I promise I didn’t intend to just walk away the way that I did—a number of things suddenly came up and got in the way.
To be fair, though, I did intend to take a break. The last story I published wasn’t a story at all, it was bits and pieces cobbled together from a novel I’ll never write. I was a bit bummed when I hit “Publish” on it because it wasn’t any good, but then I had my schedule to keep so I did. It was time for a break.
I hadn’t meant to stop right away, but then my chickens died. I learned later that an outbreak of highly-contagious avian influenza (“really bad bird flu”) in this region. My poor free-range chickens must have been infected by some random bird that stopped in my garden on the way to or from Lake Victoria. One of them was sick on Sunday, and by Tuesday all were dead. A veterinarian advised me to euthanize them once it became clear that they had all been exposed, but I wasn’t sure I had the strength, physically or emotionally, to do it quickly and cleanly. Instead, when their seizures hit, I scooped them up and stroked their backs and whispered to them to keep them calm while their little hearts gave out.
I wasn’t really able to do much of anything else that week.
When that was over I was notified that I had been awarded a new contract. This one was far more demanding than my last one and suddenly my days weren’t mine anymore. I have to wake up super-early now so that I can squeeze in some exercise before getting dressed and going into the office—a real office, with cubicles and fluorescent lights and a coffee machine in the break room—and then sit and do things until it’s time to go home. (Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I just wish it didn’t take so long.)
For all these reasons my fiction writing really hit a snag, and I couldn’t summon the time or energy to post anything. I did find moments here and there where I could read over what I’d written in the previous year. I sorted my stories into three piles: ones I’m proud of, ones I’m not ashamed of, and ones best forgotten. I edited the ones in the first two piles as best as I could—typos, missing sentences, sometimes character names that changed in mid-story—and bound them in a little vanity press edition for myself. That was satisfying. It looks like a real book, and sits nicely on my shelf. (The vanity press even let me put it up for sale in their bookstore, though I undercut my sales potential by about a hundred percent by giving a free copy to my mom.)
So that is the state of myself as I head into the summer. Tonight I’m boarding a plane and heading back to the U.S. for a little vacation. Over the next six weeks I hope to get back to my novel and maybe even finish it—at the rate of a thousand words a day I should at least get close. I hope everyone sleeps in so I can write in peace.
I ordered a big stack of books that I want to plow through, too. I don’t even remember which ones, because with the magic of the Internet I can sit in my cubicle in Uganda and send books to my parents so I don’t have to waste a precious second of my vacation time waiting at the bookstore for the cashier to ring me up.
I’m also excited that I bought a new camera. I haven’t used a “real” camera in years, not since I abandoned my film camera. At the time I couldn’t afford a DSLR so I got a cheesy point-and-shoot, and then replaced that one with my phone. It does seem silly, though, to tell people that I seriously think I can do justice to the beauty of East Africa with my iPhone. I look forward to playing with my new camera tomorrow. Who knows, maybe some of my best shots can end up here.
And when summer ends I’ll pack my bags and come back here, to my pretty little house in the hills, re-energized and ready to start everything up again.
I’m even going to get new chickens, because I miss my little ladies and the garden feels sad and empty without them.