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IWSG- July 2018

A day early for the monthly blog hop of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We get the 4th of July off, and I imagine the members outside the United States are wondering if they get their national holidays off as well. Nope. Sorry.

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If you aren’t already a member of IWSG (and I honestly can’t understand why you wouldn’t be), check us out and join HERE.

The optional question for this month-

What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

From the time I was 11 years old, I’ve dreamed about being a published writer, being famous. My early stories were science fiction tales including my friends and love interests. My parents claimed to love them, and the one friend I dared to show really liked the part where his bully died. I liked writing about relationships, I was terrible at writing romance. That hasn’t changed much. I keep hoping something will click and I’ll suddenly figure it out, but at 47, that seems unlikely.

In high school, I switched over to poetry writing, and I tell you, If anyone ever wrote a collection of poems more sappy, more over the top, more ridiculous, I’d like to meet them. We could break the universe together. Even more surprising, I honestly thought there was a career to be had writing poetry. Silly Ryan.

I was sure once someone in publishing (magically) read my poems, I’d be an instant sensation. Even as I aged and my poetry matured, I still expected someone to just discover me. I made almost no effort to enter contests, submit to magazines (even at university, which should have been so easy and obvious). When my efforts and heart returned to writing fiction, I was so out of practice, my stories were pretty awful, but I had a wonderful professor who saw some talent in my writing and encouraged me. Still, I didn’t seek out opportunities, take risks.

I’d like to say I learned my lesson and submit like crazy now, but I don’t. My 30’s passed by in a rush and not until I finished my first novel (at the age of 42), did I finally take the plunge and seek out representation.

I still want to be a published writer, and still believe it is a matter of getting my work seen by the right people. What has changed- at last I understand that for that to happen, I have to put myself out there, take risks, be bold. I’ve entered two contests and queried several agents recently. I’m about ready to approach some small presses, ones that take unsolicited submissions. I remain hopeful, and while 11 year old me thought he might be famous one day, 47 year old me knows that is irrelevant.

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Short Fictions

The query edit continues. I’ve found a few kind persons willing to aid in my efforts to create a solid bit of writing and I’m super thankful to them for their help. My hope is to have these paragraphs polished and ready by the middle of July. That would be swell.

Next on the agenda, getting the courage to submit short fictions. I’ve always struggled with knowing where to send stuff, what contests/publications to approach, and if paying an entrance fee is a good or bad thing.

And of course, the super hard part- feeling a story is polished, presentable enough to get attention. Like most writers, my confidence in a text varies from day to day, read to read. Today, most of what I’m editing feels right, feels good, and what I should do on days like this one is find someplace to send something right this moment.

Maybe I should do that, end this post, seek out someplace to send that one story I’m really liking.

Am I brave enough?

Looking

Hey IWSG friends- I’m sorry to have not commented or returned comments for this months posts. Soon after publishing my blog, I came down with a lovely fever/cold that knocked me out of commission for five days. I’m just getting back into the swing of life, and might finally get to returning comments later this week.

I hate being sick. But so does everyone else. I’m not special.

This week, I’ve been going over my query letters, submitting to a few nibbles I received during #PitMad. I realized I haven’t really tested these letters out on any beta readers, and wondered if anyone would agree to help me out with that?

I’m looking for some honest feedback, and ways to make these letters pop off the page. If anyone is interested, please get in touch. I really feel it is time to submit more and in order to do so, I need to have top notch queries.

I am more than willing to trade for reviews, beta reads, whatever. Let’s help each other.

IWSG-June 2018

It’s the first Wednesday in June. You know the drill-InsecureWritersSupportGroupBadge-300x295.

Check us out and sign up HERE.

It has been a crazy month! My twins decided it was worth the effort to graduate from high school. It was down to the very end for one boy in a few classes, but he figured things out and got the grades.

