"Make no mistake, my friend, your pointless life will end, but before you go, can you look at the truth? You have a lovely singing voice."

-Morrissey, "Sing Your Life"

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Last weekend I completely forgot to write a blog post because I was in Columbus doing a presentation for the annual Columbus State Community College Writers’ Conference. I had intended to post about the topic I covered in my presentation, so I’ll talk about it this week. My presentation was titled, “Then What Happens?: Getting Unstuck in Fiction Plotting,” and it was about how to blast through that specific kind of writer’s block that occurs when we just can’t for the life of us figure out what should happen next in a story.

I provided 7 tips to help my fellow fiction writers get unstuck. These are all things that work for me when I face this problem, though no one technique works 100% of the time. At the heart, really, of each tip is the idea that it’s important not to get too caught up in getting your story to its conclusion. Let your story meander a bit; let your characters do things that might not seem to be directly related to the plot. Whatever doesn’t work can be revised out later, but you might find that you discover new, inventive, interesting plot points through letting the story run free for a bit.

Here are my 7 tips for getting unstuck in fiction plotting:

  1. Use writing prompts. I’m a big time advocate for writing prompts. Damien and I keep a prompt bowl, which we add to anytime we can think of new prompts. When you just can’t figure out what should happen next (or when you want to write but can’t decide what to write about), a prompt can help point you in a new, unexpected direction.

  1. Write a concrete, in the moment scene—have your character DO something, ANYTHING. Avoid writing a scene in which your character is simply thinking. One way to do this is to make a list of possible settings and a list of possible characters. Then have your main character interact with another character in a setting. What happens when he or she runs into So-and-So at X location? What will they talk about? What will happen? Something interesting and worthwhile might come of it, and even if the scene gets revised out of a later draft, writing a concrete scene like this might be just what you needed to break down that writer’s block.

  1. Open a blank document to free yourself from the rest of the story, and place your character into a new scene. You might also remove yourself from the computer altogether and start writing a new scene with pen and paper (or if you’re already writing with pen and paper, try moving to a new notebook or start writing on the computer). This method will probably leave inconsistencies between this new scene and whatever you had already written in this story, but that’s okay. As with everything, these things can be fixed later through revision. In the meantime, separating yourself from what you’ve already written might help your mind to look at the story in a new way, and you might think of interesting things that should happen in the story that you wouldn’t have thought of when you were so attached to the entire story as a whole.

  1. On the other hand, you could read through what you have so far and try to key in on elements that are already in the story but are not being fully explored. Maybe there are issues, characters, or objects that you’ve mentioned briefly with no intention of pursuing them in a more in-depth way. What would happen if you went ahead and pursued one? As an example, in my story, “This Is Not a Fairy Tale,” from Peter Never Came, in the drafting stage I just briefly mentioned that one of the characters, Stephen’s, hands were rough and dry. This detail ended up getting woven into the story pretty thoroughly, and in its final incarnation, the story relies very heavily on Stephen’s hands and how the other main character, Lucy, reacts to them.

  1. Step away from the computer for a while. Go for a walk (but bring a pen and paper!), or listen to music. Watch a movie or read. Taking the pressure off of yourself to write might be all you need to overcome your writer’s block.

  1. Combine two stories that you’re stuck on. Obviously, this is only useful if you’re stuck on two stories that have similarities. Personally, I tend to work on several stories at once, and I do often find that X story and Y story have similar main characters, or settings, or situations (or sometimes all three). Combining such stories can result in one, much more complex and interesting story.

  1. Finally, if all you can come up with is a cliché, go ahead and write it anyway so you can move forward. During the revision process you can look for and rework clichés.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I recently read an essay in Issue 3 of Kugelmass by Pank editor  (and excellent writer in her own right) Roxane Gay. The essay is called “The Art of the Rejection of Rejection,” and as the title suggests, it’s about Gay’s experiences as an editor receiving angry, bitter responses from writers whose work she rejects.

