Make Time For Your Writing and Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

Last week my Forms professor, Julianna Baggott, told our class the exact information that my little ears needed to hear. The message of her self-described “fiery speech” was this:

  • You (the writing student) have essentially put your life on hold. You’ve halted whatever path you had before VCFA and have come to learn, to write, to make, to dig in fully. We’re here, so by all means, be here fully.
  • No one cares if you publish anything. No one cares if you write another word. Harsh, right? But it’s true. No one is breathing over you saying : Keep writing. Keep creating stories in your head and share them with the world. It’s all on you. You have to care about your own work because no one else will if you don’t put the time and energy and love into it.

I really took this to heart (I’ve taken pretty much everything Julianna has told me to heart. I can’t write down what she says in class fast enough sometimes.)

Because I haven’t been afraid to say no to trivia nights or going out for dinner with friends, I’ve been able to finish the first draft of a magical realism novelette. In total, it’s about 13,000 words.

I’m learning a lot about my writing style through the writing of this piece. I really found the narrator’s voice early on, which guided the piece’s experimental and fragmented form. The idea for the piece began with a strong image: “an oil spill contained within a mint tin.” To obtain this item quickly became the motivation and guiding desire for my main character. (Yes, I’ve always wanted to write a MacGuffin story). From there, I found ways to explore how I could use that item to get at different angles of characters, as well as explore the history of oil spills in Michigan.

The first half of the story just went through a workshop with the whole class. Oh my, is there work to be done. There are some holes that will need to be patched up in this next draft. One character especially, the mother, is severely underdeveloped. So she and I will have to spend a lot of time together this weekend, unpacking her backstory and how she came to be the person she is today.

Even though I am nervous going into next week’s workshop of my story’s second half, I feel somewhat comforted that the overall feedback from my classmates was that it was enjoyable to read. Other comments included that it was fast paced despite its length, and the unique and witty main character is someone readers want to root for.

I have to just keep in mind that part of the fun in writing first drafts is that so much of it is exploration. Writers are really just archaeologists scraping up the layers of story deep inside blank paper. Sometimes, we dig up pieces that don’t go with the story we’re presently telling. Sometimes, we find a lead, but we don’t dig deep enough. Or we simply pause for a break and in later drafts, pick up the relevant pieces we hadn’t found earlier.

So I go onward with my shovel and my dishrag. I am looking forward to uncovering more of my story from under the earth’s crust and polishing all of the pieces. Because I do care, Julianna, I do. Because I want to know what happens next in my characters’ lives. Because I want to work hard so other people can care, too.

New Poem and Interview up at Orange Quarterly

This post is proof that just because you enter a writing contest and the results are not in your favor does not mean you have zero chance at getting published! Back in April, a fellow writer shared a contest opportunity with me. It was put on by a small press in Northern Michigan called Green House Press. I entered a batch of poems, put up my slippers, and waited the whole summer, eagerly checking my email for the contest results.

Finally, in September, I received notice that I had not won the prize. However, the press was very enthusiastic about one of my poems and asked if it was still available to be published in Orange Quarterly, the journal associated with Green House Press.

This is one reason why I love the writing world. Rejection and acceptance can so often waltz together in the same breath. We live for these tender interactions, I think. It’s all part of the balancing act.

It is such a sweet treat to have my poem, #28, included in the revival issue of Orange Quarterly, along so many prestigious authors, like Keith Taylor. My very first literary interview can be read online there, too. For so long, I have always been the interviewer (which don’t get me wrong, interviewing authors is one of my favorites things to do) but how exciting it is to be on the other end this time!

Thank you so much to Allison Peters and staff at Orange Quarterly/Green House Press. I hope you enjoy the read!


Down the Rabbit Hole

Wow, wow, wow. It’s already November. I have been at VCFA for two full months. Time here is strange. It goes by both slowly and rapidly, though maybe that’s true of all time in general. Time is a tricky sort, going ever onward without stopping. Never looking back as it tumbles through the rabbit hole. And then there is the camera which can freeze time and put it in a capsule. Here is a picture of a tree, which I cashed in five minutes of my life staring at on a walk a few days ago. Just me and this tree, observing each other eye to eye, bud to bud, trunk to trunk. What can I say—I have a thing for dendrite patterns.

Hallowe’en was something, as usual. Full of costume parties (I was Sherlock Holmes!) and Monster Mashes and petting little black cats. While I’m not officially participating in NaNoWriMo, I’m making up my own rules to write something creative every day and work on building a story of mine into something a little larger. I’ve recently fallen into this writing cave to finish a draft of a story, and finally yesterday, I completed the first draft! Yes indeed, this draft has a beginning, middle, and end. It is just over 12K, a nice novelette length piece. I’ve basically been following Neil Gaiman’s writerly advice: “Write. Finish things. Go for walks. Read a lot & outside your comfort zone. Stay interested. Daydream. Write.” I’m especially excited to have followed the advice to “finish things.” Funny enough, that can be the hardest one to do. This story is still an infant, but I believe in its future and want to see it grow into adulthood and find its home somewhere in the world.

In other random news, if you don’t know the Facebook page, “Corgi Overload,” here is your official invitation. You may not have known you needed this in your life, but here’s me saying you do.

Here in this Vermontian November, I am happy and feeling inspired. I am enjoying every part of figuring out this novelette’s puzzle. Everything outside my window is falling leaves and mystical gray skies. Hoorah to warm fuzzies and lemon ginger tea.


Two New Fiction Pieces “Limerence” and “High Yellow” in Dream Pop Press

I am overjoyed that two of my short fiction pieces, “Limerence” and “High Yellow,” are in the second issue of Dream Pop Press, which you can read online here. Both take you into very surreal situations, but in very different locations. “Limerence” gives you access inside a fantastic shadow emporium, where a deeply conflicted employee finds herself sacrificing everything to save a stranger’s soul, while “High Yellow” is a nod to Icarus in an art museum setting.

An excerpt from “High Yellow”:

The sign warns Do Not Touch. Anyone who has ever been to an art museum before understands this. There is even a limp string, roping off the space one foot from the wall. And still, the man reaches his hand forward. Slowly, as if he has never observed his arm move this way through air. The gallery assistant nearest to the impending incident speaks at the man, but he doesn’t flinch in shock/cringe in fear/flex in rebellion/not even a nod of juvenile embarrassment. Other assistants gather now—other patrons too—around him, forming a semi-circle. Around the man with the goldfinch on his shoulder.

I especially want to thank VCFA alum and founding editor, Isobel O’Hare, and her co-editor, Carleen Tibbetts, for their encouragement and excitement about these pieces. I’m so delighted to be featured in this issue!