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The book my poem was published in arrived!

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January 2018–Getting my butt in gear

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This is the year I get my butt in gear.

I cancelled my Hulu subscription which left a lot of time for everything else. Like going to the gym almost every day. And reading more (I’ve already finished three books!) I’m self-studying Spanish and math.

But most importantly, I’m actually writing. I have been resistant to say that TV played a role in me not writing, but it honestly really did.

Granted, none of it’s very good right now. But I’m basically starting over. I have to relearn how to write. Plus first drafts are never good, so I’m not exactly worrying about quality right now.

My current goal is to get in the swing of starting things. It helps that I have joined a writing group and my artist friend and I are sending each other new pieces daily.

Having a writing is nice because, while I haven’t shown them anything yet, it feels good being around people in the same field as me. (My boyfriend and all my friends are Math people.)

The most helpful thing has been my friend who expects me to send her my writing every day. She helps keep my accountable and I get to see some cool watercolor paintings daily!

My goal progression: get stuff down, consistently -> developing characters -> plot -> finishing stuff. This might change as I go along, but those are probably my biggest issues right now….you know, literally everything important about a story. Once I actually start finishing things consistently, I’ll be able to better evaluate the other things I need to work on.

Sidenote, I also got paid to edit a poem this month, which was a nice treat.

Keep writing, kittens!

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One of my poems was selected for publication. So thats awesome and new.

It’s the one I worked on for like two years, which is the longest I’ve ever spent on a piece. I actually wrote it for a friend who is a musician, he was going to write a symphony for it, but he didn’t give me a deadline, which is why it took so long. I don’t think he ever used it though.

I wondered why they chose that one out of all the poems I submitted, and I looked and one made religion and school into a metaphor for hell, one claimed religion tried to turn me into something im not, one was about Halloween, and one was my villanelle about llamas being evil.

The one they selected was about stars that go super nova, but as a metaphor for a relationship. I can see why they chose that one and not the others. It seems more literary and has less of a chance of offending someone.

So that’s cool!

I will try to remember to post about what the editing/publishing process is like.

The Year in Review

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So I didn’t write a new blog post weekly and I didn’t really fulfill my New Year’s resolution to write more in general. I mean, I did, but not much (just two ten-minute sprints. Technically, that is more.), BUT I did, for sure, do more reading and more editing.

In addition to working (briefly) as a writing coach for a retired professor wanting to get into creative writing, I have worked with a few students on some personal statements. It was nice being able to sit and talk to people about their writing. I’m looking into getting my editing certificate. That would be nice.

Of the books I’ve read this year, my top two favorites were Carol Fisher Saller’s The Subversive Copy Editor and Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: and Other Lessons from the Crematory. Both books were fun, easy reads. The first was very informative on professional skills for editors and the second satisfied some deep interest I have in death.

Other honorable mentions include Mary Roach’s Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife and Marger Kerr’s Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear. Both were interesting, but a little harder reads.

I also reread Howl’ Moving Castle by Dianna Wynnr Jones and Dark Places by Gillian Flynn for fun. Definitely recommend.

The one book I read this year that kind of shook me was The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Overall, it wasn’t really that scary, at least by today’s standards. But the copy I read had an introduction that just kind of resonated with me. It talked about who Shirley Jackson was and gave a little analysis of various parts of the story.

I saw this and was amused. Me too, Shirley. Me too.

Then…

(The last picture is a continuation of the previous one.)

Hitting a little too close to home, here.

And then…

This is literally the exact daydream I had every day between the ages of 13 and like 23.

This just made me think about how different stories and characters can resonate with different people and how nice it is when someone else says exactly what you were thinking.

(Side note: yes, I mark up my books. And I dog ear pages. And I support people making art out of old books no one is going to read any more. I do not believe in the sanctity of books. I believe in well-loved books. But that’s a post for another day.)

I think this next year I’m going to try to focus on doing more editing (looking into that editing certificate and maybe becoming a member of the EFA and getting an online subscription to the CMoS) and literally any writing. Any at all. Just write something. Also, I might try to join a writing group.

