They Don’t Like My *AHEM* “Voice”

Apparently I have a bad voice.

I’m not even sure how this is a thing.

It’s my writing voice that’s bad, by the way. I think my real voice is fine.

I won a writing competition a few weeks ago, and the prize was that agents could look at the winning entries and request the manuscripts. Eleven agents requested mine (for you writers out there…that’s kind of a big deal). I’ve written a novel with a bipolar protagonist, and…I think it doesn’t suck. I like it, anyway (but that’s like my mom saying I’m pretty, isn’t it? I created the characters. Of course I like them).

Three of the agents have gotten back to me with rejections. One was terse and gave me nothing, but the other two said that they simply “didn’t connect with the voice.” I once had someone in the publishing industry tell me that “I don’t connect with the voice” is a basic cop-out rejection because no one can really argue it. How can someone change their voice? It’s a catch-all when agents don’t want to give actual feedback (allegedly).

BUT WHAT IF MY VOICE ACTUALLY SUCKS?! WHAT DO I DOOOOOOO?!

I give up writing, I guess.

HA. Funny. Okay. Moving on.

Here are way more entertaining things that agents could say to reject me when they don’t like my voice (to the eight agents who still have my book…go ahead and copy and paste. Hand on heart, I won’t be offended. I gave you the responses. You’re welcome).

  1. Your protagonist’s voice was kind of bitchy, and I wanted to slap her by chapter two. I don’t like the violent tendencies your book has inspired in me, and so I don’t want to read any more. You are rejected.
  2. I actually fell asleep while reading your manuscript, and that’s impressive because I was at a parade at the time and I drank five red bulls that morning. That’s how monotonously boring your voice is. You are rejected.
  3. Your voice is a combination of Gwenyth Paltrow and Dora the Explorer. Oh, you don’t understand how that works? It’s because it doesn’t. You are rejected.
  4. Your voice reminds me of my college professor who had a terribly nasally voice, and he used to drone on and on. We had to act like we were paying attention, but I tried to tune him out to listen to buzzing flies because they were less annoying. That’s what your book is like. You are rejected.
  5. Your voice reminds me of this terrible blog, hazelhillboro.com. It’s abysmal. I am so disappointed in myself for ever wasting time on it. Go waste your time on it, because you sound like her and therefore will never get published. You are rejected.
  6. Your voice is like an opera singer who’s trying to get over laryngitis (but in a writing way, of course). It’s like there might have been talent there, but it can’t shine through the nasty. You are rejected.
  7. Your characters are trying too hard. You tried to make them cool, but it sounds like they’re all constipated. You basically need to coat the entire manuscript in ex-lax and get things flowing better. You are rejected.
  8. I didn’t connect with your voice because I have a hard time connecting with anyone. I’m seeing a therapist about this. Unfortunately, I haven’t made much progress yet. You are rejected.

See? There you go. Eight responses for the eight agents left. Now I’ve written the book and the rejections. Most compliant and helpful author ever? I think so. 🙂

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Mental Health Elitist

Sometimes I fear that I’m a mental health elitist.  I fully comprehend that this is a bitchy kind of person to be, so I’m working on it.  I wonder if any of y’all struggle with this, though?  Can I get a “me too”?

I noticed my elitism when my future sister-in-law posted something to facebook about high-functioning anxiety.  It was a video about how hard it is to live with this condition and how we should all feel bad for her because she has it.  The video said things such as, “high functioning anxiety means worrying about if people like you or not” and “it’s staying busy and struggling with perfectionism.”  To me this simply sounds like being a human.

What really got me is when the video said, “it’s silent panic attacks while you’re calm and smiling.”

Ummmm….  I’m no psychiatrist, so I am in no position to say that’s not legit.  HOWEVER – I am finding it very difficult to dig up sympathy for this girl for her silent panic attacks.  She says we should all feel bad for her for having this terrible disorder, but I wan’t to say, “Hi, yeah.  It’s me, Hazel, over here posting jokes and cat videos.  Sorry to interrupt your pity party, but I was wondering: have you ever had a panic attack where you asked someone to call 911 because you thought you were dying right that second?  Have you ever hyperventilated until you puked?  If you’ve ever experienced the sheer terror that comes with a true panic attack, then I’m sorry – you were not CALM AND SMILING.”

