Keeping Track

Hello, hello!  Thanks to my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum, Tony PisculliI actually have something halfway productive to talk about today.  After my last post, he asked me how I keep track of my submissions and gave me a couple of ideas for how to improve on it.  So, I’m going to ramble a bit about three options for keeping track of the things you submit and where you submit them.  The first two options are things I currently do, but the third is one that I hope to implement in the near future.

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As one should.

1. Duotrope.  This is a nifty website that offers a searchable database of magazines and anthologies looking for submissions.  It keeps track of acceptance rates and a bunch of other useful tidbits like what word count and genres these places accept.  Its information is fairly accurate, but always check the submission guidelines of each venue before you submit, just in case.  One of its main features is the ability to track what you’ve submitted where.  It’s currently my go-to way of keeping track of everything, but it is flawed in that some smaller venues aren’t listed, so I need a backup way of tracking those.  But for $50 a year, it’s a great tool for writers to invest in.

2. File names.  I learned a long time ago to use the date, the story title, and the name of the publication when I’m saving my work for submission.  Labeling the file something like 2019.03.20_story_publication keeps everything in a neat chronological order.  However, the more submissions you make, the more unruly this method becomes.  One thing Tony suggested to help improve this was to give each story its own folder, that way everything isn’t mixed together and it’s easier to scan through and see where you’ve submitted individual stories.  I plan on giving this a shot before I send out too many more submissions.

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3. Spreadsheets.  This is something I’ve been meaning to create for a while now, but I keep putting it off because it’s going to take at least a couple of days.  It has been a long time since I’ve made any kind of in-depth spreadsheet for anything, so I’ll have to teach myself all the ins and outs of it again.  But I would love to not only track where I’ve sent things, but where I want to send them in the future and when.  It’s difficult to keep track of which venues have open submission periods.  I’ve almost missed a number of windows because I didn’t write it down anywhere.  Plus, a spreadsheet would allow me to personalize the information I keep track of, like which venues encourage me to submit again or random encouraging words for a particular story to look at when I’m considering trunking something.  When I do get around to creating a spreadsheet, I’ll make sure to give you all a glimpse!

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Sure…

What about you?  How do you keep track of your submissions?  Do you have any tips or tricks to share?  Have you ever considered a spreadsheet?  What kind of information would you include if you created your own tracker?  Feel free to comment here or on my social media profiles!

Guest Post: Marriage and Writing

Hello, hello!  Welcome to the year’s final guest post.  This month, we have my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum, J. R. Dawson.  In the following post, she discusses the importance of support and being believed in.  It’s pretty awesome.  Read on!

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The lovely J. R. Dawson!

Marriage and Writing

When Shawna asked me to do a blog on her site, I didn’t know what I was going to write about. And then I got sick. And then the deadline came and I was sick and didn’t know what I was going to write about. I assumed I’d end up doing some kind of intro or motivational piece about how to keep on keepin’ on. But then I realized there was something I’d heard discussed a lot, had experienced myself, and had never really seen a blog post about.

I think it’s been simmering since I spoke to a beginning writer a year ago and he mentioned that his wife doesn’t believe in him. She bemuses the fact that he wants to write, but she doesn’t support him. It doesn’t pay the bills, it’s so hard to break through, and she didn’t think he was very good.

“Can you give me something to tell my wife so she won’t think I’m hopeless?” he said. “What can I tell her?”

And I said, “Tell her to support you.”

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Spouses or partners don’t have to be writers, they don’t even have to like your writing, but if writing is your jam and it’s what you do, then what sort of partner isn’t going to back you up?

It seems like such a superficial fact, or maybe it’s giving too much power to this dude’s wife. But for real, if she’s not supporting him in this, what exactly is she supporting him in? It’s total disrespect to look at the person you’re supposed to love and say, “I don’t believe in you.”

