Why yes, I look just fine

This week I went to my regular doctor for something. We chatted a bit about what referral I was requesting and why.

She asked me about my MS. I told her I’m fine. She paused and looked me up and down and said, “Yes, you do look good.”

I smiled, but inside I thought it was such a strange comment, especially from a doctor, even if she is not a neurologist. And it’s a comment I get all the time. I’m not sure what people think I should look like with MS. But the first thing people point out is how well I look. How they can’t tell I’ve got these looming capital letters above my head. I think they just don’t know what to say. Or maybe they think that I’m supposed to have a limp or a cane or a wheelchair. Maybe that’s what they mean.

I have been doing very well, thank you. And honestly most days I don’t even think about it. I am grateful for that. I know it could be much worse. When I was first diagnosed at the beginning of 2013, I embraced a whole program of diet, exercise and meditation. And then after the years wore on and I didn’t have many symptoms and my planning became lax, I started to think: meh, I’m fine, really. I’ll just take this medication and whatever.

Lately I’ve been reassessing my lackadaisical approach to my health. I know that in the early stages of this disease, diet is crucial and can alter the course. In other words, what I decide to do now, can have an effect on my health 20 years from now. And 20 years from now, I want to be doing pretty damn well. But it’s easy to slack and to ease up on the diligence when everything is seemingly okay. And isn’t that the case in all aspects of our life? We tend to give attention to the problems or the crisis and if something’s going well, or is not complaining, we don’t notice it. This is why it’s easy to just cruise in our relationships or jobs and then a couple of years go by and we are dissatisfied. We don’t nurture our good soil and it starts to become depleted.

The thing about this disease is that it is always marching forward. The march can be a sluggish trail or a two time step or a sprint. The point is it doesn’t stop.

So that means neither do I.

I am resetting my plan. I downloaded a meditation app. I’m taking vitamin D and B12, along with other supplements and my medication. I’m exercising. I’m currently roasting some beets and saving the greens for a juice. I’m doing the work. And yes, it is work. But it is good work.

Because in 20 years, I expect people to look me up and down and say, “Yeah, you look good.”

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Updates

It’s been a while folks. Let’s just say that I’ve been working, writing, raising the kiddos. I keep thinking I’ll find this thing called “balance.” It’s elusive.

This year I am going to revamp my website. It’s got the basics, but I’d love a designer’s eye on it. So that’s something I’ll be excited to work on.

Life is good. I have been teaching at CSULA in the English department. I love being there. I actually got my MA at the school. Love the student body. I am also healthy. I know it could go another way, so I’m very grateful for my health and my family.

I also finished writing my third book, formally titled Neruda in Love, now it is Crazy Messy Beautiful. The book will be available February 2017. A little later than originally anticipated, but still, the fact that I get to say I have any book publishing in any future is still amazing to me.

I’m currently in the middle of another novel that I don’t have the pub date for, but I will be traveling a little to research it. It’s one very close to my heart, and I don’t want to say too much, but I will say that I’m going to Sarajevo in May. So so excited.

My new word for this year is cultivate. I have been trying to cultivate the life I want, instead of living a reactionary life. One of the tools that has been super helpful was to create a Bullet Journal. I don’t remember where I saw the idea, I believe it was another writer’s site. But it’s basically an analog calendaring system. It can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. I am more on the simple side, and it’s so working for me. One of the things I love about it is that it allows me to set my pace, and it also allows time for reflection. I can look back over the month and see where I felt the most at peace or where I was the most productive, or like with February this year, I can say: Alright, that was way too crazy of a month. How can I avoid that? I can also track how many pages I write in a week/month/year. How many books I read? I can track all the things and it’s in a physical format, which I find more helpful than digital. It’s the best.

2016 is a year of hard work, patience, waiting, sports, joy, travel, gratitude, perseverance, courage, community and friendship.

It’s also a year where I am trying to approach life with hands open rather than closed.

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Going to LA Times Festival of Books

I’ll be at the LA Times Festival of Books on Sunday, April 19.

10:30 am I’m on a panel with Jandy Nelson, author of I’ll Give You the Sun and David Arnold, author of Mosquitoland. Author Robin Benway will be moderating.

There is a signing after the panel.

I’ll also be signing from 2-3 at the Once Upon a Time booth.

