Butterfly & flower, zhangkaiyv

Writing over the last month

I tried something new that lasted just over half of August. I woke up half an hour earlier than usual and, after getting ready for work, I wrote for 15-20 minutes before I left. Over the 19 days that I sustained it, I averaged 230 words per day, never wrote less than 100 words a day, and hit 4,368 words. Before the end of the month, I wrote on one more day, in order to finish a short story that I had promised to send to my writing group for critique, so my monthly grand total was 5,076 words. That’s pretty much a 100% increase in writing totals over the 3-4 months prior to August.

In total, I wrote 7 poems (yes, poems, me!) and a complete short story. I’m hoping to spend some time revising those pieces before I find somewhere to submit them.

That’s the other thing I’ve focused on over the last month and a half. I started submitting short fiction to places with both online and print offerings. I’d done it now and again before, in particular with all of the big science-fiction magazines, to no success. (Not that I’m surprised – I didn’t expect to get accepted somewhere like that, though when the first one returned with a personal rejection explaining their disappointment in the ending, I did think changing the ending and submitting elsewhere might bring about an acceptance. Alas, it did not.) I pay for duotrope and was rarely using it, so I’m trying to get better about it.

I have several submissions out, and I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful because – and here’s the great news to share! – I had a piece of flash fiction accepted at Ghost Parachute!! It will be in the October issue, which is out October 1. I have to admit that when I received the email, I expected another rejection. How excited and, well, elated was I to see that it was, in fact, an acceptance! Ghost Parachute features a new piece of artwork for each story and I can’t wait to see what they were inspired by with my piece.

Additionally, while I don’t query agents with much regularity anymore, I do send one off when I see an agent with a #MSWL or something else that I believe fits really well with one of my projects. (Of course, I’ve had agents say specifically that they “would love a summer camp romance,” sent them The Rules of Summer Camp, and received a form “this isn’t for me” rejection, so I don’t usually have much faith in #MSWL asks.) But an agent whom I really like posted recently about “geeky hobbies” in an ask, so I sent First to Find off to her and she requested a full! I’m excited to have her read it and need to tell myself continually to be optimistic and hopeful, since over the last few years my mood with regards to finding an agent has been rather nihilistic. It feels good to have a request like that after so many query form rejections.

All this to say that after months, many months, of feeling defeated and uninterested when it comes to writing (not that that’s been eliminated from my brain and life entirely), I’m feeling better about what I can do, what I’ve done, and have hope for what I will do.

Snowflake, Aaron Burden

New year, new you? Just focus.

I don’t like making New Year’s resolutions. Inevitably I keep none of them. I rarely make it even a few months. Weeks, even, sometimes. Yet every year I still think that maybe, just maybe, this year will be the year I keep all of my resolutions.

Thinking on that, I don’t like the word ‘resolution.’ I prefer the idea of goals. And I don’t think that any goals I make for 2016 will be transformative. They might broaden my reading horizons. They might urge me to finish something or try something new for me. They might anticipate things I already know I’ll slack on. But they won’t change me. I don’t mean to sound negative about all of this though I know it’s coming across that way.

The way I see it, each year brings new opportunities. For me, the opportunities I want to take are those that revolve around things I already like doing or things I want to be doing. For instance, I read a lot and love doing it, so I want to make some goals about my reading list. Or goals with cooking or writing, things I already do and love. Another example is exercise. I hate exercising. In New York City, it was so easy because I walked everywhere and up and down steps every day. Now, I’m being a bit hypocritical to my own opinions here because I have actually added an exercise goal to my 2016 list, but it’s one I already know I’ll fail. On the other hand, I know I won’t fail my reading and writing and cooking goals.
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Quotes Notebook

Being a quote-keeper

I’m a sporadic quote keeper.

I have a small Moleskine notebook set aside just for quotes, and while it’s nearly full, I don’t use it as often as I mean to. The last book I recorded a quote from was Andy Miller’s A Year of Reading Dangerously, which was my first read of 2015. It’s now June.

I love finding a quote in what I’m reading that stands out and speaks to me louder than all the other words. Sometimes I can go through a book and find a hundred phrases and passages I want to save, too many really, and sometimes I can pick out one and sometimes none at all.

Finding one or none or a hundred doesn’t matter when it comes to my quote keeping. I don’t write everything down. If my notebook isn’t handy, I won’t write it down. If I’m reading an eBook or a library book and can’t underline or want to take the time to figure out how to highlight on my tablet, I won’t save the quote. A quote has to be ridiculously outstanding for me to scribble it on a post-it or type it into a draft email.

In fact, writing that made me recall that I’ve had a quote saved in my email since January. I’m recording it into my notebook now. I also have 28 quotes saved to this blog that randomly refresh in the sidebar. I should add more, and I will. In fact, I just added the quote I mentioned here. (It’s from Bill Bryson, who is a one of my most-quoted writers, because everything he says is amazing and I would just dictate everything he’s written down if I could.)

Keeping quotes is important. It’s important as a reader and as a writer to have an archive of quotes that meant something in a moment.
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Mountain photo from Death to the Stock Photo

Writing & reading in 2015

I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions, one because I don’t like that word and two because I never manage to keep any of them. Ever. Maybe that’s because most of the time, a New Year’s resolution is vague and unquantifiable, something like “lose weight” or “spend time with family” or “read more.” Well, that’s all great and everything, but at the end of the year, how can you look back and know if you managed it?

I know a lot of people choose one word to lead and shape a new year, and I’ve gone back and forth with a few of them. But I’ve settled on one in particular that will probably not come as too much of a surprise: WRITE

With WRITE in mind as the umbrella under which all of 2015 will settle for me, I do have some goals and ambitions for the coming twelve months.

1. Finish, revise, revise again, & query my current WIP.

A daunting task of course, considering how much I hate the revision process. But I’m nearly at the end and I’ve already started revising and my awesome writing group is working through it with me, so this is an easily accomplished goal. I want to be querying by the summer. Yes, I’m crazy. Then, by September, maybe I can start something new. (Or sooner, you know.)
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