Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Winter's Update

Hello! I haven't blogged in months - sorry. I also haven't been "productive" - been more of a "conductive" state/stage. I have been reading a ton - books for research on my 1920s novel, memoirs to pick apart, books on writing and story structure... you can find the list on my Goodreads.  I feel like I am working on foundations and fine-tuning my skills at story building. Hopefully, this will lead to better work in the coming year.


It's been a nice season for me, so far. Nothing crazy, no major drama. Just nice music, fun shopping, easy relations, and lots of cozy downtime between work and stuff. Hope you are all having equally excellent days!

Did I mention that I recently discovered that my grandfather and his brother were teenage bootleggers in Baltimore during Prohibition? Yeah, so that is totally steering my twenties novel to my hometown, which I am very excited about. Still very much in development and research stages, but I am enjoying the process immensely.

I just finished reading a great ghost story, btw. It's called Salvage, by Duncan Ralston. I was impressed by the writer's skill at building suspense and I had no idea what resolutions we would ever reach. I look forward to creating such a suspenseful ghost story (long form) myself.

I am taking two weeks off from my Monday night writer's group. We will convene again in January. I will be celebrating the holidays and perhaps rejuvenating myself in the meantime.

I hope you are all reading good books and writing what you love!

Merry Christmas! Happy Yule! Happy Hannukah! Happy Winter Solstice!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

PNWA Summer Conference 2015 Report

It's been over a month since the Writer's Conference here in Seattle, and I haven't posted about it, yet. I think it just goes along with my weird year of not being able to do much more than sleep. Sorry!

This was my third consecutive year, and it was full of fun and learning, as usual. It's interesting to see how my experience at the conference has morphed over the past three years:

  • 2013 - My first year, not knowing what to expect, was a bit overwhelming. I held up throughout the four days, but Saturday was definitely my high - the day I pitched agents and garnered the nickname of "The Zombie Lady" was busy, busy, busy. I crashed hard that night, barely able to drag myself to the Sunday brunch speech, but managed.

    I met a lot of interesting writers, agents, and editors. I focused on pitching more than learning, and only took a few workshops/forums on indie publishing, and writing craft.
  • 2014 - Year Two, I was immediately greeted Thursday morning by some writers that I had met the previous year. The next four days were spent running into writers I had met before, a few of which I had stayed in touch with, and some writers I knew from outside PNWA; and meeting a lot of new people. I pitched the same book, but knew I had to make revisions before it was publishable. I took a few more classes on writing craft, which was helpful.

    This year had a lot of bar meetings - most nights post-conference were spent in the hotel bar, with writers and agents. Made for some interesting moments, but I am not drawn to drama.
  • 2015 - The pace felt less hectic, this year. It could be chalked up to the fact that I slept in most days - arriving early on Thursday, but showing up between 9:30 and 11:30 the other days. I looked specifically for craft classes to take. I pitched two sessions on Friday, early in the con, and connected with a lot of writers. It seems I have collected quite a number of acquaintances in just three years, and am glad but surprised to be remembered by so many. 
The keynote speaker Thursday night was Andre Dubus III. I heard some attendees were disappointed with his speech, but I was shocked to hear that. I think those people expected more of a class lecture? I have no idea. I enjoyed it. Andre was genuine, sharing his own story of how he went from being a Boston bar bruiser to a successful author. I think, anytime someone shares their story, it gives the listener/reader a chance to identify those traits and qualities in themselves, and find a guidepost for what to do or what not to do, depending on the story. It is a way to connect with the creative drive within each of us. It is a way to look at the process, and what is shared and what is different from writer to writer.

Earlier in the day, I decided to check out the panel, "How To Get the Most Out of Your PNWA Conference." It was mostly attended by first-timers, but there were a few, like me, that had been to the con before. I was pleased to see Steve Jaquith sitting on the panel - it was his group, the Seattle Scribblers, hosting this panel. He waved to me as I took a seat in the front row, and after beginning his address to the room, pointed me out as someone he remembered from the past cons, even recalling the name of my novel! I enjoyed the panel, and met a very nice writer at the end, with whom I ended up lunching with a few times over the weekend. I think it is good to have this panel - the four day event can be so overwhelming! It is best to plan early - before you get there, you should know which agents and editors work in your genre and who you want to meet with. Then go through the program to choose classes and panels. And talk to everyone!

