Looking at 2013

As a writer, I should use this space to set some goals for the year ahead. I should talk about how many stories I’m going to write, the novel I’d like to I will finish, or the number of submissions I hope to hit. But I’m pretty good about that stuff, really. I write most days — which is the best I can hope for given my tiny kids and their ever-present unexpected and totally unpredictable lives. And while I can’t boast that I’ve published SCADS of stuff, I can say this: 2012 was my first year out calling myself a writer for real. It was the first year that I gave myself permission to practice the craft that calls me and always has. And in that year, I wrote a novel, had two short stories accepted for publication (out of about 20 submissions), and published a collection of short stories. I attended two writers’ conferences and made many great writing connections online and in the real world. I believe that I’ve made very significant progress as a writer, both in terms of my actual work and in my understanding of the business and craft. So, that’s what I did this year.

Next year, I expect my writing to grow both in quantity and quality. I expect to have published something else myself, and to have had several more stories accepted for publication in journals. I am taking an advanced fiction class through UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program (UCLA is my alma mater) with David Borofka in January, and hope that that will be a great launch for the year. (BTW – UCLA Extension’s courses are fantastic. I have taken many of them… you do not have to be a Bruin to take these courses.)

So I feel like my writing is in line.

It’s the rest of my life I worry about.

I’ve realized that I default to pissed off. I wake up, feel great. Get out of bed and do my morning ablutions, feel great. My kids see me and begin demanding things, and I am pissed off. They’re five and three…their natural state is need. So it’s a bit unfair for me to get riled so easily… and I don’t want to be the pissed off mommy. Or the pissed off wife. I think I’ve managed to be grumpy enough to make my kids and husband actually fear talking to me at times. And you know what? Life is way too short. I am lucky. I have a fantastic family. My husband actually loves me and tells me so often. (plus, I kinda like him and he’s pretty nice to look at, too…) We have a good life together, few worries and a very bright future. So what’s my problem? I need to enjoy this life on a daily basis. And that is my only goal for 2013. To remind myself, constantly if need be, to enjoy. Because there could be a bus with my name on it lurking just around the next corner.

Are you mindfully enjoying your life? How do you remember to do so? Advice and tips appreciated! 🙂

Happy New Year, all!

Publication Note

So I mentioned that I had some news, and that it was worthy of an announcement all its own. That is, of course, purely subjective. If you’re not me (and I have it on pretty good authority that you are not), you may not find this to be all that exciting. But my response to your lack of excitement is that maybe you should keep in mind that this is MY blog. So I’m going to post stuff that I think is cool. See how it works? You post stuff that you think is cool on YOUR blog, okay? And I’ll read it there and be all blase about it. Or perhaps I’ll find your exciting news as exciting as my own. (And if you’re a fledgling writer posting a publication announcement, I guarantee that I WILL find it very exciting. I’m empathetic like that.)

Now that we’ve got that all straight, here’s the news:

My short story, The Ninja, has been accepted for publication at Bartleby Snopes. If you haven’t heard of Bartleby Snopes, that’s okay…there are lots of great literary journals out there. But now that you know about it, you should go check it out because the editor has an eye for quality (if I do say so myself… ha.) Anyway, my story will be out in March, so I’m sure I won’t be able to restrain myself from posting about it again when its actually live.

Supporting Each Other, Supporting Ourselves

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I get a lot of critique help over at Scribophile — which I really recommend for writers looking to iron out some problems they might be having, and those seeking a community. Great feedback and lots of good writing over there. One of the moderators of that site has launched a new effort called Spark: A Creative Anthology. Their mission — stolen straight from their site:

Our mission is perhaps best summed up in the words of Brian Lewis, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Spark:

My goal was to establish a high-quality, paying market where emerging authors and poets can gain professional experience being published alongside respected instructors and older creative writing alumni who are now established authors. While Spark encourages submissions from alumni of the California State Summer School for the Arts, we are looking for quality writing and artwork from any source. We set the bar high in order to encourage young writers to continue to excel and develop their talents, and to maintain a publication to which established professionals are excited to submit.

I’m a fan of literary journals, both online and in print, and have been quietly submitting (though not as much as I should) for the last year or so. While this is an admittedly good way to practice being rejected, it’s also a good way to make headway in a writing career that can otherwise feel like a pipe dream.

Right now, Spark is asking for support that will allow them to pay their contributors and produce the anthologies. I believe in this mission, and I agree that paying markets are rare and important. I just opted to support Spark here — in part because they are offering a free membership to Duotrope, which will no longer be free as of January 1, 2013. I’d have bought a subscription anyway — $50.00 a year — and by donating $45.00 to Spark, I get my subscription AND priority ebook copies of the first four Spark anthologies that are published.

Finally, IF you are a writer and you’re not tracking submissions through Duotrope, you might want to check it out. Being eternally disorganized, this tool has made it so ridiculously easy for me to research journals and track my correspondence and submissions! I don’t think I’d do too well without it!

Which leads me to an announcement… but I think it deserves its own post. So you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow.

I hope your holidays were wonderful. Ours were busy and crazy and fun. And now my living room is covered with Lego and Play-doh. And I’m not complaining!

The Things That Should Be Said

I haven’t been able to write much in the past few days. There are a few reasons for this — kids, schedules. I’m a bit stuck on where I need to take my storyline next as I’ve realized that my original plan won’t work as I’d hoped. But mostly, I’ve felt that what I’m doing is small. And the world right now, in the wake of twenty tiny people and six adults being killed at an elementary school, the world needs something more. Clearly something is broken… and I don’t think that anything I could write will fix it.

