Friday, April 28, 2006

The Public Reading

Time Spent: 5 hours, 20 minutes.
AST Time Complete: 161 hours, 27 minutes.

I was nervous when I woke up today. I'm not a very good public speaker, and I was afraid I'd trip over my own tongue several times tonight. This prompted another 'read and time' session of everything this afternoon, then I left for campus.

At 4:30, Joanna, David Logan (My creative writing two instructor from last spring), and I set up the gallery, and then I started pacing.

Finally, we started. I only tripped over my tongue a few times. I read well, everyone was very gracious, and I had a WONDERFUL time.

If you're reading this and you were there tonight, thank you for coming. Thank you for joining me in the final part of this journey and for being part of an awesome audience.

To the Dean's Office, the English Department, and the Visual Arts Gallery: Thank you for hosting tonight's event. I appreciate everything anyone in any of these departments did to help.

Thank you, David, for dinner and working the camera. Thank you also for being so encouraging tonight.

Dr. Cordell, I'm sorry you weren't able to be there, but I hope your sister did a FANTASTIC job at her reading. Thank you for being my UIS supervisor - I really appreciate it.

Joanna - as I said tonight, thank you for treating me like an equal and a friend. I'm SO grateful to you for agreeing to be my Field Supervisor and for everything you've done so this could happen tonight. Thank you for your kind words, every bit of encouragement, and for every phone call and email. Thank you for putting tonight together, making the programs and flyers, and just being generally awesome.

This is it. I'm finished with the AST. I've learned how to revise, what I need to do to submit and get published, and most importantly, I've learned I'm an author.

If you weren't there tonight, it was video taped, and I think it will be digitized and made into a podcast. If it is, I'll be sure to let you know, in case you want to listen to it.

This was a lot of fun.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Journey is FINISHED!

Time Spent: 2 hours, 27 minutes.

That's right, "Journey" is completely finished, and I submitted it today to Glimmer Train Stories. Apparently, the sixth (or was it seventh?) draft is the lucky one.

I also did more revisions for tomorrow night, making the final decision on what I'm reading and revising what I'm talking about in between.

Tomorrow is the public reading. I'm meeting Joanna out at the Visual Arts Gallery at 4:30 to set up, and it starts at 7. I'm excited, I'm nervous - I can't believe it's going to be over.

Public reading Countdown: 1 day.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Revisions of a different nature

Time Spent: 4 hours, 10 minutes.

OK, so I revised today, but not "Journey." But I HAVE to to the final revision tomorrow, because the submission needs to be made by Friday. I revised the stuff I'm going to talk about Friday night at the reading.

I also kicked the testosterone twins (Hubby and son) out of the house for a few hours so I could do a practice read through of my stuff. I read every story twice in preparation, and if hubby will let me, I'm gonna kick the two of them out again tomorrow afternoon. Man, it was nice and quiet... I've learned over the years why it's good to actually do the verbal prep - I get so nervous I ramble. The problem, and this goes back to the first paragraph, is that I sound like I've written an essay with my in between stories stuff. It doesn't sound like it should be spoken; it sounds like it should be read. Does that make sense?

I also submitted the fourth story, "when life hands you lemons," to Toasted Cheese. I TRIED to get everything ready to submit the fifth story to a journal, but they haven't sent me the password yet, so I can't sign on and submit.

I didn't mention this yesterday, but I got a rejection from literary mama for "Show You Love." I'm disappointed. I think I'm going to submit it to antithesis common though - they give feedback. So maybe they'll like it and use it, and if not, I'll get some handy dandy suggestions out of them.

Public reading Countdown: 2 days.
6 hours, 20 minutes left to completion of AST.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Journey will never be finished....

Time Spent: 2 hours.

I did some things for the public reading, important things like writing thank you notes to the people who helped me with the AST.

But mostly, I revised "journey." Freakin' draft SIX, people!!!!! This story is NEVER going to be finished. But I REALLY think this is it. And if it's not, it'll just have to do cuz that puppy has to get submitted.

I don't know what I learned today. I'm certainly honing my revising skills.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Catch up and small things

Time Spent: 4 hours.

This is going to be quick -I'm exhausted.

I did some small things that needed doing today. I talked to Joanna about what I needed to do for the reading - not a small thing and very necessary, but it didn't take emuch time and made me feel better about Friday night.

I didn't do any revising today. Instead, I took a revising break and worked on the first draft of what I'm going to say during the reading that's NOT reading the stories - like introductions, thank you's to everyone who helped, what I'm reading and why I like writing it, especially if it's flash fiction.

Probably most important, I added up my AST project hours. As of this blog, I've earned 147.5 hours, which leaves 13.5 hours to go until I'm done with my hours. My plan for this week is to finish my hours by Friday, then whatever I do on Friday to get ready for/do the reading is all bonus.

I think this week is going to be about application of what I've learned. While I might surprise myself and learn something new, I think mainly what I'll be doing is putting what I learned to good use, which is OK. As I said, I learn by doing, and this is still doing.

Public Reading Countdown: 4 days.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

More Revisions (I'm so tired of revisions...)

Time Spent: 2 hours.

Ah, yes, more revisions. I've been ignoring "Journey" for a few days because it just needs to SIT! I've been trying to decide what I'm going to read on Friday, so I've printed out some flash fiction and I'm revising it. Two of the stories are done and are ready to be submitted. Another one, which I wrote on my own time last spring, should be revised in short order. I didn't transfer the file to the laptop though, and so I just rewrote it including revisions. This is one of the reasons I love flash fiction - if all else fails, you can retype it and you've wasted ten minutes, tops. And it's never really a waste!

If it seems like I'm not really learning a lot with all this revising I'm doing, that's misleading. Learning to revise is one wild ride. I certainly haven't mastered it yet, and truthfully, I think it's more like playing the piano than learning math. With math, you practice and practice, and you get it learned and it's done. Math teachers don't usually take more math classes. Piano, on the other hand, you learn and you practice and you learn under the masters. But you know what? Even the masters still take piano lessons and do recitals. That's what revising is. Even though you know what to do, you still have to practice and practice, and even when you teach others how to revise, you still have to keep practicing yourself.

And I'm a learn by doing person anyway. I'm not sure I ever really answered that for the AST learning profiles as the beginning of the semester, but I definitely learn by doing.

Public reading Countdown: 5 days.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Revising "Journey" AGAIN...

Time Spent: 3 hours.

OMGosh, just shoot me now. I spent my time revising - mostly "journey," but a few other things too. I'll be moving on to draft six of "journey." I keep seeing stuff that I want to change. I'm learning the fine art of tinkering.

Also began revising some of the shorter stories I want to submit. All three are flash fiction and have been revised a few times, so they won't need much revision. No seriously, I MEAN it this time. The flash will be easy.

I also spent some time thinking about what I need to do to get ready for the public reading, and I think I might be overwhelmed. I have my handy-dandy list, so I need to follow it and take it one moment at a time. And if you're keeping track of hours, you can see I'm behind. Well, at least this will give me my time I need to make up this coming week.

Public Reading countdown: 7 days.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Final revision of "show you love"

Time Spent: 5 hours.

Yes, that's right. I did the final revision for "Show You Love" today. It's finished, it's done, it's been sent off. I submitted it to Literary Mama this afternoon, a website that is for, well... literary mamas. Moms who write, specifically moms who write about motherhood. That's what "Show You Love"is about - one woman's struggle with an emotionally difficult pregnancy and how the birth of her son changes her. And yes, it was inspired by my own pregnancy. Easy as it was physically, it was extremely difficult for me emotionally, to the point where I SHOULD have been on anti-depressants. No post partum depression for me, I got it all out of my system the moment Liam was born.

So that's three submissions. Three down, three to go.

I started working on the fifth draft of "Journey" today as well. Didn't I say the fourth draft would probably be it. Well, now I'm not so sure there won't be a sixth draft. I REALLY liked this story. Now I'm starting to hate it. Ugh. But I'm really learning how to revise. When it's done, it'll go to Glimmer Train Lit Journal.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More revising

Time Spent: 1 hour.

Yes, I spent one hour working today. One whole hour. Aren't you proud of me?

I started my FIFTH draft of "Show You Love" today. Did I say a while ago that I thought the fourth draft might be alright? I was wrong. I keep finding things that need to be changed.

Tomorrow, more revising. Eventually, I'm going to quit revising and get these stories submitted.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Reading More Ninth Letter

Time Spent; 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Happy Easter, I'm glad it's over. We traveled to Alton today - well, Liam and I, Jeff goes every weekend. Liam was not in the best of traveling moods, so it was not a good church day. This will get easier once we move, I know. But what does that say about your day when the best part of it was reading a literary journal in the car on the way to church? Yeah, that kind of day.

That's all I did today: read The Ninth Letter in the car on the way to church this morning. I really like it, but I can't decide if I want to submit to it yet or not. One of the fictional pieces I read today was really odd - it read like a photo collage, sans photos. But it was interesting. That's what I'd call experimental fiction, but I'm not sure they would. At any rate, I'm not quite sure about it yet, and their reading period is going to close soon, so I might order a few more recent copies, read them over the summer, and submit something more appropriate in September.

Again, Happt Easter, and God bless.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Draft Four of "Show You Love"

Time Spent: 2 hours.

Finished revising draft four of "Show You Love" today. I like the progress I've made on it, but I think I'm going to have to do a fifth draft to really be happy with it. As far as I can tell, it's polished for grammar and punctuation. There are a couple of points in the storyline that still feel rough to me though, and I'm not sure how to go about fixing them. I had the same problem with "Journey," but I think I got it mostly cleaned up. This one is different - the problem I'm having is that I know what I want to say, and while I usually wrote exactly what I wanted to say, I'm not happy with the way I said it. And I'm having trouble fixing it so that it reads better. What I've said is clear and concise. I just don't like how it sounds.

