Friday, July 30, 2010

I spit on the birthday curse

I looked at the calendar yesterday, and was horrified to realize my 36th birthday is in two weeks.

I know what you’re thinking – don’t worry, Tawna, you don’t look a day over 35. With a good skincare regimen and a supportive bra, you’ll stay youthful and vigorous for at least another two months.

But it’s really not aging I’m worried about. It’s the fact that my birthday is cursed.

You heard me right. My birthday is cursed, and I am deeply superstitious about this.

Don’t believe me? Consider the evidence.

Here’s how my 32nd birthday unfolded:
  1. My cat died.
  2. My editor at Harlequin/Silhouette called to tell me the Bombshell line – which was scheduled to publish my debut novel in February 2007 – was being cancelled a month before said debut.
  3. My longtime employer threatened to fire me if I refused to comply with the company’s hosiery policy (I did. They didn’t. Long story).
A few years passed, and I began to forget my birthday curse. When my 35th birthday rolled by without incident, I thought I was home free.

But the birthday demons were just toying with me. Exactly one week after my birthday, the following things occurred in a single day:

  1. A doctor’s appointment revealed that a nerve surgery in my elbow had failed.
  2. Our elderly dog was incapacitated by a severe vestibular disorder and couldn’t walk.
  3. Our younger dog collapsed suddenly from an undetected, bleeding tumor and had to be put to sleep.
  4. My agent called to tell me a book deal we thought was an absolute certainty was not going to happen.
So now you see why I’m only half kidding when I talk about the birthday curse.

I’m not saying all writing-related superstitions are bad. Back when I was querying agents, there was a funny little “blessing” Pythagoras would perform over every snail-mail query I sent. It was a sweet way to involve him in a challenging process, and it lent a teamwork vibe to an otherwise solitary pursuit.

But my fear of the birthday curse – well, there’s nothing fun about that.

Which is why I’m determined not to let it worry me this year. Deep down, the intelligent part of me knows that good things and bad things happen every single day. Much as I might occasionally believe the world revolves around me, I know the date of my birth does not control the flow of luck in the universe. Assigning so much significance to a single date just ensures I’ll spend the next few weeks braced for bad things to happen, and is that really a healthy way to write?

So this year, I spit on the birthday curse. I kick it in the nuts and give it a wedgie before ducking behind Pythagoras and cackling like a fiend.

Are you superstitious when it comes to writing? Do you have rituals you perform when sending queries or contest entries? Please share in the comments (unless it involves human sacrifice, in which case you should probably share with the police).

19 comments :

Morgan Ives said...

I'm going to buy all your books. If your publisher tries to cancel them, I will give them a wedgie and cackle. Just saying.

My family is terribly superstitious, and I inherited it all. Rocking empty rocking chairs make me nervous, because my grandma told me it means someone will die. Also, open umbrellas in the house? Right out.

On ill-fated days, tie some red thread in your hair. I still do it every Friday the 13th *sheepish grin*

Happy birthday in two weeks :)

SM Schmidt said...

Third time is the charm for having a better birthday?

I wear a pair of giraffe earrings to all my finals. I'm scared to ruin their juju of awesome by wearing them when I send out my queries soon.

About Posey said...

My only ritual is to hide under a rock when sharing my writing or entering a contest. Yeah, I'm not so good with the sharing. Not yet anyway.

I hope your birthday is WONDERFUL this year.

Candyland said...

Holy crap. Hopefully this year at least most of those things don't happen:)

PK said...

36 is not so bad! Happy Birthday!

Patty Blount said...

36? I remember it well... Or was that 32?

The birthday superstition plagues my sister. Princess Diana died on her birthday. The space shuttle exploded on her birthday. Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans on her birthday.

She now plans enormous bashes on that date as something of a one-fingered salute to a universe that insists on flaunting its power and might.

Michelle Wolfson said...

Oh, God. I remember my part (the final act I believe) in that horrific birthday week. And being aware of the other pieces did not make that an easy call to make. Good thing I'm so devoted to you or I probably would have changed my business name, number, etc. and headed for the tropics or something. Except it was August. So maybe I would have headed somewhere cooler.

Anyway, I stayed and here you are headed into 36 with a much rosier outlook. What was I just saying? A lot can change in a year.

Here's to a GREAT birthday!!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Geez, that's a whole lot of bad birthday juju!

Of course, I don't believe in all that nonsense. If I were you, I'd just feng shui up the house a bit, spiff up the Helpful People, Career, Fame, and Prosperity corners with some chic knick-knacks and candles.

Cause even if it IS nonsense, at least it gives you a decorating theme and makes the house smell good.

Linda G. said...

Patooie-patooie! There. I spit on your birthday curse with you. This is the year your birthday luck will change!

