The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘sci-fi

It’s so easy to talk ourselves out of submitting our work. Rejection is painful. Even though I am a coach and a creative writer, I, too, find ways to ‘self-reject’ my work. It’s never a good idea. Always get your work under review, submitted, in the pile, seen. It’s a simple fact that if we creatives want to have an audience, someone has to read, see, or hear and experience our work. The only way we can do that is to submit our work to others.

In January, I taught a workshop called ‘Charting Your Path to Publication: Tips, Techniques and Lessons for Writers.’ An amazing group of writers came out to learn how to beat the odds of rejection when submitting to journals, magazines, etc. We talked about strategies to submit our work, the courage to send it out and the perseverance to keep going in the face of rejection.

I shared how inspired I was by a great interview with the writer Laurence MacNaughton on Mur Lafferty’s “I Should Be Writing” podcast. He shared that he struggled for many many years getting his fiction published. He had many cardboard boxes filled with rejection letters. When he moved into a new home, he decided to open up those boxes and count his rejection letters.

He counted and stacked up 100, 200, and 300 rejection letters. As I listened to the story, I held my breath. So many questions ran through my mind. How many did he have? Where was he going to stop? How many rejection letters did I have a decade ago? He kept on counting and found himself at 500, 600, and then 800 rejections. He stopped when he reached a 1000 rejection letters. He stopped counting them even though he had more letters! He felt so bad about it that he stopped temporarily writing. He felt like anyone who could amass 1000 rejection letters should not write.

He said that that not writing was really hard and that he soon came to the realization that writing was essential to his mission and purpose on the planet. It’s what gave him joy. He decided to write, no matter whether he was published or not. He kept submitting his work and soon after that sold one of his novels. He’s now a full-time writer.

I was very moved by this story as it reminds us that all we can control is what we send out and although we will inevitably get rejected, we have to submit our work. And, we have to find joy in the writing itself, no matter what the outcome. As Laurence says, “Rejections mean you are doing what you need to do, you just need to keep going.”

Recently, I almost talked myself out of submitting work.  Last fall, I saw this call:

Octavia Estelle Butler was born on 22 June, 1947, and died in 2006. In celebration of what would have been her 70th birthday in 2017, and in recognition of Butler’s enormous influence on speculative fiction, and African-American literature more generally, Twelfth Planet Press is publishing a selection of letters and essays written by science fiction and fantasy’s writers, editors, critics and fans.

I got goose bumps reading this call. Octavia Butler is one of my favorite authors. I teach her work and her nonfiction essay, “Positive Obsession” is one that I credit for inspiration in pursuing my writing life.

I put it on my calendar to submit, but as the deadline approached, I found myself saying:

“Every prominent speculative fiction writer is going to submit something—I can’t compete.”

“I want to write about the impact of her nonfiction on me and her use of affirmations to boost her confidence. The editors probably won’t be interested in that.”

And on…

I was about to talk myself right out of submitting due to fear. I was going to self-reject. Thank goodness a writing friend messaged me with the link and said, “Hey, I know you’re a Butler fan, you’re submitting to this right?’

That little encouragement got me in gear. I decided to write the essay. I told myself, if it gets rejected, I can pitch to the speculative fiction magazine. Someone could want this essay.

I sent it off, pleased with the essay, but not expecting anything.

I’m thrilled to say that my essay WILL appear in the anthology. I am so honored to be in this collection. See details below.

Always give others a chance to evaluate your work. Never self-reject!

We are excited to announce the contributors of original letters and essays for Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. There are letters from people who knew Butler and those who didn’t; some who studied under her at the Clarion and Clarion West workshops and others who attended those same workshops because of her; letters that are deeply personal, deeply political, and deeply poetic; and letters that question the place of literature in life and society today. Essays include original pieces about Butler’s short story “Bloodchild” and whether we should respect Butler’s wishes about not reprinting certain works. All of these original pieces show the place that Octavia Butler had, has, and will continue to have in the lives of modern writers, editors, critics and fans. Our contributors include:

Rasha Abdulhadi
Raffaella Baccolini
Moya Bailey
Steven Barnes
Michele Tracy Berger
Tara Betts
Lisa Bennett Bolekaja
Mary Elizabeth Burroughs
K Tempest Bradford
Cassandra Brennan
Jennifer Marie Brissett
Stephanie Burgis
Christopher Caldwell
Gerry Canavan
Joyce Chng
Indra Das
L Timmel Duchamp
Sophia Echavarria
Tuere TS Ganges
Stephen R Gold
Jewelle Gomez
Kate Gordon
Rebecca J Holden
Tiara Janté
Valjeanne Jeffers
Alex Jennings
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Kathleen Kayembe
Hunter Liguore
Karen Lord
ZM Quỳnh
Asata Radcliffe
Aurelius Raines II
Cat Rambo
Nisi Shawl
Jeremy Sim
Amanda Emily Smith
Cat Sparks
Elizabeth Stephens
Rachel Swirsky
Bogi Takács
Sheree Renée Thomas
Jeffrey Allen Tucker
Brenda Tyrrell
Paul Weimer
Ben H Winters
K Ceres Wright
Hoda Zaki

Luminescent Threads will also include reprints of articles that have appeared in various forums, like SF Studies, exploring different aspects of Butler’s work.

Luminescent Threads will be published by Twelfth Planet Press in June 2017.

 

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Dear readers,

I’ve missed you. It’s been more than a month since my last post—extremely unlike me. I will have lots of wonderful writing updates to share shortly—which will explain my absence. And, I expect to resume my weekly posts. In the meantime, I am excited to share the interview below.

***

In 2016, I became a fan of Jake Bible, a writer and the host of the ‘Writing In Suburbia’ podcast. Writing In Suburbia is geared toward pro-writers, but is chock-full of great information for writers at all levels. The podcast is irreverent and speaks to the less glamorous side of the writing life (e.g. embracing housework chores of the day). Jake’s a prolific writer across many genres. He typically writes a novel a month. You read that right, a novel a month!

One of the features that Jake hosts on his website is ‘Friday Night Drabble Party’. Drabble was a new term to me. A drabble is a 100 word story. He writes a new one just about every Friday. I enjoy reading his drabbles and that got me interested in microfiction.

I’m grateful that Jake is always encouraging writers to look at our self-limiting beliefs and challenges us to prepare for success. Check out his ‘Prepare for Success’ episode on WIS.

I didn’t believe that I could write a drabble, or rather a good drabble. But, I decided that such a belief was really limiting. What was it based on anyway? I had never even tried to write a compressed story. So this spring, I challenged myself to write several drabbles a week for fun. I read a lot of micro and flash fiction and got very inspired. I got into a rhythm with writing drabbles and thought some of them were good enough to submit. One has already been published in the Thing Magazine and another has been accepted for publication (news forthcoming). This happy turn of events would not have happened with being inspired by Jake’s fiction and podcast.

When I heard that his new novel was in a genre he hadn’t written in before and with a new publisher, I figured that he would have valuable insights to share.

Jake Bible is a Bram Stoker Award nominated-novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel. Jake is the author of the bestselling Z-Burbia series set in Asheville, NC, the bestselling Salvage Merc One, the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash) and the Mega series for Severed Press, as well as the YA zombie novel, Little Dead Man, the Teen horror novel, Intentional Haunting, the middle grade scifi/horror ScareScapes series, and the Reign of Four series, which he calls “medieval space fiction” for Permuted Press. As of 2017, he also publishes with Bell Bridge Books and will be releasing three books, starting with Stone Cold Bastards.

I’m delighted to welcome Jake Bible to ‘The Practice of Creativity’.

jakebibleauthor2016-72dpi

-Tell us about your new novel, Stone Cold Bastards. What inspired it?

The title. I came up with the title one night and wracked my brain trying to figure out what story would go with such a cool title. It came to me eventually, since it’s kind of in the first two words: stone and cold. What are stone and cold? Gargoyles!

-Can you tell us about some of the characters that we meet in this work?

The novel centers on a rag tag team of misfit gargoyles that have been tasked with protecting the last of humanity from the demon-possessed hordes that have taken over the world. This is a novel that has a lot of characters. You have the gargoyles, you have the humans being protected, you have demons, you have other survivors out in the ravaged landscape. My favorite of them all has to be Mordecai. While not the leader of the gargoyles, he is the one the others turn to when things are about to go down. He’s kind of the rock of the group, no pun intended. He’s a gruff bastard and constantly has a cigar clamped between his stone teeth. Yet despite that hard exterior, he does have a soft spot inside for the humans he’s been given the impossible task of keeping alive. He works his stone butt off and takes his job very seriously. I really dig Morty.

-You’re known as a writer who crosses many genres. This novel is urban fantasy, a genre that you hadn’t written in before. What did you learn about yourself as a writer while completing this novel?

