Announcing a new story on WattPad–Rings of Saturn! Join Evie as she travels back in time in a race against the clock to try to save an entire city of people. This story updates on Fridays. Get started reading it today.
Announcing a new story on WattPad–Rings of Saturn! Join Evie as she travels back in time in a race against the clock to try to save an entire city of people. This story updates on Fridays. Get started reading it today.
Earlier this week, I posted that I want to move more into the education space and get more interaction time with students, in a classroom if possible, or in a tutoring setting. Well, I got right to work setting things up.
I interviewed on Wednesday via Skype for the chance to become a trained SAT teacher/tutor. The conversation was brief, but there are a lot of steps to go yet. Next week, I will drive an hour to give a 5-minute audition lesson. Then, if I’m accepted to the next step, I have about 40 hours of training at that location, or in NYC 2.5 hours away.
On Thursday, I went to a local high school to meet with someone about tutoring opportunities. This is just one of many tutoring opportunities I’m exploring, but it’s the in-person one. It looks like there may be some opportunity here, especially as while I’d prefer to tutor in the humanities, I’m not turned off by math or science, either.
Today I met with Kelly Staffing so that I can begin the process of getting hired. Where the SAT instruction job requires a lot of training, this one requires a ton of paperwork–not to mention getting fingerprinted for $87.00. But you know what? It’s worth it. Subbing is the best way to get some additional classroom time while allowing me to meet my TA duties this semester and my adjunct duties next semester.
So the last few days have been busy with interviews, but I don’t mind. I’m excited to dive into these things, even if they require training and paperwork, because of all the things I enjoy doing, I was put on this earth to write and teach. In the fall, I’ll also be teaching a creative writing course locally if enough people enroll. I’m capping that class at 10 students so I can give them my best, so it shouldn’t be too hard to fill. This summer, I might have the chance to volunteer as a TA in an online course.
I’m new to using both of these sites that I’ve been meaning to use for a really long time. What can I say? Other things had to happen first. But I want to share with you that I’m now active on both.
This is where I’ll post serial fiction. Right now, I’m working on Pathogen, a story I’ve been meaning to write and share for a long time. While my main fiction focus is on historical literary works, what I post on WattPad will be just for fun, for us to enjoy together. Because of that, I’m sorry to say–I’ll only be posting about 1,000 words or so each month.
Even with that pace, we can unfold stories there together, writer and readers. I just published this month’s section, which I originally wrote years ago as part of my MA program–but I wanted to give it a once over before publishing it and now I finally had the opportunity. Look for the story to continue next month!
This is where I’ll post short fiction and poetry. My main goal here, in addition to connecting with other writers, is to participate in contests. I started posting yesterday, and FanStory only allows me to post two things each day, so there are only four right now. But here’s what you can read if you head over there today:
Update: After a few days of use, I’ve decided not to participate on FanStory. I’ve removed the above listed posts and I will share them here next week, along with others I’d posted to that site.
I welcome feedback on both of these sites, so if you’re a member, please feel free to share your thoughts on these and any other pieces I share. Happy reading!
Last summer, a friend and fellow-writer told me about Patreon. It’s a crowd-funding site designed to support artists. I signed up, thinking it’d be the perfect place to share my creative journey in writing and crafts. However, the combination of those two passions soon proved too confusing for patron rewards and posting, and I shut it down to regroup.
This spring, I relaunched my Patreon, with a focus on writing only. Patron rewards are for everyone, and at higher tiers, split into readers and writers to ensure that all can receive something meaningful in gratitude for supporting my work.
You can click the link above, click “Donate” in the navigation menu, or watch the video below to learn more about the rewards and how to become a patron.
If you’re a creator who would like to try out Patreon for yourself, please feel free to use my invite code and then we can both get additional support.
A long time ago, artists were able to feed themselves because of patrons. Now, they have to be sales people in order to make money off of a finished product that can take years to produce. But, with Patreon, that can change—and it’s not all about the money. Becoming a patron means taking part in someone’s creative process. I’m a patron myself, because I believe in supporting those who want to contribute to the arts.
If you’re a creator, I’d love to connect! Comment below to share your Patreon, or contact me directly.
So far this week, I’ve drafted 20 pages for my thesis. Granted, I am writing some of the same scenes over and over in different ways, but I threw in something new too. There’s something emotional that happens early in the book, but I’ve been told that two attempts didn’t come close enough to earning that emotion.
I used to think that it would take a lot of space–a lot of words on a lot of pages–to really earn emotional scenes. The scene in question–I knew it was emotional, but I thought that I could earn that with backstory. This week, I learned a couple of important things:
I knew this time I did a better job earning that emotion because while writing, I felt it. I got a little choked up. Given that I’ve written this emotional climax so many times by now and I’ve not had that reaction, I feel like this is an important difference. Might there still be tweaks to make? Yes. But I’m a lot closer than I was.
