The fun part of resurfacing after a few weeks away from your regular life (although not for vaca!) is that you get to poke around touching base with your writing/reading communities, reach out to your fav writers/poets, get your bearings and then post (i.e. Insta & FB)/submit (using my ever-loving Duotrope List <3). And what do you discover about yourself?
Wow, my short fiction, teen girl story (that was written several winters ago as an experimental exercise tossed out by Canadian author/powerhouse Alissa York) called ENOUGH has taken #1 in short-fiction on Wattpad's Short Fiction ranking. And how'd that happen?
Well, I was confident that the story was too short for trad publishing so I threw it up on my Wattpad account for all to enjoy. FREE. That's right. Sometimes giving your completed work to a reading audience to enjoy is the better thing to do. It isn't always about the $$$$.
So, what have you got lurking around in your deep drawers? What poems, novellas, essays or complete novels have you got to give away? FYI: you can also serialize your writing dropping a chapter at a time. Although I'd completed my piece, I did release a chapter or 2 or 3 at a time. I also utilized YouTube music to head up each chapter. Gotta love the cross-pollination - especially when you're talking teen fiction!
So, 1, 2, 3...GO! Get your stuff into the hands of readers.
Then write on!
I've been MIA these past few months. It seems as though a bit of time slipped past me...yet if I do the math, it's been 7 weeks (shock & awe!) So, as I surface from family obligations, heat-coma, knitting-fever (for very early Christmas presents, dontcha know?) and pure nonchalance, I think a break from the hamster wheel might be a good thing.
Oh, I've been tallying the rejection letters; crossing poems off my Jo Bell tracker; dumping submission copies into the virtual wastebasket. All by rote. But 1 beautiful acceptance email this morning, and I'm feeling ready to roll up my sleeves and Duotrope my writing/submitting life back into shape this week.
The acceptance was the first for a 'climate change' poem (of the group that I spent the winter writing). It will be the first published of what I dreamed might be the backbone of a new manuscript. Hoping so dearly that it could become reality that I (bravely/foolishly?) submitted a 10-poem sample for a (non-existent) manuscript named UNSTOPPABLE that I'm still in the process of creating. Talk about chutzpah!!
Isn't that how we writers often do it? Dream it and they (the words) will come?! Yes, I say. While I'm still waiting reply from the indie publisher I sent the sample to, I'll get back to the writing, won't I? After all, that's how reality/success/the magic happens...
Not surprisingly, I've been too busy to write. Yes, even a tiny poem won't be squeezed out at the moment. And don't we writers know how to procrastinate in the best possible way in order to avoid writing? Coffee, dishwasher, newspaper, the dreaded internet...all time-wasters of the highest order!
But like the best writers I know, I've been writing-of-sorts in my head. Poetry is easier to carry in your head than an entire novel, I'll admit. Nonetheless, it seems that everything I've encountered...laid hands on in the past few weeks has redirected me to the writing. And it's a good thing.
Whether that's yarn (like twisted, spaghetti-thoughts), the fog that my mind (and the most inspired words) usually seems to reside in, the crazy-blinking lights in the darkness or the proper tools to apply to the chaos that first lands on the page...it's all been an echo chamber.
And didn't we just (this weekend) scavenge the reusable section of what once was a stone-filled crib that the float dock was hitched to and convert it into a shore-deck for early morning coffee; for relaxing by the water; for supervising swimming children? Yes. Just as with raw writing, boards were cut and cobbled together like salvageable words and phrases to create an impression (no matter how shaky it looks to the writer, lol).
There's value in everything! Keep your observant-writers-eye trained on the world around you and lap up summer like the elixir it is.
Non-writers think the words just flow from a writer's pen like magic in some sort of blissful perfection. Not true. Although a writerly mind tends to focus (often too much) on minute details and obtuse observations, our thought are usually spat out onto the page just like everyone else's.
So this past week as I tackled my first bag of knitting yarn that arrived in skeins instead of balls, I had over an hour (that it took my to maneuver it into proper form) to contemplate how this soooo relates to writing. It's kinda like when you're stripping wallpaper or mowing the lawn and your mind has time to wander...to what? Well, writing, of course. And the dumping of first draft material onto paper is very similar to managing a jumble of strands into orderly fashion, no?