Do you absolutely need a partner to succeed? Absolutely not. One of the most successful writers I’ve gotten to work with is a single mother. Some people purposefully do not want a partner, let alone a spouse. But for those of us who do enter into a pair, that other person has got to be behind us.

My past relationships are riddled with non-writers who thought I should give up, or writers who were in constant and violent competition with me.

Then eight years ago, I met my spouse.

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He isn’t a writer (although he’s very talented and I think of him as one, he’s off doing other things). He didn’t necessarily love books when we met. And sometimes we argue over my descriptive style when he wants more active (and grammatically correct) scenes. But he has supported me emotionally the entire way.

Actually, the short story “Marley and Marley” came from him literally jumping into my writing room every ten minutes going, “Keep going! You can do it! This story is important!” My latest publication, “When We Flew Together Through the Ice,” was resurrected from an early grave because he believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.

If writing is my heart, and my partner is supposed to love the deepest parts of me, how would he not love my act of writing?

When he proposed, I literally said to him, “This is not going away. I will always have one foot in our life and one foot in whatever project I’m working on.”

And he wholeheartedly agreed. “And so will I,” he said.

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Could I still be a writer without him? Of course. But if I’m going to be with someone, that someone better damn well be with me. All of me.

And does that mean he has to be completely devoted to every move I make with pom poms ready at the go? No. But he can’t tell me, “I don’t believe you’re going to make it.”

My heart broke for the dude with the wife who said such a thing. I hope they figure out their business.

But I guess what I wanted to say, in this here blog, is that you as an artist need to surround yourself with people who will raise you up. And if someone is too close and is pulling you down, you deserve better.

We all deserve to be believed in.

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J.R. Dawson holds her MFA from Stonecoast. She is an Active Member of SFWA and Codex. Living in Omaha, NE, with her pupper and husband, she enjoys working as a freelance teaching artist, writing science fiction adventures, and traveling to Disney World. Her short story “Marley and Marley” was in Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, and her new story, “When We Flew Together Through the Ice,” is in the November/December 2018 issue of F&SF.

Guest Post: Joseph Carro On Writer’s Block

Howdy, howdy!  Welcome to another guest post.  This time, we have my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum, Joseph Carro.  He’s got some super helpful tips for working around writer’s block, which I struggle with a lot.  So, read on!

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Joe and I at the Harraseeket Inn.  Pretty sure that was January ’15.

On Writer’s Block

By Joseph Carro

Writing can be an extremely frustrating and hopelessly solitary artistic endeavor, and as writers we know and understand this when we choose it as our lifestyle. Yet it doesn’t make it any easier when we’re holed up in the basement, writing the next big thing on our minds. Whether you’re trying to write a blog post, a poem, a screenplay, or a novel – Writer’s Block afflicts us all. I know that personally, real life usually gets in the way and saps my creative juices with its constant demands, but to keep writing I have acquired several techniques which I use in order to get my brain jumpstarted again. My hope is to share a couple of my own techniques with you. I know that many of you have your own techniques, but as a writer – I usually appreciate any new ways in which I can defeat this annoying affliction. Feel free to chime in with your own methods below in the comments section.


WALK OR DRIVE: Walking, to me, is a lost pastime. And I’m not the only one to think so. If you’re stuck on a certain spot in your manuscript or post or what have you, get OUT of that space for a little while. If you don’t like walking, then just sit outside or maybe take a drive. Anything to get yourself out of your stagnant state. Maybe you’ll see or experience something that will ignite that spark. You just have to step outside your comfort zone for a bit. Fresh air does wonders for the mind and the thought process needed for writing.

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READ SOMETHING: As Stephen King once said; “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Writing is a skill in which you absorb technique and inspiration from reading other writers. To do so, you need to actually read. Sometimes, reading someone else’s work is the perfect way to jumpstart your own. In my case, I will sometimes put aside my writing for one day and try to finish the book I was already reading or start another one. By the time I’m through a few chapters, I’m usually chomping at the bit to get back into my writing project. Obviously, it’s “dangerous” to put aside the writing to do something else (because you can get too much into the habit of doing that), but in moderation I think it works. Just really pay attention to what the authors are doing; their prose, the construction of the novel or short story or poem or whatever, and the way in which the strongest parts of it make you feel as a reader. Try to infuse your writing with some of that magic, without trying to ape their style. Be you.

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LISTEN TO MUSIC: This one is very divisive within the writing community. In one camp, you have people who absolutely cannot listen to music while writing. Or, they at least must listen to very quiet, ambient music rather than anything heady with lyrics. That’s okay, this technique may not be for you either. However – when I’m trying to write a certain scene or a certain tone to my short story or screenplay, I sometimes pick an appropriate piece of music. For a tone, I will generally choose a playlist I’ve created on Spotify or find a playlist on YouTube – for example, if I’m looking for a melancholy tone I will choose a playlist that’s labeled as “sad songs” or “bittersweet songs”. Generally, the mood conveyed through these songs, and the emotions they bring out enhance my writing. It’s all about knowing your tolerance for this kind of distraction while you’re trying to write. This also works if you just need to listen to a song or two BEFORE you write, rather than listening to entire tracks during your actual writing. Just make sure to fire up another song here and there to renew your creative juices and emotions, because sometimes sitting in a chair and writing prose does not automatically generate emotions until you really get into the meat of the story. Writing is both a technical skill and an art, and art comes from emotion. Sometimes, we wade too far into the technical aspects and lose the emotional momentum.

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USE WRITING EXERCISES AND PROMPTS: This method is actually my favorite, and thanks to the internet, there are countless online sources for finding writing ideas. These aren’t necessarily meant to replace the project you’re working on, but are more for trying to write something in general when you’re stuck. However, if you need some distance from your novel, it’s okay to take a brief respite and write something else. A few of my favorite sources for writing prompts are from books I’ve found or have been given. My wife gifted me a sort of “activity book” called 400 Writing Prompts by Piccadilly Inc and that one has given me quite a few ideas. A couple of other books I’ve found to be pretty useful are The Writer’s Book of Matches: 1,001 Prompts To Ignite Your Fiction from Writer’s Digest Books, What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, and The Pocket Muse: Ideas & Inspirations for Writing by Monica Wood. There are also lots of online sources out there as I mentioned above, and some of my favorites are Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, tumblr, and even reddit. Various bloggers like myself also dedicate entire sections of their blog to writing prompts. My own blog, Away With Words, has just such a section that you can find HERE. I try to do at least one weekly prompt, but sometimes I do more.

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These are just some tools for trying to get back into the swing of things, and my hope is that by using these techniques and resources, you can dig yourself out of whatever funk you’re in and get back to writing. Remember – try not to be too hard on yourself. Writing is hard work, it’s thirsty work, and your brain can quickly become parched when it’s dealing with the same tedious task over and over. Give it some variety and keep yourself from getting mired. Good luck!

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My name is Joseph Carro, and I am a Maine-based freelance writer and editor trying to make it in the big world of letters and semi-colons. I work currently as a barista to (barely) pay the bills, and in the meantime, I’m working on a YA novel, currently untitled, as well as various other works like screenplays, comic scripts, short stories, and flash fiction. Heck, you may as well toss in some comic books with that, too.

I live in Portland, here in Maine – with my beautiful wife and our five-pound chihuahua, Brewtus.

Above photo courtesy of Helen Peppe.

Random Spring Thoughts

Howdy, howdy!  I want to take a second to say thank you to Derek Hoffman one more time for his guest post last week!  I’m in the process of lining up more guests in the future, so if you’re interested in something like that, feel free to e-mail me (shawna.n.borman@gmail.com) or get in touch via my social media pages.

And now, on to this week.  Happy spring!  I had zero ideas what to blog about this week, so Dad suggested I do a post of random thoughts I’ve been having lately.  Therefore, if you don’t like this post, blame him.  Anyway, here are five things that have been on my mind recently.

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They’re so cute and fuzzy!!!  Yes, cute and fuzzy makes me abuse the exclamation mark.

1. I’ve been wondering why it always seems harder to write words the closer I get to the end of a story.  I still haven’t finished the shitty first draft of my current novel attempt (I know, I know… judge me all you want), even though I’m only a few thousand words away from typing THE END.  Revision ideas keep popping into my head, but I make a note and then ignore them, like a good little writer.  It’s like my brain doesn’t want me to finish.  But I will prevail!  I’ll reach THE END, then I’ll get stuck in the editing process and complain about that for a while.  Am I the only one with this problem?

2. Recently, I finished reading a book and told myself I wasn’t going to start another one until I finished the one I put down without finishing for various reasons (none of which have to do with the book itself).  The next day, I wore my Howl’s Moving Castle t-shirt and realized I hadn’t read the book yet, so I started reading that instead.  I feel like a very fickle reader.  Shame on me.

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I should probably buy some new shirts.

3. Honestly, I’ve been thinking a lot about my Stonecoast friends.  I was feeling really isolated, especially since it’s pretty much writing con season (ICFA, AWP, StokerCon, etc.).  But then I realized my Stonecoast people are magical psychic unicorns, because within a few days of my thoughts, I received a Facebook message saying someone was thinking of me and a surprise package in the mail from someone else.  Also, I know I’m not the best at keeping in touch with people, but I really do appreciate them.

4. I want to start drawing again.  It’s something I’ve randomly thought about for a while now, but I’ve been too lazy to see if my tablet thingamajig even works any more.  It’s super old.  Maybe I’ll just buy a new one so I don’t have excuses.  (P.S. This drawing desire will fade soon, so don’t expect anything new from it.)

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It’s the only realistic picture I’ve drawn that I really liked, even though I totally screwed up the perspective of the flooring in the background.  I mostly just like to color.

5. Multiplication tables.  When I have trouble getting to sleep, I’ve started doing multiplication in my head.  I start at one and go up to thirteen, then two to thirteen, and so on until I reach thirteen times thirteen or until I fall asleep.  It’s actually been pretty helpful with the sleep bit, but I’m still slow at math.

There you have it.  Five bits of random thoughts.  Feel free to share some of your own thoughts here or on my social media pages!

Seven Things I Believe: Then And Now

Howdy, howdy!  I was cleaning out the notes on my phone yesterday, when I came across something from one of my workshops at Stonecoast.  This particular group was led by the lovely Theodora Goss.  Just about every day, she would send us off with questions to think about and we’d discuss our answers the following day after we finished our critiques.  One day, she asked us to list seven things we believe.  There were no guidelines beyond this, so things went in a lot of different directions from what I remember.  Anyway, I thought I would share my old list and make a new one.

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It’s just a pretty picture.

The old (2014) version, in no particular order:

1. I believe music keeps me sane while inspiring me.

2. I believe growing up and acting your age are scams created by people who are jealous of the young at heart.

3. I believe in priorities: food, sleep, and eye candy.

4. I believe life is too short to be serious all the time.

5. I believe family is more than blood.  It’s the people who love you and keep you around because of your flaws.

6. I believe coffee and booze were created to be mixed together.

7. I believe the angels punted my soul into the wrong body at birth.  I should’ve been Japanese.

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I just found this, so I thought I’d put it here and save it for later.

As you can see, I wasn’t very good at the whole introspection thing back then.  Spoiler alert: I’m still not.  I still completely believe in all of those things, especially the boozy coffee one.  But I thought I would give it another go now that I’ve graduated and have no one to ask me these weird questions anymore.

Here’s the new (2018) version, also in no particular order:

1. I believe there is more than one way to be a professional writer.  As long as you get words on the page and out into the world, it doesn’t matter if you write every day or not.  Find your own rhythm.

2. I believe binge watching anime (or whatever makes you happy) is good for the soul and cleanses the mind.  Not every day, but once every couple of months, just to give yourself a break from reality.

3. I believe puppy kisses have magical powers to perk people up.

4. I believe it’s important to surround yourself with people who have different viewpoints/backgrounds than you.  Along with the understanding that we don’t always have to agree, but that we can have civil discussions if we put in a little effort.

5. I believe in a thing called love!  Please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers that song.

6. I believe it’s perfectly reasonable to buy a book just because the cover is pretty.

7. I believe in myself.  This is not something that even crossed my mind when I was originally asked to list things I believed.  Despite all the rejection and failure, I’m finally at a place where I can say that I believe in me.  I will succeed.  Eventually.  At something.

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Yeah.  That song by that guy.

There you go.  Seven things I believed back then and seven more from now.  What are seven things you believe?  Feel free to leave your list here or on my social media pages!

Author Spotlight: Danielle Rose

Howdy, howdy!  My friend, fellow Stonecoaster, and partner in writerly mischief, Danielle Rose, recently released the first of her Blood Books trilogy, Blood Rose, through Oftomes PublishingBlood Magic (book two) drops on August 1st as well.  So, I thought I would take a chance to do a little interview with Danielle.

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The cover of book one!

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself for those who don’t know you?

A: I’m Danielle Rose, author of the Blood Books trilogy, which is being released back to back by OfTomes Publishing in 2017.  I’m also the owner of Narrative Ink Editing LLC, an independent editing company that assists in the preparation of independent authors’ manuscripts.  Sometimes, I teach composition at the university level.

Q: You seem to do so much: you own an editing business, you market your new releases, you’re writing a new book… how do you do it all?  Can you offer any tips and tricks?

A: It’s hard work, but I have a support team, including a personal assistant and PR goddess, as well as a writing group.  It’s important that I have someone there to hold me accountable.  Goal setting is a major aspect of my writing group, and that really helps me (and my horrible memory!) check-off things on my to-do list.

Q: What is your all-time favorite thing to write about?

A: The human condition.  It’s truly fascinates me.  In all of my books, I explore what it means to be human and the choices we make because we’re human.  I like to put my characters in some pretty tight situations and see what they would (realistically) do to get through these tough times.  I think my fascination stems from the digital era we live in.  With the click of a button, we have access to witness awful things, and we are quick to judge.  Sometimes, I wonder what we would truly do had we been in these positions.  I explore these themes in my writing.

Q: What’s the one genre you are dying to write?

A: Psychological thrillers.  I would love to write those!

Q: What is it like to begin your career as an indie author and then become traditionally published?

A: It’s been an interesting journey.  I’ve had to learn to sit back and let someone else take control, which is difficult for me to do.  I’m used to controlling every aspect of my career, from release date to cover design.  Thankfully, my publisher truly cares about my opinions, and he asks for my input on just about everything he does.

Q: Do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing?  Why?

A: Comparing self-publishing to traditional publishing is like comparing cats to dogs: there are similarities there, but in truth, they’re two different species.  In self-publishing, the writer experiences the entire weight of the publishing process.  A traditionally published writer has a support team.  Because I have the get-it-done mentality, it’s natural for me to take control, especially if it’s regarding my career.  Because of this, self-publishing works better for me.  However, I absolutely adore my publisher, and I can’t imagine releasing my Blood Books trilogy without them.  With that being said, I can’t say that I like one better than the other.  They’re two completely different experiences, and I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I hadn’t gone through both methods.

Q: What is the single greatest piece of marketing advice you can offer emerging writers?

A: Offer advance reader copies (ARCs) of your books and require readers to post a review on release day.  This is such an important step to the launch of a book release, because it knocks out many birds with one stone:

1. Readers often flood social media with pictures and posts of their advance copy. (Everyone loves a bragger when it comes to the pre-release of a book!)

