Prayer for students who wish to learn in relative peace:
As we walk these bustling hallways, hallowed be their name,
Raised by those we may (or may not) be eager to please,
Know, Death, your quest to win this cold, godforsaken game
Leads us to ensure this fire for learning will not cease,
And the hand that holds the gun bears the burden of shame.
Never again will a child’s blood coat your mouthpiece
Devoid of louder voices, active minds, truer aim.
The last two weeks have been pretty busy in terms of my writing! Here are the highlights:
Last Sunday: I facilitated the Community Writing Circle at the Capital Hill Library here in Seattle! The CWC is run by Minor Arcana Press, an indie poetry press where I happen to be Editor *subtle self-serving plug* and I've attended several, but this was my first time as the facilitator. It was a lot of fun! The point of the CWC is to bring writers of all levels together, and also let everyone write on a few prompts and maybe try out a new form or genre. We had a small but enthusiastic turnout. I discussed the elements of flash fiction and encouraged everyone to attempt a few short pieces -- and I think I scored a few converts. You really can tell a story in 250 words, I promise!
Last Monday: I got the very happy news that It Starts With Hope, the anthology of poetry released by the Center for Victims of Torture (from their wonderful Tumblr project of the same name) is now available for sale, and I'm very proud to have my poem "Convalescence" included and to support the wonderful work that the Center is doing every day.
Last Tuesday: More amazing news - (official announcement here) my short nonfiction piece "Nine Kinds of Ice Cream," which appeared earlier this year at Dead Housekeeping, has been nominated for 2016's Best of the Net! I am humbled and thrilled and really terribly excited, not least because the piece is a personal favorite.
Wednesday: This week, I learned that the Unchaste Readers Series Anthology, which will include my poem "Beauty is Low," will launch on October 22nd in Portland! More details to follow.
***In non-writing news, last week was also a banner time for my health. I suffered a bad fall on July 25th, spraining my ankle and injuring all the ligaments in that foot, as well as lacerating my face to the tune of nine stitches. After a lengthy initial recovery, I was cleared by my doctors last week to go forth and be free of all crutches and bandages. (For a while there, I looked like a walking infirmary.) I still have some long-term healing to go in both cases, but the worst is over and I'm still able to recognize the person in the mirror, so I'm counting it as a double win. Plus, now I can walk and carry stuff in my hands at the same time! It's the little things.
One final note: For you fellow flash fiction enthusiasts, the one and only Yeah Write is running a microfiction Super Challenge beginning October 7th! Registration opens tomorrow (9/9) and I am READY. You should give it a try too! Join me in the madness.
Apologies for not having blogged in a while, but I had a busy spell after AWP, followed by a bout of pneumonia at the end of May that knocked me off course for several weeks. But I'm back and getting caught up, and I wanted to put up this post as a little reminder that the life of a writer is not all (or even mostly) readings and acceptance letters and conventions in fabulous locales.
Here is a list of my rejection stats for the last six years. I think there are actually a few more than the number shown in some cases, because I didn't get really hardcore with tracking until about 2013.
2010: 2 acceptances, 10 rejections
2011: 10 rejections
2012: 11 rejections
2013: 4 acceptances, 20 rejections
2014: 12 rejections
2015: 1 acceptance, 33 rejections
and so far for 2016, I'm at 5 acceptances, 15 rejections, with 6 more submissions still waiting for a response, including my first-ever application for a fellowship. Plus anything else I submit this year.
There's a lot of rejection that you have to face in a writing career. A LOT. I don't even write full-time. Plus, I'm counting these rejections by venue, not items submitted. So some of these represent one story rejected by a magazine, while others represent five poems that received a single form rejection letter from a contest. The item numbers are BRUTAL.
Did I think about quitting during that looooong stretch between 2010 and 2013? Yep.
Did I think about it again during 2014 and into 2015? Uh huh.
Am I glad I didn't give up writing? Yes - though with the caveat that, again, this is a career that will ride roughshod over whatever scrap of ego you have. It isn't for everyone. And there is no shame in deciding it isn't for you, or that you're happy to write just for yourself but not submit anywhere. I know several writers who do exactly that, and they are joyful creatures. I am not them. I have a need for misery.
I will point out one other thing, though. The more I submit, the more acceptance letters I receive. Math doesn't lie. It is important to keep sending out those emails and manuscripts, to keep making the attempt. You'll never have what you didn't try to get.
Now, I'm not going back on what I said in the previous paragraph. You're allowed to quit. Just - send one more submission before you do.
2015 was a year that didn't go as I expected in any sense. I did set some goals for my writing, and even though I didn't meet all of them, some amazing things happened.
I set a goal at the beginning of 2015 to send out 100 submissions during the year. I picked that number because I reviewed previous years on Duotrope and realized I'd only been sending out 20-25 submissions per year. I wanted to publish more, so submitting more seemed like the wisest step. In the end, my submissions for this year didn't quite reach that level, but I did come out at around 70 for the year - roughly equal to my total for the last three years!
Unfortunately, outof all those submissions, every one I received a response back on was a no. (There are several still awaiting responses.) That was a bit rough. I got four or five rejections in one week. I ate a lot of chocolate that week.
As it happens, that doesn't mean I didn't get anything published in 2015. I did have one poem appear on a wonderful blog. I was solicited for a piece for the first time ever. And I wrote a nonfiction piece that was accepted for an anthology that's still in progress, but will hopefully appear in print in the first half of this year.
Another goal I set was to do National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) this year. I did not make it to the finish line (50,000 words) but I did rack up my highest wordcount to date for a NaNo novel. And I had the unique oportunity to teach a one-day class on the NaNo experience and offers some tips and aids to rookies and veterans alike.
