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Posts tagged ‘Graduate School’

The Anthology is Now Available to Buy

A winter cold sidelined me for the post on the 5th. Tis the season for bad heath, right? Luckily, it was mild with only a stuffed up nose and nothing more serious like the flu. (I did get my flu shot, so all in all, not too bad.)

But, some big developments have happened in the first ten days of November. The biggest is that the anthology I’m in is now available for purchase. You can buy it here. Feel free to browse the “look inside” feature and read the sample stories. Kelly did a fantastic job on the book and I am very proud to be a part of it with all the other talented writers.

Other big news concerns my graduate school status. On November 3rd, I registered for my thesis class. I’m coming to the end of my time at JHU. This fall semester has flown by and now I have just a little over a month left. Come January, I will be at the beginning of the end. In a strange coincidence, by the time I graduate from JHU, it will be exactly 20 years after I graduated from high school.

I would make some joke here about being old, but in this day and age, everybody is going back to school. Age is just a number. The mind always wants to learn.

What’s Your Goal?

I’ve been thinking about goals. Maybe because I’m less than a year from graduating. I find myself googling various writers to see what comes next. I said to myself, a few times over the summer, that I won’t know what to do in a year. I’m so used to the routine of work, school, home. Again in less than a year, I’ll be back to pre-2011 me. A me that took vacations and traveled!

Oh, and I had disposable income!

Recently I found this article by Tobias Buckell. In it, he details the difference between goals and milestones. In a nutshell, goals are things you can control. Milestones just happen. I really love this way of thinking and it is helping me put things into perspective. I reread my goals for the year and I realize I am going about them in a wrong way.

My goal should not be to be published. Being published is a milestone. My goal should be to mail out the story twenty times (or more)before I give up and bury it in the trunk. I have no control over editors and what they will buy. But I do have control over my stories. So, I write the best story I can, polish it up, and send it out into the world. That’s what I always do and that’s what I will continue to do.

This can also apply to other things in life. Instead of a goal to lose 100lbs in a year, you could say the goal is to exercise 5 days a week. Who knows if you can even lose that kind of weight in a year. But if you make the commitment to eat your veggies, lay off the sugar, and move your body, you can see some changes. Forget the number, that is a milestone. Aim for the things you can control.

So next January, I’ll think long and hard about my goals. I’ll aim for things I can control. I’m already thinking of the One Year, One Hundred Rejections challenge that was popular a few years ago. Poets employed this method, but I wonder what that would be like for a writer of a longer form. At the very least, it will make me more productive and more aggressive with submissions.

Still writing my own September challenge, but we’ll see where the chips lay in a few days. Until then, think of your own goals and where you want to be. A friend said, “Everyone should have a goal in life.” It can be as simple or abstract as you like, but I think you should have something.

Short Story September Challenge 2014

I’m starting my own challenge this month. Since my goal for the year was to write a new story every month, I know I have fallen behind. So far this year, I have only written three new stories. I realize that I need to step up my game. Therefore for the month of September I will write a new story every week. I’m calling it – Short Story September. If can write more, I will, but I think one a week is a good goal. That will bring my total up to seven for the year.

I spent a good part of August working on my longer piece, which might be a novella. I’m still not done, but pretty far along. I think I will be done by the end of the year.

Still no word from any of the stories I have out at markets right now. A few said I should hear from them by the end of August, but I’m not really focused on getting responses back on time. I have sent them my best and all I can do it hope the various editors like the stories. Plus I’d rather hear a delayed “yes” than a quick “no.”

I am also about the start my last elective class for grad school. After this class, it’s thesis. In July I pulled my four best stories that will become my thesis. Two are in very good shape and might need only small edits. One is about 60% and I am working on right now. Another needs a major overhaul, but I won’t start that until October. It is a tough story, because it is not the typical type of story I tell. I really took a risk with this story, and so I want to take my time rewriting. A draft of my thesis is due the first week of class, so there is no grace period. You show up and work. No excuses.

In case you were wondering, yes I work on multiple projects at the same time. I usually have a couple longer pieces that I work on here and there, one active short story that I am starting, and one story I am revising, all going on at the same time. That doesn’t even count the work I have to do for class. From what I’ve read, some of my other friends are the same. They work on one thing for a majority of the time, but when they want a break they write something else. I guess I’ve never been a person who can focus on one thing for a long period of time.

In hindsight, this was a very productive summer. More so than last year. At some point I will post my total word count in new fiction for the year, but that won’t be until December.

