November 3, 9:00 a.m. I'm sitting in my car in the parking lot of the Flyways Waterfowl Museum and Laser Arcade (yes, you read that correctly) in Baraboo, Wisconsin. At this time of the year, the building is boarded up. Sheets of cardboard cover the glass entrance. Unmarked snow covers the ground. The bare-limbed trees, abandoned parking lot, and gaping holes of the museum's second-story windows make this the perfect setting for a slasher movie. But I'm feeling fine.
My college friend and I have just finished a weekend in Devil's Lake State Park, where we camped in an outrageously spacious nine-person tent, hiked through snow, and slept in too many layers to count. The trip was a success, and I'm prepping for my drive back home.
Less than one month ago, I got my first tattoo. I knew I wanted a phoenix. I knew that the image was deeply meaningful to me. But since I made the decision, the image’s symbolism, resonance, and timelessness has blown me away.
The image of the phoenix has been with me for a long time. My very first email address was phoenixdreams@... (and what a preteen girl email address it was!). I was always drawn to the firebird, to its bursting into flame, disintegration into ash, and rising, ever rising, to soar again.
It’s a message of resilience. Resurrection. The cycle of death and rebirth and the recognition that nothing truly dies but is instead transformed.
It’s the idea that “trial by fire” is a meaningless phrase, because fuck that, I am the fire...
Isn’t that the idea behind every New Year’s resolution? To shed off one’s old skin and put on a new face, a new body (as long as you meet your diet and exercise goals, of course), new habits, because the only thing that can get you the future life you dream of is change?
And yet, all I can think of now is the past.
Blame the movie EIGHTH GRADE (2018), which I cringed, cried, and laughed over.
Blame every visit to my childhood home, with its boxes of memories laid out for me to decide which to keep and which to throw away.
Blame the upcoming full moon in Leo, the total lunar eclipse.
Blame my recent birthday. I turned 29, so forget the New Year—how about a new decade? Maybe I’m already starting to decompress the past ten years i...
Today I sat in my car, listened to this song, and choked back tears.
“Clipped wings, I was a broken thing
Had a voice, had a voice but I could not sing
You would wind me down
I struggled on the ground, oh
So lost, the line had been crossed
Had a voice, had a voice but I could not talk
You held me down
I struggle to fly now, oh”
I was in an abusive relationship for three years. I lost myself in a way that is unfathomable to me now. I did things that I can’t comprehend doing now. I allowed things to happen to me that I would never stand for now. Forget the guy. The lack of self-respect, self-trust, and self-love I had is breathtakingly sad.
“But there's a scream inside that we all try to hide
We hold on so tight, we cannot deny
Eats us alive, oh...
Here's Day 4 of the #writerlyresolutions challenge! The prompt: to share my goals for 2018!
I'm feeling ambitious this year, so let's go with these:
The Forgotten (currently on submission to editors): Do two more rounds of submission this year. In between rounds, revise my novel based on editorial feedback.
Game plan: Brainstorm revisions with my agent in January. Make revisions in February. Submit to a new round of editors in March. Wait. If it comes to it, brainstorm revisions again in July. Make revisions in August. Submit to a new round of editors in September. Wait. If no bites by the end of 2018, reevaluate the project.
Wind Rider (a work-in-progress): Finish the novel and get it ready for agent feedback...
Here's Day 3 of the #writerlyresolutions challenge! The prompt: to share unexpected successes from the past year.
Because let's face it - we can't plan for everything, we can't predict inspiration, and we can't imagine every single opportunity heading our way. The lesson here is to let our goals be flexible. If we allow ourselves the space to follow what most interests us in each moment, inspiration can lead us down some pretty interesting paths.
Here's my grand (probably non-exhaustive) list of bonus projects I did not plan for last December:
I brainstormed books 2 and 3 of my Forgotten series. If I get a deal for the first book, I can hand over my vision for the rest of the series right away.
Here's Day 2 of the #writerlyresolutions challenge! The prompt: to share one goal from 2017 that I did NOT achieve and what I learned from not achieving it.
Back in December 2016, I decided that if I was going to get an agent by June, that'd give me plenty of time to secure a book deal by the end of the year. Easy, right? If you get one, you get the other? I have to laugh at the sheer gall required to claim that I would get a book deal on my very first book, on the very first round of submissions, and within six months.
As it stands, my agent submitted my novel to seven editors in September. By October, we'd heard from three of them - all rejections, but with constructive feedback. As of this post, we're still waiting to hear back from the oth...
Here's Day 1 of the #writerlyresolutions challenge! The prompt: to share one goal from 2017 that I achieved and what I learned from achieving it.
Back in December 2016, I decided 2017 would be my year for getting an agent. More specifically, I planned to get an agent by the time I returned to graduate school for my June 2017 residency. I don't know what I was thinking, putting this kind of time constraint on a process I hadn't even started and knew nothing about (probably something like "I have plans, and the universe better not get in my way").
In any case, I did a bit of research into querying. I wrote a query letter. I did a final pass of editing on my novel. Then I began the process in March - the grueling, soul-sucking, demoralizing proc...
I’m three semesters into my MFA in Creative Writing, and I’m burned out. It’s been a tough semester. I’ve felt elated at times while brainstorming the full trajectory of my novel and writing to bring that outline to life...and then discouraged and stalled when I’ve had to revise that outline and rework those pages again and again.
Part of this discouragement, I'm sure, is because I have a hard time taking certain critiques. The more my novel seems to be becoming someone else’s work, the less I am interested in it. I no longer care about the novel, because it no longer has the heart and soul that only I can infuse into it.
Part of this discouragement, too, is that at 27 years old I am not attempting to create my masterpiece. My magnum opus. My...
Selgin, Peter. 179 Ways to Save a Novel: Matters of Vital Concern to Fiction Writers. Writer’s Digest, 2010.
Peter simplifies writing by pointing out that everything in a novel—dialogue, action, reaction, conflict—stems from character. By thoroughly developing characters before we sit down to write the first draft, we make the rest of the writing and revision process much easier. One of the hardest lessons writers must learn is to get out of their characters’ way. For writing to be authentic—that is, easy to be lost in, convincing, and engaging—it must emerge organically from the characters and the world they inhabit, rather than from a writer looking in from the outside.
Most writing issues can be solved by character development. If a writer...