December 30, 2010

Year in Review

2010 was a difficult year for me on a personal and emotional level. A car accident, a breakup, and writer's block in the wake of both upheavals threatened my year professionally. But overall, I did quite well for myself in 2010. So here's a summary of my writing life.

  • I didn't do a very good job of keeping track of just how many pieces I submitted this year. However, I do know that I got 16 acceptances this year, mostly erotic fiction, but also one piece of nonfiction and one piece of poetry.
  • Of those 16 acceptances, 13 were published in 2010, and the remaining three will appear early in the New Year.
  • I made my first appearances in anthologies. Up till this point, I'd only gotten published on web sites. Now I'm in some e-books!
  • I didn't make anything resembling a living wage when it came to my creative endeavors, but I still made more money from my writing this year than I have at any other year in my life.
  • I made it through the first eight rounds of Smut Marathon, putting me in the top 5 competitors - and we started with 17! Look for round 9 early in the New Year!
  • I completed a novella and submitted it to a publisher.
  • I took an erotic writing course with Shanna Germain, which really helped me refine my craft.
  • I joined a writing group, which has been tough, humbling, motivating, and inspiring. 
So all in all, despite a number of setbacks, it was a fantastic year for me professionally. Certainly an improvement on last year, and last year was not too shabby at all. My hope is that 2011 is even better!

December 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

My Year in Reading

I firmly believe that being am avid reader is the first step to being a good writer. And at the end of every year, I like to look back on everything I read. So here are the highlights of my reading year.

Best New Poetry Collection: Okay, I admit it. I didn't read any new poetry this year. I read a lot of poetry, actually - just nothing that was published in 2010. This was a year of discovery for me, rather than a year of jumping towards new works.

Best Discovered Poetry Collection: New Collected Poems by Eavan Boland. I'd been exposed to Boland's poems in college, but never took the time to really read them. This year, I finally gave myself the chance to be immersed in her work.

Best New Novel: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. It's a tough book for me, emotionally. It sometimes hits my triggers. But it's brilliant - definitely his best.

Best Discovered Novel: Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz. This was an unsolicited loan. A friend of mine finished the book, was convinced I'd like it, and brought it to me to borrow. And she was right! I love it when someone actually knows my taste.

Best New Nonfiction Book: Just like in 2009, I didn't actually read any new nonfiction. I read quite a bit of older nonfiction as research for various novels, but nothing new. Maybe next year.

Best Discovered Nonfiction Book: The Last Madame of New Orleans by Christina Wiltz. While Wiltz is not the best prose stylist I've ever encountered, she tells a great story, and writes on a fascinating subject.

Best New Collection or Anthology: Alison's Wonderland, edited by Alison Tyler. I wasn't quite sure I was going to like it, but it's proving to be one of my favorite anthologies, erotic or otherwise, of all time.

Best Discovered Collection or Anthology: Cathedral by Raymond Carver. While the feminist in me gets frustrated by Carver's relentless focus on white, lower-middle-class men, he's a brilliant stylist and he really knows how to write heartbreak.

Best New Short Story: "That Girl" by Cherry Bomb (from Fast Girls, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel). This is the first fiction piece with a character I could identify with completely. I'd never seen my sexual self represented in fiction before - hell, even my own characters aren't quite me. But the protagonist of "That Girl" resonated with me so much that I've probably read the story ten times already.

Best Discovered Short Story: "Fever" by Raymond Carver. A moving depiction of lost love that came to me right at a time when I really needed it. This piece will always stay with me.

Best New Periodical: Filament Magazine, without question. I aspire to have one of my stories grace their pages.

Best Discovered Periodical: Actually, I didn't really discover any established periodicals this year. I picked up Filament, but didn't look into other established periodicals beyond The Kenyon Review, which I read regularly.

December 28, 2010

Robert Lee Brewer's Facebook Tips for Writers

Over at My Name Is Not Bob, Robert Lee Brewer has a list of ten ways for writers to optimize their Facebook usage:Complete your profile. You don't have to include EVERYTHING, but I'd suggest at least covering these bases: Current City, Birthday (you don't have to include the year), Bio, Education and Work, Contact Information.