Happy Fall Everyone!

Quick Update – End of Summer 2014

It’s been a long, but productive, summer. Class #7 is in the bag, and I just have two short weeks in between semesters. Even though I am on break, it feels like I have more work than ever.  A week ago I said to my mom (who got her master’s in 1991 when I was 14), “I don’t know how you did it with two kids, a husband, and a job.”  She just looked at me and said, “Well, when you’re motivated the stuff gets done… and I learned to deal with a messy house.”  Wise words. I am both excited and terrified that I only have one more semester until Thesis.

But I have done a few things to prepare. I gathered together the stories that will make up my thesis. Two of them I have revised in the past 6 months. The third, I am working on now; and the fourth is next.  I think they are the strongest stories, so I will pour most of my energy into working on them. I need to have between 40-60 pages. Right now the total stands at 43, so I will meet the goal.  Hopefully, after I revise the last two stories, I will have closer to 50. First draft is due the first day of class. The last thing I want to do is fall behind on this. Thank the heavens my final class is an elective and not a workshop. It is not less work, but it is less writing. I don’t have to focus on reading and critiquing other people’s work right before thesis. Instead, I can solely work on my own fiction and complete this reading elective. I won’t get burnt out.

As for other goals for 2014, I’m not doing too badly. After a slow winter and early spring, I started firing on all cylinders. I wroter 3 new stories and kept working on my longer story (a novella I think). I also have 6, yes 6!!, stories out for consideration. I revised and e-mail the stories, and if one came back rejected, I just sent it right back out again. I told myself I wouldn’t allow longer than 24 hours between rejection and submission. I think this keeps me from being discouraged and makes me feel like I am doing something. I have plans to write or finish up at least 4 more stores, so I may not hit the goal of 12 original stories this year, but I will damn sure get close. The year is not over yet, and I’m still getting the work out.

Up to 12 books to read for the year.  My goal was 25, so not too bad. It helps when you have a reading class.

As for not buying anymore books… yeah, that goal is history. I was sunk the moment I had to buy books for class and then tossed in a couple more, because I wanted them too. Don’t know why I even bothered with that one.

Still haven’t sold anything, but having 6 stories out makes me feel better about achieving that goal. I can’t get published, if I don’t get the stuff out there into the world.

The last goal about paying down my credit card has been hard. My tutition has been raised again, and it is hard to keep up. I saved for a year before I started this program, plus I still work full time, and it hasn’t been enough. Still I avoided student loans and I faithly keep my other expenses down, so I take comfort that I only have one more semester to pay for (I already paid for this fall). I’m not happy about the debt, but it is the only debt I have, so I swallow my anxiety and tell myself that it will be paid off in the next year or two, and that I can’t back out now. No sense in quitting when the goal is in view.

So that is where I’m at. I’ll try to post more during break, but no promises. Writing fiction has to come first, but still I hate neglecting this blog.  Sometimes, I think I should focus on my non-fiction just as much as my fiction.

Up For Air

Long, cold winters and I don’t mix.  It signals hibernation mode and all I want to do is curl up, bury my head, and wake when the cherry blossoms bloom.  Even then, I didn’t feel much like writing.  Instead, I buried myself in the vast storages of Youtube videos about everything from couponing to how to apply the perfect winged liner.  Somehow seeing someone get $100 worth of stuff from CVS for $2 just captures my attention.  I like a good bargain, so somehow this stuff just sucks me into the void.

This semester kept me quite busy too. (Don’t they all?)  The name of the class was Advanced Revision, so I worked on improving everything I wrote last year. My goal was to write one short story a month, but I didn’t even come close.  In fact, reading over all my lovely goals for this year, I realized that I haven’t achieved any of them.  The year is not over yet, but so far I am off to a supremely crappy start.

Please note: If you’re goal is to not buy any books, DO NOT SIGN UP FOR A READING CLASS.  That’s like swearing off sweets and then signing up for a desert making class.

What the heck was I thinking?

I’m in between semesters now, so I am bound and determined to finish something in these few short weeks.  I only have two more classes to go before thesis, so I have to start getting my work together.  Before I know it, it will be December.  I’d better be ready WAY before that.  Thesis is no joke.  Everyone I know says that it is the hardest class, and I just want it to go smoothly.  So planning, planning, and more planning.  Then writing, writing, and more writing.  Thank goodness my favorite TV shows will be in reruns.  I know that is a distraction, but damn, I love THE GOOD WIFE.  My Sunday is not complete without that show.

