I think we’re overdue for an update on my current projects! I picked the picture of the robot juggling all the lightbulbs because…well…
A 1-2k word personal essay about my late grandpa and a nostalgia-driven look at the SETI@home project. SETI stands for “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” It’s the program Jodie Foster was working on in the 1997 movie Contact. The SETI@home project was a small offshoot of SETI, developed in 1999 as a way for everyday people to donate their CPUs, or computer processing cycles, to help process radio signals from space. The most exciting part of this is that I’ve contacted the director of the SETI@home program, Dr. Eric Korpela, and he’s agreed to an interview! Goes on submission: September 2019
“Space Circus” Sci-fi novelette, still in development but I’m shooting for something around 30k words. It was inspired by several classes at Storymakers 2018, especially those taught by Sarah M. Eden, Dan Wells, and Charlie Holmberg. During the conference I doodled a picture of a girl in a space suit and imagined what her story might be, and I decided she was going to run away and join the space circus. Goes on submission: undetermined
Clarion West Application Clarion West is a six-week writing workshop taught by six authors and/or editors. My favorite short story author, Amal El-Mohtar, is going to be one of the instructors. Only 18 people get into the program every year. Admission is based on a 30-page writing sample and a personal essay. For my 30 pages, I’m planning on submitting the first three chapters of my Island Book, plus a synopsis. Those have already been drafted and are in the revision process, but I have yet to start on my personal essay. Applications open in December 2018 and close in March of 2019, but I want to give it my best so I’m working on it now. Goes on submission: December 2019
“The Island Book”
Historical fantasy novel about 100k words. This is the first installment in a series of books about two families struggling for control of a fictional island. Magical beings and speculative science get involved. Chaos ensues. Goes on submission: July 2021
Sci-fi short story I’d like to be about 5k-7k words. My original draft was 5k, but the premise is kind of far out and so many of my beta readers had so many questions, I decided to let myself wax verbose on the second draft and answer all the questions. This resulted in the story swelling to 9k (almost twice the length of the first draft). I figured I could review how the additional 4k felt and shave it down if needed. Adding more narration and more backstory, as well as changing the starting point, made the whole thing feel like the first chapter to a Young Adult dystopian novel instead of a sci-fi short. It was so far from what I wanted, I considered shelving the whole project. But I talked to my critique partner Kris, and she helped me create a vision for draft number three, where I could refocus and hone in on the story I most wanted to tell. So that’s what I’m currently doing. Goes on submission: September 2018
Sci-fi/fantasy short story around 10k words. When looking for ideas, I often begin with my resources. My husband and brother-in-law both worked on submarines for three years, and I simply couldn’t pass up the spec fic opportunities. The story deals with the ethics of nuclear war, toxic masculinity in the military, and mermaids. After writing a complete draft of this story I’ve decided to go in an entirely different direction with the style. So…I’m rewriting the whole thing. Goes on submission: February 2019
Sci-fi short story about 5k words. This project was inspired by my years in Japan, one very interesting SCUBA instructor, and memories of my grandpa introducing me to various SETI programs. The whole story is essentially a conversation–hopefully an interesting one. On submission since: January 2018
Sci-fi flash fiction about 650 words long. The concept behind this story is so niche I have no idea if it will ever get published. That said, I think it may be one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. I’ve recruited help from my husband and my best friend from high school to help me with some of the technical stuff. They’ve been geeking out about it, which is absolutely thrilling to me. I brought the story to my library writing group and had one person understand it completely, one person understand the gist of it, and three people who couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I asked the group if there was a way to balance the story so it could be understood by a wider audience. The group unanimously advised me to ignore the wider audience, commit to the idea, and charge ahead with it. On submission since: May 2018
I’ve pitched two classes to teach at the Storymakers 2019 writing conference! One is about how to commission an artist (I’ve both hired artists and been hired as an artist, so I feel pretty qualified for this one). The other class is about how to deconstruct strong visual icons in popular/classic media, and how authors can use this knowledge to create their own icons. I feel less qualified to teach a class on writing craftsmanship, just because I’m not yet published, but I’m very passionate about the topic and my background as an artist has given me some unique insight. I’ll know if my classes have been accepted in November, and Storymakers 2019 is in May. On submission since: August 2018
On top of all that, I’m going back to (online) college on September 3rd! I’ll be working on my Bachelor’s Degree in English/Creative Writing, with an emphasis in Screenwriting. Stay tuned to hear more about it!
Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
Wow! I just sent off a story to a magazine that gave me an estimate of six weeks wait, and they replied in three days! Since I’ve been hearing back from these venues so frequently, I’m planning on making this the last time I share each and every rejection on its own. From now on I’ll share every five rejections or so, at which time I’ll make a compilation list. That way you can still read every letter word-for-word, but it doesn’t turn my entire blog into a never ending list of rejection posts. In the meantime, I have so many posts planned that I can’t wait to share with you. I’m particularly proud of my last post, Adventures in Research: Bad Luck Bananas.
But let’s take a look at #5:
Thank you very much for letting us see “[TITLE].” We appreciate your taking the time to send it in for our consideration. Although it does not suit the needs of the magazine at this time, we wish you luck with placing it elsewhere.
As you can see, this is another form rejection, so not much to comment on here. I’ve sent the story to another venue that’s actually one of my very favorites. I didn’t send it there sooner because I’m doubtful that it fits the tone they’re looking for, but I may as well try it out.
I’ve compiled a binder where I can collect all my rejections, and honestly, I kind of love flipping through it. Maybe this is when I find out that I’m a masochist? But I’m not sure if I view rejection the same way most people do. When I was a teenager, I heard a story about a guy who wanted a job, but instead of making “getting a job” his goal, he made a goal to get “twenty-five rejections.” He figured that eventually, he’d fail at his goal and get a job, hahaha. So every time he got a rejection he celebrated, because he was one step closer to his goal of twenty-five rejections. He got a job before he ever hit it. So he was happy in his “failure,” and then happy in his “success.”
I love that story, because I think reframing our definition of success can make the process itself such a joy. I *feel* more successful and more legitimate as an author now than I ever have, and that feeling rings true when I flip through my binder of rejections. I hope someday I’ll have multiple binders, with pages spilling out, with a treasure trove of contradictory feedback and laughable failures. Maybe even some heartbreaking failures that I can look back on and see how far I’ve come, how much I’ve conquered. Because my idea of success is doing the work. So, right now, I’m doing the work. And I am succeeding.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
You can tell a lot by looking at people’s bookshelves. Particularly if they’re a total weirdo or not.
The thing is, even though the research is done for my book, it often just translates into a familiarity with a time period or a topic, and the chance of an actual detail or historical fact making it into the manuscript is…low. Any one of those facts becoming useful or relevant in real life? Slim to none.
Which brings me to last month’s fishing trip. My dad, husband, two brothers-in-law, a nephew, and I, all went deep sea salmon fishing on a small charter out of Ilwaco, Washington. We woke up at five, drove to the docks, and got our licenses. The sky was a beautiful silver overcast, the birds were flocking for shoals of bait just under the water, and we even saw a humpback whale. My brother in law, David, caught a good coho at the beginning, but after that, things slowed down. Way down. We spent a good eight hours perched on our poles. Our skipper couldn’t understand. He’d taken the boat from one promising spot to another, but the fish just weren’t biting. In all, our entire group caught six salmon. That’s a lot less than we’d hoped for.
And then my husband, Nathan, took out a banana. He pointed to the “NO BANANAS” sign on the cabin window and asked, “Is that for real?”
I followed his gaze and stared at the sign. And I, mind buzzing with ten years of random book research, registered what had happened. I realized our fishless fate had been sealed the moment we brought our lunch on board.
“Sure is,” said the deck hand.
“Why?” Nathan asked.
And then I spoke. For my moment had come.
REASON NUMBER ONE. Venomous spiders like to hang out in bananas, like Banana Spiders, which is a name for several species including Golden Orb Weavers, which look amazing and won’t kill you but you probably don’t want your eighteenth century sailing vessel infested with them, and Brazilian Wandering Spiders, which have a nastier bite — the effects of which we’ll leave to this wikipedia description:
The venom of Phoneutria nigriventercontains a potent neurotoxin, known as PhTx3, which acts as a broad-spectrum calcium channel blocker that inhibits glutamate release, calcium uptake and also glutamate uptake in neural synapses. At deadly concentrations, this neurotoxin causes loss of muscle control and breathing problems, resulting in paralysis and eventual asphyxiation. In addition, the venom causes intense pain and inflammation following a bite due to an excitatory effect the venom has on the serotonin 5-HT4 receptors of sensory nerves. Aside from causing intense pain, the venom of the spider can also cause priapism in humans. Erections resulting from the bite are uncomfortable, can last for many hours and can lead to impotence.
REASON NUMBER TWO. You know who else likes to hang out in bunches of bananas? Termites. This is a problem when your ship is made of wood.
REASON NUMBER THREE. Bananas release ethylene gas. You can read this whole article on the effects of ethylene gas on humans, but here’s a highlight:
Ethylene enters the body primarily by inhalation of air containing ethylene, but can also enter the body by dermal contact with ethylene. Ethylene is of low toxicity to humans and exposure to ethylene is unlikely to have any adverse health effects. However, inhalation of air containing extremely high levels of ethylene may lead to effects including headache, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, weakness and unconsciousness. Studies have shown that ethylene is metabolised to ethylene oxide, which has more adverse effects on human health.
In other words, breathing normal amounts of ethylene has little to no effect on people, but lets say you have an entire cargo hold full of bananas and its not getting the kind of ventilation anyone thought about until the modern era. In that case, going down into that cargo hold, or staying down there too long, could have some rather nasty results.
REASON NUMBER FOUR. Because of the rate at which they produce ethylene gas, bananas ripen and rot quicker than a lot of other fruits. That means they need to be shipped faster, and as they say, “haste makes waste.” Also, it was a heck of a lot harder for sailors to catch fish when the ship was booking it to the next port, resulting in anti-banana sentiments being even stronger in fishermen than general seamen.
REASON NUMBER FIVE: Bananas float in salt water, so when a ship carrying bananas sinks, everything goes down…except the bananas. At that point, those bananas are looking pretty guilty to superstitious sailors. (There were thousands of bananas on the Titanic, by the way. Coincidence? I think not!)
I relayed this information to my family — rather rapidly — and with the vigor of a woman who has just realized she’s arrived at the very moment her mental database of historical bad-luck-banana information is actually, miraculously, relevant.
My husband put the banana away.
Because that, my friends, is why we had a bad fishing day. Because bananas.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me. #nobananas
p.s. two of the six were mine. probably because *I* wasn’t the one who brought the bananas.
I’m pretty sure this blog is about to devolve into a big list of rejections, but sharing these letters with everyone has become part of my process now, so without further ado:
Thank you for sending ‘[TITLE]’ to [VENUE]. Unfortunately, we’ve decided it’s not quite right for us. We have to reject many good stories for a variety of reasons unrelated to their quality. We appreciate your interest in our magazine and wish you the best in finding a home for your story.
We thought the exchange between [H] and [S] was compelling, but we wanted more connection with (and resolution to) the first-contact thread.
Best Regards, [EDITOR]
The first paragraph to this response appears to be their standard form rejection. The “no” statement is pretty general and it ends with a “happy send off” as it wishes the author “the best in finding a home for [their] story.” But then we have this second paragraph sentence tacked on there with a specific note. That’s a good sign! That tells me someone took the time to read the whole story and actually thought about what they liked and didn’t like about it. It’s so weird to think about my story being read by professional strangers…
It looks like they wanted more from the first-contact component of my story, so I could take a look at things and revise to bring that out more. I called Kris and she felt like it was a matter of preference, and that I shouldn’t jump into changing things. Still, getting super specific feedback like this is really valuable, and not something I want to just toss aside.
For now, I’m going to send it as-is to another magazine. If it continues to meet with rejection, I may consider revising it.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me!
Great news! The Writers of the Future contest has posted their official winners for the Second Quarter of Volume 35, and I got a Silver Honorable Mention! This means that out of thousands of contestants, my story “ALIENS!” made it to the top 25. So while I didn’t win or even place, I’m happy to see my work is at a competitive level with other writers. It’s incredibly validating.
“ALIENS!” Sci-fi short story about 5k words. This project was inspired by my years in Japan, one very interesting SCUBA instructor, and memories of my grandpa introducing me to various SETI programs. The whole story is essentially a conversation–hopefully an interesting one.
And well, it looks like someone at WotF found it interesting. Not interesting enough to win, but interesting enough to make it to the top tiers, and I am so so grateful for that. I would guess that the stories are judged in brackets, since it’s unlikely that every judge would read every story. I like to imagine that there was a judge championing my story, pushing it up, until it finally met its match and was superseded. But its nice to think that for a short period, someone believed in it.
In the meantime, the rights to the story still belong to me, so I’ve submitted it to a sci-fi/fantasy magazine to see if I can get it published, and share it with all of you.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me,
Thank you very much for letting me see [TITLE]. I’m sorry it didn’t strike me as quite suitable to our present needs.
Sincerely, [NAME] Editor
So. This is the third rejection I’ve received for the same story. It’s the one I call “Satellite” in this post where I describe my current projects. I mentioned that it is very “niche.” It has a unique structure and style, one that doesn’t fit with most of the sff venues I read. I figured I’d go ahead and send it out to some larger publication venues in the odd chance that they might pick it up, but I didn’t have a high expectation. All three rejections have been short/form letters, which is likely an indication that the story isn’t just striking out, it’s not even in the ballpark of what these editors are looking for. This most recent letter’s wording, “didn’t strike me as quite suitable” reaffirms that to me.
Because of this, I think it’s time to try a different tack. This morning I sent “Satellite” to a magazine that’s quite a bit smaller than most of my favorites, but it specializes in more avant garde styles. If it isn’t received well there, I’ll probably continue to submit it to other venues. But since this is the venue I think is the very best fit, it’s unlikely it’s going to get picked up anywhere else.
I’ve enjoyed sharing these rejections online though. It gives me something to do with them, makes me feel like I’m creating something out of them by sharing them. And…next week, I’ll be sharing a bit of good news I’ve been sitting on.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me,
Thank you for the opportunity to read “[title].” Unfortunately, your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now.
In the past, we’ve provided detailed feedback on our rejections, but I’m afraid that due to time considerations, we’re no longer able to offer that service. I appreciate your interest in [name of venue] and hope that you’ll keep us in mind in the future.
Take care, [name of editor]
I think sharing my rejections might become something of a tradition on this blog. After I got the first one I decided to print them out and start collecting them in a binder. Someday I’d like to bring my binders of rejections to book signings, because as a writer who aspires to publication, I always enjoy hearing about the journey other authors made in order to get there. But in the meantime, I don’t really want to wait to show them off. Getting these rejections took a lot of work, and I’m proud of them! Plus, maybe they’ll help remove some of the stigma and emotionality around rejections. Maybe seeing mine shared word-for-word will help inspire you to see rejection as a component of success, not an indication of failure.
It’s interesting that this venue mentioned the fact that they used to do personalized rejections and stopped. Honestly, it’s kind of a relief to get a form rejection, at least for a short story. If I were trying to sell a novel I’d much rather revise and resubmit, but part of what I love about short stories is…when they’re done they’re done. If one of my shorts doesn’t sell, I don’t think I’ll rework it. I think I’ll just write another one. I like the idea of finishing things, creating a repertoire, having a dozen or more stories on a submission circuit at once, and retiring the ones that just don’t make the cut, letting them be what they are. It feels more like progress to me.
When would I retire a story? Probably after I’d sent it to every venue on my list that it qualified for. Admittedly, it’s not a very long list. But I feel like, if a story isn’t good enough to be published by my list of favorites, it’s not good enough to represent me as an author. And I don’t mind waiting. Mm, “waiting” is not the right word. It feels too passive, doesn’t reflect the work I’m doing. Instead let’s call it, “biding my time.” And I am very, very good at biding my time.
Thanks for coming on the journey with me,
Two months ago I shared what I thought were Patrick Rothfuss’ top 25 blog posts, so click here for PART 1. But that meant leaving a lot of really great ones on the cutting room floor! There were interviews and funny stories, important milestones and comparing babies to fruits that were left out, and I really couldn’t bear to do that. Also, reading all eleven years of his archives was a lot of work and I’d like to squeeze some more juice out of it. So, without further ado, here are 25 more (plus some change) of Pat’s best.
Any Other Random Posts Everyone Should Read?
46) My Brain: See Pat’s brain.
47) On Hollywood, Narnia, and the Nature of Stories: Pat did not enjoy watching Prince Caspian.
48) My Sweet: Pat writes a letter to his true love, a very special woman.
49) Ice Bucket Challenge: There was a time when everyone was doing this. But Pat does not like to do things the same way everyone is doing them. He likes to go a little crazy.
50) On Not Being a Winner: Pat has no plaque to use as a projectile in the eventuality of a zombie attack.
Thank you for submitting [title of story] to [anthology], but we’ve decided not to accept it for publication.
We appreciate your interest in our magazine.
Sincerely, [name of editor]
I thought I’d share this with you guys for a few reasons:
One, if you’re thinking about submitting your work, you might be interested in seeing what a form rejection looks like. This is the kind of reply you get when the editor is not interested at all. Not so scary, is it? After getting this, I took about an hour finding the next best anthology, reading up on their submission guidelines, and sent it right off again.
Two, this is a huge milestone for me! If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I’ve been working on the same behemoth fantasy series for over a decade. Because I never queried my book, that meant I worked for ten years without ever submitting anything (minus pitch sessions at conferences, but that’s another story for another day). In other words, I was in “revision hell.” It sometimes made me feel like, despite all my efforts, I wasn’t actually in the game. I used to daydream about the day I could call my story “done” and start querying. I daydreamed about getting rejections — fighting the good fight alongside my writerly comrades. So this experience is literally a dream come true. You guys, I’m actually, finally, doing it. This rejection is proof of my efforts, and that feels so good.
Obviously getting rejected for a short story — that I already knew was pretty niche — doesn’t hurt as much as getting a novel turned down by a dream agent. But…that’s what makes it even more awesome. It means I get to hang out in the trenches and experience rejection without it being the book-of-my-heart on the line. I gotta say I recommend this tactic.
The third reason I want to share, is because there are some authors who do really cool things with their rejection slips and I want to be one of them. Stephen King had a nail he stuck all his rejections on, until one day there was too much weight and it pulled the nail out of the wall, so he stuck a spike in there instead. I’ve heard of an author who laminated all her rejections into one big ribbon and she takes it to signings and shows it off. Does anyone have any ideas for what I can do with mine? Please let me know in the comments section!
I should hear back about another short story I have on submission by the end of this month. I’ll let you know how that goes as well. Thanks for coming along this journey with me!
The next few videos are going to be awesome. They’re all about the trip Nathan and I took to Morocco and Spain last year–eating awesome food, riding camels in the Sahara, gaping at the incredible architecture and soaking in the art in Madrid. But I’m even more excited for what comes after that…cause for the last five years, YouTube has been a hobby, not a priority. I’ve been filming and editing videos on my own.
And I think that’s about to change.
So. What would you like to see? What would you like to know about the Tyler family? And where in the world would you like to follow us?
Over two hundred named characters have died on the Game of Thrones TV show. Including unnamed characters, that number shoots up to somewhere over sixteen hundred. But there’s one death I think about more often than all the rest. It’s not the one that made me cry the hardest (Hodor), or the one that makes me yell “DON’T GET COCKY!” at the screen every time I see it (Oberon), or the death that motivated me to go online and seek out pictures of Rose Leslie and Kit Harington happy and together on a romantic getaway in sunshiney Greece (Igritte).
Nope, it’s Rickon Stark.
Here’s a little reminder of what I’m talking about:
Now first off, let’s get that whole “zigzag” thing out of the way, okay? Sufficeth to say, Ramsay never would have let Rickon go if he wasn’t 100% confident he’d be able to kill him from that distance. When Ramsay was done messing around and missing on purpose, he shot Rickon straight through the heart. Even if Rickon had “serpentined,” Ramsay would probably still have hit him, albeit less accurately. If he’d missed completely, he’d probably just order a volley of arrows from his archers to do the job. Ever seen a cat mess with a mouse before it eats it? It likes to let it go and see it run…but not farther than it knows it can reach it.
Sansa knew this. The day before the Battle of the Bastards, John asked her, “How do we get Rickon back?” And she answered, “We’ll never get him again.” She didn’t know the future, she knew Ramsay. There was never a chance that Rickon would have survived that day, and the delusion that there was any chance at all was nothing but a sadistic manipulation.
On top of that, the actor who played Rickon, Art Parkinson, gives us a glimpse into what Rickon’s emotional state might have been as he was running when he said in an interview, “…in the moment, I really wanted him to make it. I put everything into it.” It sounds to me like Art understood the desperation his character would have been feeling at the time. That he was abandoned by his family and betrayed by his protectors at the age of six, and that this glimpse of hope, a loving brother with the power to save him just out of arm’s reach, would have overridden any tactical planning on his part. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and as Art said, “I really wanted…to make it.”
And if we’re going to talk about “stupid mistakes that resulted in unjust deaths,” we’ve got a long list starting at — oh I dunno — the Children of the Forest.
That aside, I’m not saying Rickon’s death is the saddest, or the most gruesome. It just bothers me more than any of them. And here are five reasons why:
Wasted Magical Potential
Now, I don’t know if all of the Stark children can warg or whatever, but Rickon is clearly and plainly clairvoyant. Throughout the show we see Bran develop these skills, but Rickon demonstrates these abilities even before Bran does. What’s more, he’s quicker to believe and act on the revelations he has. Here’s the conversation they have when Rob leaves: Bran: “They’ll be back soon. Rob will free father, and they’ll come back with mother.” Rickon: “No, they won’t.”
By the time Bran gets to the family crypt, Rickon is already there, and we get this conversation: Bran: “That’s where I saw father.” Osha: “You see? He’s not here.” Rickon: “Here, Shaggydog. Bran: “Rickon!” Osha: “That beast is supposed to be chained in the kennels!” Rickon: “He doesn’t like chains.” Bran: “What are you doing down here? Come back up with us.” Rickon: “No! I came to see father. Bran: “How many times have I told you he’s in King’s Landing with Sansa and Arya?” Rickon: “He was down here. I saw him.” Bran: “Saw him when?” Rickon: “Last night. When I was sleeping.”
Of course most people remember this scene. Far fewer catch Rickon’s prophetic statement about chains, the house sigil of Umber, the family who would later decapitate shaggy dog and betray Rickon to the Boltons.
Beyond his potential magical abilities, Rickon’s personality was actually an interesting one. Like his wolf, he became something of a feral child, but his early experiences clearly resulted in a strong sense of familial duty. When Bran tells him going North isn’t safe for him, and they must split up and Rickon must go with Osha, this dialogue happens: Rickon: “I’m coming with you.” Bran: “No, you and Osha and Shaggydog head for the Last Hearth. The Umbers are our bannermen. They’ll protect you.” Rickon: “I’m coming with you. I’m your brother. I have to protect you.”
I’m sorry, but if you spend two seconds thinking about this you’ll realize how heartbreaking it is. Rickon really just has one rule: protect your family. Why? Because his family failed to protect him.
A Childhood of Suffering
Rickon was old enough to comprehend the love of his family, and he was old enough to comprehend its loss, but he wasn’t old enough to comprehend WHY everyone he loved was abandoning him. He spent his entire childhood in confusion and fear. He spent it hiding and starving and nearly freezing to death. Osha, bless her heart, kept him alive, but was never able to relieve his emotional pain or provide for his temporal needs. In the end, all of her efforts and sacrifice did nothing but prolong Rickon’s suffering.
He Never Wanted to “Play the Game”
In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. Most (though not all) of the deaths on GoT are suffered by characters who choose to play the game in one way or another. I’m not saying they deserved what they got, or anything of the sort, I’m just saying that the fact that Rickon never volunteered to be involved in his family’s war makes it all the more unfair that he would be the one MOST affected by it.
The Cruelty of Hope
The “hope” Ramsay instills in Rickon in the moments before his death are really just a metaphor for what George Martin, DB Weiss and David Benioff have done to their audience. On an intellectual level, I give them credit for excellent writing. On an emotional level, I’ll never forgive them, hahaha. The fact is, Rickon’s clear potential, his hard childhood, and his survival against all odds, led the audience to hope, and hope is a cruel mistress.
Now, some viewers, I’d say most viewers, didn’t care a whole lot about Rickon, and his death got reduced to a “could Rose have just shared the door with Jack?” argument. But the fact that Rickon felt like a “throwaway” character, or that his storyline seemed like a “waste,” conveys a really powerful message that spills into the real world. And that is, that every war is a war on children. That what once could have been a beautiful and interesting and complex life, has suddenly been smothered in ashes and blood and wiped off the pages of history. Children go missing. They suffer without understanding why. And when they die, no one seems to care.
First story, a couple weeks ago we’re driving home in the car… Bubs: Can we watch Boss Baby: Back in Business when we get home? Me: Um…no I don’t really want you watching that show… Bubs: Why? Me: Because I feel like it’s just kind of stupid. Bubs: Well, you don’t have to watch it.
Fair argument. I let him watch Boss Baby: Back in Business when we got home.
And then when the kids were horsing around instead of going to bed one night… Me: Can you both please stop horsing around?! Bubs: What’s that? Me: Screaming and running and jumping on stuff. Bubs: Mom, sometimes those things are just part of life.
He lost that one and got sent back to bed.
But then Bubs had a really, really bad day one day. I was putting him to bed and he was very sad. He told me he’d gotten in five “fights” that day. FIVE. He was rather empathic. Mom yelled at him for whining at breakfast time, he and his best friend got in an argument at school, which got his teacher involved so he had a “fight” with his best friend AND his teacher, then he went to a new friend’s house after school and that friend wanted to watch TV instead of play with him, and then he got yelled at by dad when dad came home because he was arguing with his sister.
I usually tell my son stories before bed, so this time I told him a story about Little Robot, and his bad day with Robo-mom, Robo-bestfriend, Robo-teacher, Robo-newfriend, and Robo-dad. Pretty sure there was a Robo-sister in there too but apparently getting in a fight with his three year-old sister doesn’t count? All the same exact things happened, but adding “Robo-” to everyone’s name seemed to soften the blow and even made him laugh. At the end of the story, as if he were doing his best Charles Wallace impression, my kid says, “I like that you made the story about me and my day. It made me feel happy, because it made me feel like you listened to me.”
Robots make everything better.
But then we continued talking about his best friend, and what happened there. Apparently Bubs had become so incensed he’d slammed his hand down on his work table and shouted “THIS FRIENDSHIP ENDS NOW!” (That was how Robo-teacher got involved.) And then this conversation happened… Me: “Whoa! Those are some pretty strong words! That must have hurt your friend’s feelings.” Bubs: Yeah…I thought I was making the right choice. But after I felt bad, because it was really the wrong choice. He said sorry first and then I said sorry and we’re still friends. Me: I’m glad you said sorry. Sometimes we can tell if we made the right choice or the wrong choice by how it makes us feel afterward, huh? Bubs: Yeah, like when I’m sad, it’s probably because someone else did something wrong, but when I’m mad, it might be because I’m wrong and I just think they’re wrong.
And I’m still thinking about that one.
p.s. The header image for this blog came from a recent “roly poly” hunt.
Last Friday my little family packed our things and piled into the car for a trip to Albuquerque (and I CAN NOT say that word without getting the Weird Al song stuck in my head). One of Nathan’s relatives passed away and his family was planning on holding a memorial on Saturday morning. Of course events like this are really important for all sorts of reasons, but on top of the obvious, a lot of Nathan’s extended family were going to be there, some of whom the kids and I were looking forward to meeting for the first time. And of course, the kids were stoked to see Grandma and Grandpa.
The drive was supposed to take us about seven hours. A couple hours into the drive, our battery warning light came on. Hubs was pretty concerned, considering we’d just replaced our alternator a couple months ago, and apparently these things are related. We made it to a mechanic (who had cars propped up on rocks instead of jacks), who couldn’t help us. The issue was not with the battery itself, which could easily be replaced. Instead, the bracket that held our alternator was broken. So then we went to another mechanic that called every mechanic around town for the replacement bracket they needed to fix our car and…no one had it. They said they could order the part and get it in by Tuesday. Remember, this was last Friday. We were planning on coming back on Sunday.
All the local car-rental places were closed, but even if they weren’t, we couldn’t rely on our busted car to get us there, and the town was too small to have any taxis, so…not an option.
Nathan and I sat in the car and narrowed it down to three viable options:
Call Kris and ask her to come save us and just take us home. (Kris has confirmed that she would indeed have come and saved us. Everyone, get yourself a Kris in your life.)
Stay in a hotel for a night and then rent a car to drive home the next day. (The memorial was Saturday morning, so if we drove down Saturday we’d miss it completely.)
Catch the next Greyhound bus to Albuquerque. Departs: 10:00pm, Arrives: 4:30am. (Our car broke down around 5pm)
And thus we had a rather classic set of roads set before us. Admit defeat, return to the known and the easy…or do it the hard way, take a risk, and go on an adventure. Well kids, we took the Greyhound.
We spent five hours trying to kill time, walked all the way to four different restaurants recommended by Google before finding out they were all closed, listened to our children bicker and complain, realized in a panic that if we didn’t retrieve our luggage, the mechanic might lock our car into his shop with all our stuff in it, sent Nathan running across town to retrieve said luggage, and then hauled that luggage around town, and then the bus station was closed in the evenings so there were no vending machines or bathrooms for anyone to use and let’s be real–all bus stations get a little creepy after dark. And finally, when we arrived, our two small children were as jet-lagged as if they’d flown to Japan (and I say that from personal experience.) At least, that’s one way to tell the story.
Another way to tell the story is like this: we took a walk along the river, found a weird metal thing in the water and decided it was a magical key from the Land of Hyrule, found a coffee shop with wi-fi and donuts and a four-way chess board (on which Bubs learned to play chess for the first time), we ate some stellar cheeseburgers and beef-stuffed sopapillas with Pina Coladas, and by the grace of heaven we remembered to get our luggage out of our car before the mechanic closed his shop, and we made it to the Greyhound station with time to spare! And we all made it to the memorial in the morning! Bubs was so tired he even slept through it, which was actually super helpful, hahaha.
Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, have all had similar highs and lows. Meltdowns and naps. Lots of easily happy moments, and lots of opportunities to choose happiness.
I haven’t taken any pictures during this trip. Trust me, the idea of archiving the whole thing crossed my mind right at the beginning. The potential for a good story was obvious. But there was more than one adventure to be had. One was about “type two funny” travel disasters and the challenges of dragging children onto Greyhounds at four in the morning, and the kinds of things that make for good youtube videos. The other adventure was a little harder to grasp, a little quieter. It was about taking the time to get to know my kids a little better, teaching my son to play chess, spending time pretending to be mermaids with my daughter in the hotel pool, going to the family graveyard, meeting people I’ve never met before, and helping my husband manage being away from work for several unexpected days. I suppose I could have recorded those things too, and I have recorded that kind of thing in the past. All I can say is this: that a camera changes things. Sometimes taking pictures and footage enhances your experience. Sometimes the camera makes you an outsider in your own adventure. This time, I didn’t feel like looking at everything through a lens.
Okay kids, I’m back from the Storymakers 2018 writing conference, and it’s time for a play-by-play.
First, Christina Parks came ten days before the shindig. She’s one of my best buddies (and one of the best writers I know). This year was extra special because she brought her five year-old daughter and 10 month-old daughter. We even hung out with our buddy Kris Atkins and her kids in Denver, and stayed overnight. It was a lot of kids! Much fun was had. Driving to and from Denver, I started reading I Feel Bad About My Neck out loud to Christina and it made the time fly. Christina and I happen to have the same *exact* palate, so we made a lot of freakishly delicious food. I made carrot cake that lasted all of two-and-a-half days. She even made meat pasties for the family one night, and let the kids roll out their own dough.
Storymakers is a writing conference in Provo, Utah. On the drive up, we had Christina’s two little girls in the car and they were COMPLETE ANGELS. Her baby literally did not cry until about 20 minutes before we arrived at the hotel. Her five year-old stayed with “grandma” during the conference, but Angel Baby stayed with us. With all the stresses of plane flights, long car trips, strange houses, weird hotels, and new people, this kid took it all in stride and amazed us all. Spending time with her was one of the highlights of the trip. Though one thing I often say about babies, is that having a good baby is like having a good bull. Even when they’re good, they’re still a lot to handle, and I was so proud of Christina for going to Storymakers regardless of the additional challenge.
On Wednesday, we went to the Austen Tea Party, a regency-themed get-together for historical or semi-historical writers. This year we were allowed to break from convention and wear anything from any decade. I wore my Moroccan kaftan, Christina wore a regency dress she made herself, and Kris dressed up like a 90s rocker chick. You know what though? I like our pictures from two years ago better, and I never got much of a chance to share those, so that’s going here, hahaha.
The next day, Kris went up to Salt Lake to visit family and Christina and I spent the morning walking Provo, visiting the temple grounds, and stuffing ourselves on Belgian frites and Hruska’s Kaloches. Those little things are like heaven wrapped in a cloud. The sausage and gravy is my favorite. We went there again before we left so Kris wouldn’t miss out.
On the first day of Storymakers we went to a three-hour intensive on social media. You can thank that class for me resurrecting the blog, since the instructor asked us to send her a link to three blog posts a month or so ago and at the time I didn’t have any. The class was actually really amazing and informative–something that’s hard to do with any social media class these days. One of the best takeaways was the idea of just focusing on something. Not trying to create an account everywhere, but really finding where you feel most comfortable and rocking that. I think YouTube + this blog are going to be my focus from here on out. So now I have to resurrect my YouTube channel…
Oh, and we wore matching shirts. Christina made them. Christina was kind of the woman-of-the-hour every hour that week. She knows how to make it happen.
Shannon Hale was the keynote speaker at the conference. When I came home and showed my son pictures, he said he wished he was there and that he thought the Princess in Black was really cool and it wasn’t fair I got to meet the author. I told him her big speech at dinner was about how there were no boy books or girl books, but just books for people, and he yelled “That’s right!!!” So apparently I’m doing something right.
We also had classes by awesome authors like Sarah Eden and Dan Wells. Dan’s class was really weird for me because I listen to him talk on the podcast Writing Excuses almost every day (they update once a week, but I listen to reruns), and getting to learn from him in real life was an amazing experience.
Another fun part of the conference was pitching my book to an editor. This is me right before my pitch:
Hahaha, I’m actually just kidding around. To be totally honest, I wasn’t super nervous about this pitch at all. I see pitches as an opportunity to fine-tune my concept and make some great contacts in the industry. This pitch also included a query and first page critique. The editor actually thought both my query and first page were really solid and didn’t have any suggestions, but I got some great feedback about what was working. We had a little bit of extra time, so he asked me if there was anything else I wanted to talk about. I ended up telling him about some of my short stories, even though he doesn’t rep them, but just for fun. He got really excited about the concept for “Satellite” and wanted me to send him a link so he could read it when it finds a home.
After the conference, our whole trio + Christina’s husband went to see Hamilton! Again, it was Christina with the hookups. She jumped on this whole thing months ago and had all four of us coordinate our attacks the moment the tickets went on sale. This woman knows how to make it happen.
The show was a revelation. I know everyone says this production is a work of genius, but it really is. It deserves the reputation it has. The talent was totally overwhelming, and there was so much to take away from it and think about later. I loved it so much.
And that was a wrap! Christina and her family stayed for some extra time with family in Utah, and Kris and I drove home. On the way back to Colorado we brainstormed an entire book together.
When I got home, I finally got Satellite on submission. Since then I’ve outlined plans for two more short stories. Storymakers is fantastic for so many reasons. The classes, the speakers, the friends, the professionals…but I underlying it all and making it magical is an incredible surge of creative energy. My fire is rekindled for another year. I’m home. I’m writing.
In the world of science fiction and fantasy short stories, getting a Hugo Award is like winning an Oscar. As a short story writer currently in the throes of submitting her work, I’ve been really interested in which anthologies tend to get their stories nominated for, and win, Hugos. Of course getting something published in one of these carries no guarantee of success, but it does demonstrate the fact that there are Hugo-voting eyeballs looking at these collections. I figure if I want to make the team, it’s a good idea to show up for tryouts.
Since making bar graphs is apparently my definition of fun, the following charts are all created by me. The data was collected from the Hugo Awards website.
The graph below illustrates which publications have had their short stories nominated for a Hugo in the last twenty years.
As you can see, Asimov’s has dominated the short story Hugo Awards with 38 nominations in the last two decades. Analog and the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction come in second with 10 each, Clarkesworld goes for bronze with 7, and Tor gets an honorable mention with 6.
When it comes to actual wins, not just nominations, the odds are even more stark. Asimov’s has 11, while the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is the only other publication with more than one. However! It’s worth noting that this trend has changed greatly in recent years. Short stories online have grown in popularity, new anthologies are popping up every day, and there’s been a relatively recent pushback to the not-so-affectionately called Sad Puppies, as well as the Rabid Puppies.
For whatever reason, Asimov’s actually drops off the list of short story nominees completely in 2013.
Currently, the 2018 nominees are:
“Carnival Nine,” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 2017)
“Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand,” by Fran Wilde (Uncanny, September 2017)
“Fandom for Robots,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny, September/October 2017)
“The Martian Obelisk,” by Linda Nagata (Tor.com, July 19, 2017)
“Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon, (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
“Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™,” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, August 2017)
We won’t know who this year’s winners are until August, but that’s three more nominations for Uncanny and one more for Tor and Apex. It’s also the first nomination for a story from Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which is pretty exciting! Look how much it changes the dynamics of our five-year graph:
Over the years, a few of the short story winners have come out of print anthologies, but most of them were published in print and online magazines. If you’re also looking to submit your work, I recommend this very handy list I put together of short story magazines and anthologies currently taking unsolicited submissions. It has a lot more information on many of these anthologies, plus a few more I believe we’ll see make the list in the near future.
A while ago I mentioned that Patrick Rothfuss has, in my opinion, the best author blog on the internet. Although, like his books, his blog is a bit of a behemoth. Where to start a book is simple–at the beginning (unless you’re one of those monsters who reads the last chapter first). Where to start a blog with eleven years’ worth of posts written by a famously (infamously?) verbose author is another matter. That said, the effort is well worth it. And since there’s nothing I love more than subjecting people to my obsessively organized passions, I’ve curated a list for your convenience.
Bonus: What Books (other than his own) Does Pat Recommend? These and these.
I should mention–after all of this–this caveat: that the persona created by all of Pat’s writing, whether it be in book or blog, is a mere shadow of himself. It’s what he refers to as My Fictional Nature, and his thoughts on it are worth noting. All I can say is, if this is the shadow, I would love to meet the person.
Whew! Things are getting interesting over here in Tyler Land. I have a number of writing projects I’m working on right now, and I thought it’d be fun to keep you updated on my progress!
Sci-fi short story I’d like to be about 5k-7k words. My original draft was 5k, but the premise is kind of far out and so many of my beta readers had so many questions, I decided to let myself wax verbose on the second draft and answer all the questions. This resulted in the story swelling to 9k (almost twice the length of the first draft). I figured I could review how the additional 4k felt and shave it down if needed. Adding more narration and more backstory, as well as changing the starting point, made the whole thing feel like the first chapter to a Young Adult dystopian novel instead of a sci-fi short. It was so far from what I wanted, I considered shelving the whole project. But I talked to my critique partner Kris, and she helped me create a vision for draft number three, where I could refocus and hone in on the story I most wanted to tell. So that’s what I’m currently doing. Goes on submission: May 31
Sci-fi flash fiction about 650 words long. The concept behind this story is so niche I have no idea if it will ever get published. That said, I think it may be one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. I’ve recruited help from my husband and my best friend from high school to help me with some of the technical stuff. They’ve been geeking out about it, which is absolutely thrilling to me. I brought the story to my library writing group and had one person understand it completely, one person understand the gist of it, and three people who couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I asked the group if there was a way to balance the story so it could be understood by a wider audience. The group unanimously advised me to ignore the wider audience, commit to the idea, and charge ahead with it. Goes on submission: April 30
Sci-fi/fantasy short story I’m hoping to keep between 7k-10k words. This story is still in the note-taking phase. When looking for ideas, I often begin with my resources. My husband and brother-in-law both worked on submarines for three years, and I simply couldn’t pass up the spec fic opportunities! This will definitely be my most challenging short story to date because it deals with the ethics of nuclear war, and I’ll have to get all my technical and inside information from interviews and research. Goes on submission: August 31
4) “The Island Book”
Historical fantasy novel about 100k words. This is the first installment in a series of books about two families struggling for control of a fictional island. Magical beings and speculative science get involved. Chaos ensues. Currently working on: chapters 11 and 12
Sci-fi short story about 5k words. This project was inspired by my years in Japan, one very interesting SCUBA instructor, and memories of my grandpa introducing me to various SETI programs. The whole story is essentially a conversation–hopefully an interesting one. Currently on submission: Writers of the Future
For anyone interested, here is my list of science fiction and fantasy magazines/anthologies I plan on submitting my short stories to. These are, in my opinion, the very best SFF collections out there that accept unsolicited submissions. In other words, you can submit your work to them without an agent. I’ll be updating this information as time goes on. I haven’t numbered or rated the venues because they each have different strengths and specialties. Zoetrope, for instance, is the most literary on this list, while Beneath Ceaseless Skies only publishes second-world fantasy. I think it’s a good idea to peruse the list with a specific story in mind and consider which would be the best fit.
Not gonna lie, it’s a very good list.
Here’s a breakdown of what we’re lookin’ at:
Title (links to the magazine’s submission guidelines page)
Pay (in cents) per word and acceptable word counts
Notable authors published by the magazine
Whether or not submissions are exclusive (you can’t simultaneously submit your story to another venue)
Average response time
Special notes or exceptions
Analog Science Fiction and Fact (SFWA) 8-10 cents per word for short fiction up to 20,000
6 cents per word for serials up to 40,000-80,000
Published: Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, Greg Bear, Ben Bova, David Brin, Lois McMaster Bujold, Michael F. Flynn, Robert A. Heinlein, Geoffrey Landis, Spider Robinson, Robert J. Sawyer, Charles Sheffield, Michael Swanwick, Harry Turtledove, Timothy Zahn, Orson Scott Card, Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey Exclusive (response time 2-4 months, tracking number provided)
Apex Magazine (SFWA) 6 cents per word for short fiction up to 7,500 words
Published: Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite, Cherie Priest, Eugie Foster, Maurice Broaddus, Ben Bova, William F. Nolan, Sara King, Brian Keene Exclusive (response time 30 days)
Asimov’s Science Fiction (SFWA) 8-10 cents per word for short fiction up to 7,500 (1000 word minimum)
8 cents per word up to 20,000
Published: Isaac Asimov,George R. R. Martin, Octavia E. Butler, Jonathan Lethem, Kim Stanly Robinson, Orson Scott Card, Ursula K. Le Guin, Fran Wilde Exclusive (response time 5 weeks, tracking number provided)
Beneath Ceaseless Skies (SFWA) 6 cents per word for short fiction up to 14,000
Non-Exclusive, but no Multiple Submissions (response time 1-7 weeks, avg 2-4)
Special note: Fantasy (secondary world) ONLY/ no science fiction
Clarkesworld Magazine (SFWA) 10 cents per word for short fiction up to 5,000 words (1000 word minimum)
8 cents per word up to 16,000 words
Published: Elizabeth Bear, Kij Johnson, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Sarah Monette, Catherynne Valente, Jeff VanderMeer, Peter Watts Exclusive (response time 2 days, tracking number provided)
Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores (SFWA) 6 cents per word for short fiction unlimited (1,000 minimum)
Exclusive (response time 1-12 weeks)
Special note: also accepts podcast, video, comics
Escape Pod (SFWA) 6 cents per word for short fiction 2,000-6,000 words
100 dollars for reprints of any length
Some reprints have won the Hugo
Exclusive (response time 3-6 months)
Special note: sci-fi ONLY/ no fantasy/magical realism
Fireside Fiction (SFWA) 12.5 cents per word for short fiction up to 4,000 words, flash fiction up to 1,000
Published: Amal El-Mohtar, Jennifer Campbell Hicks, Mary Robinette Kowal, Daniel José Older, Chuck Wendig, Caroline M Yoachim, Ken Liu, Kevin Hearne Exclusive (response time 1 month after close of submission period)
7 cents per word for short fiction up to 7,000 words
Published: Orson Scott Card, Mercedes Lackey, George RR Martin, Larry Niven, Lois McMaster Bujold, Gregory Benford, Robert J. Sawyer, Robert A. Heinlein, Kevin J Anderson
Exclusive (response time 6 weeks)
Interzone (does not qualify for SFWA) 4 cents per word for short fiction up to 10,000 words (£30/1000 words)
Published: Brian Aldiss, Sarah Ash, Michael Moorcock, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, M. John Harrison, Stephen Baxter, Iain M. Banks, J.G. Ballard, Kim Newman, Alastair Reynolds, Harlan Ellison, Greg Egan, Gwyneth Jones, Jonathan Lethem, Geoff Ryman, Rachel Pollack, Charles Stross, Jon Courtenay Grimwood Exclusive (response time unknown)
Lightspeed (SFWA) 8 cents per word for short fiction 1,500 to 10,000 (5,000 preferred)
Exclusive (response time 2 days, 2 weeks if under consideration)
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (SFWA) 7-12 cents per word for short fiction up to 25,000 words
Published: Stephen King, Walter Miller, Daniel Keyes, David Gerrold, Ursula K. Le Guin, Terry Bisson Exclusive (response time 8 weeks)
Motherboard: Terraform (SFWA) 20 cents per word for short fiction up to 2,000 words
Exclusive (response time 4 months)
Special note: tech, science, near-future
Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show (SFWA) 6 cents per word for short fiction up to 17,500 words
Published: Peter S. Beagle, David Farland, Tim Pratt, Eugie Foster, Bud Sparhawk, Mary Robinette Kowal, James Maxey, Mette Ivie Harrison, Sharon Shinn, Eric James Stone, Orson Scott Card Exclusive (response time 3 months)
PodCastle (SFWA) 6 cents per word for short fiction 2,000-6,000, $100 for reprints of any length
Exclusive (response time unknown, narration auditions 3-6 months)
Special note: Fantasy ONLY/ no sci-fi
Strange Horizons (SFWA) 8 cents per word for short fiction up to 10,000 words (5,000 preferred)
Published: Nnedi Okorafor, Saladin Ahmed, Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, Nino Cipri, Becky Cloonan, Amal El-Mohtar, Kameron Hurley, N.K. Jemison, Yoon Ha Lee, Ken Liu, George RR Martin, Garth Nix, Naomi Nowak, Yukimi Ogawa, Daniel José Older, John Scalzi, E. Kristin Anderson, Aimee Bender, Gwenda Bond, Roshani Chokshi, Cory Doctorow, Ursula K. Le Guin, Rachel Hartman, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kelly Link, Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, Phoebe North, Brenna Yovanoff Exclusive (response time <40 days)
Pay confidential for novella-length fiction from 20,000 to 40,000 words
Published: Maria Dahvana Headley, Karin Tidbeck, Nnedi Okorafor
Exclusive (response time 6+ months)
Uncanny Magazine (SFWA) 8 cents per word for short fiction up to 6,000 words (750 word minimum)
Published: Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Catherynne M. Valente, Charlie Jane Anders, Seanan McGuire, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Alex Bledsoe, Kameron Hurley and Ken Liu, Amal El-Mohtar Exclusive (response in 30 days)
Zoetrope All-Story (does not qualify for SFWA) Pay confidential for short fiction and one-act plays up to 7,000 words
Winner of National Magazine Award, Best American Short Stories, O. Henry and Pushcart Prizes
Published: Gabriel García Márquez, Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, David Benioff, Mary Gaitskill, David Mamet, Ha Jin, Elizabeth McCracken, Yiyun Li, Don DeLillo, Andrew Sean Greer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Salman Rushdie, Woody Allen, Yoko Ogawa, David Means, Susan Straight, Charles D’Ambrosio Non-exclusive (website states: simultaneous submissions are accepted)
If you see anything that’s become outdated, or if I’ve accidentally omitted pertinent information, please let me know in the comments.