I learned that while genres matter, and make a difference in the tone and setting of a novel, in the end all novels come down to the story and the characters. Once I got into the swing of the story, just like I do with all the novels I write, the setting fell away and I was able to concentrate on the characters. I was able to focus on action and dialogue. The fact that it was a new genre was more daunting in the beginning, but after a couple of chapters I said to myself, “You’ve got this. It’s just another novel. Do your thing.” So I did my thing and was able to relax into it.

stone-cold-bastards-final

-What aspect of the writing craft felt the most difficult for you to understand and execute when you were a beginning writer?  How did you overcome this?

The mechanics of writing was tough for me. I do not have a college degree. I didn’t go through a creative writing program. I am 100% self-educated, so I had to apply everything I’d learned as a reader to my writing. Simple mistakes in grammar that sound good coming out of my mouth, were not so good on the page. I had to unlearn a lot of my verbal affectations so that my writing could come across as something other than illiterate garbage. The way I overcame this was to write my very first novel in a drabble format. A drabble is a piece of micro-fiction where the entire story is exactly 100 words, no more, no less. I wrote Dead Mech in 100 word sections. That forced me to go back over what I wrote and edit on the spot. I quickly saw my mistakes, fixed them, tightened up the prose, and moved on to the next drabble. By the end of the novel, I was a tight writer. The grammatical mistakes I was making when I started were corrected by the end. I’ll never write another novel that way again, but it gave me a crash course in the craft that I’d missed by not going to college.

-If you could invite three living writers to a dinner party that you’re hosting, who would you invite and why?

Living writers? Yikes. Uh, Cormac McCarthy because Blood Meridian is one of the greatest horror novels ever written even though people call it a western. It’s not. It’s horror. Robert McCammon because he has been a huge influence on me as a writer. Also, I want to pick his brain about going from a career writing horror novels and into writing historical mystery novels in his Matthew Corbett books. Jeez, picking a third writer is hard. All my heroes are dead. Maybe Christopher Moore. I love his writing and the guy is hilarious. He’d help keep the dinner talk from getting too morose and serious.

-What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Never quit. Sit your ass down and do the work. Writing is work. The vast majority of people who are not writers think it’s fun and being a writer must be a dream come true. It is fun and it is a dream come true, but the fun and the dream happen because you sit in your chair and work until you can’t work anymore. Then you do the same thing the next day. And the next. You never quit. You do the work and keep doing the work until you get to where you want to be.

 

Born Jacob David Bible pre-Microsoft in Bellevue, WA, Jake was whisked away to the Beaver State when he was three and raised fundamentalist pagan. Fed a steady diet of Doritos, Fritos Bean Dip and Chinese herbal tonics, Jake had so many vivid hallucinations that he was writing and binding his own books by fifth grade. True story.

He grew up fascinated with the speculative and the macabre. He spent many summers on his grandparents’ lake reading a leather bound, Franklin Library Edition of The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe. No, it wasn’t a haunted book. And, no, it wasn’t a haunted lake. Yes, his grandparents were actually re-animated corpses that had been accidentally murdered and then raised from the dead when a cocktail party got just a little out of hand. And they drank gin and tonics. True story.

Jake currently lives in the Asheville, NC area with his wife, two kids, and two dogs. And although he writes about zombies and cannibals, Jake does not eat of the flesh himself (that means he’s a vegetarian, son. I say, I say, stop bein’ so dense, ya hear?). But, he will eat the non-homicidal animal foodstuffs because pizza is its own food group and soy cheese just ain’t gonna cut it.

True story.

Visit him at https://jakebible.com/

 

One of the writing highlights of the year for me was traveling to the State of Black Science Fiction Conference in June. The SOBSFC brought together creators from different mediums (e.g. filmmakers, comic book artists, writers, producers, scholars, etc.,) to converge, discuss and share about the world of sci-fi and the Black experience over the past two centuries. There were panels on everything from Afrofuturism in Arts and Culture to Black Southern Folklore in Horror Literature. It was a mind-blowing experience.

I got a chance to hear and meet new authors. One of these authors was Gerald L. Coleman. I first saw him on the panel, ‘The Pinnacles and Pitfalls of Self/Small Publishing’ talking about being a poet and speculative fiction writer. He also spoke about how important it was for writers of color to value their work and find audiences for their work outside of (or in addition to) what mainstream publishers are willing to publish.