I also have to find some time to submit my stories.  I got so wrapped up in the revision, I forgot to keep submitting.  Constantly revising is such a temptation.  But I need to force myself to keep going.

I want to bury my head, but I need to come up for air.

So my tiny, baby goals for this in-between-semester period will be finish one story, revise one story, and submit one story.  If I do more, great, but I’m aiming low.  Keep it simple and maybe I will move forward.

Swimming in the Sea of Literary Writers: Reflections about 2013

Happy New Year!

It’s my first post for 2014!  It’s also my last day of vacation. (BOO!)

Here are some of the highlights of 2013 for me:

1.  Made it half way through my master’s degree.  I need 9 classes and I have completed 5.
2.  Got Margaret Atwood to sign my book.
3.  Wrote more then I ever have in previous years.
4.  Finally went to the dentist and ended up getting a root canal. (Please note — Do not put off going to the dentist.  It is worth it to go regualarly.)
5.  Kept one of my previous resolutions and lost 27lbs.

There are a few other moments, but those are the best.  Even the root canal, which was expensive and painful, counts as a good one, because now I am pain free.  No more chewing on the other side of my mouth.

I would like to talk a bit about the first point.  Getting halfway to my master’s degree is exciting, but it is also draining too.  Quite a few people I came into the program with graduated this sememster.  They opted to take a faster track than myself and are now out the the wide world, master’s degree in hand.  A few are even published. (I’ll put links to some of their work at the end.)  I’m very happy for them and wish them well.

I wonder if they had any of the odd experiences I am having.

I’m speaking of those moments when you realize you are a speculative writer in a sea of literary writers.  There are a handful of others in the program, that I have run into, but mostly we are the strange ones that stand out in the class.  Not necessarily because we are the best writers, but usually because are stories aren’t like anyone elses.  I remember an interview I read about Stephen Graham Jones.  In it, he said that he wrote a story about a guy, who shot invisilble holes in the earth with his invisible gun.  When it came time to workshop it, none of his classmates said anything.  Finally the professor told the class they had to say something and one guy finally spoke up and said, “I don’t know man.  This story was just really weird.”

Yep.  That’s what it’s like.  I should know. 2013 was my year of workshops.  For three straight semesters, I submitted pieces and braved the criticism of my fellow students.  Reactions ranged from flattering, to tough, but fair, to funny, and even the random WTF?.  I am grateful to any thoughtful opinion, even if I didn’t feel it was right for the story.  But I feel self-conscious that my stories aren’t the same.  Sometimes it’s good.  They are memorable and designed to be read multiple times.  Other times, my stories feel like freaks.  They look like strange, ill-formed things that stand out in a sea of perfection.  Hear my inward grown when a really good fellow classmate signs up for the same critique day as me.  I could almost hear the sighs as they read their story first and then my story and mutter, “Why can’t she just write something simple?”

I know some of this is in my head.  In truth, I love my stories and accepted a long time ago that if I wanted to be a good writer I needed to look to Bradbury, Atwood, Bender, and Butler.  Philip Roth and Ernest Hemingway just weren’t going to cut it.  I suppose this is the price I pay.  On the one side, my literary tendencies can come forth and play in the specualtive world.  I get the criticism of those who read and write literary fiction and can analyze those moments.  But the other side is that few of writers read speculative fiction, so when I write about virtual reality, or aliens, the newness can take centerstage.  It helps that a few of us had that same class together and became used to my style, but still the oddness can be a hinderance.

I honestly don’t know if this is something that should change.  I am sure I am gulity of it too.  Since my workshop requirements are over, standard critiquing is over too.  What 2014 will offer in my writing education? I can’t see yet.  I’m sure it will be good, but now it is time for me to work on my own.  Classes might now focus more on analyzing other writers and applying the techniques to my own.  Hopefully this will deepen and improve my writing.
One of my resolutions for 2013 was to get published.  It didn’t happen, but I will keep trying and maybe 2014 will be the year.  I just have to keep submitting.

Here’s to 2014!  Hope your year is full of wonderful moments and interesting stories!

Here are a few of my classmate’s websites —

Like beer?  Like literature?  Head on over to Oliver Grey’s site.
Kelly Ann Jacobson will have not one, but two books out this year!  Check out her site to read excerpts and find links to her short stories and essays.
Want to read more about writer’s lives?  Check out Mike Chin’s blog.  He’s a born storyteller.