Letter to a CP: Sometimes the Best Comes Out Last {Again}

Since next week is the Rita/Golden Heart announcement day, my K&T sisters have asked me to repost this letter I “wrote” last week to my CP (critique partner). I hope that all who are waiting for a call, especially those who don’t get one, find some comfort in these words. They come from a writer’s heart.

“Monkey buttshine!” my son screams at his sister.

“Rat hag!” she yells back.

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I drop the laundry basket and head downstairs.

They know the m-b word is not allowed. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what a monkey butthshine is, but to my twins, it’s the worst thing they can call each other. In their odd twin language, rat hag is the second-worst. So the one who starts the fight, the one who says “monkey buttshine” first, always wins.

“Take it back!” As usual, they speak at the same time, in the same false tone, with the same heavy breathing. Faced off like two cage fighters, they circle each other.

My daughter has on the ugly face, my son’s fists are clenched.

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And my mother’s heart breaks. “Why do you speak to each other like that?”

They both turn and look at me, two pairs of blue eyes wide, as if noticing me for the first time.

My son answers first. “Because she tricked me. She’s always tricking me.”

“Am not!” my daughter replies.

“Are too! It’s why you’re the oldest,” he pauses for affect. “Monkey buttshine!”

Good grief. Not this again. “Your sister was born first because she was lowest. There was no grand conspiracy to make you younger.”

“By eleven minutes,” my daughter adds with a wonderful teenage sneer. “But mom said it felt like eleven hours!”

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Did I mention my twins are thirteen?

“Go finish your chores.” I pick up the laundry basket with a heavy sigh (I can add drama to any situation as well). “And I don’t want to hear those words again.”

“Why not?” my son asks as I leave the room. “I’ve heard you say worse things to yourself.”

Without responding, I stumble up the steps and make it to my bedroom. My heart races and everything blurs.

I’ve heard you say worse things to yourself.

Those words cut me as surely as if I’d taken the sharpest knife to the softest skin on my forearm. Not only because I’m horrified that they’ve heard me, but because they’ve spoken the truth.

I drop the basket in front of the window, the morning light highlighting the folded white laundry, and I see all the variations in the white cotton, where the bleach never penetrated. Perfection is a self-defeating behavior, but self-destruction by words is far worse. Especially when one is a writer with an entire arsenal of rhetorical devises armed and ready.

I am, and always have been, harsher on myself than anyone else. Usually I keep the brutal self-talk inside, but I have a tendency to mutter when I’m upset. I just figured no one else was listening. But, apparently, I was wrong.

As I reach down to start putting away the yellowed whites, my cell phone vibrates. A text from one of my CPs.

21 days until GH/Rita  finals announcedI don’t think I have a chance of finaling. I feel like puking.

I take a deep breath. Those words carry so much emotion, and I remember her disappointment when she didn’t final last year. I remember her smiling on Facebook and cheering on her fellow writers with the grace and humor she’s known for. I also remember the horrible things she and many of my published/yet-to-be published friends confided to me about themselves and their own manuscripts while others celebrated online. And I don’t know how to respond.

Yes, I’ve finaled in the Golden Heart three times over the last three years but I’ve also not finaled five times. I know the disappointment and can still taste the tears, but I hesitate to type back. How can I encourage her when I treat myself with the same kind of contempt? With a kind of harshness I wouldn’t shower on my worst enemy?

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As I put away laundry and struggle with what to say to my CP, I hear the kids downstairs negotiating whose turn it is for dog doo-doo duty. In the midst of back-and-forth promises and threats, my son says, “I’m sorry I called you a monkey buttshine. You’re prettier than a monkey’s butt.”

“I know.” My daughter quickly responds, “And I didn’t come out first on purpose. I was at the right place at the right time. But sometimes the best comes out last.”

My heart skips. Sometimes the best comes out last.

“At least we have each other,” my son says. “Can you imagine how hard this would all be if we had to do everything alone?”

And, again, I’ve learned from my children. My twins were born with a confidence I’ve always envied. Everything they’ve ever faced from speech therapy, entering middle school, to getting braces, they’ve had a sibling. A friend. A partner.

I stand by the bedroom window and watch them outside. In yellow puddle boots and arms wrapped in plastic newspaper bags, they work together to clean the yard while the dog chases them. And I smile. They’ve shared everything. Haircuts at the scary cartoon place. Death of the beloved hamster. Whispers in the dark. Birthdays. They may argue, but they don’t fear because they are never truly alone.

Suicide by words is just plain old fear wrapped in vivid imagery and clever metaphors. 

And isn’t it my job as a CP, as a friend, as a colleague, to stamp out this fear in both myself and those I love? It’s my privilege to encourage in the face of trials and disappointments. To celebrate in times of joy. To sit by quietly, just holding her hand, as she struggles. And even though I’ve failed myself doesn’t mean I can’t do better, can’t try again. Maybe by helping her, by not letting her face her fears alone, I can help myself.

I reach for the phone, but I don’t text. Instead, I compose an email for her and all the other brave writers who entered RWA’s Golden Heart/Rita contest this year.

