Tag Archives: writing

New Publication, New Opportunities

It’s almost been a year since I moved to New York City, and in that time I’ve learned a lot, seen more odd things than I expected I would, been forced to reckon with what I believe about the world (among other things), and met many interesting and wonderful people.

Among those wonderful people is one of the founders of The Seventh Wave, an “online and print quarterly publication blending essays, poetry, fiction, and art.” I was introduced to Joyce late last year through a mutual friend, and I’d say we hit it off pretty well. One of the things I remember discussing over coffee was The Seventh Wave, though back then it was still in a fledgling stage.

Over the last few months, I’ve been drawn back to creative nonfiction again and again. The impulse to write is strong, and I’ve even done some brainstorming for subjects. I can’t explain how excited I am about CNF! I’ve been a pretty regular reader of The Hippocampus Magazine for awhile now, and the more I read, the more I’m convinced that this niche is where I will be investing a lot of time in the future.

But for now, I wanted to let you folks know about The Seventh Wave’s open call for submissions (more details here). For any of you who are interested in getting your writing (or other forms of artistic expression) out there, this is an excellent opportunity to be a part of a new publication that has a strong vision and dedicated people working behind the scenes!

For the past ten months, the four of us have been wrestling with gaps. But not the ones between the subway cars and the platforms. No, we’ve been wrestling with the gaps that exist between us, as human beings — between what you know and what I know, between how you grew up and how I grew up, between your opinions and mine. Every interaction between us is informed by these differences, but where do they come from?

If you’re interested, take a peek at the submission guidelines and wrestle with what “the gap” means to you.

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Down at the Beach ~ Creative Nonfiction

As promised, here’s my first published creative nonfiction piece!

Down at the Beach

    Late afternoon sunlight poured through the large windows that faced quiet Tamarind Drive, pooling on the colorful cement floors of my grandfather’s Florida home and silhouetting my father, who stood in front of a small gathering of less than thirty people. Some of them lingered in the dining room, nibbling on strawberries and cheese. The sounds they made as they ate got quieter when my father cleared his throat. He hadn’t prepared a grand speech; rather, he relied on his memory to give him words to say. Aunt Carol, alone in the front row of mismatched chairs, contributed more tears than everyone else put together. Thunder grumbled in the distance, and the wind rustled the fronds of the palm trees just outside the front door as I watched the forerunners of storm clouds skid low on the horizon. A few neighbors had situated themselves in the back row and on the sides of the room, their smiles brief and their hands twitchy.
My grandfather’s funeral was the first one I’d ever been a part of in my twenty-two years. Up until that day, death had only taken my gerbils and an aunt that I hardly knew. My grandfather’s death affected me, though it wasn’t because we had been close. In all the annual visits my family made to Fort Pierce, I can’t remember a time when my grandfather ever engaged in a normal conversation. My dad would talk to him, but my grandfather would reply with a simple “sure” or “I’ll be darned.” I felt like I’d lost something, but that something wasn’t my grandfather. It was hard to grieve over a relationship that had consisted solely of smiles and casual greetings.
My grandfather was a simple man who rode out hurricanes alone on the island when everyone else fled for higher ground, who paid for internet only to play online checkers and to check the stock market, who was content to eat a can of brown beans or a baked potato for dinner. He was a stunt diver while he lived in one of the Dakotas, and he walked through the jungles of Panama as a young man. My grandfather always took walks around the neighborhood and down the beach to the jetty after dinner. He loved that beach so much that he built a bench and planted it at the end of the walking path, where the scrubby trees and sea oats ended and the open sand began.
My grandfather didn’t want a fuss over funeral arrangements. The simpler the service, the better. About half of the people who had been gathered in the living room trailed out behind my dad as he led them to the beach, which was a short five-minute walk away. The beach was windier than usual because of the storm creeping onto the western horizon, over the jetty line. Skirts and pant legs flapped, and the few words spoken were lost in the wind. Aunt Carol, followed closely by my dad, rolled up her capris and waded into the ocean, the canister containing my grandfather’s ashes tucked against her side. Carefully, she unscrewed the lid and shook the ash onto the surface of the waves that had beaten the beach he’d lived by for decades.
The procession back to my grandfather’s house was spurred by the scent of rain on the wind. The short walk was so familiar that I could have walked there and back again with my eyes closed. It had been five years since my last visit to Florida. Fort Pierce, my grandfather, the beach––nostalgia was beginning to get the better of me. I was the last person to reach the house, and immediately I went to the kitchen for two Ziplock bags. I walked back to the beach, alone this time, to collect my thoughts and comb the shores for seashells. The sun had been crowded out by the storm clouds that had begun to arrive in earnest, and the thunder was louder. I could see lightning in the darkest parts of the sky, and I felt the first raindrops as soon as my feet sunk into the still-warm sand. The stretches of beach to my right and left were deserted, and I felt peaceful as I waded through the shallows of the surf, making my way toward the jetty. The tide had gone down in the fifteen minutes I’d been away, and seashells littered the shore. Broken pieces stuck up out of the sand, and smooth halves, still intact, floated back with the receding water. I strolled, searching for shells and the evasive sand dollars that I’d hunted for on that beach ever since I knew they existed. The rain crescendoed all the while, and forced me to turn back when I was only half-way to the jetty. I could hardly see by the time I got back to my entry point; in fact, I almost missed it. I stooped, my soaked clothes clinging to my skin as I filled my second Ziplock bag with sand.