It's close. I just KNOW it's close to being done. The additional problem now is that I've read it so many times over the past two days that I'm getting sick of it. That doesn't seem condusive to more revisions, ha.

I think I said a few weeks ago that it was hard to revise a story that I got a good grade on. Scratch that. I lied. I'm obviously finding things to change, or I wouldn't be complaining about the really hard parts.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

It all starts with punctuation...

Time Spent: 3 hours, 30 minutes.

Started off today by breaking out Adult Literacy in Writing, and I've decided that I'm never using a comma AGAIN! Comma splices, run on sentences, sentence fragments - ARGH! But I'm learning the rules for comma usage, and that's what I said I wanted to learn (it's not in my learning contract though, hahaha). Well, ok, the rules for punctuation in general, not just the irritating little commas.

Then I started revising "Show You Love" again, which I'll have to continue tomorrow. It's hard to revise a story when you have an energetic one-year-old trying to climb in your lap, but hey, I got something done.

Also updated Joanna and Dr. Cordell on March activities and where I am right now in my project.

There are two week left. What I really need now is more time. Oh, I'll get everything done. I just need time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A hodge-podge day

Time Spent: 5 hours, 15 minutes.

Today was one of those days where I worked on and off all day long, did a lot, yet feel like I got very little accomplished. Maybe it was the day of the neverending list - have you ever felt like you had one of those days?

Anyway, I printed out "Journey" and started working on the fourth draft. This learning to revise stuff is wild. Now that I KNOW (or at least I know more than I did four months ago) how to revise - what to look for - it's kind of driving me nuts. I'm seeing what kinds of bad things I do in my first drafts that I can only imagine that all writers do in their first drafts (makes me REALLY want to see first drafts of every Harry Potter or Sword of Truth!). Many weeks ago I said that revising was hard for me because I edit as I go along. That's the truth. I DO edit as I go along. Now I think revising is hard for me because I see so many things that need to be changed it drives me nuts. I know what to look for now though, so it's so much easier to point to something and see it differently.

I've mentioned before that "Journey" is one of my favorite stories. After I did the last revision, I scrapped the entire ending and changed it so it wasn't so fast. I really like what I did with it, but it made the story about three pages longer than the second draft. When I got done with today's revision, it ended up being a page shorter, but the beginning, which I felt needed some work, ended up a lot stronger. I'm going to let this sit for a few more days, then do one more draft and see if I think it's finally ready to submit. I think it might be ready, but still want to look at it to make sure it's polished.

I also looked through some of my contest listings, and there are quite a few that I think I want to submit to. Better still, there are a couple of lit journals that are seeking submissions, and those don't cost anything to submit (contests are a $5 minimum).

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Ninth Letter, part 2

Time Spent: 1 hour

Since I hadn't read much of the Ninth Letter before my visit yesterday, I decided I should read and familiarize myself with it in case I decide to submit to it instead of another journal.

Very interesting read. There's more poetry in it than I care for, but you can publish more poems than prose, and publish more authors that way.

Very easy day today.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Visit to the Ninth Letter

Time Spent: 4 hours.

Today, Joanna and I spent time at The Ninth Letter at the UofI Urbana Campus. We talked quite a bit in the car and had lunch with one of the grad students, so it was a full day for us!

First, let me say that driving a car on Wright Street, less than 200 feet from the quad, on a warm Friday morning? Big mistake. Huge, large. Now, on to the story...

I talked with Jodee Stanley, the editor of the Ninth Letter, and two of the grad students who work there. I asked her the same questions I asked Richard Newman from River Styx. The answers are very similar:

Me: What kinds of submissions do you get?
JS: Get literary submissions, but also get art submissions. NL has been around for just a couple of years, and is a joint project between the Graduate English Program and the School of Art and Design.

Me:Do you respond personally to submissions?
JS:We have levels of responses. There's the standard response to most rejections, but we do send some personal responses if the MS generates interest. We'll encourage a writer to send a different work if we liked something that wasn't necessarily appropriate for the journal. Might work with an author on a specific MS if it's that good.

Me: Does one person make decisions regarding submissions or do you decide differently?
JS: First, poetry students read poetry and fiction students read fiction. Unsolicited items get in the slush box and are read in order - two no's gets an automatic rejection. If the reader likes it, it makes it into the weekly meeting and gets a personal note from us.

Me: What do you look for in a submission to accept it?
JS: Since we have such a range of esthetics in the students, everyone is looking for something different. The basics though are writing quality, something that's innovative or skewed, something that has a sense of investment - the story has to be written. There is no Ninth Letter style - we want to try something different with every issue.

Me: What might make you reject a submission?
JS: If something looks very similar to something we've already said yes to; the machanics of an issue help us decide as well. And then there's bad writing and stories that lack investment or spark.

Me: Do you think about your audience when putting the journal together, or do you accept what you like and think will work well in it?
JS: If we picked things only a few of us liked, the journal would have a very narrow focus. The student staff makes a case for works and when they do this, we'll consider a piece. If we like what's going in, we figure the audience will like it as well.

Me: Do you see any advantages or disadvantages to remaining a print journal vs. going to a completely online format, esp. with the Ninth Letter being so cutting edge?
JS: The website is run by the school of art and design and english assists them - online is a multimedia version of the journal. The print version is run by the English program, and the school of art and design assists. We're integrating a bit more now. This is a project instead of just a literary journal. The website has something from the print edition that's expanded.

Me: What are some of the best things about being an editor? What are some of the worst?
JS: Best - the hours are great. I don't work much in the summer when we're slow. I get to read a lot. Worst - stress, creative energy for editing takes away creative energy for writing, funding worries, and we're not sure how the journal is registering with the new chancellor and administration.
Amy: Best - the MFA program helps you develop a thicker skin. Worst - need to be invested and can get frustrated easily. It's also important for creative people to be professional, and you sometimes don't see that professional attitude.
Adam: Best - you learn to appreciate things not in your own esthetic and can abandon some judgments and preconceived notions. Worst - Sometimes the mental toll is as exhausting as doing physical labor.

Me: Is there anything you wish you had known before becoming and editor here? Would anything have changed your mind about it?
JS: May not have chosen to edit if I'd known how much it would have affected my writing.

A big thank you to Jodee, Amy, and Adam for tkaing time out of their busy schedules to meet with us. We appreciate it!

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Comma, Part 1

Time Spent: 2 hours.

I mentioned several weeks ago (I think) that I wanted to learn to edit better. Last Tuesday while I was on campus, I picked up a copy of "Adult Literacy in Writing" or something like that. It's a writing tool written by UIS professor Nancy Perkins and her writing partner Loren Logsdon. I had thought about getting it for a few weeks but hadn't gotten around to it yet, and I happened to visit Dr. Cordell for a few minutes about the AST last Tuesday.

Now let me preface this by saying that when it comes to punctuation, I'm pretty good. I'm not saying that I don't need to improve at all, because I do, but punctuation has always come very naturally to me (maybe because I read so much and absorb it that way). But I DO have my moments, and it's usually because of a stupid little comma. Dr. Cordell has noticed this too. She's not only the UIS supervisor for the AST, I'm also in her science fiction class, and we recently had an essay due where I had a few minor problems with commas. So her comment to me was to get that book because I don't want people feeling that my creative writing could have been better because of a few misplaced commas.

OK, Dr. Cordell, I get it. And I got the book. :::snort::: I hope, if Dr. Cordell is reading this, that she knows I respect her opinion AND feel comfortable enough with her to give her a really hard time. HA!

Anyway, back to my story - so I started reading through this and doing some of the exercises today. This REALLY brought me back to, hmm, fifth grade maybe? I could see myself sitting through language arts and being taught grammar and punctuation.

And so what did I learn? Well, I learned the rules to comma usage, which is really the most important thing. No, I'm not going to go through them here - suffice it to say that while I'm mostly good with punctuation, I do find time to include a few comma splices.

Please don't try to find them in this blog.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Dust from her feet

Time Spent: 1 hour.

Today I continued revising a "Dust From Her Feet" while we drove to Champaign for my mom's birthday. There's so much going on these next few days that I'm stealing time wherever I can, even if it means I have to work in short bursts in the car.

I don't know that I honestly learned much today, but at least I got something done. And revising continues to get easier.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What a Night!

Time Spent: 4 hours.

WOW! Thanks to Joanna and everyone in her creative writing 2 class for allowing me to join them tonight and talk about my experience as the Writer-in-Residence. I really appreciate your willingness to listen to my ramblings and your great questions. Please feel free (this goes for everyone) to waltz through the archives so you can get a really good account of what this experience has been like for me.

So yeah, tonight I went to Joanna's class to talk to them about the above. That was fun. I was also allowed to stay for the rest of the class and take part in peer review which meant I got to help a few people with their short short stories, yay! (My apologies to Emelie for completely marking up her rough draft, tee hee hee)

They happened to be doing author's readings tonight, and both stories were from the stream-of-consciousness assignment. This was good for me because I've only had to write SOC once, and it was horrible. I didn't understand it (don't ask, I just didn't get it. I was missing something, but I didn't know what it was.) After reading the two stories tonight, I understand it a lot better. So I was a student tonight as much as anyone in the classroom.

For Creative Writing 2

Hey Creative Writing 2!

First, thank you, Joanna, for giving me the opportunity to speak to everyone about my AST and being the Writer-in-Residence! This is very exciting for me, and I hope that some of what I talk about will help inspire the rest of you to do some wonderful things.

