Saturday, August 30, 2008

Much of South Louisiana Evacuating!

Map from where you can read their hurricane blog.

My cousin just informed me that Terrebonne and Lafourche parrishes are evacuating in anticipation of Hurricane Gustav. This has been ignored in the media--concern mostly about New Orleans--while there are 2 million people in surrounding areas who are already on the road to high ground.

Here's an additional article on line about what's happening in Southern Louisiana.

Friday, August 29, 2008

"Monsoon" Hits Quality Women's Fiction

"Monsoon" is now available in the August issue of Quality Women's Fiction 53 at the QWF site. Single issue within the US is $14; outside the US is $19. Yearly subscription within the US is $25; outside the US is $35/year. Non-US residents will receive their single issue and subscriptions via email as a PDF file.

A finalist in the Glimmer Train Winter 2007-2008 Fiction Open, "Monsoon" is the story of a jealous wife whose obsession leads to disastrous results.

Thank you, Kathie Giorgio, for choosing my story to appear in this latest issue of QWF.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tania Opens the Door

This morning I was cruising my blog list and ran into a good discussion over at TaniaWrites (worth reading). Who exactly are we competing against when we enter writing contests? THE ANSWER: Everybody and their mothers plus writers who are established. One example Tania gives is a writer who won a recent Narrative Magazine competition, Gina Ochsner.

Tania poses a provocative question. "Now, Gina Ochsner, a very fine writer, has published two short story collections and I see her name in many literary magazines, including the New Yorker. I don't doubt that her prize-winning story is worthy of the prize - but my questions would be, Should she still be entering these comps, given that she doesn't need the exposure/fame as much as some of us?"

Here is my comment left at Tania's Blog:

Provocative discussion, as always, Tania. As a writer with only a small sprinkling of publications, I find it disheartening to hear that those who have achieved what I consider a terrific amount of success--the New Yorker,for goodness sake--should feel inclined to enter competitions, especially if the competitions aren't blind ones. Knowing the identity of a entrant must influence the selection process, even if an editor tries to submerge that urge. Who you are and where you've been in print certainly matters in mainstream publishing.

The New Yorker is one of the most difficult mags to get into. The editors seem to go back to the same known ( and admittedly wonderful)authors time and time again. I don't blame them for this. Ellery Queen does the same thing in its field too, making it really difficult for newer writers, lesser known writers particularly to break in. Also there are very few venues for publication at the commercial level. So if one wants to write a story and publish a piece to a larger audience than say THEMA, that person is already competing against many, many already established writers.

Yes, new writers need to pay their dues. One must earn the right by developing strong craft and inspired content to appear in the best publications. I know because it's taken me a long time to learn exactly what all the goes into a great story and I haven't actually gotten there yet. So I look to contests for the exposure to editors, the deadlines they provide, and the occasional feedback that's offered.

Contests have always offered an opportunity to new and emerging writers. They get the juices flowing, the butt in the chair, the close look at craft out of the writer. "Here is my chance!"

But I've always assumed that in a competition I have been competing against writers like myself, not the Joyce Carol Oates of the world.

I suppose it IS fair in the sense that the world isn't divided up by degree of effort, talent, work ethic, and genius. And there are occasional contests specifically designed for the unpublished.

I suppose, too, I need to work on getting to the next level so people can start complaining about ME!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All I want to do is complain about my lethargy but I'm sick of doing it. So I'm going to take a couple minutes to just riff and see what happens. Don't read if you can't stand getting inside someone else's frustrated mind.

First: The novel. Did a little yesterday but not enough. Felt lost and confused and wondered if I will ever finish this. Flashes of my first "revised" novel kept creeping up on me. Two in the drawer. No!!! But how do I actually make myself do it? I started a to-do list. I put on it Don't Get Organized because I seem to want to do the opposite of what I should do. Why is that?