The Torch, Union University’s Literary Arts Magazine, Spring 2014

 

Update version… oh nevermind.

It’s been awhile, folks. Here’s a quick sum up of things that have happened in the last four months:

  • Graduated college (May)
  • Enrolled at Pace University, NY (April)
  • Moved back home (June)
  • Got my first iPhone (June)
  • Started Freelancing work (June)

There haven’t been a lot of big things happening, I suppose, but the end-of-semester craze caught me up and took me away. The post-graduation weeks were spent taking it easy and preparing myself for the transition home. Now, I’m preparing myself for a transition to New York and full-adult life.

I’ve signed up for four classes at Pace University, starting in the fall, and I’m honored to have been chosen for a graduate assistantship. This means that I’ll be crazy busy doing the things I love, which is okay. Also, I’ll be in New York City. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I’d be able to go there, much less go to graduate school there! How crazy is that?! When people ask me how I feel about it, obviously I talk about my excitement. But there’s also a form of awe that replaces my excitement. New York City? Really?

Regardless of how I’m feeling at any given moment, it’s happening! And I’ll be sharing all my adventures and misadventures (probably more of these than the former) with you guys, step by baby step (though probably on my other blog).

In terms of writing, I’d like to record a few goals here so as to give myself something creative to aim for over the summer. I tried (and failed) to participate in April’s CampNaNoWriMo, so I’m going to try again in July. I haven’t decided what I want to do for it this year, but I think I might expand the novel that I started for my senior thesis.
Also, cool thing to note:

  • Got published for the first time!

Granted, it was in my school’s literary arts magazine, but I’ll take it. I plan to republish the piece in a few days time for your enjoyment =)

On another note, I’ve been considering doing more creative Nonfiction writing. I took a class on it this past semester, and I realized that I very much enjoyed that kind of writing. In order to consider exploring and understanding my style in the CNF form, I am going to keep writing… and hopefully publishing, some on here.

Another thing that I want to begin exploring and writing on is the website Medium. I’m fascinated by the diversity of content and style, so I think it’d be worth delving into. I have yet to post anything on the site, but once I do, be assured that you guys will hear of it. =)

I think that is all for now. Forgive me for my hiatus! Sometimes life claims you and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

A New Player

I started a draft for a post titled “Self-publishing: too easy?” just about two months ago, and I promptly forgot about it in lieu of graduate school applications. However, a recent news article caught my attention and had me thinking about self-publishing yet again. I recommend you read the article, but to sum it up: “The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has introduced a new MA program in self-publishing, the first of its kind in the U.K.”

Very interesting.

At first I was surprised. Isn’t the nature of self-publishing “do-it-yourself”? But after more consideration, I thought “maybe this is actually a good thing.”

