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A (Partial) Day in the Life of an Author

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My life is odd, now that I’m a full-time author. I guess I should quantify that. My life is odd, now that I’m a New York Times Bestselling author. Because it was not-normal before SHIVER, but it really took SHIVER to made things out-and-out Odd. I get asked a lot what my average day is like, but I can’t really answer, because there is no average day. There is just what happened this day, and what happened the day before, and what is likely to happen tomorrow. So I can’t tell you an average day. But I can tell you about this day.

Tuesday. September 21st. Tomorrow I have a doctor’s appointment. Friday I go to Florida for a conference. In one week I leave for the UK.

My day started today at 6:30: the alarm goes off and wakes me in the middle of a dream of a car chase. Lover groans and gets up to get Things 1 & 2 ready for school. Because I had middle of the night Mama-my-legs-have-bug-bites-on-them duty, I get to sleep until 7, when I stagger out of bed and find tea (black, with milk and sugar)(but not too much sugar, because I’m trying to cut down on refined sugars)(okay, I’m lying, I use a crap-load of sugar, because it’s profoundly early). I feed the dogs a raw chicken wing each and then I head to my office, feeling virtuous because my desk is clean, which is only because I spent an hour yesterday answer reader letters and mailing off bookplate requests and sending bookmarks to booksellers. Today I might even take the vacuum cleaner for a walk, if there’s day leftover after work.

So it’s e-mail time. Once upon a time, I got 4,000 e-mails a month, and when I opened my inbox, I went blind from all the unread messages. 4,000 is a number that people don’t really fathom, I’ve discovered. I did the math, though, and I found out that’s 16 business days a month to answer them, if it takes 2 minutes each. Now I have my inbox set up so the e-mails file nicely into little labeled sections, like Scholastic and Reader Mail and Business and Family and Facebook and Blog Comments. So I really have no sense of the total number any more, and the ignorance is comforting. On this particular Tuesday, it looks a bit bleak. I’m behind on reading reader mails, but the readers are in good company, because I’m also behind on my mother’s emails. I open the most recent. Mom tells me that they have a chin-up bar available on I don’t think she’s being serious.

I open up my chat window with my critique partner, Tess, and I open up my file for Secret Novel. Secret Novel is frustrating because it is Secret, and so I can’t vent about any or my frustrations or crow about how much I love it online. In the past, I was both poor and extremely unfamous, so I could write about whatever projects I wanted to on my blog. It’s an odd sort of trade-off. I miss going back to old blog posts and watching my clueless progress on Shiver (I like the posts that say things like “WHO IS THIS SAM GUY AND WHY IS HE NARRATING ANY OF THIS BOOK?”). Secret Novel makes me slightly anxious, both because I love it and don’t want to ruin it, but also because it’s due before the end of the year. I have 31,000 words. I’m stuck. I drink my tea. I cut 2,000 words from the document and paste it in an outtakes file, and now I’m unstuck, but I’m also down to 29,000 words. I drink some more tea.

I remember my publicist is supposed to call me at ten to discuss things I need to do before I go on my European Tour. I’ve done a lot of preparation for the tour, namely, training myself to say “European Tour” without galloping around the house and whooping. I make a note to make sure she got my e-mail about the writers’ retreat I set up in February and that reminds me I need to send website updates to my webmaster, and as I’m doing that, I see that UPS is pulling down the driveway. This is the most exciting part of my day so far. You just never know what UPS might bring. It could be books, or car parts, or a pony. Today, it turns out to be a corduroy jacket for my European Tour — part of my clever idea to look like a Real Girl without having to bring a lot of clothing. I figure, a corduroy jacket makes my Shins t-shirt couture. If it doesn’t, I don’t want to know.

After the excitement of UPS, I write two sentences on Secret Novel before looking at Secret Art Project that Needs to Be Done Before European Tour. I’m undecided as to which one I should work on. The phone rings. I swear, until I realize that it’s my publicist. She asks me when I’m going to answer questions for a German interview, tells me I need to film an acceptance video for an award, and asks if I have time to coordinate the unveiling of the FOREVER cover. She tells me that she’s forwarding me information for a conference I’ve been invited to speak at; a conference so impressive-sounding that I suspect my invitation is possibly a prank. Last year my author friend Carrie Ryan bet me that I’d be asked to give at least one keynote speech in 2010, and I so owe her money.

