NaNoWriMo, 2020

I am still down a digit, but I persevere.  Typing remains difficult, but I can’t not do it.  I tried.  My brain overloaded and spilled out my fingertips anyway, all nine working ones.

After about twenty minutes of typing, my hand gets tired.  So, this will be short.  This will also be my second and last NaNo update.

It broke my little writer-heart when I broke my little writer-pinky, just a week into the month I had been looking forward to all year.  I had already spent the first week sick as a dog, and I was not pleased about the circumstances that led to a splint on my little finger for the remainder of the month.

I topped out around 5k words on NaNo, 45k short to win.  I knew I wouldn’t win as soon as my doctor looked at my finger and said “ouch.”  The dream died in that moment.

I was feeling very ambitious on October 31st.  I was raring to go, all my prep work done and my fingers itching to begin the typing process.  But sickness.  Then injury.  Then nothing for two weeks.  Two weeks where I could barely even click a mouse because it irritated my hand, let alone type.  Two weeks of no writing, in a time that was not the dreaded writer’s block.  The ideas were flowing, but where to put them?  Little dictated notes here and there, pecking things out on my phone with my thumbs.  Fleeting thoughts trapped, yet not expanded upon.

I am almost done with chapter 2 of my novel.  I started typing again the other night, and even as I write this I am a little mad I am using my strength on the blog today instead of the book.   I am WAY behind schedule…so I tore up the schedule.  Instead, I will hack away at this lump of rock until my sculpture appears, no matter how long it takes.

I’ll tell you a secret.

I love The Second Before, the little novel I wrote last year.  I don’t know if it will go anywhere though.  The outlook on my current WIP is different.  If I can write it, I can sell it.  I know that, deep down like I know anything.  This faith pushes me to work harder on it.  I already have put in more time than I did on TSB, and it’s much more epic than that little piece.  It will be good, should I manage to get it out of my head.

Anyway, NaNoWriMo 2020 was a wash, which isn’t that surprising given the course of the year thus far.  Maybe next year I will try again, if another idea presents itself, but it is much more likely I will just take my 2019 win and go, and write this novel that has been taking up space in my brain for so many years.  I think that will be 2021’s project, and it will take more than a month, but it will be so worth it in the end.

A Foot in a Door

Recently, I had some good news, but I was reluctant to share without getting my feet wet, first. 

A while back, I answered an ad on Submittable.  For the new reader, Submittable is a website most literary journals use to organize their submissions, so it is where I am often found sending stuff out.  Anyway, the ad was for a social media management intern.  They needed someone to run their socials.  I, with no job and a strong desire to break into publishing in any way necessary, thought I could handle such a thing and wrote them a letter.  I have no real writing resume, and no expertise as a social media manager, so I didn’t hold great hope, so when my application rolled to “in-progress,” I was surprised.

After a while, I got a reply, saying thanks but no thanks on the media manager position.  But then, the second line…would I be interested in being a reader?

Another internship-style position, but a better one, in my opinion.  More hands on.  More into the actual reading and writing and approval of what gets published.  Would I be interested?  Damn straight.

And so, for the past month or so, I have been a fiction and poetry reader for Ember Chasm Review.

I remember sending my first rejection.

I was sad.  It was good poetry.  It just didn’t fit the brand, so it had to be rejected.  And I, as newly crowned queen of the slush pile, had to do it.  I sent a little silent apology to the author.  I’ve received so many rejections, and honestly, I don’t care that much; I’m not the sort that keeps track.  But I know some people out there do, and every time I hit the rejection button, I feel a little sad for them.

Oh, but when I get to set something as “in-progress!”

When I get a well-written, interesting piece that matches the brand, that is exciting!  I cheer for the individual, and hope they make it through the next round, even though I know many do not.  Still, how wonderful it is, I know, to see your submission roll over to “in-progress.”  As I write this, I have several poems in this stage, and five mags looking at my short RBG piece…I know someone is going to want something. 

I know it.

Next up is a Halloween contest held by Button Eye Review, an imprint of Ember Chasm that focuses on horror and the like.  I will be judging it with one of the editors, and I am very excited as I love horror…it was the genre that made me fall in love with reading.

