When You Say You Will – Writers and Accountability

Are writers the only breed who are constantly holding themselves accountable by making proclamations of what it is they plan on tackling next? Or do we all make lists, announce projects we plan to tackle, promise future achievements. I’m coming at this from a writer’s gaze, so I know we are guilty of doing this. We’re always tackling this, planning that, looking for ways to motivate ourselves forward into the next project and the next and the next and the next. Sometimes I think I’m just so lazy I need to strike fires under myself in order to get anything done.

I tend to believe that when a person actually says out loud that they will do something–announce it to the world at large even if no one else is listening–they tend to get it done. Or have better odds at accomplishing their goal, at any rate. Accountability is such a herculean thing with us writers. It’s why we talk among ourselves, outlining and planning our projects and tasks.

Today, I say I WILL write something for the 2019 CBC Non-Fiction Prize. This doesn’t quite make my entry inevitable, but it does give me a goalpost to shoot for, with a definite finish-line in mind. You can’t get any more definitive than a writing contest deadline. February 28, 2019 at 11:59 PM (ET). That’s the deadline for this particular contest.

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SO, announcing my intention solidifies my horse in the race. It’s the way we writers motivate ourselves. We say I WILL.

I feel like the people over at CBC are throwing shade at us writers. I feel like THEY KNOW US. With each of their writing contests, they set up a newsletter for potential entrants to subscribe to in order to get motivation personally delivered to their inboxes throughout the weeks leading up to the deadline. Scandalous. I feel both SEEN and SHADED by this newsletter. Here’s the announcement for it from the CBC site:

WANT HELP: Subscribe to the CBC Nonfiction Prize newsletter for writing tips and support along the way. We will send you writing tips, tricks and prompts every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday while the CBC Nonfiction Prize is open.

“Want help?” they say. What they’re actually saying is probably more along the lines of, “We know you say you’re going to enter the contest but do you have the motivation required to see this through to the end? Probably not. Let us keep reminding you to stay on task. Let US be your motivation.”

Thank you, CBC…for SEEing us writers. We appreciate your accountability tactics. Now, if you’ll excuse me…I’m off to subscribe to a certain newsletter that shall remain nameless.

I WILL enter the CBC NONFICTION PRIZE

Love_Is_Love Anthology and I Will Tell the Night Aesthetic

Two things. The first, I’m thrilled to announce the release of an anthology in which I have a short story! Love_Is_Love released yesterday (Jan 24/19):

Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens

All proceeds from the sale of the anthology go to THE TREVOR PROJECT (The leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth. The Trevor Lifeline: 866.488.7386.)

My story is called THIS IS ME IN GRADE NINE and it follows a trans girl in the moments leading up to her first day of high school.

Here’s some cover love for you! The strength of the Rainbow Fist in the Air is divine:

 

 

YOU CAN PICK UP A COPY OF THE ANTHOLOGY HERE. PLEASE CONSIDER DOING SO, AS THE TREVOR PROJECTS NEEDS YOUR HELP IN ORDER TO CONTINUE TO THRIVE.

The second thing? During part of the festivities on Twitter this month for #LGBTRelease I made a NOVEL AESTHETIC for my upcoming release I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. I wanted to share it here. 🙂

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Steven & Finn and their cross-country journey to healing, complete with BEETS.

The origin story for the title of I WILL TELL THE NIGHT can be found at this recent blog post HERE. Details on its release to follow, but it is SOON.

I Don’t Think I Wrote What I Thought I Wrote – The Edit

Sometimes I will re-read a sentence in one of my WIPs and think, ‘what the heck was I trying to say here?

This one fact, more than anything else, is good enough validation that we should always put our writing down long enough to come back to it with fresh eyes. The hope is that those fresh eyes will be confused by something/anything we wrote which does not make sense to the reader.

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One of my many editing places. The dock at the yearly Muskoka Novel Marathon in Huntsville, Ontario.

Today’s Tidbit of Wisdom:

If you put it down long enough, you become the reader.

This is the part where I say how lovely it is to edit. Not everyone loves to edit, and, to be honest, my own relationship with it is probably love/hate at best. But when I love to do it, I really love to do it.

This is never more true a statement as when I am editing my short stories. I suppose, because I understand intrinsically that editing is SO VITAL with short stories. I know it’s important with anything we write. And I also know that one could argue that every word counts in whatever we write, whether it’s as tiny as a haiku or as gargantuan as a big ole tome of a novel. Yes, of course all words matter. BUT…with the short story, EVERY. WORD. MATTERS.

You only have so many words with which to build your entire universe within the confines of a short story. None of those words can afford to lead the reader astray. If you lead the reader astray in the limited universe that a short story entails, you will lose them forever. No amount of breadcrumbs will bring them back to the story in one piece. As READER, every breath you take inside a short story needs to count…needs to get you to the end fully intact and alive. Therefore, every word the writer uses factors into the measuring of the reader’s breathing pattern. That’s just a fact of language…one that writers cannot ignore.

