Oh hey! You came to find me, but today I’m over on The Strong Sunflowers podcast to talk about my author journey up til now and discuss what’s next for me.
Today is pub day for my second book this summer… sort of. I didn’t plan on this coming out just a week after my novel, but it happened just that way. Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis is an anthology about just that, how we create art and deal in the midst of a crisis. Some people chose, naturally, to write about COVID, social justice issues, or climate change. My piece is about our experience in the 2021 Texas winter storm (it’s toward the end of the book).
It’s probably the most political thing I’ve written publicly, but it’s not about politics (and neither am I). It’s about being decent to people in the face of political differences. It applied to the situation then, and it still applies in light of recent political developments, which I need not enumerate here. We are all better when we greet each other with empathy and acknowledge that everyone’s just an imperfect human trying to do their best. The internet has made it too easy to forget the humanity of those we disagree with.
She Writes Press will donate all royalties earned on this book to World Central Kitchens, a non-profit that feeds victims of natural disaster and war (most recently in Ukraine). The book is available for purchase everywhere books are sold, but I of course recommend getting it on Bookshop where you can support your local independent bookstore!
Oh, hey! You came to find me but today I’m over on Women Writers, Women’s Books talking about the process and craft of writing comedy.
Writers deal with a lot of rejection. Years, sometimes decades of rejection. And when they discouraged, their fellow rejectees bolster them up with the same refrain: It only takes one yes.
Sadly, the inverse is also true. It only takes one stinging rejection for all the impostor syndrome to creep back in. I’m lucky in that while I’ve had my fair share of manuscript rejections in the past year, I’ve also had a lot of yeses. This year, I’ve had 3 essays published, a poem, a flash fiction piece, and my third novel is crawling along to its June 2022 publication date.
I recently entered a contest for both fiction and poetry for an all-writer voted publication. Everyone who submits also votes on the submissions, the best from each round move on to the next one, and the top 30 submissions make it into the final issue.
I entered round 1 with 3 of my best poems and a short story I haven’t touched in years, thinking that as a serious, multiply-published author, surely I could crack the top 30 with both my submissions.
Well, I didn’t. My short story finished 131 out of 221, and my poems finished 147 out of 239. I didn’t even make it past the first round, and I read some very weak submissions in the first round. I felt immediately dejected. How could I possibly expect to publish and have any level of commercial success with my novel if I couldn’t even have a short story in the top half of a contest? It wasn’t too late to call my publisher and stop the train and go back to the drawing board. It’s not like I deserved that yes!
But that’s the thing about pity parties. They never last long. And I read the nice feedback I got from the writers who read and ranked my submissions in round 1, and all the criticism was totally fair. And prose and poetry are both incredibly subjective, as they should be. In round 1, one writer ranked my poems the best… another, the worst.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself and listening to those negative thoughts about not being good enough, instead I’m going to be happy for the winners because (the ones I read and voted on anyway) their work was really good. I’m going to look forward to reading the final issue with the top 30 stories and poems because I bet it will be amazing. And I’ll keep grinding away at my work and submit something even better next time.
In 2019, I had only one writing goal – it was to get serious about submitting Community Klepto for publication and secure a book deal for it. On January 1, I hit the ground running and sent three query submissions. Then, I finally marked an item off my to-do list that had been on there for FAR too long; I dumped GoDaddy and (with the help of my husband who is way smarter than me) stood up hosting for my website myself and gave the website a little facelift. Before the end of January, a publisher wanted to see the full manuscript. Before I knew it, I had my first offer from the same publisher. I thought to myself, holy crap! How could it be this easy?!
Well, it wasn’t. The proposal was with a hybrid publisher who, while selective, required a pretty hefty investment on the part of the author. As attractive as the offer was, I said I wasn’t ready to commit to it yet. I told myself that if 2019 came to a close and I didn’t have any other prospects, I’d go back to the table and take the deal. Over the next 6 months, I sent over 20 more query submissions, one of which I didn’t hear back from until the last day of the year, and it was one of the three I’d sent on January 1! (That’s got to be some record.)
