Writers are a supportive bunch.

I’ve been told this; hell, I’ve even experienced it volunteering at Writespace. I’ve gone into workshops and had to share my writing, thinking Dear God, please don’t let them laugh me out of the room, and received nothing but supportive feedback and constructive criticism. That’s not to say there aren’t some people out there who take pleasure in knocking other writers down, there are. But on the whole, writers really are good at encouraging one another.

Last quarter I took on a research project exploring Flash Fiction—a genre I had very little background in. I’d recently attended panels on the subject at Writefest, and had just received notice that my first flash submission had been accepted for publication, so the subject was fresh on my mind.

I started scouring the internet: journal databases, library databases, and literary journal archives for research on my chosen topic. I signed up for a flash fiction workshop—even spoke to the instructor a little about my project at the end of the class. She gave me her card, offered to answer any questions I had, and said she would love to read the article when I finished. Wow, I thought, that was really awesome of her! (Unfortunately, I ran out of time and never got to ask her any questions for my paper, but I plan to let her read my finished project and if she’s willing, I’d still love to pick her brain about her experience with flash fiction.)

Another confession: I’m obsessive, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I have this annoying habit of trying to do everything by myself, so asking for help isn’t exactly easy for me.

I reached a point in my research where I was just STUCK. I had a general idea of where I wanted to go with the project, but couldn’t get it focused. I shocked myself when I reached out to a writer friend who I knew had experience with flash fiction. I just wanted her opinion on the project and her general thoughts on my thesis, but she went above and beyond. She gave me detailed feedback AND sent me specific links of journals and names of leading authors in the genre. I don’t know if she realizes how incredibly encouraging that was…

Then, halfway through the quarter I surprised myself again when I told my instructor that I thought I should interview some authors. She thought it was a great idea, so I looked at some of the flash stories I’d read recently and some that had been recommended to me by other writers. I read additional writing by the authors of these flash pieces and selected four authors that I thought would have informative, varied insights into the world of flash. I didn’t expect anyone to agree to an interview—people have busy lives and I wasn’t even sure if I would get responses, but all four writers accepted my interview request and all four were generous in their responses. One of the writers, Anne Goodwin, even asked me if I would like to write a post on flash fiction for her blog. She has a great blog and I was honored.

I don’t know if any experience to date has shown me the beauty of belonging to this world. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s competitive. Yes, you might think everyone is judging you all the time. But the truth is, all writers are experiencing (or have experienced) the stressful parts of being a writer. That’s why we have to support and lift each other up. I’m thankful for meeting beautiful writers who do just that!

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Confession: I never submit

My writing, that is…

Never may be a slight—very slight—exaggeration, but I didn’t make my first writing submissions until January 2016. My second set went out in March, and I’ve yet to make my third. Six short fiction pieces in all went to a total of eight markets, one of which was accepted.

Why so little? Between mom and wife duties, grad school, teaching dance, a little bit of volunteering, actually writing and reading, time for the submission process always seems to get pushed to the bottom of the “To Do” list. It’s a tedious, not so fun process and time is an issue, but if you dig to the psychological core of my aversion to submissions I’m sure you’ll find insecurity, ego, fear of rejection, fear of judgment, and ultimately fear of being vulnerable. Whatever the reason, I know it’s got to change.

A writer friend shared this Literary Hub article, “Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year” by Kim Liao, on Facebook the other day. It was an awesome read and I recommend it to any writer questioning whether or not to submit their pieces for publication. Liao writes, “Perhaps aiming for rejection, a far more attainable goal, would take some of the sting out of this ego-bruising exercise—which so often feels like an exercise in futility.” By failing to submit, not only am I not aiming for rejection, but I’m also not aiming for acceptance.

I’ve got six months to collect 93 more rejections, and hopefully a few acceptances along the way.

It’s time to make time for submitting!

Yes, I’m alive…Just have my head stuck in a book.

