Wednesday, January 08, 2020

A brief lesson in humility

Last weekend I attended the annual meeting of the American Historian's Association.
It  was a terrific event and I'm glad I rose to the challenge of going to a new, unknown event.

It's been 10+ years since I've attended an event where I would not know a single soul. At writing conferences, I'm usually invited to attend and even people I don't know are mostly glad to see me.

At cons like Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, or Left Coast Crime chances are that I'll know more than  two dozen people, and again, because of my job, even strangers are often eager to say hello.

Being a lit agent is an instant entree at a conference or con.

But this past weekend, I was doing what many of you do/did at your first writing conference. Walking in to foreign territory, hoping to avoid doing something stupid. Not sure of the unspoken decorum; not sure if I'd be eyed warily. Feeling very alone and unsure.

It turned out I was the least knowledgeable person in the room. Every room. Every day. I was able to ask one good question in one panel, and offer an added perspective to another panelist after the talk.

I managed to introduce myself to a three people and have an extended conversation with one.

All in all, I not only survived, I liked it enough (hard as it was) to plan to hit the Seattle meeting in 2021.

Well, ok then, I'm the cat's pjs, Yay me!

When I got home I found a copy of Barbara Poelle's wonderful new book waiting for me.

Of course, ego maniac that I am, I turned to the index to see where *me me me* was cited in the book.

And wow! There I am!
I was so pleased I'd been quoted so often. Yay me!
Puff puff puff up the ego after three days of feeling quite small.

So I checked the listed pages.
And I'm not there.
Not at all. Not on the first three citations.

Only when I looked at the index again did I realize it's a layout error.
Rejections should be directly underneath Reid, not indented.

Oh boy.
I haven't laughed that hard at myself in WEEKS.

Talk about an ego check!

Of course, I immediately wrote to Barb to complain, cause that's what you do when you find errors in printed books, right?

Narrator:  it is not.

We did have a good laugh, and honestly this will make better fodder to torment Barb than if the layout was correct.

This week was my first time at AHA and my first time in an index!
2020 is off to an Interesting, if slightly Humbling, start.

Are you trying something for the first time in 2020?
Do tell!


nightsmusic said...

Congrats on stepping out of your comfort zone. That's a hard thing to do. I remember the first conference I went to. I didn't know anyone though I ended up rooming with an author friend I'd only known online. I met a few people, attended a few talks, it was fun!

This's January 8th. I imagine something will come up I've never done before, but right now, I got nothing. I lead a rather boring life now. I didn't used to, but that's a story for another time ;)

JulieWeathers said...

Congratulations on the conference. I wish I'd been there.

Something new this year? Going back to Texas for a while. I need to collect some belongings and do some research on the new project. Pray I will have enough funds to move down for the winter next year. I'm too darned old for this white stuff.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I hope there is something new. I was far too much in a stale routine in 2019. And after the travel stories on this blog, I am wary of traveling. But yes, I will make myself do something new. It is good for the soul and for the muses.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

For me every day is new. I am trying to do (at least once a day) something unexpected, something challenging, something that gets me stepping outside my comfort zone.

Because I am the most famous person I know I have a lot to be humble about. How boring is that?

CynthiaMc said...

Trying not to overschedule.

I have to tell myself again every day, but I am at least thinking about it.

Baby steps.

Dena Pawling said...

I'm querying later this year. I've queried before but this year it's a different book and my favorite book, so that's new. Definitely stepping out of my comfort zone!

Theresa said...

I'm glad you rose to the AHA challenge, Janet. I've been to a few AHA conferences and know how overwhelming they can be.

The first time I went, I was a first year PhD student, the first person in my family to attend graduate school. (And the first to go to college.)AHA was in Chicago, and back then it was held between Christmas and New Year. I was home in the suburbs for the semester break, so it was easy to take the train back and forth downtown. My parents decided I'd have a better experience if I stayed overnight in the conference hotel, so that was part of my Christmas gift that year. I didn't know anyone, and all the sessions showed me how much history I didn't know yet. I admired the bravery and the smarts of people who stood up and asked questions. By the end of the first day, I wondered what I'd gotten myself into. I'm glad I only had to drag myself upstairs (fortunately, via a working elevator)to collapse at the end of each day. I learned a lot and have always been happy that I stuck with it.

Katja said...

