August 11, 2020

Processing in the time of Covid

It's been quite a year. Right? 

On top of a global pandemic, the continued oppression of black people in our country, murder hornets and earthquakes in diverse places, I'm turning fifty years old in ten days. Yes, I have a countdown going.

These past six months, I've had a cacophony of mixed emotions over so many things. Going places. Touching things. My relationships. When I'll see my family again. My part-time job. Living in a new town and trying to develop new friendships on zoom. The lack of hugging. The sound of my husband crunching potato chips in the other room. 

My internal processor is fried to a crisp.

The hardest part has been over my writing. Shocker ... If it seems like I've been processing what it means to be "a writer" for a long time, you wouldn't be wrong. Dealing with the rejections for my last book has been a mixed bag of acceptance and hurt and confusion. It has sucked the joy out of writing. It's tough being a writer without an audience. In my warped head, zero love for my work translates into zero love for me. The little girl in me wants to quit everything. The old self wants to run and hide.

So on top of everything else going on in 2020, I'm having to process through all of that old junk.

But this is good, right? 

Growth is everything.

New challenges jump-start the soul! 

Well, maybe not so much in the beginning stages ... 

But underneath all the shame and doubt and frustration, I have an inkling of hope. And that, my friends, goes a long way. 

More than a few of my friends have mentioned writing books that help others. Books about how I've dealt with my struggles and insecurities and self doubt. About what it's like to persevere and hold onto hope regardless of the circumstances. About the heartbreak of living in this world and what God has done to heal my pain.

Precipice. Crossroads. Turning point. Whatever you want to call it, here I am -- with wide-open arms. While there's still much more to process, I'm grateful for all of it.

August 6, 2020

The door won't budge

Over two months ago, I began the grueling agent querying process for the forth time in my writing career and let me tell you, it never gets easier. In fact, it gets more brutal. I'm not sure what's worse, the onslaught of form letters from agents passing on your work or crickets.

On top of that, it's been tough standing on the sidelines watching many of my writer friends getting agents and publishing deals while I continue getting passed over. It's exhausting fighting through the self doubt, the jealousy and the feelings of failure.

And friends, the rejections just keep coming. I did send out an enormous batch of queries for this last book. I even had a running tally of FIVE passes on a single day -- a new record for me! By the end of the day, my husband and I were just laughing.

In the midst of all of this, I tried working on my next book. But I ended up in a spin cycle. I wrote at least five different outline structures, some in-depth character explorations, talked it out with my husband and made a bunch of false starts. I just couldn't get into the story. I couldn't override the screaming voice saying, "nobody wants to work with you, so why bother..."

So, I had to shelf the new idea.

In fact, I had to shelf every last one of my writing ambitions and dreams.

You think this would be heartbreaking, but it's been a huge relief. I have experienced a peace that surpasses all understanding. Because I finally surrendered to the abundantly obvious:

It's time to stop pushing on this door because it's not going to open. 

I guess I've held onto writing young adult for so long because I've invested a lot of time and money into this endeavor. Twenty books. That's a lot of words. A lot of shoulder and neck pain.

Once again, I'm back in the hallway. The long and endless hallway. The place where trust and faith and full reliance on God is required if I'm to endure waiting for Him to open any doors. Some days I have absolute peace around all of it. Other days I question everything.

I don't know what's next for my writing journey. Whether or not this is a pit stop or the end of the line. The good news is, I have put down the battering ram. 




June 10, 2020

Writer Unstuck

Throughout 2019, I repeatedly told my husband that something didn't feel right. Like something really big was coming. I badgered him for months about leaving Los Angeles. Fortunately, I married a good man who took my intuition seriously. I put together a solid plan of action. We sold our place, bought a new one and packed up our life. In December, we left the city we'd been living in for twenty (plus) years and moved to a small town south of Raleigh, North Carolina. I'm immensely grateful we left when we did because 2020 has been a shit show. At least these days we have a view of a forest instead of the 10 freeway.

In the midst of a global pandemic, I finished some major rewrites for a book I wrote last year and decided it would be a great time to start querying agents. Nothing like the sting of rejection to accompany the fear, anxiety and confusion this year has provided. Is it ever a good time query? It's bad enough during "regular" seasons in life, but during this ... ouch.

Today I took the advice of my writing coach (Heather Demetrios) and refocused my attention on why I write. I worked on a writer statement because regardless of what happens with the queries or the world, I will always be a writer. I might never get a seat at the publishing table, but that doesn't mean I should stop writing. Over the years, I've endured hundreds of rejections from agents. I watched my successful self-publishing career crumble. I've written books that might not reach a reader's heart. But these things won't stop me from writing. Because I was made to write. It's what I do, no matter what. 

Why? 

"I write to give the words floating around in my head a place to exist. I write to remind myself that I exist. That we all do. I want to provide a safe and encouraging space for my readers to experience new journeys. To give them room to spread out their thoughts and fly. To see things from a different perspective. To wonder. To explore. I want my writers to feel how I do after I finish a good book--like they have just made a new friend in this ever-expanding universe." 
- Simone Stier

If you're feeling stuck as a writer, I highly recommend Heather's Flow Lab. The course was a game changer for me. I was able to see the areas blocking me from enjoying my writing life. Through her guidance and well-thought instruction, I was able to create a writing practice that reflects sanity and brings joy. 

Here's to hoping the second half of 2020 looks a lot better than the first half!