See the Applied Study Term Website for the most information regarding the AST. What I am doing for the AST is a little different in that the Creative Writing Applied Study Term is a self-directed and disciplined internship. I don't go anywhere but my home computer to do my work. And it IS work - for this project, I am doing everything a writer does, including research, writing, revising, and submitting. In addition, I'm doing all the school work for the class, a major portion being the journal (and this is it! If you want to look at EVERYTHING I'm doing during the course of the project, just take a look at the archives to the left). Here are a few of the major points for the AST:

+Every AST must be a minimum of eight weeks long.

+The journal is required (you don't have to blog like I'm doing. You don't even have to keep your journal on the computer, it can be old fashioned pen and paper if you like, but you DO have to keep the journal.)

+The AST can be used to fulfill the UIS requirement (like the PAC or LSC courses - and let me assure you, this AST is a lot more fun than either the PAC or LSC I took last semester...)
If you want more information, you can call or email the AST office. They can email you the general guidlines for the creative writing AST and you'll need to meet with them prior to them approving a creative writing AST.

The Writer-in-Residence is something that Joanna came up with. The AST office requires that students have a UIS supervisor and a Field Supervisor for their internships. Joanna graciously told me that she'd be my Field Supervisor, and then proceeded to rip my project proposal to shreds and offer me an alternative - which, BTW, was WAY better than what I had proposed. So instead of just writing a bunch of stories (my boring idea), I'm having too much fun writing a few new stories, but revising six previously written stories in preparation for submitting the MSs to literary journals or publishing companies. I've submitted two MS (children's books) to major publishing companies and have already received my first rejection letter - now THAT'S exciting! In the next few weeks we'll be going to visit the editors at River Styx in St. Louis and The Ninth Letter at the University of IL. And then towards the end of the semester (April 28) I'll be doing a public reading.

One of the best websites I've found comes from Writer's Digest and provides 101 links to help you in your journey as an author:

Writers Digest 101 Best Web Sites for Writers
Here are a couple of my favorite links within the site:

+Once contains lists of freebies, advice, contests, and daily writing prompts, among other things. This is an excellent site to visit when you have a chunk of free time you can devote to "research" (aka, surfing).

+Writer's has a ton of advice for authors, and it's all just common sense. You can sign up for a monthly newsletter here.

+Predators and Editors lists the good, the bad, and the truly ugly in the way of publishers, agents, contests, etc. P&E has a link to their (quite thorough) rating system that tells you why a site might get a poor rating. This site has been an eye opener: there is a publishing house that I thought I might like to submit to one day that is on the "avoid" list. After looking at the criteria, I'm wary of even buying a book from this publishing company since they don't seem too concerned about taking care of their authors. This also is handy in that it will usually say if a link is broken or the site hasn't been updated for quite a while.

I can't say enough about Writer's Digest magazine and website. It's been the source of some great information and advice.

Literature Buzz:
This is a great site that lists publishers, online and print lit journals, online and print poetry journals, and other things. The best advice I can give you for this site is be patient and have an open mind. You'll find a lot of broken links, a lot of journals that haven't updated for quite a while, and a lot of scary websites, but there are some really good links too. The literary magazines section alone has over 600 links and I'm still trying to get through all of them. Again, be patient, because you will find something that suits you.

During Creative Writing 2 last Spring (2005), we were given extra credit if we submitted one of our stories to a journal. All we had to do was submit, so I found a journal online,Toasted Cheese, and submitted. By some stroke of luck, my story became one of the Editor's Choice stories in the June 2005 issue:
Beautiful Medusa

Friday, March 24, 2006

Time Spent: 2 hours.

Not a very exciting AST day today. Yesterday while at River Styx, Richard gave me a copy of their 30th anniversary edition and I spent the day reading most of that.

Styx is pretty heavy on poetry. I don't mind poetry, but I'd rather read prose. Poetry takes more concentration than I want to give it. But some of the poems are very good.

This is the second issue of River Styx I've read and I really like this journal. I wish it had more prose, but what it has, even though it's only four or five stories, is very good. The most interesting thing I'm learning from reading journals, particularly this one, is about creative non-fiction. I'm becoming more and more interested in trying to write some of that. I think it would be more difficult; after all, it's truth, but you have to write it so it's interesting. I don't know that my life is that interesting. But it would certainly be worth the effort.

I wish I could say more than this, but like I said above, not a very exciting day. The reading period for River Styx begins May 1, and I think I'm going to submit to it. I know I don't have anything about writing (ha), but I hope my work wouldn't be considered mediocre. Is it bad of me to hope that they'd consider my work more because I've met with the editor? No, seriously, I want any work I do to be considered because it's good. But a girl can dream about getting the easy way out, right? ::snort:::

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A visit to River Styx

Time Spent: 1 hour (not counting travel time - I don't need the hours that badly...)

Following is a hastily typed transcript of the ?s I asked Richard Newman, editor of River Styx literary journal in St. Louis.

Me: What kinds of submissions do you get?
RN: Submissions come from all over the country and from other parts of the world. About 80% are medicre, 5% are truly bad.

Me: Do you respond personally to submissions?
RN: Try to respond in some way, even if it just a "Sorry and Thanks." If they don't get anything from us, then it probably means they're being published, in which case they're happy not to hear from us.

Me: What kind of reading structure do you have?
RN: Might read some submissions aloud in editorial meetings. We also have outside readers who come in once a week or so. There are also a few readers outside the STL area who help a bit. Submission are accepted if they have less than three "no's" given to them.

Me: What do you look for in a submission in order to accept it?
RN: Something that stands out as particularly imaginative or unique, something that has a distinctive voice. Not the usual stuff we get - especially not something that is about writing (for example, a story about a writer, or about the writing process, anything involving writing. They apparently get a lot of those...)

Me: Do you think about your audience when you accept pieces or do you accept what you like and think will work for that issue?
RN: Have a diverse audience, so don't really try to do polls or surveys or pick for the audience. We pick what we like and go with it.

Me: Do you see any advantages to remaining a print journal instead of switching to an online journal? Any disadvantages?
RN: Obviously, the biggest advantage to e-journals is that there's no cost, but most people would rather read something in print when they're in bed at night than sit at their computer and read. Also, I think it's easier to do a themed issue in print.

Me: What are some of the best things about being an editor and what are some of the worst?
RN: Best - it's a lot of fun, the people are great; I've made a lot of friends through other journals and through working relationships here. Worst - Tired of reading other people's work and would rather focus on my own. I'm not up to date on what's already published. The pay is bad. I'm always behind on work here. And we rely solely on funding.

Me: Is there anything you wish you had known before becoming an editor or working at a journal?
RN: How sensitive people are; I would have learned a lot sooner not to send comments on rejections to the authors.

Me: Any final thoughts?
RN: Lit journals are the trenches of the literary world. Publishing is a process. Sometimes the best thing an author can do is to get into the trenches by volunteering to read submissions. Volunteering at a journal is a good way to see what the business is like. See if you can do reading, proofreading, editing, assemblage. Magazines need readers.

Thank you, Richard, for allowing me to see River Styx and taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me. I learned a lot and appreciate your generousity!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

It's Spring - What's with this Snowstorm?!?!?

Time Spent: 5 hours.

I was supposed to go to campus tonight and talk to Joanna's CW2 class about this project and flash fiction. After tweaking "Styx" for the final draft and working more on "Show You Love," I worked more on prep for tonight. Only to have night classes cancelled at 2:45. Damn. I was really looking forward to tonight!

I was also supposed to meet Dr. Cordell and Joanna on campus for my site visit, which needed to get done two weeks ago. Instead, we did the site visit through email, which was an absolute riot. Now I just need to work on my mid-term evaluation.

Spent the rest of the night preparing a bit for my visit with Richard Newman at River Styx on Thursday, trying to work out questions I'm going to ask him. Talked to Joanna on the phone after the flurry of email and got some ideas to start me out, then thought of some more questions that might be appropriate. I'm nervous about the visit, but also excited. We also moved my CW2 class visit to next Tuesday the 28th. The weather better cooperate...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tinkering with tough pieces

Time Spent: 5 hours, 15 minutes.

I finished my contest story today. The final word count? 746. HA! That'll show THEM to set a minimum word count, LOL.

I also started revising a story I wrote in CW1 called "Show You Love." It's about a woman's pregnancy and the birth of her child. This is the one I talked about revising yesterday for Literary, and I've really enjoyed going back through it and seeing how it progressed. I should say I finished revising it, from graded hard copy to computer file. I think I'll let it sit for a few days then look it over again for anything I might have missed.

This story was difficult to revise. I got a REALLY good grade on the final draft, and there weren't many spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors in it. The story itself didn't really need tinkering. What I did though was clean up the passive verbs and made them more active. A lot of what I've read about revising has said to do this very thing, to make the verbs stronger. For example, an original sentence read, "Her stomach was churning, fists flexing, and she started to say whatever came to her mind when it came, instead of making sense." The revised sentence reads, "Her stomach churned, fists flexed, and she said whatever came to her mind whether or not it made sense." The second sentence is much stronger, not to mention less wordy. Yet another great reason to let drafts sit for a while before revising.

I'm still learning to revise. I still don't like doing it, but it's much easier and much more enjoyable now that I have a better idea of what I'm looking for, what I should change. I think - judging from what I've read - that revising is something one learns to do over the course of a lifetime. There's always room for tinkering, but eventually one has to quit fixing and say it's complete. I don't know that this one's complete, but I'm certainly ready to quit tinkering.

On a sort of related note, I just calculated my hours so far for the project. I need 160 clock hours to finish the AST, and I just passed the 100 hour mark today, with 100 hours and 30 minutes. YAY! Which means I've caught up and really DO have the opportunity to get ahead the rest of this week.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Writing with a prompt

Time Spent: 5 hours.

Suddenly I feel like everything I do is turning into one huge blur! What did I do today?

Last week I decided I needed to do some writing prompts to get things going. Had I done anything about it yet? Nope. As I was going through my email to weed through writing contests and calls for submissions, I found one from Writer's Digest about a contest over at Fan that uses a picture as a writing prompt. It's an amazing picture, and I immediately had an idea for a story. Alrighty then, I can do this. So that's what I spent the majority of my time doing today - writing a new story. The guidelines say that the story has to be a minimum 700 words - that was the tough part. I really, REALLY wanted to make this into true flash fiction (<500 words), but I know I can do it within the required minimum. Might not be much more than that, we'll see. Anyway, I'm going to do my best to finish it up tomorrow so it can sit a day or so before I try to revise it. The contest ends March 25, so I'll have one more submission down by the end of next week. As far as writing goes today, it was very productive and I learned that I really can work with writing prompts.

Since I got out the 101 Best Websites for writers list again on Tuesday, I also spent some time going through a few more of them tonight. Found a couple of neat sites for mothers, the best one is I spent a good chunk of time going through the website, which is for mothers who also happen to be writers, or the other way around.

I've been struggling to decide which other stories I'm going to revise and submit. There are a couple that are favorites and I really want to get them out there, but I've found a few places to submit that might be appropriate for them. But I had to decide on two, maybe three, more stories to revise and submit. LitMama was a great place to find - it publishes fiction about motherhood, and I have a couple of stories that deal with that. Finding this got the process going again and I think I'm going to get out one of those stories tomorrow and start revising.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Preparing to Talk to CW2.

Time Spent: 5 hours.

Ah yes, more catch up. Fortunately, it's Spring Break and I'm on vacation, so I have plenty of time to get caught up. My goal for this week is 25 hours for my AST. I haven't totaled my hours lately, but this should put me slightly ahead of schedule. Which is a great thing. Next week, the crap hits the fan - from here on out I am busy, busy, BUSY with school. Tuesday I'm visiting Joanna's creative writing class to talk about flash fiction and the AST. Thursday we visit River Styx in STL. In about three weeks we'll go to Urbana to visit The Ninth Letter, then the public reading is the 28th of April. And I still have to do all of the AST work (site visit, midterm, final) and my work for other classes as well. Just thinking about all of it makes me short of breath. There's so much to do. PLENTY of time to do it all, that's not the problem. It's just so much, and I really have to pace myself and stay disciplined, or it won't get done. It's got to get done. Breathe in, breathe out. OK, that's a little better. Repeat as necessary.

Sunday I also bought the newest issue of Writers' Journal Magazine. The headlines are great: "Stop Procrastinating" and "Shut Up and Write." Ha. It's like it was specially written just for me. ::snort::: No, I'm sure I'm not the only writer who needs to hear those things. The first two articles were on rejection letters/finding the right publisher for your story - timely, considering I received my first rejection letter for "The Monster Under the Bed" in the mail today. It was actually kind of exciting, as far as being rejected goes, because hey, you gotta start somewhere, right? Jeff said we'd get a photo album or something for all my rejection letters so that when I do get something published, we can look back at them and laugh. I really thought I'd be upset, at least some, but I'm not. I'm surprised I heard back so quickly - they said they looked at it, but honestly, I wonder. ::chuckle::: But that's alright. Anyway - the best thing I read yesterday was "don't take it personally," so I'm not. And the tips on beating procrastination were good as well. I'll need to cut that article out and stick it on every wall of my house, I think.

As I said, next Tuesday I'll visit the creative writing 2 class and talk about some things I'm doing for this project, so that's what I spent a good chunk of time working on. I dug out my WD Writer's Yearbook 2006 from January and made a list of some of the good sites they could look at to help them in their writing endeavors. I'll mention Lit Buzz some (and remind them that looking through all those broken links takes immense patience and an open mind - you know, I'm STILL only about 2/3 of the way through all those links, and that's just the literary journals section. There's a whole section on publishers and ezines in there too). I'll also tell them a little about the Applied Study program and how my project fits into it, then of course I talk to them about my love of flash fiction. I'm nervous about speaking to them, but I'm looking forward to it as well. I think I still have a few more hours of work to do before I'm really prepared, but I have plenty of time to prepare.

But it's good to look at what I've done so far because it shows me exactly what I've been learning from this project. It's shown me what I want to go back and look at again, what I need to look at a first time, and what I can tell them works or doesn't work.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Trip to Borders

Time Spent: 2 hours.

Just as I said in Saturday's post, we were in STL yesterday (incidentally, missing the tornado that swept through Springfield, wrecking the Southwest to East part of town - I should post pictures we took on our way back from Decatur today. It's a mess here, but as far as I know, no casualties, thank God!) and I went to Borders out by Galleria. This might not seem newsworthy to you, but all we have here in town is Barnes and Noble (which may be closed for a while, depending on the extent of storm damage). So this was my first Borders trip, in a completely different city to boot.

Very productive. They had twice as many writer's resources as B&N - including a copy of River Styx, which I'm visiting next week. YAY! I can actually read the journal and be prepared for the trip, which is all I did today.

Reading print journals has been a good experience for me, helping me to really open my mind. I think I've mentioned that these aren't the sorts of things that I would normally read. Most of the journals say in their submission guidelines that they don't publish genre fiction, which is more in the realm of what I usually read. I have read all the journals I've bought from front to back (well, except for the poetry, I haven't read all of it - I don't want to think THAT much) and there is some really good work, but honestly, I think River Styx is the best one I've read. I got one of the 2005 issues (probably the last one of the year), and there is a story in there about a college dropout who befriends a teenager in a small MA town, and together they explore the little town. It doesn't sound so exciting from my summary, but it was a very good story.

So this was good preparation for my visit to River Styx. I'll be able to say that I have, in fact, read the journal, and that it's good! I may dig through it again for a close read and see if I can come up with some really good questions about "why this particular story?" or "why this author?"

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Yet More Research

Time Spent: 2 hours.

As the title of this post suggests, I did more journal research today. I wish I could think of something new to say about it, but that's what the last 16 million posts have been about. I think you probably know the drill by now.

We're going to St. Louis tomorrow and I'll be heading to the Borders out by Galleria to see if they have any interesting journals or writer's magazines there that we don't get in Springfield. Maybe that will prove more interesting than Lit Buzz.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Journal Research (still...)

Time Spent: 2 hours

Yes, more journal research today. That wasn't the interesting part though.

In my research, I got to this journal: Image: Art, Faith, Mystery, a Christian faith based journal. While I was looking around, I found a link to Seattle Pacific University's MFA in Creative Writing program.

The whole reason for doing an AST, as I understand it, is exploring a career before one actually gets into said career. As someone who isn't going to graduate at the innocent age of twenty-two without any serious job experience, I think this is a fantastic idea. I wish I'd been able to do that with a few of the jobs I've had in the past - I would have known to run screaming from the building and not turn back at the end of the experience. The AST allows one to work in a real setting, not just a plce where one is a "college intern." The student is expected to do real work and learn the job.

So what does this have to with me? For all intents and purposes, I'm an author right now. I'm doing the things authors do - writing, submitting, researching, and learning. Sometimes part of the learning is going further in school, which is what I'd eventually (sooner rather than later) like to do. I'd LOVE to do a MFA in creative writing. See this link to SPU actually made me cry - this is almost the whole of what I'd like to do. I've been torn, the past year or so, about what to do in regards to a Master's degree. I've always felt called to go to seminary, but I'd really love to get that MFA. SPU, as a Christian university, has this philosophy for their CW MFA program: "The low-residency MFA at SPU is a creative writing program for apprentice writers—both Christians and those of other traditions—who not only want to pursue excellence in the craft of writing but also place their work within the larger context of the Judeo-Christian tradition of faith." This is what I want to do!!! And I got so excited, I cried. The low residency program is a plus as well - instead of being on campus all the time, I could do this while still living and working in IL, and would only have to go to Seattle twice a year for the seminars. Sounds perfect. Anyone want to help me convince my husband that I should do it now instead of in two or three years?

So this has been the learning portion of the AST for today. Part of a job is continuing education and it's no different for writers.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Journal Research (more...)

Time Spent: 3 hours, 30 minutes.

Yes, more delightful journal research again today. I'm officially halfway through the litbuzz list, which is nice. Same old same old: more broken links, more dead journals, a few great possibilities. I read a wonderful, brilliant story about a homeless man today, but I didn't bookmark the story itself and so now I have to go through all my history to find this story so I can put a link in here. I'll try to remember to do that another day.

I've started to see more journals that are appealing. I think what will happen is I'll narrow it down to several really promising journals (which I've bookmarked), then go back and study those journals again to decide which ones hold the most promise.

Tomorrow - more reasearch!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Journal Research

Time Spent: 2 hours.

Just to get this out of the way: Yes, I DO have my 2 disc special edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I wasn't the first person at Walmart to grab a copy. I'm not the only weird person shopping for HP at 12 am, so there. :-P

So today, more research on journals. I have a feeling I'm going to be doing that a lot until I'm done with this list on Lit Buzz, and as of right now I'm still only about half way through that list. Many more broken links, many more links that have dead journals (or at least not updated for a couple of years), but a few more productive web sites with some really good work.

I'm learning patience right now. I want to just get this submitting thing done and out of the way, but one of the keys to getting published is submitting to an appropriate place and I want to make sure I do that. And I don't want to just submit anywhere, either. I've seen a few journals that have some really good work, then I'll read something that might be considered objectionable by some people or that I find objectionable myself. I know that most journals are going to have something in them that offends someone, but I still want to be careful with what I do.

Monday, March 06, 2006

(Writing) Exercises are Good for Me!

