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Posts tagged ‘Reading’

Goals for 2016

Goal Pic


I started and stopped this post a couple of times. I tried to think of something clever and different to challenge myself this year. But the truth is that there is only one simple goal I have for 2016.

Write More.

I had four goals for 2015:
1) Complete 2 pieces a month
2) Write one long piece
3) One Year One Hundred Rejection Challenge
4) Design an E-book (cover and text)

Those first 2 I failed. I didn’t write nearly as much as I wanted too. The first half of the year I was working on my degree. Then I took a break. Then I worked on the longer story. I did complete a few stories, but no where near the 24. And my longer story? Still unfinished. I found myself running out of interest in the plot and not sure what comes next.

I don’t outline my stories, but I’m not a shoot in the dark writer either. I have a vague sense of where the story is going. But with this novella… I just lost the thread. As I’ve said before – It’s been a long time since I wrote a long story (say over 10k). Over ten years…maybe I am out of practice. Not writing, but trusting the process. Trusting myself as a storyteller.

Currently, I have 3 unfinished short stories, 1 unfinished novella, and 1 beginning of what I think is a novel. Lots of stuff started, not much done.

So my BIG goal for 2016 is very simple. Finish everything I start. I hope to have @500k in new words this year. (Yep, that’s right.)

Other goals:
1) Read at least 5 translated books. My reading habits need to expand, so reading outside of the native English speakers is good.
2) Read 50 books this year.
3) Go to 2 conferences this year. Either literary or something else. I want to keep learning.
4) Devote one day a week to the business of publishing.

I know I need to work on balance. I think devoting one day a week to working on my business (and you’d better believe it’s a business) will help keep me writing and submitting. Won’t be perfect. I may need to change and adapt as the months go on, but I adjusting to this new life out of school. Time to try new methods and fine what works best for me.

I’ve read a few blogs in the past few weeks with the same sentiments. It seems like a lot of writers are looking to write more and get back to their craft. I’m with them. I never want to lose sight of my devotion to storytelling. That needs to come first.

Here’s to 2016! And to all my fellow writers – I hope your year finds you working on your best work yet.

Oh, and about 2015 goal #4… Here’s a sneak peek:

Shhh... secret pic here...

Shhh… secret pic here…

But we’ll talk about that later…

All the Books I Have Read in 2015

Some of the books I read this year.

Some of the books I read this year.

All the books I have read in 2015 (in no particular order):

Get In Trouble – Kelly Link
The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
Well of Ascension – Brandon Sanderson
Hero of Ages – Brandon Sanderson
Alloy of Law – Brandon Sanderson
Shadow of Self – Brandon Sanderson
Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
The Shining Girls – Lauren Buekes
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
One Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – N K Jemison
Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town – Cory Doctorow
Quatrain – Sharon Shinn
The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
Millionare Women Next Door – Thomas J. Stanley
Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith
The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood
Dear Robot Anthology – ed. Kelly Ann Jacobson

Mid-December 2015 Update — The Challenge is Almost Done!

Well, my modem decided that this was the week to act up. After a long conversation with Verizon, I have a new modem and hopefully no more internet problems.

The year is winding down and I think this will be it for rejections. I have a lot of thoughts about this year that I will save for another post closer to the end of the month. But for now I will say that this challenge was one of the best I ever took on. Even though I got no where near 100 rejections, I pushed myself, submitted, and got work done. There were some other goals I had for this year that I also want to talk about, but again, later.

Here are the numbers so far (and these probably won’t change):
Submissions: 5
Acceptances: 1
Rejections: 36

As I move into 2016, I will continue to submit, but I don’t think I will keep recording my rejections. (Although when I hit 100, I will definitely note it.) While it is good to keep track and have work out in the world for publication, my production goals are way down. I need to find balance between submitting and writing. Do I take a month off and work on my longer works and let the stories pile up? Or do I spend more time submitting what I have and take longer to finish my new work? I know there is a happy medium and I have to find it. I’m thinking I just have to devote one day (maybe Sunday) as “business of writing day” and the other 6 days are “writing” days.

Then there are blog posts and keeping up with all the industry news. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I love to retweet interesting essays.

Yes, I that is work.

And yes, I love it.

But still, sometimes I feel like I read more about writing, than actually write. And while I do think it is important to keep up with literary news, I also got to get my word count.


That’s going to be a big goal in 2016. When I was at JHU, I was totally concentrated on one thing – finishing the class. Now there is no finish line. There is just the end of the story and on to the next. It’s wonderful and daunting at the same time.

Wonderful because I love stories and can’t wait to see what my brain wants to explore.

Daunting because it is never ending. Just when I think I won’t have another idea, I get three more…

LOL. Writer problems.

I’m on vacation until January 4th (Yay!), so over the next week or so, I’ll be posting my final thoughts on this challenge, my reading list for the year (and reading goals for 2016), goals for 2016, and any other new stuff I think about. Until then…

Happy Holidays!

And if you’re not religious –

Enjoy your time off and Happy Reading & Writing!

Thoughts on Reading

I know I’m preaching to the choir here…

We all know the importance, the joy, and benefits of reading. But still there are people who don’t do it. I remember learning (from some source I can’t recall) that most people only read one book a year. My aunt, who is a professor, says that her students don’t read. Not the news, not books, not even magazines.

I guess I am lucky I come from a family of readers. I remember my mom having a tower of books next to her and my father’s bed. My dad was a comic book lover and still has a bunch of Conan comics somewhere in their house. Also, for years my parents were faithful subscribers to the Washington Post. Even now, they will still buy a Sunday paper and read on a lazy afternoon.

