2017 in Review

It’s been a rough year — and I know I’m not alone in expressing that sentiment. Putting aside the politics and news stream (which has been a constant barrage of stress and frustration), if I were to sum up 2017 in a single word, it would probably be: overwhelmed. As it turns out, this has also been my usual response these days to the question, “How are you doing?”

The year also presented a great family sorrow, as my grandmother, Florence Schlegel, passed away at the end of November. She had an amazing history — worked as a coat check Girl in NY, serving the likes of Howard Hughes and other celebrities; worked at Lockheed Martin constructing aircraft during WWII; lived on a homestead in Alaska and shot three black bears; served her community in Anchorage in a number of ways; and she was always witty and funny, and all around awesome. We miss her so much.

For all the stress and sadness that the year has yielded, though, it’s also offered up some wonderful experiences — adventures in travel and the writing life, some amazing books, and delightful moments with friends and family.

Below is some of my 2017 journey. If you’re inclined to share, then I would love to hear how your year treated you, as well.

Writing Life

I feel like I’ve done more writing than I’ve done in any previous year, although I don’t really have a way to prove that (and I’m not certain it’s true when I think about the multude of 30 challenges I did in 2016). I haven’t really been keeping track of word counts or other forms of tracking, partly because my work has been across so many diverse projects (poetry, script writing, fiction, etc.).

A part of why I might feel this way is that I’ve been trying to consistently focus on my writing in two ways — first, by getting to work early and using the extra time to write, and second, by using my lunch time to write. These little chunks have been helpful in not only getting words on the page, but also accomplishing the business side of writing, like getting work out on submission.

During the year, I sent out 47 submission packets (with anywhere from one to five poems or short stories — nine more than previous year I received 42 individual rejections and had a total of ten poems and one short story published. Not bad. Nowhere near the 100 rejections I was aiming for, but still not bad.

This does not include the collaborative poetry, submissions, and publications that have occured over the past year. I am so grateful to Laura Madeline Wiseman for being my partner in this work, and an inspiration in general. Together, we have had eight poems published in 2017, and have received an acceptance for our chapbook, Every Girl Becomes the Wolf, to be published by Finishing Line Press.

Blogging

For a couple of years, I have been doing weekly updates noting writing progress, books read, goals for the week, and other tidbits. The idea of these posts was to hold myself accountable for the progress (if any) that I was making, as well as keeping the blog itself active. I started off 2017 continuing these posts, but stopped doing them about halfway through the year when they began to feel more burdensome than helpful. Rather than spending time crafting an obligatory weekly post, I tried to focus on posts with more content to them, like my revisit of The Dark Tower book series.

In total, I shared 45 blog posts, about half the amount of posts from the previous year. I’m okay with the lower number, since it’s more important for me for focus on finishing my existing poetry and fiction projects than sharing things on the blog. However, I would like to share more (hopfully) thoughtful posts in the coming year.

Top Five Blog Posts from 2017 (By Views):

Reading

Normally I share my top reads in a longer, separate post — but I’m starting to run out of spoons to make it through the end of the year, so here’s a truncated version.

My reading stats are they lowest they’ve been in probably a decade. In years past, I’ve averaged about 90-100 books per year, this year I’ve managed 45 (as of this posting), which kind of pains me. The reason for this significant drop in my reading rate is because of how I refocused my time at work (taking up my lunch to write instead of read) and the introduction of Netflix into my home life (and the subsequence TV binge-watching that that implies). That said, I’ve managed to read a number of books that have delighted me this year, which I present below.

top ten fiction books read in 2017

Top Ten Fiction Books (with series books counted as one)

  • The Obelisk Gate & The Stone Sky (Broken Earth Book #3) by N. K. Jemisin
  • Binti & Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Tender: Stories by Sofia Samatar (my thoughts)
  • Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez (my thoughts)
  • Bone Gap (audio book) by Laura Ruby
  • A Tale for the Time Being (audio book) by Ruth Ozeki
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle (audio book) by Shirley Jackson
  • The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
  • Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

to poetry collections read in 2017

Favorite Poetry Collections

  • Let it Die Hungry by Caits Meissner
  • Your Hand Has Fixed the Firmament by Kolleen Carney (poet spotlight)
  • Shopping After the Apocalypse by Jessie Carty (poet spotlight)

Favorite Graphic Novel

  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Running

It’s been an interesting year for running. On the one hand, all totalled up, I ran 73.63 miles over the course of year — which sounds like quite a bit. But most of those miles were in the first half of the year with March being the highest month at 17.58 miles. All of this is reflective of how my motivation regarding running shifted throughout the year (with an impact on my body health).

One of the highlights of my running practice this year was attending the She is Beautiful Run in March (despite being incredibly hungover at the time). My sisters came along and we took part in the joys of this event. I’m looking forward to finding more events like this next year.

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Travel

The day job certainly kept me busy in travel and sent me on some great adventures, including some good times in Nashville, Tennessee and most notably a two week trip to Dubai and Singapore, during which I fit in a short hopover to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I loved the cultural experiences of that trip, although the heat and humidity was so intense that I was soon happy to head home to more moderate weather.

And just for funsies, my sister and I put together a two week trip to South America, squeezing in a few days in Peru (including Machu Picchu), Chile, and Argentina. Since our time was so short, we only saw a fraction of these countries, each of which I would like to take far more time to explore.


Well, that’s my year in a snap shot. How was your 2017?

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On the Art of Making a Living as a Writer

“I feel strongly that we’re only hurting ourselves as writers by being so secretive about money. There’s no other job in the world where you get your master’s degree in that field and you’re like, Well, I might make zero or I might make $5 million! We don’t have any standards in that way, and we probably never will. There will always be such a wide range of what writers are paid, but at least we could give each other information.” Cherryl Strayed in conversation with Manjula Martin, published in Scratch

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a LivingScratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin (founder of now-closed Scratch Magazine), presents a mix of interviews and essays on the act of trying (sometimes succeeding) to make money as a writer. These perspectives come from writers of varying backgrounds, from novelists and poets to news and creative nonfiction writers, to filmmakers. A number of writers I’m fond of are included in this book — such as Austin Kleon, Malinda Lo, Roxane Gay, and Daniel José Older — as well as many writers whose work is new to me.

Readers of Scratch will not find a step-by-step guide on how to “make it” as a writer. This collection of essays never reaches a consensus, except perhaps to say that the pathways to making a living as a writer are multitudinous and have not all been discovered yet. Lacking any one clear answer, the reader instead of directives, the reader is given personal journeys (sometimes deeply so). It’s not a matter of “this is how you should do it,” but rather “this is how I am doing it”.

Continue reading “On the Art of Making a Living as a Writer”

Looking Back on 2016

Just about all the 2016 in review posts I’ve read so far have begun the same way: 2016 sucked, but there were some good things, too. I feel everyone on that sentiment.

If I look back — past the overwhelming days, past the stress — there have been some great moments, a few of which, I’m happy to share here.

The Publishing Game

I sent out a total of 32 submissions in 2016 — including poetry, fiction, and chapbooks — with a total of six acceptances, one finalist placement for a chapbook, 20 rejections, and five still under consideration.

My first collection of poetry, a chapbook titled Pantheon, was accepted for publication this year by ELJ Publications and is scheduled to come out in August 2017. I couldn’t be more excited. The cover art is currently being developed and I’m sure there will be other developments as we get closer to the publication date.

Red Sky, an anthology on the global epidemic of violence against women from Sable BooksSeveral of my solo and collaborative poems cowritten with Laura Madeline Wiseman have appeared in or are forthcoming  in several anthologies, including: The World Retold (The Writers’ Guild of Iowa State University, March 2016); Red Sky, an anthology on the global epidemic of violence against women (Sable Books, September 2016); Write Like You’re Alive 2016 (Zoetic Press, September 2016); and Undead: A Poetry Anthology of Ghouls, Ghosts, and More! (Apex, forthcoming in 2017).

Slink Chunk Press published “The Shadows Flight,” a flash fiction piece. It’s the first piece of fiction that I’ve ever published and I’m grateful to the editors for sharing it with the world.

What I Wrote in 2016

I left the novel on the sideline last year, focussing instead on smaller work like poems and short stories — trying to get drafts completed and edited and sent out into the world. Although I felt a bit lacking in productivity toward the end of 2016, I have to admit that it’s been a fairly productive year. I’m pretty sure I came close to doubling the number of submissions I sent out, which means an increased amount of words were written to enable that.

The bulk of my writing was completed while participating in three writing challenges — for ELJ Write Now, I wrote 30 poems in the 30 days of April as a series of Our Lady poems praising pop culture characters, which became the basis for the soon-to-be-published Pantheon; Zoetic Press’ Write Like Your Alive challenge in the month of July drove me to complete another 23 poem drafts (of varying quality); and finally, The POEMING 2016 in October was a found poetry challenge in which poets were each assigned one novel by Stephen King and were required to create one found or erasure poem per day for all 31 days. I usually sign myself up for a month-long challenge at some point every year for the past few years and rarely complete them. So, I surprised myself by signing up for not just one challenge, but three and completing each one.

I also participated in a Short Film Scriptwriting Challenge through MMtB. Although my script was not one of the ones selected to be produced that night, it was an great experience that provided me with some contacts of people working on indy films in the Bay Area and reminded me how much I want to work on films.

More writing and editing and writing and editing happened throughout 2016, I’m sure, although I can’t remember it at the moment. Nevertheless, I feel confident about the work I’ve done and am feeling good as I move in to 2017, ready to accomplish even more. Maybe even move back toward working on the novel again.

I’ll put together another post on my writing goals for the year in a later post.

Travel in 2016

Most of my travel has been within the U.S. on a variety of work trips. Nashville was a delight — I loved the music and the history and food (oh, my goodness the food). I also ended up in parts of Ohio, Kentucky, and Alabama for a day or two at a time.

Closer to home was a weekend in Yosemite National Park. It was frigidly cold and so, so beautiful, worth every shiver and layer of shirt, sweater, sweater, coat, scarf, gloves, and hat that I had to put on.

Yosemite as seen from Tunnel View lookout.
Yosemite as seen from Tunnel View lookout.

I also made it out of Dusseldorf, Germany for a week (also for work). It’s a trip I’ve made several times before, made delightful by the fact that my brother joined me. We walked through the Christmas Market, tasted spiced wine, and rode the ferris wheel. So much fun.

Running in 2016

I’ve been continually trying to progress in my running — although like most of my goals, it sort of dropped off toward the last few months of 2016. I haven’t accomplished my goal of running a Half Marathon yet, but I did run the She is Beautiful 10K again, which is always a delight.  Nevertheless, I have made progress  — because despite skipping running for weeks at a time sometime, I can come back and get back into the groove fairly quickly. Apparently, I’ve been consistent enough for my muscles to remember, so that I don’t feel as though I’m starting from scratch each time I restart.

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How was 2016 for you? I’d love to hear about some of your good things.

Things I Learned from the Brainery Workshop

Last week, the Brainery Science Fiction Fairy finished up with an analysis of the final set of portfolios (including my own). The class was a wonderful and empowering experience. Jilly Dreadful is an amazing teacher and the class was filled with great writers — Katy Stenta and Kirsten Squires. (A few other writers started out with us, but for personal reasons were unable to complete the workshop.) It was cool to see their work develop over the course of twelve weeks and I can’t wait to see where all their writing goes from here.

The weekly mash up of a fairy tale with some element of science was a fascinating exercise, which pushed the boundaries of what fairy tales can be. Although each week we worked with the same fairy tales and science, the stories that came from each writer were vastly different, some barely containing any resemblance to the original tale.

I’ve learned a lot about the craft of writing and myself as a writer from this workshop. Here are just a few of the bits and pieces that stick out most for me.

Henry Meynell Rheam - Sleeping Beauty
“Sleeping Beauty” by Henry Meynell Rheam

Things I learned about craft…

The Magic in the Gutter

One of the ideas Jilly presented was the idea of the Magic in the Gutter, a concept I believe she found in Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. In comics, the gutter is the blank space between panels of art, the space between one image and the other. In that blank space, the reader uses their imagination to fill in the details themselves. This concept can also be applied to fiction writing, as she noted in response to a story I had written, which had a more fragmentary style. In order to have something to submit, I had focused in on specific detailed scenes without connecting them and I was concerned that without these connections, the reader might get lost in the story.

The concept of the Magic in the Gutter, however, trusts that the reader will fill in the details between the scenes for themselves. In many cases, its possible to get away with just leaving the gap and letting the reader make the connection — unless knowing the exact details of what happened in between is important to the story, in which case, it should probably be a scene itself.

Learning this was incredibly freeing to me, as I’ve often obsessed about trying to make my stories linear, following every step from beginning to end in order to achieve clarity. The Magic in the Gutter reveals how that clarity can still be present, even with well placed gaps in the action.

Draw from Your Passion

Sometimes, as in the case of one of my fellow workshop writers, a story has a clear core passion, a message or point of view about the world, that comes out through the story. Figuring out what that core is, what is a driving you to write the story — whether is a central relationship or a frustration regarding how society today is hyper-vigilant over parents — can help clarify the goals of the story and drive conflict.

It was one of the many moments in workshop, where I found myself immediately wanting to apply this new knowledge to other things I’ve been writing. What is the core of this story? What is the underlying passion for me that is driving me to write it? How can I draw that out in the characters and the conflict?

Arthur Rackham Little Red Riding Hood
“Little Red Riding Hood” by Arthur Rackham

Things I learned about myself as a writer…

Apparently I CAN Finish a Short Story

You might not think this that big of a revelations, but it was huge for me. I’ve been a poet for a long time and am fairly comfortable with poetry as a form, but have piled up stacks of story drafts that were never completed or never edited to the point in which I felt they were good enough to submit for publication (although, I’ve “finished” and posted a number of flash fiction drafts on my blog over the years).

One of my goals in joining the Brainery Workshop was to break free of that cycle and to write and edit some stories that I could then send out for publication. I finished two stories — “How Bluebeard Ends” and “Missed Connections – Nov. 11 – Redhead at the House of Needles” — both of which have been submitted for publication. Two other stories were fully drafted and need some editing in order to get them ready for sending out. The rest of the fives stories that were drafted during workshop are not anywhere near ready, but I can see the trajectories of the plots and how to finish them and I know I can put the work in to get them done.

