Saturday I got to spend the entire day playing in the kitchen! I made stock from bones stored in the freezer. I cut up and dehydrated sweet potatoes for the dog (who knows the words “sweet potato” and runs to the freezer when I say them). I started currywurst in the slow cooker for dinner and got to drool over the thought (and scent) of that all day. Finally, I wanted to make cookies, and ended up making macarons because it’s been too long since I’ve eaten really good, fresh ones.
Like many who enjoy puttering in the kitchen, I couldn’t stick to a known recipe. This was, after all, my second whole attempt at macarons (the first being many years and 3 kitchens ago), so “bucking authority” was obviously the way to go. I ended up making chocolate macarons with a chocolate-cinnamon filling. They were–are! I mean, they ARE–delicious! And they don’t look too bad, either, which is always a bonus.
So, why the bout in the kitchen? I was in a wonderful mood. And why is that? Because I’d just gotten the news that this July I’ll be at Taos Toolbox, a novel writer’s workshop in Taos, New Mexico, run and taught by Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress, along with a changing cast of special lecturers. Which means that my Jessamin Stow series will benefit from all this awesomeness! I can’t wait.
Will I see you there? Have you applied? Applications and acceptances are rolling, and ongoing until the class is full, and I know you have time yet. Until then, have a cookie!
…but I can’t tell you just yet, so I’ll share some other great news that I can divulge! Namely, the first issue of Fantasy Scroll Magazine is out, and is really lovely. Especially near and dear to my heart is the interview with Sarah Hans, who is in the writers’ group that I used to belong to, and who is a wonderful person much deserving of the success heading her way!
Also, let me take a moment to remind you writers that Viable Paradise is accepting applications for this fall’s week-long workshop on beautiful Martha’s Vineyard. This year the workshop runs from October 12-17 (but you’ll really want to stay until the 18th if at all possible–trust me on this!). Will you be part of VP XVIII? You can’t be if you don’t apply! You have until June 15th to send in your applications. Hop to it!
Thanks to some happy chatter on Codex, I downloaded and played SPACETEAM. You need at least two people (but three is way better) with recent iOS or Android devices to play, but this free game is so much good, silly fun! You’ll be spouting techno-babble with the best once you start playing. And you’ll see what I do when I should be writing, instead. Now, quick–eject the Gyrespindle! 🙂 (for bonus fun, try playing in another language!)
So, what fascinating writerly stuff is going on today?
Out the window: The snow has just increased from a light snowfall into a determined army of tiny flakes invading from above. They’re falling faster, heavier, but are still small–usually a sign of lots more to come. Since I’m firmly homebound today, this is good by me. It’s really quite pretty. (Please note that this is early winter yet, so snow is still a novelty I’m happy seeing. Don’t expect the same reaction to snowfall in, say, February.)
On the desktop: Since the drafty apartment windows around me have been covered in plastic shrink wrap, the plant that formerly sat on the windowsill is now on my desk. Along with that, there’s a tiny USB Christmas tree that plugs into my computer and lights up. It’s the only holiday decor in the whole room. Other than these novelties, my notebook is open to the notes I’d taken for the story that I’m currently attempting to write.
Today’s Work-in-Progess: A short story in 4 parts. Back in July, I took part in Mary Robinette Kowal’s online short story intensive class (see the post here FMI). During the class, I came to realize that in the MICE Quotient game, I was sadly, horribly, excruciatingly, embarrassingly weak in the Idea category. So, my challenge to myself, post-class, was to improve my Idea comprehension. This story is an Idea story. It’s been hard going, getting that darn Idea. The first draft is nowhere near finished, so we’ll see how it goes, but right now, I’m feeling pretty psyched about it!
And Another Two Things: Ugh! The snowflakes just turned big and heavy. Now it’s really accumulating fast. And I finally realized that I hadn’t updated my Now Reading and Now Listening widgets to the side, so I did that today.
Now, I’m off to write while the snow piles up outside. 🙂
Well, here it is, mid-August, and I’m just now realizing I’m due for a mid-year review of my goals. Well, what were my goals, then? Umm, wait a minute. They’re around here, somewhere… Oh yeah. To recap (for the full post, click here):
Set up a workable writing environment in my new home.
Find a writer’s group and community near me in New Jersey.
Participate in Write 1/Sub 1, creating 2 new stories and 2 submissions each month.