But that’s me being elitist, because maybe there are silent panic attacks.  If there are, I’m sure they suck.  I simply have a hard time feeling bad for her because, straight up?  I feel like I’m a lot worse off than her when it comes to mental health, and I’m annoyed with people when they want sympathy from me about it.  It’s like someone with strep throat going up to someone with throat cancer and being all, “Yeah, these throat problems…they really suck, amirite?”  Yes, they do…but you’re annoying and please go away.

I have friends with mental illnesses who can’t keep jobs…who can’t get out of bed in the morning…who have been hospitalized multiple times…who take on every day as a challenge to keep living.  I have so much respect for them and for the mountains they climb every single day, and I hate to see it cheapened by people who post to social media about needing sympathy for things that seem so-not-an-issue compared to what these people face.

I really have to get better about this.  Any sort of mental problems are awful, and I should feel compassion on anyone struggling.  I know this.  We’re all on the same team here, we’re just varying degrees of invested.  It’s like sports fans – some bought tickets off Criagslist the night before the game, and some have season passes, painted their faces, and decorated their houses in the team colors.  Despite how deep into fandom we are, we’re all on the same team. RAH RAH! WE HATE MENTAL ILLNESS! RAH! *cheerleader cartwheel*

Mental illness, no matter the severity, always sucks.  There are people who have it better than me, and there are people who have it worse. It’s not my job to decide if they deserve my sympathy or not.  Sometimes it’s tough to feel bad for someone when I would trade brain function with them in a second, but I need to do it anyway.  If they need help and compassion, it is not my job to hand out judgement.

Anyone else ever struggled with this?

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday!  I know that as people age they start not liking birthdays, but I sincerely doubt that will happen to me.  I LOVE my birthday! I think that to someone who has had a lot of health problems, a birthday feels kind of like a victory celebration:

My brain tumor didn’t kill me! Bipolar didn’t kill me! No other surprise things killed me! I lived for ANOTHER WHOLE YEAR! WHOO HOO!

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No but really…I love my birthday. I love my whole birthday week. I wear a tiara to work on the day of my birthday. I go on a weekend trip to Northern Michigan every year where my friends come from all over the country to celebrate with me. I get every free birthday meal in town.

I keep waiting for a referee to come out, blow his whistle, and call a penalty on me for excessive celebration. It’s a bit over the top.  “Become mature” has been on my list of things to do for years, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

If I was on a therapy couch talking about my birthday, I would say, “It all started back when I was a little kid. My parents made the rule that I could do whatever I wanted on my birthday.”  Of course, when I was six, the biggest I could dream was, “I want ice cream before dinner, and I want to go to the store and pick whatever Barbie I want, and…umm…I will not make my bed! MUAHAHAHAHAHA!”  I was drunk with power.

I think my parents discontinued that rule the year that I tried to use my day of power to make a new family rule that I was also in charge on every other day.

What’s not to love about birthdays? People you never talk to post on your facebook wall, and you’re like, “Hey, for one second of your day, you thought about ME! How kind! How awesome!” And then you feel all fuzzy inside. I love some good old fashioned fuzzies.

Cheers to all you fine blog people who have made the past year of my life so much easier than any I’ve had before (except, like, when I was five, because any year of life where nap time is a thing is a good year). You’ve become my friends, my supporters, and a group of people for whom I have more respect than I can possibly say.  Thanks.

Here’s to next year.

An “All I Do Is Win” Kind of Day

Yesterday I won a writing competition where I thought I had absolutely no shot. Today I won a travel grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Tomorrow’s my birthday. THIS HAS BEEN A GOOD WEEK.

After school today I came home, changed into jeans and a sweatshirt, and then blasted “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled. I danced around my kitchen with my dog because no one else was home to celebrate with me. The beagle and I brought down the house, y’all. I even danced with a treat in my hand so that he would jump around with me until the song was over. When the lyrics would say “Everybody’s hands go up! And they stay there,” I held the treat right over his head so his paws would – you guessed it – go up and then stay there. He’s got some mad skills in the choreography department. We should go on tour.

I tried to find a picture of a dancing beagle to put with this post, maybe something like this…

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But then I found this “dancing beagle sculpture” and you’re getting this picture too because, um, because LOOK AT IT:

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Life is a roller coaster of wins and losses, but it’s worth cherishing a win (or two) when you get it. Find a win today, and take a second to celebrate it. Dance with your dog/cat/goldfish/invisible friend. Here’s your soundtrack if you need it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGXzlRoNtHU