Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Storm, Reading Aloud, and the Inevitable Oopsies.

When you grow up in a part of the country known as "Tornado Alley," you kind of get numb to nature's danger.  Every now and then, though, it seems nature seems to sense this, and she rages and storms just to remind you that you aren't in charge, and you aren't indestructible, and that your plans mean nothing in the Grand Scheme of Things.

I had planned to edit tonight, but instead I rushed home from work to make sure the kids were safe (they were).  After a quick dinner provided by my mom and dad--for which I am thankful (especially since the storm meant no quick trip to the store to restock my bare cupboards), I sat down to read my latest short story aloud in search of The Inevitable Oopsies. 

No matter how hard I try to edit, it seems that something manages slip through.  However, reading aloud makes me slow down (I am a crazy quick reader), listen for changes in tone or voice, makes me pay attention to inconsistencies and plot holes.  It also results in me taking on the voice--the tone, inflection, and vocal mannerisms--of my characters.  This can be a bit tough to shake and creates the illusion of delusion.

I had just nestled down to immerse myself in my delusions when: BOOM, zzaaaaaaapppp, silence; the electricity went out.

After much cussing, I gathered enough candles and flashlights to illuminate the room well enough to read.  I was shocked at how much more I noticed when I read aloud.  It forced me to focus on the work.  Distractions fell away, and the story consumed me.

I made notes, and once the lights came back on I made the changes on the computer, as well.  Now I will set it aside a while longer.  A story needs time to steep--like tea.

Also, my hand needs a break.  All this typing is taking its toll...Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and tendonitis. 

So for the next few days, I will write and edit and read aloud.  I will wait to see if the ginger agent ever responds, and I will send off finished stories and start new ones.

More storms are predicted for tomorrow, so there may be more candles in my future--but even if the storms hold off I might just light a candle anyway--for being safe, and feeling happy about a story, and prayin' that the story might be the one that tips the scales in my favor. 

For those that have read the short story, and offered comments and suggestions, who have kept reading and following me in this journey, who have bolstered my spirits and made me feel like I can do anything...I thank you. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Good Lord, What Have I Done?

Let me begin by saying that it seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time.  For some reason, I happened to clink on an email that I had absolutely no time to read.  But I did read it.  It was from Writers' Digest, and it mentioned new agents who were accepting submissions.  I scanned the various agents.  One stood out.  Perhaps it was the red hair...I do have an affinity for other gingers.  Perhaps it was because he was from the South.  Maybe it was because he mentioned story collections.  No idea, but I decided to send off some stories.  Just to know?  Sometimes you feel so...compelled to follow a notion through to the end. 

Which would be all well and good, except I can be a bit...impetuous.  I have a tendency to run and jump, simply believing that the world will reach out and catch me.  (This is not to say that I haven't fallen on my face a time to two.)

So...I did it.  I wrote some blathering thing and included two partials, and I hit "send."  Then...I panicked.  Oh no!  But it had seemed like such a good idea.  Suddenly, I feel like I am back in elementary school--with home-cut bangs and braces and glasses.  What I pride as being "fun" and "quirky" just feels...silly.   

The doubt sets in.

That thing I wrote...the one that I was so proud of...what if it is total crap?  What if the beta readers lied?  What if no one had the heart to tell me?  And why the hell didn't I think any of this until I hit the "send" button?

It doesn't matter that I have sold some stories...the doubt doesn't go away.  I don't know if it ever does.  I wonder if other writers, writers whom I admire, feel the same nagging sense of inadequacy?  I think about the thing Amanda Palmer said about the fraud police.  I try to catch my breath, which seems to have seeped out of my lungs and shows no sign of returning.  I lean over and put my head between my legs to quell the spinning room and overwhelming desire to puke. 

I try to remember everything I have ever heard or read by anyone whom I have ever admired about self-doubt and the creative process.  Then I remember...

Make Good Art...   

...and the air returned to my lungs.

Maybe I did act impetuously.  Perhaps I will never be as proper or professional as some writers.  I will always retain a bit of the girl with the home-cut bangs and the glasses.  Perhaps I will always doubt myself...but I don't doubt my stories, or the people who inhabit them.  I don't doubt the voice inside me that wants to be heard.

Ask me again, though, next time I hit that "send" button.  I might not sound so brave then.

What about you?  Do you feel like the Fraud Police are waiting to expose you?  How do you cope with the doubt after you hit the "send" button?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Life...and Other Creepy Things

Life has been busy and scramble-y lately.  The kiddos have been having lots of “end of school year” stuff going on, and I have been writing…a LOT.  In fact, I sold another short story!  The story is called “Call for Courage” and will be appearing late this summer/early autumn in Page & Spine.    I will shout about it more when it comes out, in case you want to head over and check it out. 

I finished the story I was working on for the “Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction.”  I read, reread it, revised it and tampered with it so much that I’m pretty sure the image of the words are burned on my retinas. 

I just finished a draft of the story I plan to submit to the NPR Three Minute Fiction Contest later this week.  (Incidentally, the story I just sold was originally written as an entry into a previous Three Minute Fiction Contest!) 
I have also just realized that a lot of my stories creep me out.  I am not sure what this says about me, but it is true.  I don't actually read a lot of horror--unless you count the news headlines.   

So, tell me…what kinds of stories do you like to read?