  1. Make everything public. As a writer, you should be using sites like Facebook and Twitter to connect with other writers, editors, agents, and your audience. So make it easy for them to find you and learn more about you by making everything available to the public. That said...
  2. Think about your audience, friends, family, boss, former teachers, etc., in everything you do on Facebook. Like it or not, you have to understand that if you are completely public on Facebook (and you should be if you want to connect with your audience) that you need to think about what you do on Facebook before you do it. Because Facebook ain't like Vegas: What happens on Facebook could easily go viral. But don't get paranoid; just use common sense.
  3. Include a profile pic of yourself. Don't use a picture of a cute animal, house pet, your children, an animated character, a famous celebrity, a model, etc. Just a nice pic of yourself. Even though it's virtual, you want your profile to be as human as possible so that you can connect with others.
  4. Update your status regularly. You shouldn't update your status every hour, but once a day is a good pace. This just lets others on Facebook know that you are actively using the site.
  5. Communicate with friends on Facebook. Don't stalk your friends; communicate with them. If you like a friend's status update, comment on it--or at the very least, click the Like button (to acknowledge that you liked their update). Speaking of friends...
  6. Be selective about friends you add. Don't blindly accept every friend request, because some may be bogus, and others may be from serial frienders (people who are trying to hit their friend limits). You want quality friends who share your interests or who you know from the "real world."
  7. Be selective about adding apps. I'm not a huge fan of apps, because they are a distraction and time killer on Facebook. But there are some that could be useful. However, don't waste a month of your life playing Farmville or Mafia Wars; you'd be better off completing a crossword or sudoku puzzle.
  8. Join relevant groups. For writers, there are an abundance of groups you could join, from professional organizations to those based around magazines, publishers and literary events. These are great places to connect with other writers. On that same note...
  9. Follow relevant fan pages. There are many who once had groups that migrated over to using fan pages, so there are fan pages for writing organizations, magazines, publishers, literary events, and more.
When looking at my own Facebook usage, I find that I'm not really doing all I can. My profile is public and complete, and I learned the hard way about being selective about the friends I add and groups I join. But I admit that I do not communicate with friends on Facebook (I prefer Gchat, text messaging, and email), and I think I actually visit the site twice a month. The majority of my Facebook posts are fed over from my Twitter account, which I use almost as infrequently - once every ten days or so. I just don't want to have to be bothered to log into Facebook (or Twitter) every single day to tell people what I'm doing.

As I think about it more, Facebook just seems silly to me. I have a (fairly) regular posting schedule with this blog - some weeks are better than others, but I'm a pretty diligent blogger. I've had this blog since before I've had a Facebook account. Blogging is more satisfying than Facebook status updates. I have better conversations in blog comment threads than on Facebook threads.

I'm just not that much of a Facebooker, and that's okay. I'll still keep my profile. I like having it. But I just can't bring myself to post an update there every single day, because it feels like work and it ultimately distracts me from my writing. I'll focus on maintaining a good blog, and Facebook will be incidental.

However, I was really excited after reading Brewer's bonus tip:
If you have a blog, you can feed your Facebook profile automatically by using the Notes function. All you have to do is go to Notes, click the "Edit import settings" link, and enter your blog url in the correct field. (Note: I had to enter my full url, including the forward slash at the end, before the Notes function accepted my url.)
Enthused about a hands-off way to participate in Facebook, I went to my Notes function, tried to import several times . . . and could not get it to work. I tried using my blog URL as well as my RSS feed URL - nothing worked. Even after making sure that I had the forward slash at the end of the URL, I couldn't get it to work. *sigh*

It's not that I'm not optimized for Facebook. It's that Facebook isn't optimized for me.

Confession Tuesday

I confess that I spent the night sleeping on the couch. My husband was (and hopefully will no longer be when his alarm goes off in a few minutes) suffering from what is either a migraine or the flu (his have the same symptoms), and either way, neither of us sleeps well in the same bed if he is sick. But my brother in law (who I really am glad is visiting) is in the other bedroom. So couch for me, because I am not about to make my guest sleep in the living room, where the degus will be up running around all night. Turns out that the brother in law has some late-night cough that echoes throughout the house.

I confess I am a bit of a zombie today. But when am I not, really? I feel like at least 50% of the time, I'm blogging from the throes of insomnia.