In July, I got a response back from another publisher. This one was local, a small but traditional independent press. The acquisitions editor and I sat down for coffee (outside, in August, in Austin… it gets hot in August in Austin). We discussed possibilities for Community Klepto, shook hands, and decided to move forward! This year, my primary goal is of course to put in the work to bring Community Klepto to market. We’re still editing, and there’s no date yet, but I’m excited about working with Lit City Press to make this book happen! Outside of Community Klepto, I have the following goals:
Lots to come in 2020! Hope y’all will be along for the ride…
While I was procrastinating further on writing the pitch for Community Klepto tonight, I decided to go through my Twitter list of publishing people. It’s a list that I’ve been building ever since I joined Twitter, which Twitter tells me was 7 years ago, so most of the accounts I’ve followed on that list about about as old as I am, in Twitter years. As I opened profile after profile, URL after URL, I had waves of mixed emotions as I saw the following:
I admit that between switching careers and giving birth to two children on the same day, I haven’t kept up with all the happenings in the publishing industry like I maybe should have; but at the same time, I think I can outline the trajectory of the 7 year Kelly’s-Twitter-publisher-list timeline easily enough:
Now what. Some publishers have died horrible deaths because they refused to innovate. Some died because they were counting on a fad to sustain its growth indefinitely. This is a sad but predictable reality. Some of weathered the storms, adapted where they needed to, and are doing really cool things now. This makes me happy and excited to see what’s next.
I’m not going to go so far as to say that e-books were a fad. I mean, I still read them so they must be cool, right? And I like the papercut and smell of an old book as much as the next hipster. But in a world where evolving technology is changing every industry, publishing is not immune. Their battles for market share aren’t over, even if the e-book is losing ground. The future may be uncertain, but I am certain that as more traditional publishers broaden their horizons (and re-open their wallets), it’s a good time for me to be diving back in.
On top of finishing my third novel, working a full time job, and taking care of two 10-month-olds, I have also recently been training for the Austin half-marathon, which I ran last weekend. By ran, sadly, I mean I injured a muscle in my back in the lamest way possible a couple days before the race, got to run about 5 minutes before my body compelled me to wuss out, and got to walk my gimpy ass back to the car. Not my finest moment. In fact, it was even worse than the day during training that I needed to complete a 7-mile run…
Unlike my protagonist in COMMUNITY KLEPTO, I much prefer running trails to running on pavement or even worse, surrounded by four walls and digital beeps. There is a relatively new trail (it’s been there for quite some time, but the city only recently made it official) that I’d been wanting to try out so I decided to drive to the trailhead and do my long run for the week there. I was curious to explore it A) because the trail connects to the one that leads to my office B) to see if it was a stroller friendly trail I could take the girls on sometime. (I’ll spare you the suspense. It’s not, and that will not happen for many years, if ever.) I parked the car with my full set of keys inside and took my spare car key with me, tucked securely in my flipbelt along with my phone, ID and – in case of emergency – my medical insurance card.
As soon as I finished stretching out and started jogging on the trail, it started raining. It had rained the day before, too, but I’ve always found running in the rain to be masochistically exhilarating so I just kept going. Within two minutes, I hit my first “low-water crossing,” where the creek was running over the trail. I managed to hop over some rocks sticking up out of the creek and got right back to running. It was about a minute before I hit another one. Then another. Then another. About this time, I said screw it and just decided to start running through the water. After all, it might pour rain the day of the half marathon (it didn’t) and I needed to train for every possibility. Plus if I tried to pussyfoot around every low-water crossing, all of which were completely submerged by the creek, I’d be running for half the day. I splashed through a couple more sections of trail covered by the creek when I hit a crossing so low that water was rushing right up around my knees. I was determined to stay undeterred, so I started jogging through it.
And that’s when I fell in the creek. I didn’t go completely under, but got everything below the waist and the entire right side of my upper body submerged. As I trudged myself up out of the water, my first instinct was to pull out my phone and make sure it was okay. Plus I needed to check my GPS tracker. It hadn’t told me I’d gone a full mile yet, and I definitely felt like I’d done at least a mile. My phone was fine, and it informed me I’d almost gone one mile. Just 6 more to go! About this time, I was feeling dejected from falling in the creek and continuing to get rained on, and I started to consider taking a mulligan and trying again next week. But then, just as I turned around to go back to the car, the opening lines of Beyonce’s Halo started playing in my ears, and it was as though Queen Bey herself was lifting me up out of the creek, cheering me on to keep going.