I attended Scott Driscoll's "Character, Value, and Change" class. He is an established creative writing professor and author, but I must admit that his style is a bit dry for my taste. I had trouble staying awake - more on me than him, I am not usually awake so early - and couldn't relate the literature examples he used. But that's okay... we all have different ways of writing and reading, right? This would be great for anyone looking to finesse their literary skills. Scott is very nice, and even though he forgot his handouts, he promised to have them the following day for us, which he did.

At 3:30 pm, the only thing to do was go listen to Robert Dugoni speak, which I would have done anyway, because he's an excellent speaker. (I really need to read those books of his I bought, despite not being a crime fiction/thriller fan...I'm sure they're great.) "The Writer's Connection" was a revamp of his Sunday Brunch Speech from the previous year, but that didn't bother me one bit. His stories are entertaining, informative, applicable, and inspiring. Plus, his mom was in the audience this year, so that was fun.
Robert Dugoni
Literally, the only photo I took all conference.

It was chatting and networking until the dessert reception with Andre Dubus III. I have to admit, I have yet to read any of his work...I was first introduced to him by Bill Kenower, in a three-part memoir class I took in 2014. Dubus's Townie was a recommended read. After hearing him speak, I purchased a copy of Townie, and stood at the end of the line to have him sign it. After signing the books of perhaps 80 people, he was still fully engaged, which was refreshing. 

"Enough about me," he said to me. "What do you write?" Taken aback, I explained my strange brew of memoir and horror and other fiction and non-fiction styles. He listened, and was sincere in his wishes for my success, and stood to give me a full hug. (Not creepy.)

After sleeping in and missing the Editor Forum, I made it in plenty of time for the Agent Panel. These Friday AM panels are where each agent and editor introduces him or herself to the crowd, and answers questions. It is the place to learn more about what each person is actually looking for, and whether or not it is worth your time to pitch to them. This is where you can tweak your pitch-list, adding in some you hadn't considered and prioritizing those you plan on meeting.

The rest of my day was spent pitching. The 2-3:30 block and the 4-5:30 block. I pitched both my horror novel, How I Spent My Zombie Apocalypse, which is STILL in need of revisions, and my emerging memoir, which I hastily titled "Unfamiliar Places" that morning. I sat in several pitch practice rounds the night before and that morning to work on the memoir pitch. It went as well as can be expected - memoir is a flooded market, and I am not a platform-ready name. I hardly know what the hell my memoir will end up looking like, but I figured I might as well get some ideas. Rita Rosenkrantz was as nice and helpful as ever (I spoke with her in 2014 about how to do memoir) and suggested I attend her 4pm class, "How to Write an Irresistible Nonfiction Book Proposal." Since my second pitch block list was was full, at 4:55 pm, I decided to go to her class rather than stand in line to possibly get one more pitch in.

Rita knows her business, and is more than willing to answer any and all questions regarding nonfiction books, memoir writing and publishing, platform building, and author-agent-editor relationships. As usual in this process, I left feeling informed, encouraged, and discouraged at the same time. But more on that the next day.

Friday night dinner happens in the hall with an author panel headed up by the always entertaining Robert Dugoni. It is an informal group interview/conversation on the writerly life, which I believe is the format every year for the Friday night event. It is enjoyable, once again, despite the authors being unknown to me:
  • Nancy Kress - Science Fiction since 1976 (why have I not read her?? Must check her books out)
  • Elizabeth Boyle - Romance (not my genre of choice)
  • J.A. Jance - Mystery and Horror ( I missed this part). Famous for SPD Det. J.P. Beaumont series, set in Seattle. I bought one, and she talked me into buying another - "Second Watch" to read first. I have read Second Watch, and it is not the kind of thing I usually read, but was very good!
  • Kevin O'Brien - Thriller writer. Funny guy, might have to check his books out, too. Couldn't afford all the books!
Now, this is usually the Big Day, with all the attendees present, and the awards ceremony dinner at the end of the day. But, I'd already pitched the day before. I didn't enter the contests this year, but was rooting for several friends. And, I didn't feel the need to do the First Page forum again, since I am so not ready-to-go with new work. 