Time Spent: 3 hours.

I should just leave this for tomorrow, but I've caught a second wind and need to make this quick because I need to go to WalMart still. I know, I know, it's late (11:14 pm here in the midwest) but I promised myself that I would buy Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as soon as it came out on March 7. That's approximately 45 minutes. I DO have my priorities, and y'all should have known by now that I'm a huge Harry Potter fan (did you MISS the part about Bloomsbury USA the first ten times I wrote it? ).

Anyway - today, researched a few more links, lots more broken ones, a few good ones, a few out of that that hold some promise. You know, there are some really weird people out there...

I also attended my first meeting of SCBWI - Springfield at Barnes and Noble. We did quite a bit at the meeting, but if there was one thing I really got out of it, it was the writing exercises.

I hate writing exercises. I hated them the first time we had to do them in creative writing 1. I hated having to do them in creative writing 3. I hated the few we had to do online for creative writing 2. So it should come as no surprise that I've not done one writing exercise since starting this AST. HA! Well, I should be doing them, because I ALWAYS get something out of it. Tonight was no exception. We had to do two short ones. Lo and behold, I've finally got an idea for that children's book I wanted to write about Fletcher, my nephew ("The Monster Under the Bed" and "The Snowdragon" star all his older siblings). I'm a schmuck, what can I say? So I think tomorrow I'll be signing up for daily writing exercises. See, I learned something brand new. And I'm also going to find all my old writing exercises and see what I can make of them.

Ok, I have to go now. I really DO have to go to Walmart, for stuff other than GoF. but mainly for that! Happy Harry watching!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Catching up is hard to do.

Time Spent: 5 hours.

Yeah, that's right, five, count em F-I-V-E hours today. This is what happens when you get behind - you get to play catch up. I think my eyes are bleeding. No, seriously. Or maybe that's my sanity, leaking out in my tears.

Ok, enough melodrama. Like I said, catching up, and I did a lot of it. I spent most of the time researching journals. Last week I found a site called Literature Buzz that has somewhere around 2000 links (no, really) for journals, poetry, etc. It's completely nuts. So I'm thinking this would be a great place to find some journals that might be good places to send MS submissions.

I found a few. I'm not even halfway through the list (I spent a good four hours looking at links and I'm not even halfway - I told you there were a lot of links!) and a good portion of those were broken links, a good portion were links that still had a journal on them but the site hadn't been updated for quite a while. But there were a few good ones that hold some promise. And there are still quite a few more links to go through before I'm done looking.

What else did I do? Oh yeah, wrote a story. A piece of flash that's still untitled, I think. I know what the running title is, but I don't think that's the official title.

I'm putting my fried brain to bed now. Ugh. And I'll be doing this at least one more time during the week, if not twice.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Time Spent: 3 hours.

I picked up the latest copy of The Writer lit magazine a few days ago and finally got a chance to read it. Lots of intersting things in there, including a great article on creating conflict in children's literature. Other things of interest: "Practical wisdom for beginning writers", an article reviewing a book called Writing Brave and Free, which looks like something I'm interested in reading. The reviewer says it reads as easily as one of those Dummies guides and has excellent advice on everything writing related. And finally, an interview with poet Billy Collins, whose advise to writers on finding their voice is this: "I think you find your voice when you quit censoring yourself. It isn't external. It's inside you. The reason the young writer isn't using it is the voice is being suppressed, usually because of some kind of decorum. I ask young writers to examine themselves. What are you keeping out of your writing? Allowing those things into your writing is ultimately how you find your voice." (The Writer, April 2006, pg66)

The above really struck me because I'm not sure if I've found my voice yet. I have many things I like to write about, some things more than others, but like any writer, I have a desire to be fresh and new with what I'm creating. I don't want to fake my way through writing - by that, I mean I want who I am to come through in my writing, not something I've made up. Yet, is who I am good enough for the literary world? That's been a serious question on my mind lately. When it comes to essays, I am an extremely strong writer, but when it comes to creative writing, I'm not so sure yet. And I'm starting to feel like Carrie Bradshaw, so I'm going to shut my yap about that for right now. At any rate, it demands a bit more looking at.

Other stuff - looked at more online journals. That's about all for today. Tomorrow, more lit journals and some SERIOUS catching up with time - I'm sure you've noticed that I'm several hours behind for the week. I was stressed earlier in the week over a paper for another class. This week, I catch up and get ahead. Or else!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

"Antithesis Common"

Time Spent: 3 hours, 15 minutes.

More journal research today. I think I've found another place to submit,Antithesis Common. AC is an online journal that was just started last fall. I read through both issues yesterday, and there are some really good pieces in each. I think this would be a great one for me to send a story to - because it's so new, I might have a better chance of getting published (I'm not holding my breath, but it's an interesting theory, LOL), and the editorial staff sends a critique of every author's submissions back to the author, whether or not s/he gets published. THAT'S the draw right there - getting a critique of my work from the editors. As much as I want to send "journey" to Glimmer Train for a contest, I think it might have a good chance at Antithesis Common.

I also spent time looking through graded stories from creative writing 2 last spring. There are a couple that I think are really good and have some potential, but there's one in particular that I'm not sure is appropriate for any journal I've researched so far. I'll spend some more time thinking and researching - maybe there's a market out there. Maybe it's a contest piece. I don't know. Maybe it's one I keep for a collection that seems to be slowly writing itself. At any rate, there are at least two more that look like they can be revised to make a very polished story. I have my work cut out for me.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Journal Research

Time Spent: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Now that I've submitted the children's stories and my focus isn't so much on submitting to publishing houses, I've started reasearching - hard! - lit journals to submit my short stories to. It's been easy to find journals just by looking on the web, but it's been difficult to find a journal that would be appropriate for me to submit my stories to.

I don't have a very exciting strategy for finding one. I have a list of journals and I just hit each link and study the journal for awhile by reading stories (if available) and studying each journals submission guidelines. Simple, but effective. The only journal I'm sure I'll submit to is Glimmer Train, and that won't be until at least April for their general submission period (they also have three contests I want to submit to, but the contest submissions periods don't start until May 1).

I think what I'm learning right now is patience with myself. I don't have much experience with lit journals, and finding one that would be appropriate for me to submit to is really a process of trial and error.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Lit Journals

Time Spent: 4 hours

I think doing this project on a daily basis is like exercise: if you do it everyday, you can do it longer every day. Which explains why I did four hours of research in front of the computer today.

The first hour was spent looking at campus calendars and places for the public reading. Being married with a small child, I have to make sure that all schedules coordinate and I can get child care if I need it. So this was all a part of trying to look at dates and times that I can DO this thing. Then I had to look at the possible places on campus and find out if their schedules worked with mine. Having done all that, the final step was to email Joanna back and let her know the dates that would work. If they do, then this AST project will be going out with a huge bang on April 28th. We'll see. If you're wondering what I learned from this process, it's this: schedule EARLY!

The next three hours I researched journals to submit to. I was pretty excited to Google the phrase "literary journals" and get handed a whole website with links to about sixty different online journals. Some of them are pretty conservative, some are pretty cool, and some are just plain weird. (Would you have ever thought that a journal called syntax played to the "twilight zone" crowd, or a journal called "clean sheets" was actually a journal that specializes in erotica? Hello! Those were two surprises I didn't need...) But I found some promising places that "journey" might fit into pretty well. Since I'm not sure what I'm revising next, but better get on the stick and decide, I couldn't keep anything in mind for another piece. Thank God for bookmarks.

Ok, I've just fallen asleep at the keyboard. I'm going to bed. Tomorrow, maybe I'[ll get to some actual drafting, but as I have to go to the bad place (work), I doubt it. Good night.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Revising Journey

Time Spent: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

I spent all my time today revising "Journey." No seriously, I did. Two and a half hours of revisions. Holy cow.

I've mentioned before that I'm not terribly good with revisions. I edit as I write, which is probably a huge time waster, but I like to blame it on my slightly type-A personality. It drives me nuts as I do it, but I do it anyway. This makes it more difficult for me to do revisions because I figure that what I've already written is good enough.

Wrong. That's why waiting awhile to revise has become a great tool for me. I wrote a few days ago in a self-evaluation that this allows me to look at what I've written with fresh eyes that aren't sick to death of the subject matter. And it's been only recently that I learned this.

I'll admit it - I went into this AST absolutely dreading doing revisions. I didn't think I was up to it. I'm still not sure that I am, but having done three now (and the first two were so short that they really just needed polishing), I feel a little better about the whole thing. After having spent most of my time Monday with pen to paper making changes on the graded hard copy, it was much easier to sit down at the computer and makes changes. I even re-wrote the ending. My creative writing instructor said that the ending moved too fast; for the type of story it is, I think I agree. But as the final draft of this story was due eight days before I gave birth to my son, I'm cutting myself some major slack, ha. All told, the revised version of "journey" has another four pages of prose tacked on to it. I've changed some obviously very telling parts to what I hope are parts that show instead. I've changed names. I've done research and added details where appropriate. It's been fun. It's challenged me.

"Journey" is one of my favorite stories I've written, I think because of the setting (which was the point of the assignment). I'm really glad that I gave it time to sit around before revising it, because I think I've made it an even better story. I'll be looking for journals to submit it to in the next few days - time will tell if I'm right or not.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Revisions - ARGH!

Time Spent: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

I worked today, so all of my AST work happened there. Normally I would revise on my home computer, but I took the graded hard copy of "Journey" to work with me and revised right on it. I kind of like that system - it allows me to see comments on my work and change things with those comments in mind.

But what a process. I can see why the comments were made (mostly, "show, don't tell," ha) and know what I need to do to improve, but it's still a long process. There are two sentence passages in the story that I was spending twenty minutes working on. After a while, that kind of thing gets tiring.

