Writers are Readers Rebellion Supply Chain

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“In a society that promotes conformity; novel-reading – one person experiencing both the mind of another person and her own mind experiencing – is a subversive force.” ~ Jane Smiley, from “13 Ways of Looking at the Novel.”

The above is a passage I’ve been ruminating about for about 13 days now. Ms. Smiley’s book is my bathroom book. What? You don’t’ have a bathroom book? Heck, I’ve got a book in every room in my home, another in my car, always one in my purse, and both my desks host a book of their own, as well.

Regardless, I’ve been reading 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel” for more than a year now. I repeatedly reread sections and focus meditation on the ideas within it. The idea in the quote above really has penetrated me as not only a reader, but as a writer, too.  In short, being a novel reader is being a rebel. As a writer, I am the supply chain for these intellectual societal rebels.

That is so effing cool! I just can’t stop thinking about it. It makes me think back to when I was in the Army and I was assigned to the United Nations Protection Force in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Part of our mission was simply monitoring the border, reporting on activity and looking out for smugglers along the border between FYROM and Serbia. Those of us watching saw a lot of barrels of oil and probably bullets go over that border on the backs of donkeys. It was the rebels supply chain. My writing is just like those oil barrels. I just need a donkey to take the supplies to the rebel bases.

When I switch my hat to reader-only, I have to smile still at that statement by Ms. Smiley. Imagine an army of authors feeding into your rebellion. Such thoughts are complete enablers to my bibliophile tendencies.

Is it any wonder that the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword” (or RPG, for that matter) is so elegantly true?

Course that begs the question, why aren’t’ more teenagers reading books? I think I need a bumper sticker:  “Be A Rebel! Read A Book!”

But first I need to figure out where my donkey is.


The full-time dream job…

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I’m to the point where there is so much energy around my writing that it’s a second full-time job for me. But, I’m not getting a whole lot of coin for it yet. But, I can feel it coming. It’s swimming down in the depths of my literary life trying to pass the murky deeps like a leviathan rising to the surface during a stormy gale.

I’m still busy trying to care and nurture my writing group — SnoValley Writes!If you live in Twin Peaks and are a writer, you really should come and join us. We have lots going on…a) putting together our second annual publication, which we are turning into a real literary journal, b) entertaining our community with literary fabulousness at Word Jazz – Fall Into Story on Oct. 26 at Boxley’s in North Bend. It’s an evening of poetry, prose and music and last time (in March) we packed the house. So, get your reservations today if you plan to attend, and c) we’re trying to accumulate the paperwork for our 503c status so we can do our first writing conference!

In addition, I’ve volunteered to help a great literary cause:  The Novel: Live!  and helping with outreach in the greater Seattle area. It’s been like a full-time job. Trying to figure out what will get people excited about supporting Seattle7Writers and their efforts to get writers in schools. I mean, for me, it’s all about watching successful nationally published authors sweat through their writing process with literary voyeurs waiting to bite off the energy from their favorite author(s) as they sip wine and cocktails at Hugo House. Personally, I’m already excited because I’m working with Jennie Shortridge in the whole process of outreach/promotion. I first met Jennie back in 2007 when she was at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference. She was on her promotional push for Riding with Queenie. And because she’s local, I keep running into her in a variety of venues. I love that she’s involved with young writers — another of my passions. That’s why, as I said in my last post, I decided to make my September and October a little crazy and get involved with The Novel:  Live! Also, can I just say I’m so nervous about meeting Garth Stein.

I’m also spending lots of energy to get Martius Catalystbeefed up so that I can build up the amount of followers, readers and fans. It’s free fiction. It’s speculative, paranormal, fantasy with a Steampunk bent, obviously. Sam and I are having a ton of fun. And Jackie’s art just adds more depth to it. I need to finish the proof for the bookmark that I plan to hand out at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival (although I know that Martius Catalyst is much tamer than most Lovecraft fans prefer, yet there’s enough elements of darkness, they may be interested, especially if they stick around. But hey, maybe. Shrug. Right?) and SteamCon.  The HPLFF is going to be in Portland the first weekend in October and I’m a bundle of stupid fangirl nerves to meet Caitlin R. Kiernan. Anyone who knows me knows that her writing is some of my favorite.

I also have decided that I’m going to start doing regular blog entries on book reviews. So stay tuned for that.

And something about National Novel Writing Month coming up, in which I serve as the municipal liaison for my community. There’s this pretty scary — scariest yet for me — story percolating in my head for this year’s attempt. I will finish this year.

Then there’s the actually writing. I have three manuscripts I need to clean up one last time and re-exert some efforts on trying to get an agent to get excited about them. I have at least three contest deadlines coming up. Yet, I’ve spent the last 30 minutes trying to make this blog entry make sense. Honestly, I really should be focused more on the whole creation part. Yet, all of the above feeds into the creation part. It’s what creates a well-round full-time writer. Truly. This I do believe.  As I also believe one day people will be happy to plop down their disposable (or not so disposable) income for my book.