One of the most interesting responses she shares in the essay came from a fellow editor, with whom it was clear she had established some sort of working relationship prior to rejecting his work. More than anything, it seemed this fellow editor was upset about receiving a form rejection, but one comment he made in his lengthy missive was one I’ve heard many writers make about work that has been rejected, the gist of which is that many of his stories rejected by Pank have gone on to get accepted elsewhere.

If I were Gay, my reaction would be, “And your point is?” Clearly this editor—and many writers who have made similar complaints—believes that because a story is accepted somewhere, it must deserve to get accepted anywhere, and any journal that rejected it was wrong to do so. This argument is so illogical, it’s almost not even worth picking apart, but just for fun, let’s have a go at it anyway.

First of all, a confession: I’ve felt this way before, too. It never would have crossed my mind to email an editor who had rejected me to complain, but I do understand that initial in-your-face-sucka! feeling you get when something somebody said wasn’t good enough gets accepted. One of the first rejections I ever received came from a journal whose policy it was to give personal feedback on every submission. There’s a lot to be said for form rejections, let me tell you. This rejection essentially said the story was uninteresting, the character idiotic, and the writing weak and awkward. Ouch! When the same draft of the story got accepted elsewhere a few weeks later, I felt, I admit, kind of gloaty toward the journal whose editor had said such nasty things about it.

But I was wrong to feel that way, and here’s why: writing is subjective. Yes, some editors seem to forget that when they say things like, “Most of the work that gets submitted is terrible,” but on some level, I think most editors know that just because they don’t engage with something doesn’t mean it’s inherently bad. A rejection doesn’t mean the editor is rejecting you or your ability as a writer. It doesn’t even, really, mean they think what you submitted is bad. All it means is they, personally, don’t like this particular piece quite enough to make room for it in their particular journal.

Each journal usually has its own specific aesthetic, which is often difficult to pin down even after you’ve read multiple issues. Sometimes, as is the case with journals run by grad students, the aesthetic is constantly in flux because the masthead changes from year to year. Sometimes, though, you might think you have a pretty good idea of what this journal publishes, and you might think your story or essay or poem is a good fit, and you might be right—but you might be wrong, too. You can never really be sure if a specific editor is going to like a specific submission, and the fact that an editor from one journal says “no” and an editor from a different journal says “yes” doesn’t say anything about either editor’s ability to recognize a good thing when it’s in front of them. All it means is that the one editor engaged with that particular submission more than the other did.

Snarkily pointing out that a journal has rejected work that was accepted elsewhere—even when the “elsewhere” is, in your opinion, a “better” place to have been accepted—says more about you as the writer and your attitude, ego, and level of bitterness than it does about the journal. Every editor has a right to like or not like whatever he or she wants. You’d think, as an editor, the guy that wrote the letter to Gay would have understood that.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I’m almost positive at this point that I did not get in to the PhD program at OU, the only school to which I applied this year. I knew already that my chances were slim, but with every day that passes and I hear nothing, it’s more and more likely that I’m going to get a form rejection in the mail in a week or two. I know that the OU faculty usually makes their decisions by the end of February, and I know, also, that if you get in, you hear right away, but if you don’t, you hear much later.

I’m incredibly disappointed. I felt like OU was my best chance to get a PhD, for a number of reasons. If I can’t get in here, I don’t think I can get in anywhere.

So who cares, you might be wondering. It’s not like a PhD would have guaranteed me a tenure-track job. True. But aside from the fact that the main reason I wanted to go back to school was simply because I want to be back in school—I like school—I think the MFA is on its way out as a terminal degree.

Because I’ve been realizing I won’t get in to OU, I’ve been frantically looking for jobs that I can apply for. I should have done this in the fall, but I was so overwhelmed with other things, I just never got around to it. At this point, there are few positions that have yet to be filled. There are some, though, and I’ve been pouring over each one that I find, feeling my heart sink a little bit more each time I see PhD listed as a preferred degree, if not required. Many of these are community college jobs, non-tenure-track. Still, still they prefer candidates to have a PhD.  It doesn’t mean I can’t apply, but it DOES mean it’s unlikely my application will be taken too seriously.