I confess that while of course I should not have made my guest sleep in the room with the degus that stay up till all hours (they're supposedly diurnal, but really, they operate on a cycle of doing whatever they want whenever they want, and this frequently means running on their wheels until 3 a.m.), I confess that I'm more glad that I didn't subject my poor pets to someone who would be coughing all night once they actually settled down to sleep.

I confess that I might take a nap soon.

I confess that though I'm wide awake, the house is still completely dark because the degus are sleeping and I don't want to wake them up early. Yes, I am one of *those* pet parents.

I confess that while it's bad for my eyesight and my posture, typing in a pitch-dark room while reclining on a seriously comfy couch is pretty cool. Or maybe that's the insomnia talking.

December 26, 2010

Sunday Pleasures

Lots of things making me happy this week!


  • My brother in law being in town. And getting to play tourist and show him all of our favorite places in Austin.
  • Spinach-mushroom lasagna with a ricotta-chevre cheese blend and tomato vodka sauce. I'm awesome.
  • Bourbon Street Vanilla Rooibos from Bottom of the Cup Tea Room. I love having relatives in New Orleans.
  • Girls With Slingshots. It's my new webcomic of choice!
  • Having plans to see Cake do a show on New Year's Eve.
  • Also, I have plans to attend a 2-hour restorative yoga class on New Year's Eve afternoon over at East Side Yoga.
  • The anticipation I always feel looking at my new day planner, knowing that it's almost time to use it. For 2011, I'm going with the Working Writer's Day Planner from Small Beer Press.

Profile at Erotica For All!

Erotica For All is a great new venture by author Lucy Felthouse, and I'm thrilled to say that I now have an author profile up on the site. I'm keeping good company there, and excited to be a part of this site. If you haven't done so already, go check it out!

December 23, 2010

Congratulations to Lyn Lifshin

Poet Lyn Lifshin has a new book available. Ballroom is a collection that focuses on dance as a metaphor for sex, regression, love, desire, change, growth, and a multitude of other states, actions, and emotions. You can read sample poems from the collection here.

I first encountered Lyn's work when I was editing Gloom Cupboard, and have always loved her emphasis on dance. As a dancer myself, I love how she writes movement, and all the emotions, thoughts, and actions that come with it.

Ballroom is available for purchase at Amazon.com.

Thankful Thursday

It's a gloomy morning. I'm feeling like a zombie because I was up till all hours with my brain still processing things from my breakup in July (it's been a long, slow road and last week I was stupid enough to read a series of emails he and I had exchanged two years ago, when we were first together and falling in love; it pretty much messed up my brain for the rest of the night; I knew better than to do that, but too late now). My brother in law will be here in 48 hours and the house is still a mess. My husband forgot to finish his chores last night, which interferes with my ability to get my own housework done.

But I have quite a bit to be thankful for, so I will elaborate on it here.

  1. Indoor plumbing. Words cannot express how much I love indoor plumbing.
  2. Tea. It de-zombies me.
  3. I have three avocado plants sprouting up from the seeds I planted, and possibly a fourth sprouting as well.
  4. Bagels from scratch. I haven't quite perfected my bagel-making technique yet, but I'm starting to get pretty good.
  5. The Working Writer's Daily Planner 2011. I admit that I'd already purchased a calendar for the year, but after reading about this one at Book of Kells, I couldn't resist. And BookWoman managed to get it for me super-fast!
  6. Tutoring work. It's fulfilling and it doesn't distract me too much from my writing.
  7. That the novel I started at the beginning of the month seems to be coming together somewhat. I'm hoping to have a rough draft by my birthday in April.
  8. My brother in law gets here on Saturday! I haven't seen him in over a year! I can't wait!

December 22, 2010

Dean Young Needs Your Help

Poet Dean Young, currently the William Livingston Chair of Poetry at UT-Austin, needs your help. He's been suffering from a degenerative heart condition for over a decade, and has been placed on the transplant list at a local hospital. If he can't get a transplant, he'll need mechanical intervention. Either way, the cost will be enormous. Poet Tony Hoagland has written an open letter on Young's behalf:


Dear Friends,

If you are reading this, you are probably a friend of Dean Young and/or a friend of poetry. And you may have heard that our friend is in a precarious position. Dean needs a heart transplant now. He also needs your assistance now. 
Over the past 10 or 15 years, Dean has lived with a degenerative heart condition--congestive heart failure due to idiopathic hypotropic cardiomyopathy. After periods of more-or-less remission, in which his heart was stabilized and improved with the help of medications, the function of his heart has worsened. Now, radically.
For the last two years he has had periods in which he cannot walk a block without resting. Medications which once worked have lost their efficacy. He is in and out of the hospital, unable to breathe without discomfort, etc. Currently, Dean's heart is pumping at an estimated 8% of normal volume. 
In the past, doctors have been impressed with his ability to function in this condition. But now things are getting quickly worse. Dean has been placed on the transplant list at Seton Medical Center Austin, and has just been upgraded to a very critical category. He's got to get a heart soon, or go to intermediate drastic measures like a mechanical external pump.
Whatever the scenario, the financial expenses, both direct and collateral, will be massive. Yes, he has sound health insurance, but even so, he will have enormous bills not covered by insurance--which is where you can help, with your financial support.
If you know Dean, you know that his non-anatomical heart, though hardly normal, is not malfunctioning, but great in scope, affectionate and loyal. And you know that his poetry is what the Elizabethans would have called "one of the ornaments of our era"--hilarious, heartbreaking, courageous, brilliant and already a part of the American canon.
His 10-plus books, his long career of passionate and brilliant teaching, most recently as William Livingston Chair of Poetry at the University of Texas at Austin; his instruction and mentorship of hundreds of younger poets; his many friendships; his high, reckless and uncompromised vision of what art is: all these are reasons for us to gather together now in his defense and support. 
Joe Di Prisco, one of Dean's oldest friends, is chairing a fundraising campaign conducted through the National Foundation for Transplants (NFT). NFT is a nonprofit organization that has been assisting transplant patients with advocacy and fundraising support since 1983.
If you have any questions about NFT, feel free to contact the staff at 800-489-3863. You may also contact Joe personally at jdiprisco@earthlink.net.
On behalf of Dean, myself, and the principle of all our friendships in art, I ask you to give all you can. Thanks, my friends.
Yours,
Tony Hoagland 

You can help.
To make a donation to NFT in honor of Dean, click the link below his photo. If you'd prefer to send your gift by mail, please send it to the NFT Texas Heart Fund, 5350 Poplar Avenue, Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119. Please be sure to write "in honor of Dean Young" on the memo line.
Thank you for your generosity!

I saw Dean Young read in 2008, and it was a magical evening. He's a priceless treasure to the American literary community. Consider donating funds to help with his medical expenses; help save a life this holiday. 

Wordless Wednesday

December 21, 2010

Reading Challenges!

Via Over Forty Shades:

Brighton Blogger of Book After Book has set up a series of reading challenges for 2011. You can choose as many or as few as you like! Below are the challenges she's created:

The Italy Reading Challenge
 I chose this topic because - as an Italian who has been living abroad for many years now - I feel the need to learn more about my home country and I’m curious to see the difference between the way it is portrayed by native Italians and others.
The LGBT Reading Challenge 
LGBT literature is so rich and varied and worth talking more about. That’s why I am hosting this challenge: to keep learning and sharing reading experiences. And, why not, to do my own tiny bit for a more accepting world – one book at a time!

I've decided to sign up for both challenges. I have to read 12 books set in Italy and as many LGBT books as I want. This on top of the research I'm doing for my new novel . . . hopefully I can find a way to combine the two! (This is likely possible.) I look forward to expanding my reading in 2011!

Confession Tuesday

I confess that the older I get, the less I care about Christmas.

For the record, I'm not actually a Christian. I was raised by a lapsed Catholic and a lapsed Methodist, who during my early years gave lip service to Jesus' birth, but then gave up the pretense entirely when we were teenagers (though my mom still watches the Pope on TV every Christmas Eve). Of course, neither of them is happy that my sister and I are atheists (with tendencies towards agnosticism), but that's the risk you take when you don't indoctrinate children from the moment they're born. Anyway, I stopped caring about Christmas as a religious holiday a decade ago.

For awhile, especially in high school and college, I reveled in the materialistic nature of American Christmas. In college and grad school in particular, I referred to it as "Capitalistmas." But as my identity as a capitalist weakened, so did my desire to participate in a holiday based on consumption. I'm not saying I'm a great sage Buddhist who has renounced all worldly possessions (my Amazon wishlist is prodigious), but I'm just not motivated by a holiday that revolves around giving things. I do appreciate the thoughtfulness of my mother's gifts, I really do - she puts a lot of care into selecting things that we will love and use. But at the same time, I find I'm not really fulfilled by giving people presents. She is, and that's fine. I'm not judging her; it's who she is. Giving people nice presents makes her happy. And I'm not her.

