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!