I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. this morning looking at dresses. Let me tell you about that. The 2018 Writers of the Future Awards Event was held yesterday in Los Angeles, California. I started watching it at midnight, and well, it’s almost three hours long. I’ve entered the 2019 contest, so I don’t have any skin in the game for 2018, but after watching the event for a while, I started daydreaming about what I’d wear if I were one of the finalists someday. Here’s a link to the Pinterest board. You might notice I like gold dresses. And floral dresses. And golden floral dresses.
I’ve mentioned how important it is to me to write more than I talk about writing. The same goes for daydreaming. I don’t want to end up dreaming more than doing. Dreaming takes a lot of energy. If I’m not careful, it can waste a lot of time as well—like last night, when dreaming (both literally and figuratively) resulted in me sleeping in and missing my a.m. writing time. As Dumbledore would say, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
So this morning, after dropping Bubs off at school, Rosebud and I did our hair, packed our bags, and headed to the library. Lucky me, it was my turn to share a short story with my local writer’s group and get a critique. I work with a lot of awesome writers, but I love the guts out of my local library group. We’re a bit of a motley crew. We’ve got an age range that spans several decades. We write everything from genre fiction, to memoirs, to exposés, to beat poetry. Today, I had two people rave about my short story, one say “I couldn’t get past the third page. I’m astounded anyone could read it,” and I had to break up an argument over whether or not the opening needed more description. More than once. I seriously love these people. If your local library group doesn’t regularly end near fisticuffs, you’re missing out. We also have cookies.
Going to the library today helped me a million times more than staying up and planning my winner’s wardrobe. And it didn’t just help my writing; it helped my morale. Because I was out there doing something. I was sharing my work. I was getting feedback. I was talking about ideas with real people. I wasn’t thinking about dresses or awards, but I was closer to them than I had been last night.
Because dreams aren’t accomplished by dreaming. Dreams are accomplished by laying down real efforts, brick-by-brick, and trusting that what you build will be beyond what you imagine.
So tonight, I’m going to bed on time. Let the dreams settle with the feathers in my pillow. And tomorrow morning, I’m going to wake up and write.
Full Disclosure: this isn’t my first blog. In December 2010 I created a blog that lasted almost exactly three years. I had 98 posts and 81,592 views. All things considered, that ain’t bad. So what went wrong? Why’d I quit? And why is the blog nowhere to be found? Well, as far as I can tell, I made five crucial mistakes.
1) I gave unqualified advice.
I talked a lot about things I had no experience in or real understanding of. I gave advice on how to write a query; I’d never written an actual query. I wrote about reducing your novel’s word count; I’d never finished a novel. I even had a series of posts where I helped a friend write her synopsis…you see where I’m going with this. Out of all the mistakes I made on my old blog, this was the one cringe-worthy enough to make me delete it.
2) I didn’t make it personal.
I thought writing blogs weren’t supposed to read like personal journals. So I didn’t talk about my family, my fears or my goals, I didn’t even talk about the book I was working on. I talked about writing, but not my writing. As a result, I missed out on a chance to chronicle a very exciting and formative time in my life. Out of all the authors whose books I love, only one of them has a blog I love. Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve read his entire archives (all eleven years’ worth) just for fun. Why? Because he’s figured out how to be real on the internet. He talks about his feelings, his family, and his writing too. It makes you feel like a ghostly traveling companion on the journey of his career.
3) I took myself way too seriously.
Okay, I admit it: this post took me a month to write because I still struggle with this. I spend way too much time hemming and hawing about the perfect thing to say instead of just settling on something good enough. I should relax and trust that, if I’m myself, people are going to like me. And if I’m sincere, they might even like what I have to say. I don’t have an issue with this in real life. Maybe it’s that writing something down makes it seem so definitive, sharing it on the internet makes it immortal, and whoa, hold on now, baby, I’m just not ready for that kind of a commitment! But perfect is the enemy of good (and done). And, as you can probably tell from reading this, that extra month didn’t serve to improve this post at all, now did it? Nope, it just made it take longer.
4) I posted too frequently, or not at all.
Consistency is key. That’s true for gaining any kind of social media following, as well as growing individually as an artist. Unfortunately, while I understood this maxim in 2010, it didn’t stop me from either posting obsessively every few days, or checking in every few months. If I’m being honest here, it’s something I still struggle with (I went to Morocco in March and still haven’t posted any YouTube videos about it. Oh. I mean, March of last year.) From here on out I’m planning on posting once a week, but if I can’t maintain that I’ll post once a month. Which leads me to the next thing I did wrong…
5) I didn’t adapt.
Instead of reviewing my progress and priorities and making appropriate adjustments, I quit. As nature’s law states: adapt or die. After running into these issues I didn’t give better advice, share something meaningful, or rethink my post schedule. I’ll admit, I have mixed feelings about this. Because I think it’s a very important truth that in order to be a successful writer, you need to write more than you talk about writing. Quitting my blog was a solution. But here’s where I went wrong: it wasn’t the only solution, and it wasn’t the best solution. Sometimes I wonder how much I would have learned by now, how much interesting content I would have created, had I adjusted my sights and trajectory and kept at it.
Now, my old blog wasn’t all bad. Some of the posts were really fun, or even excellent! You’ll see some of that material recycled here. But the best thing that ever came out of it, came because of the best move I’ve ever made in my writing career–and I’m gonna get real dopey on you here–in my adult life.
What I got right?
1) I used social media to make friends.
Specifically, I used my blog as a way of meeting people who were interested in the same things I was. I didn’t “establish an author’s platform.” I have some beef concerning that tack. I actually networked. I’d love to write a post in the near future on the difference between networking and creating a platform, but for now I’ll just say that I’ve met literally hundreds of people because of Blogger. I have critique partners, beta readers, and best friends because of it. What worked for me was using my blog as a landing spot for people to get to know me, and then reaching out to them through email, on the phone, at a conference, or planning a meet-up. I’m over thirty years old, married with two kids, and thanks to the “blogosphere,” I get to have sleepovers with my girlfriends. There’s Game of Thrones and popcorn and caramel cookie crunch Talenti involved. It’s pretty radical.
With all that in mind, I have a pretty good idea how I want to operate my blog from here on out.