It feels pretty damn good.

My Super Power is Voice

A few weeks into the workshop, Jilly addressed all of the writers and shared  what she felt our writing super power is with each of us. According to Jilly my power was voice, the ability to personify a character or tone in the story.

It was an interesting revelation. During the process of writing a new story draft each week, I found that if I was able to narrow in on the right voice or tone for the story, then it would flow more easily for me. But if I couldn’t figure out the tone, then the story was often more of a struggle.

Knowing this, I wonder if my struggles in continuing with my novel at the beginning of the year might have been partially been influenced by the fact that I never really felt as though I had a handle on the characters. The novel is written from two separate first person POVs and yet they sound the same to me. Maybe finding their individual voices is what I need to do in order to get back into finishing the novel.

What now…

I thrive on deadlines. Self imposed deadlines don’t always work. Far more effective are the deadlines imposed as part of a group or class, in which I ramp up my own sense of obligation to contribute. This is part of the reason why the Brainery workshop worked so well for me. And now that I know that I can write and finish short stories, I’m toying with the idea of participating in one of the novel writing workshops as a way to get back to being engaged with an even longer work. I’m a little intimidated by the idea, though, as I can foresee the level of work involved in participating. If not in the spring, then maybe in the summer or fall.

Submission Bonanza 2015


Jaclyn Bergamino over at Lightening Droplets announced her plans to once again do Submission Bonanza, a challenge to send out 30 submissions in the 30 days of June.

It’s a fantastic challenge and, since I’m currently trying to stick my neck out more, I’m planning to throw my hat in as well. I’ve been slow about getting around to submitting, mostly because I’ve been slow to get around to editing first drafts. This might just be the kick in the pants that I need to get a move on.

Realistically, I don’t know that I’ll be able to manage a full 30 submissions, but I might be able to stretch myself and send out 20 submissions this month, which would be awesome.

So here I go!

Organizing the Writing Life

My poems, stories, novel, and script drafts exist in various stacks, clumps, and file folders of uncertain date or destination, making it a difficult task to track down the latest version of anything. I have been thinking about how I might be able to better organize this mess, pulling both the physical paperwork and digital drafts together into a system that works on both sides.

After a little internet searching I found a system online shared by Sarah Selecky that might work, at least digitally. The system breaks things down into five file folders: Fresh Ingredients (notes, thoughts, ideas, etc.), Cooking (drafts in progress), Ready (finished pieces ready to be submitted), Published, and Leftovers (pieces that are not actively being worked on but you don’t want to throw out).

I’m trying to figure out how to work collections into the mix, such as chapbooks that are still “Cooking” but would include “Ready” poems. One of the things I’m hoping this system will do is to help me get rid of confusing duplicate drafts of some of my pieces.

The system also won’t help with filing hard copies of paper, but I’m trying to think of how I can use better organization on my laptop to reduce the amount of paper I have on hand. One thought is that I should type up all the notes and snippets I have in journals and on scraps of paper, and then I can toss the scraps or store the notebooks out of the way.

I also have print outs of poetry and fiction in various stages of drafts (some with reader notes and some without) that I need to organize in my filing cabinet. Another thought I had was to have a file for drafts with handwritten notes, which would then be moved into a “changes made” file once they had been entered into the computer.

I’m still toying with it all, and I would love to hear recommendations on how others manage their drafts so that they can find them easily.

Words

As I was avoiding getting ready for work early this morning, I noticed a theme of posts about “words” showing up on my feed. I always find it fascinating when my reading naturally falls into themes without purposefully meaning to.

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The Oxford Dictionaries have named “vape” 2014’s word of the year, explaining that “As e-cigarettes (or e-cigs) have become much more common, so vape has grown significantly in popularity. You are thirty times more likely to come across the word vape than you were two years ago, and usage has more than doubled in the past year.”

In response to this news, John Kelly wrote and excellent post about the etymology of the word.

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Hel Gurney writes, “ALL WORDS ARE MADE-UP WORDS,” explaining how it’s silly for modern writers to complain that the younger generation is ruining the English language:

If English had never changed then we’d all be reading Beowulf without a translation; and yet there’s always someone who seems to think that English-as-it-is-right-now is the pure, immutable, “correct” form and everything after this arbitrary cut-off point is Wrong. All it takes to see the absurdity is to imagine people tutting over Shakespeare for all the words he “made up”.

Gurney also discusses how the creation of new words and terminology can be empowering to marginalized groups by reshaping what is defined as “real.”

“A word after a word after a word is power,” wrote Margaret Atwood (Happy Birthday!) and there is truth to this. Words have power and the way language shifts and changes over time to some degree mirrors some of the power shifts in society.

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These coincidental commingling discussions of words lead me to discover Pet Words by Brad Leithauser in the New Yorker. Leithauser writes:

The word “sweet” appears eight hundred and forty times in your complete Shakespeare. Or nearly a thousand times, if you accept close variants (“out-sweeten’d,” “true-sweet,” “sweetheart”). . . . Every poet, every novelist has his or her pet words. Which words these may be dawns on you gradually as you enter the world of a new writer. . . . Either way, you’ll likely discover that your author’s personal dictionary contains an abundance of amiable acquaintances, but a select few intimate friends.

I’ve learned over time that I have my own pet words, which cycle through depending on my mood. The word that most insistently comes to mind is “tether,” which has appeared again and again in several poems. (You can find an example in my poem “Miscalculation“, published on Train Write.) I love “tether” for the way it feels on my tongue, a soft feathery feeling. Something tethered seems to be bound in such a fragile and gentle way, like a boat taping lighting against the dock or a spider web strung between two poles. It’s a word I can’t help but return to, always there waiting for the right moment to slip quietly into the text.

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What are your thoughts on words this fine day?

What makes a story a story and other thoughts at the Tate Modern

Untitled Painting by
Untitled Painting (1965) by Michael Baldwin

As I was walking through the Tate Modern, I came upon “Untitled Painting” (1965) by Michael Baldwin, which is a work with a mirror attached to a canvas. The description noted that historically painting has often been referred to as window to the world, a perspective captured within the frame. However, the mirror in this piece shifts the gaze of the window, revealing the viewer in the act of viewing rather than an image the artist made themselves. In addition to being the viewer, you also become the subject of the painting as well.

As I stood observing myself, now the living and temporary subject of the painting, I started to think about the nature of art and the artists who create it. Since it’s been years since I’ve taken an art history class and I don’t tend to speak critically of art, bear with me as I may misinterpret some things.

Continue reading “What makes a story a story and other thoughts at the Tate Modern”

Facing the mountain

Tom Frost - Robbins ventures up - 1961
Photo by Tom Frost (Creative Commons 3.0).
Saturday morning, I came to the sudden realization that I was doing Nanowrimo whether I liked it or not. After several hours of denial in which I instituted time-old delay tactics, such as twitter and tumblr, I decided on a story to work with — a novel in poems involving the interweaving and retelling of many fairy tales and myths — and began to dig in.

This weekend was an excellent lesson in making time to write.

On Saturday, in between switching out laundry, I wrote. After going for a 4 mile run/walk, I wrote. In the few minutes before I had to leave for the awesome Dia de los Muertos party, hosted my fantastically awesome friend Lise, I wrote.

On Sunday, I woke up early and wrote, because I knew the majority of my day would be given over to helping my sister move from one apartment to another — both apartments were on the second floor. Well, one was on the second and a half floor, because there was a flight of stairs just to get to the second floor, which means my legs are all wibbly wobbly today. While my sister and mom were organizing all the moved-in things, I sat in the living room and wrote some more.

The result: 3,079 words written.

Already, with just that start, I feel better. The poems are more prosey than I’d like, but that’s for editing to fix. The months of feeling stuck and miserable from not writing has slid off my shoulders. This was exactly what I needed. I have a mountain of work ahead of me, but if I continue to be creative with my use of time, then I’m certain I can make it all work.

This is the mountain of things to be done during the rest of November:

1 — Trip to the U.K. for work. I’ll have a day and a half in London to tour the city, which will be action packed

3+ — Bridal party events to attend, including the bachlorette party, the rehearsal, and actual wedding itself.

2-3 — Thanksgiving dinners. The family dynamics are shifting this year and I’m not sure how it’s all going to fall into place.

27 — Blog posts left to be written as part of NaBloPoMo.

46,921 — Words left to be written for Nanowrimo.

Unknown Number — Of books to be read, runs to be run, and hang out time with friends and family have to be fit in.

Are you participating in any November challenges? Have you had a good kick off to the month?

Getting back on the horse, or something like that

It’s November 1st, and here I am not participating in National Novel Writing month, not even in a modified format. I love Nano and have participated more often than not over the past eight or so years. It’s helped me write words, a lot of words. And even though much of those words were set aside or trashed, I know those words have helped me complete other projects that I’m proud of. I also wouldn’t have many of the friends I have today.

So, I always feel a little sad on those rare Novembers when it participation won’t work for me, for whatever reason. This is one of those Novembers, because I will be traveling for work to the U.K. in a week and will have a slew of other events during the rest of the month.

Also, I’ve been feeling blocked with writing lately and have been trying to dig myself out. I would argue that feeling blocked is an excellent reason FOR doing Nano, rather than not doing it. Nothing to get past a slump like putting down words at a breakneck pace and racing past your inner critic…

and… um…

freaking, fracking dammit! I can’t do Nano. I won’t.

But it’s occurring to me now — literally, right at this minute as I’m typing, seriously — that participating in Nano might be infinitely helpful to getting me back on tra— NO! I DON”T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!

But if I work on a new project, i.e., not the werewolf novel that has been hovering over my head like a great cloud of doom, then maybe, just maybe I can…

But I swear, I don’t have time for this. I mean, I’ll be traveling, loosing a WHOLE WEEK.

But I could write on the plane.

But I…

I swear, I started this post intending to make my excuses for Nanowrimo and announce my participation in NaBloPoMo. But, now, I guess…

Well, shit…

Participant-2014-Web-Banner

How to Dig Yourself Out of a Creative Slump

It’s an awful, crappy (insert additional expletives) feeling when you’re in a creative slump, no matter what you’re working on, whether its writing, painting, or a new business proposal. Everyone goes through it — and yet it manages to be a terribly isolated feeling, like you’re trapped inside a dank, dark cave with no sign of rescue on the horizon.

Here are some things you can to do to help pull yourself out of the mire. Or, rather, I should say, here are a few things I’m currently doing to try to dig myself out of my own current slump. As with most bits of advice, your mileage may vary.

Seek Community Engagement

Go out and find fellow artists, writers, creators with which to interact. You can do this online, but if you’re really stuck, I recommend seeking a face-to-face experience. It provides a different level of osmosis. On a really good day, you can feel their excitement, their creativity energy coming off them. I don’t think of this as stealing, so much as basking in their sunlight. It’s great for gathering inspiration

My most recent foray was to attend Writers with Drinks at the Make-Out Room in San Francisco this weekend. Charlie Jane Anders is a live electrical wire on the stage and she always selects amazing writers to perform. It was a fantastic event and I felt energized by the end, excited to get some of my own words down.

Continue reading “How to Dig Yourself Out of a Creative Slump”

Just 10 Minutes

The “write just 10 minute a day” goal worked well last week. It got me to write five out of seven days, and as I figured, I ended up writing for more than 10 minutes each time.

My word count was especially boosted when friend Yvette and I got together on Thursday for a writing session. I had some panic approaching the blank page, but pushed through and churned out 1800 words for the new opening Adam chapters for the werewolf novel that I swear will get written this year despite it all dagnabit.

So this week I’m keeping with the 10 minutes per day plan and adding send out a poetry submission to the list. Both totally doable.

Good Reads: Tom Pollock has a great guest post up on Chuck Wendig’s blog about Writing Around a Day Job, which is especially pertinent for me right now. Key advice: Make a time plan and stick to it. Yes, sir.

A Patronage Model for Artists, Writers, and Creators

I rather love Kickstarter, because I love seeing interesting projects come to life and seeing my funds culminate in a tangible results. This may mean that I get to end up with a copy of the book, a print of the art, or a DVD of the film I supported, which is a nice gift in exchange for my money. Or, it may just mean that I get to see an artist who I respect and whose work I love get to complete a project that they’re passionate about. It’s awesome.

So, I was very curious to learn about Patreon, a new crowdfunding website based on the traditional patronage model, which used to involve kings, queens, and other royalty or the wealthy providing funds to allow artists to continue their work.

The website says, “Patreon was created to enable fans to support and engage with the artists and creators they love. Empowering a new generation of creators, Patreon is bringing patronage back to the 21st century.”

The site is similar to Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms in the sense that it allows fans to directly interact and fund artists and creators they enjoy. However, rather than funding a single big project, Patreon allows fans to provide funding for an artist or authors ongoing work. Here’s a short video about how it works.

I love the idea, particularly for those artists and creators who may focusing on ongoing work and art, rather than the big idea/project model that Kickstarter supports. It could help to keep some artists working when they might not otherwise be able to.

Continue reading “A Patronage Model for Artists, Writers, and Creators”

Things

1. Thanksgiving yesterday was great, family and food filled fun. Lots of laughing and eating. Turkey and stuffing and salad and twice baked potatoes and candied yams and green beans with bacon, not to mention pecan pies and apple pie and pumpkin cheesecake — all homemade, by the way. Plus lots and lots of champagne.

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2. I received a rejection for a poetry chapbook submission, called The Letterbox, sent out many months ago. The rejection included a personal note, thanking me for submitting. The editor said I had a nice narrative arc to my poems and suggested that I submit again. I never take rejections to heart, because they are a part of the process of being a writer, but it’s always great to see that personal touch and get a bit of encouragement.

3. I have no motivation to do anything at all, even though I’m supposed to pull off 18,000 words before midnight tomorrow. *sigh*

4. I’m am enjoying reading Slice of Cheery by Dia Reeves, which has consumed most of my day so far.

5. I’m sure I have enough motivation to seek out more pecan pie, though. Mmmmm, pie. And then a nap.

Three Things I Would Like to See in More Novels

Book of love

As a reader, I can’t help noticing patterns that emerge in the stories I read. Sometimes these stories are spot on, and sometimes I find myself longing for different kinds of stories than what I see on the pages. Here are a few tropes or plots points I would like see occur in more books.*

1. Books That Start with the Characters Already in a Romantic Relationship

So many stories, from romance novels to YA fantasy, begin with two strangers meeting for the first time, having instant attraction, and ultimately finding their way to love. These stories are great, and I enjoy them just as much as the next person.

