The Writer In Me

There is one thing that I set out to do as a writer. And much to my great surprise I have already done it. I started writing because the stories of another author touched me so deeply and profoundly that it helped to shape the person I am. There is something so powerful about a work of fiction that can motivate and inspire change in your own life. That might just be the goal of every great storyteller. To have some kind of lasting impact on the reader. To help them look at a situation in a manner in which they never considered.

For me, my goal in writing was simply touch my readers in their personal lives. To give them a sense of hope and faith. To share some laughter and shed some tears. To become a place of refuge when the world around them seems to have gone cold. I realized long ago the amazing gift that writers and storytellers have. One author that I know, she sends free books to the soldiers oversees. But amazes me most is that she sends emails to her fan list to encourage them to do the same. It is times like this that I realize how lucky I am and hopefully will continue to be. I think that in any field, when you acquire a following it is important that you use your position to do good in the world. I am far from developing a fan base, but I have been told on different occasions that my writing motivates and inspires people, that they look forward to reading it. And when you come right down to it, deep down to the nitty gritty, that is all I set out to do. So from here on out there is no way to fail, because I have already succeeded.

Fear or Insanity

I am a Virgo. I like structure, organization, and most of all things done my way. So it drives me absolutely batty when halfway into a project someone changes their mind on what it is they want. You can’t change the objective of a project when you are ¾ of the way into implementing it. You can’t change the mission of an organization the day before a huge public relations event. You would never change the title of a motion picture the night of it’s premier. Some things you just can’t do. There is a time and place for debate, for pondering the perfect direction. But eventually a time comes when you have to move on. You make a decision and you stick with it. You defend it. You go down with the ship as Dido so elegantly puts it. So sure there is a time to jump out if you want to keep from drowning, but most of us never reach that moment. We start to panic too early. Our heart starts racing, our stomach is tied up in knots, and we are ready to abandon projects that we might have spent years on.

Honestly, this past week I have been contemplating abandoning the novel I have been working on. Why? Because it doesn’t live up to the standards of my writing peers. Because the plot is not as fleshed out as I would like it to be. Because maybe this is all just a silly dream with no chance of ever actually seeing the light of day. I can think of hundreds of reasons to bail out. Most of them very rational reasons, but lots of things sound rational when you are in panic mode. Just like lots of things sound rational to drunk that don’t sound rational to someone sober.

The truth is most of my panic is rooted in fear. Fear of failure. Fear that no matter how much effort I put into this, I will never reach my goal.

Let me say that again. The truth it of it is, that most of my panic is rooted in fear of failure. And let’s be honest, in the American society it is better to have never tried something, then to have tried and failed. The stigma on failing is severe, so severe that it paralyzes us early on in life and keeps most of us from fulfilling our dreams. The key is, you cannot be afraid of failure. You must sit back, enjoy the ride and be understand that success comes in the act of doing. One of my favorite all-time quotes is by Michelangelo, and he says “I am still learning…” I love that quote because in all of its simplicity it still rings true. Life is about learning, and learning involves both trying and failing. I am still learning and I hope that you are too.

Still Here..Still Around

Its been a while... but I am still here, still around.

I finally got a critique back from a friend. It was really helpful, more helpful than most since she actually reads and enjoys the same style and genre that I do. But I just have not been motivated enough to make all the edits that need to be made. And there aren't even that many, but there is a lot of thought that must go into it. Each line, has to be very strategically placed for the desired effect. Most people don't realize that. In high school we always joked about analyzing literature to death. Someone always said, I bet the author never even thought of this. I say that is just a myth to discredit the great writers of our time. I think they knew damn well what they were doing. Why do you think so many writers are alcoholics. It ain't easy. But sometimes in life, nothing ever is. And what if it was, would it be worth it? I mean really worth it?

My friend wrote in her comments that she loved my title, that she envied me for being able to come up with great titles. I think that is so bizarre, because I can come up with tons of titles, it is often the first thing that comes to me. But then I have to hunt and dig for the story. Sometimes the story I find has nothing to do with the title and I have to change it. I hate when I have to waste a good title. Maybe I should just keep a running tab so that when I write I can go back and look at it and pick the appropriate title.

Sometimes characters come to me. I have been inspired by photos, pictures, actors, songs. You never know. Stories are all around. The hard thing is making sure it is an interesting story. Anyway, I almost deleted this twice so I am going to stop now and go to sleep. Good Night. Sleep Tight.

Poo Culture: Can It Be Saved?