I was intrigued by his ability to write both poetry and speculative fiction, so I spoke with him the next day, at his table. After an engaging conversation, I knew I wanted to invite him to the blog to inspire us and share his writing wisdom.

geraldcoleman

Gerald Coleman is a philosopher, theologian, poet and author. His most recent poetry appears in, Pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture Issue 13 (University of Kentucky Press), the anthology Drawn to Marvel: Poems From The Comic Books (Minor Arcana Press), and Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel Journal Vol. 18. He is also the author of the epic fantasy novel When Night Falls: Book One of The Three Gifts and poetry collections, the road is long and falling to earth. He is a co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets.

I’m delighted to welcome Gerald L. Coleman to The Practice of Creativity.

-Tell us about your recent book, When Night Falls. Why did you want to write this book?

whennightfalls

 

When Night Falls, in fact the entire Three Gifts Series, is my homage to the genre I love the most. Fantasy, and specifically Epic Fantasy, has been my favorite source of reading material since I left comic books and entered the world of literature. Now, I enjoy philosophy and theology immensely, seeing as how those were my main areas of interest in undergrad and graduate school. But there is nothing quite like epic fantasy. I first read Tolkein at the age of twelve and never turned back. Swords, magic, dragons, and heroes on an epic quest have entertained me for hours and hours. While other people were reading Pride and Prejudice, I was reading Elric of Melniboné. While they were reading To Kill a Mockingbird, I was reading Dragonriders or Pern. While my friends were deeply entrenched in A Tale of Two Cities, I was flipping the pages of The Faded Sun Trilogy. Now, don’t get me wrong, as an English and Philosophy double-major at the University of Kentucky, I had to read all that English and American Lit too. But I always made time to read Science Fiction and Fantasy. I knew by high school that I wanted to write. By college I knew I wanted to write in my favorite genre. But what made me want to write this particular epic fantasy series, with these characters, is all about what was missing while I was reading all that SF&F from the time I was a kid. And do you know what was missing in Middle Earth, Melniboné, Kutath, and every other SF&F setting? I was. Now, I don’t mean me specifically. I mean characters who looked like me. African Americans were, generally, non-existent in science fiction and fantasy. We weren’t in the ancient past, the far flung future, or the speculative imaginations of the writers and readers of the genre. It was as if we had never existed. While I thoroughly enjoyed what I was reading I was also, always, painfully aware of the added intellectual leap I had to make as a reader to identify with the heroes and villains in the stories I was consuming. So it was abundantly clear in my mind that when I sat down to write my epic fantasy series that my characters would be a real reflection of the actual world. You know, a world filled with black and brown people, as well as white, Asian, Indian, and others. The world I am writing is filled with beautiful, strong, intelligent, and heroic people of color and women. It had to be. I want readers to have what I never did. So, When Night Falls has all the elements you look for in great epic fantasy. There are swords, fantastical creatures, magic, heroes, villains, but with a real representation cast of characters that should make it fun for any person who picks it up.

 

-How did you get bitten by the ‘writing bug’? Did you always wish to become an author?

I knew by high school. Having read so much, and been so impacted – so entertained – by what I had read, it became increasingly clear to me that writing was something I really wanted to do. There are few things in the world like sitting down with a book and being transported to all kinds of wonderful, strange, and magical places. Having experienced that, it began to dawn on me that I wanted to do that for others.

 

– You’ve written two poetry collections and are a co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets. Poetry is clearly one of your loves. What keeps you coming back to the form of poetry for self-expression?

fallingtoearth

Poetry was my entrée into writing. In high school, I began by writing love poems to girls I liked. By the time I reached college it evolved. As a freshman, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and that was a real sea change for me. It really began the process of my search for an understanding of what being an African American man meant and was going to mean for me. After that I consumed W. E. B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, Carter G. Woodson, Marcus Garvey, and every black intellectual I could get my hands on. I was already reading all the other stuff, by way of my university studies. Everyone from Plato, Aristotle, to Sartre and Derrida. But these other intellectuals, often left out the curriculum, were the real compass for me and my writing. My poetry changed and developed drastically. I still write about love. In fact, my latest poetry collection, falling to earth, is all about love, in all its forms. But the core heuristics of my poetry are about African American identity. And every time a black person is killed by police, or a black church is attacked or burned down, or the Supreme Court rules on issues like affirmative action, I am always brought back to poetry as a primary form of expression. I have also come to find that writing poetry and then speculative fiction, and then turning back to poetry, is a great way for me to stay sharp and keep the creative juices flowing.

 

-You have a graduate degree in theology.  Do you feel that training shapes the kinds of themes you take up in your creative work?