But these stories seem to stem from the idea the Falling-in-Love aspect is the only interesting or challenging part of a relationship. If our two heroes can just get past these hurdles, then they’ll realize it’s True Love and they’ll be guaranteed their happily ever after.

The reality is that relationships are hard work. It involves day-to-day acts of compassion, understanding, and compromise in order to stay in love.

Staying-in-Love has the potential to be just as compelling and romantic a trope as Falling-in-Love, and would be great to see more stories begin with characters already in a relationship, which they have to hold on to through the storm.

2. Non-Romantic Relationships

Again this is me not so much turning away from romance, but wanting an addendum to it. Many stories, particularly in YA books, focus on the love story to the end that other relationships fade to the background. Sometimes that happens, a person falls in love and is so wrapped up in the feeling, they can’t make the other valuable relationships with friends and family fit in.

But I think life tends to be more multilayered than that and with all the levels of relationships and love — mothers, fathers, siblings, best friends, cousins, etc. — there is a lot of room for emotional complexity. I’m not saying ditch the romance (though I kind of am with my book), but alongside falling in love, lets have some of the other kinds of relationships, too.

3. Quiet Moments

Roger Ebert talked about quiet moments in an interview he did with Hayao Miyazaki:

I told Miyazaki I love the “gratuitous motion” in his films; instead of every movement being dictated by the story, sometimes people will just sit for a moment, or they will sigh, or look in a running stream, or do something extra, not to advance the story but only to give the sense of time and place and who they are.

“We have a word for that in Japanese,” Miyazaki said. “It’s called ma. Emptiness. It’s there intentionally.”

Is that like the “pillow words” that separate phrases in Japanese poetry?

“I don’t think it’s like the pillow word.” He clapped his hands three or four times. “The time in between my clapping is ma. If you just have non-stop action with no breathing space at all, it’s just busyness. But if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension. If you just have constant tension at 80 degrees all the time you just get numb.

Reading this, I thought about how many stories just power through to the ending in one action sequence after another without allowing that space to breathe and feel something.

Placing a quiet, still moment into a story seems easier in a movie, because it’s a visual form. But I think it’s possible to achieve in books, too, and I would like to see more stories, normally rife with action allow a space for the reader to feel about the characters before plunging in again.

What are tropes, plots, ideas that you would like to see appear in more novels?

*And, as I long to see these things, I find myself drawn to writing them in order to fulfill that desire.

 * * *

Since this is supposed to be a Friday Five post, here are two more unrelated Things you may be interested in checking out:

1. An awesome blog post analyzes the concept of the “Man Card”, which basically a way of metaphorically and jokingly measuring a person’s manliness:

“The Man Card concept specifically, however, is insulting to men and women in what it’s saying about our respective roles. Men are supposed be this way, not that way. Do these things, not those things. You’re not a man if you don’t fit society’s (or some section thereof’s) definition of one, and, unfortunately, people who joke this way are denigrating empathy, sympathy, respect for women, honesty, sensitivity, and responsibility. They’re saying real men prize getting their way over cooperating or compromising. Real men don’t care what their girlfriends or wives think. Real men do what they want.

This is dangerous.”

2. Check out Malinda Lo’s Guide to YA. Malinda Lo is the author of a great Cinderella retelling, called Ash, and she’s writing a multitude of posts YA novels, particularly those with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender characters or issues. If you’re a writer at all interested in writing about GBLTQ characters or issues, then I highly recommend working your way through this reading list.

Writing Retreat Announced: Poets on the Coast 2014

The fabulous Susan Rich, whose books of poetry I’ve read and loved, has announced Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women, which she is hosting alongside Kelli Russell Agodon. This weekend retreat will be from September 5-6, 2014 in La Conner, Washington.

“This retreat has been designed for women writers of all levels, from beginning poets to well published. Sessions on creativity, generating work, publication, a Master Class workshop, and one-on-one mentoring are included as well as morning yoga.”

I learned about this retreat last year and loved the idea of going. I spent several weeks trying to plot out the time and money it would take for me to go, but the finances just didn’t work for me.

I’m considering it again for 2014, but I know I have at least two trips planned next year, which will eat up much of my traveling funds. I’m still hoping to make it work, but we’ll see.

I think it’s a fabulous retreat, though, and I hope some of my fellow female poets get the opportunity to go — even if I can’t join them this year.

Three Bits of Bad Writing Advice

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I’ve seen several posts that have their list of things they consider bad writing advice, some of which I agree with and others I don’t.* Like most writers, I’ve received various bits of bad advice. Here are a few moments or pieces of advice that stand out most for me.

(PS. I did not intend this to be so dang long. Sorry.)

1. Forget King

Sitting in the college councilor’s office, a small cramps space with a too large desk covered in stacks of marked up pages, I asked about what it would take to major in Creative Writing. My transferring to the UC had complicated the matter, because some of the classes I took at community weren’t applicable at university.

The councilor told me about my options and asked, “Who are your favorite authors.”

I grinned and said, “Toni Morrison, Amy Tan, and Stephen King.”**

She blinked and then wrote something down in her notes. “I wouldn’t mention that last one.”

I continued to smile and nodded, even though my skin went cold and embarrassment began to make me blush. It would be impossible for me to forget Stephen King as an influence on me as a reader and a writer. I spent too many hours in high school, curled up, pages deep in the blood drenched and horrifying worlds he created. Reading his books was like an obsession.

But the councilor’s message was clear: If you’re going to be a writer, you need to be a serious writer and read serious things.***

I remember walking out of that office feeling conflicted. Why shouldn’t I talk about something that meant so much to me?

The conclusion I came to — Screw it. My love of genre (scifi, fantasy, horror) ran deep, and I wasn’t going to let that go just because I was told it wasn’t good enough. I was going to write what I wanted to write.

Whether stories, poems, scripts, whatever, a writer usually writes their best when writing stories that mean something to them instead of trying to write what someone else thinks they should write.

My recommendation: Move toward your passion. Write what moves you to write.

(Ultimately, I did not get a degree in Creative Writing, though this was more due to time constraints than to my reaction to the councilor’s advice.)

2a. Join the Bandwagon

My dad has always been encouraging of my desire to be a writer, for which I’m grateful. However, he also comes at this encouragement from the perspective that I will eventually be a best selling author of the sort to be able to live in a giant mansion and buy my dad a Cessna airplane (he used to be a bush pilot in Alaska). Goddess love him, he wants his little girl to have oodles and oodles of money so she never has to worry every again.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had that went something (sort of) like this:

Me: Yeah, so I’m working on this project that I’m really excited about! *describes story*

My Dad: That’s great! I love that idea! I’m so proud of you!

Me: Thanks!

My Dad: But you know you should do is check out what these famous authors did. You know, Stephen Kind and James Patterson. Just copy what they do, and you’ll be able to make a lot of money.

Me: Um, it doesn’t work that way, dad. *tries to explain publishing* So, you see, only a tiny percentage of writers actually become rich and famous.

My Dad: Well, I don’t know about that. I know! How about you write a vampire novel! I know they’re really popular and you could sell a lot of books!

Me: That’s not going to happen, dad.

My Dad: Why not?

Me: Because, I don’t want to write a vampire novel. I don’t feel moved to write a vampire novel. When I do, I’ll write one, but right now? No. Nope. Not going to happen.

My Dad: But…

From there, the conversation would usually loop for a long while with the result that either I got frustrated or we both started laughing.

Doing what everyone else is doing will not guarantee fame or riches any more than writing what you love. Plus, it tends to lead toward weaker writing in my experience.

Creating stuff is hard work. Especially if there is not guarantee that there is a reward when you’re done making it. So, I figure, write what you’re dying to write, what’s overflowing from yourself, or simply what amuses you.

2b. Selling Out is Bad

On the opposite side of Bad Advice #2 is the concept that “selling out” and it being an evil, evil thing that only bad people do. This is based on the common idea that true artists are starving and/or suffering, and that artists or writers or musicians who make lots of money have sold their souls for profit, sending the quality of their works into the fiery pits of hell.

Most of which is hokum. This idea that artists and writers create work for the love and the love alone has also spawned a great number of people who believe artist and writers don’t need to be paid for their hard work.

And, as I mentioned in #2a, creating stuff is hard work.

It’s not always easy to get paid for that work for a whole lot of reasons, but there is nothing wrong with mild compromises, or taking jobs for the money, or doing what you need to do as a writer to keep going.

Making money is not a bad thing. In fact I like making money. It puts food on the table and lets me do things, like buy books and go to the movies.

(In fact, if Kim Kardashian were to walk up to me and offer to pay me thousands of dollars to ghost writer her memoir, I would do it in a heart beat.**** Because those bucks will help me pay bills and keep writing all the other things I love writing.)

The key, I believe, is to keep a balance from doing work that you love and find inspiring, while also obtaining an income that you and your loved ones can live off. (If you’re going to say that that’s easier said than done, I will agree with you. I’m still trying to get there myself.)

3. Almost Anything Involving the Word “Should”
(or “must” or “have to” or any variation that implies “this way is the only way”)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that once you declare yourself to be a writer, someone will tell you what you should be doing to be to be successful. Or at least, it’s something I’ve seen happen a lot to writers and have had happen to me.

Though, I admit that I have been guilty of offering this kind of advice. Once (or twice) during a Writing Gang meeting, I’ve thrown my hand in the air and said to my fellow comrade in writing, “Why aren’t you submitting your work? You should! You work is good! I insist you submit your work!”

But the thing is, she has no interest in submitting her work for professional publication. When another member of our group asked her when she was going to submit one of her novels, she said, “Never.”

What she’s done is self publish them online (you can find links on her GoodReads profile), and then spends exactly no time marketing them. She has no website, no blog, and does no self promotion. For her it seems, just writing the novels and posting them is what she wants. It makes her happy. Who am I to tell her she should do it any different?

Writing and developing a writing career is a strangely exploratory act. There is no clear map that can lead you from point A (beginning) to point B (success). No clear definition of what success even is.

For me, advice is great and wonderful. I’m happy to take in advice by the bucketfuls. I dig through it, sift it, and eventually through experimentation find something that works. At least for this story or this poem.

The next story or next poem might require a different method, the absorption of different advice.

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Anyway, that’s it. Hopefully I didn’t accidentally slip in some bad advice while talking to you about bad advice. 😉

What advice have you received as a writer that you found to be bad or not work for you?

___________

Good Reads:  Deborah Lee Luskin gives some excellent advice about the importance of word order in her post, “The English Language On Word Order Depends.” Something I think every one forgets or mixes up and is good to be reminded of.

Call for Submissions: Kaleidoscope is an anthology of contemporary YA science fiction and fantasy with a focus on diverse perspectives. “We hope to fill with a variety of exciting tales, happy and sad, adventurous and meditative. We’re not simply looking for cookie-cutter vampire or urban fantasy stories, but for things that transport us and subvert our expectations.” Payment: 5 cents per word (USD). Deadline: Decemberr 31, 2013. Click for more info.

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*In most cases, the advice isn’t necessarily “bad,” but tends to assume it is right in every case without taking into account that for every piece of advice that works wonderfully for the adviser, there is a writer out there who would offer the exact opposite advice. For example, “write everyday” is perfectly good advice; it works for many people. Except when it doesn’t; then, it becomes bad advice.

**This was my stock answer throughout much of college. Now, my current list looks of favorites would look quite different, and is actually be quite long. Toni Morrison is still a favorite, but Neil Gaiman now sits perched at the precarious top of that list. They are joined by Pablo Neruda, Charles de Lint, Ron Padgett, Jeff Smith, Ray Bradbury, Jane Austen, Mary Roach, and others.

***The believe that “literature” is better than genre is old and much debated. I don’t really want to get into that battle, since it seems pointless to me. Many works of what is considered literature are genius; many are also complete crap. Same goes for genre of all kinds.

****Plus, some dark part of my soul secretly want to find out what deep dark secrets she might have. What?

[This post was inspired The Daily Post’s weekly writing challenge prompt “Dear Abby.”]

Beyond Nanowrimo: Other Month-Long Challenges to Consider

Challenge Accepted

While I love National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and will be participating again this year, it isn’t for everybody. But the idea of challenging oneself to stretch personal boundaries of what you think is possible is a great thing. So, I thought I’d share a few different challenges that you could do this November instead of trying to pound out 50,000 word of a novel.

  • National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) — Challenge yourself to write one blog post every day this month, which I discovered through The Daily Post. It seems like a simple enough challenge, but since I’ve never posted 30 days straight in my life, I’m sure it would be tougher than I think. I’m planning to go a head and try this (today makes day one!), since I’ll be posting word updates and such anyway this month.
  • November PAD (Poem-A-Day) Chapbook Challenge — Found at Writer’s Digest, this challenge asks writes to take the prompts posted and writes a poem a day for the month of November, THEN to take those poems and turn them into a chapbook in December, which can then be submitted to the associated chapbook contest. Very cool.
  • Submission Bonanza! — The blogger at Lighting Droplets came up with a personal challenge to send out 30 submissions in 31 days (they did it in the month of July), but it could be done in November, too. The idea is to rack up rejections (and hopefully an acceptance or two). This sounds like an awesome challenge and one I’ll be trying at a later date.
  • The 30 Day Vlog Challenge — This is for Youtube and involves creating a new vlog post (at least 1 minute long) everyday for 30 days. I need to do something like this to get back into the habit of vlogging, but it will probably be a while.

I’m sure there are dozens of other such challenges out there, and if you know of any that I should add to the list, please let me know in the comments.

Edited to Add:

  • National Comic Drawing Month (NaCoDrawMo) — Draw one strip or one page of a longer manga/webcomic every day for a month. Submitted by ingridsykora.

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” – Philip Roth

Goodness, it seems it’s been almost two whole months (!) since I’ve last posted a Monday Update. During that time I have completed next to no writing and, while I have been doing my weekly training at the gym, my running days have been sporadic at best. Since all my traveling is done for the year, I’m planning on hoping back on the wagon and getting some thinks done by the end of December in the hopes of completing most, if not all of my primary goals for the year.

