Hump Day Happy, Thanksgiving Edition

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the United States. That’s a complicated holiday to navigate, but then, everything is complicated these days, isn’t it? That being said, gratitude is worth practicing year-round. Given that, let’s see what’s making me happy this week!

(By the way, don’t forget to sign up for my completely unannoying newsletter. Because I don’t write to you often enough. Heck, I don’t write to my mom often enough, either. [Hey, I wonder if my mom’s signed up for it…])

“It hurts to give up on a project. But not everything is meant to be finished.”

This article by Alexander Chee is still awesome three years after the fact. A highlight from item #12: “Many of us work at home all day, not even wearing underwear apparently, and we don’t even have valets to mumble to.” (Rest assured, I am wearing underwear while I’m typing this. Maybe.)

PRISM international‘s nonfiction contest deadline has been extended to November 30. Run, don’t walk, folks.

Right when I’m thinking of “Trains and Winter Rains,” Enya comes out with
a new album

(Seriously, just try to get this song out of your head after you hear it. Bonus? Keep an eye out in the video for sharks!)

Archeology! Researchers unearth a lost island in the Aegean. Sadly, it’s not Atlantis.

I see fictional people.”

How to weed your bookshelves. If you don’t have more books than you have shelf space, either I have no idea who you are, you’re already doing this, or you need to read more.

“America, you’ve gone yellow.”

I love having completely awesome and talented friends like Natalie Morrill, winner of the HarperCollinsPublishers/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction.

Joseph Gordon Levitt is a part of the Rhythm Nation.

Hump Day Happy

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been having a productive week. Actually, my recent productivity surge started last Friday, when I fired off a bunch of submissions and got a lot of work done. It’s been fairly steady since then, and when that happens, I just try to ride the wave until it breaks (by which point I probably need a breather anyway).

Meanwhile, here’s the stuff that’s been making my week when I haven’t been working:

Stephen King (“America’s teddy bear with little daggers”) teaches us that the key to success is to outlive your critics:

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It’s always weird talking about boring, everyday things after something of moment has occurred on the global stage. (Actually, let’s face it: it’s always weird talking about boring, everyday things about yourself on the Internet, of all places, all the time. So, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, back to talking about myself.

I submitted a story called “Little Bastard” to Gertrude Press’s Fiction Chapbook contest and, okay, I didn’t win. But! I was a finalist, and my name should eventually pop up on their contest page over here. So, glass half full!

Hey look! It's Adele Dazeem!

Meanwhile, in their current issue is this fantastic story by Ryan Anthony Rogers. It’s inspired me. Also check out his blog

Hump Day Happy

It’s Wednesday already? How did that happen? While you’re trying to figure that out, here are a few of the things making my week:

  1. AvoidHumans: this sort of app is practically tailor-made for writers, curmudgeons, and, well, me.
  2. The realization that in any youth-oriented pop culture work, I am likely to relate most closely to the sassy grandma:

    You go, mama.

    You go, mama. You got this.

  3. From Slave Leia to Slayer Leia.
  4. Hey, what’s my line?
  5. An element of random is sometimes needed to uncork a creative bottleneck. Sometimes that element can be as simple as one word.
  6. David Mitchell says “Don’t be a genre snob!
  7. HarperLegend might be the place for your “visionary digital fiction.”

We’ve almost made it to Friday, kids. Two more days!

Nano-no-Nanette?* No. By which I mean yes.

Hello, it’s me.

(What do you mean you haven't seen the new Adele video yet? Click the picture already!)

(What do you mean you haven’t seen the new Adele video yet? Click the picture already!)

(Is anyone else basically playing this song endlessly over and over? [And does it make you want to drink like, a lot? Or is that just me? Oh, it is? Never mind.] Has it really been four years since her last album? Anyway, in short, I love Adele, and one of these days I’ll drink enough to try this at karaoke.)

Where was I? Oh, right. Write. Nanowrimo. Continue reading

Getting the Best of Fear


Fear: You’re soaking in it! (photo by Viktor Jakovlev)

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately. (“Ooh,” you think. “Timely, what with Halloween just behind us.” [OMG, IT’S BEHIND YOU. RUN!] To which I say, ha! As if I could even try to be timely or topical. If I were really timely and topical, this would have been written before Halloween, so there’s that.) No, it’s more like fear is one of those things that’s frequently top of mind for me most days. Am I a big old scaredy-cat? Maybe. Who knows? (Don’t mind me while I finish my saucer of milk.)

Anyway! I was listening to a podcast this morning called The Invisible Office Hours, which is hosted by two entrepreneurs/creatives named Jason Zook and Paul Jarvis. (I have no idea how on earth I came across them and their podcast, which seems to happen a lot with me on the Internet.) I’m catching up on their previous episodes (I highly recommend “Vampires and Zombies”—no, I’m not trying to be topical again; it’s just really funny), and the one I was listening to this morning at the gym was on Fear.

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Getting back into the swing after being out of it for so long

I've got everything lined up, now I just need to write the darn thing. (Photo by Dustin Lee)

I’ve got everything lined up, now I just need to write the darn thing. (Photo by Dustin Lee)

Whoa, where is this month going? Well, it’s going where all time goes, into the past—but does time really go anywhere? Or are we the ones going someplace while time just remains where it’s always been? And have I had enough coffee to be having these thoughts today? Oy, my head hurts. Moving on!

