Posts Tagged ‘WINS with SARK’
Posted August 12, 2012on:
I don’t think I’ll stop smiling for a few days. I just received news that the anthology You Don’t Say: Stories in the Second Person by Ink Monkey Press is out and my story ‘Family Line’ is in it! The editor accepted the story a few months ago, but since I wasn’t sure when the anthology would appear, I kept my fabulous news mostly to myself. This is my first fiction publication and it ranks up there with other incredible life moments. To publish literally means ‘to make public’. To the aspiring writer, however, being published connotes acceptance and brings a sweet spot of satisfaction that someone else finds your work compelling.
Family Line’s history from beginning to end has been a testimony to the power of persistence, and the importance of asking for and receiving support. Here are a few things that happened along the way:
1) Last October, I noticed an announcement from our local library for writers of all ages to contribute to their first ever ‘Scary Shorts’ contest. Entries were 500 words or less. I knew nothing about writing ‘flash fiction’. I told other writers about the contest, but didn’t finish my story by the deadline. At the Scary Shorts event, I was happy watching my fellow writers read, but bummed that I didn’t finish my story on time while encouraging others to do so.
2) I saw a speculative fiction contest in March 2012 (by a contest that shall remain unnamed), and used that deadline as an opportunity to spiff up my story. The premise is that a fifteen year-old boy from the Bronx is off on a trip to visit his cousins in North Carolina who he considers backwards. They tell him about a book of spells that they claim an ancestor used to free the family from slavery. Of course, the boy is dubious and havoc ensues from there.
My original draft was 500 words and was told in the second person. I’d become obsessed with writing in the second person after reading Kevin Canty’s short stories.
This contest had a flash fiction category with a 500 word limit. Perfect! I took the story to my prompt writing group (with only a few days to spare to deadline) got feedback on it, but was still having trouble bringing all the elements together. Majorie Hudson, the teacher, stayed with me after class and offered insightful suggestions. She became the first ‘godmother’ for this story. I left, revised and submitted my story to the contest. Woo-hoo! I had a great feeling about the outcome.
3) My feeling evaporated when I received the following email from the contest administrator a few days later:
I am sorry to tell you that we inadvertently lost your entry, so that it was not included in the judging. This has never happened before (and we have taken steps to ensure that it does not happen again); part of the problem was that a different M. Berger also entered the contest, and we conflated your entries. Your story is very strong and well-written; it would certainly have been sent on to the final judge, which make this doubly unfortunate.
We will process a refund for you; again, I apologize for the error, and hope you will enter again next year.
What???? Crushed describes the state that I stayed in for a week after this notice. All that work, I thought, for nothing! I put the story aside worked on other things.
Thank goodness I’ve become obsessive in reviewing calls for stories for anthologies, contests, literary journals, etc. A few weeks after the contest debacle, I saw an anthology call for short second person stories. Perfect! Woo hoo! I sent my story off again with high hopes.
4) I received a note from Mandi Lynch, the editor that said, she and her staff liked the story very much, but felt that the story was too short and they weren’t including it in the anthology.
5) I sat there breathing very hard looking, at this email, for a long time. I believed in this story. I believed in its original premise, crisp dialogue and good characterization. So, I mustered up some courage and thought, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before—ask the editor for a second chance.
I wrote her a short and direct email:
Thanks for your email and interest in my story. Would you be willing to take another look at it, if I worked it up to about 1500 words or so? And, if so, when would you want to see it? I’m taking a bit of a gamble here, but thought I should ask. Thanks for your time!
6) I was able to email this editor because I’ve been taking good care of all those inner critics and writing gremlins. I could have lapsed into a fatal version of ‘This rejection proves that you know nothing about writing. No one is going to want this story. Give up, etc.”
Mandi, the editor, responded quickly and said yes she was willing to take a second look at it. She was in a time crunch, so I had a little over a week to get her something.
7) Then I panicked! I had to take a good story from 500 words and expand it into 1500 words and ideally something she would consider publishing. In a fever I began work on it and realized that because of the deadline I was going to have to do something else that I hadn’t done before…ask for help from different places. I asked my monthly writing group to look at a draft of the story. I felt uncomfortable asking for help on a story out of our regular cycle. But, I did it. I also posted my story on my online writing community with SARK (Write it Now with SARK), also a big risk given that I didn’t have a shared face to face writing history with them.
8) Support flooded in from all corners! Writers from the monthly group gave amazing feedback. They even appreciated being asked! Several folks from the WINS group also gave thoughtful feedback and encouragement. People were rooting for me to revise and submit this story.
Finally, I took the story to my evening writing class with Melissa Delbridge. I read it to the class, got feedback, but still struggled with the ending. After class, Melissa suggested we look at the story together. I protested as I didn’t want to take up more of her time. She said not to worry and then we sat there and she read my story out loud—line by line—and together we examined the areas that weren’t working. Can I tell you what it means when a writing teacher takes the time (after teaching a two hour class no less!) to sit with you and give you her undivided attention? All I could do was say thank you profusely and sail away into the night. Melissa was the second ‘godmother’ to ‘Family Line’.