I’ve been a behavior teacher, a dance teacher, a preschool teacher, a crochet artist, a wife, a mom, a travel enthusiast, an obsessive reader, and a writer…among other things.  I set a goal for myself this year: finish my novel and put in the work to get it published.

That wasn’t happening with the part-time preschool position, the part-time dance teacher position, the home-based crochet business, the long list of books I was working on reading, being mom to a three-year old, and wife to a full-time teacher/grad student.  So, after talking to my super supportive teacher/grad student of a husband we decided to make some changes in our lives to make sure I met my goal.  I resigned from the preschool and did a major decrease to my crocheting time.  I even put away the book list…I may or may not have cried over it.

I kept my job at the dance studio, because I wanted to make a financial contribution–even a minuscule one–and because dance is a passion of mine.  The way some people worship God through song, I worship through dance.  Letting that go wasn’t an option.

I kept my job as a full-time mom.   I love my kid and decided for myself when he was born that when he was at home I wanted to be there, engaged and a part of his learning.  However, we did switch him from two to three days at preschool, which has given me more writing time.

And I kept my job as wife to the teacher/grad student.  What can I say?  He puts up with my quirks, occasional nocturnal sleep habits, and mood swings.  Not to mention, I don’t know too many husbands who would tell their wives, “Baby, I think you should quit your job and work on that novel you’ve been trying to get finished.”  Our budget is stretched to the max, but we make it work.

I’m not teaching anymore or modifying behaviors in a special education classroom, but I find plenty of opportunities to utilize my degree being married to a teacher/grad student/coach and mom to a three-day-a-week preschooler/swim lesson attendee/soccer player.

I can also say I’m now a full-time, unpaid writer.  I started rewriting my first novel from a different perspective after sharing parts of it with my writing instructor and a couple of other writers.  I should be finished next week; just in time for NaNoWriMo.

So, yeah.  If my loved ones find it impossible to reach me I just want them to know I’m still alive.  I’m just lost in a story somewhere.

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Why Do You Write What You Write?

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I completed a twelve week writing course recently to help me clean up my manuscript’s plot and what-not.  The last session was on living a writer’s life: basically setting up a routine, making time to improve your craft, journaling, etc. Our assignment was to tell why we are writing the story we are and what makes us qualified to do so…Easy, right?  Wrong.

My major professional flaw is an inability–or at least a strong resistance–to claim to be, or think I am, innately qualified to do anything.  So I get the same gut twisting sensations saying I am qualified to write a particular novel–better yet to write at all–that I did when I first stepped into the rickety airplane I planned to throw myself out of a few moments later.  I had a parachute to soften my landing and I’d taken the required class, but was I really qualified to jump out of that airplane?  Probably not.  But I did it anyway, and although fear told me I shouldn’t complete this assignment I did it anyway.

No one will ever believe you are qualified to do something if you don’t believe it yourself.  

What I submitted to the instructor:

I hate to start with the cliché I had a dream, but I will anyway because that’s really how this book began—unless you count my Happy Potter induced childhood love affair with all things paranormal.

I’ve always loved writing.  It was my outlet during my parents’ divorce and subsequent custody battle.  It was a way to rationalize through difficult decisions.  It was how I persuaded my mom to buy me my first cell phone, my first computer, my first car, and my first trip overseas.  It helped me earn my 4.0 GPA in college.  It’s how I worked through questions of faith, a form of prayer and meditation.  Writing has always been a part of my life in some form or fashion, just not always with the intent of sharing with others.

My thoughts about writing began to change once I had a child.  I had always been afraid what people would think if they knew I wrote, what they would say.  I tell my son daily to pray, be himself, and always be brave.  It didn’t take me long to realize I wasn’t practicing what I preached.

The first book I started made it six chapters before I lost motivation; I let someone’s comments influence me.  I stopped writing for a while, but then I had this vivid dream about a girl watching her home engulfed in flames and no one could stop it but her.  Her tears were my tears and her pain was my pain.  Figuratively speaking, I had been that girl once upon a time.  I woke up and started writing what I remembered, and the story progressed from there.