I hate wait to hear from places. Haven't heard from Flash Fiction On-line regarding "Dani-Girl's Guide to Getting Everything Right." Reread it. Like it a lot but maybe I don't have enough distance yet, though I did send it to them 8-weeks ago today. In my world, usually the longer something is kept, the more likely they like it, but maybe not. There are no rules in writing...but lots of crying. I'm also waiting for "Monsoon" to come out in Quality Women's Fiction. Wrote to the editor there yesterday too and she said it was "in the mail." But I am confused about this publication. Their website never changes, never shows a magazine cover, and I don't understand what she means. My understand is that it would come out in PDF, but I guess I'll just wait and see. The editor is very encouraging and helpful. I like her, I'm just confused. So those two stories are distracting me when what I should be doing is moving on.

Listing Lisa and The Roughening are both sitting on the stove, simmering, with occasion bubbles. I keep thinking I have the answers to each stories problems but then I lose it. I have to go back today to my Ron Carlson write a story in a day today but call it FINISH a story in a day.

Maybe my problem is self-consciousness. As soon as a story begins to sound good before I finish it, I attach all kinds of extra baggage to it. Will this story be the one that really makes it? Can I ever write a really good story again? What if I can make myself do this any more? And then I kind of freeze up. Can someone be embarrassed in the privacy of her own home, at her own desk, with no one standing over her shoulder? Or is really fear? Fear of failure? Or fear of success?

I've had a few people ask me if I was afraid to succeed and I think the answer is yes. Growing up my comfort zone was keeping a low profile, not making any stir, either good or bad. I didn't like attention. Of course, secretly I WANTED attention, positive attention, but was scared to death of the negative kind. Is this what haunts me? Frankly I'm sick of thinking about it.

And I've been sick of thinking about it for a while, yet I keep coming back to it. I hate this tendency. Why can't I just put my butt in the chair and stay there until I'm done?

I know that part of what I have to do is not take myself so seriously. Stop thinking about how if I could only write one piece with real merit I could die happy. But that real merit for me is like something so far away, I can't even see it wink. I'm thinking To Kill a Mockingbird, Tess of the D'Urbevilles , Tale of Two Cities. Now you know why someone always dies in my stories!

Okay. Enough. I feel slightly better and now I'm going to open Listing Lisa and give her a run for her money. She and her husband have got to face-off. I can't skip over it. I have to do it. Go.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Do you know what time it is?

I can't believe it. It's August 25 and this is the year I promised myself I would finish my book. I know. If you read my blog, you must be sick of hearing about it, but I can't help myself. Public admonitions seem to be the only way I can shame myself into doing anything. And since it is that LAST week of August, and the fall will be--if history repeats itself--INSANE, I have to gather myself, think about goals, and how to keep them.

I taped a sign on my fridge about a month ago. It says, "Nothing is more important than the book," and yet today at 8:15 I'm heading out to South Pas to do my Monday morning exercise for two hours. That means by the time I get back it will be 10:30 and I will be whipped. But today, instead of making a face plant in the middle of the couch after I down three 8 ounce glasses of water, I will sit down at the computer.

However, what will grab my attention? Novel or short story? It is, after all, SUBMISSION SEASON! The recognition of submission season a couple of years ago is what finally got me published. I realized that I had to change my slovenly ways and begin to market in an organized way. The first thing I did was set a goal: 100 rejections. This is not an original idea. I'd read about it somewhere and liked the logic. Instead of worrying about how many acceptances I might get--a goal that feels self-defeating from the get-go--I decided to go for the 100 "your piece has no place in our immediate plans" target.

And it worked. Everything I had ready to go since then has found a home except for "Wanting Steven" and at least I got a personal letter from Ellery Queen saying they almost published it. It think Janet Hutchins was on vacation at the time, but I'm still taking it as a triumph!

So of course my consciousness is heightened toward short pieces this time of year, but unfortunately I have nothing really ready except for "Wanting Steven" which I probably need to look at again and figure out why it hasn't found its place before I submit again. So the dilemma: write short stories to submit or finish the book.

My good friend Kev says he spoke to a famous author recently and that author encouraged him to abandon the shorts for the novel and he had lots of legitimate reasons. The market for shorts is steeped in honor and tradition, but only a few of these journals actually reach many people and those people are more likely than not, college students, other writers, academics, and perhaps an small elite of avid readers. To be published in any of these can be good and if you get into say The Georgia Review you are golden, but since most pay in copies of their magazine, it isn't a good way to put a Lean Cuisine on the TV tray.