There are some things that are always funny, like the make them laugh song and dance routine in singing in the rain, or Golden Girls. I don't think a bad episode of Golden Girls exists. They really don't make shows like that anymore. Pure laugh and joy, and every once in a while a really heartfelt moment. Now they are all reality, trailer-park, who's your daddy tele-trash. OK so there are some good shows on, some good dramas, a few classic comedies, but even some of those can't compare to Cheers, Coach, The Cosby Show, or Golden Girls. Sometimes I wonder where it all went down hill. Was it TV that got worse, or Americans? Did we become so unintelligent that we actually enjoyed watching people eat maggots, slugs, and animal testicles?

I have to admit, there are days when I come home and I want to do anything but think. I want to watch something meaningless and forget the rest of the world exists. And on those days my first instinct is to sit in front of the tube.

But there is a difference between getting lost in a program because you are too tired to think, and getting lost in a program because the storyline is so riveting. Because you sympathize so much with the characters that you can't tear your eyes away. I can think of a few specific scenes where this has happened. Will and Grace, I don't think it was the season premier it was a few episodes into the season. But Will and Grace decide that they are going to have a child together through artificial insemination. But Grace decides not to because she meets her future husband and does not want to give up on the chance that she might actually find love. They get into a huge fight. Blow out. They are ready to throw out their friendship, (and I have lost friends over less), and it is the only show that ends without a laugh. No punchline, no jokes. And it is so shocking and so real that for a moment you forget you are watching a comedy.

I love it when that happens, and it very rarely happens anymore on TV. A tragedy really.

What is worse is that so many books have gone down the same path. Sure there are really great novels out there, that stimulate your mind, that pull at your heart, that leave you struggling to hold back tears. Then there are cheap thrills. One day reads. Beach material. If you write books of this nature you're a sell out. If you don't you make no money. Where is the line? How do you write something that is entertaining, fun, and still meaningful. I find that I have always been searching for this line. I have always been battling with artistic snobs, and literary buffs, the world of academia clashing with pop culture. I never understood why it had to be one or the other. I found myself constantly defending the likes of masses. Now I find myself trying to write for them. Writing for the masses while stimulating the elite. Can it be done? I guess I'll find out in time.

Wicked Cool...

So as usual, time keeps on hurdling by, no matter what life decides to throw my way. Almost half way through with February, and seeing sunshine two days in a row has got me in a fantastic mood. Wicked cool, the kiddies would call it.


As I said before I had my writeshop meeting last night. We finished early, due to a bout of the flu that took out some of our group members, and we spent a good 40 minutes just talking about writing, resources, issues that we were having etc. Did I mention that I met a real life pagan, and an amateur astrologer?

I feel really lucky to be such a part of an amazing writing group. All the professionals I talk with in the writing industry always warn against writing groups. They say, watch out for group think. Make sure it doesn't turn into a bashing session. Remember that essentially some people's opinion is worth more than others, write for the people who are signing your check. I have heard so many negative things about workshops that when I first joined this one I was extremely wary. I have been to those writing groups where everyone simply is trying to one up the other. Where writers are so insecure that they spend years trying to impress and please the other members of their group, that nothing ever gets submitted. I have been in groups where people can't handle success of other writers and are so rude and negative that they end up alienating themselves.

My writer's group should win group of the year award at the next worldcon. We have an incredible mix of amateur and professional writers. People who write out of their basement once a month, and people who are nominated for best new writer of the year. People who have graduated from MFA programs and people who write reviews for the Dispatch. It's great. Even better, it doesn't stop at the writing. I have workshopped two pieces since joining, and in that process I have learned more than I ever did in undergrad. The comments that I receive are thoughtful and encouraging, critical and honest. But my group is more like a support system. A network of writers who have come together in order to promote the success of all it's members.

Recently we decided to meet twice a month, and have one meeting dedicated to discussing the writing business. We will focus on markets and new writing opportunities, submissions, agents, editors, and contracts etc. Because of my involvement with my writing group I have had the opportunity to meet agents and editors in the business. I have become a member of the planning committee for the local scifi convention. I am constantly learning new things about my profession and how to be successful. Each writer is so different, with distinctive style and voice and yet I can learn from each of them. I hope that they can learn from me as well.

Writeshop Meeting

I just got home from my writshop meeting. It was great. I love going to meetings and talking with other writers. It keeps me so inspired and motivated. It helps knowing that there is someone out there who understands the daily pain and torture that is writing. It is also great having someone who you look up to and respect, someone whose writing you admire, compliment and praise your work. I learned something about my writing tonight. Something that I never learned in my years of schooling. I discovered where my weaknesses are as a writer. Taking a page from Laurell's book, (pun intended) The next thing that I write will be a direct challenge to my weakness.

I also love workshopping my stories, because it is like test-driving a car. It's fresh and new. It's exciting. But you can't tell a lot about a car until you get into it, feel it on the road. I feel like you can't know completely what a story is until you've tested it out, and revamped it a little.

Anyway, I am very tired. I have been critiquing stories all day, mainly because I got a little carried away on v-day. oh well. Life is short. Play hard.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”, One of Raymond Carver’s best stories and the perfect place to start. It is after all the day before Valentines Day. Ironically it is also Friday the 13Th. And the really scary, really bizarre thing about today is…I am actually in a good mood. I even gave out Valentines…OK almost. I thought about it.

Traditionally in my life Valentine’s Day is a day to be hated. This year, for some reason, I feel different. I blame this new development on a movie titled Love Actually. Although that is not entirely correct. The movie was really just an expression of what I truly believe inside. The movie itself helped me to realize that I was not alone. That other people get it. That is always a nice thing to know.

Yesterday I was reminded of all the people that love me. It’s been going on all week really and I haven’t been paying any attention. Like I said. I’ve been in a sort of funk lately. But love surrounds me, and there is no reason that I should be afraid to celebrate that.

I bring this up not just because it T-1 day until V-Day, but because I remembered something that I had long ago given up of. When I was younger I used to believe that rules were made to be broken, so to speak. I’m not saying I was breaking the law or doing anything drastically illegal. I wasn’t even a bad teenager. I rarely got into trouble. Although there are people who would argue that the only reason I didn’t get in trouble was because I was smart enough to not get caught. However, as I got older something happened which made me forget this. I started believing that there was no way around the rules. I started feeling like I had to learn how to make my way in the system that society has created.

But love isn’t like that. And life to an extent shouldn’t be like that. When you confine yourself to the expectations and rules that society has taught us to believe you miss out on so much more. You are essentially cutting yourself off from possibilities so great and opportunities so rare, that the majority of people will never experience it. So in honor of St. Valentine remember, that there are no rules in love. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Connecting to a Softer Side

The thing about good writing is that it always surprises you. It creeps up on you when you least expect it--when you stop trying to write good prose and begin to speak from the heart. That happened to me today while writing a letter to an old and cherished friend. It was emotional to write, but even more emotional to read. I think writers spend so much time trying to figure out how to get that emotion on the page and the real problem is lack of interest in their subject matter. I never believed that writing in a daily journal could improve your writing. I thought it was just a way to release your feelings. A way to vent. But it is more than that. Learning how to express the wide range of human emotions is what makes a good fiction writer, screenwriter, songwriter etc. What better subject to study than yourself? Everyday is a new emotion. A new feeling to try and describe. And some days will be better than others. Today was dead on for me. And though few may ever read the words I wrote down I have a better understanding of how my characters might feel in a similar situation.

Grr!!! Who Likes February

It is still February, and I still hate the month of February. I wish it would just fall off the calender one year so that I didn't have to live through it. Or even better that a little button would be installed on the side of my watch that I could hit every time I wanted to warp through something that was dragging on and on. If I had that I would warp to April. Yes. I have a lot of time off in April and it is so close to the summer I can smell the freshly cut grass already.

Since I can't get out of the winter months I have plenty of time to think about things. Like why I am a writer... It seems to me so obvious, I wonder why it took so many people, (including myself) to figure it out. I'm really not an extremely social person. I like people, I have friends, and I enjoy their company. But I don't want to be around them constantly. I enjoy being alone so much more. I love walking through the house when no one is around. I love the silence. There is something freeing in that silence.

When I am writing sometimes the slightest noise can become a distraction. That or an excuse to do something else. And then there are family members who just don't understand anything about writing. Like how long it takes to write a novel. To them, if I say I am writing or that I am critiquing someone else's piece, they see it as oh, she doesn't have any plans. She is free to do whatever she wants. I have to fight with them all the time to make them see it as work, the same kind of work that they do every day. I don't understand why they can't see it that way. It is something I want to make a living at. I want to get paid for it. So shouldn't it be a job? Shouldn't I be required to put some of my own time into it. If I don't get the work done, the finished project, I don't get a check. How hard is that to understand.

