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Summer Update

It’s been almost a year since I’ve published something to this site, and I can say with confidence that I’ve lost (and now gained) a bit of vision in that time.

There’s something about struggling to make it day to day that makes it hard to keep a vision, much less act upon it. No excuses here, simply observation.

By writing here tonight, I’m hoping to accomplish a few things:

  1. To share with anyone who reads this what’s been happening in the professional life/vision the last year or so.
  2. To set forth reasonable goals for summer writing (aka. I’m getting back into it so any writing is a challenge at this point)
  3. To make this an active blog again. (Read: for the first time.)

So first of all, an update on my professional endeavors.

As many of my people know, I graduated from Pace University’s publishing program in December 2015, which was a relief because I was ready to get out of the classroom and into the industry. I had started looking for a full-time position in July 2015 because I was only in school part-time for my last semester, but despite application after application, nothing was giving. At the same time I was applying and studying, I sensed a tentativeness about getting into the publishing industry in the first place. Questions like “Do I have what it takes?” “Do I care enough?” “Is this what I really want?” and “What if what I want doesn’t exist?” plagued me, and pile on top of that my built-in tendency toward hesitance and insecurity, the job hunt obviously wasn’t going to go too well. There’s a difference in approach when you’re fighting for something you want and when you’re doing something just because that’s the standard of expectation. (Sidebar: part of the reason I’ve decided to commit to writing every day–more on that later- is to overcome this insecurity about my writing.)

Truth be told, by deepest desire is to do full-time work in straight-up copyediting/proofreading/story development. Working one-on-one with authors. Another side of my deepest desire is to be invested in my own writing, publishing pieces and entering contests in order to have exposure. Do I want to publish an actual book? At this point… not really. My heart remains with small publications, specifically literary magazines and such-like publishing endeavors.

I’ve been told that the way to work up to a position like that is to spend a good amount of years in the big book publishing industry, and so that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last year-ish. I had the opportunity to intern at Penguin Random House in the Digital Production department for a few months, and I learned a lot, and value the experience a great deal. But I realized something else by the end of it: I didn’t like big corporate environments. Granted, I already had a feeling this would be the case, but it was only a feeling before the internship. I was surrounded by great people, which made being there more pleasant, but I hated being sequestered off in my own cubicle. Once upon a time I thought it’d be awesome to “go to the office”… but it was simply very overwhelming for me.

When my internship ended, I had become even more hesitant about getting into big book publishing. I kept applying to jobs I found on Publisher’s Lunch and Bookjobs.com, but i felt more and more burdened with every cover letter I wrote. What I’m describing is just part of the search process, but there is more to it. I didn’t want to apply to jobs because simply because I felt like I had to. I wanted to want to apply to the jobs I applied to. Am I being picky about my employment? I had to ask myself how much of my feelings were caused by just not wanting to be in a less-than-perfect position. I also had to re-evaluate what I thought I wanted to do, seeing as editorial assistant positions no longer held any charm for me. I didn’t know what was happening to my vision for my future. It had always been very straightforward, but with almost a whole year now looking for a full-time publishing job with no luck, I was questioning whether I wanted this for real.

So, I joined the Editorial Freelancers Association, because the logical next step to me was to step out and try what I was told was extremely difficult to accomplish. Without many years in the publishing industry, contacts and networks to potential clients, how could I possibly make it as a freelance editor?? Sure, I had some experience, but it was minimal, and as of today I have had zero success on freelancing sites like Upwork and Freelancer. I thought I’d give it a shot though… after all, that’s what I ultimately wanted to do, yes?

Something still wasn’t clicking though. I felt vastly unprepared (as I should) because going freelance is starting my own business. And there’s a lot more to doing that then just deciding one day to start a business. It takes planning and strategic approach, and I was not prepared for that.

Then I found an editorial fellowship with Poets & Writers and everything suddenly fell into place. I dropped everything and hand-wrote a seven-page cover letter (for the record, this was the first time I cared enough about a cover letter that I used an real pen). In writing that letter, I realized that I desired to be connected to the writing community while also engaged in an editorial capacity; I wanted both worlds. It wasn’t until I wrote it that I realized that I felt I had to choose one or the other: writing or publishing. Plenty of people have chosen both, but for me, I felt it had to be one or the other. This position was the one that showed me that perhaps it didn’t have to be one or the other. This discovery also recalled to mind my sudden interest in creative nonfiction during my senior year of college.