I was waiting to share this lovely news until I was on the website, which I should be in a couple days, but as I needed something to write about today and I have next week’s topics all planned out, I figured I would announce this cool development today.

I am so excited to be involved with this review.  They have awesome things planned, and the issues they have put out so far are great.  I invite you to check out their site HERE.

Now, off to finish some prep work.

3 days until NaNo.

Nothing

What shall I blog about today?

The obvious choice is the election, until I looked at my calendar and realized I will be blogging about that next Monday.  Then I thought about writing about writing, of course.  But I recently wrote about Preptober and my future poetry path.  So, I figured I could write more specifically about NaNo, but then looked at the calendar again and realized I’m starting my weekly updates on that next Thursday, anyway.

I scrolled Twitter for a while, hoping to find an interesting question or topic.  Unfortunately, today is a PitMad event.  This is a complicated thing to explain but the basis is that you pitch your book via tweet to editors and agents.  So, my feed is clogged up with book ideas…some are great, but there’s not a lot of varying topics.

I could write about my weekend.  On Saturday, I took L fishing, and it was the first time we really hung out one-on-one.  At first, he seemed bored, but once we found some fish hiding under the dock, he got into it.  On the way home I mentioned an action scene in my novel that I am planning, and having some trouble with.  We spent the next hour or so discussing weapons, stealth tactics, armor, etc.  It was good bonding time, and it thrills me whenever the kiddos take an interest in my work.

On Sunday I woke, sick.  Off to the ER.  I don’t remember much…it’s all foggy.  I know that the intake nurse said “Hey, I heard you are an author” and I said “Yes I am!” and then threw up.  I don’t know how she knew that.

Bernie picked me up after a few hours and was told to take me home but then I found out that my people were all at my mom’s house: parents, husband, Kev, Sharon, and L.  So, I demanded she take me there.  She bought me a smoothie from McDonalds that I drank while everyone else ate chili, and then drove me home.  I think I may have dozed off at the table.

Today I feel good.  Healthy and happy and doing fine.  Except for I don’t know what to write about.

They say when you are in such a predicament, that you should write about exactly the dilemma: that you are stuck, or wordless.  This was my attempt to do that.  I don’t know that anything really came of it.  I do know that after today I am booked up on blog topics for the next couple of weeks, so that’s a satisfying feeling.  This?  This is just filler.

And as always, Happy Monday.

The Next Verse

So, as you may know, earlier this year I released a chapbook of poetry regarding chronic and mental illness.  I like chapbooks, because usually they revolve around a topic of some sort, and I like poetry that speaks to a certain thing.  They’re smaller than your regular collection, but if you’re looking for a certain area to read about, you can find it easier.  A friend asked about a month or so ago what was the next for me on the poetry front, and I said I was composing a chap of love poems.  Not the usual “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” sort, mind you.  I don’t write like that. 

This book will actually be about love that is obsessed over, brutally mismanaged, and often unrequited. 

Then the other day, I was sitting on the couch watching the news and Hubs was playing his phone game, and I thought gee…maybe your husband might not like it if you publish a book of poetry about other dudes.  Maybe he will feel threatened, or jealous, or betrayed somehow.  “Babe, how would you feel if I published a chapbook about other men?”

“I honestly do not care.”  He didn’t even look up from his game.

After he won his round, he looked up and went on to say that he felt himself to be the winner in the situation and as such was not worried.  He didn’t really need to explain though, because when he said he didn’t care, I knew he was telling the truth.

I have been writing poems since I was fifteen years old.  I have been with Mark since I was 27.  That is over a decade of angsty poems about various guys I encountered during that time, and my husband is not so simple that he thinks I was just waiting around for him. 

Some of the poems are crap, but could be well-fixed with edits.  Some are good.  A couple even rhyme, something I used to do all the time but rarely do now, as a lot of mags won’t accept rhyming poems.  Which I think is crap…it’s harder to write a good rhyming poem than a good free verse.  But I digress…

Anyway, I’ve got all these poems about these men.  Some are wonderful dudes that I am proud to have  known and loved.  Others are not.  Now, when I edit, I try to read though once from an outsider’s perspective, as best as I can.  How would I relate to this poem were I not me?  Could I relate to it, even?  Sometimes the answer is no, and I cut it from the project.  Sometimes it’s a resounding yes.  Sometimes it’s a maybe, and I edit it to make it more adaptable.  I’ve done this with twenty poems so far.  I may be able to scrounge up a couple more, which would be nice, but that’s a decent length for a chapbook.

