Reasons I’m Not Writing A Story Right Now

  1. I’m writing this blog post.
  2. I’d rather check my email.
  3. I’d rather write an email.
  4. I’d rather war with myself about how I shouldn’t write the email I want to write because I’ve written enough emails and the story is more important.
  5. I’d rather wallow in actual, perceived, and imagined rejection.
  6. I’d rather check Facebook.
  7. And Twitter.
  8. Oooh… what’s Oculus Rift?
  9. Why is Mississippi executing a woman who (in all likelihood) didn’t actually do anything except try to help her son?
  10. Is it because they can?
  11. I should read some Karen Joy Fowler.
  12. Reading Karen Joy Fowler makes me feel inadequate.
  13. I should do more research.
  14. Research gets me discombobulated.
  15. I really like the story.  I like the idea of it and the themes I want to play with.
  16. I don’t think I’m capable of writing the story as well as I wish I could write it.
  17. Every time I try to write a story, it’s like teaching myself to ride a bicycle. I know I can do it. I have done it. There are familiar rhythms and I’ll fall into them.  But I don’t know how long it will take to reach that point, and right now I feel like I’m standing at the edge of the cliff and I’m waiting for someone to push me off.
  18. This Starbucks is cold.
  19. This Starbucks is playing a really interesting cover of the Buddy Holly song Words of Love.
  20. I should look it up on Youtube.
  21. There are other songs on Youtube too. Like Lazarus by Sophie Solomon.
  22. I wonder what music I have in my iTunes that I could listen to while writing…
  23. I wonder if it would interfere with the Starbucks music…
  24. People keep opening the door and the newspapers flutter and I feel cold and irritated at strangers.
  25. I’m irritated at many things.  Mostly myself.  For many reasons, some of which are related to how I’m not writing this story, and some of which are related to other things.
  26. I feel like I should end this list on a prime number.
  27. 17 would’ve been a good one, but that was ten items ago.
  28. I’m still not writing the story, and probably won’t until the night before it’s due.  Because that’s just the way I am, and I hate it, but it’s the way I am.
  29. This is why I’ll never manage to write a novel.

The Spark Writing Contest

Apparently all my blog posts lately have been on dates ending in 5.  I was sad this afternoon because I couldn’t think of anything to write about, and then realized I forgot to mention this:  I’ve been named as a guest judge for Spark’s latest contest, the theme of which is “Fables.”  You can find more information here.  The contest is for both poetry and prose, and there is no fee to enter.  Grand prize is $500 plus publication in Spark: Volume VI.

Being a Writer: Weird Thing #4324793

I use the notes application on my phone to write things down from time to time.  Sometimes I write ideas for stories, sometimes I record overheard bits of conversation or found language which I can use for stories… sometimes other things.

This… I don’t know what this is:

From December 4, 2013 4:07 PM

Fuck you. Please be gentle.

Once there was an ugly barnacle. He was so ugly that everyone died. The end.

? ? They were infected. ZOMBIES…”

I do not remember writing this. Which leads me to the inevitable conclusion that my phone is haunted.

In Which I Do Not Review a Story

The January/February issue of Black Static contains the story “Passion Play” by Malcolm Devlin (aka Vince Haig).

I first read this story during the third week of Clarion West and fell in love with it pretty much instantly.  I loved it so much I even didn’t care that the re-enactment of a missing person’s last moments for the press made absolutely no sense to me as that’s not something people do in the United States.

I loved it because it was a ghost story.  I loved it because it was delicate and fragile.  I loved it because of the nuns.  I loved it because it was about a friendship between two girls that fell apart.  I loved it because of the ending.  I loved it because it was beautiful and perfect and strange.

I loved it despite the title (which I still hate).

I loved it despite the fact it was 6900 words.

The story is a little longer now.  And a few things have been changed here and there, particularly the ending (not the last few lines, which were gloriously perfect and remain so, but the final scene).  But the most important thing is it is published.  It is in print.  It is now and forever on my bookcase.

And I love it just as much now as when I first read it.  And I know you will too.

The Dark

Issue 3 of The Dark has been released on Weightless Books.  Don’t know when the stories will be put up on the website but my guess is soon.

Burial” is the first story I wrote after coming back from Clarion West.  I cheated a little by relying on a first paragraph I had written beforehand (and it really is cheating considering the story only has about 8 paragraphs in total).  It’s an odd little thing.  My workshop wanted me to try to expand on it and make it a bit more logical, but ultimately it is what it is.

Edit: The story is now online at The Dark

Lois Tilton reviewed The Dark and recommended my story as well as “Zeraquesh in Absentia” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew.

Formalism, Humanism, Failism

On the first day of Workshop this spring, John Kessel introduced me to a new framework of examining stories: the Formalist approach (where technique is all that matters) vs the Humanist approach (responsibility of content).  He was discussing it in the context of novels such as Lolita which a Formalist would praise due to its craft, whereas a Humanist would be bothered by the fact that it’s about a pedophile and doesn’t do enough to condemn him.  Having never read Lolita, I can’t really wade into that particular debate, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about off and on since then.  Which is more important: telling a good story, or telling a story that supports good values.  Obviously the easy answer is ‘do both’ but I think I generally fall on the Humanist side of the equation as a reader.  I’m more interested in reading things which challenge sexism and racism, than a story that is technically flawless, but seems to support a world view which I find abhorrent.
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Where do you start? Where does it end?

On a writing forum I saw the following question:

Suppose someone brand new to publishing wants to start submitting short stories, where do you suggest starting?

I had a cheat. When I started writing fiction, I went to Orson Scott Card’s Bootcamp.  While the workshop was useful in a few respects, the best thing I got out of it was my friend Oliver. I knew nothing.  Oliver, it seemed, knew everything.  He told me about Speculations and the Black Hole (the Duotrope of its day).  He (metaphorically) held my hand as I revised stories and considered sending them for publication.  He also hinted that I shouldn’t send that one story off to Realms of Fantasy (my first fiction submission).  He was right in the sense that it was unpublishable, but wrong in the sense that it would be years before I would write anything publishable, and holding off on submitting stories until I was ready would’ve meant I didn’t learn as much in the intervening years.

But you don’t have an Oliver.  So here’s what you need to know: Continue reading

The Places From Which My Mother Has Watched Football

Today the Broncos play the Patriots in the AFC Championship.  My mother will not be watching.  Not because she’s not interested in the game, or its outcome, far from it.  My mother has been a fan of Peyton Manning, the Broncos quarterback, since he started at the University of Tennessee back in 1994.  My mother skipped visiting me one Parents’ Weekends because she had tickets to a Vols game.  I should add that the Parents’ Weekend in question was the same weekend as my birthdayContinue reading