I can’t believe I get to go back to this festival. Last year was a personal dream come true to be there as an author. I’m grateful I get to go again.

I’ll write a post about it later.

But here’s hoping to run into Billy Idol himself.

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New Book Deal!!

I have some great news on the book front. My next two books will be published by Philomel, an imprint of Penguin Random House. I am soo excited and happy about this. Here’s the announcement from yesterday’s Publisher’s Marketplace:

National Book Award finalist Carrie Arcos’s NERUDA IN LOVE, about an unlucky-in-love sixteen-year-old boy with a penchant for poetry but an inability to write his own, who falls harder than he ever thought possible for an elusive girl, and wonders if his luck may finally be changing, to Liza Kaplan at Philomel, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in Summer 2016, by Kerry Sparks at Levine Greenberg Rostan (World English). Translation:
efisher@lgrliterary.com 

The initial spark for this book comes from a former student of mine when I taught over in Moreno Valley back in the day. He was this incredibly passionate, sensitive, and romantic guy trying to figure things out. He introduced me to the poet, Pablo Neruda. It’s such a shame that I went all through school to have never heard of him. That seems crazy to me. So I got this idea about a boy named Neruda, after the poet, who is the unluckiest in love. And I wrote this story that I’m loosely calling the third in my Southern California stories. My first book took place in San Diego, the second in Eagle Rock and surrounding LA, and this one is another Northeast LA book.

I feel LA has such a rich sense of place and most people think of LA in three ways (I know because my East coast relatives say this): either we are infested with gangs and street thugs, or we are rich film and TV people in Beverly Hills, or we are all beach surfer types. Angelinos are way more diverse than that. It’s funny with my second book I had someone comment that it didn’t feel LA enough because it felt like a suburb. :) There are suburbs in LA too.

Anyway, regardless, I’m so excited that Neruda’s story will be published. It’s a little bit away: 2016! But that’s the publishing time table and is normal. The great thing is we have plenty of time to make it amazing. It’s already written, and I’m editing.

The second book has yet to be determined, but I’m hoping it’ll be the story I started at my time in Hedgebrook. Sorry I can’t say more. I’m holding it close to my chest.

The selling of these two books came at such a crazy time. We were having to move, the owners are selling our house and we couldn’t swing the price, I was looking for work, because you know money was/is tight, and it was the busiest work season for my husband. The week before I was in tears wondering how I’d handle everything.

A week later, I got a job at CSULA for the fall. I’ll be teaching two composition classes. We put a deposit on a new place. And I got word about not only a book deal on the table, but that I’d have to choose between people.

Philomel is a wonderful imprint that suits who I am as a writer. Liza Kaplan is a dream editor, and her enthusiasm for Neruda is palpable. I think it’s going to be a perfect home for me.

I’m so very grateful.

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Hedgebrook Residency

sign

The first words that came to mind when I stepped onto Hedgebrook ground were, “Thank you.” I couldn’t have planned a more perfect setting for me to retreat to and work in. All of the details were designed just for me. The hand crafted cottages with a kitchen, wood burning stove, reading nook and large work station. Perfect. Being surrounded by the woods. Perfect. Within view of the ocean. Perfect. Bikes ready in the barn for me to use at any time. Perfect. A lovely garden of flowers and fruit and veggies. Picking sugar snap peas and eating them fresh is the best along with yellow raspberries. Perfect. A 5:30pm dinner call where you sit down to eat a meal prepared for you and are joined by six amazing women whom you’ve just met but by the next day you feel like you already know. Perfect. Words. Writing lots of words because you don’t have fear here. You don’t doubt. You just press through.

My cabin: Fir

firhouse

To have two weeks to myself like this was just glorious and such a gift. Hedgebrook are masters at what they call “radical hospitality.” It was radical because I was able to accept others serving and waiting on me. I was able to find my own rhythm of doing work without having to worry about anything else. There were no children. No outside pressures. Nothing but myself.

 

 

 

 

 

on a clear day you can see Mt. Rainier

view

I had read that confronting the self during my stay at Hedgebrook might be difficult, so I tried to prepare myself before hand. I told myself that I might get lonely or feel frustrated or bored. But none of this happened. I allowed myself to feel and accept and come to Hedgebrook with open hands, and I think this is what helped me. It was also helpful to have community with women every night, something I never do.

the garden  from which all meals were prepared and we could pick from

garden

As far as word count went, I pretty much wrote 2,000 words a day. There was one day I didn’t write at all and I was a bit anxious about it, but I let it go. I was there to do what I would do, no more, no less. In the end, I came home with 23,000 words of a new novel. The one I had been scared to write.