My first book was about chronic and mental illness.  All the poems in it were a reflection of myself at my most vulnerable.  Having succeeded in overcoming my fears regarding such things, I am ready to tackle another vulnerable side of myself, the part of me that gives permission to love.  And who on earth can’t relate to that, in some form? 

Anyway, this is just my brain working.  It’s a ways off before I send it out to folks, but I’m thinking of it today.  My next chapbook out will actually hopefully be a mini-chap though Pen & Anvil Press, but I am still waiting to hear back from them regarding editing and publication dates.  But this guy, this little book of love and hate and loss and lust, that’s what I’m working on next, poetry-wise.

But probably not until December.  Because, you know, 10 days until NaNo. 

Preptober 2020

Well, it is October, so I am knee-deep in Preptober.

What’s Preptober, you ask?

Well, first, I have to tell you about NaNoWriMo. 

NaNo, as I will call it henceforth, is short for National Novel Writing Month, which is every November.  There is a website, where you sign up and log your daily word count throughout the month.  The goal is to write at least 50,000 words.  It is a daunting task.  I won by a nose last year, pulling in about 51.000 words. My first book’s first draft was complete.  It is short, likely going to be a novella or a serial or something, but it’s done and out of me and I was prouder of myself than I have ever been.

Now, when I wrote that guy, I had massive amounts of prep done already.  Outlines, character descriptions, dialogue snippets, and about four already written chapters.  I didn’t need to do a whole lot of prep, because I had already done it years earlier when I got the idea for the book.  It was just a matter of sitting down to write it.

This year, though, things are a little different.  I have an outline and character descriptions and a very rough first chapter, and only because I have been working on these things since Oct. 1.  See, the month beforehand is called Preptober, and it’s when we get ready for NaNo.  I have a workbook I am using, and it has been very helpful for streamlining my thought processes.  Everyday I complete a task from the book, then I work it into my notes or story.  It has really been useful. 

Last year, I wrote a little story that had lived in me for a couple of years, ever since Robin Williams passed away, actually.  That was the day I started it.  It marinated in my head for a while before falling out my fingertips.  This story is similar, but it has been soaking in my brainwaves for a much longer period of time.

See, I started writing a book about 18 years ago or so, when Bush was president and I thought the world was on fire (hindsight is 20/20.)  It was about a group of freedom fighters who topple a dictator who has taken over the USA and implemented many unjust laws to suit his own desires.  Then Obama got elected, and some of my fire died out, so I abandoned it for a while.  Then 45 got elected, and I reread it, realized I am either a plagiarizer or a fortune-teller, and scrapped the whole thing.

But those characters.  I spent so much time on those characters, and I loved them.  I love them more than Frankie, my lead from last year’s novel.  They have been living in my head for so long, just waiting to be put into prose.  Now is the time.

I scrapped the whole plot, of course.  I built a new one, and inserted my lovely characters into it.  And it’s already better than it was before…they are adapting to their surroundings quite nicely.

So, today’s Preptober assignment is about inciting action. When I do these exercises, I feel like I am back in Ms. Maloney’s 12th grade creative writing class.  Part of me is like “Oh, this is pointless, writing out these details that are already in my brain.”  The other part of me remembers that class, and the four-inch thick portfolio I left it with, and how each of those stories had a worksheet or an essay or something to help me understand the aspects of storytelling better.  And they worked, so I am leaning on these assignments the same way I did my English homework.

Anyway, we are almost halfway though the month, so NaNo is fast approaching.  As I did last year, I will be updating my blog on Thursday’s in November with my progress reports on the whole experience.  I have very high hopes this time around, because I think that A. my novel will be significantly longer…we’re talking full-length book.  And B. I think it is a marketable concept.  I really believe it will get published.  I really believe it will sell. 

Just gotta get it outta my fingertips.

The Sleeping Muse

Sometimes, as a writer, you start to think the muse is dead.