2. Readers post a review to platforms, which help to establish your book with new readers in an oversaturated market.

3. Many platforms, like Amazon, will help promote your book for free once you reach a certain number of reviews.

Q: Which writers do you fangirl over?

A: SO many!  I met Meredith Wild (Hacker) recently, and I could barely speak.  (Ha!)  I also love Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy), Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires), and Lauren Blakely (anything, really).  Honestly, I’d fangirl over anyone who wrote a great romance novel.

Q: Join the debate: should emerging writers get a degree in writing before embarking on this journey?

A: Yes.  Because the market is so oversaturated now, I think it’s important to learn how to write before diving in.  You only have one chance to make a first impression.

Q:  And last, but not least, if you could temporarily change into any creature (real, mythical, alive, extinct, etc.), what would you choose and why?

A: First choice: vampire (the immortal kind)!  Second choice: a witch with powers.  I’ve always been attracted to vampires.  They’re immortal, powerful, sometimes magical, and emotional.  I also love witches, but they’re not immortal.  That’s the only reason they’re in second place.

Thank you so much for your time, Danielle!  I know great things await you.

If you haven’t already checked out Danielle’s work, I suggest you do so right now.  Her website is linked above (click on the blue font), along with the publisher’s website.

Travel Goals

Howdy, howdy!  I’ve been trying to set up some travel plans for the last few months (I won’t bore you with stories of frustration and annoyance at people who take forever to answer questions) for a trip back to Maine this summer.  It got me thinking of all the places I want to/wish I could travel to eventually.  So, I thought I’d share a list of five travel destinations I wouldn’t mind hitting at some point in my life.

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I actually really don’t like bridges, but it’d still be nice to see.

1. California.  Yeah, it’s a big place and I should probably narrow things down a bit, but I’d like to see a lot of different places there.  I wouldn’t mind doing touristy things (Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, seeing the redwoods, etc.).  Mainly, I’d go to visit one of my friends, but I’d also want to go to San Francisco and San Diego and some other places.  But as long as I got to see my friend and the Pacific, I’d be happy.

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Don’t know if I could go up in it, but it’d be nice to see.

2. Washington state.  Again, my main objective would be visiting a friend, but I’ve heard that it’s a beautiful state to explore.  The EMP Museum looks like fun.  I wouldn’t mind checking out the national parks if they have some cripple friendly trails.  It pretty much just seems like a neat place to visit.

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The Na Pali Coast.

3. Hawaii.  Isn’t this on pretty much every American’s vacation list?  It would take a cruise to get me there, but it would be totally worth it.  Hawaii is one of those “maybe one day when I’m rich and can afford extravagant things” trips.  Who doesn’t want to see the beautiful beaches and waterfalls and to experience island life?  One day I will get there.

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Who doesn’t want to see that architecture up close?

4. The United Kingdom (because I can’t pick just one of the countries).  Actually, I had a hard time picking between here and Germany and Italy and pretty much everywhere in Europe.  Honestly, I don’t really know where the desire to travel that way came from, so I have no idea what all I’d do there.  It’s just one of those random things I fantasize about.  However, I do understand a vacation that far away is a dream that probably won’t come true.  At least not until I can afford a long, slow boat ride.

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Arakura Sengen Shrine

5. Japan.  If you know me at all, you knew this was coming.  I’d love to go see the sakura (cherry blossoms) bloom.  I’ve heard conflicting reports on Japan’s overall accessibility, but friends who have been recently or actually live there report that the big cities have improved their accommodations, which gives me hope.  I know a visit here is a long shot, but I refuse to admit it’ll never happen!  がんばります!

So, these are just a few of the places I eventually want to visit, no matter how unlikely.  A girl can dream, right?  What about you?  Where have you always wanted to go?  Is there a special reason?  As always, feel free to share your thoughts here or on any of my social media pages!