TTFN (Ta ta for now)

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Last week, I was contacted about submitting my poetry. The publishing company emailed me out of the blue, said they read the poem I’d published in my college lit journal, and they wanted me to submit some poetry for one of their new collections.

I was a little weirded out at first and obviously very wary. I mean, it was exciting, definitely. I never really thought anyone would read my stuff in the Uni’s journal, at least not anyone besides the 30 or so other kids who published in it and their families. Someone read a single poem of mine, and liked it enough they wanted to read more.

After researching the publishing company, they seem legit. I couldn’t find any negative reviews on google (and believe me, I tried). I read through the sample pages of some of their books on Amazon. They weren’t asking me to pay them to publish my work, and the contract allowed me to keep ownership of the poems.

I went ahead and submitted, so hopefully even just one is accepted.

Final thoughts: always research what you are getting into. Know if the company is legit. Take a look at the lists of publishers to stay away from. And understand what is being said in your contract. Good general life advice: never sign a contract you don’t understand.

The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Saller

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One of the most interesting and useful books I’ve read recently is The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller. Saller is an editor for the Chicago Manual of Style (so you know she knows her stuff).

Some of the important things I took from this book:

  1. The editor’s loyalty goes first to the reader. After all, an editor’s main purpose is to make the writing clear to the reader. (Of course, we also have a loyalty to the author and to ourselves.)
  2. It is okay to break so-called “grammar rules” if following them doesn’t make the writing any clearer.
  3. The first rule of editing is “Do no harm.” Don’t introduce new problems into the piece to try to follow a “grammar rule” or because of personal preferences.

There is lots of other useful information in this book (such as the section on carefulness, transparency, and flexibility when working with writers). I highly recommend checking this book out.

Also, here is her website: http://www.subversivecopyeditor.com/

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Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I was busy trying to win a walking challenge at work. (I did not.) And then I got busy because I landed a freelance writing coach gig! (It’s going great!)

Anyway: Today I listened to my All State audition tape from high school, and I remember thinking I was such a great singer back then, and don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t bad, but I definitely could have used a lot more work. (Still could.)

I have also recently read some of my older pieces from college, and I definitely have an ego about writing (although I am working on being more humble), and while my writing certainly wasn’t bad, with the distance of years, I can now see where the pieces need improvement.

Moral of the story is you are never as bad as you think you are, but there is always room for improvement. So keep at it. 

Planner or Discovery Writer?

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I have always considered myself a planner. I like to be organized, and I like to know exactly every little thing about my story before actually writing my story.

I never write my stories.

So, today, I upped my word count goal to 1000 and decided to write about an idea I had that I had no idea where it was going. I first had this idea the other day, and then I did not think about it since. All I knew was “Classic Monster Speed Dating.”

So, without further ado, here is 1000-ish words about speed dating and monsters.

Speed Dating for Lesbian Monsters

My legs stuck to the plastic of the booth seat as I slid in to my fifth date of the evening. Across the table sat a girl. Her skin was pale, and her hair was dark and hung limply against her round face. She smiled when I looked up at her, and I could see a hint of her fangs. She reached across the table with a plump hand, fingernails painted blood red; they matched her lipstick.

“Nice to meet you,” she said as I took her hand in mine and gave it a shake. Her hand lingered a moment longer than mine. “I’m Jodie.”

“Babs,” I said. “Nice to meet you to.” A curl tickled my cheek, and I pushed my hair back. “So,” I said. “What brings you to a thing like this?”

“Same as you, I guess,” Jodie said. “Just looking for love. It gets lonely up there in the crypt. No one to talk to but the skeletons and ghosts.” She laughed, a big full laugh. I imagined it came from somewhere deep within the soft curves of her belly. “I mean, they’re nice and all, but they don’t quite understand what it’s like to have flesh. After all, most of them have been dead for centuries. Not like you and I.” She gave me a look like we were in on some joke together.

There was silence as she stared at me with those eyes that had more life in them than they should have. I stared back.