November is NaNoWriMo, in which writers from around the world attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Technically this is supposed to be a new novel, something you haven’t touched before. But since I really want to complete the draft of my werewolf novel, Under the Midday Moon, I’m planning to use the challenge for that purpose with the hope that 50,000 words will be enough for me to finish the draft. If I can get this done, then next year’s big goal can be focused on editing the dang thing.

As for the running…, it is still possible to reach my goal of running three complete miles by the end of the year, I suppose. So, I will still keep working toward that goal. If I can get to where I’m running one mile, though, I’ll be happy. I’m also thinking of buying the zombie runner app, just because I think it would be fun and would add some variety to my training.

To be accomplished in the coming week:

  • Write a minimum of 5,100 words on Under the Midday Moon as part of Nano challenge
  • Submit something (poem, story, whatever)
  • Do a minimum of two runs.

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Good Reading: I’ve found two posts that could be helpful in my own goal setting this week.

Visuals for goals make an impression” talks about how adding a visual element to your accomplishments can help spur continued progress, like awarding yourself gold stars on the days you workout or pinning up your race bibs as Lisa J. Jackson did. I’m thinking a calendar for the year for posting stars would be great. I might also incorporate not only stars or smileys for exercise, but also for when I submit some of my writing for publication and/or when I receive an acceptance. I’ll have to get a variety of stickers for that purpose. Posting rejection letters, acceptance letters, and/or race bibs is also a great idea, and I may do that as well. 🙂

And on Courage 2 Create, Ollin Morales talks about “How To Add More Time To Your Day (AKA: How to Make The Most of The Time You Do Have),” something that I’ve been definitely feeling as a challenge lately.

“I have tried to see how I can literally add more time to my day. Unfortunately, I have learned that there is no way to actually add more time to your day, but I have learned that there are ways to make the most of the time you do have, and also how to make it appear as if the time is stretching out longer, rather than shrinking at a rapid pace.”

His advice is pretty darn good, and I’m going to try to practice a few of his suggestions in the hopes of getting done what I need to get done.

We’re in the fourth and final quarter for the year. How are you doing with your year long goals? Or, how are are you doing with your day-to-day goals?

Updatery – Life Keeps On Keeping On

The winners of the Rhysling Award have been announced. I am not among them, and that’s okay. I was and still am just so honored to have been included in the list of nominees.

In other writing news, the short story I have currently circulating has been rejected again, but that’s the writing life. Time to send it to a new publication.

My biggest issue in my writing world right now is that I haven’t been writing much of anything at all, which is rather depressing. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, in part due to all my traveling and I’ve been trying to just relax when I get home. (I suppose it doesn’t help that my relaxation has lately taken the form of mainlining episodes of Fringe.) At any rate, I’m going to have to hunker down toward my goals once I’m back from work trip to Italy and into my day-to-day rhythm.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that I am going to Italy? No?

Well, I’ll be traveling to Udine for work, then spending three days in Florence and a day in Venice for fun. I am STOKED.

* * *

In other, other news, my trip to Washington DC (a couple of weeks ago) was awesome. We did so much and saw so many sights. Here are photos I took of the Lincoln Monument, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.

DC

Washington DC

Washington DC

The amazing thing about the trip was not just the places we visited, but the people we were with. These women I traveled with are amazing women — books geeks, fabulous mothers, nerds, intelligent business women, joyful lovers of life, and so much more. I feel blessed to know them.

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." ~ Vincent Van Gogh

Last week was starting to shape up into another nothing-gets-done kind of week, when BAM!  I somehow got smacked with some determination and began cleaning out my shelf, adding items to my Goodwill pile, tossing others, and reorganizing the rest. I even created an itemized list to go with the receipt and then took the bags and boxes to the donation station (follow through? what?).

This new sense of order inspired me to go a step further and attack the craft, writing, and office supplies in my closet. I went through every random box in there, from empty shoe boxes to big bins to get a sense of what was where. I kept finding surprises — stuff I’d shoved into boxes because I didn’t know what to do with it or knew what to do with but didn’t have a place for. I kept asking myself over and over, why? why on earth would I have put this here. I have no easy answer.

My closet is now the most organized it has been since, well, since I’ve had it. I now have access to my painting and art supplies, which have been placed in plastic drawers and easy to reach bins, while putting the things I don’t need as often out of the way.

Goddess, that feels good.

With my exercise goals accomplished and the organization done, I feel good about last week, even if I didn’t move my writing goals forward.

Organizational-wise, I have to get some tools to get my shoes and jewelery under control, but that’s a small thing. My next big hurdle will be to try to bring order to my writing projects (various short stories, poetry, etc.), and I don’t have the foggiest how to do that.

Any suggestions on how you keep stories, novels, and all their notes and drafts in order (both in print and in the computer) would be greatly appreciated.

To be accomplished in the coming week:
– Finish second half of Chapter Six of Under the Midday Moon
– Submit something (poem, story, whatever)
– Workout at least three days with two workouts being running training (0/3)
– Do three morning yoga workouts (1/3)
– Practice my Spanish
– Finish stenciling on art project for niece’s bedroom

– Make Progress on Organization (do one or more of the following):
• Buy shower curtain hooks for organizing scarves
• Find a way to better organize shoes with double shelf or slots
• Buy a tie hangar for necklaces and create rack for earrings
• Shred papers and dispose of them
• Measure pictures and buy frames

An Assortment of Five Things

1. I picked up my sister from the airport on Tuesday. She had just got back from visiting my grandmother in Anchorage, Alaska. She’s 90 years old and my sister and I started talking about how important it is to record her life in some way. I told her that I have photo copies of her homesteading journal (which I’ve been meaning to do something with for a long time) and we both agreed that it would be great to put together a kind of memoir. Likely we wouldn’t try to publish this, though we might put it as an ebook and make some print copies for family through LuLu or something. We just need to make sure we make steady progress on this and not let it be just one of those things we talk about.

2. Speaking of writing, while I was digging through my filing cabinet looking for the copies my grandmother found me, I noticed a stack of paper about an inch thick in one of the files. I couldn’t help but take it out and read it — turned out to be movie script. I started reading some of the pages.

My thought: What is this? Did I write this? I didn’t write this. There’s no way I wrote this. *keeps reading* Oh, my god. I DID write this. I can’t believe I wrote this.

Turns out that stack of paper was the crappy martial arts script I tried to write about a guy and a girl who train and go take part in a tournament in China. It is so, so bad and I’m sure chock full of cultural inaccuracies. This will never ever see the light of day.

3. I saw Pacific Rim and loved it. It was in truth long sequences of robots smashing kaju, which was stunning in its realization, as in jaw-dropped, me-sitting-up-straight-in-my-seat in awe stunning. Beautifully wrought action sequences. It also had characters I like and story that dealt with countries and cultures working together for a common goal (that, importantly, did not revolve around good ol’ US of A saving the day). Rinko Kikuchi is wonderful and I will now be looking to watch every movie she has ever been or will be in. So, yay! I’m so glad I saw this one in theaters.

4. Also, in movies, I recently purchased Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated, a fascinating art project, in which curator Mike Schneider asked artists from around the world to animate sections of George A. Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead. All of the sound for the original movie is the same, the only difference is that the visual element has been changed (which can be done because the original movie is in public domain). Every minute or so, a new animation style flashes on the screen. It’s a little confusing at first, but quickly becomes hypnotizing to watch. A very cool art collaboration (with zombies!).

5. I went to a Curvy Girls Fashion Show (Curvy Girls is the name of a store in Santa Clara). It was just so cool to see a dozen women of varying shapes and sizes, bravely sporting lingerie walk down this make shift runway, while everyone in the audience cheered them on. Good feelings. Also some really cute stuff, costumes and some day ware too, so I may have some shopping to do soon.

Five Things to Do Instead of Being Jealous of Your Favorite Author

Writers Block

Or, How I Learned to Stop Lamenting and Enjoy the Process

I managed to get myself into a funk last Friday, I was finding myself despairing over my rarely completed to-do lists and my languishing novel, which is suffering through first draft blues. As much as I keep plugging away at the book, there is a deep, ugly, grumbling that believes I’ll never finish the novel or any novel and even if I do, none of them will be worth reading.All this tied into the fact that I had picked up 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma (my review is here), which was blowing my mind with awesome in terms of both writing style and storyline. Normally, I don’t bother with being jealous of my fellow authors, but on this particularly day, I felt it and it layered onto my anxieties. I began to spiral into doom-gloom with “I’ll never write like this, never this good” and “My writing sucks” and “I’ll never inspire or move someone the way the writing of this author does for me.”

Dwelling on this kind of stuff is less than helpful and can lead to an avoidance of writing and/or feeling blocked when staring at the blank page. At least, I know this can happen for me. So here are a few things I’ve done and that others can do to let go of all the negative gobbledygook.

1. Remember that Every Voice Isn’t the Same

I can thank my mom for reminding me of this when I was despairing on Friday and it’s important. No two voices are the same. Every writer has their own stories to tell and their own way of telling it. Therefore, it’s not necessarily an issue of better or worse, but just about being different.

Just because one author writes an amazing book, doesn’t mean that your own story, words, and thoughts are not valuable in their own right. If you have a story to tell, then tell it. Your words are unique to you, and chances are someone will find them valuable.

2. Keep in Mind that Drafts are Called “Rough” for a Reason

I think Anne Lamott says it best in her essay, “Shitty First Drafts” (link to a pdf). Most drafts suck the first time around, and they many continue to suck after the second or third go throughs, but somehow a good story gets drawn out in the rewriting/editing process.

It doesn’t really how many books an author has published or sold, or how great their writing, chances are that author has been through bouts of despair and flailing over the suckage of their own writing at various stages of the process. For an excellent example, check out Libba Bray’s fantastic post on writing despair.

So, be gentle with yourself. Be forgiving of your early mistakes. Be forgiving of your later mistakes. You have to work through each mistake to learn how to write, and every word you write gets you to the next one. You can’t get to the finished story/book/poem if you don’t walk through the tangled, mangy woods of the first (and sometimes second, third, fourth, etc.) drafts.

3. Do a Writing Analysis on the Book

So you’ve found a book you love, with writing you adore, with delightful worldbuilding, compelling characters, and a smooth plotline. Instead of feeling inadequate in all its glory (as I did), use this as an opportunity to learn something.

Once you’ve finished the book take a look at what it was about it that made you love it. What is the plot structure or how it launched immediately into the fray? What it the eloquent scene descriptions? How about how the characters were portrayed?

Create a list of what worked for you and what didn’t. What techniques can you use to improve your writing? What can you try to avoid?

I don’t tend to get too heavy handed with these sorts of analyses, as I don’t want to overshadow what naturally comes out when I’m writing and it’s important not to try to force your writing to fit a mold that doesn’t work. But I’ll often keep these kinds of lessons sitting in the back of my mind while I write and will draw on them when I’m challenged on how to handle a certain aspect of the story.

4. Practice Celebrating Your Fellow Writer’s Successes

Both Justine Larbalestier and Seanan McGuire have posts about how life, art, and publishing are not a zero sum game. One writer or artists success doesn’t take success away from you.

I’ve heard some people say that books like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey should never have been published and lamenting about how many people were taken in by these horrible books. But my sister hated reading, mostly because high school taught her to, and it wasn’t until she read Twilight that she became a reader. That book series taught her that reading could be fun, and that enjoyment has led her to read a multitude of other books in a variety of genres.

What authors like Stephanie Meyer and E.L. James have done is manage to tap into their enjoyment of their readers in such a way that lots and lots of people wanted to read their books. They may not be perfect books, but I salute both authors for their success. Hats off to them, and I’ll keep writing the stories I feel compelled to write.

It’s even easier to salute the writers you love, because their success means more great books for you to read.

But more importantly, if you’re sending out joy and good wishes, then you’re not bogged down by jealousy. Personally, I find it much harder to write when I’m in a fowl mood, so keeping positive (if I can) helps me.

5. Just. Keep. Writing.

Just that. Keep writing.

There’s a momentum to the writing process. I find the more I write, the easier it is to keep writing. If I stop and let myself fall into a mood, it just makes it that much harder to come back to the blank page.

And whatever else is going on around you, whoever is on the bestsellers list or winning awards, one thing you know you can control is the work you put into your own stories and and effort you put into making them the best they can be. That’s a powerful thing.

How do you handle little writing jealousies? What do you do to keep from despairing about your writing?

I've been rejected. Yay!

Thing the First
Yesterday I received a rejection on the poetry collection I sent to Toad Lily Press.

My response: “Well, that’s disappointing. But thank god.”

To which my mom was quite astonished and I proceeded to enthusiastically explain to her about the importance of SASEs, how not putting one with your submission could very well mean having your submission thrown out without having it read, how I had spent the last several weeks flailing, because I was sure I had forgotten to include said SASE with my submission.

So, um, yeah, HUGE relief that I didn’t make the idiotic mistake of forgetting to include a SASE, so much so that it soothed the sting of the rejection quite a bit.

No, seriously, I can’t tell you how stoked I am that I included the SASE.

Thing the Second
Looking over my 2013 goals this week reminded me that I wanted to try to get to 12 spoke work/open mics/author readings this year, and thus far I hadn’t. In general, I just want to be engaged with live performances, from spoken word to stage plays to music, all of which inspires me in different ways.

So, I started looking around for what’s in the area and found that Poetic Justice Wednesdays was going on at the Fahrenheit Bar in San Jose. I dropped in (after convincing my sister she had no choice but to join me) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was impressed by the skill of the poets and musicians who presented, their lips tumbling truths into the microphone. It’s the kind of impressive performances that intimidate me a bit, because I don’t feel good enough to do the same. But I’ll get myself up there someday soon.

 

Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either her or there.

2013 Goals Assessment

Inspired by whipchick, I’d thought I’d take a look at my year long goals and assess how I’m doing overall.

Primary Goals

1. Finish a coherent draft of Under the Midday Moon
Progress is perhaps a little slower than I hoped, but it’s still progress. Not sure that I’ll actually finish the entire draft by the end of the year, but I just might, especially if I pick up the pace a bit.

