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Category: writing

Meetupdate

As you may recall, I started attending a meetup group for writers since I am new to Austin. Since the first meetup, the group has grown quite a bit and I am – apparently – an assistant coordinator. I’ve gotten some feedback for Sister Christian and Diatomaceous Earth that’s been very helpful, and the writing prompts of ours have been fun for me. I finally remembered to bring my laptop so I could record my prompt results. I decided to go ahead and share the story I wrote from the prompt. Keep in mind this was written in 10 minutes, and hasn’t been edited at all.

The prompt was: You are in the green room of a talk show with a kangaroo. What happens?

“Why is this fucking kangaroo man in my green room, trying to steal my thunder?” I thought. This show was supposed to be all about me and my fucked up problems, not about some weird human who uncannily resembles a kangaroo. I looked over at the kangaroo man, waiting for him to make eye contact. He didn’t. He kept staring at the pouch in his lap pretending I didn’t exist, that I wasn’t 4 fucking feet away from him. Clearly, I would have to be the bigger person here and make conversation first.

“What’s your name, freak?” I ask. He continues to stare at his pouch, but reaches down into it and pulls out a Ziploc bag half-full of what I suspect is cocaine. I wonder if his kangaroo snout makes it easier or harder to snort coke. I’ve never been a fan of the stuff. I just can’t stand having things in my nose. And I hate the smell of smoke. I’m okay with needles; maybe I could do intravenous drugs.

“Sully,” the kangaroo said. “And yes, I am still human. I killed my entire family falling asleep at the wheel and just wanted to hop away from life after it happened. Spent my entire retirement savings on plastic surgery to turn myself into a kangaroo. Killing your family will make you do fucked up things.”

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New story up: Diatomaceous Earth

Ever since I moved to Texas, there has been one neighbor I haven’t cared for much… the gigantic cockroaches that live in the trees behind our apartment. It’s rained once since I moved here, for about 45 seconds, and the whole city is in the middle of level 2 water restrictions, so the cockroaches have been coming inside to look for water since they’re not getting it outside.

We’ve tried a lot of methods, both of us being pacifists who would rather throw the bugs back outside than squash them, but we’ve only just now found a system that seems to work at keeping them outside, where they belong. Still, it got me thinking about the cockroaches, and how it must be hard for them to face the danger of scavenging in peoples’ homes (although cockroaches in the lab have been known to go 3 months without food), so I wrote a story about it. Then again, maybe they just really don’t give a shit, like the honey badger.

Check it out, and tell me what you think.

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Weird Austin Writers Meetup!

I recently relocated to Austin, TX, and working from home and not going out much isn’t doing much for my social life. I’ve also resolved to start getting some traction on The Redheaded Stepchild, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and join a writer’s workshop meetup group. We had our first meeting last week (I remember because it was not Shark Week, and because it was the only day last week I bothered to put on a bra), and I’ve assessed the following tech writer-y pros and cons list:

Pros:

  • It’s free. I like free. It’s much better than not free.
  • It’s a good way to get some eyes on my stuff – some eyes of people who have a clue what they’re doing.
  • It’s a good way to meet some like-minded people.
  • It’s a good way to see some new parts of the city (we were right on the water at our last meetup).
  • There’s a writing prompt exercise at every meetup.

Cons

  • The meetup organizer is less than organized.
  • They don’t exchange manuscripts before the meeting, so everyone just brings their stuff and we read it right there.
  • Only 3 people came to the first meetup.

I’ll give it a few meetups before I decide if it’s a bust, but in the meantime, if you’re interested in the material I write from the prompts, I’ll put em up.

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New short story up: Date Zero

I’ve had this story written for awhile, but life has been really busy, between my real job and my freelance job, by which this story was inspired. Back in January, I took a job as a virtual dating assistant on a freelance basis. I write people’s online dating profiles and create messages to potential matches on their behalf. It’s a lot more work than I thought it would be originally, but it’s also teaching me a lot about a world I never knew and giving me insight into the lives of some of the clients and their matches. Honestly, anyone’s Match.com profile would be an amazing place to go for inspiration as a writer.

So my newest short story, Date Zero, is very loosely based on a client I wrote for a lot. I sometimes wonder, if our clients get really far with someone, at what point to they tell them that they hired a service to do their work for them? Anyway, there’s a lot of that in this story. Hope you enjoy it.

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“The Pollen Bath” coming soon to a Line Zero near you…

Well, it would seem my second published short story is going to be in the same publication as my first published short story. No skin off my back; I’m just glad it’s being accepted anywhere. This will be the third issue of Line Zero, and the first publication of The Pollen Bath. Getting something published is always happy news, but it also comes with the unhappy task of contacting every single publication where I sent it for consideration and notifying them, some of which get all pissy about it. Funny enough, I had a pollen bath on my car yesterday and the air made my eyes catch on fire.