At the end of every three months or so, I prep my poetry submissions for the upcoming season.  There is a site called Entropy that publishes a huge list of journals accepting submissions every three months, and I work my way through it with my seasonal submission and hope for the best.  I haven’t encountered any hiccups (this is since starting submissions in 2018.)  Until now, that is.

I won’t call it writer’s block, because I am writing.  I’m pecking out my bi-weekly blog, and the occasional note or dialogue for the novels, both that in editing and that in planning.  But my poetry has been stifled, somehow.  It’s just not flowing.  And this makes me nervous, because poetry is my lifeline to writing on the whole. 

Usually, it happens spontaneously.  Something will happen, or occur to me, and I will have to write it down in a rush, then edit it, then voila!  A poem.  Bam, just like that.  A few a week, usually.  But lately…nothing.

Yesterday, I made myself write one.  It was about the Out of the Darkness Walk that I do every September.  I decided I would write it as a warm-up…give myself a topic (the walk, as yesterday marked one more month until the event,) and sit down at the computer and write something about it.  I surprised myself, in the end.  Which is a good sign.

Any time I surprise myself while writing, it means it’s pretty good.  If I’m reading back what I’ve written and I’ve forgotten I was the author, then it’s really good.  These are the standards by which I judge my work.  It felt like, for some time, this wasn’t happening for me.  Nothing was surprising me.  I feel very hopeless in these moments, as though the muse has left and will never return. 

But then I wrote a little poem, and it’s kind of good.  Then, I wrote another…not as good, but the fire was there.  I wrote a third.  And a fourth…

By the end of the day I had my fall submissions ready to go.  Yesterday morning, I had nothing.  I had the feeling of self-doubt that consumes the writer who doesn’t know what to write about.  I had the voice in my head whispering that it was all crap.  But, last night, I had a full submission packet and several new poems. 

The muse is not dead.  Sleeping, perhaps.  But not dead.

Sunday Surprise

I used to keep journals, religiously.  Until one day, a terrible thing happened and I destroyed them all in an effort to burn away my memories.  It didn’t work at first, but with time and no pages to look over I gradually let go of things that I held onto for too long.

I have one journal left, that chronicles a chunk of my 20’s.  I don’t read it; I just keep it because someday there might be a story in there.  Aside from my journals, there are my blogs.  I have kept many blogs over the years, ranging from the personal to the professional.  I suppose this is as close as I come to journaling these days.

Now, if I did still keep one, I would certainly have written in it about yesterday.

I was sitting in bed eating carrots and watching 30 Rock on Hulu when my dad called me.  “Are you sitting down??” he says.  Oh, no.  Someone is dead.  Wait, no, he doesn’t sound upset.  Must be good news?  What could it be??  I, of course, run crazy with thoughts in that moment, but then he says something about the newspaper and it takes me a minute to put the pieces together and suddenly I realize what he is telling me.

I am in the newspaper.

Now, I’ve been published all over the web.  And I have a book of poetry out.  But I really don’t think anyone was as excited about any of that as much as they were about me being in the paper.  Mom came and took me to the gas station to buy a copy.  When I got home, the poetry editor from the News sent me a friend request, with an image of my poem.  He tagged me in a Facebook post that I shared on my socials.  And still…I was in shock.

See. I dreamt of this before anything.

I wanted to be on that poetry page since I was a teenager, discovering it one afternoon while searching the Gusto for acting gigs.  It seemed…attainable.  And yet…my early poetry was only published at the now defunct poetry.com. (Side note: the website still exists, but I don’t know where my poems went.)  I didn’t think any of the early stuff good enough, anyways.  Then, after my self-imposed writing hiatus and comeback, I saw the news as UNATTAINABLE, because I just wasn’t good enough.  I didn’t have a book yet, or a signing, or an interview.  I was nobody.

Now, I disagree.  I have stats to back my writing up, a little.  So, I composed an email and sent it to the poetry editor and waited, hopeful.

And then this.

The poem was the one I won the Poesia contest with, too.  So that little guy is having a good summer.

I am reminded a little of the tale “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”  In it, her father tells her “If you see it in The Sun [their local newspaper,] it’s so.”  That is how I feel today.  I saw it in the News.  It must be true.