I slipped into "The Five Essential Elements of a Short Story" class with Bharti Kirchner, whom I believe was a first time PNWA presenter, although she does this for a living and has taught at many conferences around the country (world?). She was a very good presenter - clear on her work, her presentation, and meeting the class goals. At the same time, she went with the flow, and answered questions that came up with ease, allowing for a very organic structure. 

Nest, I chose to attend Jason Black's "EDITING: Revision: Top Seven Manuscript Pitfalls." Okay, this is good for those with grammar struggles, but not so much me. I was hoping for more of a developmental revision list of pitfalls - story structure, plot holes, character arcs, etc. but instead, we covered a lot of sentence work, vocabulary within style and tone, and other useful tips. Not for me, but good.

Actually, in the middle of this, I stepped out to meet for a pop-up coaching session with Bill Kenower. It was a last minute add-on, when he realized he had time to kill for Saturday afternoon. He opened up half a dozen or so twenty-minute appointment spots, and I happened across the sign-up line the day before. I spoke with him about the whole author platform for rmemoir and non-fiction, and his advice contradicted Rita Rosenkrantz's but felt more authentic to me. 

"Rita is an intellectual. She is smart, but doesn't necessarily understand the creative mind. You and I are creative, and the idea of planning and business isn't where we excel. Where Rita might focus on building the name and platform first, I would focus on the writing." [paraphrased] 

"So would I," I respond. "That's more me."

Bill went on to explain, "I can't tell you what my platform is. I can't tell you what my brand is. Other people can tell you; they can tell you who I am as a name, an author, a brand, but I can't. I just write." [paraphrased]

I get that. Just write, and put it out there, and let others figure out who you are. Even though I write creepy ghost stories, funny campy horror stories, cultural essays, personal essays, memoir, travel, sci-fi... they are all united by ME. My style, my voice, my experiences, my color. My brand is who I am, and what I write is what I do. I can work with this. I am pleased with my twenty minute session. I feel less confused and discouraged, and more authentic to my own self.

I am stymied at 4pm, because there are so many good classes available, I narrow it down to Waverly Fitzgerald's "Deep Revision" and A.C. Fuller's "The Five Stages of Editing." I took a class from Waverly years ago at the library, and remember her being a studious, capable writer and instructor. I look for her, but she is not yet in her presentation room. I walk down the hall to speak with A.C. Fuller, who is a first time presenter, He is pleasant and helpful, describing his class as more of what-to-do-in-what-order and less of how-to-do-it. I thank him for his advice and head out to find Waverly. I run into a few other writers I know with the same dilemma. Some are going to take notes in A.C.'s class, so I go to Waverly's.

It is exactly what I wanted: deep revision - how to identify story problems, how to work with beta readers, how to assess and address your novel (or other work) as a whole. I get several good tips and take a number of notes. There are writing exercises and discussions. Very helpful!

I later hear that A.C.'s class was also fun and helpful. He has emailed notes to all, and I request to get a copy, which I did. 

Saturday's dinner reception and awards ceremony seemed to drag on too long, as each recipient is allowed to make speeches (what?) and most do. There is some trouble with the microphone, and overall, I am ready to get home. I stick around long enough to hear all the winners, but admit to reverting to my East Coast nature at the table, and making too may snarky and sarcastic comments. No insult intended... just having that kind of night. 

I peruse the bar, chat with a few friends, and head home.

I arrive just a few minutes before Bill Kenower takes the stage.

He gives a great speech, with lots of useful advice and several exercises for us to do, both while in the room, and on our own.

I will include the notes I took from this speech, below, in the comments section.
(If anyone wants notes from other events, let me know.)

