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Author: Kelly

Reading Redux: Indies First at Bookwoman

Small Business Saturday was a big day for me. I did my second book reading at an “Indies First” event at the first bookstore I had the guts to approach about Portrait of Woman in InkBookWoman on North Lamar. It was a fantastic event and I had such a great time sharing with this great group of people and reading from my book.

Since it’s Thanksgiving weekend, I got to drag the whole family along – my husband, my mother, and my sister. I’m tweeting here, not playing on my phone, I swear.

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A big thanks to BookWoman for having me, to the other authors for making this a great event, and to all the people who came out to join in the fun and support these local authors!

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Portrait of Woman in Ink featured in Red City Review

Awhile back, you may recall, I entered a couple book award contests. I didn’t do well in either of them, so I was predictably sulky about it. One of them was the Red City Review 2014 Book Awards contest, which I entered even though the entry fee was enough to make me think twice (you know that old publishing mantra ‘money should always flow to the author – not the other way around’?). I didn’t win the contest; however, they did think enough of it to give it a very thoughtful 5-star review on their website.

Check it out their great review HERE!

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The Self, as Editor of Local Tech Mag

Lately, you may have noticed I have been unusually absent from regular blogging and tweeting. If you follow me on Twitter, you may also have noticed that my tweets have been abnormally comprised of baseball-related content, and thought “I didn’t even know she was a baseball fan…” Well, neither did I, not until the Kansas City Royals made it to the postseason for the first time since I was 3 years old, and then made it to the World Series. It was kind of a big deal, and also (as it turns out) played almost every single day, which made scheduling all things very difficult. Naturally, I was either slightly heartbroken or super butthurt (depending on whose version you hear) when we lost the World Series in game 7.¬† All this is to say, authors can be sports fans too, and I can dedicate myself far more fully to my craft with just one fall sport to focus on.

Another source of distraction lately has been my new volunteer gig – I’m part of the editorial staff for Velma Magazine, a local online publication dedicated to Austin women in tech. It’s been many a year since I worked for any sort of journalism outfit, so there’s been an acquainting phase not unlike when I first started using a fork. Or a Mac. Still, for all the craziness that comes with a new publication, it’s been incredibly rewarding and the women I work with are fantastic and sassy and super smart.

One of the most refreshing things that I’ve encountered in my short time as volunteer editor is that it’s okay to make mistakes and that it’s okay to feel stupid. This pretty much flies in the face of everything I was taught growing up, but it means I am actually learning something. As an author, I find this feeling very freeing. I don’t know everything, especially about how to sell my own work (hell, I’m jut now figuring out how to talk about my own work), but I can keep trying new things and growing and learning, even if the things I do are complete and total mistakes. Besides, who’s going to notice except, you know, the whole internet?

So in the words of my genius female developer friend: “Feeling stupid is good, it means you are learning. Now repeat until you believe it.”

Oh, and check out the magazine. Even if you’re not a lady, not in tech, or hate words. I write for it, so it’s therefore superior.

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On Karma (and other celestialisms)

We’re told from the time we’re in kindergarten to obey the golden rule and treat others like we’d want to be treated. Sometime later, we learn the concept of karma, that if we do right by other people, the universe will do right by us and that the opposite is true also.

If there’s ever a karmic area where I’ve gotten my comeuppance, it’s smoking. I smoked many years ago, for many years, and I did all the annoying things smokers do. I smoked right outside the doorways of buildings. I smoked in large crowds with children in them at concerts. I smoked in places where no smoking signs were posted. I tossed cigarette butts out my car window. I once even had a neighbor kindly ask if I would stop smoking in my bedroom, which was across the wall from his closet and made his clothes stink. Instead of being nice and cease-desisting, I did it more, because asshole.

