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.

Home again from Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee is a pretty cool town. Beyond the neon lights of the entertainment strip, where every bar has live music pouring out country and rock tunes, there are plenty of sights of explore and some fabulous places to eat (my mother and I visited Biscuit Love twice, because the Bonuts, OMG, they are so good). Despite my falling ill halfway through the week, my mom and I managed to have a great time, hanging out in the city and exploring the countryside. A little longer write up on the trip will come in the next day or two, because I have thoughts. But for now…

What I’m Reading

I’m doing a reread of Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler, as she will be the Honorary Ghost at FOGcon 2016. I’m relearning all over again how amazing she is at telling complex and interesting short stories. If you want a short form introduction to Butler’s writing, this is a great way to go. Several of these stories — “Bloodchild,” “Speech Sounds,” and “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” — were nominated for awards, such as the Hugo and Nebula.

What I’m Writing

In the week prior to my Tennessee trip, I hunkered down and finished a new draft of a my short story, “A Dream of This Life,” which is about dream selling and addiction. Response to the story has been good so far, although it still needs some tweaking. For the moment, however, I’m just going to let it sit for a little while so that I can come back to it fresh.

I also pulled together a set of poems and got them sent off.

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

Allie Marini writes on the Fallacy of the ‘Serious Writer’ in her an ongoing series of essays on reading fees over at Rhizomatic Ideas.

Kelli Russell Agodon on how women writers can become more successful: Submit Like A Man.

“As literary writers, when writing about our individual traumas, we’re still called upon to use the elements of our craft in a way that strives to move beyond the individual story, and instead, capture something universal, or offer something educational,” writes Kelly Sundberg in her essay, Can Confessional Writing be Literary?

My inner critic is harassing me

What I’m Reading

I’m still reading Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. The story is focused on the coming of age journey of the main character, dealing with a mess up family, deciding what to do with yourself after high school, and falling in love. But it’s also marked with the constant fear of being made the target of a serial killer (Son of Sam).

What I’m Writing

Words and I did not get along so well last week.

This is in part because the day job has not eased up on me as much as I expected it, too. I will pass this hurdle soon enough, I hope. Oh, how I hope.

This is also because I’ve been trying to write more thorough book reviews for “professional” publication on various websites. When I’m writing reviews for my blog, then the process is no problemo. But as soon as I decide to write a review for submission, my inner critic clamps down and strangles the words out of me. The process of working through the block has been causing me to fall behind on both my writing AND my reading, which it so, so frustrating.

I’ve been trying to think about the book review process differently by imagining the book reviews as being only for myself or my blog in order to shake the inner critic off. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I just give up and post it on my blog, like I did with The Ballad of Black Tom, just to get it done and posted.

However, despite all these frustrations, I managed to send out several submissions of poetry, so at least I felt productive in some way.

Accepted! Yellow Chair Review has accepted my poem, “A Letter from Eve to Barbie,” for their forthcoming Issue #6!

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

“In “Formation,” black women’s bodies are literally choreographed into lines and borders that permit them to physically be both inside and outside of a multitude of vantage points. And what that choreography reveals is the embodiment of a particular kind of 21st Century black feminist freedom in the United States of America; one that is ambitious, spiritual, decisive, sexual, capitalist, loving and communal,” writes Naila Keleta-Mae in her piece GET WHAT’S MINE: “FORMATION” CHANGES THE WAY WE LISTEN TO BEYONCE FOREVER.

Ursula Le Guin Gives Insightful Writing Advice in Her Free Online Workshop.

It’s Women in Horror Month, and Carina Bissett presents some excellent examples of women writing the weird.

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!