I checked the university’s description of the program, curious to see how the faculty was planning to approach such a degree. Turns out, it’s pretty comprehensive, theoretically speaking; topics such as “The Publishing Environment” and “Editing Principles and Practice” are good foundational topics that, honestly, any writer/publisher ought to know about. Other topics like “The Production Process” and “Electronic Publishing and the Creation of E-Books” are standard for publishing degrees, from what I’ve seen during my research of similar programs.

Anyway, I’ll be curious to see the outcome of this new program. Will it be the parent of other programs like it, or will it be a short-lived experiment? I wonder at the cost of tuition too. Most self-publishers do it themselves because of the costs: advertising, editing, marketing– the whole package. Isn’t a Master’s program counter-productive, in terms of money-saving. Then again, “teach a man to fish.”

I talk/think about self-publishing a lot. My biggest qualm with the rise of self-published books is the concurrent rise of bad or underdeveloped writing. I’m not saying that all self-publishers are bad writers; there are gems out there, but it’s a matter of slogging through available books  and finding those that are worth reading and promoting. The move to create a Self-Publishing MA degree could very well be the answer to cutting down on the number of badly-written pieces out there. But, it will take time. You have one school offering the program, but for there to be any effect, similar approaches would have to be adopted. Can that happen, though, if traditional publishers, who have the upper hand, want to preserve their dominance? Self-publishing MA programs may have to grapple for a foothold for awhile, but their presence may, in fact, be a game changer.

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. 

Fantasy Novels?

Hello, readers and writers alike!

Earlier this week, I had a friend ask me for my thoughts on this blog post , and I thought I’d share my thoughts here, one, because it’s got to do with writing and publishing markets, and two, because it’s relevant to me because I’m in the process of writing a fantasy novel.

Summary of the blog post (in case you’re too lazy to read it… I suggest you do read it, though. Informative and over all, a great post): Fantasy author Greg Hamerton discussed a variety of challenges that a fantasy author will face when he or she goes to publish their book. Namely, the challenge of deciding whether they’ll publish online, in print, or both, and the implications of their decision on distribution of their books. He talks about the prices associated with printing, and how the number of books published affects the overall selling price. His post ended up illustrating the difficulty of making a return on the hard work a fantasy author puts into his or her book, and the elements in publishing that need to be considered when making important decision, and he highlighted how the fantasy genre, to an up-and-coming author, is a gamble. A very insightful post, but it certainly made me think of my in-progress fantasy novel and what I’ll do when it comes down to publishing. Honestly, I got worried and a lost a tiny bit of hope in ever getting it out to the public.

This blog post brought a couple things to mind that I’d like consider here: Why is fantasy so much of a gamble to publishers? Is there any hope of changing that perspective? How?

The biggest thing that I struggled with was why fantasy has a stigma of being unpredictable. Everyone likes a good, imaginative story, right? I’d say the answer is yes; the problem lies in the issue of finding “good” and “imaginative” stories that aren’t mere copycats of the famous JRR Tolkien and other such like elf/dwarf/wizard/human stories set in a world that still uses bows and arrows, and swords, with people who live in thatch-roof cottages, who farm half the day and drink beer in community in the other half.
This isn’t to say that all fantasy is like the above paragraph. Without reading a wide selection of fantasy, I know for a fact that it isn’t, but in my experience with authors who are thinking about, or in the process of, writing fantasy, this is predominantly true. Why? Probably because their earliest, most impressive experiences with fantasy have been with that type of story, which is something you can’t criticize. As humans, we all pull from the things that have impacted our lives; it comes out in our lives, our writing, our art… that’s natural. I’ve struggled against writing stereotypical fantasy stuff; it’s a battle we all face in our writing, being influenced, not indoctrinated, by other creative works.