Now that I’m 7 years removed from my smoking habit, it’s like everywhere I go, I am surrounded by smokers. Being in Austin, we go to a lot of concerts, and it never fails that once I stake out a spot, the person next to me starts blowing smoke in my face. Every time I walk from my car to the office, there is someone smoking (in the same non-designated smoking area I would have previously occupied) in my path. Outdoor patio? You can guarantee the person who comes along and occupies the table next to me will light up. And having done it in a past life, I’m so revolted by it now that for the life of me I can’t imagine how I ever did it. I also feel bad for every guy who ever made out with me, but some of that is for other reasons…

My point – karma is real. As a writer, every time I review a fellow author’s work, I try to remember the rules of karma. After all, there’s a real person on the end of that review–a real person who put their heart and soul into writing the book I’m reviewing. When I read something especially terrible, I admit that there are times I want to personally attack the author for writing something so abysmally bad, but that’s only after I want to punch myself for reading the entire thing. Still, I don’t. I don’t because that’s no way to treat people and I would cry a lot if someone did that to me. I also don’t punch myself, because I bruise easily.

At the same time, I am honest about my reviews, because I would want a reader to do the same for me. If I don’t like something, I’ll say it (and try to focus on the plot elements or characters that didn’t work for me). If I really enjoy something, I’ll say that too. There’s a way to be substantive in literary criticism without resorting to nasty speech or personal attacks (but yeah, it’s hard sometimes).

So the next time you’re getting ready to write a review of a book, think about karma and do the right thing. Be the bigger person. You see that, Universe? I’m being the bigger goddamned person. Now please seat me in the non-smoking section.

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My life hacks

Lately I’ve seen a lot of authors sharing their own lists of personal tips and tricks for winning at life – or life hacks. This got me thinking about the things I do to keep my life on track with my goals, both personal and professional. Maybe some of these can work for you, too, whether you’re an author or not. Here are mine!

1) Keep a dry-erase marker in the car

I live in Austin, which has the 4th worst traffic in the US. Especially before I started my new day job 5 miles away from my home (which still takes 30-45 minutes some days), I spent a LOT of time in my car. Chances are, you probably do too, and if you’re an author, you sometimes get your best ideas while you’re stuck in traffic or flying down the highway, when it’s least convenient to pull out your Moleskine and jot the idea down before you forget. How I combat this is to keep a dry erase marker in the car and scribble the ideas on the window (usually in short hand). A nice bonus – you can also take down license plate numbers of law breakers instead of trying in vain to commit them to memory.

2) #AlwaysBeReading

Everyone benefits from being well read, but no one benefits more than authors do. Reading more makes you a better writer, but it’s hard to find time to read between career, family, and extracurricular duties. I’ve found that I read more when I make my reading complement these duties, not replace them. Spending an hour in your car every day? Putting away a week’s worth of laundry? (Doing anything you’d really rather not be doing?) Listen to an audiobook. Hitting the elliptical machine at the gym? Waiting for your doctor to show up for your scheduled appointment? Pull out your e-reader. Trying to sleep and instead letting your mind race? Open a paperback. When I started reading across these 3 platforms, I found I read twice as many books that year than I did the one before it.

3) Take care of yourself

Make time to exercise. Period. No excuses. Endorphins are nature’s anti-depressants and you can still do wasteful things like binge watching Breaking Bad while working out (but you can also read a book). Life is short, but it’s even shorter when you’re unhealthy, and it’s my experience that running a great writer’s block buster.

4) #DontReadTheComments

This is a tough one for me. I read something that pushes all my buttons and raises all my hackles, and I can’t just stop at the end of the article; I scroll on down and start reading the comments to see what other people think. Why do I do this? I don’t know that I can pinpoint a reason other than that I am a masochist. I don’t particularly care about the opinions of complete strangers, and I hate being reminded of how ignorant, hateful, and rude people can be behind the anonymity veil the internet provides. As such, I’m making a concerted effort to #dontreadthecomments (except those on my own posts and sites, of course).

5) Feed your muse with music

Right now I am writing a book that primarily takes place in the gym, so when I am writing, I put on the cheesy upbeat mashup music my cardio kickboxing instructor plays in class to get me in the right mindset. Whatever you’re writing about, pair some thematic music to go with it. If nothing really matches, I recommend Groove Salad on somafm.com. It’s a great downtempo station that will keep you in the zone while you crank up the word count.

6) #ScheduleYourTweets

Yes, you should also tweet in the moment when brilliantly witty things (or funny cat videos) come to you, but you should also use tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck (I use Tweetdeck) to space out some scheduled tweets throughout the week that keep you talking and visible. Remember that as an author, you market yourself, not necessarily your books, and silence is kin to invisibility. (I stole this life hack from @RachelintheOC. She’s kind of an author PR genius and you should listen to everything she says – especially the parts about Nutella.)