Kev's author suggested that the "where it's at" in writing is the novel. That's where the money is, where the mass audience is, that's where self-satisfaction can be gained.

This logic makes perfect sense to me, but the novel is sooooo long, soooo indefinite, that it's a struggle to actually dive in day after day with out being tempted to take a writing break with a 1000 word flash for Every Day Fiction, or maybe a 4000 word short. I've got enough starts and if they don't work, there's more cooking up in my brain pan than those.

I suppose I'm rambling this morning because I've just realized I have the months of September, October, November, and December to meet my goal: a little over 120 days. That means I'll have to edit around 3 pages a day to have a somewhat edited manuscript by the new year. It's certainly do-able, but can I do it?

Final note: I did hear from McSweeney's and yes they did reject "Monsoon," but some one jotted me a personal note and I have to say, that got me flying....

Secret: "Monsoon" will be published soon (I hope) by Quality Women's Fiction.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Vacation Optimism, Reality Bites

So I just got back from clean air, lush grasses, and good friends. All the way back on the 12 hour journey from the White Mountains to LA, I listened to Return of the Native. These little ironies happen to me. I also--when not plugged in to my CD player--thought about all the stuff I wanted to accomplish when I got home: new stories down on paper, old stories reread and polished, submission mania, contests to enter; jewelry too with Betsy's boutique coming up in a couple of months, supplies still virgin from Tucson and ideas popping out of my brain; and the painting. A little party in October at the salon of my very kind and loving hair dresser. Lots to do, lots to get ready for. BUT as always, the blush is off the aging sunburned cheek faster than I can say, "What IS that awful smell in the kitchen?"

First my dog. Reality bite #1. Cinder is amazingly alive and well. I've been worried--still worried--that one of these mornings I'm going to wake up and she won't. I couldn't imagine the stress that would be put on my mother-in-law if while staying at our house, SHE woke up and my dog didn't!!! I put her at the vet while we were on vacation. The dog, not the M-I-L. By Friday according to the vet, Cinder was on an I.V. with--well, I won't go into that. Let's just say, I brought her home ($700 dollars later) and after a day, she's back to normal. Her back end is wobbly with arthritis, but she IS 15 1/2 years old. That's over 105 to me!

Second, the daughter---and her dog. Rodeo is a very cute puppy, a 10-month old rescue from Reno, part Australian cattle dog, part ???, and definitely part coyote. Rode is loving, sweet, and just emerging from the traumas of life on the street. I am so proud of how my daughter has nurtured this perky tangle of bones and fur. Having them both here the night we came home from the mountains, however, was a mixed blessing. Thrilled to have them--love that girl--but also difficult because Rodeo IS a puppy and a HERDER, and Cinder, old grand dame that she is, does not like to be herded!!! Plus daughters are distracting. I wanted her to see the last five episodes of So You Think You Can Dance (she doesn't have TIVO and watches no regular TV up on the mountain) and of course, Project Runway. These shows appeal to both of us and our creative spirits so it is tradition to curl up on the sofa, skim through all those ruthless commercials and watch how passion can transform some one. Alas she went back up the hill yesterday. I miss her, but it is now back to reality.

Third, vacation ketchup!! making me bleed tomato sauce. Yep, laundry started, smells finally eradicated, to-do lists written and lost, new sneakers to buy (thank you, Rodeo, I've been putting that task off. Now I HAVE to go shopping!), and multitudinous loose ends to tie up including transferring photos to the desktop so I can send pix to all the people I promised too.

And of course there's those teeth marks from the reality bites in my "creative life" too. Lots of writing deadlines I'd like to meet: Clapboard House, the Fish Anthology (thanks for the heads up, Sarah), Writer's Digest's popular fiction, and short shorts contests. New ideas are cooking up in the brain pan, but I need a week of uninterrupted work time to organize and get started. I hope that begins today.