Here's they way that I rationalize it in my mind. I want to be a writer. I want that to be my career. Yet I wanted to be a lawyer for a really long time. At graduation I was forced to make a decision. And the deciding factor for me was that I feared making a decision that would require that much commitment, time, and money, for something I wasn't sure I would enjoy doing. But I learned about the legal profession, and law school. If I had went I would have spent anywhere from $40,000-$100,000 dollars on that education. I would have worked 60+ hours a week for three years. And this risk is allowed in our society because we assume that everyone who goes to law school will get a fancy job paying $100,000+ a year.

But that is not true. A lot of lawyers make much less than you would expect. And if the job market is bad, finding a job as a lawyer is just as competitive as any other field. What is worse is that after all that there are so many who do not like what they do. Who do it because it was expected or because it was safe and secure. But these are the same people who will wake up in thirty years and ask what the hell did I do with my life. These are the people on medications, with alcohol problems, and rocky marriages. These are the people that are just not happy.

Now flip the tables for a moment. Say you devoted that same amount of time and effort and money into something that you really loved. Something that really made you happy. Me for instance, I want to write. And I believe that if I had that much time and money devoted to my career I would be more than successful. Sure there is some element of talent that needs to be discussed. And I am not saying that I am the greatest writer in the world. I am far from it. But I am not afraid to learn. I am always looking for weaknesses in my writing and putting in effort to become better. It might be mind numbing for some but it is what I love and when you are doing something you never even notice the crappy stuff.

So I guess I have given myself three years to find my way. To decide if this was meant for me. Funny how after about my first meeting with an editor at TOR Books I knew I made the write decision. Even now, I think, writing might not be all I do. I think of starting a magazine one day, or owning a bookstore. I do editing at work and think maybe I should be in the publishing industry. I know that I am on the right track. Headed in the right direction. I hope that others can be as lucky as I am.

Oh and if you aren't sure what makes you happy...check out a book called. Finding your own north star It changed my life.

Better Books, Better Days

Good Morning All!

I have woken up in a considerably better mood. Which is a little surprising since I am about to embark upon the never ending week from hell. But it could be worse right? Just a few days. I can do this. Or so I keep telling myself.

I am just going to make this quick. Do a little shameless self-promotion for my friends...

I suppose you are wondering who those friends are. Well today they are people in my writing groups. I have been telling lots of you for months that I am in a writing group with actual writer--so I thought I would give you a taste of who some of those writers are. Besides after all that they have done for me...It is only fair that I continue to return the favor.

Here are just a few to get you started. Gary, Charlie, and Paul. I figure if I list too many more no one will ever look at the sites, so I will just try to remember to post more later. Charlie's site has not been updated lately. He just sold a story yesterday actually. 17 days from submission to sale. That has to be some kind of record, for something unsolicited anyway. But I think that Gary and Paul's sites are more up to date.

Oh and by the way.. I have helped critique stories for them all. Yea Me!

Wicked B*tch of the Midwest

Man, I just feel like the wicked b*tch of the Midwest today. Every little thing is ticking me off. Maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I don’t know. I finished my story yesterday and although I said that I would not revise it until the group critique is done, I did this morning before posting the file for my writeshop members. I’m not saying that revising my story put me in a bad mood. The changes were necessary, and mainly structural and grammatical items that I knew needed to be changed as I was writing but was too lazy to do at the time. I think my moodiness is deriving from the weather.

There are things I like about Columbus, and winter is not one of them. It has nothing to do with the severity of winter, and more to do with my missing the sunshine. Sunlight and warmth make me happy. When I am happy I am more productive, more active, and more satisfied with my life. Recently I have had people tell me that I am too hard on myself. Perhaps that is true. I expect to get a lot done. When I don’t see the outcomes that I anticipated I get frustrated. I blame myself for things that are not necessarily my fault. But I do not think that I am alone in this act. In fact most of my friends are victims of the same mental degradation. Overachievers flock together. They compete against one another almost as much as they compete against themselves.

One thing that I discovered in college was that my expectations were defined by those around me. My friends, my acquaintances, they all had a hand in how hard I pushed myself and how I envisioned my future. When I was forced to take a step back and look at the broader picture it was much easier for me to understand and appreciate my successes. When you are running in a track meet and your chief rival beats you by a tenth of a second at the moment all you can think of is that you lost. Rarely do people take a step back and think I just ran a four-minute mile. That is faster than 99% of the human population. I get caught up in the fact that I am living at home with my parents, it is not easy nor is it where I envisioned myself at this point in my life. But I am lucky that I still have parents to live with. Because there are a lot of people who don’t. I have a little sister who can annoy me like I never believed possible. But when I see her trying desperately to be like me, seeking so hard for my approval, I realize how valuable our sisterly bond is. I have graduated from high school and college, which is more than I can say for 40% of the people in my state, not to mention the country or other areas of the world. Sometimes, because things are expected of us, we forget to reflect on how lucky and fortunate we are.