In this job search, I haven’t found a single position that doesn’t at least list a PhD as preferred. Not a single one. In the past, I’ve found a handful, but it’s rare. Colleges and universities, it seems, are considering MFA’s only when they have to anymore. Enough people have PhD’s that they don’t really need to accept a master’s degree as terminal. As much as I’d like to say it isn’t fair, I know that, all other things equal—and they often will be—it makes perfect sense to want to hire the person with the highest level of education.

So I’m finding myself feeling kind of stuck. Even if I find a job now with my MFA, it seems unlikely that I’ll be able to move up to anything more permanent without a PhD. I suspect within five years or so, MFA’s won’t be considered terminal at all. Yet the school I felt I had the best chance of getting into doesn’t want me.

So what do I do? I don’t know. Apply for the few jobs for which I’m qualified, I guess, and hope for the best. And in a few years, when my degree isn’t enough to qualify me for any jobs? I really don’t know yet. I’m going to have to really evaluate my career prospects and figure out the right path, and soon.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Even though I said recently that I would not, under any circumstances, be returning to the novel that was my graduate thesis, this past week I went into my trusty old “Failed Attempts” file on my computer and turned what was an 80,000 word novel into a 21,000 word novella. I’ve been thinking about doing this pretty much ever since I sentenced the document to my “Failed Attempts” prison. I guess making that very difficult but important decision freed me up to see the novel for what it really was: about 70 good pages of story and close to 200 pages of filler, of me trying to sustain the length of a novel without really knowing how.

Though this was not the first novel I’d written, as a novel it was more of good practice than a worthwhile piece of literature. It was me learning how to fill in that many pages, me learning how to revise something that lengthy. After multiple revisions, though, it’s still too flawed to be a workable book. I can see that now. There are huge components of the plot, entire characters, that feel flat, unbelievable, over-written.

But there’s some good stuff in there, too. At its core, there’s a nugget of an interesting story, which is what kept me working and trying and believing in this novel for so long. Once I accepted that the novel would never be good enough, I realized that maybe if I pared it down to that nugget of good stuff, maybe then I would have something worth reading.

The impetus to finally give it a try came from the Iron Horse Literary Review newsletter. Iron Horse is currently open for entries in their annual single-author competition, and this year they’re accepting novellas only. I almost never enter contests. With the exception of book contests, the few times I’ve decided to spend the money, I haven’t even gotten so much as an honorable mention. I’m just not good enough, I’ve told myself, so it would be like throwing my money away.

But it isn’t, really. The entry fees for contests help to support the journals you’re paying the fees to, and most entry fees entitle you to a subscription to the journal anyway. Your money is going to something worthwhile, even if your submission doesn’t place.

So I decided to use the Iron Horse contest as motivation to trim this novel to novella length. At a first pass, I got it down to about 95 pages—roughly 30,000 words. The contest guidelines stipulate that entries must be no more than 20,000 words—roughly 65 pages. I did some more tinkering and trimming and got it down to a lean 21,000 words, but I still need to cut another 1,000 if I want to enter the contest. I may not make it—the deadline is less than two weeks away—but I’m certainly going to give it a go.

Even if I can’t get it down to 20,000 words, I feel good about this experience. It was useful for me to see just how much I could cut from the manuscript, and it feels good, too, to see it take shape as something that might be publishable after all. Maybe this novella will eventually end up in the “Failed Attempts” file, too, but right now, I feel really good about how it’s turning out.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

After a lengthy, miserable bout with depression, last month I finally went to my doctor and got a prescription for an anti-depressant. I’ve been feeling lousy for quite a while now; I couldn’t even tell you how long, months and months and months. At first I thought I was just having post-partum depression, but I just kept sinking and sinking until I finally reached a point, a couple months ago, where I realized that I had never been so depressed in my entire life and that, more important, I couldn’t bear the thought of living the rest of my life feeling that way.