So I pressed on, running through a few more low-water crossings like an excited toddler before I finally reached the part of the trail on higher ground and hit my stride (meaning a faster than 16-minute mile, which is how long that first one took). Things were going great right up until I hit the section of the trail where I believe the intention was to become Spider-Man to get across…
I later discovered that there used to be a bridge here but it got washed out by a freak storm. Of course the knowledge did not help me at the time, and I was forced to find another way to cross the water. This is when I started to veer wildly off the trail. I found myself dodging vines and trying to avoid tripping over fallen tree branches, but I was 3 or so miles in and I wasn’t getting rained on anymore, so I counted it as an adventure. Or I did right up until one of the vines ripped a hole in the ass of my brand new running pants.
This was where I had to pull out my phone again, see how hopelessly lost I was, and backtrack my way to the broken bridge. That super squiggly part on the map? That’s me, post-butt-hole.
The trip back to the car was far less eventful, having familiarized myself with the trail. It also went a lot quicker than I expected, so when I reached the trailhead where I entered, I realized I was still a mile short of my goal. Since I still had Beyonce as my ear-cheerleader, I was not motivated to cut my run short. That loop on the opposite end of the map? That’s me running laps around a liquor store. Classy.
I get back to my car, proud of myself for completing the full run despite the many adventurous obstacles thrown at me along the way, and go to pull my spare car key out of my Flipbelt only to discover it isn’t there. No worries, I think, knowing that the other set is in the car and whenever the key is in range, the hatchback can be opened. There must be a time limit on that convenience feature (that’s less than 1:33), because that didn’t work either. I ended up calling AAA and waiting in the parking lot of a liquor store with part of my butt poking out until the guy showed up to rescue me.
So, I ended my run 7 miles richer and one car key poorer, and I didn’t even get to run the damn half-marathon anyway. So much for my glorious post-pregnancy comeback! I wouldn’t even be able to write this kind of scenario up for my Community Klepto character because it would be completely unbelievable as fiction, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t recount it for y’all. Like Beyonce said, a little sweat ain’t never hurt nobody. I guess my glorious comeback will just have to come in the form of my next novel…
It’s been only since the Jurassic era that I last blogged, but that’s life with 9-month-old twins, who just happen to be simultaneously napping for maybe another 10 minutes.
So what have I been up to besides channeling my inner moo-cow and changing poopy diapers for the last 18 months? Believe it or not, I’ve actually been making a great deal of progress on editing my third novel – working title Community Klepto. The latest thing I did in the editing process is a step I have not taken before, but now that I did it I am inordinately glad I did. I edited a complete “dead tree” version of the book – meaning I went to Kinko’s, had computer them make a spiral bound paper copy of it, and used that for a cover-to-cover read-through/edit.
I’ve done straight readthroughs on both computer and Kindle screen and found there to be some definite benefits I hadn’t experienced before by doing this on paper – things I think will definitely make it a better book.
This seems obvious, but looking at my word count in a document file is one thing. Seeing the thickness of your book spiral bound is another. It didn’t sound like a long book when I said the word count out loud, but I was shocked when I saw how thick it was printed out. Holy crap I wrote a big ass book!
I found several places where I thought I was being high-larious, but it turns out past me was already high-larious. Since I went through the chapter edits one by one, I missed a lot of instances where I repeated the same jokes twice, sometimes even three times.
For some reason, these just seem to jump out on the printed page so much more than they do on a screen. Since my brain wrote over them once, it tends to read over them a second time. It wasn’t until I read through again on a tactile page that I found a few more of these
Again, since my previous round of edits was chapter by chapter, I wasn’t able to see how smooth the transition was from the end of one chapter to the beginning of the next one. When I find myself struggling to figure out where to end a chapter, I just cut it off when I think it starts to get awkward. This wasn’t as graceful as I’d hope in some spots.
I definitely think this process will make Community Klepto a better book. Now I just need to go incorporate all my bright orange chicken scratches on a screen once more.
So what else have I been up to? Besides diapers and bottles and snot suckers? We’ve been training for the Austin half-marathon, which has helped me channel my protagonist even more. I’ve had some interesting experiences with some of my training runs… but that’s a story for later.
Amidst a weekend otherwise consumed by massive flooding and tornado warnings every ten minutes (which my husband had to inform me about because I was too focused on rabid writing), I finished the first draft of my third novel, working title Community Klepto on Memorial Day. As such, I am now going back to the beginning to start revising what will eventually be my second draft, and going through the mile-high stack of critiques I have amassed from my workshop group thus far (pictured).