A Writer’s Tale

Hello, hello!  I was at a loss over what to write for today.  My usual plea for topic ideas proved unfruitful this time.  Then, I realized that I have never shared my journey to writerhood on here.  At least I don’t think I have.  Feel free to stop reading if you’ve heard this story before.

I’ve always written.  Stories, poems, the occasional attempt at a comic strip (but my drawing skills failed me there).  I never really wanted to be a professional, though, so I’m a little different from my friends and fellow writers who have wanted to do this forever.  My crazy job goal was always a fashion designer, but when I figured out that wasn’t going to happen, I set my sights on more obtainable professions.

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Dallas Hall at SMU.  This campus is where my plan tumbled down.

 I went through most of my time at college (both community and university) waffling between psychology and English.  With psychology, I could help kids like myself.  After all, all the psychologists I saw walked into the room and presumed to know how I felt.  It never seemed right to me.  At least I would appear a little more relatable than they did to me.  I also kept returning to English because it was easy and I enjoyed it.  In fact, by the time I transferred to SMU (I went in as a Junior), the only degrees I had time to finish were psychology and English.

Since I had a semblance of a plan with psychology, I initially decided to go with that major.  It was going well.  I passed all my classes with fairly high grades (never less than a B).  I really got into abnormal psychology, especially the class that focused on disorders in children.  I aced my research class paper.  But I still kept taking English classes as well.

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Try having the debate with yourself.  I still secretly prefer APA.

 Then, that fateful day came.  Dad was walking me to class after a stop at the campus coffee shop and we were talking about majors and what I was planning to do, when he asked the question that shattered my little plan.  “How’re you supposed to be a psychologist when you don’t like people?”  He was right.  I’m not a people person.  I don’t like to pry.  I’ll offer advice when asked, but beyond that you’re on your own.  What kind of psychologist would I be?  I could go into research, but I don’t even like that.  Thus, I became an English major.

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Don’t fall for the hype!

 What was I supposed to do with an English major?  I had zero desire to teach.  So, I took some creative writing courses, found out that I still enjoyed writing, and dipped my toe into the big bad world of writerhood.  And that’s how I found myself on a path that would take me to Stonecoast and onto a place where I could live with the voices inside my head without having to worry about people.

How did you decide to pursue the path you’re on?  Did you always know you wanted to do it or did it spring itself on you?  Tell me your story in the comments or on my social media pages!

Writing Challenge Q&A: Blessings

Hello, hello once again!  Are you ready for another round of the Writing Challenge Q&A?  Today’s topic is courtesy of another fellow Stonecoaster, Derek Hoffman.  He’s had some blessings of his own recently what with the newest addition to his family and whatnot, so he chose number 12 (“write about 5 blessings in your life”) for me to discuss today.  I totally admit that this topic was way more difficult than it should’ve been, mostly because I’ve been overthinking it.  My original thoughts just seemed uninspired and simple and things that everyone would say.  Then, I realized that none of that matters.  They don’t have to be exciting or complex or unique as long as I’m being honest with myself and you all.  So, here’s a pretty standard list of my blessings, in no particular order.

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My graduating class/faculty from Stonecoast.

1.  If you’ve read my blog posts in the past, you knew Stonecoast (the program where I got my MFA) would be on the list.  It was the first place where I felt comfortable coming out of my shell.  I made some friends for life while I was there.  I miss it a lot, but I’m really happy that I got to experience that kind of community.  Plus, I got to visit the Harraseeket Inn for three winters because of it!  I definitely recommend going there if you get the chance.  Anyway, Stonecoast and the whole experience is something I will always hold dear.

2.  My parents.  It’s overdone, I know, but I have a pretty good reason to include them.  Mom took care of me for 25 years.  Things may not have been great (or even good) between us, but I really do appreciate that she took care of me.  She did everything because I couldn’t do it myself.  When she got sick and passed away, Dad took over.  And even though I probably don’t say it enough, I appreciate him as well.  Plus I get to eat his cooking.  That’s basically a blessing in itself.