My grandmother was also a professor (psychology) and a big reader. After her death, my mother and I combed through her bookshelves taking many of the books she collected over the years. There wasn’t any pattern to her collection, only things she had bought because she liked them. My mom told me my grandmother had a knack for leaving her paperbacks at the bus station after she had read them. She wanted to give books away to anyone who would want them.

During that clean out, I was to lucky recipient of a fabulous gift. My grandmother had gotten Gwendolyn Brooks to sign her chapbook.

My mom: “You should have it.”
Me: “Really?”
My mom: “Yes. You’re the writer. I think it is best that you take it.”

The rest of the family agreed and now it is one of my favorite literature pieces. One day I will have to properly frame it.

Brooks Pic

So you see how weird it is to me that there are some who don’t read.

But I think there is hope. The emergence of cheap (or even free) e-books is a blessing. I don’t buy what those reports say about e-book sales slowing. There are a lot of writers who are putting out books with no ISBN numbers and they don’t get counted. Plus, what about people like me who frequent used bookstores? I don’t buy a lot of new books, preferring instead to read a lot of older books that I missed. I read maybe 5-6 new books a year out of the twenty or so that I read. So far I’ve only read 2 (in the middle of my 3rd right now.)

Plus, I live in a good area for reading. There are lots of indie and chain bookstores, a large literate public who celebrate books, and demand from that community. I’m sure there are other places that aren’t as nice (but they can be).

So cheap books and a good environment do go a long way towards getting more people to read. Sure there are some who will never do it. For them music or movies are what get them excited. I’ve known a few people who see all the indie movies and don’t understand why more people don’t watch those instead of the latest superhero flick. Or that friend who detests the radio and listens to obscure bands with gusto.

But those who are like me, someone who likes movies, TV, and music, but connects best with books, reading will always be important. The stories connects over the decades and the story you love may be a story your kids love too. My aunt (in her sixties) and I love Sanderson and were gushing over Shadow of Self yesterday. These connections are so precious.

I wish more people understood that about reading. It’s not a chore, or punishment to read. Not all books are boring or long winded. Maybe you’ll never love the classics, but hey that latest mystery has got your name all over it.

Here’s my reading pile. I can’t wait to dive in.

Atwood & Galbraith

End of August 2015 – Up for the Challenge

Here we are at the end of August. The second half of the month moved much slower for me. Only two rejections came in, but I have noticed that right at the end of the month/beginning of the new month is when a lot of notices are sent out. So over the next day or so I may hear from a few places.

Numbers for August:

Submissions: 12
Acceptances: 0
Rejections: 23

I think in the last post I counted a story twice, because all my stories are out now, but I still have one less than before. (That’s what I think happened, but not sure.) I don’t really do simultaneous submissions. Most places that I want don’t allow them, and I have gotten out of the habit. Maybe if I wrote more literary fiction I could do that, but the speculative fiction is a no go.

Anyway, there are now twelve unique stories out, and I hope to increase this over the next month. Last year, I did a personal challenge called “Short Story September.” I wanted to write a new story every week. This year, I’m going to bump it up and write one every day. No idea whether this is a good idea or not, but I want to break out of my rut. I’ve been working on this novella, but it is still unfinished. I like finishing stuff. Gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Some days I may write a flash piece and then get back to the novella. Others may be spent just on the new story. Either way, I’m going to get a few more new things written. Even if I don’t get thirty stories done, I’ll take any new stuff. My major clean out showed me a few pieces that I didn’t finish or only wrote the first paragraph. Because of school, I had to put a few things on the back burner and so now is the time to finish them up, while I’m still excited by them and want to finish.

The “wanting to finish” is important. Sometimes if the story is boring me, I know I shouldn’t continue to write it. If the enthusiasm is gone, I’m gone (and probably the reader too). Focus on the other that are still alive for me. Those are the ones I have to bring into the world.

Still continuing on my reading streak, although I only read four books this month (Gotta get back on track!). Next few months will have a flurry of new books coming out: Rushdie, Franzen, Galbraith (Rowling), Sanderson, Due, my favorite author Atwood, and quite a few more. So, lots to look forward to in the fall.

July 2015 – Refreshed and Writing

We’re 2/3 of the way through summer and this month I feel as if I have really got back on track. Not only have I been working on my novella (I think it is a novella, but that could change.), but I also managed to mail out more submissions!

And I even wrote a new short story.

Yes, I know. In my last post I said I was going to ditch the short stories this summer, but there were a couple of places I wanted to submit to and their deadlines are September 1. So I took a couple of days off and pounded out a new story. There is one more I need to write, but I will do that this weekend. So those will be off and submitted next month and then I can really concentrate on this longer piece. Also, I have two other stories that are ready to be submitted, but the journals don’t open until August 1, so those pieces are not included in this update. Here is my total so far:

Submissions: 8

Acceptances: 0

Rejections: 12

Still woefully low, but hey, if I’m going to fail at this, I’m going to fail. After all, the goal is to get myself submitting, writing, and (hopefully) published.

Also, can I say how wonderful reading is now that I am not in school anymore? One of the downsides to grad school is that I never seemed to have time to read for pleasure during the semester. I was either reading books for class, reading short stories for class, or reading my classmates work. It was only in those brief weeks during break that I could read for fun. This year between January and May (when I graduated) I read 3 books for fun.

However in July, I read 5(!!). FIVE books that have been sitting forever waiting for me to read them. Oh people, it is so nice to get back into the swing of things with my reading. Maybe in December I’ll do an end of the year post on all the books I read. But here are a few more that I’m working my way towards:

Stone Mattress – Margaret Atwood

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – NK Jemisin

The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen

The Diamond Age – Neal Stephenson

Yep, this was a good month all the way around. I hope your July went well too. See ya in August!