9) I revised my heart out and made Mandi’s deadline. The next day I received an email from her. She loved the revision and I was in the anthology!
10) Lessons: Never give up on an idea that you believe in. Remember editors are people, too. They can be open to looking at revised work. Be willing to revise until the work sings. Ask for support, even when it make you uncomfortable. Ask for support from people that you haven’t asked from before. Receive all support graciously. Believe you are worthy of it. Celebrate your success with your creative tribe. Repeat!
Thanks to my creative tribe: Tim, Melissa, Marjorie, The First Thursday Writers’ Group, “The “Girls Monthly Writing Group, DJ, Cathy and Michele and others on WINS
You Don’t Say: Stories in the Second Person is available from Amazon
During the last decade fitness experts have touted the importance of developing a strong core. A well developed core (the muscles that run the length of the trunk and torso), stabilizes the spine and pelvis and contributes to balance and strength. The core helps us transfer powerful energy outward to the rest of the body. Looking back, I can see that in 2011, I metaphorically worked on my writer’s core. This included paying attention to the craft of writing and strengthening a self-care system to support my writing life. Shaping my writer’s core afforded me a new level of emotional fitness than I had ever experienced before.
In toning my writer’s core I committed to reviewing the scaffolding of writing (e.g. plot, dialogue, setting, scene building, etc), taking classes and workshops that explored the process of revision, the structure of successful memoirs and key components in writing for children. This allowed me to return to my writing with a generous attention to the shaping of each paragraph and scene in ways that I was unable to do before.
For years, I labored alone with my writing or joined writing groups that were dysfunctional. Despite these past experiences, I developed decent skills on giving feedback and support. Prior to last year, however, I didn’t know how to ask for support or even what kinds of writing support might be good for me. That has changed dramatically. 2011 was my year for developing layers and layers of yummy writing support. Some fell into my lap and others I actively sought out.
February: An acquaintance approached me to be a writing buddy; I accept and we meet monthly to share writing progress, fellowship and encouragement.
April: I’m asked to join two monthly critique groups. I accept. We share similar commitments to writing and neither group is dysfunctional.
May: I discover She Writes! Joining She Writes has been one of the most rewarding experiences of receiving writerly support.
July-December : I join creativity writer SARK’s online writing program WINS(Write It Now with SARK), and her online community AHA (A Haven and Accelerator for Writers). SARK offers profound knowledge about how to deal with pesky inner critics. I highly recommend this innovative program!
This unprecedented year of support has helped me transform several writing blocks (i.e. all or nothing bursts of writing, procrastination and perfectionism, fear, etc) that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember.
Communing with so many writers and participating in several writing communities also gently shifted my focus from an exclusive one set on individual publication to recognizing and celebrating the courage, camaraderie and confidence that comes from being part of a community of writers. I want to write not just for personal advancement, but also to be in conversation and build rapport with writing kin. I’ve gotten equally invested in other writers’ success as well as my own. I’m becoming a better writer, but also a more generous one, too.
Part of toning my core was also to openly explore and write about the difficult feelings that can stop us as writers including rejection, jealousy, envy, competition and anxiety. Blogging about new ways to cope with rejection and openly discussing this topic with other writers was a great strengthener.
A February workshop I took from my writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson, also shifted my perspective on submitting one’s work and coping with rejection. She declared that as part of claiming the mantle of a writer, one should have gathered at least 99 rejections. I sat in the workshop feeling pretty smug thinking that surely with all the years that I have been trying to get published I have reached that number, no problem. Later as I was reviewing my submission file, I was shocked to realize that I wasn’t even half way close to 99 rejections! This revelation spurred me on submit my work, all year, in a serious and organized way. By taking this challenge on, I ushered in plenty of rejections but also a second place prize for a poem in the Word and Sound International Writing Competition, and other writing successes. As SARK says, “If we’re not getting rejected, we’re not stretching far enough.”
In training the physical core, one has to undertake lots of demanding moves: plank, side plank, crunches and push-ups and do them consistently. In 2011, I also worked on the hard things that didn’t feel so good in the short term like developing a daily writing practice and embracing a new perspective on revising longer projects.
For 2012, my intention is continue to strengthen my writer’s core by…
–maintaining and sustaining layers of support ( being active in She Writes, meetings with my writing buddy, continue participating in my three writing groups, and finish round 3 of WINS)
–continuing to work on the craft of writing by taking additional classes
–striving to make it to 99 rejections this year!
–moving forward with a consistent writing practice
–practicing an attitude of revising longer works with delight instead of dread
I wish you a strong writer’s core for 2012!
*This post appeared appeared a few weeks ago on She Writes