I confess that this year, my sister and I treated ourselves to a nice dinner before she went to visit Mom for Christmas (she's the good daughter). We had time together and a nice meal rather than just another object we probably wouldn't use that much. It was so much more fulfilling than buying the perfect gift would have been.

Honestly, I probably wouldn't even put up my (fake) tree if my mother didn't send me a new Christmas ornament every year. I feel obligated to put it up to give each ornament its moment. (And yes, my sister and I have tried talking to her about how we feel about celebrating Christmas. But she's a die-hard observer, and won't hear of it.)

Right now, I'm pretty much going through the motions to make my mother happy (and I'm not even going home for Christmas this year. I'm 1,500 miles away, and I'm still going through the motions enough to make her happy. Yes. I have a strange relationship with my mother). My sister says that once mom passes on, she's giving up Christmas completely, and I'm inclined to agree with her.

I confess that I was interested in celebrating Solstice, not because I attach any spiritual meaning to it, but because I think it would be cool to celebrate major temporal milestones easily observed in nature. Last night was the longest night of the year. The days will now (slowly) start getting longer. That is something to celebrate! But I always miss the solstices, no matter how interested I am in celebrating them. Yesterday (and today still) I'm battling a virus while finishing a course of antibiotics that gives me nasty side effects. Celebration was not happening.

I confess that this year, I've decided to take a cue from my sister and not send Christmas cards. I'm going to send New Year's cards instead. I've decided that I'm still going to put up the tree out of habit, and I'll visit friends who are hosting Christmas celebrations (I'm not going to miss out on moments of togetherness just because I'm a bit of a Grinch), but I personally will not observe Christmas anymore. Instead, I'm going to celebrate the New Year. It's more my style. It doesn't have religion at it's core. While department stores still build sales around it, it's not the capitalist feeding-frenzy that is Christmas. It's a holiday about fresh starts, about new beginnings, a constant reminder that the past is over and the future is still bright before us.

I confess that this year, I got my mom a Christmas present, and the only other friend who got a Christmas gift is the son of one of our friends (for some reason, giving kids Christmas presents doesn't make me Grinchy). (Okay, I gave my husband a Channukah gift, but he's actually Jewish and does observe Channukah, and it's an entirely different holiday; I don't lump it in with my Christmas angst.) My sister and I are not exchanging gifts. I have a few good friends I would like to give gifts to, but I haven't purchased them yet. I'm saving them for New Year's. I'll give New Year's gifts this year rather than Christmas gifts, and I think I'll make that a permanent change.

I confess that in the New Year, I will try to talk to my mom again about my feelings about Christmas, but I won't be offended if she won't listen. She has her traditions. While she raised me with those traditions, I find they don't fit the woman I have become. So I'm making my own.

(Though I confess that there will always be a place in my December schedule to watch A Christmas Story. Nothing will destroy my love for that film.)

December 16, 2010

Liquid Story Binder

I've spent my entire writing life either writing longhand in a notebook or typing using a word processor (Microsoft Office all the way through college; OpenOffice ever since). I've had elaborate filing systems to keep my planning separate for my drafts, and a filename system to distinguish between drafts. And these methods have always worked well for me.

And despite being familiar with the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," I couldn't help feeling compelled to try something new. I'd been hearing about Liquid Story Binder largely from NaNoWriMo friends, and decided I had to check it out.

My NaNoWriMo 2010 effort is currently in hiding in my hard drive, and I've started a new long project - a novel told in connected short stories (i.e. The Martian Chronicles or I, Robot). So far I have 25 prospective characters. I'm building a near-future world a bit different from the world we have right now. It's pretty complex. And I decided I wanted to see how Liquid Story Binder held up to my regular system when tacking such a project. So earlier this week, I downloaded the trial version.