I am reminded of how lucky I am in the most random of ways. Like right now. Sitting at this computer ready to curse the world, only to discover in my ranting and raving, that what I really want to do is thank God for one more day of opportunities to make a difference.

Sunday Already?

It is Sunday already and once again I find myself wondering where the weekend went. I managed to finish my short story, although it wasn't the same short story I had intended to finish, it is good enough to workshop. I am at that point now, where I start to get really critical of my work. I start to question the plot and integrity of the story. Is it really a story that is worth telling? Is this really where it should end, or did it end here because I grew tired of writing? I know that it is not the best that I can do, but I also know that there comes a time when you have to let go. So I am letting go of this one. I will revisit it in a week after gaining new perspective and insight from my writing peers.

The biggest question is what to do now. I have a lot of reading that needs to get done. Laurell's new book is sitting on my bed. I am having trouble getting through it because it is not my favorite series. I am not sure what it is about this that differs from the Anita books. I would say that their is more magic, but that is not true. There is different magic, not more. I'd say there is more sex, but again, it seems that it is merely different, The context, the premise, the motives, it is just different. But then again, it should be. I mean it is a completely different series, in a different book, with different characters. I think perhaps what bothers me is simply that I knew Anita first, that I am completely enthralled in her character and the stories she tells, that I cannot help but to compare Merry to her. I have expectations of Merry that shouldn't be there and it is not fair that she be forced to live in Anita's shadow. But the reality of it for me, is that she does. And I think that she will at least for a couple more books. Then maybe Merry will be defined enough to stand on her own.

Oh well. No reason to over analyze this to death. I should just shut up and read the book. Critique the other writeshop stories and try to get through another week.

I was writing but...

So it is Saturday morning, and I have been up for almost two hours and have accomplished nothing more than chasing my snow covered dog through the house, and making a really bad bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. I am supposed to be writing, finishing this god forsaken short story so that it can be critiqued by my writing group next week. I was doing very well, until about Thursday, and since then each sentence has been a struggle. It feels kind of like pulling out deeply embedded splinters from some awkward part of your body, like the back side of your arm, where you only have one hand to work with and no matter what angle you twist and turn you cannot see enough to know what you're doing. It's like that. Only never ending.

Don't get me wrong. I like writing, if I didn't this painful process would not be worth it. But it is never as easy as it looks. Why is it that in most cases, the act of being good at something means making it appear to be effortless?

Anyway, my story has halted because I am not really sure where it needs to go. Or more accurately I am afraid to travel down the wrong path, only to find out ten pages later that none of this should have happened. It will be evident because the characters will scream it out to me. They will fight every step I make, they will resist every word I put into their mouths. Of course this means that the problem with my story has already occurred. That the reason I am at a stalemate now, is because I took a wrong turn days ago. But I suspect that is not entirely the case. I think part of me is getting a little performance anxiety. This is it, act three, the big climax, the ultimate payoff, and I have know idea what the hell is supposed to happen. How do I get from point C to Z without choking? I wonder if Viagra has considered making a product for writers?

PoliSci Dump

I might as well say this because I think, and hope it is evident in my writing, but I am very into politics. I was a Political Science Major in College, I was active in local politics, and I even helped to run some campaigns. Although I decided that being involved with politics was not the right direction for me, I still have quite a few friends who are playing the game. I bring this up not because I am trying to persuade people to get more involved with politics, or woo undecided voters over to the candidate I deem most worthy, but because I received an email from an old friend that reminded me of how lucky both of us are. The passion that he has for politics is not that different from the passion I have for writing. And we are lucky, that at so young an age, we found something that makes us happy, something that we wish to pursue as a career. We are lucky because everyday I see so many people that have gotten caught up in the sidelines and are too afraid to get back on the right path because of bills, and kids and all those other responsibilities that make us too old way too fast. So that is my wish for you today. May you be fortunate enough to find your passion and brave enough to pursue it.

Ready or Not

So this is it. I have finally made it to the big time. I have my own Blog. So it isn't exactly a novel. It's no short story feature of the month. It will never make me enough money to move out of my parents house. But it is the first step.

Honestly, I am excited. Really and truly excited. I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago and she reminded me why I wanted to be a writer. It is great to have friends who can remind you of the things that you meant to remember but were destined to forget. Ahh well. If she were smart she would take 2% of my royalties for services rendered. So I am off to write, well actually sleep. But dreams are where it all starts.