All it took was a few pages explaining how my protagonist got to that emotional climax. I thought doing so would not interest me or my reader, but by changing up my structure, I think I’ve found a way to make it interesting.
We’ll see what my mentor has to say about it later this month/early April.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking with my mentor again for an hour. We talked about my first submission and the peer pages I sent her last week for June’s residency. Starting yesterday, I’m exploring some new avenues after our discussion.
The books I’ve read for this semester thus far have all used structures other than straight-forward, plot-driven prose. I find it so refreshing that I want to do something like that with mine, but I haven’t landed on the sweet spot yet–or maybe I have.
We talked about the pastiche I wrote after reading Jenny Offil’s Dept. of Speculation. A pastiche, in case you’re not familiar with the word, is when you try to write in the style and voice of another author–using your own story, of course. After I’ve made some small revisions to mine, I’ll share it on my Patreon page. The great thing about this pastiche was how free I felt writing in this style.
My mentor and I discussed why this might be: Offil’s style isn’t stream-of-consciousness really, but somewhere in between that and the prose most of us are used to reading. It moves like stream-of-consciousness, but stays tethered to the plot. This, I think, creates energy that propels the story forward; I read Offil’s book in just two days because I couldn’t put it down.
I want to read more by writers who take this approach, but there are also other elements I want to see at work in fiction, so I might not get the chance this semester. Having been exposed to it though, I can say I rather enjoy reading and writing in this in-between way that acts like stream-of-consciousness but isn’t.
This semester, my mentor and I both want to focus on exploration with my thesis. To that end, I’m writing the start again (this is the fifth time I’m starting this story, but I’m having fun exploring different ways to do so) in a different way. I’m using this bridged style and also writing from both my protagonist’s POV and his daughter’s.
I still plan to include letters and another element that I want to keep as a surprise.
My story takes place in the 17th century. Last semester, I grappled with whether or not to write it in the diction of the day. I have enough primary source material that I could adopt that type of diction, but after polling friends and family, I decided last term not to do so. It would be too distancing, too hard to get into. I tend to agree with them. It’s not like in a play or film where you’re immersed in the sound and visual of it as well (not to say a novelist can’t help the reader imagine those things, but it’s different), or like you’re only asking readers to do the work of reading that diction for two hours.
A novel is a much larger commitment for a reader, so the language needs to be accessible. However, mine was still antiquated, even with this consideration. I think I tend to gravitate toward that type of voice anyway–perhaps because I myself feel I’m an anachronism, or perhaps because when left to my own devices, I tend to choose to read classics. I’m used to that voice.
All the same, there’s something freeing in writing with a more modern diction, especially in historical fiction. With each subsequent draft and revision, I loosen up more and more on the antiquated voice and I think the result is something stronger.
These are just two of the shifts I’m making in my thesis. I don’t mind taking this semester to explore; there will be plenty of time to draft, especially since I used to do NaNoWriMo. Yes, I originally hoped to get my novel to a sensitivity reader prior to graduation in June 2019, and that may still be possible–but if it has to happen after I’m finished with this program, that’s fine. It’s more important that I produce the best and most engaging fiction I can at this juncture.
For my peer pages, I submitted the first 20 pages of Rings of Saturn to my mentor. Peer pages aren’t due to my program until midway through April, so there’s plenty of time to make changes. And I will be making one significant change.
Originally, the character in these pages was going to travel back in time to save Pompeii. I’m still going to write that story but after talking with my mentor, thinking about what she said and sleeping on it, I’m going to do with a different character.
The peer pages will be something else–a short story. She remarked that after a first read-through, she was surprised at where I took the story at the end–but not the kind of surprise that I was going for. So I’m going to explore making these twenty pages into a complete story.
I told my mentor that whenever I try to do such a thing, everyone tells me that the short story should be a novel. She said that’s a nice problem to have, and I agree, but I’m going to take the next month and change and really make sure this story is a complete short story.
Last semester, the mentor I worked with drilled into my head the value of giving myself this opportunity–and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’m discovering new and different ways of telling stories and strengthening my fiction. I’m learning so much and really enjoying the process as I go.
So…if you are a writer, my advice to you is this: Remember that a first draft is just that. Revisions don’t have to follow the same path; don’t be afraid to mix things up, to feel around in the dark for awhile. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover about yourself and your writing when you allow yourself to take a new approach to your story.
Earlier this year, I was happy to host a guest post by Sarah Foil about why she writes. I thought today would be a great opportunity, almost one-half through my second MFA semester, to talk to you about why I write. Each of us has our own reasons, our own inspirations, and mine are two-fold.
