Have you ever found one of your old, old stories or essays or poems, one of your earliest attempts to be a serious writer? Do you laugh gently to yourself about how bad it was? Me, too. In fact, I’m embarrassed now to realize I actually sent some of those pieces out. Those poor, kind over-worked editors! But so what? Everybody starts somewhere. None of us is born knowing how to be a good writer. We all start off at varying stages of ineptness, then improve. How? I’ve taken classes, attended workshops, shared critiques with fellow writers, both better than I am and on the same level. I’ve compared my attempts to those already in print in markets I aspire to. Though it’s taken years, I’m astounded at how much better I actually am, at least, IMHO. No, that’s not quite true. I know I’m better because I get published now, when in the early days I didn’t. I know I’m better because I can writer faster, often easier. I know I’m better because I occasionally get solicited for content, something that would never have happened in the beginning. I don’t ask for perfection. I can only become a better writer at my own speed, although I have experienced bursts of insight about my own writerly mistakes. I may never achieve amazement inspiring work. All I demand of myself is to keep improving, learning, honing, caring. To be better today, with this manuscript, than I was before.
If I wanted more, I’d get discouraged. If I wanted less, I’d be stuck forever where I started. It’s may not seem like much to ask. But it’s also everything. Better.
. . . more rabbit holes. Sheesh. Okay, we all know what happens when we sit down to write. We see some irresistible click bait. We think it will only be a few seconds of surfing. A half hour later, suddenly it’s time to make lunch. Or whatever. And now, at the risk of having you think I’m the devil on one shoulder, I have to mention my latest temptations. I belong to LibraryThing, an online book club similar to Goodreads, but different. LibraryThing has many discussion groups in both fiction and non-fiction, but my favorite group is “Name That Book.” People post a few lines or the plot from a book they read in the past, but now can’t recall the title of. You have to be a member to post, but not just to browse what people are looking for. BUT, the site also refers users to even more links to explore, such as the Lost Titles, Forgotten Rhymes from the Library of Congress and Reddit’s What’s That Book.
So, what’s the fascination? It’s kind of like a quiz show, where you compete in your mind with the folks on the TV. It’s fun to test my own memory, as well as the huge backlog of books I’ve read. It’s fun to try to help other readers who are going nuts trying to remember something they’ve read that still haunts them. But, all that aside, it’s for sure one more timewaster. Will I give it up? No. But I know from experience it will lose it’s appeal after a while and I’ll be spending less and less time on these sites. Then I’ll do what I always do: get back to work.
Posted in Uncategorized, writing
Tagged book titles, forgotten books, Goodreads, Library of Congress, LibraryThing, lost books, reading, the writing life, writers, writing
One of the primary delights of living where I do in Southern California is that I am surrounded by a wealth of resources for joy. For me this means the pure joy of learning, of stretching my mind and especially for absorbing art in all its forms. Today I’ll be joining a friend for a visit to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Last night I attended a revival of the film Gold Diggers of 1933, with excellent commentary by a professor of film from a nearby college. Our local little theater, The Playhouse, is staging a run of the Broadway musical Dames At Sea.
But, much as I love movies and the rest, it’s always books that come first. Lucky for me, Inside the Dream Palace by Sherill Tippins combines it all. Sure, it’s a history of the iconic New York residence. But it’s also a capsule version of social movements, history, architecture, literature, painting, politics, music, economics, philanthropy and New York City itself from the time of the Chelsea Hotel’s founding to the present day. What I always hope, of course, is that infusing my mind with art in all its forms will stimulate and foster my own work. This may or may not be true. But if not, so what? The delight and the joy, the pure fascination, the enrichment I gain is benefit enough.
Posted in publishing, Uncategorized, writing
Tagged books, Chelsea Hotel, Inside the Dream Palace, movies, Sherill Tippins, the arts, the writing life, writers, writing
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.