This all goes back to my original question, why do publishers view fantasy as an unpredictable genre? Fantasy can be anything, literally. You can do anything with it, within very broad outliers, which is both a wonderful thing, and a potentially bad thing. Your crazy ideas could be received with cries of “genius!” or they could be rejected with a simple, exasperated shake of the head. Because people and their interests, likes, and dislikes come together in a pot of weird, varying with each person, how can anyone ever predict how a certain audience will respond to YOUR book of weird, strange, exciting, mystifying stuff? You may have chosen to write to an audience of “young adults,” but in that audience, there are lots of different kinds of young adults. It gets complicated.
As Hamerton suggested in his post, publishers are more  likely to prefer relying on the popularity of an already-established author instead of taking a gamble on something that is equally able to lose them a good deal of money, or give them a good deal of money. Who wouldn’t rather invest in something sure?
The stereotype of fantasy, and what the general populace believes of fantasy, is what I believe to be the reason publishers aren’t more willing to take a gamble with fantasy. I know for a fact that my book is not going to fit under the typical “fantasy” impression, and I know without having to do very much research, that there are MANY fantasy books that also refuse to be categorized under “typical fantasy,” yet the stereotype remains. Sad, really. This leaves us authors having to deal with what Hamerton summarized in his post.

Well… that’s a nice plight in which to place unknown or little-known fantasy authors in, isn’t it? Which brings me to my next question: is there any way this can be changed? How?

I think it can be changed, though with a lot of work on both sides, authors and publishers. I might just be talking ideals here, because I tend to care more about getting creative and interesting things out into the world than money, but bear with me.
The growing trend toward online publishing and self-publishing (which I wrote about in a post here ) is probably a good thing for fantasy authors, because of the problems listed by Hamerton. Because of the ridiculousness of the costs of production. Producing books in ebook format? Saves a lot on printing and distribution costs, no doubt. I hate to admit it, but I’m beginning to believe that there is hope in ebook publishing; people are more likely to read something if it’s easily accessible to devices they already own, and unless they’re book enthusiasts, they’re not as likely to peruse the shelves of used (or new) bookstores. Also, the generally-cheaper prices of ebooks are more conducive to buying than retail pricing. Everything points to ebooks.

Ebooks allow the author to be the publisher; it allows a good fantasy author the chance to publicize their book and redeem the fantasy name. It allows readers at large to experience fantasy at its best (which will hopefully help publishers change their minds in the future about fantasy, at least to some degree). Of course, there is the fact that e-publishing allows the bad work in, but there’s a pretty dependable way to distinguish good from bad: the quality of a book. Because e-publishing is easier and less demanding than a traditional publishing house, most authors who’ve written mediocre stuff haven’t often gone through the harrowing process of editing, revising, editing, revising, editing some more etc. Authors, even if their quality is so-so, can have a good polished work after it’s been worked over and over again. In fact, that’s what often makes a book good.

So, e-publishing is the hope of fantasy, I think, at least for a good while. Thanks to Hamerton, the website CompletelyNovel has been brought to my attention. In my brief look-over of the site, I’m excited to see what treasures it holds (and you should go look too)!

The thing about e-publishing is the work that it takes. If you want to be successful with it, you can’t just submit your manuscript, get the book out there and sit back. You have to WORK. Network with other writers; promote, promote, promote; follow and participate in other writer’s blogs; create a following through your OWN blog and social media; promote some more, and review other writer’s works, sometimes in return for them reviewing your work. After the editing and revising and the final publication of a book, more hard work and investment might not be high of your priority list. But it HAS to be. And be aware, I’m preaching this to myself as much as I am to anyone who is reading this, because I don’t like the promotion part of publishing… I’m the one who’ll sit and revise, edit, and proofread until dawn. But it’s necessary in order to make your book a success… at least, that’s what I think. Because, you know, I haven’t actually published a book yet =)

So, those are my two cents on the issue of why fantasy books aren’t regarded very seriously by publishing houses, and what hope that fantasy authors have in getting their books recognized. Eventually, I hope to write on WHY fantasy books ought to be regarded more seriously, but in order to do that I have to go find some to read first… to widen my horizons. However, I did buy a fantasy book by Diana Wynne Jones (author of Howl’s Moving Castle, for those of you who don’t know) titled “The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1” that I plan to read before the summer is out. It’s a gigantic, thick book, though, so we’ll see how far I get!

