Everyone knows that an important part of being a writer is learning to use your time wisely. Writing should be treated like a proper, hands-in-the-dirt nine-to-five job, at the very least to contradict all the people you meet at dinner parties who, when you tell them what you do for a living, smile condescendingly and imagine you sitting at a window, waiting to be visited by a romantic, winged, pixie dust-shedding muse. Like Sharon Stone in that Albert Brooks movie, or Carol Kane in Scrooged. (For my own part, if I gaze out my window, I am far more likely to see our neighbor walking down the driveway, looking left to right before dumping a dead squirrel in the street. If it’s a good day, he’ll be wearing pants. If not, well, you don’t want to know. In any case, he doesn’t look at all like Sharon Stone.) Sure you may sit down for four hours and force out the beginning of a story only to delete it all the next day, but hey, you wrote something. Maybe you can even cannibalize what you didn’t use for a later piece. (In truth, this never happens with me. But I do really enjoy using the word “cannibalize.”)
When you’re not writing, you should be attending to the boring nuts n’ bolts of things, like finding places to submit your work, actually submitting said work, and seeking out contests, fellowships, and anything else that might afford you all those envelopes, paper clips, and stamps you’ve been using. The short-term goal here is to publish in a decent enough (read: paying) magazine or win a contest that will cover the gas you’ll need to drive to the Post Office. (While we’re talking about the P.O., don’t get me started on the Post-Bot, the postal robot that mails your packages and prevents you from standing in line with postal employees. Love him, I tell you. A robot that allows you to avoid human interaction and mail story submissions at eleven at night? I see the future, and it is the Post-Bot.)
Sometimes you end up incredibly busy when you least expect it. Over the last few days, I’ve been trying to incorporate my editor’s final edits on Bone Worship before it goes to galley, proof-read and make changes to my story, “Medicine Wheel,” which will be appearing shortly in Weber: The Contemporary West, prepare a non-fiction piece on literary agents that’s going to be published in The Willamette Writer, and squeeze in the last few story submissions before the Literary Journal World shuts down for summer vacation. Plus, this happens to be the season when they tell you whether you’ve won one of those coveted contests. For instance, I’ve been obsessively checking the Crazyhorse Fiction Prize web page for days now in the hopes that they’ll hurry up and post the winners, even though I’m just as likely to win as I am to see Sharon Stone chucking a dead squirrel in the street. Oh well.
Maybe the lesson here is that sometimes, for your sanity, it’s good to waste time. Especially if it involves Google. In a rabid attempt to keep from crashing Crazyhorse’s page, I went into a Googling frenzy this morning, starting with “Bone Worship.” And, in doing so, I had the unexpected pleasure of finding Michael Fusco Design. (Michael Fusco is the super-talented guy who designed the cover of my novel, among many others. He and his wife Emma Straub design for Sony/Columbia, Doubleday/Random House, and of course Pegasus Books, my publisher. Their work is gorgeous, and if I can ever afford them, I know who to go to for some kick-ass business cards.) Most exciting for me – and well worth the time I spent not harassing literary magazines – was the fact that they've posted two alternate versions of the book cover that didn’t make the cut. Of course, they look pretty damn fantastic to me, but I still love the ultimate one the best. Check them out here.