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.