An interesting thing happened while I was working on a self-evaluation for my Capstone class. I wrote, "I think the best part of this assignment was being able to pick up a paper which I haven't read for over a year and seeing the changes I needed to make with fresh eyes. Revisions are incredibly difficult for me, and I've learned that I need time to pass before I make revisions. I need to read things I've written with eyes that aren't sick to death of the subject matter. I've been focusing on creative writing for the past three semesters, and what I've learned about revisions and peer review in that area has carried over to my other classes and helped me write better essays." That's a good thing to see myself say because I really hate doing revisions. I know when I read something I've written after a passage of time that I'm going to see the need for improvement. And it's really nice to see the changes I've made and feel good about them.

Tomorrow, typing those revisions. I hope I can read my handwriting.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Submitting a Chldren's story: Stage 3.

Time Spent: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

I didn't do quite as much today since I was out of town, but I got a little bit done.

I spent the first thirty minutes looking at all the places on campus that could host the public reading later in the semester. I'm not 100% sure yet, but I'm leaning towards having it in Brookens auditorium. It's supposed to be a smaller place, which think will be more comfortable for me. I get stage fright so easily. I'm really excited about doing the reading, but I'm not sure how I'm going to get through it! I'll spend some time this week looking at dates.

I picked up the newest copy of Writer's Digest last night and read part of that in the car. I think the most important thing I learned from WD (so far) in this issue is to watch my grammar. There was a very interesting little quiz in the first few pages that gave different ways to say something and the reader had to decide which way was correct. Happily, I got most of the answers right, but this has only served to reinforce that I really need to work on clarity and grammar in my writing. It's not that I'm bad with these things, but in the first draft it all just comes out. I edit while I'm writing, but some of these things can only be caught in a revision state. This is all part of the process. (Mostly it's fun, but sometimes I do get sick of the process, ha.)

And Friday? I sent out my first two submissions. "The Monster Under the Bed" and "The Snowdragon" are now in the fine care of the United States Postal Service and should be in several New York slush piles by Tuesday.

And THAT'S exciting!!!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Submitting a Children's Story: Stage 2

Time Spent: 3 hours

I spent the day polishing and printing query letters, touching up "The Monster Under the Bed" and "The Snowdragon" and printing multiple copies of both,and putting everything together to send out to publishers. They're ready. This is really it.

Now technically, I sent my first query letter out today by email, to Simon and Schuster. It got returned because the postmaster said it couldn't find the recipient, but so what? Haha, I guess I'll just send that out by snail mail.

In creative writing 1, we had to write a story based on a setting of our choosing. It could even just be that the story took place in this particular spot. For my setting, I chose, which is quite possibly my favorite place in the world. I'm in the process of revising that story now, titled "Journey," and I decided to do some more research on Tybee just to make sure I get all my details right. I looked at a map of the island a lot and also the website for. I'm ashamed to admit that I've never been to the Breakfast Club, but I when I'm on Tybee, I'd rather be on the beach than eating breakfast - if I'm going to be up that early, I'm collecting shells that have come in from high tide. Anyway, I really love this particular story, and it's been fun to reread it a couple of times and look at all the comments that were made on it, and then work on the improvements.

I think what I've learned most today is that I'm SO much better now at showing things instead of just telling them. I think every creative writing student (I don't think I'm just speaking for myself here) gets really frustrated hearing or seeing "show, don't tell." But then you write enough, and practice it enough, that it starts to come to you naturally. Instead of thinking "I need to show this particular thing because I need to show and not tell," I think now, "How can I describe this thing? How can I show that someone's sad, or angry or nervous? How do *I* feel when I would describe myself as one of these things?" It's not so much a conscious effort anymore because I've had that practice. And yet it's still something I need to practice and need to learn every time I sit down at the computer to write a piece of fiction.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Odds and Ends

Time Spent: 2 hours.

I took time today to get some things done other than research (which I did) and writing (which I didn't, I'm a slacker). I mentioned not long ago that one of my site visits will be to at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

So today, I was finally able to get ahold of Joanna (busy woman!) and find out what dates worked for her for us to try and get to . Dates in mind, I emailed Richard Newman and voila! We are setting out for STL on March 23. I'm pretty excited about this visit. River Styx is an independent journal instead of one affiliated with a college, so it will be nice to get that different "flavor." College is great, don't get me wrong, but it will be wonderful to spend some time away from a college influence, ha.

Other fun things Joanna and I talked about: I know I mentioned the whole Writer-in-Residence thing, but apparently the English Department liked it so well that it's an Official Thing: I'm the first University of Illinois as Springfield Writer-in-Residence for the English Department. That's pretty darn amazing. The department is even going to help with the public reading I'm doing (later in the semester) because they think this is such a good thing. I'm so excited. So that moves us into the public reading. No date set yet, but Joanna told me to look at dates and gave me a list of places on campus that I could do it. I'll be looking at that later in the week.

Finally, more research, checking on some details on the places I'm submitting the children's stories to. And I set up a gmail account because I need an email account that I'll be able to access from the web and is reliable (my ameritech account is getting less and less so, yippee.)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Submitting a Children's Story: Stage 1

Time Spent: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

The first things I'll submit will be two children's stories I've written in the past couple of semesters. I'll be sending them to real live publishing houses. I've mentioned before that Bloomsbury USA is at the top of my list. Simon and Schuster is a very close second (they've published Shel Silverstein, and he's possibly one of my favorite poets/authors/illustrators - I also just learned yesterday that some of his work is with S&S, so good for me on learning something new!).

I mentioned only a few weeks ago that I downloaded the Children's Book Council member list and went through it, marking those houses that accepted unsolicited MSs and which ones wanted queries first, then going to each of the web sites. Well, today I downloaded the February List from the CBC and did it all again to make sure nothing had changed, making even closer notes of each houses' specific requirements.

And so here's the exciting news: I think I've finally learned enough about submissions procedures for children's books that I'm ready to submit both of them. I'll send one story to five house, and the other to the other five houses. Today, in an effort to get ready, I addressed 9 x 12 envelopes - big enough for a MS to fit in !!!!!!!! That was exciting. It's really happening. Maybe nothing will ever come of these submissions, but you know what? Maybe something WILL come of them. This is REAL, people, this is really happening. This is what every published author has had to go through, and I'm in awe that I'm actually doing it.

I honestly don't know what I learned today, but I'm damn excited to be applying what I've been learning!!!!!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Everything I ever wanted to know in one site.

Time Spent: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

I intended to do more than this today, I really did. However, I had to work. But this was not the problem. I got an hour and fifteen minutes of good solid research done at the bank today, before I left for lunch. Unfortunately, while I was at lunch, things got exciting and when I got back we ended up standing around for a while and then closing early.

But what I did was pretty cool. Again, one of WD's 101 best, a site called This Site is just packed with great information - a lot of the same things I've ben learning on other sites, but there's an extensive FAQ section that details some things that I haven't found anywhere else. The one thing I learned that really sticks out in my mind is that when doing simultaneous submissions of a MS, it's helpful to only submit to five houses at a time because that makes it easier to keep trackof where the MS is and who has replied to your query. This is helpful information that just makes sense.

That's pretty much it for the day. Tomorrow shouldn't be so exciting and I think I'll be able to get more done.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Site visits, here I come...

Time Spent: 2 Hours.

Today was spent doing yet more research on journals to submit to. I wish I could say something more exciting than that about that subject, but I can't. It's exciting for me because I get to read and learn about the things I need to do to become a better writer and submit stories to places.

But here's the exciting part: I made phone calls for site visits! And they were GREAT phone calls! First I talked to Jodee Stanley at The Ninth Letter in Urbana (UIUC), and she has graciously agreed to host one of the site visits. So on April 7, I am going to go visit them and talk to Jodee about some different aspects of the journal: what editors look for in submissions and what they want to see in pieces they publish, what her job is like as the editor, etc. I think she's also going to have other editors there who can talk with me about some of these things as well. I'm looking at this not only from a writer's view, but I've always thought that editing might be a good place for me. The other phone call was to Richard Newman at The River Styx in St. Louis, an independent journal with a huge following. He's also agreed to allow me come to talk with him and his staff, we just need to agree on a date.

Probably the scariest (or maybe just most intimidating) part of this AST is dealing with people in the real world. I'm shy (no, really I am) and speaking to people I've never met, ESPECIALLY over the phone, is an absolute chore or me. I've just learned, and proven to myself, that I can do it! YAY!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Time Spent: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

My goal for the day was 3 hours - considering I did all my AST work at the bank today, I think the time I got in is pretty good and I don't feel at all bad about not quite meeting my goal.

Again, lots of research. I spent time reading The Missouri Review, a lit journal from the University of Missouri - Columbia. It's excellent, and I think it will be one of the journals I submit to in a few weeks. The very first story is one about an English au pair who escapes to Cape Town with the family she works for in Cairo during WWII. Very moving, especially at the end when the boat they're on is hit by Japanese subs and goes down in the middle of the night. I really only got through the first two stories, they're both so long. More learning to expand my horizons again today.

And in looking at websites, another WD 101 best site, The website itself was just alright. It had a few good articles on how to get into the children's book industry, but the best thing was the forums! A bunch of published and unpublished writers who post about their triumphs and setbacks so that everyone learns. I read about openings in critique groups/circles online, what things people have written, who've rejected their query letters, and how they cut words from MSs to get it into editors' word limits. The most interesting thing I learned on the forums was about cutting, or pruning, as the message said - by going through a MS with a fine tooth comb (or having Word highlite certain words like 'and, the, or, just don't, up, down', etc) and eliminating certain words that don't need to be there, one can really cut down word counts. Makes a lot of sense. Since I haven't written anything truly long (this author in particular was talking about cutting her word count down to 120,000 from about 125,000!!!), I don't know yet just how tightly I write. But that would still be a good thing for me to do with some of my short stories.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Good Luck, Crab Orchard Review!