A small group of writers has a long-standing tradition of a post-conference brunch/lunch after the Sunday speech, over at 13 Coins. I was invited to join them my first year, and have looked forward to it, ever since. It's great to have time to chat with other attendees afterwards, with no one in a rush to go pitch or join a workshop, or just hear each other over the crowded hallway traffic. We talk about the classes and events we attended, what we thought about them, what we liked or didn't like, what we learned, and throw ideas and stories around casually. Very good, even if we ended up with two conversations going simultaneously- one at each end of the long table...

If you go to PNWA next year, join the 13 Coins post-brunch!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What To Do When You Don't Feel Like Writing

This is not about Procrastination. We all know how to do that - Facebook, online games, updating blogs - ahem- and more.

This is about when you sit down during your Dedicated Writing Time and just aren't able to muster the muse.

By now, I have learned that I cannot just wait for the muse. Inspiration strikes somewhat erratically and unreliably. If you make Dedicated Time for writing, you are asking your muse to show up to an appointment, so to speak, and you are creating the space for inspiration to grow and flourish. Writing is a disciple, after all, and requires practice and effort.

Today, I came to my office at Starbucks to write. I love Saturday evenings at Starbucks - the place is usually quiet and my favorite seat is available. I took my seat, but two tables over was a couple. The woman had headphones on, but the man didn't. The man was playing an RPG game of some kind - WOW or whatever. He had a wireless mouse, which he was clicking at a rate of 8 times per second. Forever. I'm not joking - someday soon, another LMP is going to be faced with fixing his CTS, because that was half an hour or more of "battle" clicking.

Maybe I'm being too sensitive, but, in any case, it drove me mad. I pulled out my iPod, only to discover that the battery was dead. I moved to another table. That seat was less comfortable and closer to the loudspeaker, so the music was now intruding on my brain. I tried another table- too low. I sat on the floor, and the table was too high. I moved back to my original seat, and plugged my headphones into my laptop. Eventually, the man switched to something less clicky, and I was able to calm down...a little.

Already worked up, I could not get into the headspace I needed to be in to work on any of my current projects (one of three different memoirs/essays, all fairly emotional, require a sort of "method acting" on my part). I didn't have the time to go back to older fictions, and was pretty sure anything I rewrote in this state would suffer.

How could I still be productive? Submissions. I love the website Duotrope and I perused the calendar for current paid calls for submissions. I read through a few magazines and reviews to get a feel for their accepted pieces. I made notes for a few things I could work on to submit. I didn't submit anything, but I have time and I now know what I can send in and when it needs to be done by. I plan on running my essays by my writers group, rewriting, and submitting in the next few weeks or months.

Not entirely how I planned to spend my Dedicated Writing Time, but productive nonetheless.

And then I updated my blog.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Writing Submission Guidelines & Cover letters

Even when I am sending in an older piece for publication, it takes two hours.

  1. Choose a publication.
    I use the website Duotrope to organize my written pieces and search for publishing homes for them. I also use the Duotrope calendar to find calls for submissions, but that is another story...

    Be sure to read the publisher's "About Us" and some of their issues. You want to know if your work is a good fit for them before you submit.
  2. Follow the Submission Guidelines.
    The publisher should have these available on their website. If not, follow the basic manuscript format, which can be found online very easily, or in any good formatting book.
  3. Write your cover letter.
    This standard business letter should include your name, contact info, and word count at the top, followed by the publication editor's name and contact info. DO learn the name of the editor/s, and DON'T address the letter generically. In the letter, briefly describe your story (elevator pitch) and genre, followed by your own brief bio - previous publications, relevant education or occupation history, and relevant associations (i.e. Horror Writers of America).

    Here is an example.
  4. One Last Look!
    Read over your story and run it through spellcheck or another editor's eyes even if it has already been edited. A fresh look can often reveal a missed word here or there or an older version - be sure to rename new versions you save!

    Make sure your font is correct and your headers and footers are in place. (Name/Title/Pg#) Make sure your cover letter is correct. Make sure your name and contact info is correct and complete.
  5. Submit!
    If electronic, write your email. Make it brief and professional. Attach your cover letter and your story, separately. Make sure they are attached before you hit 'send.' Make sure you proofread your email, as well, before sending it.