Still, it can’t compare to seeing your name in print…

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SXSW panel in review: Tell & Sell Your Story

The next exciting panel I attended at SXSW was called “Tell & Sell Your Story,” with panelists that included author Stephanie Klein (@stephanieklein), professor Michael Chaney (@mjchaney), agent David Hale Smith (@davidhalesmith) and writer Ned Vizzini, moderated by agent Alex Lerner.

The panel was billed as one that would discuss how to write a book proposal, how to find an agent, apps you can use, and writing software. Much of this came toward the end of panel, but the first part was highly valuable too. One of my favorites moments was when Klein (who is fabulous and whose work I am going to have to discover) stated that for an author, balance is bullshit. As someone with a full-time and a freelance job, it felt good to hear someone else say it, although I already knew it. It only mirrored my sentiments that you can always do something if you make the time for it.  They talked extensively about how to structure a writing day – everyone has their own method – but some of the suggestions were to create structured, absolute writing days, where you do nothing but spend the whole day writing and don’t break the roll. I haven’t been able to do this since college, but I should probably find a way to do this again and see if it works for me.

Then they discussed writing itself, and again, Klein said something that resonated heavily with me. She said the moment we start to censor ourselves is the moment our writing becomes inauthentic. If you’re worried that someone’s going to be put off by something you wrote, then THAT’s where the gold is. Because The Redheaded Stepchild is a story that’s so close to my heart and doesn’t always speak positively about some of the closest people in my life, I’ve often wondered if I should tone down some of the prose and fictionalize it a little bit more. As such, it was reassuring to hear that I should do nothing of the sort. After all, they’d probably be offended no matter what. And hey, a lot of it IS fiction.

They then asked, how do you get people to read what you’ve read? They stressed the importance of having your own domain for your material, which was one of the first things I did when I decided I wanted to seriously pimp The Redheaded Stepchild, but that having a website means using a unique structure depending on the medium. I always use my own voice, but I’m going to structure my blog posts much differently than my actual writing, as well I should.

After that, they got to the meat of writing a book proposal, and the consensus was that it should have all of the following:

  • The pitch, which has to be written in your own voice, not the cover letter voice you’d use in a resume. The agent should get an idea of your voice after reading the pitch.
  • A chapter summary that everyone hates writing, but summarizes what happens in the story.
  • A market analysis of what makes your book unique compared to similar titles.
  • One or two sample chapters that showcase your best writing and let it speak for itself.

Or something like that. I’ve drank a lot since then. Finally, they outlined one of the best plans for finding an agent – find similar titles to yours and look in the acknowledgments. The author almost always thanks his agent, and that agent can’t turn around and say he doesn’t represent your kind of work.

So what did I learn from this panel? First of all, I need to continue the practice of not censoring myself with my writing. I’ll probably hurt someone’s feelings along the way, but I’d much rather live an authentic life than a safe one. Next, I’ve got to revise my pitch. It sounds like a cover letter for a resume! I’ve got to inject my own voice in there and show them why I’m a writer. I’d heard the agent trick a couple months ago when I went to the Pitchapalooza event, and it bears repeating that I definitely need to do my homework finding books out there that are like mine. I’m sure I’m not the only branch on that tree.

More panel reviews to come, and thanks to the panelists! For audio of the entire panel: http://schedule.sxsw.com/events/event_IAP8326

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Pitchapalooza in Review

Last night I attended a Pitchapalooza event at the KC library and learned a lot of great things about how I can improve my ability to pitch The Redheaded Stepchild, both in query letters and in casual conversation with people. Here are a few of the takeaways I got:

  • Finding good comparison titles is really important. I need to do a better job of this, cause I’ve really got nothing. But I haven’t been working that hard at it, either.
  • Your pitch should give the pitchee an idea of a beginning, middle, and end to your story. This is a challenge for me since the plot is not chronologically structured, but there’s definitely room for improvement.
  • Ending with a question is a way to hook the audience and build intrigue.
  • You must make the intended audience fall in love with the main character (even if they just love to hate him).
  • Use your pitch as a way to demonstrate what a great writer you are. It shouldn’t sound like a use car salesman’s pitch.
  • Think of your book pitch as if you’re pitching a movie, and think to yourself, “who’s the guy on the poster?”