I probably have more than enough paintings for the Masters Studio spot in October, but I have made almost no jewelry is six months except for the twenty or so bracelets Lynne and I cranked out for my son's bride-to-be shower in June. Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. There is that wedding in October, weight to be lost, skin to be polished and I wish tightened (no way I'll go under the knife: does anyone know a miracle cream for 59 year old skin?), and shopping for the M-O-G dress. MOG! What a great word to describe the emotion of trying to look good for wedding photos! I'm feeling very MOGGY today!

So my dance card is full and I'm feeling less optimism than I did toward the end of the week last week when all I had to worry about was washing my hands for dinner. But at least I know what's on the agenda for the next couple months and that given this, I hope I remember to employ the word "NO" when REALITY BITES.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back from the Arizona Mountains

Yes there are mountains in Arizona blooming with purple cinquefoil, Cowboy's Fried Egg, and Black-Eyed Susan. The aspen trees flutter in the breeze, the lodge-pole pines tower over the meadows and the horses, what can I say about the horses?

I'll show you what I mean:

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Submission Season

It's summer and toodling through various writing sites this week, I remembered that August kicks off "Submission Season," the time when college literary types head back to school and brace for the mudslide of submissions coming their way. This might be a literal description at the University of Iowa after the flooding this past year, but hopefully the Hawkeyes will return to freshly scrubbed floors, gleaming walls, and no dead fish hiding in the school server.

August means it's time for writers to polish their pieces one more time, buy 9X12 envelopes, and a slew of postage. I'm ready, but scared. I've got a lot to do, but I absolutely must send out. It's the only way to get oneself read. So I too must brace myself.

A writer friend reminded me last week that for her, July is the beginning of a new writing season. July because for Sharon and me, as well as Jim, Ellen, and the rest of my old Iowa Summer Writing Festival buds that's the month we used to meet in Iowa City to attend workshops, drink Blue Moon, and work up a sweat (literally) at keyboards only to have our butts frozen off at the EPB.

I hope it happened this year. I hope they all went. I did not. Haven't for the last two years and have to admit this year, I really missed it. Maybe it was the pictures of the campus underwater my sister sent me triggering my angst. Or maybe it was just realizing that I'm so out of touch now, me in California and my "Iowa" friends scattered over the country: Sharon in Galesburg, Jim in Chicago, Ellen in St. Louis. I also miss Elizabeth, Lisa, and Enza. We had good times. But that was then and this is now. And now means getting writing, get submitting!

This DRIVE to SUBMIT has paid off. I started two years ago with the goal of 100 rejections. Yes. I know. That's weird. But for me if my goal is called a DRIVE to PUBLISH, it's too easy to get disheartened, so I changed the language. What that did for me was gave me something I had power over. No one can stop me from writing something, sticking it in an envelope, and sending it out. That's in my power. Also in my power is the make that submission the best piece I can.

With those goals, I've had actual PUBLISHING success. Not big success. The editors from Tin House and McSweeneys (actually McSweeney's owes me a rejection, but since I can barely navigate their site, it's okay) are not pounding down my door yet, YET, but enough success to keep me striving and if there's one thing I've learned, it's the necessity for persistence. Persistence has over the last two years gotten me three pieces in print, three publications on line with two other pieces accepted, one coming out in August at Women's Quality Fiction and another in the fall at EDF. So now I'm into my third submission season and I've got to make the best of it. (Yes, Jane, I hear you. The novel. THE NOVEL!)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Art has its way with me

Okay. If you haven't read my ADD post, now might be a good time. I don't know what's going on, but the last couple years have blown apart my left brain, leaving it strewn across the landscape like so many abandoned PDAs, and crowned my right brain as Grand Empress of the Skull. I guess this must have something to do with the REPRESSION of creative flow and the sudden release of constraints, but whatever it is, it's damned fun. So far this year I have painted fifteen pictures and in October a friend has generously granted me the opportunity to show at his business what I can do with a tube of acrylic metal paint, wire, and crap I gather from the streets of South Pas. If you thought I was done with you guys, you're wrong. Invitations forthcoming.

Meanwhile, here's ONE direction all this exploding brain matter has taken me.

Now back to the book.