I’ve been following Hippocampus Magazine for a while now, and have enjoyed a great many pieces they’ve published. I’ve had in the back of my mind that I want to submit to them, but again, the “pick one” mentality and my writer’s insecurity kept me from actually doing it.

Once I applied to the Fellowship, I started proactively looking for more literary magazines and smaller independent publications in an effort to expand my awareness of what is out there and also to begin reading more for the sake of my own writing. Come to find out, Creative Nonfiction is an amazing magazine based in my home city of Pittsburgh! (Can I hear a collective WHAT?!)

Anyways, something I’ve come to realize and accept is that maybe big book publishing isn’t for me. I’m all for (and really have always been about) the little guy–powerful things by small bodies. The ability of smaller publications to have a greater ability for flexibility and focus is very appealing to me, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m searching for something that isn’t easily found. But I do feel more focused, and as a result, I feel freer to pursue the things that make me. And that includes writing, which brings me to my next goal:

2. Set and fulfill reasonable summer writing goals

Woohoo! Writing! I feel completely unprepared to be writing again, but I’m going to do it anyway. I used to write for hours a day, uncaring of how “great” I did, or whether I struck a good idea. I just wrote. and wrote. and wrote.

I want to get to that point again, but I realize it’s going to take some work.

So here’s the goal: 300 words min. every day for the month of July; fiction or nonfiction. What I want to do is post a weekly snap of these writings to maintain some accountability, so expect to see a post at least every Friday.

As for making this an active blog again, I realize that it’s important to be present. I’m still figuring out what that means specifically for me, and even if it’s continued writing updates, I want to be posting a time or two each week. Requiring myself to post something means that I need to force myself to be out and about, reading, thinking, writing.

So here’s me saying that that’s what I’m gonna do.

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Layers of Influence

As my last semester of undergrad approaches, and the thesis presentation that comes along with it, I’ve begun to ponder the question of influence once again. I’ll admit that I’m still wringing my hands and brains when it comes to what I’ll say when I’m asked to talk about some of my influencers because I have the hardest time iterating the elaborate scheme I see in my head. I see a seamless “timetable” (for lack of a better word) of who/what/when/where/why… authors build on ideas build up to themes.. it’s exhausting. This tapestry of inspiration and influential bits is so seamless, in fact, that I can’t distinguish who influenced me in what way, when a bit of inspiration sunk in effectively, or how exactly I was changed by what I heard/read/saw/thought. Everything flows together, is bound up through, on top of, and underneath, contained in my head. And new things are being added daily. 

I haven’t been able to identify many specifics; I haven’t had a chance to pick myself apart and figure out the heads and tails of what my brain has collected over the years, but there was something that one of my friends said in a recent conversations that resonated with me and helped me understand WHY it’s been so hard to compartmentalize everything in my head: 

Every professor, teacher, mentor we have ever studied under has influenced us in some way. In a unique way. A group of students who study under one professor will all be influenced and inspired in a different way.

Sense. Made. And I’ll go ahead and mention the obvious: the “layers of influence” go beyond teachers and mentors. There are things in what I read, conversations I have with strangers and friends alike, and experiences that I have or hear about that add shades of color and texture to my “influences” list. I’ve slowly begun to realize that things I notice in books, or thoughts that occur to me (regardless of how dumb I might think they seem at the time) are important. I often find myself thinking “hey, I should record that thought or idea or quote” but then, after considering for a moment, decide not to write it down. Why? Why is that thought so unimportant? Why is that idea a bad idea? 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I frequently undervalue the bits of inspiration and people/experiences of influence, and in the process of failing to note them, I fail to realize the bigger picture. What of all those times I noticed an authors’ use of catch phrases with certain characters; what if they amounted to something like a propensity in myself to use catch phrases in my own way? Or what if I was held captive by another authors’ pacing, so much so that I had to catch my mental breath, thinking “wow!” What can I learn from that, and how does that change the way I approach my own writing? I’ve decided that half the battle is noticing what makes you gasp and cringe, what captivates you and stirs up the passion in that fantastic heart and mind of yours. THAT is why it’s SO important to nab the thoughts that pass through your head, however off-the-wall they may seem, ideas, and random stuff that you notice and think about. A lot of people expect their influencers to be these big, important figures; they feel like they’re required to have big names on that list… but honestly? Be honest. Really think about what and who influences you. You may be a lucky person who DOES, in fact, have big, famous influencers on the list, but the reality is, we’re all more deeply affected by less known and seemingly less important things and people. 

