I just looked to see if there are any reviews of “Poppies”, as I’m submitting an application that asks for any recent reviews of your work. Anxiety set in when I saw there was one on Tangent. Clicked through, and it’s a good one!
You can read it here.
And the link to “Poppies”, if you haven’t read it and decide you want to ;).
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A good friend just obliquely asked me (paraphrasing) how I maintain the motivation to write and submit. I think. I have been mulling that over and the key is resilience. Writing resilience. And I can see how I have managed to hold onto my writing resilience, because it contrasts very starkly with the lack of resilience I have in other facets of my life.
I’ve had postnatal depression for I’m not sure how long now. Next week is the Goo-boy’s second birthday, and most of that time has been pretty rough. Writing is often therapeutic. It’s something that has kept me going, even when the darkness threatened to overwhelm. I’ve held onto my writing resilience purely because writing helped me cope with all the other stuff. The hardest part of writing was that the lowest point in my mental state coincided with the middle of my acceptance drought. It’s difficult to continue submitting when no one seems to like your words. Why did I continue? Maybe I’m just a masochist, or maybe I needed one hopeful thing to hold onto. If I didn’t submit, I would never get an acceptance, and I would probably stop writing. I needed to keep writing. Self-reinforcing cycle is born.
I’m contemplating what forcing myself to write a novel is doing to my writing resilience. It seems when my head is in a good place a novel is a great idea. I have loads of discipline and sit down and write. But when life intrudes, when my lack of resilience *elsewhere* becomes apparent, my very restless mind see the novel as a bleak wasteland, trapping me into a single world that doesn’t necessarily meet my therapeutic needs. Shorts and poems allow me a brief interlude in a world that feels rich and alive. I can work through stuff and then remove myself from the pages. The novel doesn’t let me do that. And it’s becoming hard work. A chore. Some days I actually think I don’t want to write. But I need to write. If not every day, then as often as possible.
I’m not sure what the answer is. Limit myself to only working on novels when I am in a good headspace? Accept that some days I *need* to work on a short story? In the wise words of Trent Jamieson, “A novel’s not a race, it’s a negotiation with everything else in your life. No-one wins a novel, they build it, brick by brick.” And I’m seeing that he’s right.
I guess I’m still figuring this thing out.
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At the start of the year I had planned to smash out my novel first draft, but I lost my way, got distracted by life and short stories and gave up on it. We’re at the pointy end of the year, I’ve written 54000 words of short fiction and apart from a collaborative story I have nothing else to finish (although I *do* have ideas but I’m letting them sit for the moment).
People around me are doing NaNoWriMo and while that’s an unrealistic exercise for me (3 children to look after, one a toddler who goes through periods of not sleeping well) it has made me think I should dust off what I’ve already written and keep at it. I spent the last week editing the first 8000 words from first person into third person. Now I’m clear to write new words and it has begun. So my goal is 1000 words a day on the novel, to have 80K in 2 and a half months. I already have 11000 words written as of this moment.
I may not get a chance to do this next year (all going well) so I just have to knuckle down and do it and try not to get sidetracked by short stories. I will still indulge myself with poetry (I renamed Thursdays to the Day of Woe and Poetry so got that covered).
Excuse me while I dive into the world of Lillibeth and Dante as they try to avoid being eaten by a giant snake. Or something ;).
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Photo by Rafa Machado Photography on Flickr
I sent in two of my poems to Deep Water Literary Journal and received an acceptance for one and a shortlisting for the other (it’s a challenge so there will be a “winner”). I had wondered if my poems were any good, and this is a bit of validation that has made me feel pretty happy.
Unlike fiction, poetry for me is often pretty personal and I like to indulge in expressive language. Because it’s not following a specific narrative structure I often struggle to see if my poetry is any good or if it’s just self-indulgent drivel. High school poetry did not help (especially after being accused of plagiarism without grounds because my teacher thought it was too advanced for a 15yr old… and it wasn’t even a particularly good poem). So this will be my first published poem (designated as a poem anyway—I could argue that “Fatigue” is a poem but I didn’t write it with poetic intent).
The issue is due out in February 2014, so will keep you posted!
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In a word: I gave up. Writing non-fiction pays better, for sure, but I’ve had some bad experiences and some frustrating experiences and I don’t have the temperament for it.
For one, fiction editors almost always respond to you. It might be a form rejection but you know they’ve at least seen it and it’s not for them. I have submitted so many pitches for non-fiction and not received a reply, not even a form rejection. It’s really not that hard to set up a form reject email? While being rejected is hard, being ignored is far far worse for my self-esteem.
I also had one lovely experience of having a pitch accepted, writing the article (through illness and children’s illnesses) sending it in and receiving no response. After about 5 emails to find out if the editor even got my article I received “I’ve been busy sorry I’ll get to it soon” (a month later). After another month went by I tried to contact the editor again. Finally I withdrew it as I suspected the editor just didn’t want it for whatever reason (it was a good article I thought). I never heard anything. Not submitting there again.
It’s pretty depressing as I thought I may be able to earn a little money from writing non-fiction. I had gotten positive feedback from my pitches so I don’t think it’s that. And sure, maybe the editors just aren’t interested in what I’m saying, but in that case I’ll stick to writing fiction. Because that’s what I love doing. I’m not thick-skinned enough to deal with the deafening silence of the non-fiction world (and then the raucous chorus of internet comments).
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Yesterday I read three short stories that all affected me in different ways. I thought I’d share them.
The first was “Becca at the End of the World” by Shira Lipkin, published on Apex Magazine. I saw people raving about it on twitter, so, my curiosity piqued, I went to have a stickybeak.
It’s a zombie story but not really. About halfway through I thought I would be in tears by the end… but the ending caught me off guard, and my expectations weren’t met. I actually responded with anger, and it triggered an interesting discussion on morality and motherhood with some friends. The fact that I was still dwelling on the implications hours later showed me that this is a good, provoking story… even if I am pissed off with the character!
The second was also at Apex Magazine, “Grey in the Gauge of His Storm” by Damien Angelica Walters. The story comes with a trigger warning for disturbing content BUT it’s very deftly handled and the way the author has told this particular tale is quite beautiful.
The third was “Departures” by Kate Osias in Lontar #1 (I can’t link directly to the story but it is the first story in the journal). Set in Manila, again I thought I had the ending figured out but Osias sucker-punched me in the guts and this time I did almost cry.
I am yet to read the rest of Lontar, which is a new journal of South-East Asian speculative fiction, but I’ll review it once I’m done. Very exciting to see a journal encouraging South-East Asian spec fic writers!
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A little while ago I mentioned a sale that I was keeping close until I had contracts sorted. That took a while due to gremlins and then I figured I would just announce when it was live and ready to go.
So today you can get my short story “Poppies” at Aurealis magazine. “Poppies” is a horror fantasy, probably not for the ultra-squeamish, and deals with some pretty uncomfortable subject matter. It’s one of those stories that come out of something horrible you see and can’t quite process. I wrote a scene, and then Jason prompted me to write the WHOLE story. So big thanks to my awesome mentor for kicking me up the bum.
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