In the short time since Memorial Day and revising the first chapter, I have made the following observations about my third novel:
1) This started out rough. Like, really rough.
When I started this book, I had only a vague idea of who the character was and what the story was going to be. I started this weird fourth wall narrative kind of thing where my character was talking to the reader, and it just didn’t work. Luckily, my drunken muse took over at some point.
2) I wasn’t afraid to go big quickly.
This book is about being playful with gymgoer archetypes and stealing things, and my character isn’t afraid to do both in the first chapter. I say thrust the reader in like a warm dildo; at least then, they know what they’re getting into.
3) This is gonna take awhile.
For any of the three hardcore Kelly I. Hitchcock fanclubber types out there anxiously awaiting my next release, thinking it will be any time soon, you are sadly mistaken. This is but one chapter out of 24, so I have my work cut out for me. Besides, I’d really be doing you a disservice if I didn’t edit the fuck out of this book before bestowing it upon the masses.
Some people have asked me whether I am going to start querying publishers immediately now that I am done with the first draft. My answer is, for now, no. I want to get this manuscript as polished off as a bottle of good Pinot Noir before I even attempt to send it off to a publisher whose editor would inevitably be all like, “What is this rough turd?”
So be patient with me, as this will be a long lonely process of editing loneliness, but will be so worth it in the end, because I think this is my best work yet. Also be nice to me because it’s my birthday, bitches.
At some point in any writer’s career, he or she has the hapless realization that a manuscript into which blood, sweat, tears, caffeine, and other vices were poured into is GONE – whether through erroneous deletion, #technologyandstuff #fail, or act of gods.
I had one such moment last week with the novel that I’m 51,000+ words into (working title COMMUNITY KLEPTO for those not in the know of all things Kelly I. Hitchcock). Its primary storage location was on our family NAS (network-addressed storage) device, which my husband – who is vastly superior in the realm of tech savviness – informed me underwent and update and subsequently crashed. Below is an account of the 5 stages of anxiety I experienced at this news and prospect of losing my manuscript.
Phase 1: Overhear spouse downplaying outage
“The device is down, but I don’t think there’s anything important on there…”
YES HUH! IS TOO! Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be using the NAS as my primary location for my 50,000+ word manuscript, but it’s a little late for that.
Phase 2: Realize the last time you backed up drives was 5 months ago
We have a pretty retentive backup system that involves swapping out the drives every so often and putting the backups in a safe deposit box at our bank. Somehow, though, we hadn’t done this since before we left for Christmas vacation and other things besides running the backup were top of mind.
Phase 3: Realize your local backup is 4 months old
So at one point there was a time that I needed to work on my manuscript offline, but that time was four months ago and I had written several chapters since then, which pretty much made my local copy useless. Phase 3.1: eat an entire bag of potato chips while crying.
Phase 4: View stack of printed chapters with lament
While the prospect of losing four months worth of work is almost unbearable, the idea of re-typing your lost chapters using only the stack of printed chapter-by-chapter manuscripts you’ve been bringing to your workshop group is somehow worse.
Phase 5: Restart device and hope for the best
This phase took some time and it’s a bit like waiting for water to boil while watching it. “I see green lights. That’s good right?!” Then watch the cursor spin and spin and spin as you wait for all the file folders to load up so you can navigate down the 12 levels you need to in order to get to the one file you care about.
Phase 6: Dodge a bullet
When you finally get down to the file itself and see that the modified date was a mere two hours ago, you can indeed breathe a sigh of relief, knowing your work for the past four months hasn’t been obliterated as happens in your worst nightmares. When you’re finally done wiping your forehead sweat away, slowing your heart rate, and downing a couple shots of tequila, move on to the next phases to ensure this never happens again.
Phase 7: Back up locally
After all, this is where you should have been working in the first place. The network device is where you should be backing up to after you bang some words out. Besides, Micro$oft Word will be more performant locally anyway.
Phase 8: To the cloud!
No, don’t go take a bong hit. Download Dropbox (if you don’t have it) and enable two-factor authentication before creating another backup in the cloud that you can use in the event of nuclear disaster. You’ve learned your lesson, after all, and you can use all the help you can get to make sure you never have to deal with this again.
Needless to say, the last four chapters I write will be completed with far more intention to disaster recovery. And hopefully they won’t be a disaster themselves.