YOU are unique; there will never be another person like you. It’s like what one of my friends’ parents said to me the other day: nobody ever has the same parents. You can have 8 kids from the same parents, but not a single one of them will have the same ideas, live a same life, or do the same things and come away with the same experiences as the others. Kinda cool, huh? So appreciate YOUR layers of influence, regardless of how significant or insignificant they are. Enjoy the weird beast in your head 😉 

Presenting… Girl in the Middle!

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Guys, it’s here! “Girl in the Middle” is now available at Barnes and Noble!! Seriously guys, go check it out.

I can’t say enough how happy and blessed I am to have been involved with this project. The learning opportunities have been abundant, and I’ve discovered something I love doing, an object of passion. It’s been cool to see how my love of writing has led to the discovery of the field of publishing. Bailey has been elemental in this discovery because of her willingness to involve in me in the production of her first novel, and I can’t imagine how excited she must be over this if I’m as excited as I am. 

It was the debut of the Professional Editing/Proofreading/Publishing class, fall 2012. When I first saw this class offering, I was ecstatic. I’d always loved editing, so my hopes for this class were high. In the end, looking back on it now, the class far exceeded my expectations; the entire class got to be involved in two publications (the Journal of Union Faculty Forum and Girl in the Middle, the young adult novel). I poured myself into the paragraphs, especially when it came to the novel; it was during the review of the first couple chapters that I realized my affinity for working on books over academic-style publications. Throughout the process of editing, I fell more in love with the process, and I realized that this is what I was made for. It was a cool realization, and a little scary. So, I’ve run with it, and it’s been a really cool experience to start figuring out what’ll happen after graduation. I’ve been thinking about grad school, and the program offerings at a few of my “top schools” (Pace University and University of Baltimore are two that stand out) have boggled my mind. Who knew that grad school got so specific!?! Frankly, I’m excited to see where my life goes.

I’ve also been considering internships, and in fact, I had applied to a telecommuting internship for this fall at Familius. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in the top twenty selected to continue the application process. Ultimately, it didn’t work out, but the fact that I’d survived the first culling was enough to keep me going. Right now, I’m helping Bailey out with doctoral research, which will be used to inform the characters in her dissertation, which will be a sequel to Girl in the Middle. Guys, I’m so excited to be involved. No words at all. =) 

Suffice to say, finding your niche changes everything. Before I stumbled on this hidden passion of mine, writing seemed like it could become a drag. Don’t get me wrong… I love writing, but I love the revision process even more; it’s almost like it’s a different kind of writing. Now that I have more of an idea of where my time will go, I don’t feel as pressured to churn out short stories and poetry like a manic genius. I’ve decided that I can take it slower and spend more time cultivating ideas and characters, because that’s how I do things. If there’s something I’ve realized about myself in the last couple months, it’s that I’m a slow, sequential/logical processor; I have a hard time starting something and not finishing it. If I don’t end up finishing something before I start something else, it’s likely that I’ll never finish anything, which is why I have a lot of half-finished short stories and unrefined poetry stowed in my computer folders. Everything is organized, but it’s an organized chaos of words. Even the novel I’ve been “working on” for over a year isn’t anything more than a whole lot of historical stuff. It’s cool, but it’s not the actual story, and this is connected to that “sequential” thing I mentioned earlier; I can’t write a story unless I know a good deal of the background information, and for a world that only exists in my head, I have to get it out and down. To rival the clamor of my characters in Erad-du (yeah… I’ve named something… can you believe it?), I have my thesis stuff to think about. After a solid couple months of thinking about it, I’ve pinned down the idea I want to be writing about, but have yet to really produce anything I want to continue to work on… but I’m getting inspiration from EVERYWHERE. So it’s a good and bad problem. 