Writing-wise, maybe I'm not trying new things but rather carrying on with what I did last year: spreading the word about my first novel and getting into the hands of people with the impact/influence that I need.

This COULD be linked to what I am trying this year, although it's not exactly 100% new: therapy for my severe OCD. I've gone through several in the past, but the last one was over ten years ago, and not in English!

I've just had my first session here in England and it was GREAT. I also plan not to be embarrassed when mentioning to friends and people that I'm in therapy. I hope to join the fight against stigma.

And, while I was at my first session, I spoke to two psychologists and asked them if they were possibly interested in reading my novel. And they WERE. One was smiling so much with a curious look on her face, that I'm confident about taking a couple of copies with me next week when I go back.

I was even pointed toward the reading list that the NHS has set up for this... so yeah, there is one book about obsessions and compulsions already, but hey, there could be a second one, no? ;)

On a totally different matter, and I hope, nightsmusic, you won't take this personally, but you wrote something I just HAVE to ask all the native English-speakers about:
"I didn't used to, but that's a story for another time..."

I see "didn't used to..." SO SO often - on Twitter, in magazines, articles. I stumble over this because I don't recognise the grammar. Like the tense or whatever. It looks like past and active, not passive (I get why something could be written this way: "It wasn't used as a thing to sit on" - I see here why it's 'used' with the d since it's past and PASSIVE, right?)

I don't get why it's not "didn't use (without the d!) to". So, if someone could explain to me?

Thank you, friends!

nightsmusic said...

katja Didn't used to, while used commonly, is dependent on how it's said and in what implication. The correct way to form my sentence would have been 'I use to not lead such a boring life' What I did incorrectly was a double negative or two past tenses.

This might help: Oxford Dicionary American English

I used to be very good with my grammar, but over the years, I've gotten lazy ;)

Katja said...

Thanks, nightsmusic. :)

Just to be sure: you didn't accidentally forget a d after 'use' in your sentence "I use to not lead such a boring life"?

I do get your very last sentence with 'used' in it. That one makes sense to me.

Gosh, seems like I might have to take more English lessons. Cause I'm a little bit very puzzled at the moment, cause I'm unable to recognise two negatives anywhere. I do see two past tenses, yes, and thought the 'didn't' is the past and puts everything afterwards into infinitive.

Oh well ;).

nightsmusic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nightsmusic said...

Losing my mind...

katja, I'm probably not the best person to explain things and for that, I apologize. You're correct in that I used a double past tense originally, not a double negative in the strictest sense. But the last sentence, I use to not, is not worded wrong. From the Grammar Exchange: "Either the "formal" or "British" used not to is fine, as is the "informal" or "American" didn't use to (or didn't used to)." Used and Not are both past tense so only one is needed. However, it needs to be worded in the correct order, which I didn't do. It should be either I didn't use to, or I didn't used to and leave the word 'not' out completely. "I didn't use(d) to lead a boring life" would have been the correct order, but alas, like I said, I have gotten lazy over time.

There's a reason I edit ruthlessly when going over my WIP, because I have gotten so lazy and I now write like I speak.

But I was making a funny which I shouldn't have, and I'm sorry. I understand how very confusing it all is.

Katja said...

Huh? If the word 'not' is indeed past tense, I'll throw in the towel.

To me, it's neither past nor present nor any tense. It's just a negative.

"I used to not lead a boring life" seems all fine to me. As long as the d is stuck to the word 'use' in this case if you're talking about the past.

Maybe we're both confused now. And have drawn the Reef into the mess as well... I wasn't going to respond to your last comment that you deleted - for that reason ;) - but now you've introduced something else, so the confusion is complete, ha ha.

Laura Stegman said...

Good for you Janet. Walking into a place where I know no one isn't one of my favorite things, but I am trying it tonight at my first local SCBWI meeting! Getting my debut novel published this year means everything I'm doing is new, from writing my sequel, due later this year, to being my own advocate and partner in the marketing process. Last summer I was crying in my beer (read soda pop) to a friend about how I couldn't possibly promote myself (nevermind that's what I do as a living for others). When my friend said why not? I had to think about it for just a few seconds before I realized oh, hey, yeah why not? So, here I go. Getting to know other writers and reading blogs like this brought me to where I am and will help carry me forward. Thanks to you all.

RosannaM said...

Something new in 2020? You betcha. I am immersed in something new nearly every day. It started with a move across the state in Oct.