At the moment Hedgebrook is receiving applicants for it’s next session. I strongly encourage you to apply!

yellow raspberries

yellow

 

This novel. Oh boy. Now that I’m home (I’ve been back a week) the doubts have started to come.

 

 

 

The words. You know, the “you’re never going to be able to write this” the “no one will want to read it” the “this is hard, what if I don’t get it right?” the “I’m not really a writer. I’ll never be able to write another good story again” the “I suck.”

my reading nook

reading nook

So reentry has been difficult. While at Hedgebrook I gave myself to the writing and didn’t let myself dwell on much else. Maybe this is why it flowed because even when I wasn’t writing…when I was running or biking or walking or sitting and staring out the window, the story was always going.

One of my favorite spots to sit

pondAt home it’s been a lot of start and stop. Interruptions all the time. Kids off for the summer. Me looking for a teaching job because you know, money. Cleaning. Planning meals. Paying parking tickets…

I’m afraid I’ve lost my flow. I need it back. This story I’m trying to tell requires courage. I don’t have time for stupid fear. It requires risk and the possibility, maybe even the probability of failure. And so I know I have to do it.

I know I don’t need a cabin in the woods. I don’t need rabbits and deer passing me in the morning. I don’t need the view of the ocean.

I need me, my laptop and some black coffee. Back to 6am writing sessions.

I’ll see you tomorrow, bright and ready.

A lavender farm nearby

lavendar farm

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Pinoy love

There Will Come a Time is getting some Pinoy love. A group of bloggers in the Philippines is hosting a blog tour and give away at Pinoy Book Tours. It’s only open to those who live in the Philippines. Thank you so much guys for helping me get the word out about Mark and his story!

 

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Launch for There Will Come a Time

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Last night I had my launch at Skylight Books in Los Feliz. I didn’t take any pictures, but thankfully friends did, so I’ll pull from some of those to post here.

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Launches are basically book parties. A chance to celebrate a book coming out and getting together with friends, family and soon to be friends. But it’s really nerve wracking. The whole day I was anxious, wondering if anyone would come. As the day wore on, I started getting texts from people who weren’t able to make it. Of course that’s normal.

My beautiful sister in law and friends Dawn and Debbie arranged some sweets, drinks and coffee for guests.

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And when 7:30 came it was hardly full. By the end, over 100 people came out to celebrate with me. How awesome!!! I felt so loved and am so grateful for it.

It’s hard to tell from this pic, but there’s people all in the back and on the sides of the stacks and on both sides of me.

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I read from a couple of passages. Not too much, just enough, but my husband said I should have read a small third section. He said because it was his favorite part. Now he tells me!
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My wonderful trio of musicians: Andre, Darren and Niko!
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Me being nervous.1512281_10152447379649750_5662794125014987767_n

With a lovely friend celebrating.1926839_10203750054534972_5814783542878729028_n

Wow.

I mean, it’s a weird thing. Writing a book for one thing–takes great hubris to think that you have something to say that people will pay money for. And secondly it’s like look at me! look at me! like I’m a puppy jumping up and down. Because there are so many books, amazing books and my little book drops in the middle and I wonder who will really care?

Fear= Silence.

Crickets.

Amazon sales rank.

Yawn.

When’s book #3 coming??

So it’s like I talk to myself and get myself under control and I tell myself that this is fun. This is fun. Creating art. Being a voice of hope for teens. Writing a story that is very real about how the only way through something devastating is through.

I have to learn to push through. To tear through the fear and doubt and those stupid voices that creep around and tell me I’m not good enough. When will I be good enough for them? How many books will it take? What accolades? What nonsense! Knock it off! Be gone! You are banished!!

Thank you. Thank you for all who came out. Thank you for all who bought a book and all who buy it in the future. Your support is HUGE and dream making.

And thank you for sharing these moments. How fun a night of community in a book store. Everyone talking and happy to be there and books. All the books.

I hope you enjoy Mark’s story!

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