A Winter Daze

I’ve often used this website to write observances about nature but in recent years, it’s become a journal of sorts. This is one of those posts.

More and more I witness people bewildered by the length of the month January. “How is it still January?” they say. “This day has felt like a week.” “I can’t wait for this to be over.” and so on. I’ve often felt similarly to the month, even when I was a child. After all the glitz and glam of the holiday season happening just after the glories of autumn, January was cold and dreary with not much to look forward to. At least in February there’s the promise of sweets and the possibility that by the following month we would have our first warm days, but January? No, we know we are firmly in the hold of winter and not likely to escape anytime soon.

But the feeling that January has simply lasted too long, that we are trapped in some wormhole that transforms time, has felt more prominent in recent years. In 2020, my journal entries for that first month of the year were full of details about how I felt the month was lasting forever and that I desperately wished for upcoming spring. It’s sad to look back on now, I hadn’t the faintest idea of what 2020 would hold for us nor how our lives would change.

This January, we entered the month knowing full well that it would be a hard one. Our preschooler was scheduled for an outpatient surgery during the first week of the month. We immediately met our year’s insurance deductible before the first week was over. And then we were left with recovery which was a long and harried time. Trying to explain to a preschooler how the pain is temporary and will go away someday is hard, trying to explain to them that we must care for the area that was operated on and ensure it’s healing right is even harder. That mixed with the emotional exhaustion and waking every 2-4 hours to administer medicine, we were in a haze where the first half of January felt like a blob. Some gelatinous cube of time where events occurred and stuck within the gel but seemed to float there and not really make any sense.

We didn’t really feel like we joined the new year until the latter end of January. Suddenly, our preschooler was well enough to return to school and we began to step back into our weekly schedule. We felt that the year had just begun while everyone else was well into January and used to it already.

And so, we dragged our way through the end of January. Despite that the first half was a fever dream, the second half still fully felt like it was going on forever. School, work, and multiple doctor appointments before the massive medical bill came in from the surgery because what is it to be an American if you aren’t experiencing some form or medical debt?

Through this, I did two things to stay afloat.

  1. I began to write a follow up to TARNISHED (the novel I am query agents with). Typically, it is encouraged of writers to avoid doing this. The reasoning makes sense. You want to write a whole new book so you can query agents with multiple manuscripts and therefore heighten your chances of finding representation. But also to write that second novel could be a waste of time if your first is to be published; often so much change occurs with the first novel that surely the second would also need massive revisions. And yet, I couldn’t be bothered with these reasons. I was drowning in worry over the surgery and writing that follow up novel (well, beginning it) was the only thing I could properly cling to to keep my head above water. Still, even that writing died once the surgery occurred because all my energy and time shifted to my preschooler. I hope to begin writing it again soon.
  2. I began querying agents again. In autumn of 2022 I started my querying journey and only sent out ten queries to agents. I had a mixed bag of responses. Of the ten, I received rejections from all but two. Of those two remaining, they are still slowly making progress through the hoard of queries they received. One, I suspect I am in their “maybe” pile, the other I suspect hasn’t seen my query yet. But by mid-month I felt I had nothing to lose. During December I had done a major revision to my query letter and wanted to test the waters so I went for it, I submitted my query to an additional 22 agents. Once again, some I received instant rejections on. Once I received a personalized letter which was a first for me. Of those agents who haven’t responded (13) I suspect I am in two more maybe piles. In fact, I feel like I am growing steadily closer to receiving my first request for a manuscript. Call it a gut feeling but it’s there.

The publishing industry is incredibly overwhelmed and that trickles down to the agents as well. To get a request for your manuscript is hard. To get a personalized rejection letter is hard. To make it to the stage of possibly being offered representation is damn near impossible. But there’s still a chance, no matter how small it is, and I am still going to work towards it until I’ve run out of agents to query.

I also reread my novel with mixed feelings. I fell in love with the story but also thought “perhaps it’s just awful.” Natural waves of emotions when dealing with so many other outside forces and stressors. Is this what it is to be a writer? To ride waves of pride and determination to achieve followed by moments to wallow and question our creative ability? I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure it out.

And so we barreled down on February. Imbolc! Oh, one of my favorite, most treasured holidays. To reach the mid-point of winter and realize how delightfully close we are to spring always feels like such an achievement. There it is, glimmering in the heightening sun, the longer days, the return of birds. It’s coming, don’t you see?

Leading up to Imbolc, I always do a deep clean of our home and it always leaves me feeling lighter. As if finally, I have truly let go of the holidays and made room for a new season, a new year, and can move forward. With most of January being comprised of cloud cover, it seemed that February got the memo that we needed a break. Granted, what sunshine we received came with frigid temperatures but most of the winter had been too warm, so even they were welcome.

And so we leave January behind and all the confused, emotional, exhausting days that came with it. I’m eager to look toward February. I’m hopeful. While I’ve decided to take another mini break from querying, it’s never that far away. I’m only hoping to get some responses, whether good or bad, then dive back into the trenches. Here’s to a more bright and successful February.

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