Used a meat grinder for the first time and made breakfast sausage last night (patties--didn't want to mess with casings). Didn't measure any spices, just threw them in. They were good, but needed salt.

Am toying with the idea of getting a kiln and learning how to fuse glass. It is a bit pricey so I am dragging my feet while trying it on mentally to make sure I would like it as a hobby.

Travel also features into the upcoming year. We are going to attempt to travel by military Space A. For those of you who don't know, the military allows some passengers, some times on their planes if there is space available. You have no guaranteed ticket until a couple of hours before departure. You have no return ticket, so you may get stranded. You may fly in seats facing backwards, or along the sides of the plane in jumpseats. This sounds terrifyingly exhilarating to me!

2020 better be unpredictable. I am ready.

Adele said...

Synchronicity: this posting on 'didn't use to/didn't used to' from the Cambridge dictionary is only a week old:
"The negative of used to is most commonly didn't use(d) to. Sometimes we write it with a final -d, sometimes not. Both forms are common, but many people consider the form with the final -d to be incorrect, and you should not use it in exams: It didn't use to be so crowded in the shops as it is nowadays." In other words, it doesn't bear close inspection, probably as many people will tell you one way as the other. When you speak the phrase, you lose the final 'd' anyway because of the 't' in 'to'. By the way - you're right, of course - 'not' has no particular place in time; it is just a negative.

As for the original post? My life is changing; there will be many things I will do for the first time in 2020. One thing is making some videos...I know 'everybody under 40' can do that any time they want, but I'll also be getting my first pension cheques in 2020, and I've never taken a video before, so I foresee a bit of a learning curve. Bring it on!

KariV said...

My 2020 will be marked by 2 very significant firsts:

1. This is the year I become a published author (book debuts Feb 21, 2020).

2. This will be the first year - an entire 366 days - without my mother. She passed away last August after a 4-year battle with cancer.

I find it fascinating how, in the throes of grief and tragedy, life finds a way to move forward - sometimes poignantly so.

There may be other new things in store for me as well. All in all I'm excited for this new decade. Every day is a new day full of new potential.

Fearless Reider said...

Congrats to all the Reiders Who are undertaking new adventures in 2020! The new thing I'm doing is finishing a manuscript. Any manuscript at all. It's a departure for me.

Ah, our quirky English constructions. My favorite guide for usage (ha!) of "[didn't]" used to vs. [didn't] use to" is here . You can even give yourself a quiz. I'm thrilled to say I scored 100%, which has nothing to do with knowing the rationale and everything to do with trusting my writer's ear.

For some reason, this all brings to mind my favorite regional idiomatic treasure, "might could". As in, I might could spend the whole day diving down virtual rabbit holes instead of finishing this here manuscript. Again.

Katja said...

Oh thank you SO much, Adele, you've just 'untangled' my confusion. :)

I had started to wonder if the "didn't used to" could have been an error that sneaked in, over time, because of what you just said about the t in 'to'.
Maybe people simply began to write as they heard it. And, without particularly reflecting on it, stuck a d at the end of use because it sounds just like that.

But this didn't occur to me when I read the sentence earlier, nor when I'd seen it elsewhere. Maybe I'm also too fussy about it in the first place, trying to enrich my English language skills.

And thank you for clearing up the 'not'-thingie. Phew. :)

As for your videos: is it for writing purposes? Or just anything?
I've started making some, too, and it did take some courage. Especially when you speak directly into the camera.
For me, it was mostly because I knew I would have a lot less time to think about English grammar while actually speaking, and I didn't want to embarrass myself. But this shouldn't be difficult for you.

It's really doable. If you need a beginner's software for editing and cutting the videos, I'm using OpenShot. It's basic but it is for free.

Katja said...

*Dives into that quiz!!!!!!!*

Katja said...

100%, Fearless Reider, including the adjective/verb aspect. Number 6 contains an error - the space needs to stay empty. :D

Thank you for teaching me!

Karen McCoy said...

Green with envy that you already have a copy of the Barbara Poelle book. I have pre-ordered it, and am awaiting impatiently.

New thing this year will be a trip to Japan. My brother-in-law lives and works there, but I've never been. And, I will be querying a Middle Grade book for the first time (I've only queried YA in the past).

Good luck, Reiders all, with your 2020 endeavors!

AJ Blythe said...