I recently stumbled on a line I had in a short story I was revisiting. I was attempting to get it submission-ready, but knew it still needed some work. For a good three or four minutes I tried not only to figure out what it was I originally attempted to say, but also to figure out how the line fit in with the narrative around it. Picture a basket filled with bright red tomatoes, with a great big juicy green Granny Smith apple right in the middle of it. I didn’t know how the apple got there and I couldn’t figure out a way to leave it there in the basket, surrounded by all those gloriously red tomatoes. I had the sense it somehow didn’t belong.

All this to say PUT YOUR WORK ASIDE. Become unfamiliar with it. This is the best way to ensure you are saying all the things you want to say, in the way you want to say them. If you read it immediately after you finish writing it, you might READ WHAT YOU MEANT in your lines…even though the words on the page don’t match up with what it is you were trying to say. DISTANCE MAKES FOR BETTER EDITING.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I have an apple to remove from a certain basket I’ve been eyeing suspiciously.

Happy Writing. Happy Editing. Happy Friday.

Col. Mustard in the Study with a Revolver – 2019 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge

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Okay, not quite the same thing…but close! The 2019 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge kicked off Midnight Friday January 18th. We have 8ish days to submit our short stories for the first round of the competition. Each writer was sent an email with their 3 story stipulations: GENRE/SUBJECT/CHARACTER. The fun has begun. Here’s just a few samples of the first round heats:

Genre                                  Subject                             Character

  • Suspense                       Impossible                            a witness
  • Thriller                         Witnessing a crime             a hypochondriac
  • Comedy                         A raffle                                  a princess
  • Political Satire               Lying                                    a fruiterer
  • Action/Adventure         A standoff                            an engineer
  • Sci-Fi                                an exotic pet                       an interior designer
  • Fairy tale                        repetition                             a gunslinger
  • Suspense                        a secret club                          an intern
  • Drama                             photo shoot                          a composer
  • Crime Caper                    a backup plan                      a fixer
  • Fairy tale                           superhuman                        a cheesemaker
  • Spy                                     mountain climbing            a reporter
  • Romantic Comedy          comfort food                       an x-ray technician
  • Romance                           procrastination                    a social climber
  • Comedy                              a labyrinth                           a meter maid

 

You get the picture. That’s just a few of the heats in the first round. If it was easy, it wouldn’t push us to become better writers, now would it? I purposely did NOT mention my heat in the sampling above. I have a few days left to come up with my story. I’m panicked but it’s a relatively calm panic for now. I’m exploring options, stopping and starting…attempting to find a groove that takes me to a finish line. False starts and retracing of steps are to be expected. I’m leaving myself breadcrumbs so I don’t get completely lost. I’m not worried about having something submission ready by the deadline. I just don’t know if it will be something on solid ground or not.

Good luck to all my fellow contestants! There are A LOT OF YOU! Don’t forget the part of the contest opener email that shared a hashtag for writers to use and connect. It’s a huge community. I’m sure we can commiserate and egg each other on along the way…see you in hashtag land…

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If you plan on updating your progress in the competition on social media, make sure to use the hashtag #ShortStoryChallenge2019 so you can follow other writers and they can follow you!

 

NYC Midnight & Me

Here we go. I am entered into the 2019 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. It begins at Midnight tonight and it is my first foray into all this NYC Midnight business. This is the 13th annual challenge and I’m pumped for it but certain I’ll fair poorly. I’ll come back and let you know, once I get the boot…but for now, here’s how it works:

KNOCKOUT ROUND ONE:

(January 18-26, 2019), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment.  Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words

The contest judges will choose the TOP 5 STORIES in each heat and those writers will move on to Round #2. All other writers are given the boot.

KNOCKOUT ROUND TWO:

(April 4-7, 2019)where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write a 2,000word (maximum) short story.

Whoa. The time between rounds?! I wonder if this is set up this way to mess with the writers’ psyches. I’d much rather prefer to jump right back into the ring, myself. Listen to me…as if I’d make it to round two! Judges pick finalist from this round, as well. And they get to move on to the third and final round. LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THIRD & FINAL ROUND:

Remaining writers are challenged to write a 1,500 word (maximum) story in just 24 hours (May 17-18, 2019) in the third and final round of the competition.

Begins in January and ends in May. Yikes! The prizes for the winners are QUITE SUBSTANTIAL. First Prize is $5,000.00USD + almost $1,500.00USD value in other writer-related prizes. You can see the whole list of prizes HERE.

The biggest benefit for all writers who enter is FEEDBACK. From the site, here’s the statement in regards to feedback. It can come not only from the judges, but also fellow contestants on the group forum:

Not only does every writer receive feedback from the judges for every story submitted, but a special review forum is available for the participants to submit their stories for review from fellow writers throughout the competition.  During the Short Story Challenge 2018, there were over 9,500 comments made on the 700+ stories submitted on the forum.  Click here to visit the forums.

Oh, just so you know…as of this blog post there are still a few hours before the registration deadline. Sound like a great idea? Then CLICK THIS LINK TO GET YOURSELF IN ON THE GAME (Scroll down to the CLICK HERE TO REGISTER button—but registration closes at 9:00pm EST today — Friday January 18th).

The first challenge will be emailed to contestants tonight at Midnight. I guess that’s where the name comes from!

