Thursday, January 27, 2011

Not built for waiting

Writers are the worst people for waiting. At least this writer is. And the cruelty of this business is that it is all about waiting. Waiting for critiques, waiting for responses on queries, waiting for news on partials or fulls, waiting for results of submissions, waiting for publication, reviews, and on and on.

So we have all the time in the world to think things like...

"OK, it's been 56 hours since I clicked the Send button on my submission. I haven't heard anything back yet. That must mean if got lost in cyberspace." or "No news is good news." followed by "No news is bad news."

It should just be waiting. But it isn't. It is dedicated time for our fertile imaginations to go into overdrive.

Two days ago, I sent my latest serial to the magazine editor for approval. And now I have what I call Refresh Syndrome (the main symptom is uncontrollable clicking of the Refresh button on my inbox). I haven't heard back yet.

Key frantic imaginings, which go along the lines of "I haven't heard back yet because the fiction editor must have liked it enough to send it to the editor in chief, who is now reading it. That's a good sign." Which is immediately followed by "I haven't heard back yet because there is something in it she doesn't like and is writing the revision letter." Logic -- meaning the voice that says "It's only been two days and they have other things to do. Relax."-- has no place here.

My husband is a scientist. Scientists have to wait, too. But they don't stand over an experiment muttering to themselves and thinking up multiple scenarios about what is going on, all while knowing that it will be days before they can expect some kind of meaningful results. No, they just make notes and get on with another project.

Waiting requires us to be detached, cool, logical. These are not things a writer is known for. At least not this writer. Yet one more of the bitter ironies of the writer's world.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Everyone needs an anthem

I've just jumped on Alex J. Cavenaugh's Music Blogfest bandwagon (don't forget to go check out the other entries), but I'm going to break the rules a little bit. You see, I don't listen to music when I'm writing (I have enough words inside my head... adding lyrics just makes it hard to hear them).

I'm going to talk about one song. It's the song that I listen to when this writing business gets really hard (which, of course, seems like most of the time). It's The Climb by Mylie Cyrus (or Hannah Montana).

OK, get the laughs out now. I'll wait.

Done? OK, good. Now I am a thirty-something wife and mother-of-two. I grew up listening to 80s music. I'm married to a former metal head and current electric guitar enthusiast. So I get a lot of stick when this comes booming through the iPod dock at home. (And it happened once when our hip-hop music-producing neighbor was over for dinner).

My reaction? (and I quote...)

Everybody needs an anthem, some piece of music that inspires or speaks to them. And when it feels like you are facing some form of rejection every other day, you take your inspiration where you can get it. Don't diss the Mylie.

So without further ado, here are the lyrics. You be the judge...
The Climb

Mylie Cyrus

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on
'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Keep on moving, keep climbing
Keep the faith, baby
It's all about, it's all about the climb
Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa

Songwriters: Alexander, J; Mabe, J;

I haven't figured out how to embed the audio file so I'll give you the music video (just listen with your eyes closed).

To me, this song perfectly captures how I feel about working toward publication. I might never get there but I am so blessed to have the opportunity to try. Hard or not, this is a journey worth making.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Bridport Prize Writing Contest

Another writing contest for you...

From The Bridport Prize press release:
The Bridport Prize is the richest open writing competition in the English language - with £5000 first prize for a short story (of up to 5000 words); and £5000 first prize for a poem (of up to 42 lines). The new category of Flash Fiction attracts £1,000 to be won for the best short, short story of under 250 words.

The Bridport is also known as a tremendous literary stepping stone - the first step in the careers of writers such as: Kate Atkinson, Tobias Hill, Carol Ann Duffy and Helen Dunmore.

Anyone can enter - so long as the work is previously unpublished. It costs £7 per story, £6 per poem or £5 per flash fiction and the closing date is 30th June 2011.
Full details are available at The Bridport Prize website. Note that this is a UK contest but is open worldwide.