A common theme in everything I write, every song I choose when choreographing for my dance students, and every piece of advice I give to my son: accept who you are and what gifts God gave you.  You have to love the person God made you to be and be brave, especially when you don’t want to be.  Fear overwhelms us, it paralyzes us, and sometimes we need some external force to push up toward facing and overcoming those fears.

I think that’s what makes me uniquely qualified to write this story.  I have been this character—minus the awesome paranormal abilities—feeling friendless, struggling with family secrets, and not fitting in.  I learned that most of that isolation was created from within myself.  I had to overcome me.  I love these characters, cried when they cried, laughed when they laughed, and my bravery grew just as theirs did.  Acceptance is something we all crave as humans and something we all fear won’t be given.  We spend so much time worrying about what others will think of us; we base our worth on their opinions.  This book is about realizing it’s okay to be odd, different, and unique.  It’s those things that make us special.  You should embrace that thing about yourself that makes you different, because it is what makes you you.

Creative Writing: Goals, Impacts, Accomplished & Thwarted

The protagonist reaches for a goal and the antagonist thwarts it.  At least, that’s how it works in this week’s creative writing session assignments.

Our exercise really should have been simple, but this is me and I am guilty of over analyzing everything.  This assignment was great fun for me to over think, especially because I don’t like the idea of telling others what they should want or being told what I should want.  Anyway, the assignment was to write what I think are the five most important goals for people to have in life, and for each of these goals tell three impacts they could have, three ways to accomplish, and three ways to thwart.  Like I said, I over analyze EVERYTHING 😉

Five Life Goals

How grand would life be if we could simply love?

Would there be less war?  Would we experience less depression?  Would we give more than take?

To love, we see the good in people above the bad, we compliment instead of degrade, we accept each other’s differences.

It’s not so easy to love when our prejudices get in the way, when we don’t always love ourselves, when we’ve been hurt.

How right would life be if we just forgive?

Would it make loving easier?  Would it thaw the anger in our hearts?  Would we live more like Christ?

To forgive, we admit our imperfections, we accept that others may never change, we acknowledge we are forgiven.

It’s not easy to forgive when we can’t believe we are forgiven, when we harden our hearts, when we don’t see the change forgiving will bring within.

How fun would life be if we learned to laugh at ourselves?

Would be less offended?  Would we be happier?  Would we like ourselves more?

To laugh at ourselves, we accept ourselves for who we are, we find humor in our imperfections, we ignore the world’s laughter.

It’s not easy to laugh at ourselves when we fear the world’s judgement, when we worry about fitting in, when our self-esteem is lacking.

How energizing would life be if we dance in the rain, at the store, in the street?

Would we encourage others to do the same?  Would we smile more?  Would we overcome our hesitations?

To dance, we overcome our inhibitions, we move to the rhythm in our souls, we allow our bodies to tell our heart story.

It’s not easy to dance when we see the way others look at us, when we don’t know the “right” way, when we won’t release control.

How wonderful would the world be if we do what makes us happy?

Would we live more freely?  Would we share that joy with the world?  Would we love more?

To do what we want, we worry less about what others want, we move past our fear of failure, we move out of our comfort zone.

It’s not easy to do what we want when it interferes with those around us, when it might bring harm, when we don’t always know how.

I want to love and be loved in my life.  I want to forgive and be forgiven.  I want to laugh at my awkwardness, instead of cry.  I want to dance when the mood strikes, no matter where I may be.  I want to do what makes me happy, because a happier me is better for those around me.

Often times reaching for one means turning away from another.  Loving someone requires sacrificing something I want.  Doing what I want means ignoring what someone else needs.  Sometimes I am my own antagonist, my fears and insecurities blocking my way.

To be happy, we understand the five most important goals in life for one person are not the same for another.  We must realize we are all different.  Our goals are not the same.  Our means of reaching those goals change.  Our goals are thwarted by different ways.

Love.

Love.

Forgive.

Forgive.

 

 

Laugh.

Laugh.

Dance.

Dance.

Be happy.

Be happy.