Wednesday, February 05, 2014

who is your rival who doesn’t know they’re your rival?

I’m sitting at Swork right now, trying to start Draft 3 of my YA novel. The good news is that my agent liked Draft 2 and gave me some good notes, and Swork has almond milk. The bad news is I feel like I’ve forgotten how to write.

Maybe the new job is filling my brain with Grant Voice, or maybe I’ve just been in nonfiction mode for too long. To get some of the right kind of voice in my head, I Googled Andrea Seigel, whose blog and novel The Kid Table are wry and well observed. I think I’m aiming for a voice adjacent to hers. I hoped she had a short story or something online to get me started.

Once I saw her and her cute BF in South Pasadena while I was on my way to a particularly grueling couples therapy session.
That was a bad idea. Because what I found instead was this interview, in which she discusses her anxiety about growing old alone and childless while engaged and pregnant.

She says:

Our discussion about the baby, was “Maybe we should stop using protection. Yeah, let's just see what happens.” That was our baby discussion. We kind of just decided to throw it up in the air. It also came about because I have that Jewish cancer gene where they want to remove your reproductive system by thirty-five or thirty-six. And so, my doctor started to nudge at me. So, we just kind of said, “Okay. We'll try.”

Andrea Seigel and I have a lot in common. The writer thing. The anxiety. The Jewish cancer gene. And we met once.

But she published her first book at the age of 25 with a huge publishing house and now she’s writing a movie starring Paul Rudd. And she had a baby by “trying,” which in straight-people language means “not trying.”

Meanwhile, I’m hoping Draft 9 is the version of my cats-‘n’-Malaysia novel that really convinces publishers that they need a book about cats and Malaysia. And doctors did remove my reproductive system (well, just my ovaries; that distinction always feels important) when I was 36.

This is not to say that I’m a loser, just that the internet made me feel like one, and Andrea Seigel is my rival, except that she doesn’t know it because she’s probably busy being rivals with someone more famous than her.

My high school version of Andrea Seigel was Hillary Toomey, who was much more popular than I was and took all the AP classes instead of just a handful and got onto JV cheer without having to do time on drill team like the rest of us. Hillary Toomey had no idea she was my rival, and I can guarantee you I wasn’t hers. We were on cheer squads together for two years, and I think she said a total of eight words to me.

Recently I had a conversation with some people about celebrity rivals, and I decided mine was James Franco. We both lived on the seventh floor of Dykstra Hall my sophomore year (his freshman year) at UCLA. We both got MFA’s. Only one of us is publishing with Graywolf.

James Franco and his biggest fan.
Do you guys do this too? Have secret rivals—in real life or the celebrity sphere—who don’t know you’re in a neck-and-neck competition? Or am I really as creepy as I sound to myself right now?

I only made it 240 words into my YA novel, and I just wrote more than twice that about the rivalries in my head. Oh, envy, you are a saboteur.


Unknown said...

Yes, absolutely! This is a brave and honest piece of writing. Thank you.

Sometimes these feelings of rivalry can be disabling; sometimes I manage to let them show me what it is I really want and help me find a way to move toward that.

Cheryl said...

That's good advice--using envy as a catalyst rather than trying to quash it entirely. Like so many drugs, it helps in small doses. It can get me writing, or energize me. And in large doses it's paralyzing and nearly fatal.

Claire said...

I definitely did this in high school. In my prom saga on my blog somewhere, I end up buying my dress from my arch nemesis. Naturally she wrote something nice in my yearbook senior year. I was not on her radar at all as an enemy.

Now it's more that I'm certain I'm on no one's radar which is more depressing than envy producing. Although when I read the celeb birthdays for the week in Parade (whatever it is now), I notice more and more how accomplished people just a few years older or younger (increasingly more often) than I am are. Not rivalries but comparisons where I am without question the loser. Even in that industry. urgh.

Cheryl said...

Ooh, arch nemesis hand-me-downs!

And it's true, there are a lot of celebs who are younger than us. More and more every day. Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, Kendall Kardashian...all so accomplished. :-)