Continue reading slush for (a) magazine(s), and learning from it.
Attend a new-for-me convention in the NJ area.
Broaden my online presence (without overwhelming myself with updates, etc), and make more connections with other writers, both online and in person.
So, how am I doing?
The writing environment has been done for some time. It’s sometimes hard to keep “other life” from intruding upon this small desk by the window, but I try my darnedest, and usually succeed. Check.
A writer’s group. Well, I’ve joined up with Writers of the Weird, and while I can’t attend every month (as I’d like to), they’re a great group. Also, I joined the OWW for an online group, and am giving a “new” group (members of my MRK writing class) a go this weekend. Whew, that’s a lot of writing groups! Can I get a double-check for this one?
W1/S1 at 2 stories written and 2 submissions per month. Here’s the tricky part. Let’s check those stats. OK, I have 16 stories completed to date this year, and we’re on week 35/month 8. So, that’s roughly one story every 2 weeks. Hurray! This is kinda surprising to me, because it really didn’t seem like I was keeping up (some weeks I finished 2 stories, while others I finished none. I’m keeping to the spirit, not the letter, of the law).
In the submissions department, Duotrope reports 37 submissions. I know I’ve made at least 3 to markets not covered in Duotrope, so let’s call it 40. Again, that’s a win. Weee-hoo! But this leads to the sad realization that I’ve gotten only 3 acceptances so far. I was hoping for a few more by this time, but so it goes. I’m sending stories to better markets, and many are taking the full length of the “replies by” time. And I’m getting good rejections, too. So, while that last bit might seem gloomy, I am keeping to my goals. A check on W1/S1.
Reading slush. Well, submissions aren’t open on Blue Shift yet, so I haven’t done any slush reading. This is really making me sad. I loved doing this, and I learned much from it. I thought about applying to another market, but considering my move and my upcoming VP workshop, I decided to just hold off on that for now. February is coming soon enough. (In true Game of Thrones parlance, Winter is coming!) No check.
A new-for-me convention? Well, I had to duck out of attending Readercon, so I haven’t done this yet. But I have high hopes for Philcon. No check.
Finally, connecting with other writers both online and in person. Well, this is a double-edged sword. I’m connecting with new writers thanks to my upcoming VP attendance, and because of the WotW membership, and because of the online classes I’ve taken. But my blog suffered a bit of a hit this summer. Still, I’ve added a few new online bits here and there, so I don’t feel I’m being too wimpy in giving myself a check here.
Wow. That feels pretty good. I’ll admit, I was worried about my finished stories and submissions not being up to par. But once my finished stories ended up on the “right” side, I was clear. All but three of those have been submitted, and early on I submitted for the first time a few stories written late last year (not sure they count in the letter of the law, but I’m going for the spirit here, remember?). So I’m safe and set.
Nearly a month ago, I took Mary Robinette Kowal’s Weekend Intensive short story course. Remember? I sure do. It was great. At the end of the class, she warned us that after a workshop or class like this, it’s not uncommon for writers to come up against some kind of block; for their internal editors to scream each time they put fingers to keyboard, for their minds to feel like mush, for stories to feel like breach births instead of channeling the muse. It comes, she told us, from the information we’ve just learned being processed into the brain. The info goes from being “learned” to being “known” and “actionable.”
Who hasn’t heard of this? Clarionite hopefuls are warned of it. An Odyssey-going pal fought his way through it. I’m dreading it after VP this fall (but I hope it’ll be a shorter version, seeing as how VP is one week, versus the 6 weeks of Clarion/Odyssey). But after a weekend long workshop? Really?
The first week after the class, I did think about the things I learned–quite a lot–while writing. And then, the following week, everything went “back to normal” for me (or as normal as it ever gets, here). But this week? A month later?
Heh. It’s hee-ere!
This week, every time I go to the keyboard, my brain fights to stay a step ahead of my fingers. No, it shouts, NOT like that. Don’t you remember? Skip that bit, it’s boring. A close-up here, this is IMPORTANT, don’t forget. And, for gods’ sakes, can’t you describe her emotion without using her darned eyes? I mean, really!