    If sending a hard copy, be sure to only send what is requested. Check all publisher's websites for information regarding Unsolicited Manuscripts - even with short stories. 
Okay! That's the gist of it. I sent in a sci-fi short to a sci-fi magazine that promises a response within 30 days. I will, of course, let you know how it goes. 

Good luck on yours!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Writing Day! Making Time

Q: How do you "find time" to write?
A: You don't - you MAKE time to write!

I'm often asked this. Making time takes practice, commitment, and creativity. Everything else is just excuses!

  • I write a paragraph or a page in the fifteen or twenty minutes between clients I see at my massage office. 
  • I write on Sundays and Mondays at cafes.
  • I write on long lunch breaks.
  • On days that I finish work between 4 & 6 pm, I walk over to the coffee shop and write for an hour or two, instead of sitting in rush hour traffic.
  • I write notes on my phone - using EVERNOTE, check it out - whenever an idea strikes.
  • Other people may set their alarms get up thirty minutes early to write, or write while sitting in their cars. waiting for their kids after school.
    Got a busy home? Perhaps the kitchen table after everyone has gone to sleep (or before they get up). Maybe you can lock yourself in the bathroom for half an hour with your notebook or laptop.
    Make it regular, make it a ritual, make it happen!
I had a light work day today, a Tuesday. I used my Sunday for sleeping and my Monday for cleaning, this week, so here I am at Starbucks, now, writing. 

And what did I write today? Did I work on my novel? Or my other novel? Or a short story? A travel piece? An essay? Any of the aforementioned projects I have on various burners?


I wrote an article on Summer Health & Safety. I researched and wrote about sunscreen, drowning, pets in hot cars, and what Summer Solstice means.

Did I submit it for publication? went into my monthly massage newsletter.


My customers and colleagues read it (one-fourth to one-half my mailing list - send me your email to be added), and talk about it. It's good for my community connection, and I have considered compiling the articles for small publication, so we'll see where that leads.

Okay, here is how today's timeline went, after appointments:
  • 2:00 Began online research for article
  • 2:45 Called Sprint to deal with phone and billing issues
  • 3:50 Called City to report stolen Recycling Bin & a dumped couch and dresser by park
  • 4:00 Ordered coffee at Starbucks
  • 4:05 - 6:45 Continued reading and writing for article, put together and sent out newsletter
  • 6:50 - 7:20 Wrote this blog
These things needed doing, but at the same time, I missed the creative writing window... But, despite my small disappointment in not getting to some of my projects, I feel accomplished at what I did write.

If you want to be a writer, you have to write.

  • Journal every day. This sorts out your brain, and separates the wheat from the chaff.
  • Take notes, collect inspirational stories, photos, art, ideas, bits of overheard conversation, etc. Keep them in a file folder or in a cross-device app, like Evernote, mentioned above.
  • Carve out what time you can, be it ten minutes or two hours, regularly. At least twice a week.
  • Be persistent!
If only I was able to be more productive at home - but the cats, lighting, lack of a good chair, television, and other distractions make that difficult. Those are my excuses... because, even as others tell me how prolific I am, I feel like an under-performer! I would love to write an hour a day, with two or three days of two to four hour sessions, each, but I do what I can.

How about you?

Are you an aspiring author/writer? Or maybe you want to spend more time painting, or making comics, or learning a foreign language? 
  • How do you make time for writing? Or, how could you do so?
  • Where do you write (or create or learn) best? 
  • Make an appointment with the page. Sit down to write (or paint or whatever) and be open. Write crap. It will cleanse the brain palate and lead to ideas. 
  • Invite your muse to the appointed meeting but start with or without her - muses don't live by human clocks. But if you keep a regular schedule, the muse is more likely to start coming around!
Concentration, focus, comfort, discipline... these are all important factors to writing productivity.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Working Up A New Novel...The Long Way

Working on my 1920s Novel

I’ve just finished reading a book called “Wit’s End: Days and Nights of the Algonquin Round Table” by James R. Gaines, written and published in 1977. It was the May-June selection for my Dorothy Parker’s Vicious Circle Book Club, where we read exclusively books by and about the writers of the Algonquin Round Table of the 1920s. Up ‘til now, my interest in the era has centered around Hollywood, and while I have aspired to read the works of the writers of the day, I have been, for the most part, unsuccessful. I’ve read half of Hemingway’s work, a handful of Fitzgerald, a smattering of other random writers, and that’s it. I joined the book club to rectify that, particularly because I am gathering research to write a historical novel of my own, set in the era.