I hesitated about going to the doctor, though, because I was afraid that nothing would work. Silly, right? I know it is, but I had this intense fear that I would get on medication after medication and just keep feeling the same, until I would finally have to accept that this is all there is for me, now, and that things will never get better. I had to force myself to schedule an appointment by reminding myself that my depression affects not just me but my husband and daughter, too. It’s one thing to choose to wallow in your own misery, but it isn’t fair to make other people wallow with you.

So here’s how I’d been feeling: empty, numb, uninterested in everything. I was eating a lot, but not because eating made me feel better. I suppose I had this idea that if I ate that candy bar or cookie, it might make me feel good, and then when it didn’t, I would eat another, thinking maybe the second time would be the charm. I wasn’t listening to much music. I wasn’t reading. I wasn’t writing. I watched things on Netflix, but with the exception of American Horror Story, which for whatever reason seemed to be the only thing that was able to really engage me during this dark period, I would just sort of sit and zone out to whatever I was watching, not really enjoying any of it.

Obviously, this was very distressing. It’s not like I’m normally little miss sunshine, but I’m usually able to focus on the things in life that I think make life worth living—good literature, good movies, good music, writing. Writing has been like an anti-depressant for me for many years. When everything else feels grim and pointless, I can always count on getting lost in my own creative process as I invent other realities, other people, other lives. In fact, I’ve found in the past that when I go more than a week or so without writing, I tend to start feeling listless and depressed.

But this time, my depression stopped my writing cold. I didn’t have any desire to do it, and when I would try to force myself, it didn’t feel good. Didn’t feel like anything.

It’s not even an issue, really, of productivity. It’s not because I envision myself as a writer, and when I don’t write, I don’t feel like myself (although that’s true), and it’s not because I have all these writing related goals, projects I want to complete, achievements I want to reach. The reason why it matters so much is because writing helps me deal with the world. Writing is my life vest, my buoy. When I’m not writing, I’m drowning.

So I got a prescription for sertraline and started the slow, anxious process of waiting to see if it would work. And you know what? It did, or at least, it’s started to. I don’t feel back to 100% yet. I’m still not writing or reading as much as I usually do, but I’m feeling better. Work doesn’t feel like such a burden anymore, and the little tedious “have to”’s of life don’t feel so all-encompassing. Life is beginning to feel manageable again, in other words, and I am starting to daydream again about my writing. I’ve been pacing around the house, with music playing, and thinking about the novel I’m working on. It’s a good feeling—feeling anything at all is good—and I’m so glad I finally took the step to do something about my depression.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I’m trying something new as a writer, something that requires completely changing my familiar writing habits: dictation. The other day, my friend Jolynn told me about some dictation software her parents gave her for Christmas. I thought it sounded worth a shot, so I looked up dictation apps for my phone and found some free ones I could try.

I work an hour and a half drive away from home, see, so even though I only have to go to campus twice a week, I’m in the car for six hours a week commuting to and from my classes. If I could spend even a small portion of that time “writing,” I would bump my productivity up immensely.

So last week I downloaded Dragon Dictation. The first day, I had trouble trying to get my mind into writer mode. I’m so used to typing as part of my process that I think my mind almost has a Pavlovian response to sitting in front of the computer and opening a document to write. Speaking the story out loud just wasn’t doing it for me, and I ended up just deleting the barely coherent crap I came up with.

But I refused to give in so quickly. Six freakin’ hours a week, I kept telling myself. Six hours to myself, without my little girl climbing all over me. It would be the perfect time to write.

So I tried again the next day I had to go to campus. I waited until a sentence formed in my mind—that’s usually the way I begin any writing session—and I turned on the app and just started going for it. I “wrote” for the rest of the drive to campus and ended up with about 1000 words to add to my novel, words I feel pretty good about, too. Of course, I’m still in the very early stages of trying this out, but I’m going to keep at it, and I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this is going to help me write way, way, way more.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I’ve been working as an Associate Editor for Bound Off for a few months now, and I think it’s time to talk a little bit about what I think you can learn from working on a literary journal.