Time Spent: 2 hours.

I spent most of my day today researching journals. I heard back from Allison Joseph at Crab Orchard Review, and they are too busy right now to let me visit them. That's fine; they're getting ready to put a new edition of COR out, so that trumps my visit, obviously. I wish her and the rest of the staff the best of luck!

But that means I'm back to square one for site visits, which is a bit frustrating. Thus, researching journals. Found a couple of neat ones in the STL area. Natural Bridge, the lit journal from UM-STL, which has won some nice awards and looks to be very well put together. Then River Styx, which seems to be an indie journal that has a pretty decent following. They even do readings once a month at Duff's in STL, which Joanna (my Field Advisor) assures me is some good stuff. I think she approves of heading down to STL for a visit. So my goal is call those two places on Wednesday and see if either can accommodate us. The other one I'll call is The Ninth Letter, the journal at UI Urbana. They've also won some awards, and maybe they'll help me because I'm a UI student.

Sadly, researching journals was as exciting as my day got. The great thing about it though is that I got to read a couple of really great stories (to get a feel for what the journal likes, pretty important if I'm going to submit to it). Like any job, this is a process. I think the most important thing I learned today was to expand my horizons. I've mentioned before that I'm pretty limited in what I read. Well, most of the journals I've looked at don't necessarily accept genre work, so I'm reading about a lot of "real life" type stories. It's definitely helped me learn to explore outside my comfort zone as far as reading goes.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

What was Pilate thinking? (Yes, THAT Pilate...)

Time Spent: 2 hours

The first thing I did today was continue writing the story I talked about yesterday. This has become somewhat difficult to write as I struggle to not completely copy what's in the Bible, but to remain Biblically accurate in creating a work of fiction. In a way, writing this is similar to writing fan fiction: there are already established characters that most everyone is familiar with, so it's easier to write from that standpoint. It's also easier in that I am rewriting, from a few different points of view, a familiar story - I'm trying to fill in the blanks in such a way that I and the reader can "see" the faces of the characters and "feel" their emotions. Don't get me wrong - I don't think the Bible is lacking those things, but we (I know I'm guilty of this) can become so used to what the Bible says that we can read the words and not really take them to heart. My challenge has been to fill those things in which we take for granted. What did Pilate feel like when he was trying to get the priests to release Jesus? What was Barabbas thinking about when he thought he would be crucified that day? How did it feel for him when Jesus took his place? These were humans who felt and saw and thought the same things that we do; even Jesus, being human, did all of these things. I'm sure He was terrified of going to the cross, but He did it anyway.

Again, this has been part of the challenge of writing stories based on what's in the Bible. Trying to look at stories I know from a completely different angle or point of view that maybe I've not thought of before. This is part of learning to write for me, because when I write a character, it's helpful to get inside his or her head. But the story doesn't stay in just that character's head or point of view. And everyone has a different angle, even if we're looking at the same thing and coming to the same understanding.

The other thing I'm learning (work in progress here), is the "show, don't tell" thing. In writing today, there were a few times where I caught myself thinking, "Now how can I show this particular emotion instead of just saying what the person is feeling?" I gotta tell you, that is a nice thing to have absorbed. It's taken me almost two years, I'm nowhere near where I need to be, but I'm learning! YAY!

The rest of my time was spent looking at another website:
This wasn't quite as exciting as the other websites, but there was a fantastic article on the right things to do when submitting a manuscript. It wasn't anything I didn't know, in that it was everything I've learned to do when turning in a final draft in any class I've ever had. Formatting is the same for both things. But I learned today that doing all of those things keeps me on the right track, and that's a good thing to know; when ignoring those important things, no matter how tiny I might deem them, it means that my unsolicited manuscript might get thrown in the recycling bin instead of being read in its entirety. I'm sure that's going to happen enough without me helping it along further. Ha.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Fried Brain.

Time Spent: 4 hours

Found another good site from the WD 101 best web sites article:
The description that WD gives the site says that it has a mom and pop feel, and it really does, but it's another great site. Articles galore, ranging from query letters to simple writing tips to get authors inspired to pound the keyboard.

Also looked at the Writer's Market online. It's a subscription site, but it has 1500 more listings than the hard copy I would buy at the bookstore. I know it would have more information than I would know what to do with, but I still need to think about it because of the cost. Of course, there is a month to month subscription which might convince me... At any rate, I did sign up for a couple of newsletters from WM that will give some good tips and information, I'm sure.

I also searched out more hard copy journals to see if any of them might be good places to submit some stories. The great thing about some of these print journals is that if they accept work, they pay, many as much as $50 minimum for a story as short as 500 words, which just sounds amazing to me. This might sounds silly or simplistic, but my mind is starting to think of stories in word count instead of pages. I'm so used to including word counts in my stories that it's almost like doing math formulas in the conversions of it all. And really, just think about it. A page seems so big. A word is just a little thing. But write enough of them and they take up a lot of space. Trying to write a three page story can sometimes seem very intimidating. But writing a 750 word story? Hey - that's nothing at all.

Which leads me into writing, which I did today. I decided I couldn't face a blank slate, so I picked up a story I started probably six months ago. This is a story that has been in my mind for years, and I had actually been planing on making a book of it. Then I started writing flash based on Bible stories, and I thought maybe this would work better in a book as part of a collection instead of a stand alone novel. So that's how it started. Having written about 400 more words on it today, with some research on the timeline of Christ's trial and crucifixion thrown in for really good measure, I'm starting to think again about the book idea.

So what did I learn today? Writers write, and should write every day. Check! Oh, and three hours in one day? Not usually a problem. But four? Fried Brain, anyone?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Officially Untitled. So there.

Time Spent: 3 hours.

You know, trying to come up with a new title for every post is really a pain!

This is going to be a quick blog, because it is the second time I've had to write it for Friday. I had it posted, I saw it up when I started my blog for today. After I published today's, I couldn't find yesterday's. So I'll be working really hard on back up from now on so I don't have to do this very often. Geesh.

Anyway, yesterday I spent most of my time looking at different sites from the WD's 101 best web sites for writers. The main one I happened to look at was, and there is an absolute wealth of information on that site that is just fantastic. Mostly I read articles on how to write a good query letter, how to develop characters and dialog, how to write emotions, etc etc.

I also continued to go through my now highly marked up list of publishing houses that I can submit my children's books to for publication. I was even brave and checked the sites that said "no unsolicited manuscripts." They're dead serious about that too - most of them tell authors to get an agent in order to submit to that particular house. Most of them won't even show submission guidelines. hey, that's alright - I can say I checked.

So let's say my new thing I learned for Friday was to back up this blog. I'm not doing this again!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Revising, revising, revising

Time Spent: 3 hours

I spent the day revising and looking at a list of publishers and their websites.

I thought the revising wouldn't be too bad. It really wasn't, but it showed me that I feel I really don't know what I'm doing as far as revising goes. To be fair, I revised a couple of shorter stories, ones where a lot of revising wasn't needed, only some polishing. But what about when it comes time to start revising the longer stories? I can't submit all flash fiction - I'll have to submit something longer than two pages sometime during the semester. This is what scares me. After three semesters of creative writing, I still don't really know how to revise that well. If at all.

I pulled down the list of member publishers from the Children's Book Council and marked all the ones that are currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts, which looks to be about a third of them. I also marked the ones that say query letters first, which adds a few more possibilities.

Something I don't understand, and maybe I'm being too logical about this, is why an organization would include publishers who aren't accepting unsolicited MSs or will only accept them from agents/published authors. Technically, I could just whip off a query letter to the former and it would probably be alright, and I could hire an agent that doesn't get paid unless I get published for the latter, but for someone who's just starting off (like me) that sounds like a lot of time that I don't want to waste. Or maybe I don't want it badly enough, I don't know. Maybe I'm just playing it safe by only going with the companies accepting unsolicited MSs.

Anyway, just to get a feel for each of the publishers, I visited their websites. Got through about half of them. It's interesting to read submission guidelines from company to company. With all the marking and reading I did today, it kind of felt like I was actually looking for a job. I wasn't expecting it to feel like that, and it's a good feeling, but a scary one as well. It's been a long time since I've had to look for a job, especially one that matters, and it's exciting to have that feeling that I'm looking for something I know I'll enjoy. On the other hand, this is a job where my success doesn't depend solely on my abilities but on others liking/appreciating what I have to say.

It's starting to feel very real right now, and I know that is going to get more intense when I actually start submitting to different houses.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

More research and ideas molding in my brain

Time Spent: 3 hours

I was a bad girl last night - I did some research at the end of the evening, but was too tired to journal so I'm counting it on today's time. Bad Steph, Bad, BAD!

Anyway, I did a lot of research for today. A lot of it was going into some of the Writer's Digest links from the 100 best websites. I looked at three sites - it's like looking at any other website. One link leads to another to another. What a wealth of information! I saw link for contests, for submission venues, for articles about what it takes to get published, and that was from just one of those sites.