I do find that my expertise in philosophy and theology helps to shape and inform my writing. I think it’s one of the things that makes my writing unique. I avoid it being heavy-handed or showing up explicitly in my writing. I think that would be terrible for the story. But in elegant and efficient ways, it’s there, grounding the story, and making the narrative stronger, and denser. I think it works best if it’s there without you really seeing it.

 

-What excites you right now about writing in the genre of speculative fiction?

I think the fact that I, and other African American writers like myself, are creating a library of speculative work that cures what has always ailed the genre at large for so long. How can you truly have great science fiction and fantasy when you leave out most of the human race in your story? That we are writing entertaining and powerful stories where readers can actually see themselves as heroes and villains is, for me, the most exciting thing about the enterprise we have embarked upon. The ability to give tweens, teens, young adults, and adults, the kind of stories we used to comb the bookshelves for in book stores is both rewarding and exciting. I hope the SF&F reading community can see how exciting this time is in the genre.

 

– What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Trust yourself. If you have a strong story and well-developed characters, then you can trust yourself to develop a story worth reading. Take chances with your story and write yourself in corners. Once you get there, then trust yourself to be able to write yourself out. I am working on book two in The Three Gifts Series right now (hopefully finishing in the next few months) and while I have the overarching narrative arc in mind I can’t allow myself to get caught up in all the intricacies of what I have yet to write. I have to focus on one chapter at a time and trust that I will be able to solve all the problems I create as I write. I think that makes for the most compelling stories. You can’t be afraid to create a difficult problem for your characters or your plot because you are worried you won’t be able to write a good resolution. Time and time again, I have trusted myself to think my way through those things and it always works out. The mind is an amazing tool and instrument. If you have fed it well it will always produce the results you need.

As an addendum, let me say this as well. Don’t rush. The worst thing you can do is let a deadline push you to write past some great writing. A chapter needs to marinate sometimes. And when you allow the story to develop at its own pace you will sometimes surprise yourself with what you are able create.

Finally, let me say thank you Michele for asking me to do this. It’s been great fun and I hope worthy of your interest and the interest of your readers!

 

Gerald L. Coleman writes both poetry and speculative fiction. He resides in Atlanta. Born and raised in Lexington, he did his undergraduate work in Philosophy and English at the University of Kentucky before completing a Master’s degree in Theology at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN.

He is a lover of espresso, Radical Orthodoxy, Wittgenstein, early mornings on the golf course, and Lexington in the fall. He is a co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets.

Visit him here.

 

 

I am so excited to share with you a COVER REVEAL for a new anthology that will be out in June that I have a story in! I am thrilled to be included in this collection with such wonderful writers.

UnCommon Origins: A Collection of Gods, Monsters, Nature, and Science

UnCommon Origins presents 22 depictions of moments on the precipice, beginnings both beautiful and tragic. Fantastical stories of Creation, Feral Children, Gods and Goddesses (both holy and horrific), and possibilities you never dared imagine come to life.

uncommonorigins

Including stories from some of the most talented Speculative Fiction and Magical Realism authors around, UnCommon Origins will revisit the oldest questions in the universe:

Where did we come from?
and
What comes next?

Featuring:
The Hanging Gardens of Brooklyn by Rhoads Brazos
Aplanetary by Holly Heisey, Author
Glass Heart by Sacha Hope
Cultural Gleanings by Deanne Charlton
Fringling by J.D. Harpley – Astral Scribe
Poseidon’s Tears by E.L. Johnson
The Curl of Emma Jean by Michele Tracy Berger
The Price by Samuel Peralta
Growing Simon by Jo West
The Terrible Discovery of Professor Charles Cooper by Jonathan Cromack
The Last Star by DL Orton
My Darlings by P.K. Tyler
The Tombstone Man and the Coming of the Tigress by Nillu Nasser Stelter
In The Periphery by Erica Ruhe
Exhale by Laxmi Hariharan
Ifrit by Brent Meske
Swim With The Beavers by Robert Allen Lupton
The Least Child by Daniel Arthur Smith
Consciousness by Zig Zag Claybourne
Her by Rebecca Poole
The Apple by Shebat Legion
Becoming Mage by Melanie Lamaga

This anthology is being edited by the amazing writer, editor and publisher P.K. Tyler of Fighting Monkey Press. I had a really good feeling about the call for submissions that I saw for this collection a few months ago. I thought my story, ‘The Curl of Emma Jean’ would be a perfect fit for this anthology and it was! I’ll have more to say about the story, it’s origins, and lessons learned along the way to this publication experience. And, of course, I’ll share a pre-order link soon! For now, I’m just excited to share a first look at the cover.

What do you think?


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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