Where was I? Right, time. So, I’ve been doing a lot of freelancing work. In the past year and half, I’ve discovered that I really enjoy being a freelancer. Which is odd when I consider how much of a structure freak I am. I like my routine, my habit. It helps me keep on track and stay on top of my time, my day, my projects. On top of my life, such as it is.

That’s not to say it isn’t without its nerve-wracking aspects. It feels a lot of the time that you’re living by your wits—and occasionally at your wits’ end. Work can dry up for months, then suddenly there’s more work than you know what to do with, but you dare not turn any of it down because, well, see the aforementioned “work can dry up for months.”

But you have total freedom to structure and spend your time as you see fit. And in my case, at least, you no longer dread Mondays.

I’ve been in one of those “more work than you know what to do with” modes for the past couple months or so, which means that I haven’t been doing a lot of writing. That’s okay, to a certain extent: I was able to spend most of my summer working on writing projects of various kinds, like revising the novel that I wrote in grad school, finally finishing a story I started eighteen months ago (that part where they say stories are easier than novels? Lies), and starting several other stories and an essay. Shifting gears to graphic design and editing can help keep things from getting stale.

But now it’s time to make my way back into the work in progress (that would be the sequel to my YA novel The Unwanted, which you can still totally buy, by the way). And having stepped away from it for the past three months or so, getting back into it? Not so easy.

I’m a big fan of the list, as you may know. And one of the things on my list at the moment is that book, the title of which keeps changing. It started at the top of my list, and then creeps downward as other things get added and then I lose track of it, until I push it back to the top again.

At one of those points, when I looked at the item on my to-do list, it just said “Finish Unwanted Sequel,” which was a) a discouraging way to phrase it, and b) more than a little overwhelming. I realized then that my list item needed to be its own list.

So that’s what I did. That one to-do item is now its own list of ten things, from “review manuscript written to date” (done!) to “write remaining chapters” (which will be further expanded after I’ve delineated chapter breaks and outlined what needs to happen in each chapter). And now it suddenly seems less overwhelming. It’s still a big to-do, but it looks achievable.

So, what are you working on that seems overwhelming?

Four Courses with Andrew Levy

It’s no secret that I love to eat. I’m fond of saying that I exercise so that I can eat more. (I eat a lot, seriously. As I got older and my metabolism ground to a screeching halt, I went into a period of mourning over the fact that I couldn’t eat a whole pizza in one sitting anymore. This, I realize, is pathetic, but there we are.)

Four Courses logoAnyway, I’ll get to the point. My friend Andrew is host of a podcast called Four Courses (“where we actually care what you had for lunch”) and invited me to be his first guest host. I was more than happy to be his guinea pig and hopefully didn’t pop my P’s too much. Go have a listen—it’s downloading to my iPod now so I haven’t actually had the cringe-worthy experience of listening to myself talk, so I can’t guarantee that I don’t sound like a complete idiot. But I probably do sound hungry… which is okay, because Andy and I are already planning our next dining out experience.

Thanks for having me on, Andy!

Briefly, A Personal Credit Where It’s Due

Today’s my anniversary. Now, we’re not married—I like to say that I’m old-fashioned and don’t believe in marriage, although that’s not exactly true either, but I’m getting off track (I know, already?) and you’ve probably noticed how often I do that so ANYWAY, moving on. A while after my partner and I got together, we were trying to figure out when we started dating/going steady/whatever you want to call it. We knew it was late August because we’re not SO far gone that we don’t know what month it is at any given time. When it came time to settle on a date, I said, “August 31.”

I had an ulterior motive. That’s also my parents’ anniversary (happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!), and I knew it was unlikely I’d forget both of them if they were on the same date. Because while I may not be THAT far gone yet, I have my days. Usually Tuesdays. I can’t get the hang of Tuesdays, for some reason.

ANYWAY. Why do I bring this up, besides the fact that today is our anniversary? Because on a very practical level, if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t be a writer right now.

Yes, I’d still be writing. OF COURSE I’d still be writing. (You might as well ask me to stop breathing. Have I turned blue yet? No. See? Still breathing.) But I’m incredibly fortunate to have someone as patient as him and who believes in what I’m doing. How much does he believe in me? Well, enough that back in 2006 he said “Why don’t you go to work part time while you finish your novel?” So I did. And that’s when I finally finished Detours. (Which you should totally read, by the way. You want to do something for my anniversary? Buy my book. Support the literary arts! You don’t even have to read it [but you could]. Either way, I promise not to tell.) So anyway, all that is, why when I read this article at Salon back in January, it rang a little bit true for me.

He’s still hoping I hit the big time, though. So am I, for that matter! So yeah, buy that book, or the other one. Or both!

ANYWAY. He’s like that with the whole believing-in-me thing. When I got into grad school, he said go. I sign up for workshops and residencies and spend ridiculous amounts of time outside of St. Louis (to preserve my sanity; also, it gets really hot here in the summer and ice queens don’t like the heat), and he says go. He says yes more than he says no, and I think there’s a lesson in that for everyone, least of all me.

So yeah, if you’ve read something of mine and you liked it, don’t thank me. Well, yes, you can thank me, but also thank him. I know I do.

Happy anniversary, hon. Eleven years and we still haven’t killed each other! (Well, not yet.)

Mike and me, sometime in 2010. We still mostly look like this, which is to say we're holding up well and probably a little tipsy.

Mike and me, sometime in 2010. He’s cute, isn’t he? We still mostly look like this, which is to say we’re holding up well and are probably a little tipsy.