In the end, it's about having the tools - a swift here - and then practicing the process so that your muscles - in the case of authoring, your writing-muscles or freewill-capacity - remember exactly what they're doing as you put pen-to-paper. Training your mind to relax and let the words flow (unedited!) is what it's all about. Editing, perfecting, polishing comes later.
What's needed is akin to the aligning of disparate strands/thoughts/words into fragments/phrases/(dare I say) sentences. I'm most often a poet, so I don't even worry so much about sentences. Dig deep and dredge up the feelings because emotion that you, as writer, deliver to the page, your reader will find and feel from the page.
Practice doesn't have to make perfect...just get it done!
Although I don't attend my larger Writers' Community (wcdr.ca) as often as I want...should...used to, I attended their morning networking meeting this morning to partake of the insight and expertise of Katie Hearn (Editorial Director of Canadian children's publisher, Annick Press) with special thanks to my friend/author, Sylv Chiang (look for her middle grade series Tournament Trouble at your local bookstore - my grandson's love them!) What Katie reminded me of is the need for writers, firstly to write; butt in chair with commitment and drive. Then to connect with other writers for support in a lonely occupation, brain-picking on next steps in the publishing journey and exposure to the best of the publishing industry's brain-trust (that's the expertise part). Vital stuff for writers of all level of experience!
Then I was reminded of the motivation garnered from the energy in the room. Yes, that's the 'push' such a gathering of writers gives us naturally-layback-shy-to-put-ourselves-out-there sorts. And I'm one of them. Even though you've come to expect me to send my stuff out on a regular basis from all the blathering I do where my poetry's concerned, I'm as complacent as the next person when it comes to submitting my children's stuff or my memoir manuscript. As an aside, I'm considering indie-publishing the full-edited-ready-to-go memoir that's been collecting dust for the past 5 or 6 years.
But this afternoon, I was fired up about my middle-grade manuscript; written at least 5 years ago. Sure, my pitch letter needed a few tweaks and the synopsis was stored on an unused flash drive. I had to pull everything together, but I had a name to put on my e-submission. Dear so-and-so is much better than to-whom-it-may-concern, don't you think? So, for my hour's worth of effort, I'm rewarded by the satisfaction of having-submitted. Come what may (most often the rejection that I take in stride by de-sensitizing myself to it...by rote), at least I've gotten off my gluteus-maximus to JUST DO IT!
Write on...my friends!
PS: Sometimes you're work is a contest winner (like this poem of mine that recently won the Calgary Poetry Contest 2019) Enjoy!
It's taken me over a week to formula exactly what I want to express about life at the moment. A writer's life.
Last week, many of us were stunned into that shocked silence...not being able to put together the words to convey our sadness at the events in the centre of Paris. Although I've been to Paris at least 3 times in my life, I always seemed to parachute in for a day or two and never made it into the cathedral (just as I've never seen the inside of the Louvre). I am planning on a visit to Paris in the fall and was dismayed to hear that (my favourite way of travelling - with writers!) the Inkslinger's Retreat was scheduling a whole day in Notre Dame (cue weeping for it's not to be). Nevertheless, as writers are often called on to do, I was nudged into labelling my feelings the day after the blaze during a full day of writing (sonnets, this time) at James Dewar's monthly Poetry Sanctuary. And I did come away with 4 sonnets!
This week my brother called asking for words...My family has commissioned a set of carillon bells for the family-church steeple in the city and we've been invited to add an inscription. These bells are in dedication to my mother (who some might remember died in 2017 after a shockingly brief illness). Again, I was reminded of the grappling feeling of wordlessness. Reaching and stretching for the best words in the best order (the definition of poetry).
Much of poetic writing has focused on climate change in this past year. How to capture the emotion and the raw power in feeble words? That is the struggle of many a writer. Standing mute when it's necessary to formulate full sentences. Words are the building blocks of communication. Yet sometimes we need to take refuge in the awkward silences; the quiet practices; the stillness of nature to find those breadcrumbs...Do not be discouraged about taking that moment - that breath - that beat from which the words will spring. Those places are your sustenance.
Then, write on...
