Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer


February 2014

The Business of Writing

Business of WritingThere’s a side of writing that I absolutely hate and I’m no good at. When the work is done and as clean as I can make it, it’s usually time to find it a home. To publish it. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as in the blogging world where you just hit “publish.”

“What do you have to do?” a friend asked me about my book, which to me sounded like, “Oh yeah? What’s so hard about it?”

Nothing. There’s nothing so hard about it. Write a query letter to various agents or publishers, and wait. Or edit it a little to fit the word count requirement if it’s an article or essay. And wait.

“Well, you gotta research websites, make sure they’re a good fit, check their guidelines. Everybody wants things sent a different way,” I complained.

“But your query letter is done, right? Don’t you use the same one?”

“Yeah, but you gotta sit down, change the dates, who it’s addressed to …” Ooh, tough, right? I knew I was stretching.

I mean, really. What’s my problem? It’s not even like I’m shooting in the dark. My writing coach has handed me a list of agents who publish similar things! Which is basically half the work, if not more. So, what’s my excuse?

I don’t have one. Not a good one, anyway. I’ve got plenty of weak ones. Frankie needs walking. I have to go to the gym. The Olympics are on. Actually, those are half decent. Next week, it’ll be: It’s a close game of Words With Friends, The Voice is on, or Frankie ate my query letter. It’s called procrastination, folks. And I’m guilty of it when it comes to submitting my work for publication.

When I’m writing, the words seem to bubble out like coffee from a percolator. It feels like there’s an energy behind them, an unseen motivator urging me on like a personal trainer. Once it’s written, the rest is just work. Like paying bills or doing taxes. The trainer has left the building and I have to benchpress a hundred pounds all by myself. With no one to spot me.

I’m writing this in my pajamas. Submitting something for publication feels like having to set my alarm to get dressed for an interview. Downtown. Or trying to cram my now widened and comfortable feet into stockings and heels. (Do women even still wear stockings or is that just a bad memory leftover from working in the 90s?)

Nevertheless, it’s a necessary evil of the writing world. That is, if you ever want people to read your words. And not just on your blog either.

And now that I’ve complained about it on my blog, my very best excuse, it’s time to hit “publish.” I’ve got other business to attend to.

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.  ~William James

Twizzles and Twizzlers

NBC-Sochi-Olympics-Logo-885x1024So now I’m addicted to the Olympics. I look forward to watching it every evening in prime time, and if something takes me away, I make sure to set my DVR. I’ve mastered the art of getting onto Facebook without reading the spoiler online news headlines announcing who took gold the day before. (It’s kind of like looking at 3-D art. As Kramer says, you have to look without actually looking, kind of let your eyes blur and lose focus, which granted, is probably way easier for me.) I’ve determined that figure skating is my favorite winter sport, and ice dancing is my favorite form of figure skating.

The reason being, and contradictory to my last post, I’m a big chicken. Sitting through all those death-defying, injury-causing competitions leaves me primed for a little ballet on ice. And when the skating involves triple lutz toe loops and quadruple axel sow-cows (yes, I just made that up and it’s probably misspelled) then I’m gasping out loud and crossing my fingers that the skater lands it all without incident. I much prefer a graceful couple waltzing around the rink to beautiful music and barely leaving the ground. Then I can eat my Twizzlers in peace, not choke on them.

Yes, I biked Europe all by myself, and yes, that was me at the Running of the Bulls. But make no mistake about it — I would never travel alone like that in the States. And I just watched people run with bulls. I didn’t take part in it. I’m not stupid. I’m not going to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

Which brings me to the really gutsy people like skydivers and tightrope walkers who don’t use nets. During the Olympics, I’ve been watching all these crazy sports where people dive head first onto a track of ice to travel over 80 miles an hour or run their skis over rails before launching their bodies stories into the air to make multiple flips. And I’ve been thinking, it all seems a little … well, nuts. I mean, the human knee is not designed to absorb the repetitive shock of moguls. And rails aren’t designed for snow skis. Of course they’re not, they’re handrails.

Maybe, having already defied death, I’ve seen a little too much of the flip side — the results of tragic accidents from extreme sports. I’ve seen behind the curtain and can tell you, accidents do happen. I know the argument. I assume a much greater risk riding in a car than jumping out of a plane or into a bobsled. Maybe the difference is between necessary risk and unnecessary risk. I can’t avoid being in a car from time to time, but I can certainly stay out of bobsleds. So I’ll change last week’s life theme from “life is short” to “life is precious.”

But I don’t want to be a dream squasher. I watch these Olympic back stories about how the favorite at slopestyle skiing was doing backflips off the couch at the age of five and wonder — is this what he was born to do? I’m all for following your dream. I guess I’m just lucky my dream involves a computer and a desk. And both feet planted firmly on the ground.

I found the answer to this conundrum of my own making in a movie, of all places. Some of my valentine girlfriends came over Friday night to watch the movie Rush. (It gets a big thumbs up from me, for what it’s worth.) In it, two rivals in the world of race car driving, battle it out through life’s ups and downs. Talk about an extreme sport! Their two approaches are night and day, though. And perfectly define the difference of acceptable risk. One man is a playboy, the daredevil, ready to face death. He’s full of passion for living and ready to accept any risk to live on the edge. The other will accept a certain percentage of risk, but not one percentage more. Neither is right or wrong. They are simply adults choosing to live life as a bright flame or in a slow, controlled burn.