2. Work up to running three miles
Again, progress is slow, but steady. I’m feeling myself grow stronger week by week and I’m certain I can DO this. *believes*

3. Submit a chapbook- or full-length collection of poetry for publication
Done! Well, sort of. After sending the submission out, I realized that I might have forgotten to include an SASE, a profoundly stupid and newbie mistake. If I did forget, it doesn’t really count, since it wouldn’t be legitimate submission. This sucks. But never fear, I have every intention of sending out another manuscript to another publisher before June, so as to have this officially done.

4. Address finances
Complications have sort of sidetracked my intentions to start up an IRA or retirement savings account. There’s still time for me to start something up by the end of the year, but for the moment I’m putting this aside.

However, the second aspect of this goal was to start earning some money from my writing. I can’t control that entirely, but I can submit my work to paying markets on a regular basis, which I’m working on.

(A rather long list of secondary goals can be found here.)

What I’ve Learned So Far and/or Could Improve Upon

Bite Sized Pieces – Big goals can be a bit overwhelming, so the weekly goals has helped me break things down into little pieces that I know I can accomplish. This way I know that each week forward progress gets made in some way or another.

Plan for What’s Doable – That said, it’s equally important to make sure the list of weekly goals is doable. I have a life beyond my writing, family and friends I want to hang out with, trips to take, events to go to, errands to run, and downtime that needs to be had, so I try to make sure that the weekly goals I set are doable from a practical stand point: Do I really have time to do these things, assuming I use my time wisely? The answer is always yes. It doesn’t mean I always get the list done (in fact, more often than not, I don’t), but it means I could do it.

Accountability – Whenever the fantastic Kima Jones posts on twitter about her writing she always uses the hashtag “accountability”, and I love that. Hold yourself accountable, because no one else will. You’re life is what you make of it and the effort you put it. So, while my weekly goal posts are always public and I do get some kind feedback, it really comes down to my own sense of being accountable. It’s really about making choices, such as getting some writing down before turning on the TV or video game, which is something I personally need to work on.

How are you doing with your goals? What have you learned or what could you do to be better about meeting those goals?

Cross-posted to my website. You are welcome to comment either here or there.

A Writing Gang Retreat

At a previous Writing Gang meeting, I said, “You know what I really want to do is create our own writing retreat. Just go away somewhere peaceful for the weekend and write with you guys.” I said in in the way you say things you hope will happen without actually expecting them to happen.

But my Gang, being the awesome individuals they are, said, “Yes! Yes, let’s do it!” And they started planning for the perfect weekend and finding the perfect location, and next thing I knew I was spending a weekend away with my Writing Gang, relaxing and creating words.

We carpooled down to Cambria on Friday afternoon and checked in to the Bluebird Inn, a cozy little place with some beautiful gardens that we explored (in the pic below, you can see my Gang in the lower right photo).

Bluebird Inn Gardens

That night we hunkered down in the hotel room, sipped wine out of plastic cups, and performed our regular critique session on work that we submitted to the group over the previous week. As usual there was a lot of positive feedback all around and good questions asked and great concerns raised.

The next morning we each created our own magnet poetry on the side of the hotel room heater. Then we sat at some tables outside to do our first “workshop” session. My prompt was to look through an art book (several of which I hauled down to Cambria with me) and find an art piece they found inspiring, then write for at least 30 minutes on whatever the art inspired you to write. I wrote a poem and other thoughts in response to “The Immaculate Conception” by Giambattista Tiepolo.

Magnet Poem
Journal Page

After writing and sharing our words, we took a walk along Cambria’s main street to Sandy’s Deli & Bakery, where we noshed down on some fantastic sandwiches (in fact, it was so good, we decided to return the next day for more tasty eats).

Victoria then presented her workshop prompt, which focused on creating unique metaphors. (Apparently, she keeps an ongoing journal of metaphors and similes that she loves — something I find rather awesome.) She presented a series of topic/object notecards, such as hands, eyes, lips/mouth, feelings, etc., all the sorts of things you would need to find a metaphor for. Then she presented another set of notecards with a series of random nouns and words that she had asked us for the night before. These ended up being very random as we had a lot of fun throwing down words from conversations or jokes that cropped up on our trip, which included bluebird, Liquid Love, cheesy, tick, shmurmur (a word our friendly neighborhood poet, Lorenz, invented that means a loud, indiscreet whisper), and prostate, among others. We were then given a random set of each and were asked to use one of the random words

In one of my metaphors was “His anger was as inflamed and raw as his prostate.” The others came up with some fantastic metaphors and in general it was a lot of fun to see the unusual directions that people were able to take them based on our random words.

Our third workshop prompt, from Amelia, was given to us as we walked back toward our hotel. She told us to watch the people around us and to find a person we thought interesting. Then later that evening we were to write a scene or story that imagines their back story.

On our way back, I spotted an old school house that had been converted into an open studio and gallery. I adore repurposed buildings and had to go inside, where I met the wonderful Patricia Griffin. She’s an artist that works with clay and I had a lovely conversation with her about art and writing and the history of the school house. It brightened my day just a little more and her work is gorgeous. She starts by partially firing the clay and then painting it, at which point she scrapes back the paint into designs that resemble old wood cut art.

Also on main street we found the Piedras Blancas Light House Lens, which had been constructed in 1850 in France. When it was retired it was preserved and put on display in Cambria. Really cool piece of history.

Piedras Blancas Light House Lens

We took a break in the afternoon and drove up to Moonstone Beach, where we walked along the boardwalk and poked anemonemones (spelled how we were pronouncing it) in the tide pools and saw lots of squirrels feeding on the seaside plant life, all while the sun was going down.

Moonstone Beach

We wrapped up the night by completing Amelia’s prompt, finishing the critique session from the night before, and drinking lots of wine.

Sunday morning was slow moving, but we managed to fit in a final workshop session. Yvette decided to focus on settings for her prompt, instructing us to select a season and writing scene, describing the setting in as much detail as possible while using all five senses. As an extra challenge, she wanted us to try and incorporate one of the metaphors we created from the day before.

One the whole it was a relaxing and productive weekend. I got about 1,000 fiction words written and several drafts of poems down. More importantly, I feel refreshed from being away from my regular routine and creatively energized. I’m looking forward to getting back into my regular writing and hope we can make our Writing Gang Retreat a yearly event.

Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either here or there.

The Things That Need Doing

1. Because I thrive (go mad-hatter crazy on) deadlines, I have put off compiling this poetry chapbook until the day before the competition ends. At least it’s only 16-18 pages. *sigh*

2. Oh, and I’ve also signed up for the 10 by 10 Short Script Challenge, which has begun this week. I now have ten nine days to complete a short indie horror script that challenges the genre’s portrayal of women.

3. And lets not forget that I have to provide a rewrite of Chapter One and/or Chapter Two of Under the Midday Moon, my YA werewolf novel to my writing group by next Wednesday.

4. Did I also mention that my entire Saturday will be taken up by attending the AMC Best Picture Showcase, leaving me next to no time to do any of this stuff? No. Well, I am.

5. Somewhere in there, I’m also supposed to exercise.

6. *dies*

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either here or there.]

Things I have been meaning to post about…

1. lar_laughs posted about swordpunk, which is a way to approach fantasy writing and have fun. She quotes from the Swordpunk Manifesto, and I shall do the same: “I think the fear that fantasy writers have is that if they don’t
reinvent the wheel, they won’t be taken seriously. Like Tad Williams is
going to roll up and revoke their Fantasy License.

2. What the Dragon Said: A Love Story, by Catherynne M. Valente, is a stunning poem. Seriously, go read it.

3. Speaking of poems, Rose Lemberg has asked editors of speculative poetry to recommend what they consider to be the five best poems of 2012. There is a lot of good poetry reading to be had.

4. Jim Hines has posted his income from writing for 2012, something he does every year in order to be open about the reality of the writing life and dispel myths about all writers being millionaires.

5. Have you read Nova Ren Suma’s Turning Points series, in which she asks authors what the turning point in their writing life was? If not, I highly recommend you do. Amazing posts from great writers abound.

6. Malinda Lo has a great post up about heteronormativity in fantasy. In the two-part post she focuses on two questions:

  1. What constitutes “subtlety” when it comes to describing same-sex relationships in fiction?
  2. Is it believable to have same-sex relationships in a medieval-esque fantasy world?
[Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either here or there.]

What I'd Like to Accomplish in 2013

I’m doing this a little different. While I liked my Massive List of 2012 goals (everything was together!), it was a little unfocused, allowing me to hop through willy-nilly. Instead I’m going to try working with primary goals (those that must be accomplished first) and secondary goals (things I would like to get done at some point, but only after I’ve made progress on my primary goals). If I can complete these four primary goals in 2013, I will be a very happy lady.

Primary Goals
1. Finish a coherent draft of Under the Midday Moon (my no-longer-untitled werewolf novel)
The spirit of this goal would be to submit a new chapter to each meeting of my writing group and thus produce a novel I can edit and feel comfortable sending out for beta reads. Using the writing group meetings as a way to break it up is a good way to keep me progressing.

I’ve worked on this one a number of times, beginning with some scenes posted online and with a previous Nanowrimo attempt, which provided me some good exploratory pages as I tried to figure out where I wanted to go with it. Since then, I’ve been pondering and been doing some mental stewing on the novel. I’ve decided to add another character point of view to the mix and have more clear ideas of the challenges my characters will need to face. The only thing causing me to hesitate at this point is that I don’t have Claire’s voice, which would give me the launch point into the novel. I don’t want to do a ton

Accomplishing this will require me to, as whipchick so wisely put it, “Write First,” which means before I do anything else (TV, reading, websurfing). I’m pretty sure I can pull this off, if I stick to that motto.

2. Work up to running three miles
I really, really, really, really, really want to do this. I’ve tried and failed to complete the Couch-to-5k program, and part of it was because the increases were too quick and partly because my head gets in the way (from “I don’t feel like it” to I can’t!”). Listening to music while I run will help some, and I’m also trying another version of the Couch-to-5k via an iPhone app. The app alerts me as to when to start and stop the running intervals, which takes the metal calculations out of it. I can just listen to my music and do as I’m told.

If anyone has any advice on how to beat the mindf*ck while running, I would love to hear it. I may just start with some affirmations for the time being.

3. Submit a chapbook- or full-length collection of poetry for publication
I have enough poetry written to do this. So it’s just a matter of selecting the poems and putting the package together. I know of one chapbook that’s open for submissions this month, so I’m going to start there. I plan to also submit a larger manuscript to a poetry book publisher that I’ve been looking at for a while. So that means two submissions in January/February.

I may have to follow up this submission with another manuscript in the middle of year, depending on the reply I get.

4. Address finances
This encompasses a number of factors that I may need to work on and adjust to as the year goes on. Essentially, I need to spend with in my means by sticking to a budget and set up a savings plan and making progress to pay off my debt, as well as begin an IRA or other retirement investment plan.

I would also like to earn an additional income from my poetry and fiction writing. I don’t have control over who chooses to publish my work, but I do have control over who I send it to. So, I plan to work toward sending my work to markets that pay something (rather than nothing) as my first choice.

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Secondary Goals
Fiction
– edit stories and submit them to paying markets (try for no less than 6 for year)
– finish Fay Fairburn 1st draft

Poetry
– perform morning poetry ritual at least six times per week
– submit new poems to paying markets (try for no less than 6 for year)
– begin work on my novel-in-poems idea
– finish 30 letter challenge
– post a new poem to wattpad as a part of The Poetry Project every week
– continue on my series of fairytale inspired poems

Events
– attend FogCon
– attend one additional convention
– attend and/or participate in 12 open mics/readings (1/month)
– attend poetry retreat
– 48 Hour Film Project

Finances/Employment
– create a system to track money spent/earned as writer and maintain receipts
– create a filing system that functions (which may mean I need to pull my mom in on this for help)

Exercise/Health
– do yoga five mornings a week (a minimum of three sun salutations each morning)
– keep using calorie counter, but more importantly try to incorporate healthier foods
– make appointments as necessary (don’t avoid doctors)
– participate in sunday/saturday hikes
– participate in Wharf to Wharf run (6 miles)

Inspiration
– adjust my perception of “having enough time,” because it’s not just about having enough, but using the time you have wisely
– meditate for at least ten minutes every morning after yoga & every night before sleep
– do a new set of affirmations every month
– go to monthly women’s circles or other spiritual meetings

At some point I would like to write a spec script and start making some short films, but that may be too much right now with everything else I already have on my plate, so that’s more of a tertiary goal.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to either comment here or there.]

Where I'm At — 2012 Round Up‏

Writing Assessment for 2012

Fiction
Stories Submitions: 1
Stories Acceptances: 0
New story drafts completed, but unedited and unsubmitted: 6

Poetry
Poetry Submitions: 2
Poetry Acceptances: 2
Rejections: 1

Published Poems:
“Comfort at Last,” Z-composition, Issue I, February 2012 (link)
“The Teeth that are Teeth,” Z-composition (on Google+), February 2012 (link)
“Bird Collides with Window,” a handful of stones, February 11, 2012 (link) and in A Blackbird Sings: a book of small poems [US | UK | Kindle]
“Annie Taylor, Niagara Falls, 1901″ and “Red Riding Hood Remembers,” Linden Avenue, Issue I, June 2012

Events
Total Open Mic/Readings attended: 5
Open Mic/Readings in which I actually participated: 3
Cons Attended: 1

Though I didn’t come anywhere close to completing what I set out in my Massive List of 2012 Goals, I feel fairly good about what I accomplished in 2012. I got a lot of writing done. Though I do need to step up with submitting my work, especially since I have a lot on hand to submit. Getting myself to FogCon was also great, and I’m planning to go again this year.

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The following Self Assessment comes via whipchick who discovered it from kathrynrose’s Goal setting 2013.

Health
For many months (anywhere from 4-6), I have been off my walking/running and yoga routine. My days have been mostly sedentary, with my two hour commute, sitting at my computer all day, and then sitting to read or watch TV or write when I get home. It has been very rough on my body, and I can feel how my body creaks and how my muscles ache. It’s a clear sign that I need to get back to walking and running, as my health depends on it.

However, I have been (mostly) keeping up with my calorie counting (I didn’t bother much during the holidays, when there was so much good food about, figuring I would just let myself enjoy it). It works for me. I find that I eat healthier when I’m following it, and doing calorie counting alone has allowed me to loose 13 pounds. There are several shirts and dresses and such that drape better on my body, which makes me feel great (and how my clothes fit is a better indicator to how I feel than the actual pounds lost).