Part of my brain insists that I should “cease and desist” until I finish internalizing, that I should clear the path for all this tough brain-work. Of course, that’s the “lazy brain” speaking, the part that would rather sip margaritas on the beach than actually do anything. So, I’m not taking that advice. I’m pushing on, through the shouting in my head. I’m working, in small bites, on three different stories (something very odd for me), hoping to distract the Internal Editor by flopping to a different story each day. Not sure it’s working…but when they’re done, I’ll have three more stories.
It’s hard work, a tough slog through each and every word. But, I’m still writing. I’m internalizing as we speak (well, as I type and you read). And while these first drafts won’t be stellar pieces of shining prose polished to perfection (oh, how I wish!), they WILL be solid rough drafts that, with luck, will be better than what I’ve written before.
There were 8 of us in the class, scattered over the US. One person had been in the Writing Excuses Retreat, for the rest of us, it was our first class with MRK. All of us came away very happy we’d taken the class, aware that we’d learned new things, that we’d progressed as writers.
The class, billed as “an intensive,” was intense. But the fast turnaround time on the homework assignments made us work fast, and helped shut down (for me, at least) that darned inner editor/critic, who makes you want to linger, to fuss and fidget. In this way, the final exercise of “write your story in 90 minutes” (and then post it for critique) was easier to do, since we’d all been pushing hard all weekend long. Yes, we were tired. No, none of us had slept too well the previous night, but the words flowed. 4 of us finished those stories, in first-draft form. The other four have great starts.
I don’t mean to say we didn’t have time to pee, or to breathe. We had mini-breaks, meal breaks, etc. But we were quick about them, and went back to our chairs again for more exercises, more writing, more learning.
The exercises eased us in to writing, and grew more complex as the class progressed. Because they were challenging, it was fun to see what my classmates came up with. During the crit times, I think most of us perused not just the stories we were assigned to crit, but all we could read of our classmates’ work. Yes, we were tired, but this was fun and invigorating! (One session, our class seemed preoccupied with vomit, of all things!)
The final bit of the class was motivational stuff to help us view the process of writing as that… an ongoing process. She reminded us that setbacks happen, that blocks sometimes mean a breakthrough is nigh, and to just keep writing through all that. An open Q & A finished up the sessions, and that was (sniff, sniff) the end.
My computer had “technical difficulties” maintaining the multiple Google+ windows (it’s a 5-year old dinosaur), and kept falling out of the Hangout, so let me warn you to make sure your computer is up to snuff before trying this. However, if you can manage that bit, take the class. I know it’s going to help me “level up” in my writing.
Hard numbers on what I got from the class:
new ways to evaluate my stories, both before I write them (to make sure they’ll work), and also after (to see why they’re NOT working)
new tools for writing POV, plot, and voice, etc
one finished first draft story
four other solid story ideas
seven new writing acquaintances
confirmation (again) that I’m not totally insane for wanting to do this “writing thing”
53 hours to go and there is only $63 left to raise in order for the “What Fates Impose” Kickstarterto be fully funded. The goals of 200 contributors has been met–woo-hoo!–and now it’s just a few more bucks to go. Interested in some really awesome reading by good writers, published by really good people? Check this out and donate today. (Yes, I’m pushing this because I really want to read it.) Oh, and if you’re interested in an publishing an ebook, check out that last contribution level. You’ll not only get a copy of this anthology, but you’ll get an awesome discount on ebook conversions from Alliteration Ink, the publisher of this anthology.
The storySouth Million Writers Award for 2013 is now accepting nominations, and donations for prizes. This award is open to any 1000+ word short story first published in 2012 in an online publication. Both editors and readers may nominate stories, so what are you waiting for? Head over to their website, read the official rules, and donate, then nominate. There are awesome things being published online, as you all are aware. So nominate your favorite today, and maybe that author will get a bonus cash prize!
COUNTDOWN THREE (’cause I’m really bad at math)
Only a few more hours until I start Mary Robinette Kowal’s Short Story Weekend Intensive class. However, she just posted another version of this class for later in the year. Check it out at her blog. Registration opens July 20, and spots tend to move fast. Be ready at the crack of noon Central Time, if you’re interested. Before then, I hope to have posted regarding the class I’m taking this weekend (starting tonight–gulp!), so I’ll get to tell you how many flavors of amazing it is. (My hint: if you don’t get a spot, sign up for the waiting list. You’ll get first crack at the next class she offers. Just don’t tell anyone I told you 😉 )