Second Hand Life: unsolicited advice

Coat/Wardrobe rack

Coat/Wardrobe rack

Yes, messy apartment, try to ignore the clutter–I do.  Everyone knows I’m waiting to hear about the larger apartment.  In the meantime, I know it will need some work before we can move in, and that means paying on two apartments.  Obviously, I want to minimize the hemorrhage of funds.  I’m not buying anything (what if it doesn’t come through?), but my current place is hung with paint swatches and little floor samples scattered in different lighting.  My kitchen table won’t fit in the new space, and Art Child needs new furniture, so we’re cyber-window-shopping.  We like to look at the web sites for the out of budget stores, and get ideas from those.   One thing we saw that we both thought was a great idea was a wardrobe rack for her bedroom.  The site we saw this on is charging $300. For a coat rack! It’s ok, we aren’t buying anything, just looking.

Yesterday afternoon we splurged and went for tea at our favorite place, lots of fun.  Afterwards, we made our way to the thrift store.  I rarely find anything in there, I think you have to be more of a shopper to do well.  But then, there it was. A perfectly good coat rack.  $30.  How could I not? It’s on wheels, so we walked it home.  Of course, those wheels aren’t meant for city streets, so we lost two screws by the tenth block, and the bottom rack was now perpendicular to the top.  Five more blocks, found a hardware store, where the manager got us two new screws and fixed it. $1.19

Between the find and a conversation with a writing friend, I’m thinking about this second hand life.  For the record, I’m a big supporter of recycling and reusing.  In its way, Astonishing is recycled.  Do you know it’s my fourth completed manuscript?  I want to kick myself, each and every day, feeling like I wasted so much time.  First I felt like I had plenty of time ahead of me to sit down and write that Great American Novel.  Then I started, but practicality (also known as fear and insecurity) had me write romances first.  Romance isn’t easy, or an easy market, but it is a larger market, a bit more open to newcomers.

When I wrote Wanna Bees (third manuscript) it was an attempt to blend my two loves, reefing and writing.  It was also my first experience writing something close to magical realism.  I loved it.  Sent a small number of queries, a couple of requests–rejected–and realized I didn’t care enough.  So I recycled.  Both Wanna Bees and Astonishing begin with the death of a mother (within one year, I lost my mother and learned of the death of my birth mother.  Writing may not be as effective as traditional therapy, but it’s easier on the budget.) both open in New York, both main characters have sisters they’re close with, both have magical realism.  But very, very different books.  I had fun writing Wanna Bees.  I love Astonishing.

Will it get published?  I have no idea.  Is is good enough? Good enough is the underlying theme in all of my manuscripts.  I think so, but I have researched enough, listened to and had enough conversations with the pubbed and unpubbed, agents and editors, to know good enough isn’t always enough.  There are other considerations.  Some of the mistakes I’ve made are part of the process, the only way to learn (unless, maybe, you go the MFA route, have real life mentors and such, but even then I suspect those craft mistakes need to happen).  But waiting so long to take myself seriously?  Avoidable.  Waiting even longer to write a manuscript I really wanted to write?  Avoidable.  This is where I can and you should say, “that Mrs Fringe is a hard-headed woman.”  It’s okay, Husband says it all the time.

Everyone who writes has their own process, what works for them.  Personally, I don’t believe in writing only for yourself if you’re interested in publication.  I write with an eye/ear towards what I think would be interesting to others, intrigue them enough to keep reading.  But if  you want to do this writing thing, if you want to be published–be just hard-headed enough to do it.  Don’t wait for the right time, don’t write what you think is the more practical choice–just because it’s more practical.  Writing fiction isn’t exactly practical.  I saw plenty of items in the thrift store that were still impractical and out of budget, second hand or not.  But when it’s in budget, right in front of you? Grab it and fix the wheels when you get it home.


  1. I’ve been through enough appartments and houses here and in France to know that moving (or the possibility of moving) are both exciting and a little unsettling.
    As for writing, I agree that we write to be read. Otherwise we would keep personal journals. Choosing the publishing venue, however, has changed since you can decide to go Indie. Marketing and promotion will be hard but not harder than it is for traditionally published unknown writers.
    I still agree that an agent or an editor who have our back is best. It is hard to get one but a good manuscript read by the right person at the right time can definitely lead to publication. And this is what I sincerely wish for you. Best of luck with the wardrobe rack and the manuscript.


  2. Looking back, more than one of my novels (I think 3, only one of which is any kind of “complete” or “edited”) start after a major death in the main character’s life. Actually, 4, considering the one I’ve just started. It’s a polarizing, paralyzing event. Or it’s a kick in the pants. It varies by character, and by situation. And we always think there’s more time, both with people and with writing. Symbolic or just true? Can it be both?


    1. Death is a natural “inciting incident,” regardless of genre. And yes, I think the time question is true of both life and writing–or any other creative endeavor. 🙂


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