My proposed book, as of yet, has no plot. The protagonist is sketchy, at best – I am basing her on a MC from a short story I wrote last year, who in turn is based on an amalgam of Clara Bow and Lois Long, with a pinch of Dorothy Parker and Thoroughly Modern Millie thrown in. She was a World War I widow, moved from rural Pennsylvania to Manhattan in 1921. She became a modern – cut her hair, got a job, changed her life, became her own woman. She is still young, and searching for her destiny. I think I will see parts of her in my book’s MC, but not totally.

The real women of the Algonquin writer’s scene are starting to live inside me. I am drawn to the artist, Neysa McMein (pictured right, in the self-portrati entitled, "The Lady Seldom Smiles". She often used herself as a model, and can be seen upon most magazine covers of the day), and the independence of Edna Furber. I would like to learn more about the ambitious Jane Grant. And then there’s the Hollywood connection, of which I have always been enamored. Helen Hayes, Tallulah Bankhead, and Ruth Gordon…whom I was surprised to see in this book. I had always liked her as an actress and a personality, but had no idea she had been involved with this group in New York.

I am still drawn to the tragic life of Clara Bow, and she was born, raised, and discovered in the slums of New York. She was far from the lives of these writers in fashion and the arts, so I am still unsure how to connect them. I think I will have a Clara Bow type MC who falls in with an ART crowd. That will allow me to explore a lot of themes around education, classism, wealth and poverty, and how talent gets ahead (or not). I will probably not have my MC be the victim of incest by her father, like Clara Bow, though, because ugh.

I feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of names in Wit’s End. They are, for the most part, completely unknown to me, except for Dorothy Parker. I may have heard the names of Benchley and Woollcott, for sure Edna Furber and Edna Millay, but that doesn’t mean I know them or have actually read them. It was a swirl of names to read this book. I had to restrain myself from falling down the rabbit hole of google and youtube while reading, and my Amazon Wish List has grown by an entire page. I am most excited to read Ruth Gordon’s memoirs, of which there are three, but her life was so much in television and film that it won’t be completely relevant… or will it? I’d love to build a character similar to her.

In any case, I am glad to have read it. Now, we are on to the collection of early Vanity Fair articles, to be read and discussed in July and August.

P.S. Some of you may know Ruth Gordon from her many iconic roles in her later years, such as Rosemary's Baby, Harold & Maude, and more. So you may be as surprised as I was to see her in these photos of the Roaring Twenties:

 Ruth Gordon with her then husband, Gregory Kelly.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Spring 2015 Life & NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge

Hey, it has been way too long since I wrote anything here. This post will be about a little bit of everything, just like my brain, lately.

I moved into a new massage office at the start of March. It is a large, lovely space, with a lot of bodyworkers in the building. The Wallingford neighborhood is great for walking and feeling like you are part of a community. I am close to a couple of great coffeeshops, a credit union in case I need to do some banking, a lot of great restaurants, and more. I have taken to the closest coffeeshop not only for lunch, but as a writing spot midday or after work.

I'm still doing a lot of research and study on writing and story craft, to help me in the still-to-come sixth draft revision of HISMZA. Meanwhile, I have been writing and editing several memoir pieces, mostly centered around place and travel. It's been a lot of fun to write the funny stuff, and it's been heartbreaking to write the tough stuff. But both have their rewards, and both have been well-received by my writers group, so far. It's a total learning curve!

Speaking of learning curve, I've decided to take this year to learn about financial investment - HA! - so weird. Such a grown-up thing to do and talk about. I hate it, but I need it. AND... it turns out most grown-ups are just faking it, anyway, and don't know much more than me. They pay other people to take care of their money, which is why so many people lose so much all the time. Sigh...I am all about self-education, so I am hoping to make some headway by the end of the year towards actually making investments. And you'd better believe I will be sure to know exactly where my money is going and will only support environmentally conscious "green" companies, that do no animal testing, produce no toxic waste/pollutants, and treat their employees fairly.