Any one of the elements of this publicist phone call would have caused me to drop dead of amazement and uselessness this time last year, and it seems slightly unfair that they’ve all decided to travel in packs this year. My publicist asks me if I’ve gotten my itinerary for SIBA, the conference this weekend. It turns out that I’m being auctioned off on Saturday; the highest-bidding participant takes me to dinner. I clarify to make sure that it’s not really what it sounds like, which is that scene in Groundhog Day when they auction off Bill Murray.

Turns out, that’s exactly what it’s like.

I hang up and eat some granola, because there doesn’t seem to be any other logical course of action after hearing that sort of news. Editor emails pop in: foreign rights deal finalized for FOREVER! Award nomination! Publicist email pops up: don’t forget to tell Prestigious Conference that you’re coming! So it really isn’t a prank. Tess pitches in helpfully: that conference is really snotty! Don’t screw up, Stiefvater!

Yesterday, I panicked and ordered two pairs of dark jeans to take to Europe. I don’t think I can possibly survive without them. I have some speeches to write and I can’t remember where my passport is and I need to work out some swag to bring to the Netherlands, but if I just had these jeans to legitimize my Shins t-shirt, I would be okay. They were supposed to come overnight, but the website says that my order is still processing. I email the company a slightly incoherent email: HOW CAN I GO TO LITHUANIA WITHOUT THESE JEANS?

Lover brings me a cup of tea and shows me a bouncing sheep on his iPad and I tune my guitar, which makes me feel better. I announce on my Twitter and Facebook that I’ll be showing the FOREVER cover soon. My google alerts instantly announce that people are excited in a way that google deems interesting. I delete them without reading them. I’ve learned my lesson because google alerts, while sometimes useful, also sometimes deliver reviews that say: “Maggie Stiefvater is a genius. You can tell that she is in a solid relationship because you can’t write a love affair like that without having experienced it yourself” and sometimes deliver reviews that say: “Maggie Stiefvater is clearly involved in a loveless relationship because her books demonstrate that she needs nothing more than a good humping.” And you just never know which one you’re going to end up with. And some days I have a better sense of humor than others.

An email from a friend pops up: are we going out for drinks while you’re in Florida? Me: no, apparently I’m being auctioned off and will be with my new owner on Saturday night. Her: This is Odd. Me: I have an odd life.

Another email from another friend pops up: European tour! Are you excited or nervous? I can’t answer the question because I don’t know where my dark jeans are yet. If they’re still in a warehouse in Pittsburgh, it’s the latter. If they’re on their way here, the former, because I’m taking over the world.

I look at Secret Novel. It’s noon. I’ve written -2,000 words today, and earlier, I calculated that I needed to write 1,400 words a day to stay on schedule. My math SAT scores were appalling, but I think that -2,000 is less than 1,400. I should write my novel. I love my main character. I love my world that I’ve created. I write a blog post instead. My dogs come to the front door: they’ve jumped the fence again, because it’s more fun to sleep under my desk than frolic outside. I reread what I’ve written on Secret Novel. Not bad, Stiefvater, not bad. Hey, you snuck some past tense in there by accident. Fix it. Your rent depends on you using tenses consistently.

Now it’s 1 p.m. I think if I wait til the end of the day to post my average day, this blog post will be longer than my Secret Novel.

*maggie hits post*

Maggie Stiefvater
Hi, I'm Maggie Stiefvater

Professional novelist by day and artist by night. I live an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with my charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, and neurotic dogs. I’m the author of the Books of Faerie (LAMENT and BALLAD); the bestselling SHIVER trilogy (SHIVER, LINGER, FOREVER), and THE SCORPIO RACES.

How I Write

Maggie Stiefvater Novels

Copyright 2012