The bell rang. “It was nice to meet you, Babs,” Jodie said.

“You, too.” I peeled me legs off the vinyl and slid.

My next date was sitting at a table with chairs upholstered in the same red vinyl as the booths. Some of them had rips in them as if someone had sliced them with a knife. Dirty yellow fluff peeped through. I sat.

My date was covered in hair, delicately combed away from her eyes and mouth. A pink bow was clipped just above each ear.

She glanced at me as I sat down, but not for long. The bell rang again, indicating the start of our next three-minute date. I watched the girl, but she would not make eye contact.

“I’m Birdie,” I said, quietly.

She looked up at that. “No you’re not,” she said.

I smiled. “Yes I am. I just told you so.”

She shook her head. “But you told Jodie your name was Babs.”

I shrugged and leaned back in my chair. “What’s in a name?”

She stared at me again. Silent, again.

“And you are?” I asked.

After a moment she said, “You know, secrecy and lies isn’t a good way to start off a relationship.”

“I agree.” I reached for one of the cookies on the plate between us. Pink and heart-shaped. Each table had a plate of the exact same cookies.

“So what’s your name?”

“I told you,” I said. “I go by Birdie.”

She crossed her arms.

The bell rang.

“See ya.” I shot her a finger gun and clicked out of the side of my mouth as I promptly escaped my chair.

Back to a booth. Three deep slashes across the back of my seat were covered with a fabric tape that was slightly darker than the actual color of the seat.

The bell rang.

“Barbie,” I tell my date right off. “My friends call me Barbie. And you are?”

Her skin was a sick shade of yellow with green splotches, and there were stitches across her neck. The tips of her hair were blacked, as if burned.

She smiled gingerly and stretched forth her hand. “Mary Elizabeth,” she said as she gently shook my hand, gripping with only her fingertips. She pursed her lips.

“I suppose,” she said quietly, “that this date is pointless.”

I tilted my head and squinted. “Why do you say that?”

“You’re alive. The living and the dead never date.”

I laughed. “Well, you should tell that to [insert reference here.]”

Mary Elizabeth laughed, too, but she quickly covered her mouth with her hand.

I looked at the cookies, pretending to examine them to find just the right one. When I looked back up, Mary Elizabeth had lowered her hand again and her mouth was back to it amused purse.

“So you’re dead, huh?” I said. “I never would have guessed. You look just as lively to me…” I lowered my voice, leaned in, and pointed. “…Wolf-girl over there. She is definitely alive. Let me tell you.” [Need more proof of that from the Wolf-girl date.]

Mary Elizabeth glanced at Wolf-girl, then looked back at me and grinned. “Well, she is cute,” she said.

I nodded. “Agreed. And Jodie, the vampire over there,” I pointed again, “She is just downright adorable. I went on a date with Mandy the mummy earlier. I wish I knew how to wrap linen’s like she does. Damn. Absolute skill, right there. And the lady from the Lagoon. Never before have I seen so many colors of green, and with such shine, too.” I reached across the table and took her hand in mine. “Not as lovely as the green in your skin, though.” I looked up at her through my lashes, and could tell that, had she not been dead, she would have been blushing. Nailed it.

The bell rang.

“You wanna go on a real date, Mary Elizabeth?” I asked.

She began gathering her coat, still holding onto my hand. “You’ll tell me your real name on the way, right?” She asked.

“Of course.” [Wow, okay, so I don’t have a back story for why the main character doesn’t tell anyone her real name. Maybe she’s a fairy? I don’t know. But as it stands, without having a reason to withhold her name, she comes across kind of sketchy. Come up with a valid reason for that, and make her seem more genuine, and I could have some decent Lesbian Monster Fluff. And what is with Wolf-girl? She is not meant to be a bad guy here. It’s reasonable to not trust someone giving a false name. Flesh her out. Also, don’t quite understand the main character’s personality, but once I understand her back story, I’m sure I’ll be able to revise that. Why does she choose Mary Elizabeth over all the other monster girls? None of them seemed particularly bad. Maybe Mary Elizabeth should be more confident, too. Why do the living and the dead never date? What’s that all about? Where is this story even going?]