So, yes. BUY THE BOOK AND REVIEW IT!! =D You won’t regret it, really. 

Anyway, this is my update. A little scatter-brained, but such is my life recently. 

Update on Summertime Ventures

Oh readers… do forgive my sudden absence. Spring break brought new inspiration and fresh motivation, but soon after break ended, I found myself bombarded with various school projects, papers, and assignments that required more time than I had to give. It’s been a constant barrage of busyness, and I’ve still got about a week left before it ceases.

The good news, though, is the fact that there’s only about a week left before I’m set free on summer break. Of course, “free” is only a relative term. In fact, if I plan well enough, I’ll be accomplishing a good proportion of my “read 50 books this year” challenge. I’ve hit ten! … which is leaving me with a pretty steep stack of books to conquer. But it will be a mountain climbed with joy… reading is the greatest thing!

But other than reading an exorbitant amount of books this summer, you may wonder what else I have planned for the summer in order to keep myself productive and on track. Basically, I plan to do a lot of writing on the book I started last summer. It’s come a long way since then; it was a tiny germ of an idea in mid-June 2012 inspired by a short story scholarship contest, and now it’s blossomed into an entire world that is still developing. I don’t expect to have everything organized and written out (in terms of backstory) by the end of the summer, but I certainly expect a story with my main character to have begun developing and also a working knowledge of each of the four cultures… and a timeline of the history of Erad-du (that’s the name of the world!) designed and cemented in “time” so to speak.

I’d also really like to enter a few creative writing contests and submit to literary publications. This goal is a little bit more of a stretch for me, but i’ve got three months, right?

However, one of the things i’m most excited about this summer is the opportunity to work with  (almost) Dr. Bailey on her YA novel “GIrl in the Middle”, which I will be promoting when press time gets closer. She mentioned yesterday that she’d like to employ my services to do a run through/final copy edit of the manuscript… and guys, I am SO EXCITED!! =D Even though no internships came through for this summer, I do have something to keep me occupied that will pay and give me the experience I was looking to gather.

That’s about all the updates I’ve got. I’m so sorry that I haven’t been able to keep this blog up a little bit better than normal; school has been it’s craziest ever this past month or so… so bear with me as I transition from school to summer. Expect to hear a lot more from me =)

 

Beauty in words

Not too long ago, I was asked how I go about creating beauty in writing, and what beauty in story writing actually is.

Everyone is acquainted with the concept of beauty and the debate it has stirred. How can you establish a “standard” of beauty when the subject of beauty is so subjective (bear with me)? After extensive discussion and class projects and more discussion, I can only say that each person has a unique sense of what beauty means, even if that sense is fed by what’s popular. You know those moments when you read an article on Yahoo! about the latest fashions? Well… I’ll tell you what; some of those outfits (most, I should say) are… very unattractive to say the least. Why ANYONE would be willing to strut out in some of those get-ups is something I will never understand. Initially, my appreciation for something like that is very, very low. However, it’s good to keep in mind that someone created it; someone appreciates fashion as an art and as a way to express themselves. To them, it is beauty, and when I think about those odd outfits in that light, I find I can appreciate it on a very basic level, as artist to artist.

Writing can be considered in the same way. What I think of as beautiful will probably be very different from what another author feels is beautiful, and those ideas on beauty will change as we all get older and our horizons expand. That being said, though, I think there are a couple aspects of writing that are particularly striking, especially when done well.