1.      Reading submissions gives you an idea of an editor’s perspective. I’m given ten submissions to read every two weeks. It’s not an overwhelming number by any means, and since we only publish flash fiction, I DO read every submission all the way through. I know, however, from previous experience working for journals that this isn’t always the case. Many editors and slush pile readers stop reading as soon as they feel they can justify saying no—why waste their time reading the entire thing when they already know they won’t accept it?

But even people like me who do read every story all the way through expect to be sucked in quickly. If your story gets off to a plodding start, or has lots of exposition right away, or is extremely confusing for the first few pages, you’ll be really lucky if an editor sticks with you to the payoff later in the story. And even if the editor does stick with you, that payoff will have to be damn good to justify an uninspired beginning.

2.      Reading failed submissions forces you to think about what makes writing good or bad. When I respond to submissions, I’m supposed to give a brief summary of the story and say a thing or two about what I liked or didn’t like about it. Then I give my yes or no (or sometimes maybe) vote.

Because I have to articulate why I’m saying yes or no, I have to really think about the strengths and weaknesses of each story. I can’t just say, “It wasn’t my kind of story.” Instead, I have to figure out what about this story makes it not good enough in my opinion. It goes the other way too. When I say yes to a story, I have to put into words why I think the story deserves a spot on the podcast, and it’s got to be more convincing than, “I just really liked it.”

3.      Reading submissions helps you put rejection into perspective. I can’t stand it when editors claim that most of the submissions they see are terrible. That’s BS! I’ve found that in any batch of ten submissions, two or three are “terrible,” although I would probably opt to describe them as amateurish instead. It doesn’t mean these writers will never amount to anything, but they’re not there yet. I don’t feel bad saying no to these stories because, aside from the fact that I want our journal to only have good stories so people will actually listen to it, these writers need to learn that their writing is not up to par yet. Rejection is probably the most painful for writers at that stage, who are submitting though they’re not ready to submit, but it’s also an important part of the process of becoming a good writer.

The other seven or eight stories in each batch—which, keep in mind, amounts to seventy to eighty percent of the submissions—could not, in my opinion, be reasonably  described as terrible. These are stories that are clearly NOT written by novices. They’re well written; they often have elegant prose and make good use of craft techniques. But that doesn’t mean they get accepted. We accept only a very low percentage of the stories that get submitted to us, which means we reject the majority of those pretty good stories.

I sometimes agonize over whether to say yes or no to a particular story. Some stories are so good in so many ways, but there will be just one thing bringing it down. It might be too much exposition, or maybe some element of the plot doesn’t feel original enough. Whatever it is, I have to find reasons to whittle that remaining seven or eight stories down to maybe one “yes” vote. From there, the stories will be read by other editors, who will add their own votes without knowing mine, just as I didn’t know what those who had read the stories before me thought.

Since I’ve been volunteering for Bound Off, it’s happened exactly three times that I read a story that I instantly and uncontrollably fell in love with. Two of those stories ended up getting accepted—and pretty quickly, too. To my knowledge, so far none of the other “yes” votes I’ve offered have ended in an acceptance.

So you see, everything has to come together just right for an actual acceptance to happen. Rejections, then, shouldn’t devastate anyone too much, but do bring your work back to the drawing board if you get a lot of form rejections for it. Many of the stories I’ve said “no” to might have earned a “yes” had they just been revised in XYZ way. A rejection doesn’t mean your story has no potential, but sometimes it does mean your story needs a little more work.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

This year, I spent some of my Christmas and birthday money on a pedometer to help me lose the weight I gained this holiday season. Heading into the winter, I just started feeling famished, all the time. I wanted to eat constantly, and I just decided to go with it. It would give me a goal to work towards in the new year. So I gained about five pounds—not the end of the world, by any means, but I need to lose it now or I’ll be very unhappy with myself.

So I shopped around and read customer reviews and picked out the pedometer that seemed right for me. I came close to spending quite a bit more for one with software that would track my progress and create nifty graphs on my computer. I love graphs. After reading a lot of negative reviews of the software, though, I opted for the cheaper pedometer and decided to create my own graph on the computer myself. This is better, anyway, because I was able to modify it to meet my own set of goals.