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The Minion and I.  I’ve probably posted this before.

3.  Friends.  Yeah, I said it.  Without my friends (you know who you are), I wouldn’t be the delightfully creepy person I am today.  From the early Interwebz friends to the handful of local real life friends to the Stonecoasters, you guys rock.  That is all.

4.  The one really weird blessing that people probably won’t understand is the fact that I’m cripple.  Don’t get me wrong, it usually sucks, but I know myself and I have a pretty good idea of the type of person I would be if I were “normal.”  Let’s just say that I like the person I currently am a lot better.  After all, I’d probably be dead or in jail or at least be a cautionary tale if it weren’t for the crippleness, so yeah.  It’s as good as it is bad.

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I miss my Julia.

 

5.  Pets.  I know it’s hard when we lose them, but I wouldn’t give up knowing any of my animals.  They enrich our lives in so many ways.  They give us unconditional love even when we don’t necessarily deserve it.  Pets are wonderful.

Yeah, it’s not a very insightful list, but who cares?  It’s mine.  What are some of the blessings in your lives?

I Might’ve Broken The Rules

Happy March!  How was your Leap Day?  Mine was actually pretty productive.  It was the first day in a long time that I met my “this is acceptable” word count (1000+ words).  I broke one of my golden rules to do it, but the writing is what’s important, right?  Rules are made to be broken and all that.  Or maybe I’m just nuts.  Or trying to rationalize things that don’t really matter.  I mean, it’s not like anyone’s going to punish me for breaking my own rule, right?  It’s just the voices in my head that complain about it.  They’ll deal eventually.  Do you have rules you stick to when writing?  Or is that just something crazy people do?

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Nancy Holder!  Blame her for the rules thing.

 

I suppose the whole “rules” thing started during my first semester at Stonecoast.  Up until then, I had no rules, no discipline, and all I was writing was short stories.  I wrote when I felt like it or when something was due.  Deadline induced panic was an essential part of my process.  Then Stonecoast happened.

I was actually pretty terrified at the prospect of writing a novel, but I wanted to do it.  My mentor at the time was Nancy Holder, and she’s a super supportive type, so she encouraged me to do it.  There was no “try,” there was just “do it.”  Of course, I asked “how?”  Her response was “keep writing!”  Yeah, it wasn’t helpful at the time, but she was right (as mentors tend to be).  So I wrote, got past twenty pages (my usual stopping point), and kept writing.  Around page fifty, I wanted to stop and work on something else.  Nancy said no.

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It was kind of like that.

 

She explained that starting a new project was a form of procrastination that all writers are tempted by.  If you’re constantly stopping one thing to start something else, you’ll never finish anything.  It made a lot of sense, especially for something as large as a novel.  And thus, my first rule (the one I broke) was born.  I’d never start a new novel while one was sitting half-finished and waiting on me (aka one I haven’t given up on).  I’d wait until I at least had a first draft.  It only applied to novels, so I admit to writing flash fiction, short stories, poetry, etc.  Basically anything to give me a break here and there, but that could be finished in a few days was acceptable procrastination.

But, since I’ve been in a slump, I finally decided to say “screw it!” and started a new WIP.  It doesn’t mean that I love the old one any less, it just means I can’t get into that world right now.  Same goes for the screenplay.  I love it, but my heart just isn’t in it.  Hopefully that will change as I get back to a normal rhythm, but for now, I needed something new that no one has seen or heard about.  Something strictly mine.  Something that doesn’t have any expectations to live up to.  It can fail completely, I can trash it, and no one will ever be able to ask “what happened to that novel about that thing?”  Does that even make sense?

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I still have a bunch of other rules that I haven’t broken, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s okay to break a rule once in a while if nothing else is working for you.  So, what are your rules?  Have you ever broken them?  Did it help?  Or am I just crazy?