I have to admit, I was more emotional than I expected. I had a few tears, watching my (seemingly suddenly) almost adult children cross that stage and get their diplomas. Of course the hardest part was realizing how fast time really flies. I’ve only spent ten years with these two, but from this vantage point, the years have slipped by in a blink.

As one might expect, writing has been on the back burner, simmering, sometimes bubbling over the rim, scalding the burner. I have every intent to stir that concoction a little more this month.

The optional question for IWSG Wednesday is-

What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character name?

Honestly, they are both hard for me, but titles are likely harder. In my first book, I had the MC name pretty early on. His daughters name came pretty easy as well, but the rest of the characters took their sweet time getting named. A few altered midway thorough. That first novel has had three different titles, and I’m finally satisfied with the one on the first page.

Funny enough, in the second book, the title was super easy. Names weren’t particularly difficult either, but in this case, harder than deciding what the book would be called.

In the third novel, again the MC came pretty fast, but the other names hid away for a few pages, maybe 50. The title eluded me until the third draft. For almost a year, the document was called Novel Three, and the first page of the document said, “Insert clever title here…soon.”

I think any difficulty i encounter in naming characters comes from wanting the names to stand out, be memorable, but not appear too outlandish or too common. The wrong character name can really make the rest of the writing difficult. Many times when I’ve felt I needed to change a name, it is because writing it nevert feel right. Is that a strange thing to say? I hope so.

Titles on the other hand, need to say something interesting about your book. They are often the first thing a potential reader encounters and the wrong title might lead to a book being skipped over. I hate to admit this, but I used to (and maybe still do) want my titles to be super clever. I know that is why my first book was so hard to name. Calling the second book, “The Reset” was not all that clever, but made sense for the book.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to visit your blog as well.

Happy writing.

Poet

The afternoon I met Craig Arnold was a stressful one. It was my first day at the University of Utah (I’d just transferred from SLCC), and I was trying to pull a fast one. I had not taken the prerequisite for English 5520 (advanced poetry writing workshop), but regardless, had put myself on the waiting list. I’d been writing poetry for most of my life, and thought I had some skill. But that didn’t mean the professor was going to agree with me and allow me into the class.

Thirty one years old, Craig was a PhD candidate, the English department’s golden boy, about to have his first book published. He was the Yale Younger Poet of the Year for 1998, and from the very first moments, of our relationship I wanted his approval.

Craig asked me to email a writing sample, and if it wasn’t crap (his word), he’d sign off and let me stay in the class.

The workshop was small, 12 students, and my presence would kept no one else from joining the class, but I stressed over the writing sample for days. I highly doubt he gave it all that much thought, but he told me the poems were passable, that there was some potential.

“It’s not all bad,” he said.

In the workshop setting he was absolutely ruthless and absolutely always on point. Never before (or since) in my writing life have I felt like someone genuinely wanted my writing to be successful as when Craig was ripping apart my poetry.

It was never personal, and looking back it was in that class where I learned criticism had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the writing.

I am grateful for that.

Craig was also in a rock band called Iris. He played guitar and sang terrible songs with really odd lyrics. I saw them perform at a coffee shop in downtown Salt Lake City. Forty people were there, some of whom were likely annoyed that their late night coffee came with the added price of listening to live music.

And he had literary groupies who stood in front of the stage, sang all the songs, hung around after the set just because. Of course Craig soaked every moment of attention.

At the end of the semester, we gathered at the apartment of one of the members of our workshop to celebrate, drink beer, say goodbye. Craig’s book was coming out soon, but all he wanted was to talk about the female body builder roommate of our cohort (her photos from competitions were all over the walls), and how many times he’d had sex that day.

Three times in case you were wondering, and with a wink in my direction, he implied he was ready for a fourth.

But that was his personality- Brash, bold, confident to the extreme. And oh, how he could write. His poetry blew me away. My favorites were his narratives. One in particular was composed in couplets that flowed seamlessly from end rhymes to slants, rich and eye. His stories were precise, and his writing clean, tight.