There are people writing about this, though. Some of the best things I’ve read haven’t been in the news. They’ve offered different ways to consider what has happened, pulled the pointing finger towards lots of potential causes and tried to show us why. I’m glad some people are able to believe that they can figure out why this might have happened. All I’ve been able to do is look into the faces of my little boys and feel incredible gratitude mixed with incredible guilt. This could have been my Kindergartner’s school, my preschooler’s after-school daycare. The places where I send them to feel safe to explore and learn are no safer than Sandy Hook was. And the people who surround us here are no more predictable or stable than people anywhere. This could have been my kids. And I’ve been having trouble processing that. It makes me want to keep them home, eliminate any potential interaction with anyone I haven’t pre-approved. But I know that I can’t do that. And I know that even though there are crazy people with access to weapons who would hurt my little people if they had a chance, my job as a mom is to create the safest environment I can, and to trust.

It’s not easy to trust the world to watch out for your little guys when things like this happen. But I’m trying to remember all the rules my mom passed on about raising me. I can’t rush up behind them to catch them every time they fall. And I can’t sprint over to brush them off and offer coddling hugs and kisses every time, either. Sometimes they have to pick themselves up. I can’t forbid them from climbing rocks and trees because I know they might get hurt. And I can’t keep them home with me all day every day just because the world can be an evil place that might damage them. I have to keep sending them out, my heart tucked inside them like a secret note in their pockets. And I have to believe that they will come back home. If only they were as big and strong as they think they are… heroes

Interview…

Howdy folks. Though I had many important things to say today, (okay, not really), I’m going to shelve those so that you can go read an interview that Tina Pollick did with me on her site. She asked some great writer/reader questions and gave me an opportunity to share a bit about my favorite topic – Through a Dusty Window…  Please check it out if you have a moment.

Thanks, Tina!

And this too…

So I meant all that stuff about self-publishing that I said earlier.

But I’m also a mom. Maybe that should follow a “but” because the mom thing should probably be number one. But it’s really pretty hard. And so I have to send any other moms who feel like it’s a little tougher than they’d like to go check this out. Nice work, Pregnant Chicken.

See, I’m just all about breaking down the snobs today, be they the literati or the snobby mommies who can’t stop telling me how much better they’re doing it all than I am. Pbtht.

I’m on a Roll…

I promise to get off my soapbox for the next post, but I’ve been thinking a bit about some of my writing heroes, wondering what they would make of the current publishing landscape. The Jazz Age writers discussed the difficulties of writing as a craft, leaving us lots of wonderful quotes about the virtues of working hard at writing. They didn’t talk as much about what happened after they did the writing, though insecurity was a common topic. So I’m led to believe that for the writers I’ve most admired, publication was not a foregone conclusion. They wrote because they needed to, had to; they wrote because they were writers.

What would Hemingway think of the publishing industry today? Would he stand with the old guard, defending traditional publishing though creating a bestseller often comes at the cost of an artist’s integrity? Would he be pleased to see that writers today have a modicum of control over what they create instead? In my mind, as long as the work is good — and that means that I’m not considering those writing simply to publish; those turning out commercial book after book and following a detailed plan that began with the market and ended with the writing only as an afterthought, or those who are putting out books that were not well formed enough to ever have been published traditionally — as long as the work is good then shouldn’t the writer be pleased to be able to deliver it to an eager readership him (or her) self? Shouldn’t we be happy to cut out the middleman and be able to take control of the fruits of our labors? I ask you – isn’t that what writing is about? The readers?

— Note: I am actually not disparaging those writers who are following a detailed marketing plan, turning out books on a schedule and offering reliable plot lines to an audience who turns to them expecting one thing and getting that one thing reliably. I think that’s a smart business and I’m disinclined to suggest that I might not try it at some point, too. After all, this is meant to be a living and if there is money to be made, I do not think less of those who have figured out how to make it. But that’s another post. Today I’m looking instead at those practicing a craft, an art. And yes, I think writers can do both. —

If traditional publishing offers statistics like these stating that most writers sell fewer than 500 books, I think I’ve chosen correctly. I’m not Stephen King or even Amanda Hocking… but I have had a steady 1 or 2 sales a day since I published my collection. No, it won’t make me rich. But I will tell you that it has made me astoundingly happy. And when the book was free through KDP? More than 1500 downloads. That’s a wider audience than I could have hoped for through traditional means, I believe.

Anyway, this all comes from my frustration at being barred from competing my short story collection in any of the literary awards competitions meant to reward a debut effort by a new writer. My book, bound and edited professionally as it is, full of stories that I beat myself up over for endless nights, is invisible to the lofty literati who control these awards. Until there is an allowance for self-published work to be regarded alongside (or at least judged against) traditionally published work, there will always be a divide between the two sides of publishing. And I believe that it’s this kind of exclusion that leads the more traditional thinkers to look down upon those of us who simply didn’t want to wait to offer our hearts to the world.

Perhaps the work should be allowed to stand on its own? Why not let us new kids try? The worst that can happen is that you find a new voice to applaud. Perhaps you’ll get to shake your heads sadly as you read self-published entrants to these competitions and say to yourselves, “We were right…” Wouldn’t that make you happy? Wouldn’t you feel such joy of vindication? Then you can write scholarly articles for each other about how right you were!

What do you think?