Some thoughts on loving Sherlock Holmes

Like John, I met Sherlock* at a time in my life when I needed a charismatic, brilliant, loyal companion who could point the way. I’ve found that the context of our own stories at the time we encounter new ones colors everything: our reading, our appreciation… our understanding.  Although I had not just returned from a war like John, I had been through a bit of an ordeal.  So being welcomed in to 221B felt natural, and joining on the adventures felt both exciting and safe.

 

In early 2008, I stayed awake into the wee hours reading from the complete works, crawling deeper into the chase, along the streets of Victorian London or into the fog along the moors.  I remember one quote that particularly struck me: “She had a sonic secret sorrow, that woman.” (The Copper Beeches)  

What Sherlock really gives us is this relationship that makes us feel like the star. We are Watson, the one person let into the heart (ish) of a man brilliant beyond any we've ever met. Experiencing the story through Watson's perspective is magical. Being the one trusted confidant (ish) of Sherlock Holmes is a dream and a nightmare at once. On the one hand: Adventures! On the other hand: that we don't understand until our so-called bestie explains them!

Then of course there are the many adaptations (2 tv shows and the movies since then, innumerable pastiches, inspired-by stories and other forms) ... but the original canon is the true heart of it. The adaptations are interesting, but the canon is everything. (I know, controversial stance. But you can't have the one without the other.)

I still love Sherlock Holmes. I really enjoyed participating in Columbia's Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things project last year, and look forward to seeing how the project expands. I have had many an amazing conversation with some incredible Sherlockians (namely meeting Jon Lellenberg earlier this year... he is just such a cool, cool person).

Sherlock has brought me to so many realizations about myself and my life. In particular, how much a story can burrow into our hearts, and then form unbreakable bonds between us and other people. How many people around the world feel like Baker Street is a part of their own lives? (I don't have any stats on this. Happy for anyone to answer haha). But seriously. Meeting other people, geeking out over a story that feels real and ingrained... it forges connections quickly and deeply. Maybe that's a bad thing, maybe that's a good thing. Either way, it IS something that cannot be discounted or denied. The stories that fill our hearts pull us together. And Sherlock is, for me, one of those stories.

 

 

So this week, as another season of the BBC's Sherlock airs and I engage with conversations with other fans online, speculating on what could happen is episode 4.3, I am looking back and looking forward at the stories that have filled my heart and mind up. And I am so thankful that 130 years ago, Arthur Conan Doyle decided to write a story about two strangers who became family and their adventures along the way.

 

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*Of course I knew about Sherlock Holmes since I was a little kid. But I had never read through the complete works until 2008.

How Pitch Wars (and beyond) is like Harry Potter

I admit it. I only wanted to write this post because I have a deep abiding love for both Pitch Wars and Harry Potter. (and I wanted an excuse to use some HP gifs, okay?) Guilty as charged.

BUT... I think there are some great parallels that can be drawn between the two... so bear with me

 I appreciate your patience, Dumbles...

I appreciate your patience, Dumbles...

Getting picked for Pitch Wars is like getting your Hogwarts letter...
When I found out that I got into Pitch Wars, I was out with a group of friends... I remember seeing Brenda's tweet and then rushing to look at the list, and the scrolling down to find my name... and I found it! (it was misspelled, which was fine, but my title was there so I was like YESSSSS!) Luckily we were out at a pop-up beer garden at the time, because if I had started shouting and jumping up and down inside... well, we might have gotten some strange looks. But basically, this was me...

 They're my letters!!!!!! (Harry, just pick one up off the floor. Much easier...)

They're my letters!!!!!! (Harry, just pick one up off the floor. Much easier...)

Your Mentor is like a Hogwarts Professor (well, a non-evil one...)
Working with Michelle Hauck during Pitch Wars was so wonderful. Michelle dedicated tons of time and effort to making sure my manuscript was in the best possible shape for the agent round, and she also helped me work on my pitch, first 250, and query letter. (Michelle goes above and beyond for her mentees, that's for sure). I knew I was in good hands when she told me how much she loved the story and made some excellent suggestions on characterization, pacing, and stakes. Yay mentors!

 well done, well done I say!

well done, well done I say!

September and October are like doing tons of magic homework (sometimes it may feel like a Binns essay. or worse, a SNAPE essay) ... but luckily you have your friends in the common room to help
September and October were months full of work. BUT luckily, there were 124 other people also working just as hard on the same deadline. Some days it seemed like there was too much to do and I would never finish my edits on time. Sometimes I needed someone else to give advice or help bounce ideas or to share expertise... that's where the "common room" comes in. Using the #PitchWars hashtag on Twitter, and hanging out in our super-secret mentees FB group (no I will not tell you the password to get past the painting!) kept me going and reaching towards my goal. Without these folks, I would not have had nearly as much fun during Pitch Wars.

 you think you can accomplish anything else in life during those 2 months that isn't writing related? ummmm.... no.

you think you can accomplish anything else in life during those 2 months that isn't writing related? ummmm.... no.

