Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: Stats

So here's a report on my booklife, strictly by the numbers:

Short story submissions: 43

Poetry submissions: 2

Novel submissions: 1

Short story acceptances: 6

Poetry acceptances: 1

Novel acceptances: 1

Queries (for agents): 21

Story headers for anthologies: 57

Author spotlights: 3

Author interview: 1

New stories: 10 submittable

New poems: 1

Novels: 1 drafted and revised for submissions; 1 revised with editor for publication.

Slush-read for the Glasswoman Prize.

Began reading slush and related stuff for Fantasy this month.

2011 starts in 2.5 hours. I'd better get cracking if I'm going to top 2010!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Slush it to me!

Confession time: I started reading slush at Fantasy magazine, and I have to say that I like it. 80% of the time, I wind up reading the entire story, because I'm a neurotic jerk like that. I want to know what happens, damn it!

But I've learned something from the process that I desperately hope I can take to my own writing. I've learned after achieving a certain level of craft, there's really one one thing you need to make from my pile of slush to the editor's desk. It's not using fancy metaphors or exotic language. It's not something you could put in a cover letter. It's not anything you could learn in an MFA program. It's just one small thing. Can you guess what it is?

Don't be boring.

Now once the boss-man gets your story, your prose probably gets scrutinized and the publishing schedule gets looked over. Lots and lots of criteria rolls into place. But the biggest hurdle for an unknown writer is making it to the editor's desk in the first place. And all you have to do is manage a reasonable proficiency at writing--while not boring people like me.

There's a lot that goes into not being boring. I brought up some requirements back in March in my post "Lessons from Free Fiction." I back every last claim in that piece, and if I was your critique partner, I would rip through your piece and point out every ugly incidence. On top of those recommendations, I would suggest working on your world-building and character creation. If they're unique and interesting, a slow story can still rock my socks.

Anybody else have any good suggestions to cut the boring right out of your short fiction?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blogging becomes tricky

There's actually a lot going on in my writing world, but I'm not really able to blog about any of it. I started querying for Novel #4. I'm doing some editorial work. I sold a story, but the anthology is in this weird limbo. I sold a poem, but I'm not sure when it comes out.

On the plus side, I started the notecards for Novel #5 last week. The holidays have slowed everything down, but this afternoon I hope to get more work done and start the first page next Monday. It's a YA project and I hope it pans out. I love the world it's set in.

I don't have any big plans for New Year's Eve, except lunch with a friend and hopefully baked brie for an exciting evening appetizer. Anybody have any favorite baked brie recipes?

Monday, December 20, 2010

True North

Do you know what a lodestone is?

A lodestone is a naturally magnetized piece of the mineral magnetite. In the picture above, you can see the paper clips sticking to the chunk of ordinary-looking rock--it's a lodestone.

In medieval China, navigators developed a compass using the lodestone. Because it will point north, many people associate lodestones with telling direction and finding one's way in the world.

Almost eight years ago, I had lost my way. My plans to go to graduate school clashed with my new role as a single mom (at this point, I was a hugely pregnant emotional mess); I felt alone and I had no passion for anything. After two years of almost rabid environmental campaigning (letter writing and marching and organizing protests about agricultural issues), I felt depressed about the future of the world and powerless to do anything about it. And while I'd always dreamed of being a writer, I felt guilty that the only story ideas I had involved dragons, fairies and vampires. I was ashamed of everything about myself.

At the time, a friend of mine was planning a birthday party, and since she was interested in paganism, I stopped by a magic and herb shop. Nothing seemed like the right gift for my friend, but a display of lodestones caught my eye. It felt like a sign, like an offering from some mysterious spirit. I bought one and kept it in my underwear drawer.

I didn't think much about it, taking it out once in a while to wonder at the tiny iron filings clinging to the stone's black flanks. It wasn't a beautiful stone, but its heft in my hand and magical magnetism fascinated me.

Weeks passed and decisions that had tormented me became easy. I quit my job. I wrote a children's book. I moved in with my mother. I set aside grad school plans and began a novel. Life wasn't easy--I had to move to Portland and take on odd jobs to pay my student loan, while mooching a home from my sister and sucking the food stamp teat--but somehow, I knew which direction I was going. I knew I needed to be a writer.

Sometimes I still take my lodestone out of my underwear drawer and study it. The superstitious part of me deeply believes that this little charcoal-colored stone pulled me back onto my life path. The more rational part believes that my lodestone is simply a beautiful symbol for the love of story that has always been inside me, hidden beneath the chatter of a busy young life. My time alone turned off that chatter and let the truth tug at me.

We must all look for our own true north. For me, it lies in a land of myth and mystery, of fantasy and horror. It lies in the darkest forest of the Realm of Words, the place on the map labeled "Here there be dragons." There are other places in that realm, good places, wonderful to visit. Maybe you pull you.

If they do, you should let thtem.

Picture by Ryan Somma.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Waves & runs

Hi, blog! I just wanted to let you know that I am still alive but I've started some editorial projects that are very absorbing. If you need a bloggy treat, hit up my interview with Blake Charlton over on the Inkpunks blog!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Family & friends

I spend a great deal of time talking about work and writing and the career. And those are really important parts of my life. But this year, I've learned something important: it's the people I love who make my life hold together.

This year, the relationship part of my life blossomed like it's never blossomed before. I made new friends with a remarkable group of people: the Inkpunks, a crew of writers who are incredibly supportive, talented and large-hearted. I have gotten to know a lot of people online, but of them all, this crew has created a special and incredible bond. I am so glad they added me to their lives!

One of the Inkpunks is a remarkable lady who asked me to critique a story for her. I read it, then she read one of mine, and soon we were inseparable critique buddies. Amazingly enough, these first stories we read for each other were purchased by the same editor for the same anthology--our first pro sales. Now we don't just read for each other: we talk every day. Seriously, a day without talking to Christie is weird and empty--and totally unusual.

My very special family has played an extra-wonderful part of my life this year. My wonderful partner, Kaz, asked me to tie the knot after I came back from my trip to England. After a week of single parenting, he not only didn't hate me, he was ready for more! (Which he'll get to try out again this March when I go to the Rainforest Writers Retreat.)

I have so many treasured people in my life, but I often push aside being social. Sometimes the thought of spending time with people is overwhelming. It's easy to say "I'll get together someday." It's easy to say "I've got a deadline coming up." But life doesn't always offer you a someday. This November, another Portland writer I know had a major health disaster. We'd met a time or two and I always thought that someday we'd get together and have coffee again. There was plenty of time for it. But he could have died that weekend, and all those someday's would be gone.

We're having coffee this Friday.

Life is busy. I know my life is only going to get busier. After all, there are a lot of projects on my horizon--and some of them are pretty big. But this year, I'm going to do a better job making time for the people I care about. They are a pretty wonderful part of life.