26. June 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

A friend convinced me to participate in the Clarion West Write-A-Thon. (I don’t know if “convinced” is the right word, but it’s easier to fit into a grammatically coherent sentence than “peer-cudgeled me on Twitter.”) My relationship with Clarion West is still pretty new, and I’ve never been an enthusiastic fundraiser–there is a reason I am not in sales–but I could see her point: Clarion is so deeply connected to the Northwest sci-fi and fantasy scene, and such a great resource for fans and writers, that okay fine, it’s worth it.

But as the name implies, the point of the Write-A-Thon is to write yourself as far as you can. Farther than you’re really comfortable with. It’s supposed to be a significant challenge, one so inspiring that your friends and family throw money in your path. Perhaps to distract you from this absurd promise you’ve made. My problem is, with the way the last two months have gone, I would probably break both hands in a freak washing-machine accident the moment I clicked “publish.” I didn’t want to tempt fate by implying that I could handle additional challenges, bring it on, I ain’t scurred, etc. I am plenty scurred: by manual transmissions, by blind corners, by environmental carcinogens and sticks on which my puppy might puncture her soft palate. I’m doing fine, thanks. I don’t need to add 20,000 words a week to the mix.

I realized, though, that there was something I’d been putting off for quite a while, something that both required some steel on my part and seemed like a big enough deal to list up next to other writers’ promises of a story or chapter a week. And, even better, it only required a minor time commitment.

I would shop a story. To paid markets, for the first time.

(I know, right? I’m so important.)

I went into this with my expectations extremely low (I am a writer, after all, and the breed isn’t exactly known for sunny optimism). Everything I have ever read or heard describes the process of selling work as an exercise in humiliation, inefficiency, prejudice and self-doubt. I couldn’t let myself get crushed. Expect belated, offhand rejection and don’t take it personally, is what I’d been told. I nodded and inscribed this ostentatiously onto my forearms and my Write-A-Thon page, and all the while the wicked little homunculus in my head cackled about how I’ll show them all, I’m going to be rich and famous by month’s end, see? Rich and famous and you can’t stop me!

Maybe not a homunculus. Actually, it looks more like a Muppet version of the dog from As Good As It Gets. You can even see the sticks that make its hands wave around. He’s wearing a seersucker three-piece suit and a straw boater. He’s a dapper little villain.

That little guy’s not alone in there. There’s another one–this one’s probably wearing a black turtleneck–that’s already wailing about how worthless I am and pointless this endeavor is. The two of them compete for volume and floor space. Things are thrown. It’s basically a junior high-school Muppet sleepover in there.

We waited. And somehow both Muppets managed to be right.

The piece I sent to Daily Science Fiction–my first submission anywhere, ever–did not get rejected out-of-hand. It made it through the slush pile and into a stack where they claimed it was pretty much a 50/50 chance it would see publication. The Muppet in the turtleneck had to go lie down.

And then, because this is reality, about a week later I got the “Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately…” email. It came with a note from the editors claiming that while they liked the story, it wasn’t a perfect fit for their market. The “it’s not you, it’s me” of the publishing world. The other Muppet had to go lie down too.

I’m surprised at how not-devastated I am. If anything, I’m kind of relieved; if my first-ever submission got published, my writer friends (HI GUYS!) would probably fantasize about rimming my martini with hemlock, and the weight of all that good luck’s implications would simply terrify me. So this is probably the best possible outcome, in that both the Muppets have been validated. The balance must be maintained.

Really, though, I’m grateful for the challenge. I have known for the last year that this was the next step; I have known since January that, okay, now’s the right time, I’m ready so c’mon. The Write-A-Thon has been a good excuse to take the step while raising funds for an organization that’s done me good.

(Plus it’s an opportunity to write a self-profile, and you show me a writer who doesn’t like a good self-profile and… well, actually, don’t show  me, just give me their contact info, because I know a great low-cost therapy program.)

There’s always next time: the next story, the next market.

18. June 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

This whole starting-a-blog-then-not-updating-the-blog is the exact opposite of what I wanted to do, and the exact reason why I kept delaying starting a blog in the first place. Some of the delay is due to miscalculations on my part. Such as: I probably shouldn’t have started the month before a three-week honeymoon, but I thought I’d have time to write while we traveled. Instead we just did this:

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I should have guessed. That’s why honeymoons exist, right? Because your new marriage is distracting. You basically need to be locked in a room together. Or locked in Provence together. Whatever. Either way, real life is really not a thing you want to deal with, honeymoon-wise. Blogs included.

We got back home, settled in, me with thoughts of Europe-related posts in my head as I idly browsed Petfinder, because after you get married you get a dog, right? But we were in no hurry; I’d told myself I wanted a dog for my thirtieth birthday, which at this point was six months away.

A week to the day after our honey-plane landed, this happened:

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So, here’s a little history: I had a dog once. He was a shit, stubborn and antisocial and prone to bite. We had a lot in common. Being something of a secret introvert, I preferred the low-pressure companionship of animals over people anyway. You don’t get in incomprehensible, pulse-pounding, world-stopping scream-fights with Cairn terriers (or if you do, it’s probably your fault and not really the dog’s). The dog died in the middle of a sequence of events that, if taken singly, would have put a normal person out of mental/emotional commission for months; I got them all at over the course of one horrible springtime at the age of seventeen. The dog, though by far not the worst thing in the sequence of things, was the loss that I carried closest and longest.

Twelve years later, this new pup carries some heavy emotional investments with her. It’s good; it’s just big. And, again, distracting. And time-intensive. And exhausting.

Oh and then two weeks later this happened:

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Hear the crunch? Yeah, that wheel isn’t turned. That’s just how it is, now. I’m fine–in that I walked away from the accident, not that there are no consequences–but the car was totaled.

Car shopping is a lot of work, especially when you and your new husband have competing priorities (me: room for pup, can haul dirt, park on a postage stamp, tank-strong; him: manual transmission; feels like you are riding a dragon).

Our compromise:

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It’s a great little car! The problem?

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this stick-shift-y thing my husband insisted on. So we have a new car. I just can’t drive it yet.

Add to this some currently-minor, could-develop-into-major health issues that, in concert with the rather jarring experience of being hit-and-run in a car I’ve been driving for my entire adult life, and I have a pretty solid recipe for some realizations regarding mortality, control and the fickle nature of life. So: feelings.

I hate starting ambitious (semi-ambitious? It is just a blog) projects and then abandoning them–it’s embarrassing. Even worse when you do it in public. For example: I had been planning on running a half-marathon in November. I told people this. I boasted, even, though they were subtle boasts. I hope.

And then I got a puppy. And in a car accident. And I’m seeing doctors weekly. This all takes up the time I thought I’d be spending running myself into half-marathon shape. So that’s out the window. Which, okay, is a tiny bit of a relief, but also, shame! Shame!

One public embarrassment is enough for this year. You shan’t see me shirking another commitment (nor deleting this blog in the dead of night, which I have not considered at all). No! I am here! I mean it! For real!