I spent most of this past weekend at the wonderful California Crime Writers Conference, jointly created by the local Sisters in Crime chapter and the local Mystery Writers of America chapter. At left is a picture of me and Vinnie Hansen signing copies of Fishy Business, the latest Guppy anthology,
which includes stories from each of us. The conference was top notch, with excellent speakers and presentations, good food, lots of opportunities to mingle with and meet fellow writers, but also editors, PR advisors and technical experts. Whenever I go to one of these events, I always come away re-energized about my work, but also impressed with how every one involved in this business is supportive, kind, helpful, warm, friendly and interesting. This particular conference is only held every other year at this point. Luckily, there are many others. My next one will be in Dallas at Bouchercon in October. It’ll be here before ya know it!
Posted in publishing, Uncategorized, writing
Tagged anthologies, Guppy chapter, Mystery Writers of America, networking, Sisters In Crime, Sisters in Crime Los Angeles, SoCal Mystery Writers of America, the writing life, writers, writers' conferences, writing
Studies have shown that, instead of making us feel richer and blessed, an over abundance of choices actually makes us less happy. We get paralyzed. What if we make the wrong choice? How do we decide between similar, but slightly different options? How do we cope with having to leave so many delightful options behind? This dilemma is certainly true about my abundance of possible writing projects. Should I get back to light verse, one of my first loves? Or should I tackle even a small smidge of the book length manuscript I’ve been working on for several years? Then there’s the lure of responding to calls for essays and short stories that appear every day on the several lists and forums that I follow. Perhaps it’s a matter of focusing on completing the project that is most nearly ready for submission, so I’ll have one more manuscript in circulation? Each choice offers emotional and/or practical benefits. And of course, my decision might be determined by some deadline or other that I’ve already committed to.
In the end, while I can have several projects in various stages of development, I can only work on one piece at a time. The important thing for me is not to get bogged down in trying to make the “right” decision. The important thing is to make any decision at all. Just get started on moving something ahead. My job today will be the one of the smallest, and yet most crucial tasks: coming up with a title for my latest short crime fiction story. A good title won’t sell the piece. But it’s more likely to catch the editor’s eye. And it bears such importance to me, in my own mind, that it feels like a giant hump to get over. If I can do that one thing, I’ll feel encouraged about my work for the day. I wish the same for you, today and every day.
Every issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine includes a fun contest. They print a picture, and writers are challenged to come up with a 250 word maximum story inspired by or based on the picture. Winners get $25.00. The winning story and the names of the runners up are printed in the next issue. I’m proud to say I was a runner up in the latest contest, with my name in the issue pictured here.
Best of all, it was the most fun I’ve had writing in a long time–a great break from revising, editing, marketing. And even that small bit of recognition gives me the emotional boost to keep going, to do more, to seek out more opportunities. And to encourage all my fellow short story and/or mystery writers to do the same.
I’m excited. My story, “The Wannabe”, is now out in the latest Guppy anthology, Fishy Business. While not quite a “30-Year Story“, it was at least a 10-year story. Still, I kept at it. I kept at it because I had faith in the story. I also had friends along the way who helped. An actress I know helped me shape the “cattle call” scene. I also did research into how long it takes to render a person unconscious by choking and how long they will stay passed out once the airway is cleared. Mostly, I kept submitting. While the story came close to acceptance several times, it never made the final cut. Until the call for the latest Guppy anthology went out, that is. Even then, it was a year between acceptance and the publication of the anthology. But so what? In the meantime, I kept working on and submitting other pieces, plus editing, revising and publishing the second edition of my poetry book, Fault Lines. As writers, we accept the realities of publishing, which include delays and disappointments. But we also get to enjoy the successes and victories. One of the unexpected joys of working on this anthology was getting to know the other 21 contributors, the coordinator and others involved. Sure, I’d seen their names and read their posts on the group list, and even met a couple of them in person at Bouchercon. But this collaborative experience in a small group focused on one project proved delightful. And it’s one more experience to add to this, my writing life.
After a long slog, I’ve finally issued the second edition of my poetry collection, Fault Lines. Perhaps it took longer than it should have. Perhaps it took exactly as long as it needed. There were three things that slowed down the process. One was my own foot-dragging when it came to the hard work. And my foot dragging came from two impulses: fear (that I wouldn’t be up to the task) and a simple dread of the drudgery of endless editing and proofreading. A second cause was the steep learning curve, in regards to cover design, formattting, uploading, dealing with ISBNs, vendors and all the rest. While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of books, articles and blogs available to teach me all this, none of them were quite adequate for the job. There was always some missing step, or fuzzy explanation, combined with the fact that it all changes by the minute and much of what I read no longer applied. The third factor was my own near-perfectionism. I really wanted to get it right this time, and not end up with the typos, omissions and other issues with the first edition. I wanted a product I could be proud of, now and into the future. Of course, with all my efforts, there are still a few things I now would change, a few steps I would (will) do differently next time. That just means I’ve learned something (well, many things, actually). Hooray! Anything I learn, any hard work, just better prepares me for the next challenge. So, here it is. I hope you like it.