One link leading to another led me to Glimmer Train. They have some exciting contests going on right now, one of which is for a very short story award - in other words, flash fiction, which is my thing. And they allow 2000 words for it. HA! I can do it in 250! ;)

But from all this research I did last night and today, the thing that struck me most is some research I did on primates. I'm thinking of writing this Science Fiction story and am exploring the possibilities of writing about evolution (It will make more sense when the story's finished, I promise). Anyway, that got my mind turning with a bunch of what if's and I wonder's. The most important thing I learned is that evolutionarily (is that a word even?) speaking, humans are most closely related to a group called bonobos. We share certain social traits with them, and the main difference, besides appearance, is that humans have bigger brains and cerebral cortexes than bonobos ( a type of ape). At least that's what I got from the reading I did. Now here's the deal - I understand evolution, but I don't really believe in it. I'm a pretty literal seven day creation type person, but I also understand that the important point in Genesis is that God created us. I personally think that God created all species as they are, which means no common ancestor for the humans and the apes, but I'm also willing to be wrong because the theory of evolution is so damn interesting. Perhaps God created the common ancestors and left evolution to do the rest of the job. It's not a question I need answered now anyway. It is so interesting though to study the theory and see what biology says about evolution, and it got me thinking - what if there was another in the hominid family more advanced than homo sapiens? I was exhausted last night, yet it took me forever to get to sleep because I continued to mull this over in my mind for a while, all in pursuit of a fictional story.

So I think what I learned can be condensed to two things;
1. science is fascinating and I should consider writing about it; and
2. I shouldn't read interesting things before bed!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A page a day

Time Spent: 3 hours

I wasn't feeling up to writing today, so went to Barnes and Noble to look at writer's magazines and literary journals. I came home with two magazines and two journals.

I spent my time today reading all of the first magazine, the Writer's Digest Writer's Yearbook 2006, and about half of the second, Writer's Journal. I came away with a lot from both.

I'll be honest, this is the first time I've really sat down and read things like this specifically for writers. Up until a year ago, writing was something that I dreamed of doing full time, but never really imagined myself actually doing for a living. I've had that same dream since I was about fifteen, but it took a huge vacation about the time I was seventeen and started thinking about "real life" and "being practical." It wasn't until an extra credit assignment last spring led me to a lot more belief in my abilities. So now I'm reading writer's magazines! What a huge step for me.

At the very end of WD Writer's Yearbook 2006, there is an article by Chelan David called, "Five Tips for Getting Published." Step Four is "Think How-to: Write about what you learn." (WY2006, 72) I wanted to insert that quote because it is SO appropriate for the AST. Now on to other things.

Most impressive thing in Writer's Yearbook 2006? "The Best 101 Web Sites for Writers" is definitely something I'll be checking out in the next few days. And I'm on the right track with my research - I've visited a few of these web sites already (including Toasted Cheese, which came in under online writing and critique groups). It's great to know that I really AM doing something positive when it comes to researching places to submit to.

But I also read something that really put this in perspective for me. Writer's Journal has an article titled, "Beating Procrastination: Adopt and Adapt an Ad." (Dennis E. Hensley) Hensley says, "Write even one page a day and you'll wind up with a 365-page book at the end of the year." (WJ, 14) This made me stop and think about it immediately, and even comment on it to my husband. I think about all the great books I've read, some of them longer than this by double, and the writers are doing more than that in a day. An example: JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. "The Order of the Phoenix" was well over 700 pages long itself and was released in 2003. Two years later (only two years!), in 2005, "The Half Blood Prince" was released - it was shorter than its predecessor, but it was still well over 700 pages long. And Rowling took time off to have a her third child during that time. There's also the issue of revisions, a trip to the publisher's, printing time and a release date, all of which took probably five to six months. So let's say that in the two years between the releases, Rowling really only had, at most, a year and a half to write her sixth book. And that doesn't count maternity leave - let's say another three months for that, leaving a total of fifteen months to write a 700+ page novel. That's a good two pages a day plus (my math is off, I'm just guessing), and I'm sure that she took a day off during the week as well, and probably had those days where she just couldn't imagine sitting in front of a computer (if you've ever been pregnant, you understand), so that's probably a daily average of four to six pages. Here's the lesson learned from all that perspective (and it's quite a lot of it): Be consistent, even, as Hensley says, if it's only a page a day.

So I feel silly for skipping the writing today, but on the plus side, I did three or four pages yesterday, so I'm not going to worry about it too much.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Retelling a parable

Time Spent: 2 hours

I've mentioned this story I've had in my head a couple of times, and it has yet to receive a working title, but it's a retelling of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15.

The reason I'm writing this story is because I'm writing a bunch of short stories based on Bible stories. This started with a set of stories I wrote last spring based on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. One is told from the POV of the fallen angels, including the Chief Liar, and the other is told from the perspective of Jesus. I'm trying to look at these stories (some parables, some true) from a different angle, and this one is no different. I tend to think inside the box way too much, and this helps stretch my though processes - not to mention it's a lot of fun to write a story based on something everyone's heard from a POV that they may never have thought about.

What I learned today:

1. Jesus tells this story better then I can.
2. The older brother was a prodigal too, in his own way. The story doesn't end when the youngest son comes home - it continues with the father and the eldest son.

This isn't the first time I've reflected on this story in this way, simply because spiritually, I'm the brother who stayed and followed all the rules, and has missed out on a lot of parties worrying about the ones who left for "better things." But to actually write a story like this is hard - it's just a strict retelling from the older brother's POV without any of my messiness thrown in to the mix.

Most of these types of stories end up being flash, but this one is currently at about 1500 words, and it's not one I want to pare down. I haven't decided yet, but my second "story" might be a series of stories like this. It's a nice challenge for me to write these.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Dealing with people

Time Spent: 2 hours, 15 minutes

One of the things I really like about this AST is that I don't have to work with that many people. I'm a shy person when I don't know someone very well and it hasn't gotten any better as I've gotten older; in fact, it's probably gotten worse as I find more and more creative ways to stay in my little bubble and can do so because I'm an adult. Heck, this semester all my classes are online, and it's so much easier to deal with my classmates from this side of the computer screen.

But all of this makes it more difficult when I DO have to deal with people for my project; after all, one can't live in a bubble and hope to submit work to journals, can one? I don't mind emailing others at all, but when I have to deal with a person on the phone or in person, I literally have to force myself to do it.

Today I talked to Allison Joseph, editor of the Crab Orchard Review, on the phone about doing a visit to COR later in the semester. When I got off the phone, I felt a true sense of accomplishment, even though she told me to email her and we didn't have time to set anything up over the phone. I was scared of making the phone call, and I did it anyway, and I was shaking when I got off the phone. But I DID IT. (I emailed her as well - though it took longer, it was much easier on my nerves.)

You might be asking me what I learned about making a stupid phone call. I learned that yes, I'm still scared of people, but that doesn't have to stop me from accomplishing what I want to accomplish.

I started story number two today, the one that had been molding in my head for a couple of weeks. After all this time, starting a new story really is still the most difficult part of writing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

An Extremely Productive Day

Time Spent: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Ok, so it's been awhile since I've updated. I really wanted to get more done before the semester started, but real life happened. I had the time to let it happen this time, but I'll have to ignore it if it happens again the rest of the semester. In order to make up for it though, I had a REALLY productive day today while my son napped.

I did several different things today, which was nice. I did quite a bit of writing - finished "Heavenly Peace" up and read through it a couple of times. Now I just need to let it sit for awhile, and I'll come back to it on a slow day and make some changes. Since this is one of the stories I wrote fresh for this project, I don't need to have it up to submission standards right now, but this is one I'll be submitting somewhere in the future for sure.

I also did a lot of research, specifically on print journals in Illinois that I could submit some stories to. One of them, the Crab Orchard Review, is one I'd like to visit as part of this project later in the semester. COR is part of the English Department at SIU Carbondale. A couple of nice things about COR: 1) They accept simultaneous submissions (there are some online journals that will actually ban you from future submissions if you submitted simultaneously and they find out about it - urgh!) and 2) they pay for accepted work.

Another possibility is Down State Story out of Peoria, which also pays for published stories. They look to be a little less conservative than I would have expected, but all I have to worry about is submitting. The other notable journal is Boulevard, which accepts simultaneous AND multiple submissions (so I could send everything to them and get it all out of the way at once! Kidding, Joanna, kidding!), and they pay for accepted work. What I need to do now is go buy some of these print journals and read through them to get a feel for what each different one accepts. I would be really embarrassed to send something to a journal that printed mostly science fiction when I've never written a paragraph of sci-fi in my life. This is all part of the learning process as well.

The other "big" thing I did today was to start going through some of the stories I've written for the three previous creative writing classes I've taken. I started with my creative writing 1 stories and noted some changes I could make in the revisions for just about all of them. There are a couple of them that, in my opinion, just need to be polished up, but they're flash fiction (short stories of 500 words or less), so they won't need much anyway. No, that's not true. One of them is ALL marked up, ha. The most important thing I've learned about flash fiction is stick to the point. There isn't a lot of room for embellishment in that short a story - that's not to say that the whole "show, don't tell" thing gets thrown out the door, but you have to be short and sweet about it. The piece that is all marked up is my first piece of flash. It's a really good story, and it's really going to get edited down - I think the story has about 400 words right now, I think I'm going to end up taking out 100 of them when it's all done. There are two others that are good stories, but they definitely need some major changes. The great thing about rereading some of the longer stories is to see how much I've learned as an author. If I were writing these stories from scratch now, what would they look like? And I think that might be the whole point of revisions (would someone please tell me if I'm wrong?). I still have two more semesters worth of stories to go through, and I think each story I reread is going to get reread three or four times, but that's still OK - it's part of really getting a feel for my work and knowing where I truly need to make changes in it.

That's all for tonight. The semester officially started today, yeah! No really, I'm excited about it. I'm ahead in two of my classes already, and this is my last semester of school. I'm excited to be getting nearer to graduation, but it's also sad because I really enjoy school. At any rate, this means that I'll be updating this journal several times a week. My hope is that by the time I post the last journal entry, I will be well on my way to not only being published again, but getting paid for it.