It would be great, too, if I kept more regular doctor appointments.

Education
I feel good with where my education is at with my BA. Though I’m always interested in learning more and would be open to take more classes. But I don’t really have the time for that at the moment. So, I will continue to improve my mind through reading (a given for me anyway), and participation in Cons can be educational as well as fun.

Though I would like to improve my Spanish speaking. I spent many years in high school and college, as well as ten weeks in Mexico, learning the language, soyou’d think I’d be able to speak it better than I do. I’d like to practice that more.

Employment
I still enjoy my job, though it has its frustrations. The work is often challenging and I’ve progressed enough in the office that my employer trusts me to handle most articles. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy having the opportunity to visit manufacturing plants and write about them. The commute is probably the roughest part of my work experience, and I wouldn’t mind figuring out a way to not have to deal with that as much.

In terms of my side job of freelance writing, I have not been as successful. I earned little-to-no money from my story and poetry writing so far and have not pursued it with regularity, making my output sporadic. I am less happy about that.

Daily living
I love my apartment, which is located at the end of the row giving a clear view of trees and grass, almost as if I had a back yard. However, I don’t have much, or well, any, artwork up, so the walls in the living room are very blank, making the space feel unlived in.

In comparison, my bedroom has too much stuff (since it must include office supplies, filing, arts & crafts, etc.) and it’s not very well organized (mountain-of-unfiled-paper work lives and breeds in my closet), so when I let things slip it gets cluttered. I’m sure that adds to any feelings of being overwhelmed I get throughout the work week.

Also, my household cleanliness is not great. My bathroom progresses to nasty before I’ll clean it, so I need to either abide by a cleaning schedule and/or invest in having a cleaning service come to the apartment once a month.

The commute to work is a pain in the ass, but I’m not sure how to get around it as public transportation is not viable in terms of financial savings or time and I don’t have a bicycle. I’d like to do something about it though, and it might be worth investing in a bike and trying it out one day a week.

Finances
Month-to-month I am living just above my budget, so some of my spending is ending up on credit cards. I hate that, and need to amend it immediately. I want to decrease, not increase my debt. As awesome as it is to have a job that sends me to places around the world, it also means that I’m spending a lot of money on travel, so I need to save better for my trips and plan my budget better.

I have no idea or concept of investing and have no retirement plan. This does not seem wise to me, so I need to start educating myself on financial matters and get help with a retirement plan.

As I mentioned in employment, I would like to earn more money as a writer. It’s one way to put aside money for savings and lighten my financial load a bit. Though I recognize that I can’t depend on it to save, but consider it bonus money for savings for trips and retirement investment.

Social
Between my family and a small group of friends, I’m generally happy. I don’t want to have my social schedule overly filled, and so trips outside of the usual routine need to be planned ahead of time. I don’t do well with spontaneity because of that, though I would like to bend the extent of the routine some and start going to stage plays, concerts, or comedy shows.

I’m not good at calling or contacting family and friends who live out of state, or heck, even in state. There are a handful or more close friends, whom I have not seen in over six months. I hang out with them for a day, but then don’t see them for ages — though they are often on my mind and in my heart. I’d like to reach out and connect with them a bit more, either by making phone calls or meeting in person. This includes contacting and touching base with my penpal and many of my online acquaintances.

I enjoy solitude, moments of just me myself at home reading, taking a mental break from interacting. I would like to spend that time more wisely, not in terms of working more, but in terms of walking and allowing for silence. Hence, no TV and such during those periods.

Leisure
I read (a lot) and I hang out with my baby niece.  I occasionally sketch just for the fun of it, and I’d like to do that more.

I also spend significant amounts of time flipping channels, watching shows that I don’t particularly care about. I’d like to use that time better, choose to watch shows I actually love or watch movies that interest me.

It would be fun to spend more leisure time doing outdoor activities. Geocaching, for example, would be spectacularly fun. I also like hiking and would like to explore more of the trails in the area.

Travel has been good for me with my job pitching in and allowing me to go places I might not otherwise. I’d like to do more day trips and weekend trips closer to home, though.

Inspiration
I used to attend Women’s Circles regularly and participate in group breath sessions and other forms of spiritual connection with self and community, but it’s been a while and I feel the absence. I miss the women I’ve met and the connection with inner calm through deep breathing (it’s funny how even as I write this I start to breathe more deeply). I’d like to meditate more on my own, but also attend spiritual events again. They were so good for me.

I’ve also noticed that I’ve fallen into the I’m-not-good-enough and I’m-not-worthy traps, especially as a writer. I know this is contributing to my procrastination around writing and submitting my work, and why I tend to choose market that pay nothing over those markets that do. So, it would be good for me to work through some affirmations and try to process that a big and dislodge some of my self-doubt.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. Feel free to comment either here or there.]

It's Friday. Huzzahs.

I’ve been somewhat sick half the week, but I’ve discovered that taking Nyquil before bed = awesomeness. What? Sleep through the night? Without my head congested and generally unbreatheable? Wake up feeling better not worse the next morning? Yeah! Why haven’t I done this before?

Because I’ve been a head full of mucus this week, I’ve use this as an excuse to be lazy. Thus no progress has been made on my anti-nano goals — I can’t, at the moment, even bring myself to open the untitled werewolf novel to even see where I’m at with it. However, I have been making some progress on a piece that will probably end up being just a little too long for flash fiction.

So that’s it in news about me.

Now I point you to this awesome post, “Black Women in Speculative Fiction: A Brief Investigation,” which increases my TBR list exponentially.

Also, here’s a meme I snatched from brigits_flame:

Book you are currently reading: The Hobbit by Tolkien, Nebula Awards Showcase 2012, and Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
Last book you read: Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey: Vampire Slayer as Feminine Chosen One, by Valerie Estelle Frankel
Book you could read again and again and again: The Hobbit and Beloved by Toni Morrison and a handful of others.
Book you are glad you read once but will never ever read again: Most recently? Probably The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett. (But I never really know what books I’ll read again.)
Favorite book (if it differs from a book you could read again and again…): Too many, but a novel that is my current favorite is Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman
Writer whose stories you enjoy immensely: Neil Gaiman, for one, Holly Black, Nova Ren Suma, Libba Bray, for others.
Writer whose style blows you away: Mostly poets, such as Ai, or Walt Whitman, or David Perez, or Karen Finneyfrock. Also, Toni Morrison.

[Cross posted to my livejournal.]

November: Anti-Nano and Mindful Writing

1. Anti-Nano
November is generally known as the month my family stares at me in wonder and shakes their heads as I dive into National Novel Writing Month. Generally, they think of me as a crazy person for this (except for my youngest sister, who occasionally participates, too).  I will not be participating in the official Nano this year, however, as the Untitled Werewolf Novel I began for Nano last year is still sitting in a sorry state of disrepair. I don’t think its a good idea at this juncture for me to try to jump into a new novel just because it’s shiny and new.

Instead I shall be participating in Anti-Nano, which just just like regular Nanowrimo, except that you can set whatever sort of writing goal you want, from rewrites to a series of drabbles. It’s nice in that you get to participate in the mayhem and feel the camaraderie, but at a pace and a goal that works for you. If you’re interested, you can go sign up here in the squidathon community.

The end result will be that my family will still be staring at my like I’ve drifted into madness and, hopefully, a second and less-rough looking draft of the Untitled Werewolf Novel.

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2. Mindful Writing Day
I will also be participating in Mindful Writing Day on November 1st. The premise is simple: Write a small stone (poem or prose) by paying proper attention to one thing and writing it down. It’s a lovely little challenge that I’m happy to be a part of. Already, I’m starting to look more at the world around me, gathering ideas as to what I might write about.

Mindful Writing Day will also coincide with the anthology A Blackbird Sings: a book of small poems being offered for free on the kindle for that day — a nice little tie-in promotion.

*

Therefore, before November I have quite a few things I should do to prep. It would be nice if I could clear my palate by finishing up some edits on stories and sending them out, but what I really need to do is read through my existing Untitled Werewolf Novel drafts and begin a new set of outline and get myself in a general head space to be able to handle the workload coming my way.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]

popping in

I have been pretty much off the internets for a while now, barely keeping up with any of the social stuff and definitely have not been keeping up with any of my blogs (with the exception of the occasional book review). I don’t know if that’s going to change anytime soon, but in the meantime, I thought I’d pop in and point to a couple of great posts I read by Justine Larbalestier.

Please, Please, Please, Give Your Protag Friends, a Sibling, Parents

I often hear beginning writers complain that they’re not sure what happens with their protagonist next. That they’re stuck. Often part of the problem is that their book does not have enough relationships in it. They’ve left out the parents, made their protag an only child with no friends. The only other characters are the love interest and the villian. And none of the characters are coming to life because they’re only in the book for one reason: to be the Love Interest, to be the Villian, to be the Protagonist.

There has to be more. You get the more by complicating things. Let’s say the protag’s best friend is the villian’s sister. Already that gives both the protag and the villian another dimension: their relationship with their BFF/sister. Both characters suddenly became a lot more interesting.

I’m rather fond of the relationships in books myself, not just the romantic ones, but all relationships of the main character to family and friends and the world around them. It’s a part of what make them complete. It’s one of the reasons I loved The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder so much. It was full of relationships, most notably for me, the relationship with her mom, because so many YA books leave parents out of the equation all together. I definitely try to think about relationships in my own stories, not just romatic ones, but the entire spectrum.

And those romantic relationships that are most interesting to me are not the first-love, getting-to-know-you variety, though I don’t mind seeing that in the beginning. I find it more interesting to see how a relationship grows past initially lust and lovey dovey feelings to something more deep and complex, the state of a relationship after the newness wears off, which is also something you don’t see much in YA especially, but also a lot of fiction in general. I would like to see a lot more variety of relationships and kinds of romatic relationships in books.

.
Racism in the Books We Write

It is almost impossible to avoid writing work that can be read as racist. If you’re writing about people, you’re writing about identity, and a huge part of identity is race.

We are all seen through the lens of race. We all see through the lens of race.1 Whether we’re conscious of it or not. If you’re a writer you really need to be conscious of it. Because if you don’t think you are writing about race, you can wind up writing things visible to your readers that are not visible to you.

Often that is a not good thing.

She goes on to explain how her own books have both helped and harmed readers regardless of her own intentions. I recommend reading the entire post.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]

I need to join Proctastinators Annonymous

funny-pictures-procrastination-cat Weekend number two has passed in which I have done absolutely nothing productive. This was in part to my general feeling of being burned out, and in part because my chiny new iPhone is distracting to the point where I may need to delete a few of the games I have on there, if I want to be functional in the future.

So, yeah, I need to get back to a degree of focus, and to that end I shall be heading straight to a coffee shop after work tonight in an attempt to get some more work done on my short story. I’ll get the draft done (I think) in time to submit it to my writing group, but not in time to submit it to the anthology, which is okay with me. I’m not feeling very confident about it and I can always submit it somewhere else.

I’m also still toying with the idea of starting a poetry chapbook kickstarter project. Ideally, I would have done the project in April to coincide with National Poetry Month, but I’m feeling so overwhelmed with work that I think I’m going to postpone it a wee longer (especially since I should really look into the cost of printing before I start it). If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions on this, I’d love to hear them.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]

I got my new business cards in!

Business Cards

I ordered them on recommendation from a friend from moo.com. I had no idea when I ordered them that they would come in multiple colors (I though I was just getting the teal), but it’s a nice surprise. ^_^

If you can’t read the card, because of the crappy cell phone pic, is says:

Andrea Blythe
Poet & Writer
of SciFi/Fantasy
———–
andreablythe@hotmail.com
———–
www.AndreaBlythe.com

Bird Collides with Window

becoming a dark
hieroglyph
on the dimpled
blank page
of the snow

originally published at a handful of stones

I feel all ready now to go to my first conference. ^_^

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]

I shall not cry; I shall write.

My story, “Shaking Hands,” was rejected by the Machine of Death, Vol. 2. I really, really, really wanted to get in. But considering they had almost 2,000 submissions and they only had room for 30 stories, that’s not anything to feel bad about.

The form letter suggests that the editors might create some other kind of project at a later date, as they liked a lot of the stories provided to them. So in a way, my story is still in the running, but as they are focusing on getting Vol. 2 to print, it will probably take a while to hear back on that front.

*shrug*

No worries. In the meantime, I have to rewrite and find a place to submit “The Witch of the Little Wood,” finish and go through rewrites on “White Noise,” keep posting Fay stories for LJ Idol, and also somehow get a Nano novel written — I have a lot of writing to keep me occupied. (^_^)

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]

Not Enough Pain?

“When I look at the lives of the poets, I understand what’s wrong with me. They were willing to make the sacrifices that I’m not willing to make. They were so tortured, so messed up. I’m only a little messed up.”
—  Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist

I understand this sentiment, the idea that my problem is that I don’t have problems, or rather I have problems, but there’s not big enough, not deep enough, not whatever enough. Sometimes I go to women’s circles or spiritual meetings, and I start to feel left out because I have no deep scaring, no great emotional revelation to present about my life.

I’ve come to believe that it’s a completely ridiculous sentiment — the idea that one has to experience a fucked up life to achieve any kind of artistic or spiritual greatness. Yes, there are authors, poets, artists out there, who their suffering is an integral part of their art, but there are also other authors, poets, and artists, who create fabulous art while living a mostly harmonious life.

One can connect to world deeply and profoundly without diving through shards of glass or wandering the dark monster filled tunnels of depression. Sometimes, it’s enough to just sit completely still and be quiet for a while, to listen, to be aware of what goes on around you.

You don’t have to be at war with the world and yourself to create. You just have to have the passion and drive, the deep rooted desire to create something that someone somewhere will find of value. Maybe it will be one of the great works of history. Maybe it won’t. But it will be yours, your creation, and that’s enough.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]

A Writer's Dream Life

I enjoy playing with what I suppose should be considered my own internal fan fiction. Typically this involves taking a character of my own invention and trying to fit them into the world of Buffy or Stargate SG-1 or Fringe, or whatever I’m currently obsessed with at the time. I never write any of these inventions down. Rather it’s a sort of mental puzzle that I enjoy trying to work through, because I often can’t incorporate the my character into the world without corrupting the structure of the world building or messing with the chronology of events. It think it’s a typical writer thing, and can be a good way to toy and practice with plot structures.