Reality/believability
This is something that I’ve picked up on as something very essential to a beautiful piece of writing. I am convinced that there is nothing more beautiful than raw human (and I don’t mean that in a cannibalistic way… honest). In Les Mis, for example, Fantine sells herself for the sake of her child; she reaches the gravest point of desperation in her need, and yet she still loves her child enough to give her up so she can work for her sake, and to die in her efforts to support Cozette. I haven’t read the book yet, but I plan on it (hopefully this summer when I have a little bit more time). But really, think about it. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ve seen enough to know what I’m talking about. Revisiting that movie in my head is overwhelming me a little bit, actually… it is so rich in beauty because of ugliness and gross corruption. As much as people hate to see the bad bits of life, and as cozied away as we try to make ourselves from it, that is where the stark reality of life is, and that is where you’re going to find the most evident expressions of beauty, especially through avenues such as love, rescue/redemption, and restoration.

Now, as to creating it in story writing? It’s tough. You don’t want to force your readers to feel sorry or exuberant and happy for your characters, so the goal is to earn the reader’s emotions (in other words, as my professor would say, don’t go the easy, cliched route). Traveling the hard road requires you to dig deep and get to know your characters and then write them as they are, rather than what you want them to be. A character will develop him/herself; if you’ve written anything more than a couple pages, you’ll notice how it works.
I haven’t spent enough time really getting to know my characters, and I can tell you, it shows. In workshopping classes, character development and the believability of said characters is one of the weaknesses that other students pick out of my writing, so I’m not exactly an authority on this subject. But, I do know enough to say that when your story/characters are grounded in the reality of who they are, what they’re doing, and where they are (emotionally, physically, etc),   they will shine. When they are tested and the reality of their character is exposed, a reader will take a step back and shake their head, chills might run across their skin, and they might read that beautiful, real moment again.

So, I’d say that the first step in creating beauty in story writing is to foster reality and believability in your characters and the situations they’re in. Don’t sacrifice reality for artificiality. =)

 

Stay tuned for another post about creating beauty in writing! =)

Update!

Hey folks! It’s been a good while since I’ve posted here… but I do have a solid reason: schoolwork. 

Never before have I experienced not having enough time to do everything I need to. I’ve had moments (many of them) where I chose to spend time on things I didn’t NEED to do, but this past week has opened my eyes to the reality of there not being enough hours in the day. A milestone in my growth from college student to working adult? 

Most frustrating is a recent desire to spend an entire afternoon with music, whiteboard, and poems, but guess what?! No time. Literally. =( 

I’m taking a poetry writing class this semester, and one thing that had struck me in the course of writing and workshopping is the importance of spending time with the poems one writes. I have a habit of writing something, polishing it after I’m done, giving it up to workshop, and then leaving it alone until a mid-term manuscript or submission deadline looms in the near future. Not having enough time to spend with my poems and fiction pieces frustrates me because it’s something, one of the few things, that I absolutely LOVE to do. A lot of learning and application takes place when intentional review and revision happens. 

However, I have been productive, regardless of my writer woes! I’ve made it through a third round of resume critiques! The Vocatio Center on campus has been amazing in helping me develop my resume to its full potential. This past meeting showed me that I have a whole lot of work to do even still (and here I was, thinking I was ready to go apply to internships…), but I’m excited to do the work, especially if it results in me getting placed at a publishing company internship for this summer. My fourth review is set for March 22, so I have a little time to mull, but the plan is to get it ship-shape next weekend if I can. 

Also, I’ve mentioned on my personal blog that I have a goal to read 50 books this year, and since that goal is all about books/writing, I thought it worthwhile to post my progress here! So far, I haven’t been as progressive in this goal as I would like to be, but considering the heavy workload I have this semester, I’ve done more pleasure/personally-enrichment reading than I expected! 

 

In Progess: 

  • The Meaning of Marriage
  • Life Together
  • Love in the Time of Cholera (pg. 34)

To Read

  • Les Miserables
  • An Agatha Christie book (haven’t decided yet…)
  • Strong Poison (Dorothy Sayers)

Completed

  • Green (Ted Dekker)
  • The Vicar of Wakefield (Oliver Goldsmith)
  • Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen) 

 

Till next time! 

Welcome….

So yes. Welcome. This is my writing blog, where you will (more often than not) find some of my writing that I want to share, and sometimes even posts that have to do with writing… and more or less, this blog will be catered to my professional development.

I have no promises on how often I’ll be posting, but I’d like to make it at least twice a week; we’ll see how it works out!