And on the topic of your "Pitch Wars class" ...
We have become a writing family... these 124 people who live all over the world are my tribe. I wouldn't trade them for anything.

While you’re here, your house will be like your family...
— Minerva McGonagall

The Agent Round (and then querying) is kind of like the Triwizard Tournament

But it's only the first challenge. You may get requests, you may not. It's all okay! You can still query after Pitch Wars, knowing you have an amazing manuscript.

Querying is like the second (and third... and the fourth/fifth/sixth/etc(?)) challenge... it's just another step in the process! I queried my agent in December with the query my mentor helped me to polish, and the manuscript I'd worked on revising for 2 months. I mentioned Pitch Wars in my query letter, and I think that made a difference. I know that my manuscript was stronger because of PW.

 Freaking! Out!

Freaking! Out!

This is alllll to say -- Pitch Wars will not magically solve all things, and it is a challenge to get through. But it is so very worth it and it was one of the best experiences of my life (much like reading Harry Potter!)

And I think that's the end of this very, very extended metaphor. Thanks for reading!

Spending my summer

One thing that has been true as long as I can remember: I love summer. It may be because I was born in late May, so the season imprinted on me even before I could properly form memories. It may be that I'm perennially cold, and the warmth of the sun makes me feel alive. It may be that I adore the sense of freedom and possibility that comes along with sunny escapes. I'm not sure. But summer has always been the season I adore.*

 Summer Sunsets are my jam. Also my doggie's jam.

Summer Sunsets are my jam. Also my doggie's jam.

Summer ephemerality juxtaposes winter's lingering hold. Every day feels valuable, like a promise that something could happen, if only you let it. Summer gives me serious FOMO. Every day has to be all carpe carpe carpe, know what I mean?

So why have I spent so many summers inside, writing?

I started my first novel in May of 2003. I'd just finished my first year of university, and I'd come home without a real plan for my summer, aside from a part time job. For some reason, I spent those 3 months writing the beginning of a novel. (I did not finish a draft for years. I was slow.) I had no idea what I was doing, but I just started doing it. The internet being what it was in '03, I had no easy way to find other writers I could talk to. I was, at the time, an island. I spent day after day sitting in my childhood bedroom (thanks mom and dad for letting me stay at home rent free. seriously.) building a world, when I wasn't working. And it was gloriously awkward and stumbly and fun.

I was delirious on words.

I spent several summers since then similarly cooped up, just me and the page (be it paper or screen). Living with fictional"friends" who didn't exist. Exploring stories that weren't true, in a literal sense. But both felt real to me.

And all the while, summer sprinted past my window, year after year. I wonder why I didn't make the most progress over winter instead. Why did summer seem like the moment I wrote the most? I think because in the summer, I feel most like myself. And that lets the words flow.

Now I long for the summers when I had more free time, with only a part time job taking up some hours. With a full time job on top of writing, it's like working two jobs, except one doesn't pay you and you're your own boss (yay!). Last summer, in particular, I spent almost every day (including every weekend) working on editing my novel to get ready for Pitch Wars, as well as researching agents. It ended up being well worth the time when I got into Pitch Wars, and had an excellent experience honing my novel. This summer, I finally have an agent (YAY!) and I spent almost six weeks working nonstop on edits and new material, all squeezed into the hours after my FT job ends and on weekends. It's hard to keep up the pace, sometimes. But it is a cost that has to be paid. It's a lot to "spend."

The point is, it's never done. You're never done. If you really want to be a writer, you will never have "a summer" in that sense of freedom again. (Granted, as adults we don't get that in general, but I mean the general feeling). Summer is time, it's a feeling, and it's a season of life that I value higher than any other season. Time wise, it's "expensive" time, to me.

I know I am missing out on lots of things in a way. But I have to tell these stories. I have to write these words. I can't really see myself doing anything else, being anywhere else. And I am so lucky to now know hundreds of other authors who feel the same way about their time and their stories. I am no longer an island.

And I would still spend every one of my summers right here, just me and the page. It's worth the cost.

 

*not going to lie: I also love autumn in a very passionate way. But winter is my enemy.

Welcome!

Hello friend!

Welcome to my blog. I will be using this space to discuss my adventures in writing, publishing, music making, and learning in all forms. I hope that you will find the content fun and helpful, but most of all, entertaining!

The picture is of my writing nook, from which I am scheming, dreaming, and otherwise getting into trouble. 

 Writing Nook. Art by me from long ago. Pillow/Rug by West Elm. Desk by Crate & Barrel. Side table is antique.

Writing Nook. Art by me from long ago. Pillow/Rug by West Elm. Desk by Crate & Barrel. Side table is antique.

Hugs and High Fives,

Kat