If you’ll recall, one of my goals for the year was to attend more of these events, so I am glad I went, even though I didn’t get picked to pitch. It was a free event, but I had some leftover cash so I bought the book and got the 20-minute consultation with @TheBookDoctors (find them on Twitter). So here is my pitch from last night… stay tuned for the refined version.

My book, The Redheaded Stepchild, is a series of non-chronological, thematically structured slice-of-life short stories about a young woman coming of age in a small town and her complicated relationship with her newly-appointed but icy stepmother.

Don’t get the wrong idea; it’s far from a Cinderella story. There are no singing animals, evil stepsisters, Prince Charming, or happily ever after – just a small town girl trying to establish her identity as anything else and leave her mark on the world, while struggling to escape the reality of where she comes from, and what her life is now.

At around 65,000 words, this 12-story book has the flexibility for publication as a series or as an entire manuscript. It is a work of mainstream literary fiction that will have a focused appeal to women and young adults, but is written for all who love a great story and have an appreciation for detailed prose.

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Weekly writing challenge 1/1/2011

As part of my writer goals for 2011, I am making myself write something every week. One of the things that helped keep me motivated last year was to give myself a weekly writing challenge. If I got inspired by something, I made it my challenge to put it to paper. If someone threw out a challenge, I picked it up. Some were easier than others, some ended up getting killed in the creative process, and some turned out to be phenomenal.

I was handed this challenge by one of my Twitter followers who is hosting a contest. I typically don’t go for writing contests because they usually have some ridiculous price tag and a ridiculously unattainable or puny prize. I also typically don’t bite for horror, because it’s not really my genre, but then again, I don’t really have a genre so I figured I could pull it off. It may or may not be as predictable plot-wise as every horror film from the 1980s, and may or may not be far too much like Rosemary’s Baby, but I hope what it lacks in originality it makes up for with literary merit and proseworthiness. But you be the judge of that.

New short story – The Rainbow Prison.

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2010 in writer review

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is always a time of annual reflection for me, and as I was reflecting on the year that was 2010, I realized how much of a success it has been, and here’s why:

  • I had a total of seven manuscripts published in either print journals, online magazines, websites, or some other medium. Before this year, I had none.
  • I had nine works get accepted for publication. Two of them (ironically enough, the first two) have yet to go to print, so I can’t really count them in the “published” category. What can I say? The world of traditional print publishing is slow.
  • I got a book deal. I didn’t take the book deal, because it was really crappy, but if I can get a really crappy book deal, chances are I can get a less crappy book deal if I keep at it.
  • I started reaching out to other writers, booksellers, and other publishing industry people on Twitter. My relationships on Twitter are directly responsible for three of those seven publications.
  • I pimped my writing – mainly my novel – at South by Southwest and reached out to industry people at the trade shows. This led to two of my publications, both of which were accepted for the site’s best-of-the-year collection.
  • I got a Kindle. This is going to help me understand how writing for this medium is different and will also give me instant access to other independent writers like me and their work.
  • I read. It should be common sense that all writers are readers, but I think we take it for granted. Every time I read something from another author I learn something new.
  • I began participating in an organization to help me with better public speaking skills. I have this pesky slight stutter that comes and goes, and I am an introvert like most writers, and feel uncomfortable talking about my own work, like most writers.
  • I wrote more than 1o new manuscripts. I started far more, but part of a writer’s work is killing the crap.

So, I would say that on a semi-professional writer’s level, the year was a wild success. But I have to keep getting better. Since resolutions are just imaginary, unattainable pipe dreams, I set yearly goals instead of New Year’s Resolutions. Here are my writer’s goals for 2010:

  • Join a writer’s group. I didn’t do it this year because I am not sure if I will be in Kansas City for an entire year, and I didn’t want to pay the year’s dues if I wasn’t going to be.
  • Attend book tour and other events at local bookstores. I’ve already signed up for Pitchapalooza by Rainy Day Books next month, and I attended my first book tour event this year and couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it before. The more I see how other people talk about their work, the better I’ll know how to talk about my own.
  • Give out more business cards at South by Southwest than I did last year. It was my first attempt last year, and I have to get more shameless about it.
  • Write something new, even if it’s just a sentence, once a week, for a total of 25 new manuscripts.
  • Read more books, with 50% of them being independent authors. The Kindle will come in handy here 🙂
  • Publish 10 manuscripts. If I can get 9 accepted manuscripts in one year, I can get at least 10 more if I try harder.
  • Submit something every week. This is always the goal, but I don’t always reach it.
  • Start submitting my novel to both agents and independent book publishers, especially those who specialize in e-print.

I think this is a good set of attainable goals, and I look forward to all that 2011 will bring.

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