Saturday, March 29, 2014

0 to 800 in 12 hours--new personal record

half of a whispering chair at NC State
(I'm sure that's not the technical term...)

Made a mud pie! A very lovely one. Decided to whisk it out into the world (Women's World, that is) & see if anyone wanted to take a bite.

But first, time travel. We set the kinda-way-back machine to 1984, the year it was discovered that Big Brother wasn't as bad as had been predicted by George Orwell. (That's more like now. Grin.) More importantly, at least in my universe, 1984 was the year I decided, heck, I can do that, and sold a mini-mystery to Women's World. With the resulting $500, I bought 10 $50 black hills spruce trees, which we planted at the edge of the back yard. They are towering now. I know how tall my career is, as that was my first professional (in terms of pay & also circulation) publication.

I sent them a few more mini-mysteries without further sales, and also a romance. They didn't buy it, but later there was a short-lived romance magazine called Arabella that bought the story I'd written for Women's World, "Hot Dogs and Champagne", (red wine with meat, white wine with chicken and fish, hot dogs with champagne -- everyone knows that, right?) and used it as the cover story for their very first issue, illustrated by Alan Ayers. They did an article on him, since he's one of the premier illustrators for books, especially romance, and showed the photo shoot he'd done to create the painting. It was awesome!

Some years later, when my dad was about to have surgery, I drove to Montana from Asheville in 2 days. I don't recommend driving almost 2000 miles in 2 days, but it's possible. Shortly after I passed Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I needed a cup of coffee and ended up at this place called Buffalo Ridge and discovered that the owner's girlfriend (they were in their 70s or 80s) was Alan Ayers mother. Weird, huh?

But, back to the story of the new story. Guidelines change, but Women's World still publishes a mystery & a romance every week. So, I got the hankering to see my byline there again. About 10:30 or 11 on Wednesday night, I started typing a little romance. Done with the first draft around midnight. The next morning I did a bunch of revising on my little 800 word gem -- err, mudpie; I forgot the terminology -- & it was in an envelope a little after noon. At the post office shortly thereafter. Voila! Mudpie in the mail. I'm not sure when I'll hear, but it was such fun to write I feel as if I've already won. Plus, the new record!

I'll definitely keep you posted.

Blog alternative:
282. Think about something you've been thinking about doing & see how fast you can do it. Clean out a drawer. Write a story. Make that soup you've been hungering for.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mudpies & wedding cakes

This one is for Cathy, a screen shot from the movie
War Games. She's always looking to see the girl as
driver & the boy as passenger on a motorcycle...

I've been resting on my laurels, & very fine laurels they've been, & still are. Still, all this resting... Makes a girl restless. It's like when you've had a favorite pillow for years & one night you're lying on it & it's gotten a bit thin.

There are several groups of people who might take issue with this even being an issue. The people who've been trying, with no or little success, to publish, or even complete things. The people who have to work damn hard to put food on the table, sometimes at a job they hate, & don't have time to even think about creative crap & the wussies who commit it. The writers & artists who have been steadily--or at least less sporadically than I have been--pushing through the walls of whatever & have no patience with the wussies who don't create.

I will backtrack to last evening & relay what brought this issue to the sizzling hot, on-high front burner.

But first I'll backtrack a little further, into the backstory. Joe D'Agnese & Denise Kiernan wrote a book called The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: The Only Personal Finance System for People with Not-So-Regular Jobs, & then began a once-a-month gathering called Freelance Fridays, first at Malaprops & then at the Battery Park Champagne Bar & Book Exchange. They eventually stepped aside because it wasn't serving their own lives as well as it was serving the lives & careers of the others who were attending (Yay, Joe & Denise! Way to put yourselves at the centers of your own lives!) but that is where I met them.

They'd done books together & separately, some ghostwriting, etcetera, & Denise spent 7 years researching & writing & revising a book called The Girls of Atomic City, which became a national bestseller & landed her on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, amongst other appearances. It's gone from hardcover to paperback, with another whirlwind book tour beginning & that landed Joe & Denise (& Greta Johnsen, aka Nerdette, the podcast, which I've just begun to listen to & is charming) at Malaprops.

I enjoyed listening to Greta interview Denise & my maybe-a-minute interaction with Denise (not because she wasn't interested in catching up & friendly but because she was busy signing books & such) & I'm looking forward to reading the book (I didn't buy it in hardcover) but the meat & potatoes of the evening was a kick-in-the-pants, man-your-battle-stations conversation with Joe.

That is not the right description at all, because it wasn't in the slightest harsh or militaristic. I'll backtrack again, to what Joe had been doing before this conversation became my great gift: continuing to do his journalistic writing, his ghostwriting, his bread-on-the-table writing. No bestseller, but hey, it was writing. Except, he didn't get into writing to be solely journalistic & non-fiction-y. He wanted to write fiction, especially mysteries. So, he bit the bullet, set ambitious goals around writing & submitting short stories, & achieved them. Not publishing--that's out of his scope--but writing & submitting. Guess what? With the writing & submitting came a bunch of rejections--& some acceptances! Yay, Joe! But really I'm saying Yay, Joe! to the part he had control over, the writing & submitting. I'm happy about the publishing & wish him much more of it & that his goal of having a novel with his name on it is fulfilled, but I'm most excited that he set out on the journey, with or without a pocket handkerchief.

Student-ready/teacher-comes, etcetera. The teachers are all around, you just have to be ready to be a student. I am, having already restlessed about resting on my laurels.

But--this is the scary part; stop reading if you're extra sensitive--I'm afraid. Afraid I've lost the beginning-middle-end knack. Beginning is the easy part. I can begin on anything, anytime. & (she says modestly) my beginnings rock. Rock, I say. Even roll. I have mad skills at beginning. At times in my life I could also middle & end, but my beginnings have ALWAYS been the best. I've got enough beginnings begun to jumpstart the careers of a whole stable of authors (& inventors & artists & designers & engineers...)

Once, my friend Selby said to me that we weren't hungry enough to be successful writers, being (at the time, & I believe she still is) married to guys who made plenty of money & therefore not dependent on our book/story/poem income.

So, Joe, thank you. For feeling your own desires & deciding to go for it. For gumptioning. (Ya gotta love the little red line that shows up under the perfectly good word you just invented.) For taking the advice of Bradbury & Faulkner & all those who came before, making not just art, but an income. The pulp masters couldn't spend 3 months or a year perfecting & polishing a little gem of a story & presenting it on a satin pillow. They wrote it; they slapped it into an envelope; they put the new blank page in the typewriter & their fingers flew. When it came back--if it did--they slapped it in another envelope.

I haven't been doing much enveloping--or e-submitting, as is more frequently the case these days--of stories & poems & novels. Some, though. Especially recently. I lit a fire under one editor & gave her the deadline of my birthday, which she said she could meet. I took a picture book that another editor had reluctantly rejected & sent it to the publisher she recommended I send it to. I've organized my space even better & have even begun to think of the books I have boxed up in storage, & why, & possibly why not.

But I'm not going to whole-hog it on all fronts. I want this to be sustainable, not a recipe for burnout. I don't want to start making wedding cakes. How about mudpies? &  if someone sees art in a mudpie, cool. If not, cool. Next mudpie.

Blog alternative:
281. Make a mudpie. A literal mudpie gets you bonus points, but do some little half-assed thing in the direction of a dream. No wedding cakes allowed!