Dreams, it makes me get up in the morning to get it all done.

Making connections in your genre community

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Writing and Reading in one’s genre is a key tactic to advancing one’s craft. That has been said in a million ways by thousands of much more successful than I currently am (see the note of hopefulness), in addition to being written, presented and blogged about by various publishing experts.

 I would say that you need to take it a step further. Engage in the community of your genre. You say there’s not a community for your genre. I say poppycock! (I’m on a bit of a Victorian language kick…excited I could actually use that phrase.) Every genre has a community. Look at the absolute explosion in conferences, whether you write romance or speculative fiction, like I am. The latter of course seems to lend itself to more variety of conferences, but then you need to figure out what’s the best bet for you, personally.

 Also, you need to support the art that is inspired by your genre. In my writer’s group (which is the first community you should be involved in – your own writing group), SnoValley Writes! We’re actually partnering with the local artists’ guild (Mount Si Artists’ Guild) to promote both the visual artists as well as literary artists in our community. We invited the artists to bring their work to a special work session and the writers wrote poems and short stories off the prompts. The final works will be displayed together at our annual community festival that hosts a HUGE artists’ pavilion.

 Lately there are even musical groups devoted to specific genres. Support them as well. For instance, my work Martius Catalyst is definitely in the steampunk genre category. My husband and I and another friend couple went to see Abney Park last weekend. Talk about supporting a genre’s community! There were clothing designers, artist, musicians, the expected ‘tinkerers,’ and even steampunk food.

 Another way to get involved in your genre’s community is to support the other writers in that genre. Buy their books, follow their blogs, write them charming notes of “I loved your latest book (insert title here),” go to their signings, and turn your friends on to their work. We’ve lost the art of being a patron of the arts …this is the modern version of that regretfully lost status.

 Last evening I was offered the opportunity to become involved in yet another writing community. It’s in the planning stages and there will be more details to that forthcoming. But, I jumped at the chance to be a pioneer in something that will help not only my own work, but the work of many other artists as well.

 Engage in the community of your genre; you’ll be amazed at the speed with which you excel your craft. One day, also, you’ll need to have folks just like yourself supporting you. It’s how the literary art world turns, love.

Fear of producing means fear of success

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My mother once told me that when I reached real womanhood – which she defined as menopause, because you aren’t existing for any purpose but to be – I would feel delight in throwing away the rule books on many aspects of my life.

 Over the course of the last few years, I kept thinking about what Mom said. The thoughts always returned back to the same question: Why do I have to wait until I’m there (although, yes, admittedly, I’m not far from there)?

 I had always steered clear of self-publishing or even blogging outside of my LiveJournal. I have been convinced that if I didn’t go the traditional route of getting an agent and then having the agent sell my stuff, I wasn’t a “real” author. Not being a “real author” also precluded me from talking to other authors.

But, then I watched other authors, ones like Christina Katz, Elizabeth Bear and Caitlin R. Kiernan, put their stuff out there via the Web or via subscriptions and being successful and it leading to more and more success. They were self producers. I went to writing conferences. I took classes from other writers. I talked to them over a coffee or glass of wine (they were happy to talk to me, even though I was an introverted fangirl that didn’t always know the right thing to say).  It was clear that self-producing was part of, as Katz says, “surviving in the gig economy” that modern writers live.

 If I wanted to be successful, I had to be brave and get my work, get me, out into the world.

Almost always my coffee table is covered in books. Research books. School books. Books in my genre to read. Magazines on publishing and world events. All manner of everything. I went out and got that material without much prompting – why couldn’t I go out and get some “gigs?”Besides we all know the internet makes it a whole lot easier to move from unknown to “followed.” Faster and faster I was learning that I had any number of paths to find areas to get my writing in. In 2007, I reached out to other writers in my community and founded SnoValley Writes!, which is growing, as is the success of my fellow authors in that group. I didn’t follow the rules – I just went out and said, “Hey, let’s get this going.” Together nearly 50 of us are “reaching for new literary peaks.” In just a little over two years, our group is being published in newspapers, magazines and literary journals. We also have a few lucky ones that are being considered to be represented. We worked together to make things happen.

For my own personal “gigs,” I am currently working several projects and being as productive as possible. I’m entering contests; submitting articles, agent queries and launched this blog and then took another self-producer, my friend, Samantha Tiner, and partnered with her for a partnership in a web novel, Martius Catalyst, which just launched this week.

I’m no longer waiting around or following some archaic belief that there’s only one way to be a writer. The opportunities are endless. However, it won’t be delivered to your door step.

I often tell my fellow writers the story about a friend of mine who upon learning that I was having a short story published asked me how she could go about getting her novel published. “I have it sitting in a shoebox in my closet,” she said. My response was, “Get it out there! It won’t be published sitting in a box in the closet!”

Additionally when I hear people say, “Someday I’ll write (insert novel, article, poem).” I say, “Someday is today.”

The stacks of research to do that covers my coffee table.