I created a graph with two bits of data: daily step count and sweat points from the Just Sweat mode of my Just Dance games (make fun of me all you want; I owe a lot of lost weight to dancing video games, and I just think they’re so freakin’ fun). The graph is really helping me stay motivated. It makes me feel so excited to watch those two lines go higher and higher up each day.

Okay, but what does this have to do with writing? I realized that my love of graphs, the exhilaration I feel entering each day’s data and watching  the line go up, might help me get more motivated to write. I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting motivated to write lately. A lot of that has to do with depression—maybe I’ll talk about that some other time—but part of it is just that I have no momentum going. If I can find something new enough to make me feel excited about writing, I might be able to get my momentum up to the point where I no longer need a trick or gimmick to get going.

I set a writing goal for the month of February: to write every day, no matter how much, no matter on what. I copied and modified my activity graph to create a writing graph. It also has two sets of data to keep track of: number of words written on my novel and number of words written on stories. The goal will be to make sure I have something to plot on at least one of those lines every single day.

I know the lines will go up and down. That’s just the way it works—some days you have a lot to say, others, not so much. That’s okay because I believe the lines will show a gradual progression upwards throughout the month, if for no other reason than because I so, so long to see those lines getting higher and higher.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

As you probably know, I decided this year to gamble on applying to a PhD in Creative Writing program. It’s a gamble for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that going through the application process cost me a considerable amount of time and money (roughly $275, all told, and I only applied to one school!). I talked last week about how I don’t hold any delusions about my chances of getting in, but if, by some miracle, I do get in, I’ll be elated.

How come, you ask? Why do I want to spend five years working toward a degree that may not do me any good out in the real world? I know getting a PhD won’t guarantee me a job. I do think it’ll increase my chances, but realistically, not by much. To get a good job as an English professor, I need, more than anything, to just get lucky. There are far more applicants than there are actual jobs in this field, so, while having a PhD might help me be more competitive, the chances are still good that I would get a PhD and still not be able to find full-time work.

But that all has to do with what I would do with the degree after graduation. That’s not actually the reason I want to go for the degree. The truth is, I want to go for a PhD because I love being a student and I want to be a student again, if only for a little while. My time in my MFA program was the happiest, most fulfilling of my life. I learned so much, grew so much. I met lots of amazing people and became immersed in a world I had hardly known existed before.

I know that going back to school for a PhD wouldn’t exactly replicate my experience as an MFA student. I’ve already learned much of what there is to learn about being a writer, and I’m already part of the writing world. Still, I know studying with a new set of professors and students will only help me become an even better writer. I miss workshop, and I miss taking other types of classes too. I never did feel like I got a very firm grounding in theory and criticism, and every lit course is completely new—even when you’ve already read and discussed the books the course covers.

I love discussing literature. I love learning new factoids about literary history. I love discovering my own interpretations and opinions through the research process of writing a paper (though I admit, writing actual papers isn’t always my favorite thing, although even that often brings with it its own sort of pleasure). And yes, I love giving and getting feedback in workshop. I love talking writing with other writers.

It’s like that adage: Some people want to write; others want to have written. I think some people want to be PhD students, and others want to have earned PhD’s. There’s nothing wrong with either perspective. In fact, logically, making the time commitment to earn a PhD probably should be the result of a calculated decision about the future. But for me, I just don’t have the energy to think too much about the future. When I do, I start to feel overwhelmed and depressed. I don’t know if I’ll ever find a full-time job in academia, but I do know that I would get a lot out of (and enjoy the heck out of) being in a PhD program. The degree itself, for me, is beside the point. When I ask myself what I would like to spend the next few years doing, I can’t think of anything that I’d rather do than be back in school.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The deadline for applications to the PhD in Creative Writing program at Ohio University passed this week. I got my application materials in a couple of weeks ago and won’t know whether I got in or not for a couple of months, but I’ve decided to assume I won’t get in and make plans for next year accordingly. It’s unlikely that I’ll get in, you see, and accepting that now, being prepared for it, will help soften the blow when it comes.