“Dear Friend, Let me take your hand,

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and whisper softly,oatlands-030

Regardless of what happens on March 25 or in two months or next year, I will not let you listen to the words of the serpent.

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Regardless if that editor reading your newest manuscript offers you a contract or rejects you, I will not let you hide.

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Regardless of the path your publishing career takes, you are still a writer. Your words (and drawings) still matter.

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Your words aren’t meant to draw blood. Your words are meant to change peoples’ hearts. And isn’t that the most important thing? Isn’t that why you became a writer?”

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Whether or not the phone rings on March 25, please remember these words for they come from my heart. Sometimes the best things come out last.

And the best is always worth waiting for. Just ask the teenagers. They know everything.

P.S. You are not a monkey buttshine (whatever that is) 

Have you ever suffered from your own internal words? Words you’d never say to anyone else? How do you rise above the negative self-talk? I’d love to know I’m not alone.

The winner of any one book from Christy Reece’s LCR series is Chris Bails. Congratulations, Chris! Contact us within the next 10 days to collect your prize.

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And next Tuesday, March 26th we are thrilled to host DARYNDA JONES. She’s blogging, answering questions and holding a SNARKY T-SHIRT SAYING CONTEST. Stop by and give us your best! Darynda will pick the winner on Thursday 3/28, the winner gets a Darynda Jones book of choice.

About Sharon Wray

Sharon is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes novels of adventure, suspense and love for Sourcebooks. She's a wife, mother of twins, caretaker of Donut the One-Eyed Family Dog, and addicted to snapping photos and eating Oreos.

Posted on March 21, 2013, in Sharon Wray and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Thanks for choosing me. Loved your story. Only brothers and sisters can fight like that.

  2. This post touches me again and again, no matter how often I read it, Sharon. The words are so wise, and your kids are adorable.

    XO

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this with us here, Sharon. I hope you inspire more people to treat themselves with care.

    Congratulations, Chris!

  4. Wonderful post, Sharon! I’ve had my share of GH depression (I didn’t final with 6 entries) and joy, and I have a 13-year-old daughter, so I relate to this on so many levels.

  5. It’s only my second time to enter and my category was squelched. I debated whether allowing my back-up category to be used or not, and ended up leaving it in. Will be nervous next Tuesday.

  6. Sharon, what a wonderful post. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ll be FBing and Tweeting it for sure.
    It is comforting to know I’m not alone in the negative self-talk. It’s such a viscious cycle. We feel bad, we say/think bad things about ourself, and we feel worse, so we say/think bad . . . .You see the pattern. I try to make myself state affirmations. I don’t do it often enough, but I do believe the brain is like a computer. You put in bad stuff, bad stuff comes out. You put in good thought/speech, you’re more likely to get good stuff out.
    Thanks for the reminder so beautifully worded. A helpful thought I picked up from somone else: The only one who can defeat us, is ourselves, and that’s if we give up.

  7. Beautifully put, Marsha. I hate to admit to the negative self-talk, but I find that as soon as I do I meet so many people who do the same thing. And I just wish we could all remind each other to allow only good thoughts so only good things come out.
    Did you enter this year? If so I will be keeping everything crossed for you!

    • No, I didn’t enter. I did a couple of years ago, and it was pretty devasting, pretty deserved. LOL But not fun. My first book is coming out this summer, and I’m focusing my energy on Margieizing my other mansucripts, so hopefully, they too can be read by others.
      Let’s make a pact, Sharon. We will speak up in a positive manner anytime we heard someone badmouthing themselves, especially fellow writers. 🙂

  8. Poignant as always, Sharon, and I love how you tied your twins bickering, the GH jitters and negative self-talk together. Quite a talent.

    I ripped open a bag of pine nuts today and they sprayed all over the kitchen. They hadn’t even finished falling before I was calling myself a f-head at the top of my lungs. So. Obviously I still have a long way to go.

    GOOD LUCK to all GH entrants! We’d love for you to come over next Tues and share (shout) your good news on our blog.

    • I have to admit, Sarah, I laughed when I read your comment. But I was laughing WITH you. I promise.
      I find it so hard to believe that you, of all the writers I know, say terrible things about yourself. I am sending cyber hugs and wish I could bring you some more pine nuts. My kids hate them and would love for me to get rid of them. 🙂

  9. Wow.

    Not much of a response from a guy who occasionally thinks he *might* have a grip on this ‘writing thing’. But boy, Sharon, did this ever hit home today…:)

    Sometimes, people we’ve never met just know things we don’t, and it’s nice to be reminded of that.

    P.S. If a more specific definition of ‘monkey buttshine’ could be nailed down, well… it does sound wonderfully descriptive!…:)

    • Thank you, William. As a woman who *never* thinks she has a grip on this writing thing, it’s always wonderful to find out my simple words, scratched out in the middle of the night while my kids are sick, have offered comfort.
      And I promise, if I ever find out more about ‘monkey buttshine’ I will let you know. 🙂

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