I like writing contests because I work best with a deadline (I try to enter 3-4 contests a year). And I like this writing contest because it has excellent judges, a low entry fee (just over $10 for a short story), and a great payoff if you win (both monetary and reputation). The competition is tough so it challenges me to send my very best work in. I haven't been short-listed yet but I will keep trying!

So if you are a short-story writer, or need a deadline to get you writing daily, this is a great one to check out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest

Are you inspired by Jane Austen? Love to read her books? Looking for a way to build publication credits? Whether your love to read or write is inspired by Jane Austen, here's a contest for you.

The Republic of Pemberly, an amazing site for all things Regency and Jane Austen, is hosting a short story contest in conjuntion with Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose (another great Austen site) and Random House. The winner's story will appear in the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, to be edited by Laurel Ann and published by Random House this year.

Jane Austen Made Me Do It contains more than twenty best-selling and popular authors who have contributed short stories inspired by Jane Austen, her novels and her philosophies of life and love. From historical continuations of her plots and characters to contemporary spinoffs and comedies, the stories encapsulate what we love about our favorite author: romance, social satire and witty humor. Contributing to the line-up are best-selling authors Karen Joy Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club), Adriana Trigiani (Brava, Valentine), Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation series), Laurie Viera Rigler (The Jane Austen Addict series), Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen), Stephanie Barron (Being A Jane Austen Mystery series), and the husband and wife writing team of Frank Delaney (Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show) and Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances). Many Austenesque authors and others from related genres have already contributed to the project. One spot in the anthology remains open for the lucky Grand Prize winner.

To enter, you must submit an original, previously unpublished 5000 word short story of your own creation inspired by, or based upon, Jane Austen, her novels, characters, letters, philosophies of life and/or love. The story can be set in any era and may include romantic and suspenseful elements, but you must stay within the realm of Jane Austen's sphere of social decorum, avoiding profanity, violence or "adult" content. The contest is open to previously unpublished (short stories OK) US residents. Full details are available here.

The contest is open now and runs through February 13. Voting for the Top Ten finalists runs February 14 - 28, 2011 on Pemberley, with the Top Ten finalists announced on March 1, 2011. The Grand Prize winner receives $500.00 and a contract for publication in the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It.

Since Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors, and as I spent the better part of a year researching the Regency for my novel, I am definitely entering this. Plus, a shot at publication in a Random House book? Sign me up!

If you like writing short stories, head on over. If you like reading short stories, head on over! There are currently a few entries up for viewing and I'm hoping mine will be there soon. And don't worry, I'll post a reminder when it is time to vote.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I can stop anytime I want to...

It's been exactly two months since my last post. Where was I? Here the whole time, but staying away from Blogger Dashboard in my own personal version of rehab. Turns out that blogging is generally bad for me.

Back in 2009, when I first started working on my book, I would get to the computer first thing in the morning, check my email, open Word and write for hours. I was organized, disciplined, and treated writing like my job (which it is). Once I reached the query stage, my world opened up and I discovered blogging. At first, it was a lifeline. Reading other blogs helped me feel like I wasn't alone. But once I started following 100+ blogs, and tried to be a good follower by reading and commenting on everything, my productivity was shot. I was spending hours trying to keep up, and feeling guilty when I didn't.

And then there was my own blog. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but my self-esteem is tied way too closely to comments and stats. When I post something, I constantly check back to see who has commented and how many people have visited. And when the numbers aren't great, I feel terrible. And since I've been querying for a year, my ego really doesn't need much more pummelling before I start to sink into a funk.

So for the past two months, I have limited myself to reading. I skim every blog I follow (though most I do still read in full). I rarely comment anymore, though there are a lot of times I want to, even just to let you know I'm still lurking around. I miss posting, because I keep seeing interesting stuff out there (contests, etc.) that I'd like to share. I even write posts in my head (usually when I'm in the shower). I worry that this post is going to be like a drink for an alcoholic.

So once again I'm going to try to find a balance. I'll need to see how many times I check my stats this week. I'll stop lurking and make a few comments. I'll limit how much time I spend on Blogger.

I'll take it one day at a time.