I’m not being pessimistic. The truth is it’s just incredibly, incredibly difficult to get in to a PhD in Creative Writing program, way, way more difficult than getting in to an MFA program. The PhD applicant pool has been distilled down to only people who already have master’s degrees. Most of them are published, and probably many have published in more impressive journals than I. I imagine that most of them probably haven’t published a book yet, but even then, it’s not unlikely that I won’t be the only applicant with a book under her belt.

It’s incredibly competitive, to put it short, and even though I feel good about my application, even though I do have a book, even though my GRE scores were surprisingly high, still, I can’t be sure I’ll be the single strongest applicant this year, and that’s what you’ve got to be to get in, at least at OU. They only admit one fiction PhD student each year, so having a strong application is one thing, but you’ve got to have the strongest to get in.

I’m choosing to believe I will be among their top choices. I don’t know how many applications they’ll get this year, but let’s say they get about forty (that seems like a reasonable guess based on what I know about these things). All forty, as I said, have already earned MFA’s or MA’s, and probably at least thirty of them have been publishing regularly for some time. Probably most of them are good writers, but the selection committee will find reasons—they’ll have to—to whittle the list down to say five or ten. I’ve decided to believe I’ll make it that far because I did feel good about the materials I sent in.

But from there, it basically feels like it’s down to chance. At that point, any choice would probably be a “right” choice; all of those applicants have proven themselves enough to get in. But only one can. The odds are against me, then. They’ll pick one person, and no matter how many applicants they narrow it down to, probability tells me the one most likely won’t be me.

So rather than letting myself get carried away hoping for something that probably won’t happen, I’m going to face reality now and move forward with the understanding that it isn’t going to happen. I see no harm in this plan since if I do get in, it will be a wonderful surprise, and if I don’t, I’ll already have made peace with the news before I even got it. I probably won’t get in, and it’s better for me to accept that now and move on.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Well, after two unplanned weeks off, it’s time, at last, to take a look at what I accomplished last year and set some goals for 2013. I only set one, extremely manageable goal for 2012: to complete and begin submitting at least five stories. Unfortunately, I did not even accomplish that much. I gave up one story, finished, began sending out, and then brought back to the drawing board another. One story that I was especially excited about at the beginning of the year last year has sat on my computer, untouched, for months. During 2012, then, I completed, revised, and began submitting only two stories. Not a great showing.

What else did I do last year as a writer? Well, I wrote almost every day in the month of June, working on a children’s book. I got 30,000 words in (107 pages) and then lost steam. I still feel really good about that particular book and plan to return to it, but for some reason, I just haven’t been in the mood to work on it since this summer. I also started a new novel, got 10,000 words in (36 pages), then became more interested in a different novel. So I set the first one aside and started the second one, and have been struggling to find the drive to work on that one for the past month and a half.

So. Not a very impressive year, overall.

But I’m going to try to turn things around in the coming year. For one thing, I’d like to get some new stories ready to submit and start submitting again in earnest. I haven’t submitted at all in months, and 2012 was the first year since I started getting published that I didn’t have at least two publications come out. This makes me sad. This makes me very sad.

I’d also like to finish a first draft of this new novel, for cripes sake. And I really think I need to finish that children’s book I was working on last year, while we’re on the topic. My friend, Jenni Moody, in her blog called this year, “TheYear of the Novel.” I’d like to make this year my Year of the Novel, too. I haven’t finished a complete draft of a novel since grad school, and I’m just not ready to accept the possibility that maybe I’m just not a novelist. It took me years of writing crappy stories before I got the hang of story writing. If I want to write novels (and I do!), I have to be willing to live through the same kind of failure.

So, my goals for 2013 (drum roll, please):

1.      Write, revise to completion, and submit at least five new stories.

2.      Finish a first draft of my current novel project.

3.      Finish a first draft of last year’s children’s book project.

4.      Eat less. Exercise more. Read more. Be happy.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Apparently, I'm taking a second week off from my blog. I've been out of town visiting family, and Sunday has really crept up on me. I'll be back on track next week. See you then!