Last night, I finished reading Tithe*, by Holly Black, and then tuned into the premeire episode of Being Human** (because I happened to be actually at home when it came on) — both of which I enjoyed.

I noted this to myself before, and it became clear once again last night, that I have to careful what fantasy story lines I read and/or watch before going to bed because it will often invade my dreams. Last night, my brain decided to play my fan-fic puzzle game with me while I was trying to sleep. It kept trying to incorporate the faery realms into the world of Being Human and kept trying to see what the characters, especially the werewolf would do in the face of this faery threat. (A short version is that the faery queen wanted to make the werewolf her pet, so that she could use him as a guard and a weapon against anyone who would threaten her. Yeah.)

My brain kept wanting to puzzle this story line out through some very odd dreams, which meant that my sleep was restless. I kept tossing and turning and wanting to fall into a deep sleep, but also a part of me didn’t want to loose the thread of this storyline that my mind was inventing, because I kind of liked where it was going, too.

I woke up very tired this morning.

*sigh* Sometimes, I wish I could turn my writing brain off.


*Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale follows the story of Kaye, a girl who follows her nomadic mother quest for fame through dive bars in Philadelphia. Kaye is grateful when their nomadic lifestyle comes to an end, however, and they are forced to return to her grandmother’s house, offering her the opportunity to reconnect with fairy friends both human and faery. It isn’t before long, however, before she finds herself entangled in a political and dangerous intrigue between the faery courts. The faeries in this book are tricksy and deadly throughout, just as they ought to be. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read with enough adventure and well-wrought surprises to keep me excited. I’m definitely looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy.

**Being Human, apparently based off of a British version, is about a vampire and a werewolf, who are tried of feeling and behaving like monsters. So they decide to become roommates in order to look out for one another and keep each other out of trouble. It’s not the most original story around, but it has enough story and character going for it that I’ll stick around watching it for at least a few more episodes. Besides I love Sam Huntington (from Detroit Rock City), who plays the werewolf. He’s that geeky, awkward cute that I just love.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]

Book Review – Talking Back to Poems: A Working Guide for the Aspiring Poet, by Daniel Alderson

Reading poetry is a vital part of writing poetry. Alderson takes it a step further, however, by suggesting that poets not only read poetry, but respond to it, to talk back to poetry with poems of their own. Part I presents four short sections that briefly introduce the aspects of Sound, Image, Form, and Meaning in poetry, while Part II follows with a collection of poems, each followed with instructions to copy the poem by hand, note down what you notice about the poem, and then a prompt for writing your own poem in response to it.

There is a long history of poets writing in response to poets, and I’ve even written a few poetic responses myself. However I was not very impressed with the prompts in this book as Alderson presents them. His idea of talking back to poems is far too much like mimicry to me. In the examples of his students’ writing that he includes in the book, the students (using their own themes and ideas) echo almost exactly the form and flow of the poem being responded to. This is far too restrictive for me, especially when it comes to mimicking strict forms, such as sonnets that have tight rhyme schemes. This restriction of form often has the tendency of causing me to freeze up when I’m writing rather than opening up and becoming loose as one would hope.

My experience with writing in response to poetry involves not mimicry, but a playful dialogue. The few poetic responses I’ve written have little relation to the original poem (one example is here), but is rather reacts to the subject matter of the poem in kind of debate. Of course, this is not the only way to go about this, and Alderman’s way of talking back to poetry is equally valid. Just as there are many poets who comfortably play in rhyme and strict forms, which I do not.

The practice of handwriting out a poets previous work also did not appeal to me. Though I understand his reasoning for having a writer first copy the poem by hand (in order to get a feel for the rhythms and voice of the poem), I did not feel that it helped me gain any greater sense of the poem. Rather, I found that reading the poem out loud was a much better way to get a feel for the rhythm and sound, as well as a sense of the residual meaning.

I’m sure that there are many poets out there who would find this book very valuable and inspiring, however I am not one of them. Of the 20 or 30 poetry prompts in the book, I found myself interested in responding to only a handful of them. And when I did respond, I often found myself jumping outside of the prompts and guidelines, coloring outside the lines as it were, and responding to the poems as I damn well felt like it — which is really how it should be anyway.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]

Day by Day

I haven’t posted any weekly goals for a while, and for the time being I’m taking a break from it. The practice of posting my goals for the week and reporting on them doesn’t seem to be serving my any more, as I tend to post the goals and still not complete them, which is not very beneficial.

Instead, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m working my way through this 30 day letter writing (and for me poetry) challenge and right now that’s my main goal — to get that done, so I can seriously look at it as a potential collection. It’s an enjoyable process of coming up with these (even though it’s taking me far longer than 30 days), and I’m enjoying what I’m learning about myself and my writing as I continue it.

In other areas, I still have quite a few things that I want to accomplish, but for them I’m going to day-by-day it. If I make progress, great, if I don’t, it’s probably because I’ve been doing something else enjoyable, so that’s great, too.

I’m sure at some point I’ll want to lasso myself back into seriously attacking all these personal projects with more concrete goals (probably in the new year), and at that point I may go back to weekly updates or maybe some other form of goal creation that suites me.

But for now, I’m going to allow myself the mental break of saying, “It is what it is,” and just enjoy what each day gives me.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here of there.]

One Word…

I saw this on [info]ying_ko_4‘s blog, and thought I’d do it, too.

One Word for 2010? I’m going to go with growth, or perhaps development.

I suppose I say this mostly in relation to the second half of the year. My memory seems to be confined to shorter terms (i.e. within the past few months) or to specific events which are vivid, but loose all but a vague sense of when it actually happened. I’m really having a hard time remembering at the moment what “important events” happened from January to June.

However, I do feel that I’ve grown this year. I’ve made several leaps and bounds in my personal life that I’m rather proud of — paid off my car loan, earned enough money to start lowering my debt, moved into my first apartment. I also traveled to Germany on my own and enjoyed being lonely in a foreign country. And (shhhh) the big shocker, I’ve met a guy that I would actually consider dating (don’t know yet what’s going to happen with this one, maybe nothing, but it’s fun to imagine).

In my creative life, my progress has been a little slower. Novel and fiction writing has not gone so well, but I’ve kind of decided that that’s okay. There’s been a lot of other things going on. I’ve been a busy, busy girl, so I’m going to let it go. I could have also submitted more work this year, and that one, too, I’m going easy on myself with.

Jumping back into art, sketching and drawing, has been fun and beneficial for me. I don’t do it daily like I should (but then, I don’t do anything except getting dress and brushing my teeth daily like I should), but I can already feel how it’s slightly easier than before to create pictures that please me. I have tons more learning to do in order to get where I want to get with this, but for the moment it’s a fun pastime.

Where I’m really pleased creatively is in my poetry, however, and I really feel like it’s going well. I’ve written a lot of poetry this year — some of it’s bad, some of its okay, and some of it I’m proud to have written. Discovering blackout poetry was a great boon for me. It combined art with words into a meditative process that helped focus me into a writerly frame of mine and helped to inspire me with my original poetry.

The 30 Day Letter challenge, even though I’m not nearly done with it after several months, has also been a great thing. For a while I’ve thought my poetry too disjointed in subject matter and style to be able to pool it together into a collection. Silly writer, indeed. But this challenge has helped me through that by not only keeping me writing, but also with the knowledge that when I finish all 30 prompts I’ll have enough poems to attempt to publish as a chapbook. How awesome in that.

I hope my one word for 2011 will be thrive. Like a vine that’s continually growing and climbing up the wall, I want to thrive in heath and joy — to live each day fully. I want to continue to be abundant in money and love, and heck yeah, abundant in sex, too. Why not.

I want my words to flow like Niagara falls. I want the patience to sit and plan a novel and work through a draft from beginning to end. I want the courage to submit my work for publishing. I want to be paid for my words.

So many wants, and all within the realm of possibility.

Thriving doesn’t mean that the days will be without challenges, of course. There will always be challenges and long days in which I wish I had just stayed in bed. It just means that I take it all in and live it. That I weather the storms and if all goes well come out a little beat up, but also a little stronger after wards. Oh, yes, I want to thrive.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you may comment either here or there.]

The Path

You may or may not have noticed that I’ve posted no updates about my novel progress since the beginning of November. That is easily explained, because there has been no novel progress at all. In fact, there has been more a novel pit of despair, especially in the last few days.I started thinking about how I was going to approach my Untitled Alternate World Fantasy (UAWF) novel for November, and I realized quite clearly that I have no real idea where I’m going with it. I kept running through different approaches, ways to start the book again from a different angle, a point of view that might make everything come together and function. But then I came up against the fact that I don’t have even the foggiest idea how large the whole thing is supposed to be. Part of the problem is that I’m afraid the vague notion I have for an ending would not give the proper sense of resolution. It might not be enough — well, it would be enough for the character perhaps, but not enough for the reader. So my UAWF might constitute two books, or even a trilogy. And how the hell am I going to figure out how a second and third book works, if I can’t even figure out how the first one works.

It was all to big to think about, and I could picture myself writing and rewriting those first few chapters that I’ve already written in an attempt to find pathway through the plot, but never finding it. This endless loop of chapters that never amounted to anything.

So, okay, fine. What other novels can I work on? There are plenty of ideas vying for interest in my head, surely I could work on one of those. But there again, I ran up against the same problem. I didn’t know where I was going with them, and if I couldn’t find my way into a real plot with my UAWF, then what made me think that I could possibly get a different result simply by jumping to another storyline.

It began to feel utterly pointless to even try. I will never be a published novelist, I began to think. Why, oh, why do I bother? It’s all just such a waste of my time. I should just give up completely. This fatalistic feeling began to infect even my poetry and my poetry journal, which is normally a safe haven for me.

But of course I won’t give up. All these feelings come and they will go. I know this feeling is only temporary, and even now it is already beginning to dissapate.

There is no such thing as a waste of time in writing. All writing is good writing, if you believe that even the crap is a necessary part of the process and practice of writing. I know this. Unfortunately, I just can’t feel this right now.

I’m still not sure if I want to continue to focus on my UAWF or if I want to try out a different novel idea. If I stick with the UAWF novel, then I definitely need to sit down with a stack of notecards and map out the plot, so that I don’t feel so stuck in this loop. I don’t know if the novel works. I don’t know if it will be any good. But I know I need to keep writing. I need to keep going whether I finally finish this novel or another. There is nothing else to do.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]

In the Woods

Last night, after doing some sketching, I tried to put some words down on the page. Normally, I write something down and, whether its good or not, I just keep going. but last night, I just couldn’t stand what I was writing, so I started scribbling violently all over the page.

10-2

It doesn’t happen very often that I react so strongly to my own writing. Not that everything I write is good — far from it — but that I understand that crappy drafts are a natural part of the writing process. Last night, I just couldn’t take my own words. As soon as I put them down on the page, I had to get rid of them. If I hadn’t scratched them out, I would have torn out the page.

I tried to write something down this morning and got the same result. It was NOT coming together, and I couldn’t force myself to keep going through the crappy draft to get to the good. It was just bad and so again, I crossed it out.

11

This kind of thing happens sometimes. (This is probably tied to my frustrations around the novel I’m supposed to be working on this month.) I will keep writing of course, even though I may end up with more pages like these, because I know this feeling of frustration is temporary. I’ll pull out of it. I always do.

So I’ll keep writing and keep writing, and eventually I get to open fields of words again, but right now, stuck in the muck of the forest is where I am.

[Cross-posted to my art blog. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]

How to Handle Critiques

A friend on another blog is in the process of writing a novel (I believe it’s her first) and was feeling rather nervous about having to present the opening chapters to her critique group. I know how rough that can be (I’m sure all writers do), especially if someone starts tearing apart some of your favorite bits that you’ve written. Even knowing that the feedback can be a great help, it doesn’t keep it from being rather hard to hear sometimes.

So I sent her a list the things I do to help me get handle a writing critique, and thought I would share it here, too.

1. Take deep breaths and just listen. I try not to argue of explain. I just listen until they are finished and it’s my turn to talk.

2. I say, thank you. If someone didn’t understand something, I may explain what I was trying to get at in the hopes that talking it out with someone will help me figure out why the writing wasn’t clear and how I might improve it.

3. If someone really lays into my writing hard, I allow myself to feel hurt and raw about it for a little while — but there’s a time limit. I’m only allowed to mope and obsess for about an hour or two, and then I very firmly tell myself to let it go.

4. I remind myself that the critique is of my words and not of me as a person, that personal taste and opinions vary vastly, and that all writing is a progressive learning process and every piece of writing can be improved.

5. Once over any hurt feelings, I sit back and seriously think about what was said in comparison with my writing. Either (a) there is some truth in what was said and an opportunity to change and improve my writing, or (b) I disagree with what was said and will decide to leave the story/poem/chapter as is.

6. Get back to writing, because that’s what really matters.

Do you have any techniques you use to help you handle a critique session, especially one that’s particularly rough?

[x-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you may comment either her or there.]

Thoughts on Interpretation

As you probably know, I’ve been posting various art-related entries to my tumblr. I recently received an interesting comment there to one of my posts with my morning journal pages (this partucular one incorporating my drawing of a tree), and I thought it was interesting enough to share here.

searchingforsuperpowers wrote: 

your tree is bent to the “mother side” which would lead me to ask questions about your relationship with your mother. You added bark, which signals the need for protection… i could go on… my own quote.. (the tree is the wondow to the soul) 

My response: 
Wow. Hah. I can’t say that I put that much thought into it. I just sort of needed something to draw, saw a tree on the cover of a book similar to this, and so I drew it. But perhaps your suggesting there are some subconscious tendencies to this, which is to be expected, I suppose. It’s common that unexpected meaning comes out when you create something.

Or to think about it another way, once any art or writing is made, it owns itself and is free to be many things to many people. Anyone can take any piece of art and interpret it as they will. At that point, the art begins to say less about the artist than it does about the person interpreting it. 

Your response tells me a bit about you, that which fascinates you, and the way in which you view the world. You seem to show your spiritual side here, and certainly your passion for trees. (I would be interesting to learn how you developed your theories on trees.)