April 13, 2020

Will we ever live life outside our homes again?

I don't know about you, but I'm compelled to get these thoughts out of my head and into the world. Words are how I connect with others. I don't know why I'm explaining myself to you. You guys already know this about me. And if you don't, well, hi, I'm Simone and I'm a writer with no filter.

The impetus that triggered this blog post was one of those facebook memory thingys in my newsfeed. Last year on this day, I was in Lisbon with these amazing ladies. 
 
 
This year I'm sitting in my new home in North Carolina wondering what the hell happened. Is the entire world really going through the exact same thing? Is this really a worldwide pandemic? Is it ever going to end? Will I'll ever get to go back to Lisbon. Or travel with people again. Will I get to visit Bruges or Vienna? Why does my husband have to love potato chips so much? Does he have to talk on speaker phone? Will Cali ever stop barking at the mail person? Will the book I'm writing even see the light of day?

Last night, I cried when I saw my friend's beautiful daughter on FaceTime because it really hit me that she won't have a prom or graduation. She won't get to walk across a stage to get her diploma. I was really stoned at both of those events, but I still remember them and cherish the memories to this day. How strange that she won't get to experience either rite of passage. 
 
Then this morning I cried again when I saw videos of another friend's daughter's 13th bday celebration in Seattle. In one of the videos, I saw my sister and her daughter (who live in Seattle) drive by to give birthday wishes. These two girls have been besties since diapers, side-by-side for so many things. Yet there they were posing for a picture six feet apart. How sad they can't even hug each other on this milestone birthday.

Throughout this madness, I've been holding onto my faith like a warrior. I'm not in fear about what's going on. I truly believe God is good and that he is in control. I know with all of my heart he will take this mess and make something good. But today, I'm grieving. Over the loss of the simple things that bring us together -- in person, not on zoom or FaceTime. Personally, I miss hugging friends. Making travel plans. Sitting in coffee shops with strangers. I miss my parents who are closer now but I cannot visit.

I've also been struggling with is this young adult book I've been working on. As I trudge through the colossal and diabolical amount of edits, it seems so surreal. I mean ... my main character is in high school. In a real classroom. She's going to parties. Preparing for prom and graduation. Getting ready to go away to college. 
 
I keep wondering: Is any of this ever going to happen again?
 
Will we ever live life outside our homes again?

Of course we will. 
 
It will probably look different. And that's okay.
 
I'm sure we'll look back and appreciate this special moment in time. One of the greatest things about humans is our ability to adapt. I've seen this in your posts. In my support group meetings. With my church. 
 
But today, I'm emotional about the way things are. And I guess that's okay too. 

I'm sending love and prayers to all of the people suffering financial loss during this time. I'm lifting up the hospital workers and all of the people out in the world keeping things running on a daily basis. I'm praying that all of us can find peace and comfort in the one true God who provides it sufficiently. 

My heart,
Simone

February 23, 2019

These Old Bones

Last night I sat at a folding table at the Santa Monica Homeless Shelter, playing dominoes (aka Bones) with a few clients who live there.

Jason (aka Yoga Man, a forty-five-year old pole of a man who doesn't look a day older than twenty-eight) said to the group, "Look at Tina (my aka because they say I look like Tina Fey). She even bought new dominoes for us."

I gazed down at the rows of white tiles with their black dots laid out in the formation of a cross and shook my head.

"No, no fellas. I've had these bones over twenty years," I paused, "And they've seen some darker times, my friends."

The mental montage of the places these bones have traveled flooded my thoughts ...

A sticky table in a smoky joint nestled somewhere on Bush St in San Francisco where I accidentally fell in love with someone as broken as me.

The white formica desk in my office as Ice Cube blasted from the boombox and the rancid smell of some unknown brown liquor wafted in the air.

The round patio table on my deck in Venice surrounded by bottles of Coronas and ashtrays crammed with cigarette butts.

To the folding table in the Santa Monica Homeless Shelter ...

Sitting with those three men who've seen their fair share of darker days, I felt a split-second of grace. The kind that comes with redeeming love and forgiveness and a ton of letting go.

I set my tile on the table. "We've been through a lot, me and these bones ..."

The men nodded, mmm hmming. Because they knew. They got it. Their eyes held the weight of their own brokenness.

Yet ... there we were. Slouched low around a table playing dominoes. Our laughter and shit-talking (which is part of the game) danced through the room--Chris involuntarily shaking from some sort of neurological disorder, all-smiles Jason dropping slang like, bolt de doors and follow dat cab, and OG Art slamming down tiles and taking everyone's points--as we shared life together. We made new stories, not concerned about the endings because all that mattered was that moment. The place where love enters. The kind of love capable of gluing the broken pieces back together.

I lost by two houses (aka 100 points), per usual. After twenty-plus years of playing dominoes I still suck. As I hugged my friends goodbye, Art handed me the spiral notebook for score keeping.

"You hold onto this for when you come back," he said.

I took the notebook and grinned. "We're gonna fill this up. Maybe I'll even win a few!"

Art let out a hearty laugh, Chris jerked a nod, and Jason cracked that twinkly smile. "Yeah, Tina. You gonna win a few."

I walked out into the chilly Santa Monica night thinking, I just did ... 

Me in my younger rookie days. Not much has changed. I'm still one of the fellas. Only sober. 


If you ever feel called to volunteer in the city of Los Angeles, there are plenty of life-giving opportunities right here: http://hopeforla.org/volunteer/