That night at the class party, five or six beers into a twelve bottle night, after I spent fifteen minutes complaining about my lack of writing success, my envy at his, without the slightest guile he shook his head and said “your day is coming. Be patient.”

The most important thing he taught me about writing poetry- Form is the vehicle, not the destination, which altered the way I approached writing, changed how I used words.

I saw him sporadically after my graduation. He’d show up at the library where I worked, and we talk about what he was doing. He always asked about my writing, and I always lied, telling him it was going great.

A little over ten years after our first meeting, I learned he’d gone missing while hiking on the small volcanic island of Kuchinoerabu, Japan. Searchers found traces of him on a trail near a high cliff and it is presumed he fell to his death.

I had not spoke to him or seen him in at least 8 years, but losing someone I thought of as an important guide on my writing path was hard.

I don’t know what made me think of him today or why I felt like I needed to write down a few of my memories.

Catharsis?

Maybe.

Craig could rub people the wrong way, and there are likely more stories about the awful things he did than the positive ones, but he was always good to me. I admired him for his fearlessness, his talent, his friendship.

He only gave us two collections of poetry, but they are powerful and worth your time. Check them out here

All of us have people who influenced/impacted our lives, changed our direction for the better. I’m curious about yours. 

 

 

 

 

 

IWSG-May 2018

InsecureWritersSupportGroupBadge-300x295Hey friends! It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it is again time for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. Check us out HERE and sign up.  You won’t find a better band of writer folk, ready to help you through your struggles and be happy for your successes.

On the writing front, I had an interesting few weeks. Thanks to the IWSG Twitter Pitch Party, I had a small publisher from NYC ask for a full manuscript. I pretty much kept this to myself because I know a request does not mean anyone is about to publish my work. Still, It was hard to contain my excitement.

Everything in the publishing world moves at a snails pace, and I was told to wait 16 weeks before inquiring as to the status of my manuscript. So I waited. Patiently, I might add. As this was my first ever full manuscript request, I was very thrilled and excited as well as anxious. I fought back the desire to tell everyone and anyone about what was happening, because I really didn’t want to get friends and family thinking a publishing deal was right around the corner only to be disappointed.

Last week (the 12th week), the rejection came. And I have to admit, I was pretty annoyed with it. Mostly because of the form-letter nature of the email. I guess I wrongly expected a more personal response, maybe some feedback as to why the manuscript wasn’t a good fit for their publishing house. Lesson learned. I’ll add it to the others and push forward.

On a positive note, I’ve got a solid query written for this book. Now I need to find the publisher/agent who is as passionate as I am about the story.

Also, I attended an event for the author Jonathan Evision where I learned he had four completed manuscripts written before landing a deal for his fifth book. I’ve got three sitting on my hard drive, looking for a home. Time to get working on the fourth.

Wish me luck.

 

IWSG-April 2018

I’m writing today while listening to one of my favorite records of all time. You should listen to them and then be sad they don’t make music anymore. I want you to feel my pain.

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You know the routine by now. First Wednesday of the month blog hop time. Check us out and join up here.

The optional question for April-When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

Interesting how (for me) when the writing life is cloudy, its likely because the rest of my life is pretty sunny. It’s not that I have to be sad to write, but when I have loads of positive things going on, it is very easy to allow days or even weeks to pass without sitting down at the laptop, being creative. Even sadder, I find I don’t miss writing as much when I’m in that sort of situation. I still write on this blog, occasionally put some story idea down so I won’t forget, but actually composing something new…

Yeah.

One trick I’ve used in the past to keep myself motivated is dusting off an older work and editing. I’m one of those odd writers who loves the editing/revising process almost more than creating the first draft. I enjoy restructuring, rewriting, hammering the rough edges. That is where ideas become complete (or at least more realized). Few things get my writing juices flowing like looking through something I’ve already completed.

What about you? Also, tell me how much you love editing. I don’t want to feel like the weird one anymore.