7) Schedule your blog posts

Any blogging software worth a damn includes functionality for saving drafts of posts and scheduling them to publish at the time of your choosing. So when you get inspired about a topic, go slap some words on a page, come back to it and refine the idea when you want, and post it when you want. In my better days, I’ve written blog posts for an entire month in one day and scheduled them to post once a week. I wrote this one yesterday; I don’t get up and write at 6 AM because I am not that productive of a person. There are lots of commercials in a football game…

8) Leave your work computer at work

I’ve been guilty of bringing my work home with me, usually because I was taking on too much and was already doing the work of two people. I don’t have those jobs anymore, because I place too much value on keeping my professional and personal lives separate. I’ve always had a work laptop specifically designed for portability, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leave it at the office. For me, having my work laptop at home in the evenings is too much of a temptation to work ahead when I should be working on something personal, spending time with my family, or joyfully wasting time. Now I only bring it home on the weekends in case something happens (like ebola) and I have to work from home.

9) Don’t put work email on your personal phone

Unless you have to or are expected to. If your day job doesn’t come with the expectation that you be available 24/7 and respond to every email immediately – don’t. Say it with me now – it can wait ’til morning (or Monday). Your evenings and weekends are yours, not your employer’s. If you’re anything like me, you check personal email on your phone obsessively enough as it is, you don’t need work email invading your personal life, especially when half the emails are auto-generated crap you batch delete on Monday morning anyway.

10) #CleanAsYouGo

Anyone who’s ever worked in the restaurant industry has had this mantra permanently etched into their being. As much as I hated hearing it from front of house managers who let the most infinitesimal amount of power go to their heads, it’s true. You’ll spend less time cleaning if you can fit in loading the dishwasher while you’re waiting for that water to boil, wiping down the bathroom counter while you’re waiting for the shower water to warm up, etc. Clean as you go, and you won’t have to go clean later. Or not as much, anyway.

That’s for my life hacks! What are yours?

Remember, time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time.

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Portrait of Woman in Ink at Malvern Books

My diabolical plot to take over all bookstores is, well, a long way from happening, but I’m officially one bookstore closer to total and complete domination. Malvern Books, a small independent bookstore close to the University of Texas campus that carries only books from small presses has picked it up and will have a couple copies on their shelves. At the very least, I’m 1/3 of the way toward my annual goal of having the book in 3 more stores by the end of the year.

Having reached this milestone, I would now like to share my secret formula for getting your book in a bookstore, if you are a local author looking for exposure.

  1. Write a good book.
  2. Have someone publish it.
  3. Set foot inside a bookstore.
  4. Ask.

The worst they can say is “No,” right? BTW – I have to tell myself this, too. You are not alone!

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The last chapter in the CLR saga…

Seeing as the newest season of Doctor Who just premiered, it seems only fitting that we should jump in our time machines for this post…

This week, I finally received my contributor copies of the first publication that ever accepted a piece of my work, Clackamas Literary Review. It is a damn fine publication, but in case you’re new to the drama that is Kelly I. Hitchcock’s literary life, here’s a summary of the timeline around this little interaction…

Sometime in 2009: I submit 3 poems to CLR for consideration.
February 2010: Clackamas accepts 2 of my poems for publication in their 2010 issue.
November 2011: I receive word the issue is going to drop publication any day.
February 2012: I once again receive word the issue is going to be published soon, and that I will receive 7 contributor copies instead of 2, and that I can purchase copies for $5.
March 2013: 2010 issue is published, with promise of shipment for 7 contributor copies, which I do not receive.
September 2013: Tired of waiting, I order my own copy for about $10. Thanks, Amazon Prime!
August 2014: I mysteriously receive 3 contributor copies in the mail.

You may be looking at this and thinking “Wow, that’s a really long publication cycle,” and you’d be right. What made the whole thing even weirder was that 1: I received 3 copies, not 2 (which was the original number) or 7 (which was the later promised number). 2: These poems came to the name I use on Facebook – not my Facebook author page, but my personal Facebook timeline, same punctuation and everything. 3: The envelope they came in looked like it had been attacked by a rabid wolverine; I don’t even know how the mailman got the books to stay in the manila bubble mailer.

