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Archive for January, 2014

In which she weeps softly

It’s been a rough start to the week, as I seem to have brought the Bubonic plague back from Las Vegas with me 😦

Yesterday was the start of the semester, and though I was sick enough that I probably should have stayed home, it felt somehow wrong to cancel the very first day of classes. So, I went. Honestly, the power of adrenaline is quite amazing — I felt pretty good while I was in class — but after and in between…oh, no. It was bad.

I was feverish and incoherent by the time I got home and I woke up this morning wrapped in a cocoon of my own phlegm (TMI? Yeah, probably). So, it looks like a day in bed with Mr. Ramses for me (incidentally, Ramses’ most favorite moments in life are the days Sid and I are sick and he can lay in bed with us like a lump. My pain is his gain, apparently).

I have a bunch of course prep to work on and hopefully I can get some writing done and there’s a soccer match on at 2pm, so the day won’t be a total loss.

But, this post basically boils down to: I’m home sick in bed. I’m bored. Please entertain me! Please?

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Vegas debrief

It’s my last morning in Las Vegas. I’m sitting in my room at the Aria looking out on the sprawl of hotels and pools and kitsch all spilling south toward the mountains. I came here on Thursday for a writing retreat and after three days of eating, spa-ing, partying, and (of course), writing, it’s time to take stock.

This is the second year in a row we’ve done this particular retreat. The idea is for a small group of journey-woman writers to escape their daily lives, get to know each other better, and support one another. Rather than revolving around critiques or workshopping, this retreat is just a chance to write in the company of other writers and to be able to talk freely about issues and challenges we’re facing both in our manuscripts and in our careers.

Every time we’ve done this retreat it’s been fun, easy, and drama-free. Best of all, it’s also always very productive, providing a needed jolt to languishing projects and a reminder of how much you can accomplish when you prioritize your writing and shed other distractions.

There are a number of different retreats, workshops, and Cons that I’ve taken to attending over the years. Each are different and each are awesome in their own ways. This particular retreat has a couple of qualities that I think make it distinctive.

First, it’s usually a small group (typically between 5 and 7 people). This has the advantage of intimacy, of really getting the chance to talk and work as a group with no cliques forming or drama brewing. Additionally, this retreat is organized collaboratively. No one person decides where we’ll stay, what we’ll do, or who will be invited. Both years the retreat has taken shape organically. Thus, we all feel we have a say and a piece of what’s happening. This, obviously, wouldn’t work very well with a larger retreat or workshop, but it works great with a small group.

Second, because it’s focused on producing material rather than critiquing material, I always leave this retreat feeling like I accomplished something meaningful. Typically when I go to a critique-based retreat I leave thinking of all the work I have before me (not necessarily a bad thing, but still…) rather than feeling good about the work I’ve already done. Both types of retreats galvanize you, albeit in different ways.

Third, this retreat emphasizes fun and socializing and indulgence as much as it does productivity. Vegas is a mad, crazy playground and thus the perfect place to let go for a little while — to dance and drink and eat and let your hair down. For better or worse, in co-ed work-related situations (which, at the end of the day, writing workshops and Cons are) many women often feel they have to monitor their behavior more carefully than they otherwise would. Indeed, I’m sure many men feel exactly the same way. While we always miss our male writer friends at this retreat, there is something freeing about being temporarily in the company of other women.

As always, when I leave a writing retreat or workshop I’m thinking as much about the writer friends I’ve been spending the retreat with as the ones who aren’t here. That’s the downside of retreats: whether you’ve invited everyone you know or just a small group, there are always friends absent. Because our community is so spread out and many of us only get to see each other a few times a year, these retreats — and their fleeting intensity — are both wonderful and a little sad.

So, as I head for the airport, I put my first writing retreat of 2014 behind me. I had a wonderful time and I moved my novel that much closer to completion (I wrote about 5.5K across 2 days). I’m chalking this one up as a win.

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The Fridays

It seems I have a case of the Fridays.

I have a million things to do today, yet somehow I find myself listlessly surfing the web instead.

There is, for instance, an article manuscript a colleague and I have been flogging all week (which is, incidentally, due today) that I needed to start revising (again) ten minutes ago, but which I ignored in favor of Morning Spoilers on iO9. Decision-making at its best, clearly.

Also, I’ve got two new places lined up to send ABSENT, but they both want a synopsis of under 250 words–basically the only length of synopsis I haven’t yet written (I’ve got versions that are 2 pages, 4 pages, and 1 paragraph, but not 1 page…of course). I even got as far as opening a blank file for that one, but the siren call of Facebook lured me away. I mean, someone may have posted a cat picture or something. It’s important to stay up to date.

I have, as well, a whole boatload of food to cook today, which I’m taking to some friends who just had a baby. I’m excited to cook the food and even more excited to see my friends, but I passed the kitchen with no more than a contemptuous glance on my way to the holy shrine, er, I mean computer. Here I sit, clicking through friend’s blog posts about how productive they’re being. Hmmmm.

And we will not mention the horror that is readying myself for classes, which technically don’t start for two weeks but because of a self-inflicted travel schedule of insanity I have only 3 working days for which to prepare.