So far, I'm pretty happy with it! There's a bit of a learning curve, and it's not always intuitive (I still don't understand what the MindMap feature dues, and I can't figure out how to create the Storyboard), but all in all, it's a fantastic way to store research, make little notes to myself about plot development, create an outline, store images, make to-do lists, and draft chapters. And it's pretty navigable even without reading any documentation (I'm pretty sure I could figure out how to work Storyboard if I just did a tutorial or something, but I haven't yet). I like to try to figure out software before I turn to the manual, and I'd say I'm operating it at about 75% efficiency without having glanced at the documentation.

Liquid Story Binder is not really a necessity for my writing. I'm enjoying it, but I would be doing just fine with my old system as well. But LSB is a lot more *fun* than word documents and folders. It's a lot more visual, and all-around cool.

The trial is free and doesn't expire until it's inactive for 30 days, meaning you could theoretically use it forever without paying, pending you didn't let it sit idle that long. I recommend that anyone working on a complex project give it a shot, if for no other reason than you can try fully-functional software to see if it works for you.

Thankful Thursday

A busy week! Which has resulted in some stress (like an unsightly cyst in my eyelid three days before a dance performance), but many, many good things.

This week, I'm thankful for:

  • Long talks with long-lost friends. It's nice to know that some connections don't wither with time or distance. 
  • Nice tech support representatives who realize that sometimes, their customers are actually intelligent when it comes to computers. Lenovo customer service rocks!
  • My friend finishing grad school (while working at a full-time job) unscathed!
  • Getting to meet the executive chef at one of my favorite hangouts.
  • A tutoring job! Yay money! And yay for students who pay in advance!
  • Rediscovering that I have not lost all my tutoring skills in the 2.5 years since I last worked with students. My skills are a tad rusty, but they're coming back fast.
  • Rediscovering that I LOVE tutoring. Why didn't I try to get into it as a career sooner? 
  • Casual, stress-free holiday celebrations with family and friends.
  • Having more story ideas than I have time. Frustrating that I can't get them all on paper rightthissecond, but it's so nice to have lots of inspiration.

December 15, 2010

52 Stitches Memorial Fund

Via Robert Swartwood: 52 Stitches Memorial Fund

Horror writer Jamie Eyeberg died earlier this year, overcome by gas as he worked on a well at his home. His wife, Ann, had also been working on the well, and died in the accident as well. They left behind two children.

Aaron Polson is dedicating the most recent issue of 52 Stitches to Eyeberg, and donating proceeds to a fund for the children. And to encourage sales, Cate Gardner is offering a free copy of her book if you but 52 Stitches from Amazon.

Please consider buying a copy of this great anthology in order to remember a great writer and to help his family.

Roach-O-Rama!

I encourage everyone who reads this blog to check out Roach-O-Rama! A collaboration between Ben Smith and Richard Wink, Roach-O-Rama is described as "the last punk zine." A print-only project, it's accepting submissions for the first edition until June 1st, 2011.

Wordless Wednesday

The writing space journey

I admit, progress on my workspace has gone much slower than it should. But hey, as long as progress happens at all, it's better than nothing!

I've mentioned recently that my old netbook died. When I bought a new computer, I actually went out and bought a real laptop this time. I know, there are things to be said for desktop systems, but I'm a mobile writer and I need a computer that can go everywhere. So laptop it is, with a bigger screen and keyboard. It's better on my eyes, and I don't need to hunch over so far to type.

Another major change happened yesterday. Though my yoga teacher told me months ago that writing from bed all day long was not good for my back and aggravating my problems, I could not bring myself to invest in a desk and chair, because I hate sitting in chairs. Even ergonomic chairs feel confining and uncomfortable. So yesterday, I asked her what specifically I should do instead. She suggested a medicine ball. I just so happen to have one, a gift I got in college. I've had it for six years, though haven't used it as much recently. I added air to it and started sitting on it to write yesterday afternoon - I can already feel the difference in my back! Granted, it's not nearly as cozy as writing in bed all day, but the lack of back pain is well-worth it!

The next obstacle is to find a desk that works well with the medicine ball. Right now I am making do with the end of my bed and a lap desk, but this is not an ideal solution. However, the only desk in the house is too tall to work with the medicine ball I have. I'm sure a solution will reveal itself in time. Certainly there might be a medium-height table at Goodwill that would work. I just need to think about it.

December 2, 2010

Disappointing news

I used to be a big fan of Flatmancrooked. They were one of the first literary sites I started reading regularly once I decided in earnest to begin a writing career. I've submitted work to them twice (rejected both times). But I don't plan on submitting with them again. Because they've now decided to offer expedited publishing for a $5 reading fee. And I'm not okay with that.