And that one word — adults — describes the difference for me between those character portrayals and some Olympic contenders. At 19, some Sochi athletes haven’t been on the planet long enough to survive a bad fashion trend let alone decide what life risks he or she is willing to take! More likely, for them it’s about ego and invincibility. And who can blame them? They’re teenagers! Did you see that Swedish kid with the dreds and the quad extra large pants? Supposedly, he was skiing down the mountain with an egg in his pocket. I say he should’ve spent a little less time worrying about breaking that egg and a little more time wondering how to keep his baggy pants from dropping to his ankles on the somersaults. Seriously, he lost them during training. It’s on You Tube if you don’t believe me. After that, he appeared to have acquired suspenders, but they looked quad extra large too, so I’m not sure how much they actually accomplished.

So that’s the food for thought I give you to mull over this week as the Olympics continue. If you’re reading this on Sunday, I’m excited. More twizzles tonight. Ice dancing’s on and there’s half a bag of Twizzlers in the kitchen.

Be Courageous

dreamstimecomp_4461073A friend called me last week, upset that she had to cancel our plans, but much more distraught over the reason why. She was exhausted by work. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. Her job, it seemed, was eating her soul. Well, perhaps I’m being a little dramatic about it. So I guess you can see where I stand on that subject.

If my life could have a theme, I think it would be that life is short. I’ve always felt this way. Even before becoming disabled. After all, I did quit my own soul-sucking job when I was twenty-seven to bike solo throughout Europe. Then again, I stayed for the money for years before quitting, socking it away and planning my escape while driving home every day miserable and in tears. So, who am I to advise?

But, I’ll do it anyway. Maybe, the question for my friend is — is it worth it? Is the trade off of investing more of your time in this unfulfilling place all for some nobler cause? I think, in her case, it is. And we’re talking about sticking it out for less than four months anyway! People can survive a lot for just four months.

In my case, I stuck it out much longer. But I’d like to think my plan was that much grander, too. And what about now? Now that I’m in a wheelchair? You better believe I think about that trip all the time now and am filled with gratitude that I had the guts. What if I hadn’t gone? I had some friends making bets behind my back about how long I’d last. In case you’re wondering — those are naysayers. What if I’d listened to the naysayers? “Aren’t you worried about the gap in your resume?” they asked. Look at me now. Do I seem concerned about the gap? And it was a big one. I was gone for close to six months.

I have another friend who just quit managing a restaurant she’s owned for twenty-five years. She had to listen to lots of naysayers. I tried to be the voice of reason. “Think of it as simply making space. You’re making more room in your life for the things you really want to be doing.”

And these courageous acts don’t have to be as huge and life changing as the ones I’ve described. Heck, brave for me nowadays is rolling into the Subway at the gym and ordering from a stranger who I hope will understand me and be patient while I fumble through the transaction.

I was at the gym last week, using the only machine I felt comfortable with and suffering from a severe case of gym-timidation when in rolled my friend Dani. (I’ve written about her before. The girl with Spina bifida? Who’s blind?) Well, you haven’t felt cowardly till a blind girl in a wheelchair taps her way right past you to try out several different machines. So what’s my excuse? Or yours, for that matter?

I guess what I’m trying to say is, in the words of my friend Michele and Nike, do it. Whatever it is. Take a deep breath and go for it. And in the words of that overplayed song that I love, I wanna see you be brave.


Out in the World

dreamstimecomp_2439573Last week I returned to the Land of the Living. I think I’m a month behind everyone else on New Year’s resolutions, but better late than never. The cold I had really took its own sweet time and I couldn’t find the energy for much of anything. But just in time for February, I’ve officially headed back to the gym.

And it’s good for me. Well, of course it’s good for everyone, but it’s particularly good for me, being in a wheelchair. I keep hearing that prescription drug commercial in my head. You know the one, “a body at rest tends to stay at rest, while a body in motion …” For Restasis, or Cialis, or some such -is. Wait. Not Cialsis. I know that one. It’s the one like Viagra with the inexplicable ad. In it a man and woman sit in separate bathtubs in the middle of a wheat field. Don’t ask me why. Perhaps they find wheat arousing or the walls of their house blew away.

Anyway, believe the adage, “use it or lose it.” I know it to be true. I feel like a big, stiff bear waking up from a long winter’s nap. And the few things I used to do with ease (and believe me, there were only a few) are now difficult again.  Like, I used to be able to touch my toes while down on a big floor mat. Either my arms have shrunk or my legs have gotten longer, because now I’m a good foot away. More likely, my once flexible muscles have hardened up as fast as day old bread. So, I’m back to square one.

It’s good for other people, too – my being out and about. Not all of you, of course, because my readers are very socially aware, but it’s good to remind the general public that disabled people are out there. If you’re like most people, you just don’t think about people being different or having different needs, unless you know or see someone like me. After you’ve seen me in my power chair at the strip mall, you’re less likely to park in front of a curb cut — my only way down from or onto a curb.

Plus, my being out may inspire someone in ways I will never know. This is one of the perks of being disabled. I can help someone without ever lifting a finger. Imagine the person down in the dumps, who sees me smiling, just going about my business, and stops and thinks, “Wow, look at that happy girl in the wheelchair. What have I got to be grumpy about?”

And speaking of being grumpy, my mom and I are both guilty of it as of late. We’ve been bickering — another thing that prompted my return to a fitness regime. I know how exercise improves your mood and outlook. And I think this is true for all relationships — it’s good to do your own thing once in a while. Allow yourself to miss each other a little bit.

So be aware, I’m back out in the world. I’ll be the smiling girl in the wheelchair. Just like the picture. Minus the green hair, of course.

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