It’ll all work out, though…right?

While I’m pondering this, maybe I’ll go see what’s up on Entertainment Weekly, possibly read a recap of a show I’ll then go watch on Hulu even though I already know exactly what’s going to happen.

That’s a good use of my time, after all.

Like I said, folks. The Fridays.

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Yup. I’m off to New Orleans today to visit my in-laws, eat po’boys, and thaw out post-arctic cone of shame (or whatever it was called..)–that is, if the freezing rain in Brooklyn and thunderstorms in New Orleans don’t result in a cancelled flight 😉

I plan to spend the time at the airport and en route writing. Or, so I hope. This has been a frustrating week in the novel-drafting department. I’ve been spending hours sitting around thinking about my novel. About where it’s going. About what the next chapter is going to look like. About specific lines of dialogue and character dynamics.

Actual writing accomplished after all this thinking? Oh, about 300 words.

Gah.

I know thinking about writing is sometimes as important as putting pen to paper. But still, GAH.

Perhaps a change of scene will be the trigger I need to escape my own head. If not, I suppose I can drown my frustration in fried food and booze. It is, after all, New Orleans.

We shall see.

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Winter cleaning…is that a thing? Well, either way, that’s what I’m up to today.

It’s about one bazillion degrees below zero outside and I’m stuck home with a bad cold, so it seems an opportune time to get all caught up on writing life housekeeping. I’ve just finished sending stories back out to market that got the cold shoulder over the holidays and am now ready to face the more daunting task of organizing myself for the coming year.

I came up with several nifty ideas for stories while I was traveling last week, but they’re just ideas. Kernels. I need to sit down and think about how I might turn them into something that someone might want to read. You know, the really easy part.  😉

I’ve also got a writing retreat coming up in a few weeks. For the second year in a row, I’m taking part in a women’s only writing weekend in Las Vegas. Last year was both fun and incredibly productive (we spend the time writing, not critiquing) and I’m super excited for this year’s version to get underway. In addition to making travel plans, I also need to figure out what I want to work on during the retreat so as to maximize writing time and efficiency. Most probably this will entail a final push on the seemingly never-ending first draft of PROJECT AWESOME. But, I may also get wild and decide to spend the time focused on writing new short stories.

The other big task ahead is to revisit older projects, some completed but in need of overhaul and some just barely-fleshed outlines, and decide what I’ll work on this year, what I’ll shelve for later, and what I should shelve forever.

So, today looks about like this:

  • Stay warm
  • Get my writing life organized
  • Drink lots of tea
  • Blow my nose…a lot

How about you? What are you doing on this most ridiculously cold Tuesday?

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Well, it’s curtains for 2013. A new year has begun.

This is my favorite time of year. So much promise and possibility. Plus, at heart I’m an over-thinker and a planner, so I delight in taking stock and looking ahead.

2013 was a pretty great year for my writing career. I had two new stories come out and have sold a third one which will appear next year. I finished one novel (ABSENT) and began sending it around to agents and have nearly completed the first draft of another one (PROJECT AWESOME). I feel like it’s been a year of growth for me, both in terms of creativity and in terms of deepening my understanding of structure.

Here are my 2013 numbers:

  • New short stories completed and out on submission: 4 (I hoped to write 7, so I fell short here)
  • Total short stories out on sub: 12 (garnering a total of 49 rejections and 3 acceptances)
  • Short stories sold: 3 (plus I was awarded both Semi-Finalist and Honorable Mention finishes from Writers of the Future)
  • Novels out on sub: 1 (ABSENT)
  • Total words written: approximately 220,000 (a complete rewrite of Absent, 75K on the first draft of Project Awesome, plus 4 new shorts and a couple of in-depth outlines). This does not include short stories drafted but not yet finished. While this is a good number, it’s 30K short of last year and 50K shy of what I hoped to accomplish.
  • Conventions attended: 1 (MileHiCon)
  • Writing Workshops attended: 3 (Vegas women’s writing retreat, Colorado writing retreat, and Paradise Lost)

While I think this is a pretty respectable showing, I wrote less in 2013 than I did in 2012 as well as less than I’d projected.

There are a number of reasons for this. I developed and taught a new class for my day job in the spring semester, which was about one million times more work than I’d anticipated and definitely cut into my writing productivity. I also had some personal things going on that kept me both distracted and busy and reduced my writing time throughout the summer and early fall.

However, numbers aren’t everything. This was my most successful year to date in terms of sales, as well as a year in which I received dramatically more personalized rejections and had more stories held for voting and editorial consideration. Thus, I infer it is not just me who thinks my writing is getting stronger and more compelling. And that is always a win.

So, my writing goals for 2014 are:

  • Finish the first draft of PROJECT AWESOME, get it beta-read and revised and start subbing it to agents
  • Begin a new novel (TBD – so exciting!)
  • Write and sub at least 5 new short stories
  • Make more sales!
  • Attend more conventions. Much as I dread networking, I need to get out there and meet more people.
  • Revisit some old abandoned projects and see if they can be revised and revitalized or if they are destined to be trunked

So, that’s my year behind and my year ahead. How about you? Did you meet your writing goals? Any important milestones to share? Do tell!

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