So, if I kept a journal, that’s what I would write about today.  Maybe a little about how E is spending the week and I am looking forward to lots of time with her while Mark is at work.  Today we are going to the park to do a photoshoot for a new author pic for me.  Tomorrow she wants to go fishing.  She has never been here solo before, so this is a really fun new experience for us.  I would write about it, because I would want to remember it.

I don’t keep journals anymore, and by default, I don’t do scrapbooks anymore either though I still have about seven of them.  I kind of wish I did, so I would have somewhere to put my newspaper clipping.  Ah, well. 

A frame will have to do. 

Rejected

One of my favorite books about writing is called On Writing.  Guess who wrote it?  Stephen, of course.  So naturally I adore it and have read it thrice.

Now, everything Mr. King says is not law.  It’s not my bible, anymore than Elements of Style or my college writer’s handbook are, but it adds to the scripture of my writing beliefs, and it tells me amusing tales of my favorite author. 

One of the stories I like is that he got a nail and stuck it to his wall, and then put every rejection slip he received onto the nail.  Eventually he had to upgrade to a spike.  I am thinking of Stephen’s spike this morning, as I scroll though Twitter and see several people discussing their number of rejections.

Here’s what I do:

I have a Word file in which I log every submission.  When I get a rejection, I go back and italicize the entry.  If I get an acceptance, I make it bold.  Now, I have been keeping this log since I started submitting things in 2018, so it’s a little long.  Thing is though, I really have no idea how many rejections I have received.  And I don’t care to know.

I feel like knowing exactly how many times someone has said “nope, not you,” would be incredibly stressful.  I mean, I could go back and count, but I don’t want to.  I could also count my acceptances, but I don’t do that either.  What I like to do, though, is save my best acceptances.  I have four or five that really made me smile.  My first short story acceptance will always stay with me: “I thought this would be a cliched, POV experiment,” he said, “I was wrong.” 

There are some great rejections I have gotten, too.  The ones along the lines of “we’re sorry, we loved it, we ran out of room, submit again,” are my favorites.  Some editors really take the time to send good rejections, and those are the journals and mags I want to submit to again. 

As I’ve written before, I handle rejection better than the average person, likely because of my theater background.  So, when I get a rejection, even the form-letter sort, I move on from it rather quickly.  Italicize, and go.  Onto the next.  I suppose that’s why it is hard for me to wrap my head around the concept of keeping a running tally of rejections in your head.  Aren’t you stressed out?  Aren’t you anxious in every possible way?  I know I would be.

I went back and looked at my log for submissions of A Lovely Wreckage.  I submitted to 15 places.  Six said no thanks, one said yes, and the rest I withdrew.  Six nope’s to get the yes, and I know I lucked out there.  But some people?  200 no’s, still waiting on that yes.  How do you sleep at night with that knowledge in your head?!

Rejection is a huge part of the querying process, and I feel well prepared to deal with it, which is a new and interesting turn of events.  I do not focus on it, because that can weigh you down.  Just assume you weren’t a match…it’s like online dating.  So someone swiped left on you.  Big deal.  Plenty of fish in the sea, or poetry journals in the sea, as the case may be.

I guess my point is to not let the rejections become your focus, because it will throw you off your game.  If there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that little is accomplished if you don’t believe in yourself.  If you do, eventually, they will, too.

Minefield

In the past few days on Twitter I have seen a great many readers and writers discussing book reviews.  It did not go well, most of the time.

For instance, one author mentioned how they do not understand why people would leave a poor review based off, and I quote, “one sentence.”  This reviewer also did not finish the book after said sentence, and gave it a one-star review.  The reading community did not like his tweet.

I chimed in, like an idiot, trying to bolster him by saying that I would not care about a review if someone did not “put in the effort” to finish the book.  I got several responses saying that a reader can do whatever they want after getting the book, and that reading for pleasure shouldn’t be an effort.  Yeah, you’re right.  My wording sucked a little.  But the point remains: if you didn’t finish it, I, as an writer, do not trust your review.

I have finished so many books that I did not like.  And I also do not leave poor reviews.  I also have not gotten any poor reviews.  So, I understand that my experience is different from others.  But like it or not, I would never, ever leave a review for something I did not finish.  So, I understand the original tweeters question.  People also started taking issue with them “calling out” the poor reviewer, which I agree is uncouth, but is not what they intended to do, I think.  Anyway, there was backlash.