At this time of year, most of us are so starved for colour in our lives - writers as well as ordinary folks - that we bemoan any hint of further snowfall. The grass is yellowy-brown. The trees are bare. Too often rain and clouds block the sun. If the sun appears, it's watery and weak. Winds prevail. And we're just done with being patient!
Such is the writing life as well. I've been encouraging you for over a year to submit, submit, submit (your work). And with submissions come the wait. It helps if you're tracking your overloaded roster of submissions because (mostly) you'll forget that 6 months have passed; or that you never heard back (& can axe that notation, sending the work out again); or can send it out anyway, doubling-tripling up of the possibilities for that piece you're so proud of.
I expect rejections. It's how I ward off the disappointments. Then should an acceptance arrive to my inbox, oh joy! For the first time ever (several weeks ago), I had such an acceptance - a contest winner. There was joy, but also the mad scramble to inform a Lit Journal that I was pulling that poem and the replacement of the poem with another publication (since the deadline hadn't passed yet). First time angst due to simultaneous submissions...and I survived. Know that you can easily sort out any issues if your work should win something. It'll be the least of your concerns. In my case, my poem (written on the tour bus in Ireland last summer) called Rowing Across the North Atlantic has won the Calgary Poetry Contest and all the relevant paperwork has been signed for publication. These small victories are too few and far between for poets - for writers in general. But know they can be managed.
And they do add a hit of colour to this barren time of year! That and the high-octane saturation of my knitting and crochet projects...
Write on, fellow wordsmiths!
You know that feeling when you've just written a huge chunk and you're proud of yourself. Your words are like golden droplets of genius; like they've fallen from the heavens onto your page; writing the world is just waiting for...? Nah.
If you leave it for a month; a week; sometimes just a day, you'll be able to take a more clear-eyed look at your work. And so often, you'll want to overreact and toss it. Resist that impulse. Your words are seldom the genius you thought they were but they are also not 'dreck'.
This past weekend I tackled a project that reminded me of the ruthless, surgical editing work that is usually required to buff and polish our writing. I tackled a beautiful sofa that I've owned since the mid-80s (well-bought and sturdy of construction); that I last re-upholstered about 17 or 18 years ago; tore it right down to the frame and foam. What a satisfying feeling to freshen something that was 'okay'. By smoothing and arranging, I turned it into something quite 'yummy'!
I devoted the time (3 1/2 days) and the patience (prying staples and unbolting components) to create what I imagined in my mind's eye. Behold!
And you too can fill your life with this kind of colour...every day!
Not only did I miss much of the coldest weather; the heaps of snow and the polar vortex excitement, I also got a break from the characters that routinely stomp around in my head. It's true, I've written more poetry than anything else in the past year (to fairly regular pub success due to submitting, submitting, submitting!) but writers hear voices...don't cha know?
So, the lull of the surf-sounds (and the buckets of rain we had in south-Florida), the rhythmic movements of my hands (while knitting and crocheting that scarf for my grand-daughter) and the scratch-scratch of my pen for the odd poem is all I needed to get a fresh start of what remains of the month of February in the wintry North.
Needless to say, we should all be so lucky as to take a break from our everyday lives as writers...to cleanse the palate (so to speak).
Happy Home and write on...
Sure, don't we all carry the perfect image of what we're creating in our mind's eye - rich and wrought from pure magic? And when we go to make that inspiration real in the here-and-now, hard-as-nails, brutal world, doesn't it too often not measure up?
Me too. My imagination holds (say) that blood-red moon and my craft can only accomplish what is comparable to the snapshot my iPhone feebly captures. But do I pout? Do I fret? Do I simply shove it into the nearest drawer and forget it every happened? No! Say it with me, no...
I edit and polish to the best of my capabilities. I enlist the aid of other writers/poets. I share my raw work with the groups I have access to. And what happens is that others see/hear something much more akin to that blood-red moon than I'm able to conjure.
This is what gives me the guts to send it out. To submit. And then (although I anticipate only rejection) I receive emails of acceptance. The best affirmation that any writer could hope for. So during this cold and silent time of year...write...share...submit...
You owe it to the world!
Poet. Writer. Teacher. Artist.