I also dreamed bigger and better this year. I submitted to larger and more well-known publications, started more pieces, had more ideas, and also formalized my tracking of my rejections as well as submissions.
I joined the independent Minor Arcana Press as an Editor over the summer. Being on the other side of the submissions desk is a new experience for me, and one I am embracing. I'll post here from time to time about our upcoming projects.
If you've looked at some of the other posts in this blog, you'll know that I occasionally participate in the weekly challenges at YeahWrite. While I have had some hits and some misses, I can say with some pride that I had one flash fiction piece in 2015, "Terminal," that landed an Editor's Pick, a Top Three, and a Crowd Favorite (top place in the site voting). I hope to manage a few more of those in 2016.
Speaking of 2016, I have some other goals in mind. I'm still formulating the details, and hope to post a list later this week. Meanwhile, we're here - the New Year is upon us. Nothing is certain, of course, but I'm hoping to do everything bigger and better this year when it comes to writing. I have some great pieces in progress, and some great ideas. And the calendar is smack-dab at one of my favorite places: the beginning.
“Merry Christmas, Gramma! Wake up!”
Nettie dragged her eyelids slowly apart and squinted at the digital clock’s red numbers. 5:47AM.
“Gramma wake up! It’s snowing! Merry Christmas!” Kiki’s voice rang back as she went running down the hall.
Nettie sat up and pulled her robe from the foot of the bed, wrapping it warmly around herself, then pushed her feet into her slippers and headed down the hall.
Kiki was in front of the big living room window, leaning over the back of the old brown couch to look outside. She was dressed in blue flannel pajamas, her little head topped with several small braids that were a bit sleep-tousled despite all the brightly colored barrettes weighing the ends down. One of her small feet was up on the armrest of the couch and dangerously close to a few ornaments on the Christmas tree.
“Kiki, watch your feet,” Nettie said, fumbling to put her glasses on.
“But look Gramma, isn’t it nice? Look how it comes up the windows and makes pretty patterns.”
Nettie pushed her glasses up onto her nose and stepped up to the window, just behind Kiki. When her vision came into focus, she gasped.
The ground was completely white. Nettie’s old Dodge wagon and the other cars in the lot, the mailboxes, and the front porch roof all had a coating too. Everywhere there were hundreds – thousands – millions – of tiny white spiders, crawling and covering everything. Spiders were slowly making their way up the window glass and swinging down from the crabapple tree. Somewhere down the block, a woman screamed.
Nettie gasped and pulled the curtains shut.
“Gramma, why’d you do that? I wanna see the snow!” Kiki pouted.
“Baby, that’s not snow. Don’t go outside or open the windows!” Nettie picked up the phone and dialed 911, but got only a busy signal. She hung up and looked around. The living/dining room of the two-bedroom apartment didn’t have much in the way of furniture: couch, coffee table, tv stand, Nettie’s armchair in the corner, the small table and chairs where they ate meals. She turned on the television, hoping for the morning news.
“Just a terrible mess,” said a blonde newscaster, shaking her perfectly hot-curled head behind a long desk. “For those of you just tuning in, the town of Lampwick has been overrun by a huge swarm of white spiders. No one has been able to contact local authorities, and the National Guard and fire departments from the surrounding areas are being mobilized. If you are in the affected area, please stay in your homes and wait for help. We--”
Nettie turned off the tv. It was now 6:00AM.
“Gramma, can we open presents? Can we?”
Nettie rubbed a hand across her forehead, looking at Kiki’s little face. She clearly had no idea that she was in any danger. “Tell you what, baby,” Nettie said gently, “let’s have some breakfast first. I’ll start the water for the grits. Want some bacon?”
“Sure!” Kiki said happily. “Can I watch tv?”
Nettie turned the tv back on and switched to a children’s program running on a cable channel. “There you go.”
Kiki happily settled into the couch cushions.
Nettie put a small pot of water on the stove and turned the heat on, then went down the hallway to the closet and pulled out a large bath towel. She walked back down the hallway, folding the towel into a flat, narrow rope, and stuck it underneath the front door, wedging it tight. Peeking into Kiki’s room, she took a sheet of paper and a bright green marker from the little desk and wrote “2 people in here. Please help!” on the paper. She grabbed a strip of tape from a kitchen drawer, and pulled back one curtain behind the couch just far enough to put the sign up in the window. The spiders covered more of the glass now, but there was room for the sign to be seen, if someone was looking. Nettie shivered and tried not to think about bug spray and fire and how long it might take to come from any roads leading out of town. She closed the curtain again.
“Okay, Kiki, scrambled eggs or fried?” she called over her shoulder. “And how many pieces of bacon?”
“Scrambled!” called the tiny voice from the living room. “And two bacons please!”
Nettie put the bacon on, singing a Christmas carol to herself in a voice that hardly sounded like her own.
“Today’s the day.” Lili straddled Kevin, pinning his arms down. “Seven years tonight.”
“I’m sorry, okay?! I can’t bring her back!”
“You can.” With the blood from his wound, Lili drew the circle around them both, chanting quietly.
Kevin started to cry.
Mika giggles. The curtain drifts outward.
“Where are you?” I singsong, pointing. The man nods.
“Can’t find me!” Laughter.
The man grabs Mika, curtain and all.
“Hey!” I yell.
He drops a billfold, drags my little brother away.
Tonight I’ll eat.
“Hit the sand, duck, crawl fast. Guns are mounted at three feet.”
I tie the message into my rotting pointe ribbons. “Ready.”
When I step onto Lily’s interlocked fingers, she lifts me high.
As I jeté over the wall, I hear screams.