Monday, December 29, 2008

The End is Near


Just when I got used to 2008, 2009 decided to close in fast. In the spirit of reflection and the hope for continued growth, I’d like to reexamine 2008’s goals and see how well I met them.

#1 ~ Design and implement an effective blog.


#2 ~ Get 4 more publishing credits.


Not only did I meet this one, I did way better, publishing 10 stories in 2008.

#3 ~ Get paid for a piece of writing.


I didn’t make millions, but I was offered a few honorariums for my work. It felt good and I'm pleased it happened.

#4 ~ 1 publishing credit in a semi-prestigious market.


Between The Burning Black being selected for EDF’s 2008 Best of Anthology and my author interview with EDF in early December, this was a great year for having my work acknowledged.

#5 ~ Finish a novel. Any novel.

Not done. But, I’m working on Folly and have finally selected a novel to commit to. What’s more, I’m extremely pleased with what I’ve accomplished thus far in the second draft. Folly’s a winner and I’m very proud of it.

I’m starting a new novel workshop in January. That should move Folly forward. I expect by this time 2009. I’ll tick this one off my list.

#6 ~ Successful 2008 NaNoWriMo.

Also not done.

This one was intentionally left undone. With the first drafts of two novels wrapping themselves around my ankles, drafting a third was risking breaking my authorial neck. November was hard. I yearned to write a crappy novel. But I’m committed to Folly, so I watched the days tick by and dreamed of writing recklessly next year.

Now for a few unexpected successes from 2008.

1) The great week at Rhinelander School of the Arts.

By far, this was the best thing I ever did for my writing. I’ve never been so energized, inspired, excited and exhausted by my own work. I’ll go back, as soon as family fortunes permit it.

2) Being reunited with some old online writing buddies.

I swore I wouldn’t get involved in another online critique group. I was wrong and this is one time I’m happy to admit it.

3) New writing buddy Jane.

Jane’s been a great source of support. I’ve loved sharing what little I know with her. She’s a tremendous talent and I’m so happy to have her as a writing pal. I look forward to our learning more from each other.

And finally, a few setbacks:

1) While I’m pleased with Folly, I wish I was moving faster on revisions. I seem to get bogged down with the tweaking and honing. Clearly, this is something I need to get better at.

2) I had to walk away from Somewhere on the Road to Me, at least for now. I love that story. I love those girls. But until I earn my revision chops, I need to let it rest in peace.

Looking back, the successes far outweighed the setbacks. It's been an amazing year for me as a writer, full of growth, opportunity, inspiration, friendship and joy. As we march forward, I wish all of you these same blessings and the satisfaction that invariably comes with them.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Vast, Black Empties


I’m on the brink of doing some writing. I’ve skirted the edge of a few ideas. I’ve had good intentions, then abandoned them. I’ve wanted to revise a novel, whip out a few 6s, write a play and draft a few quick flashes. I’ve even thought about revisiting “The End of Day,” a flash I got great feedback on from some fellow writers. But what have I actually done this month? A whole lot of nothing. If Santa awarded gifts based on productivity, I’d end up owing him.

I go through this every December. The worst part is how unbalanced I feel. I’m one of those people who gets snarky when she doesn’t write. A whole lot of uneasiness wells up inside me. I don’t like myself. I want to peel off my identity. I sizzle with energy that has no safe outlet. During December, I put that energy into holiday preparations. I bake cookies. I meet friends for dinner. I cook for the hungry masses. This year, I ventured into something new and unhappy, namely some exhausting girlfriend dramas. Clearly, I’m not the only one who suffers holiday insanity. And still, in the midst of wrapping presents and angsty reconciliations, there’s the awful feeling of emptiness. The waiting.

I’m a big believer in the God-shaped hole in our hearts. I’ve lived with it. I’ve seen it consume the lives of others. I’ve seen people throw drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex, bad relationships, anything they can find into the void of their vast, black empties. My writing is what helps fill mine. I think that’s why God gave it to me and why I miss it so much when it’s gone. It’s my balance, how I make sense of His world. Without it, life seems like so much clanging noise.

At the bottom of it all, we need peace. Peace that surpasses all understanding, the kind that bubbles unexpectedly from the stormy heart. And I know it’s there, hiding in the empties. So I count the days until Christmas, hungry for peace, knowing God comes to us in so many ways.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dilemma Time


Apparently, December is dilemma time. I’m currently embroiled in the classic: “Do I write or revel?” Writing is hard and it’s easy to let it get inched out by shopping, entertaining, party going, card writing, and decorating. If normal Christmas madness isn’t enough, I’ll be hosting three parties between now and Christmas Eve. Everywhere I turn, I seem to trip over a dilemma. Do I serve cocktail wienies or meatballs in chili sauce for the cookie party? Should I serve heavy hors d’oeuvres for Christmas Eve or a traditional ham dinner? And what the heck do we give Grandpa?!?!

It’s not even mid-month and I’m decision-ed out.

The writing front hasn’t given me a holiday break, either. There’s always the ongoing decisions to make while revising Folly. What’s the best way to ease into the next chapter? What exactly does Nate reveal during that first meeting with Nick? But my most pressing dilemmas seem to revolve around marketing. They’re the choices I need to make now, but I feel the least confident about.

The anthology: The EDF Best of 2008 anthology is out and it’s time to order my copies. So here I am with a wonderful opportunity, wrapped in a thorny dilemma: how do I best use this opportunity to promote my work? Andy and I have been hammering out possibilities: donating a copy to our local library and asking my buddies there to catalogue it for the collection; donating a copy to our cats’ vet for his waiting area; buying extra copies and hawking them to interested acquaintances; donating a copy to my alma mater. The possibilities are endless, but we need to use our promotion dollars wisely. There’s no use giving away books that will gather dust. I still haven’t come to any solid decisions.

And then there’s “The Market.” Some of you may remember this story—a piece from my ongoing Mark/Leslie/David series. I sent this out to Publication A several months ago, where it’s been waiting and moldering while they published a special themed issue. I usually have a slim to none chance with A; it’s a high profile, prestige publication whose normal acceptance rate is just over 1%. With a backlog of submissions due to the themed issue, I figure my chances are nonexistent. So, a few months later, I sent Market off to Publication B, which has an aversion to simultaneous submissions. In my thinking, A would never take the story. B is a long shot, but I thought I’d give it a try. I expect a rejection from B in February.

In the meantime, I’ve tripped across a lucrative contest that I believe would be a perfect fit for Market. The deadline, January 31. So now the dilemma: do I enter Market even though it could possibly burn bridges with B? Karma makes this tiny world go round, and I hate to foster bad ju-ju. But my job is to find the best home for my fictional babies and to make the most of possible opportunities to advance my work. Sometimes that means taking a gamble.

Have you ever faced dilemmas like this in your writing? What did you do? I’d love to hear from you.