With practices like this, it should surprise no one that more and more authors are moving away from traditional publishing. This isn’t really an anomaly; actually, authors have been screwed over on much larger scales than this by even more prestigious traditional publishing houses. Looking at timelines like these, it’s no wonder Type A authors (like me) who like control (like me) are publishing works at the rate of 1 new book on Amazon every 5 minutes.

That said, I truly am grateful that Clackamas Literary Review published my work and I have that name to attach to my own. I know it’s hard for university presses to get their jobs done in the face of changing market demands, technology, and budget constraints. I just wish they’d learn to do more with less a little faster than 5 years, and adapt quickly like the rest of the world’s been forced to.

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On Crayolas: a lifelong literary device (for me, anyway)

I’ve made no bones about the fact that I grew up poor. Not in the “we were poor, but we didn’t know we were poor” kind of way. I knew we were poor, and one of the first things that clued me in were Crayola crayons. Over the years I’ve described my hangup about Crayola crayons to anyone who would listen, and more than a handful of them laughed at me for it. I’m not sure what grade it was, but I have a distinct and vivid memory of walking into class with my 24-box of Rose Arts, the bare minimum laid out by the teacher’s supply list, and seeing someone else’s 64-box with¬† the built in sharpener on the back and feeling instantly jealousy. It’s one of the earliest symbols of class that I remember feeling. Little did I know at the time that the 64-box of Crayolas isn’t that much more expensive than the inferior Rose Arts, and that everyone else in my school was poor, too. Why else would anyone live in a town with a $17,000 median income?

It was such a vivid memory and powerful feeling that I wrote a poem about it, a poem that was published in Clackamas Literary Review a few years ago. I still think of it as one of my best bodies of work, despite the fact that it’s, ostensibly, just a poem about Crayola crayons.

Last week the office where I rock my day job hosted a school supply drive for needy children. Austin has its fair share of them, particularly in East Austin where there is a large Hispanic population. I love shopping for school supplies as an adult because I get to indulge in the kinds of things I never got to as a poor kid – Lisa Frank folders, pens that write in 12 colors, and of course, Crayola crayons. Naturally, I chose the 64-box of Crayolas as my school supply donation of choice. They still brand the built-in sharpener, but thanks to advances in technology they also have codes you can scan from the box to create coloring book pages from pictures on your phone, and other apps that I fully intend on exploring as an adult with the power to buy my own goddamn crayons.

I may have hangups about Crayola crayons for the rest of my life, but hopefully there are six kids in Austin who will feel like some serious high cotton thanks to my ability to buy a $4.99 box of crayons. If you’ve never seen the poem, check it out here, because I’m not kidding when I say it’s one of my favorite (and, I think, best) works.

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The Redheaded Stepchild – Free Day 2!

Yes, I had to capture the photographic evidence…

I put The Redheaded Stepchild up for free yesterday, to celebrate the 1st birthday of Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook. It got over 125 downloads yesterday, and made it up to the #1 spot in the Top 100 free books in its category on Amazon. You haven’t missed your opportunity yet; it’s still going to be free for the rest of the week!

Go grab yourself a copy.

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Go PORTRAIT, it’s your birthday!

Portrait of Woman in Ink is a year old today! Just a year ago I was feverishly promoting the initial release of my new book of short stories about women and their tattoos and trying to keep up with the buzz as my closest people supported my efforts. It’s been a good first year for Portrait of Woman in Ink, but there are many more good ones come! It’s like Christmas in July; even this guy popped by to wish Portrait a happy birthday…

To celebrate, I’m making the Kindle edition of my first book, The Redheaded Stepchild, free all damn week! Grab a copy if you don’t have one. If you have one, grab a copy anyway (um, they’re free) and gift it to someone you love or like just a little bit. When Portrait of Woman in Ink is a little older and wiser, it too can be given away for the low low price of free.

Spread the word, get my books (one a year old today and one free), and enjoy the swelter of summer! Have I told you people I love you lately? Well, I do.

 

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