First off, I have problems enough with contests charging entry fees - and I'll occasionally pay to enter those, if I have the funds, and if it's a contest I want to support. Although I'm not a fan of contests charging money, intellectually, I understand why you need to collect funds to support the contest, especially if you're a struggling publication trying to keep your regular business practices going as well. So while I'm not a huge fan of them, contest entry fees are not a major crime against writers. But charging submission fees for regular publication? I'm not okay with that. Even if it's just $5, because $5 can really add up for struggling writers. We're struggling enough as it is; we shouldn't have to pay just to have our work considered for regular publication. We may little enough on our work as it is; if we pay for regular submissions, we'll barely break even.

But I think what bothers me the most about all this is that Flatmancrooked is willing to take your money to respond to your submission faster - but they don't pay their writers. They will pay writers semi-pro rates for the special anthologies, but for the regular website? Nope. Not one cent. They want you to pay them for expedited response time, but if your work is accepted, you don't get any money. You've been published at a loss. At least with most contests that charge entry fees, there's enough prize money to make a tiny profit or at least break even (and if there isn't, that's a contest I would never consider submitting to). I refuse to be published at a loss. That's just exploitation. A minor form of exploitation, to be sure, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a crappy business practice.

Granted, I could continue to submit to Flatmancrooked and not pay, and wait the 4-5 months (rather than 14 working days) to hear back. But I don't think I want to offer my work to any site or publication that would exploit writers in this way. And I don't think I want to pay for their anthologies, either. If they're going to charge for submissions, even an optional charge, they need to pay writers enough to at least break even (though they really should offer semi-pro rates). I will probably still read the free content online, because it's quite good, but if they want my dollars, they're going to have to treat writers better.

Thankful Thursday

Happy Channukah, everyone! Just a week after Thanksgiving, and already more to celebrate. I love being in a multifaith marriage - it means I get even more holidays! While this week's gratitude list isn't especially inspired by Channukah, I'm especially mindful of the fact that I'm giving thanks during a time when we're celebrating a miracle.

This week, I'm thankful for:

  1. Breakfast tacos! They're my favorite way to start the day.
  2. Avocados! My absolute favorite fruit.
  3. A kiss 10 years in the making.
  4. My hardy immune system (knock on wood . . .)
  5. Excellent tattoo artists.
  6. New ideas and constant inspiration.

December 1, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

NaNoWriMo Reflections

NaNoWriMo is over for another year. I got a nearly-completed draft of a novel, and won with just over 55,000 words. And as always, I learned a few things along the way.

The first big thing I discovered is how naturally I gravitate towards short fiction. It is easy for me to tell a full story in 5,000 words (or even fewer than that!). But I have a lot of trouble sustaining my arc and my characters over the long haul. I know that this is something I can improve upon with practice and extensive revision, and it's something I plan to work on - I want to have a wide range of talents and not just limit myself to writing short pieces. But it's interesting for me to notice just how natural short stories feel to me.

The second big thing I learned relates to the first. This year, I realized that I am very bad at pacing myself. Well, maybe "very bad" is a bit of an overstatement. Again, this relates to my natural talent for short stories, whereas my struggle to learn to write long pieces. When I start a new project, I immerse myself in it. I let it consume my time. I throw myself into research, drafting, and revision until it's done. Well, sort of. This works really well for short stories. But with novels, I throw myself in completely, and then burn out. The frantic pace at which I like to work is great for writing short pieces because the short story is done before I get tired of it. But a novel, on the other hand? Not so much. I need to learn how to write long pieces in a way that's efficient, but won't leave me burned out halfway through.

Anyway, I had a great year, and I'm already worldbuilding and researching for NaNo 2011!

Another Victory!

I made it through Smut Marathon Round 8 by the skin of my teeth! I tied for last place with the fabulous Willsin Rowe, and we had to hold a runoff to decide the winner. Thankfully, I won. Thanks for everyone who voted for my story! (Though I admit, I would not have been ashamed to lose to Willsin and his excellent "Holed Up."

Now time to prepare for Round 9! It's going to be an interesting challenge, and Alison Tyler is giving us until after the holidays to finish it. Hooray for suspense!