, at least not now. My editor feels pretty confident that we can get the revisions done in enough time to make the Fall 09 schedule. I’ll be sure to let y’all know when something exciting happens.
A lot of you guys have been asking me to write a novel from a male point of view. Well, be careful what you wish for…
From Publisher’s Marketplace:
MY LIFE AS A RHOMBUS author Varian Johnson’s THE PATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS, about a preacher’s son who has to make some big decisions about who he is and who he wants to be when his childhood crush returns to town, all grown up into a gorgeous and troubled teen, to Stephanie Lane at Delacorte, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (NA).
Details are still sketchy, but here’s the important info:
1) It’ll be a hardback. 2) We’re shooting for a Fall 09 release. 3) The title may or may not change.
“Johnson’s book strikes a good balance; it’s gripping and sensitive at the same time. It doesn’t oversimplify; it doesn’t pull punches. And, perhaps most importantly, it does not pass judgment.”
I love that readers and reviewers “get this” about Rhombus. It gives me faith that I did something right.
2) Updated website: I’ve added a couple of pages to the website — a dedicated calendar page and a page on school visits. If you see any misspellings, please let me know.
3) On the Vermont College front, I wrote my first picture book last month. It started off at about 1500 words, and by the time I submitted it, I had cut it down to 1070. Now Rita wants me to trim off at least 200 more words.
4) Among the many books that I read last month, the one that stood out the most was E. L. Konigsburg’s A View from Saturday. I’m not quite convinced that it has a plot, but I don’t care. It’s a great story. I see why it won the Newbery.
5) I hit the big 3-1 today. I celebrated by filling out paperwork that I had neglected for the past month.