I did participate in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge for the second year. In 2014, I got an Honorable Mention for my Round 1 Historical Fiction. This year, my Round 1 Sci-fi story got me to Round 2, where I was once again assigned Historical Fiction. Instead of the 1920s, I wrote about 16th c. Florentine painters but did not make it to the final round. At this rate, I will be in Round 3 in 2016!
Fingers crossed!

You can read those short stories and eight others in my story collection, "The Devil's in the Details and Other Stories," available digitally on Amazon and iBooks.

Friday, February 13, 2015


In 2003, I joined with a handful of other therapists to open BodySong Healing & Arts - a sort of alternative healthcare community center, where I had my massage office, among other LMPs, bodyworkers, counselors, acupuncturists, and naturopaths. We have five offices, a large hall for events, and several gardens. It has been a wonderful place to come to work. I also host my writers group in the hall each week, which is great since it is private, quiet, and easy to get to.

The owners have sold the property, and it is to be torn down starting in April, to make way for houses. I am sad to see the property go. If you are in Seattle and would like some garden plants, let me know!

I am in the middle of closing a deal on a new office in Wallingford. But, I still need to find a Monday night home for my writers group... Right now, I am thinking of the Greenwood Chocolati (but there are the ever-present issues of parking, non-reservable space, noise, and lack of privacy) or the Wallingford Library, which would mean changing the hours from 6:30-9 to 6-8. Still looking for something more private and quiet...

In addition to moving my office and changing my writers group, I quit smoking cigarettes a month ago, which is also new for me. I quit from 1996-2000, but have been going strong for 15 years this last round. It's not hard, really -0 it's more about changing my mindset. Most temptations occur in my car after work. Or during long phone calls. Or after a productive creative session.

During this month of change, I've been writing poetry, of all things. Magical surrealism...turning my dreams into prose. I have also been studying fiction writing, currently reading Lisa Cron's Wired For Story.

I hear from many people that change is in the air right now, so it seems best to embrace it and move forward. Best of luck to anyone else going through changes!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Top Literary Magazines?

Sometimes, I wonder about the people who read literary magazines. I try to read a few, but admit that there are more out there than I know what to do with. It's important to be familiar with publications to which you are interested in submitting work, but I need som e help narrowing the field!

Every magazine has a flavor. Whether it is steeped in traditions, or more nuanced by the current editor and staff, there are certain qualities they look for in the writers and pieces that they publish. I have read The New Yorker on and off for years, and I enjoy the New Yorkness of it! I miss certain qualities of East Coast urban living, and The New Yorker can help fill that void, even just a little bit. The New Yorker is word-geek friendly, and a grammar nazi's paradise. Sometimes, I scratch my head at the fiction - what in the world was I supposed to get out of reading THAT?!? What were they thinking?? Other times, I am touched, moved, disturbed, affected... the story has elicited something from me, and that is good.

Here is a list of what Every Writer's Resource calls that Top Fifty Literary Magazines.

This list is from Writer's Relief (Author Submission Service), written in March 2012 with a focus on women-author-friendly publications.

Have you read any of these? Which ones do you like? Have you been published in any of them? What do you have to say about that experience?

My fiction tends toward the fantastic, spanning horror, urban fantasy, soft sci-fi, and literary.
My non-fiction ranges from memoir to pop-culture reviews. I enjoy the term, "cultural observer," and am exploring what that means to me.

Tell me what you read! What you think! What do you know about these lit mags?

That's Where The Fun Is...

A month ago, I signed up for the 2015 NYC Midnight Short Story Competition, for my second year. This is a fun, three-round elimination contest under pressure, which I love. In 2014, I didn't make it past Round One, although I did get an Honorable Mention for my assigned category of Historical Fiction (Subject: Sworn Enemies, Char: Widow), so I was pleased with that result.