As for my writing rituals (writuals?)...well, other than sacrificing a bag of revision Skittles to the pearly whites for each round of edits, I don't really have any. Hmm. Maybe I should think up some more. Couldn't hurt.

Elizabeth Ryann said...

Yeah, I walked around terrified of my birthday for awhile. It started on my 14th, when I saw a kitten get hit by a car, and we tried to rescue it, but it died in our arms. Then I got home to news that my cousin had been killed in a hit an run accident. Then the next year, on my fifteenth, my father died. This trend continued on with horrible things happening on my birthday for a good five years (though those first two years were the worst -- no one else died, though another cousin did overdose, but he got to a doctor in time), to the point where I had definitely developed a paranoia about it. And it did NOT help to have people tell me I was overreacting and there was no birthday curse. Because you know what else is not fun on your birthday? People impatiently telling you you're wrong.

But sometimes you need to let it go, and look at it as just a horrible coincidence (and in my case, I KNOW I'm extra sensitive on my birthday b/c, like all holidays, you so badly want them to be awesome so when someone is less than, it hurts, but b/c it's your birthday, it feels more personal), and go out and celebrate. You are awesome, and that's something that deserves a party. Every year.

So, uh, yeah. I feel you on that one. But wear that party hat proudly because you deserve it.

Tawna Fenske said...

Morgan, wow, I'd never heard the superstition about rocking chairs. Thanks for giving me something new to fret about!

SM Schmidt, I have a pair of lucky earrings, too! I got them from a couple co-workers when I left the company I was working for, and I swear, I've lost them at least a dozen times. I always seem to find them again (knock on wood) so I figure that's good luck!

About Posey, I'm with you on the contest thing. Remind me sometime to blog about the one and only time I entered a writing contest.

Candyland, seems like 2010 is already off to a pretty good start for me, so I'm hopeful the curse is broken.

PK, the nice thing is that no matter how old I get, Pythagoras is always 4.5 years older :)

Patty, yikes! Sounds like your sister IS cursed. Good for her flipping the bird to the powers-that-be.

Michelle, you know, the moment you called me was when I went from depressed to some weird combination of anger and hilarity over how many bad things were hitting at one time. In a way, it was the thing that got me over plain old sadness (which is much worse) and made me move forward to being productive again.

Dianne, I will check into feng shui at once! I could use a little good juju.

Linda G, this will never do. We simply MUST come up with some good writing superstitions for you. Turning in circles 20 times whenever you send an email to our agent, maybe?

Elizabeth Ryann, holy crap, that's some awful birthday stuff you've dealt with! When is your birthday? Remind me to hide under my bed on that day.

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Anne R. Allen said...

Try wafting the smoke of some dried white sage around the house and declare the birthday curse banished. OK, you can laugh, but when gremlins broke nearly a dozen of my appliances/mechanical devices/teeth within a 3 week period, a friend who works in a New Age bookstore came and saged my house. I haven't had a gremlin since.

Delia said...

Hey, after the wedgie, don't forget to give it a swirlie and stuff it in a locker.

Kelly Breakey said...

Nope, no superstitions but now I am sure I will obsess about it. Thank you very much.

Hope you have a great birthday.

Kelly

Linda G. said...

Tawna -- Turning in circles 20 times before I email Michelle? I'm pretty sure she already thinks I'm dizzy enough. ;)

Christina Auret said...

I am a bit superstitious about exams. My absolute best grooming always happened on exam days. A few friends and I also gave serious thought to the goat and black candles approach to passing Thermodynamics, but we managed to refrain. Other than that I am fairly rational about these things.

I hope you have a wonderful birthday.

kd easley said...

I don't have a writing superstition, but my work takes me out of town sometimes for months at a time, so whenever I head out of town for a long job, I drive through my little town and see all the sights. It's faster to take the bypass, but I've always driven through town before I leave and I've always made it back in one piece, so the next time I get the call to head out of town, I'll drive straight through, stop at all the lights, wave a little goodbye to all the local landmarks and know in my heart that I will make it home again.

Tawna Fenske said...

Anne, no joke, I once worked for a CEO who did EXACTLY THAT in his office when he first took over. He actually brought in one of the tribal leaders from a nearby reservation just to perform the ceremony. They were trying to get rid of bad juju from the previous CEO.

Delia, good idea! What about noogies?

Kelly, you'll obsess either way -- with or without the superstitions. Enjoy!

Linda G, I'm sure the dizziness is why she signed you, right?

Christina, so you passed thermodynamics without the goat or the black candles? Color me impressed!

KD Easley, aw, that's kind of a sweet little ritual!

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Elizabeth Ryann said...

Haha, it's September 30th. But you should be fine if you avoid cars. And drugs. And guns. Maybe don't jump out of a plane or anything, just in case.