GOOD LUCK, SHORT STORY WRITERS! May the words be with you!

(I’ll be back with my results at a later date—good or bad/head high or tail between my legs. You can’t win if you don’t try.)

Click image below for NYC MIDNIGHT on Instagram:

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A Few Recent Reads & Recommendations!

Lock & WestLock & West by Alexander C. Eberhart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lock & West FTW

This is but exactly the messy, chaotic, sweet gay teen romance I didn’t know I needed so badly. So tumultuous and endearing. Every emotion. All the feels.

View all my reviews

Love, Hate and Other FiltersLove, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Heartbreaking and Heart-bursting Story of Love and Hate We All NEED

Such a beautiful story. How can a story be so traumatic and traumatizing and yet still have a beautiful thread of love and hope weaved through it? I loved the love story in this book and we need the rest of the story that unfolded now more than ever. Just beautiful! Such a ride of emotions, too, with such a lovely denouement at the end of the ride. And the author’s note was such a lovely signature to end on. We need this book. We need the love and hope it exudes.

View all my reviews

The DisastersThe Disasters by M.K. England

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing!

I loved this book! From the heart-stopping chapter cliffhangers to the brother relationship between Nax and Malik to the sweet relationship between Nax and Rion to the awesomeness of the heroines… Case, Zee and Asra! The Swift Kick team is Kick Ass! I forgot how exciting and fulfilling this genre could be. Great read!

View all my reviews

SadieSadie by Courtney Summers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of the hardest books I’ve read in a long time. I attempt to police myself on trigger stories, but my desire to read this one was stronger than my need for self-care at the time. As a survivor, I can definitely say this was TRUE. It was a roller-coaster of a story. I was beside Sadie every step of the way. The more I feared the reveals, the faster I read to discover them. Such a fast-paced exciting read. The word that comes to mind the most, for me, is AUTHENTIC. It’s very true to the survivor mindset. Great read.

View all my reviews

We Are The AntsWe Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heartbreaking and Hopeful, Such a Fine Balance!

Took me long enough to get to this beautiful book. So glad I found it. I thoroughly enjoyed Henry’s story. Coming out of such a devastating story filled with hope and happiness feels almost like alchemy. Definitely my favorite read of 2018. Exquisite.

View all my reviews

Darius the Great Is Not OkayDarius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Darius is Actually Quite Amazing

I loved this story. I loved Darius and his fears and his inability to see his own strengths. I loved his friendship in Iran and his complicated relationship with his father. Yazd sounds beautiful and I want to visit now. Such a touching and subtle story. I’d recommend it to anyone.

View all my reviews

This Is Me In Grade Nine – Love Is Love

Look for an announcement regarding my latest anthology inclusion. My short story THIS IS ME IN GRADE NINE will be published this month in the LOVE IS LOVE  anthology. All proceeds from this anthology will go directly to the TREVOR PROJECT. Full details to follow. (-:

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In the meantime, I will be re-releasing the 2nd of my novels that was once with Curiosity Quills Press. Half Dead & Fully Broken will re-release in February, 2019. Details to follow.

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Further details on LOVE IS LOVE will be forthcoming. Stay tuned!

Left Bank Writers Retreat – Paris!

Hello all,

I went down a nice little rabbit hole this morning. Or shall I say trou de lapin? At any rate, today’s #TBT or #ThrowbackThursday idea to post something about Paris made me fall in love with the LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT all over again! Speaking of RABBITS, did you know that Picasso at the Lapin Agile, the play by actor, writer, renaissance man, Steve Martin, was actually set in a place in Paris? Montmartre to be exact!

There will probably be many digressions today. (-: Where was I? Oh yes, the Left Bank Writers Retreat! It happens every June in the City of Love & Lights. It’s a unique one-week retreat that explores writing and Paris and Hemingway ALL AT ONCE! Almost 5 years ago, I attended this retreat and it was magic from moment one. You write in the Tuileries, in Luxembourg Gardens, in the garden behind Notre Dame Cathedral. You visit Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie and Montmartre. You dine at Hemingway’s hangouts and where Fitzgerald dined. It’s all writing world and Paris world meets and you just have to experience it to know the gorgeous retreat it is.

I believe there are still spots available for June, 2019…though I suppose I should have checked with Darla first! You can meet DARLA, TRAVIS & SARAH here. They are the incredible faculty of the retreat and their knowledge of Paris, Hemingway and writing, combined with their incredible personalities, MAKE the experience what it is.

All your days are mapped out for you and each one is magical. Your evening? ALL YOURS! You might be fortunate enough to make some new friends at the intimate retreat and hit the streets together! My traveling companion in the evenings became new friend, fellow writer and poet, Nina. Here we are atop the Arc!

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With Nina atop the Arc de Triomphe, Paris France, June 2014 – Left Bank Writers Retreat. And, yes, that IS the beautiful Avenue des Champs-Élysées behind us!

Click on the pic of the website below to visit the LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT site to find out all the details, including the itinerary, payment, FAQ, etc…

Left Bank

You should do yourself and your writing life a solid in 2019 and jump into the Left Bank! You’ll love it!