This year, I completely spaced on the starting date of the first round! Luckily there are eight days to write the 2500 word story, and I can be fast. Instead of starting at 9pm Thursday Jan. 15th, I began at midnight the following Thursday. I cranked out the first draft before 4am, and sent it to a few friends for feedback. I tweaked it Saturday an hour before deadline and got it in 30 minutes early. Whew! 

Now, I have to wait until results are announced around March 10th. I had a lot of fun with this one, because I was given Sci-fi - yay! - which is easier for me, having been raised on Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Night Gallery, Tales From the Crypt, Tales From the Darkside, Star Trek, etc. My assigned subject was "retirement" and my character was "receptionist." We'll see what happens with the contest, but I will definitely find a home for this story. It got several laughs and a good response from both readers and the listeners in my writers group. Always nice, especially since I've not been writing much funny this past year.

Now, I must admit that this post is a bit of a procrastination tactic - I need to be writing more memoir essays, and that darn sixth draft of HISMZA that I've been putting off. I also have several things to edit for other writers, so I'm signing off. 

Happy Writing!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Winter's Rest: Refilling the Writer's Fuel Tank

January 18th.

Still haven't written much, or edited much of what I have that needs it. But, it's not like I haven't been writing, at all...

I've written a ton of poetry and micropoetry. When I am drifting off to sleep, I think of these little poems and usually post them on Twitter. Just a little creative fun and sharing. I also have a journal full of hand written poems, ideas, meditations, dreams, thoughts, and plans. Been very active on the subconscious level this winter - lots of sleep, lots of dreaming, lots of deep, inner work on many levels. I am sure that this will be reflected in my writing to come.

I've started a monthly newsletter for my main business (massage therapy) and have a goal of once a month publication. I have written two; each with one major article, one minor article, and one community connection piece. I'm enjoying it, and it should be good for my day job, but it tends to eat into my creative writing time.

I used to work at a spa PT, in addition to my own MT practice. I was fired once for being two minutes late, but then rehired eight months later (after the old manager was fired.) Last February, it happened again - I was late, I was fired, and I moved on. I understand...punctuality is important in business. People's time is valuable. But I have never been able to avoid being late sometimes...I feel like a couple minutes here or there, well... it happens. Nothing excessive. Anyhow, I've been really good at getting a better handle on my own business and planning, and 2014 was a-ok for me. Plus, my arms stopped spasming from overworking, and I caught up on years of sleep. Three weeks ago, the spa called me. The manager that fired me last year is gone, and they want me back. I am flattered, and somewhat tempted - more money, right? Yay! And I miss some of my old clientele. And it is close to my home, and there are a handful of other pluses. But, then again, there are minuses, too. I've become accustomed to my own pace of life, my own schedule, my own controls. I don't want to distract myself from being proactive about my own practice. I am working on my future, here. And those days I used to work at the spa? When I'm not sleeping, I am writing. I don't want to give up that time.

I've been reading a ton, too, and feel like it's all just going into the blender. I am impatient to produce, yet, I know I will be better after all of this time spent exploring, studying, analyzing, and practicing my craft. The books I'm reading? Psychology, Urban Fantasy, Irish Crime Fiction, Shamanism, History, and Memoir. Into the blender it goes. And I'm getting ready to start reading a recommended series on writing: The Elements of Fiction Writing, by Writer's Digest Books.

So, I'm trying not to kick myself for not submitting anything for publication in 2014 (other than some novel agent queries). I need to replenish the well, with the books, and the thoughts, and the dreams, and the rest. Seven plus years of non-stop writing projects has taken its toll on my energy reserves. It only makes sense that I need to rest and take some time to regroup my creative energies. Meditation has been a major part of my daily life the past month; I'm ashamed to say that I got away from the regular practice for too long. In fact, I might toy with the idea of writing a book on meditation for writers...

Have you, fellow writers, noticed any seasonal patterns to your creative style? Your output? Your inspirations? What times of the year do you organize, plan, dream, write, read, learn, produce? What times of the day or night are you most mentally alert, or most receptive to new ideas? Cycles and patterns exist for all of us, and it is in our best interest to learn to identify, recognize, and acknowledge these periods of what we bring in to our creative lives and what we put out.