I think maybe I should continue with this discovery writing, if only to get me started.

Are you a discovery writer or do you like to plan?

Favorite Poems

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It is April 30, which means it is the last day of National Poetry Month. I shared some poems I’ve written, and now I’d like to share some of my favorite poems by other people.

“This Be the Verse” by Phillip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

This poem is exceedingly relevant in my life.

“maggie and milly and molly and may” by ee cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

I really love the rhythm and rhyme in this poem.

“Afternoon on a Hill” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I will be the gladdest thing
   Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
   And not pick one.
 
I will look at cliffs and clouds
   With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
   And the grass rise.
 
And when lights begin to show
   Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
   And then start down!
Here is this poem in choral form: Afternoon on a Hill I performed this piece many years ago, and it still holds a dear place in my heart. I love the poem’s simplicity and its concrete images.
I do not read nearly as much poetry as I should. I might start doing a “Poem of the Month” kind of thing where I present one poem each month to talk about. We’ll see.

Fighter’s Block: My first 500 words after 3 dry years

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Writer friends! You should check out this website: Fighter’s Block (http://cerey.github.io/fighters-block/).

Basically, the idea is that you have an avatar and you set a word goal and then your avatar fights a monster as you type, and if you slow down the monster attacks. I thought it was a cool idea, so I tried it, and I actually wrote 500 words for the first time in 3 years.

I’m including it because I’m just happy to have actually written something, and, although it is garbage and I hate it and it would definitely need a LOT of editing and some serious fine tuning on style/characterization/voice if I planned to publish it, it only took like ten minutes to write and it is not the worst thing I have ever seen. Which to me just means that it’s not going to be as hard as I thought to get back into writing and to get better.

(Side note: Part of why it doesn’t seem to really have a direction is because I had nothing when I started. I just started typing and went one word at a type. It stopped abruptly because I reached my goal and still had no idea where I was going.)

I know I should have told them the house was haunted when I rented it to them. I know. But I didn’t. People don’t like to hear that their house is haunted. If I had told them the house was haunted upfront, they would have taken their money and left, and I reeeeeally needed the money.

Why do I need the money? Well, why does anyone need money? To live, of course. They need to pay the rent and buy food and buy clothes and pay off credit card bills and go on vacation to the Bahamas. You know. The essentials. (Get a better reason here.) I just need the money and, honestly, working at a feed store in the middle of nowhere doesn’t really make you enough to put away any money.

It’s just hand-to-mouth living is what it is. I have not had a day off in like six years. Six YEARS, man. No holidays (seriously, every guy just has to get his mother a pair of cowboy boots on Christmas day because he forgot to get her anything until the day before). No paid time off. No sick days. Well, one sick day. I once ate an undercooked chicken leg at my niece’s high school graduation barbecue because my brother dared me to. Got food poisoning and ending up shitting myself for the next two days straight. I definitely did NOT go to work that Monday. Aside from that day, I have worked every Monday through Friday from seven in the morning until five in the evening. Loading hay into flatbeds with the mudflaps with the naked ladies on them, stacking Stetsons, folding Levi’s, doing donuts with the forklift in the parking lot. Every day for six straight years.

And it is time for a break, I think. So, last week I rented out the bottom two floors of my house to this nice Midwest couple, their dog, and their two-point-five children. (They don’t really have two-point-five children, but how cool would that be? Half a kid. How would that work?)

I kept the top floor for myself, of course. I still needed a place to live. The plan is to continue working at the feed store for the basics, and then I can just thro the money from the rent into a jar and once I have enough to cover the time I’ll have to take off work as well as the cost of the vacation, then I’ll buy myself a ticket to…I don’t know. Fiji, maybe? Someplace tropical. Someplace that is not this podunk little town I was born and raised in.

So I show the place to this couple, right, and they want to sign the lease right away. Of course, I forgot to even write up a lease, so I tell them I have another prospective renter coming in after them and tell them I’ll make my decision soon, and I push them out the door.