As to my relationship with my mother… we are very close, always have been. I must admit to some recent tension due to a series of recent challenges, which have affected the entire family. The result of this was that I have been the stable rod supporting my mother’s emotional rollercoaster. A role I’ve been honored to play, able thus to clearly see my mother grow and become a stronger person. But I’ve also recently reached a place in which I have had to seek my own sanctuary, my own space for personal emotional growth. A goal I’m still in the progress of working toward.

Maybe all that is in that little sketch that I threw together yesterday morning. I’m not inclined to think so (it was such a quick little drawing based on an existing tree), but who knows. Many, many things are possible. (^_^)

the lists monsters (a monday update)

I love lists. I love making them, lining up my to-dos or to-be-reads or hope-to-bes all in a row of possibilities. I love their logical assertions, or their assumptions of logic regardless of whether any single item has anything to do with any other single item. I love the feeling you get when you get to cross one off and feel as though a job’s been well done.

But I have a habit of making and then poking them idly from a distance with sticks. Or of simply abandoning them entirely as soon as they are composed.

This is a dangerous thing, this making and then abandoning. Because lists have a tendency to grow of their own accord, to become feral and monstrous and hungry. They will attack you in your dreams if you do not attend to them. They will scratch and paw and bite at your inner calm and security.

It’s best to tend them, to bring out the shears and prune them by striking out your accomplishments. Or better yet, by making your lists no greater than you can manage.

Which is to say that other than a few minor sketches in my morning poetry journal, I mostly ignored my list this past week (and many more lists in the weeks before), and I am beginning to grow concerned. So, I post this week with tentative fear and the hope that I can accomplish what I set forth in order to keep myself from being eaten alive.

To Do in the Coming Week
— continue to make progress on the story (actually finishing = triple bonus points)
— write, edit and/or polish 1-2 of my current poems
— write a 500 word article to submit to Matador
— submit a set of poems or a short story for publication
— do 3 walking/running routines for Couch to 5k
— do 5-7 days of morning yoga
— post a youtube video
— art, doesn’t matter what, but something

[x-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you may comment either here or there.]

there's no sting…. okay, maybe a little.

I have received a rejection on the four poems that I sent to The New Yorker. This was not a surprise really.

My immediate thought was, “Ah, well. C’est la vie.” I’m rather proud of the poems I sent in. I like them quite a lot, but that doesn’t mean their suited for that market. Besides, if nothing else, I’ve learned in the process of writing them, and maybe in a while I’ll have a new set of poems that will be even better. That’s what that writing process is all about.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a wee bit disappointed. But honestly, it was fun just sending something out to such a prestigious market, knowing that while it floated on the slush pile, I could hold on to that small spark of hope. 🙂

ETA: I forgot to mention that I already have another market lined up for these poems. So certainly, hope is alive an well.

[x-posted to my livejournal. you can comment here or there.]

Monday Update

Feeling good about this last week. I’m slowly building up my level of “getting shit done” again.

A set of four (short, short) poems were submitted to Bear Creek Haiku. I’ve been published in that journal before. Some really nice short poetry and haiku in that one.

In terms of actual writing, I’ve finally managed to turn back to the short story that I’ve been avoiding for a while. Up until this point, it’s been in a jumble of different pieces, which I have now assembled into one document. Now I just need to work my way through a rewrite so that I have a draft that I would actually allow someone to read.

I also edited and polished three more poems, which are now not quite complete, but at the point where they are starting to resemble completion. The morning poetry journal progress was only sporadic this week, mainly due to my keeping up with yoga in the mornings, which sometimes conflicts.

Also got two really good walking days in. In fact, my Saturday walk was more intense than intended. My sister walked the loop we always walk, taking us up a rather long hill, and then down a short steep one, before looping around to our car. Except, there was no looping around, because the trail was closed off. Our only choice was to return up the really steep hill in order to get back — which kind of sucked, but also turned out to be less difficult than I though. I guess I am improving, after all.

To Do in the Coming Week
– continue to make progress on the story (actually finishing = triple bonus points)
– write, edit and/or polish 2-3 of my current poems
– submit a set of poems or a short story for publication
– do 3-4 walking and/or running days
– post a youtube video
– art, doesn’t matter what, but something

[x-posted to my livejournal. you may comment here or there.]

Monday Update

I was significantly less productive this week. I have no legitimate excuses for this — not even mother’s day counts. It was all a general lack of focus more than anything else.

That Which Hath Been Accomplished in the Past Week
1. One more poem has reached a “finished” draft. A few more took long strides toward completion, and a couple drafts of entirely new poems have come into being.

An Aside: I find that the more I write, the more I stay inspired to keep writing. One of those “an object in motion tends to stay in motion” kind of things. Does anyone else find that writing ideas and writing in general tends to flow more easily if you keep up the habit of writing?

2. Youtube video completed. A round up of my challenges for National Poetry Month, as well as a reading of one poem that I wrote.

3. I completed my walking/running days — barely. It’s starting to look like we’re not going to make it to the half marathon in Disneyland in September. To make it, we should be really focused on training, and we’re not. Not to mention the financial aspect of the trip.

There is a local run (6 miles-ish) coming up here in June. I’m going to aim for that one.

That Which Need-ith Accomplishing in the Coming Week
– continue to make progress on the story (actually finishing = triple bonus points)
– edit and polish 2-3 of my current poem drafts
– submit a set of poems or a short story for publication
– do 3-4 marathon training days
– post a youtube video
– art, doesn’t matter what, but something

Monday Update

All in all, despite being sick, last week was a fairly productive. The only thing that was really harmed was the whole walking/running/marathon training thing. I didn’t feel it would be a good idea to overwork my lungs when I had a racking chest cough.

That Which Hath Been Accomplished in the Past Week
1. The April Poetry Challenge in officially over. I began several new poems this week. None were actually reached a finished (i.e. publishable) stage. So my final count is 9 completed poems, 11 poems in draft form, for a total of 20 poems. This does not include the various haiku I wrote, or that which was recording in my morning poem journal. If I include those I’m closer to the required 30.

Any way you slice it, however, this was an incredibly productive poetry month for me. I probably got more work done in April than I had in previous six. So I’m probably going to challenge myself again in June. In the meantime, I will be spending this month trying to get those drafts polished to completion.

2. I submitted four poems to The New Yorker. I don’t really have any expectations of getting accepted (though it could happen), but I figure what the hell, anything could happen. I’m not terribly afraid of rejection anyway. I just figure it’s par for the course.

3. I killed two birds with one stone by creating A Zombie Limerick, in which I created a youtube video by reading a poem I wrote and making some collaged and painted artwork. I think it turned out rather well.

That Which Need-ith Accomplishing in the Coming Week
— continue to make progress on the story (actually finishing = triple bonus points)
— edit and polish 2-3 of my current poem drafts
— submit a set of poems or a short story for publication
— do 3-4 marathon training days
— post a youtube video
— art, doesn’t matter what, but something

[x-posted to my livejournal.]

That Which Hath Been Accomplished
1. Over 2200 words have been written on the short story that seems to have no end. Many of these words were of an outlining sort as I tried to figure out just how I was going to wrap things up. The good news is that I may actually know how I’m going to wrap things up. I don’t know whether the jumping back and forth between the past and present is going to work or fail, but I suppose we’ll find out once I edit it all together and actually let others read it.

2. I have successfully finished (ish, because poems can always be further edited) four poems for April’s 30 poems in 30 days challenge. (Some of which have been posted to my blog.) I also have seven poems in the ideas/draft stage of writing. It’s not a bad start, but I should really “finish” ten to twelve more by the end of this week.

3. I have completed all of my marathon training days (along with some supplementary exercises on other days), which means I ran/walked a total of 9+ miles last week. Whoo!

4. A new youtube video was completed for both my personal and the collaborative channels.

All of this means that I more or less completed three of my four to-dos from last week. *does a little dance*

That Which Need-ith Accomplishing in the Coming Week
— continue to make progress on the story (actually finishing = triple bonus points)
— finish the drafts of 10-12 new poems
— do 3-4 marathon training days
— post a youtube video
— art, doesn’t matter what, but something

[This post has been x-posted to my livejournal.]

New Online Zine

The premier issue of Cats with Thumbs is now available online as a downloadable pdf (there are a bunch of blank pages at the beginning, just scroll past them to get to the writing). It includes two of my poems, “Nature’s Mandala” and “All That is Left Behind.” This is really a great first issue, and I’ve been enjoying reading the work of the other writers within.

Under Poetry, I particularly enjoyed “Planet Pomegranate” by Angie Werren, “The Best Have No Time for It” by Therese L. Broderick, and “Selection” by Timothy Edge. (I haven’t had a chance to read through the Fiction yet, so can’t comment.)

* * * *

In terms of weekly writing progress, I’m still a bit behind. It doesn’t help that my computer has crapped out on my, trapping some of my writing within the confines of its plastic body, and relegating my to the traditional pen and pencil route.

Though if I’m going to be perfectly honest with myself, I cannot blame the computer but my own lack of motivation. I’m desperately trying not to fall back into an old pattern here. By which I mean, I find an anthology market that I would love to submit to, come up with a story that would work for that market, and then allow myself to work at such a slow pace that I miss the deadline.

I think this tendency comes from some sort of fear of failure, such as “if I don’t finish the story, then I don’t have to deal with the disappointment of its inevitable rejection,” which I know is completely ridiculous. One, because nothing is inevitable, and two, because I really do think the story could work and could have potential, if I just force myself to write the damned thing. It’s that whole failing before I even begin bull shit, which I’m tired of repeating.

So, that said, since the deadline is looming (only 13 days away), my main goal this week is to get the damn thing written and edited (computer or no computer), so that I can submit it next week.

[X-posted in part to my daily blog.]

I just finished writing 719 words, another small portion of a short story, which is at a current total of 2122 words. It always feels good to be writing, especially if I’m making progress, which I am. Currently I have a vague inclination of where the story is going and I think I can work it all out. I’ve got my fingers crossed that this story will work, because I’m hoping to submit it to Sherherazade’s Facade, a rather cool anthology market. But whatever happens, it will feel good to just have a finished story in my hands, complete with a beginning, middle, and end.

[X-posted to my livejournal.]

Distractions

I’ve fallen rather behind on Nano. And what’s more, instead of writing or even going on one of my walk/runs for marathon training, I spent last night in a frenzy of watching TV episodes on hulu.com. I watched the latest Heroes and Dollhouse episodes, and then discovered that hulu also has some old Buffy episodes, so I went and watched three of those. I have no proper excuse, but I choose to fogive myself for the indiscretion on the premise that I needed a mental break.

Going home to work on Nano doesn’t seem to be effective for me. So I will be going to a coffee shop with no internet access tonight, which will force me to either write or stare at the blank screen for long periods of time. (I have no games on my computer.)

However, there is another distraction that I have to be concerned about. As usual, I’m getting all kinds of ideas for other stories and novels while I’m in the middle of a current creation. Most of these I can just take down a few notes on and set aside. But this idea has sort of hit me upside the head and I really, really want to write even though I know that I really, really have to wait until I finish draft zero of my current Nano novel. (And that’s finish all of draft zero, by the way, not just the 50,000 words for Nano.)

So I will take down the beginnings of notes and ideas, forcibly put them away in a file, and try really, really hard not to think about it too much. Oh, but it’s going to be hard.

[X-posted to my livejournal.]

the muse mosquito is tickling my ear

Well, I will be participating in National Novel Writing Month once again this year. For those who may be staring at me funny, Nanowrimo is that wonderful time of year when novelists  come together to each write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. It’s a great challenge that shoves away the inner critic for a while. I’ve participated for many years, completing the challenge sometimes and failing others. Always it’s a good experience, though this is a challenging year for me to be attempting such a thing. Ah, well.

In the mean time, I am itching to start Nano. Right now my novel idea is almost constantly in my mind, and it’s driving me a little nuts that I have to wait until tomorrow midnight to begin. I have most of the opening scenes mapped out. Some of the middle scenes are there, too, and I have some general ideas of where I want it all to end up, which is nice. And although I don’t really have names yet, my characters are starting to blossom with wants and desires and motivations, which will help keep the main force of the story going.

All of which is very exciting. I would love to have a novel readable enough that I would feel comfortable sending out to family and friends for critique. I would then dance and sing and be merry.

[X-posted to my livejournal.]

The Writing Life: Long Term Goals

Today I thought it would be good to follow the writing prompt set by young adult author Laurie Halse Anderson .

The prompt? “Write down where you want your writing life to be in 2010, in 2024, and in 2026.”

Goals are excellent things to have. They help keep a clear purpose in mind. I know I’ve been writing small weekly goals (some I meet, some I don’t), but I have a feeling that now is a good time to get some of my larger goals anchored down. It’s also fun to look back at goals you set years in the past and compare them to where your currently at.

2010: One of my main goals for next year is to have a chapbook or full collection of poetry published. I’m getting to where I have enough poetry that’s completed, that I like, and that has the same sort of tone that such a thing is possible. I’m going to be submitting to a couple of poetry chapbook contests in the next couple of months and we’ll see what happens with that.

I would also like to have several completed and published short stories, more single poems published in journals, and my really big goal: to have a novel completed that is manuscript ready. By which I mean that the novel is edited to point that I could consider sending it out and shopping for agents (slightly scary).

2014: Five years from now? My goal is to have several book-length collections of poetry published. By then, I would love to have many novels written, two to three of which would be published with another on its way. (Idealism and high hope are good. Really.)

Somewhere in there, I would like to have had at least one feature film script written and hopeful produced into a film. I really enjoy the filmmaking process, how so many ideas from so many people can come together into something that (hopefully) works.

On a personal note, I would like to have done some more extensive traveling. I especially would like to spend some serious time in South America as well as hit various points in India and Europe.

2026: I’m not really one to reach that far into the future, and while I do think setting goals is important, I also think it’s important to live in the moment. Besides a lot can happen in seventeen years. I would hope that my career would continue exponentially, with all the good spiraling into more and more good. More books and poetry and scripts written and ultimately published. And if there’s award or two in there, all the better (Though just getting published is joy enough for me, hell, just completing something to where I’m happy with it is joy enough, or better yet, just writing is in many ways joy enough.)

I think these goals are entirely realistic and possible. Accomplishing all of this, however, means that I will need to have a higher productivity rate than my current level. Again, do-able. It is a simple requirement of making choices. Watch TV or write 500 more words? Hmm, let me think about that.

[x-posted to my blog]