Then I saw a few other tweets by other folks discussing the same thing.  I stayed out of those threads, but read the comments.  Some readers feel we should just not read our reviews, and many writers agree.  I am in the opposite camp, which I guess is controversial?

My reviews-again, so far so good-have bolstered me.  I couldn’t not read them.  I need them on days when I feel like it’s all crap.  Now, how will I feel when I inevitably get the bad one?  I don’t know.  But I hope that I will look at it with a critical eye.  I hope that it will be constructive to me in some way.  However, if I get something along the lines of “I read one poem, and hated it” I wouldn’t even factor that into my consciousness.  First of all, I maintain that if you didn’t finish it, you’re not in the right position to be judging it.  Secondly, obviously, I didn’t write it for YOU.  And that’s ok.

Now, I really do not care what you do with my book.  You bought it.  It’s your property. Read it, pass it on, shelve it, throw it out, burn it…do what you will.  I hope that if you like it, you leave a review.  If you don’t, I hope you can just say “eh, not for me,” and move along.  And if you must leave a one-star review, I’m just saying, it would be great if you could come at me with guns blazing, so that I can identify any actual problems in my work.

Or, y’know, whatever.  You bought it.

So yes, I will read my reviews.  No, I will not make the mistake of taking to Twitter about bad ones (or asking questions about them, as the case may be.)  Others learned that lesson for me this week, some the hard way, and that sucks for them.  Especially newbies like me…maybe we don’t know the decorum of reviews yet.  Maybe we have no flipping idea how any of this works and are learning as we go.

Most people Google things to get answers, but trust me when I tell you, that is difficult in writing and publication.  You really need to find stuff out firsthand.  And connecting with writers on Twitter is a great way to do it.  Unfortunately, you are occasionally attacked for a misstep, and your meaning gets lost in 280 characters.  (Actually, this is just a general Twitter problem.)

Still…Twitter may bring occasional disagreements or trolls or whatever, but I made some great connections because of the Twitter Writing Community.  I would have no illustrator without it, no publisher for my mini-chap, no book blogger reviews.  It helps me sell my book, and connects me to people who are in different stages of their literary careers.  Not to mention that there are publishers and editors and agents galore.  It’s really very useful.

Just gotta watch your step.

Me and Jesus

Listen, I know everyone’s having a crap year, but I am just killing it, writer-style.

In March, I wrote a little poem.  It was for a contest for Poesia, and you had to take a line from another poem and start your poem with that line.  The other poem was Sophie Robinson’s “Art in America.”  I chose the line “Honestly, I am sick of helping Jesus count the days…”

I won the contest.

Afterwards, I was surfing though Pinterest one day looking for pins for my development board for my next project, when I saw an old quote I have always loved.  “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”   This is how I felt about my little Jesus poem.  So, I went back.  I deleted the first line so as not to be a plagiarizer, and then started writing.  And I did not stop, for 12 pages.

But what to do with something too short to be a book and too long to be a regular submission?  Ask Twitter, of course.  Mention that you have just finished a long poem about smoking a joint with Jesus, and see who bites.  And when they do, and they did, send them the poem and wait.

Then, one day, the email.  I have an uncanny ability to know when I’m getting an acceptance.  I can tell before I even open it.  I’m a little bit psychic, which makes it very difficult to surprise me.  I will admit I knew it was an acceptance before I clicked it open, I just didn’t know for what.

Me and Jesus on a Tuesday Afternoon.

That is the title of my poem, which Pen and Anvil Press will soon be offering in their chapbook catalogue.  “Delightful” and “poignant,” she called it.  I would use those words as well.

I rarely love something I write, but I loved this guy.  I wrote it for my aunt Ka, who passed away several years ago, and I hope that if she is in her heaven, she can read it and understand me as the person I am now.  I wrote it because I am a lapsed Catholic, but Jesus is still my homeboy. 

Anyhoo, I have been added to the P&A queue and am awaiting further details.  I have no other information at the moment, just the knowledge that my not-so-little poem is going somewhere special. And plenty of joy over the fact that I LIKE what I wrote.  Genuinely 100% like it. 

So rare, I tell you.