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1

Also, just as an Allison-update: I am participating in July’s Camp NaNoWriMo challenge (sitting on 32,000/50,000 words as of the publishing of this post), which is why I have written hardly anything on this blog. I have virtually 3 days left to write the final 18,000 words, and with a lot of patience, I think I can do it. I’ll let you guys know if I survive (because, you know, if I don’t, I won’t be here to post that I did).

See you on the other side!

Self Publishing? e-Books?

We’re all familiar with the wonderful world of e-Books, right? With the rise of iPads and Nooks and Kindles and every other kind of tablet and e-reader, e-books have risen in popularity. Naturally. One tablet or reader is easier to carry around than a sack of books, especially when there’s limited bag space (airplanes, buses, etc), there’s little need to actually HOLD it  (so if you’re one of those weirdos who can work out and read at the same time, kudos to you!), and it’s significantly cheaper. All of these are pros, technically, and I’m sure they’re good; I’m convinced they’re good and beneficial for the constantly moving world we live in.

However, I grieve for the plight of real books. I’m one of those people who absolutely LOVES the feeling of a hefty book in my hands; I like the fact that my bag is heavy because of all the different books I have in there, I treasure the smell of an old book, and the way it’s easier to engage with a story if I’m actually turning the page. Naturally, I’m very determined to try to go the way of traditional publishing… I want the satisfaction of being accepted by an established publisher.

There is a problem, however. The more I think and talk about it, and the more familiar I become with the publishing world, how it operates, and the future of books, the less hopeful I am that my dream will come true. Self-publishing has this stigma attached to it because literally anybody can do it, and as a result (so I’ve heard, anyways) crap can be spread all over the place, and because of that, the good stuff that is self-published often gets overlooked. There’s also something ridiculously unofficial about self-publishing.

And now, I realize that I started this blog post on one leg and have switched to the other (e-books to self-publishing). However, these two are so closely woven together that it’s hard to talk about one and not the other. As much as I don’t like to say it, publishing in e-book format is a necessity these days because of the popularity of the e-reader. And I’m sure that it’s a helpful tool that allows people to read more than they normally would. However, that still doesn’t really help the sadness I feel when I think of a coffee shop filled with people reading electronically. There’s something very, very wrong with that picture…

But back to self-publishing. As I’ve probably mentioned in another blog post, I’m enthralled with the idea of working for a publishing company, be it as someone who sorts through unsolicited manuscripts, or as a basic editor, or someone who works with the author through edits; every aspect of that kind of job makes me SO excited and pumped. However, the realization that good publishing companies whose main priority it is to publish GOOD material (and not just the stuff in high demand *coughvampireromancecheesyscrapboardstuffcough*) may not be around long enough for me to really get my hands in, or they might run on volunteer-basis more than position-basis (which would be sad… particularly from a survival standpoint). So, I’m concerned.

So I decided to start networking on Twitter, and that’s proved a little fruitful. I found AEC Stellar Publishing, and I’m on a list of editors, so that’s a beginning. I’m starting to wonder if my future isn’t in outsourced editing services… and I’m scared about that because that means a LOT of initiative that I was not born with (or nurtured into), so it will be an uphill battle. But being an editor is something that I’m convinced I’m called to do, and by editor I mean that in whatever way you want to take it. I usually imagine myself sitting in a coffee shop or a sunlit living room surrounded by manuscripts and colorful pens… sometimes with an author sitting opposite or beside me, discussing their manuscript. There’s a passion for storytelling and words in my soul that I can hardly express, and discussing story ideas and plot points are just the beginning of what really makes me excited and inspired. It’s a cool passion and I’m really curious how it pans out, especially post-grad. Should I go to grad school? Try my hand at teaching? Part of me expects that I’ll be put in an instructor position at some point, and that freaks me out. Talking and workshopping writing is one thing, being the leader of something like a workshop is quite another. I’m sensing there’s a lot of fear that I’m going to have to get over at some point… but I’m okay with that. Might be a struggle, but it’ll be worth it.

So to sum up this post, I’m realizing that it’s vital to recognize the trends of the day, prepare myself well for the skills that I may need to know with a changing publishing environment, and embrace the change rather than try to pretend that it isn’t happening.

I’ll still be a firm believer in the hard-copy though. I will have a big, special place for my books in the house of my future.