I am doing something very different this year. I am going to prioritise my writing (I'm working on the guilt that goes with that - I know, I shouldn't feel guilty, but I do).

I am giving up my volunteer roles (I'll still help out as a parent, but that's all), I'm changing jobs so I don't work more than I am paid for.

I am going on four (!!!) writing retreats over the year.

I'm going to hit the query trenches with the ms I am currently editing.

I'm going to work on a writing side hustle.

In other words, 2020 is the year I do everything I can to be an income earning author =)

Laura Stegman said...

Kari, congratulations on your upcoming book launch, and I send condolences on the loss of your mom. To all, best wishes on all your endeavors, old and new!

Colin Smith said...

Ummm... 2020 will be my first time turning 50. That looks so much worse when you write it out. 8-O

All the very best to my fellow Reiders and your ambitions for the year! I have no big plans. Just taking the year as it comes and trying to do better than last year.

Craig F said...

Colin: 50 is no big deal, I've done it for 13 years now.

AJ: wish you the best with it, my girlfriend needs some new cozies to read.

The American Historian's Association, sounds like a different kind of fun then I practice. I do have a couple of historians as friends and have learned to pick my battles with them. They can get vindictive when you argue from a lesser position then they stand on.

Great resources, though, the best battles are based on ancient battles. The Peloponnesian War is great because everyone has some of the facts of it.

Score one for Poelle

Lennon Faris said...

Get more sleep. I hate sleeping! even though I know it's good for me.

Imagine if we didn't sleep, explaining sleep? You put your body in a soft, horizontal place and close your eyelids, become completely vulnerable, then basically skip hours of your life. It sounds like some weird sci-fi.

Good luck / congrats to all you other Reider goal-setters!

Stacy said...

Congrats to all who are trying something new this year!

Me? I'm just trying to step outside of my comfort zone in different ways. Today, for example, I went to a writers' meeting--my first in a long time. And I'm determined to finish and start sending out one of my WIPs this year.

smoketree said...

This post really made me laugh because fixing these kind of indexing layout errors is part of my job, and I can just see this scenario happening the ONE TIME I miss one.

As for the main point of the post, this year I plan to test the freelance writing waters a bit, and enter more flash fiction contests.

Casual-T said...

In 2020 Mrs. Casual and I might finally make that big move we've been talking about for quite some time, pack our bags, and leave this beloved hellhole (or is that utterly hated paradise?) called New York City. I came here an undisclosed number of decades ago to live a musician's life. Well, I've lived it. Or, perhaps, it lived me?

Either way, I'm yearning for quieter shores. A place where lightning flashes a little slower across the nighttime sky, where the heart roars a little quieter, where rent is less, and life is more.

But then again, you can take the boy out of the city, but can you take the city out of the boy?

Best wishes to one and all. May 2020 bring you joy, health, and great story ideas.

JEN Garrett said...

For me, 2019 was full of failed expectations, so I'm entering the new decade with an open mind.

Mary said...

I'm hoping to get a new agent in 2020. It's hard to put myself out there again! Reminds me of my dating days. But I'm having fun doing a thing: rewriting rejection letters as Dear John letters. You know: Dear John, thank you for the opportunity to.go out with you. Unfortunately you aren't right for me at this time, but other women may feel differently.

Emma said...

Welp, with two minutes left to spare in the day, I'm even later than usual to the reider party. I think the new stuff this year will be something that happens to me, rather than something I will do. My son will go off to college and it will be just hubby and me again. The other thing I feel I have no control over is that my novel is with two publishers right now who seem to be considering it. So THAT might happen. Or not. (shrugs, throws hands in the air, downs a stiff drink)

And of course, congratulations to all the debut authors in this thread and to everyone who's working and striving!

Brenda said...

Mary, I love it!

I’m going to finish the book I’m on so it can be polished to pitch this fall in Surrey. There. I said it out loud. Now to follow through.

french sojourn said...

I hope all our fellow / fellowess writers utilize this new year of vision for their writing. It's 20-20, so focus. ( 20-20 doesn't always have to reflect hindsight. )

Cheers all!

Alyssa R said...

New things this year? All I can think of at the moment is that I'm going! To my first! Writers conference!! In March! (Can you tell I'm excited?)

Good luck to everyone with their firsts!

LynnRodz said...

Jumping into the query pool...well maybe I'll dip my toe in first to see how warm the water is.