When I was in high school, I participated in a program called the Center for Creative Youth, or CCY. This program invited high school students to spend five weeks on campus at Wesleyan University over the summer, working with artists. I focused on drawing, because it was my strongest visual art.
CCY was a great program. I had fun, learned a lot, and got to explore some other art forms as well, such as storytelling through sign language and ballroom dancing. Regular practice with drawing led to some strides made with that skill, but then I put that skill aside. Why? Because I wanted to be a paleontologist. Art was just for fun at the time. I’d wanted to study dinosaurs since as far back as I could remember.
I considered myself skilled with drawing dinosaurs. I wish that I still had some of those drawings, but I said goodbye to them when I went through my first minimalist craze.
Anyway, that was back in the late nineties. In 2003, I decided paleontology wasn’t for me. More accurately, it was the math that wasn’t for me. In my program, I needed to pass calculus in order to obtain a geology degree. I’m still not sure why that was, as I recall using geometry and trigonometry in geology, but no calculus. And wouldn’t you know it? My brain just couldn’t process that kind of math.
I also happened to hate going to school where I was. I felt like a number, and after a particularly harrowing experience with the administration at my school, I felt like the worst sort of number a person can feel like: the kind that comes with a dollar sign.
I decided to transfer. New school, new major, new life. Unsurprisingly, I went back to the arts and decided to major in art education. How fast I learned that drawing is the only kind of fine art I had any raw talent in! After a year which included student observation hours, I had an existential crisis–how could I possibly teach students how to create their best fine arts when I lacked both the skill and passion to pursue any but drawing?
Caveat: Looking back on my younger self, I could have done some career research to discover that there are plenty of paths for those who can draw. Part of the reason I didn’t explore those paths was because of lackluster advisement, but I own the other half of that. At that time in my life, I was not good at advocating for myself.
By 2004, I was three years into my undergrad career, and essentially undecided. That’s when I fell in love with art history. I was required to take the first survey course, and in a class most students use as nap time, I flourished. My parents and I agreed that it was time to settle on something, regardless of career outlook, and just get my degree.
In the next two and a half years (yes, I took five and a half to get my BA), I learned a lot about art, artists, history, culture, and myself. I learned that I love learning. I learned that I love writing. Not only did I love writing, but I felt I had a spark of talent.
In January 2007, I graduated with my B.A. in Art History. I knew that I wanted to pursue writing, and while I’d discovered this in time to write for the university newspaper for one semester before graduating, I did not discover it in time to make a convincing case to change my major and stay in school for yet another two years–even if I was footing the bill via loans.
What followed was six years of taking writing courses on the side while I tried not to be broke and unhappy with my career trajectory. I worked in a number of jobs, usually offices with 9-5 roles and cubicles. There, I learned that environment is not for me. I was unhappy, and broke.
In 2013, I made a decision. If I was going to be broke all the time, I might as well be happy. Why not go for not being broke and sacrificing my happiness? Because being unhappy, to me, just isn’t worth it. What makes me happy is writing, so I enrolled to study English and Creative Writing, and in 2015, I earned my M.A.
Is one writing degree enough? Sure. Many writers–stellar ones at that–don’t have any writing degrees. Many of them, or maybe all of them, are lifelong learners. They didn’t take on thousands in student loans to pursue learning their craft. So why did I?
Well, after taking some workshops and one-off courses, getting my M.A. was like learning there’s a world outside of my own little bubble. It opened my mind. Not only did I thirst for more of that, but I want to teach at the college level, and while many can do so with an M.A. or even a few novels under their belts, I discovered in 2015 that schools want to see that incoming teachers have experience (not surprising). The best way to get that experience was to go back to school and become a T.A.
I’m loving that, by the way, but just as exciting for me is the opportunity to study with talented mentors who are guiding me to become a stronger writer. Would I have learned many of the lessons I’ve learned so far studying solo, or just through the practice of my art? Probably. But it would have taken a lot longer, and I might have missed out on something. Besides, thrusting myself into this M.F.A. program has forced me to do what I didn’t between B.A. and M.A.: Put my art first.
As an artist, it’s my job to hold a mirror to the world. It’s a cliche saying but I’ve always liked it because I personally believe that reflection and growth is the purpose of life. If the sole purpose of life was procreation, why did we bother to evolve past the amoeba stage? Being an amoeba probably isn’t that exciting, so I’m glad we’re humans, but if we’re humans for any purpose, it’s the expansion of our minds.
I write in order to do that for myself, and hopefully, for others. I write because I’m an artist, before I’m anything else. I write every day, in some capacity, because I believe in improving my skill as an artist more than I believe in any other pursuit…so I’m broke, but happy.
My father wanted to be a forest ranger. I didn’t know this until my mid-twenties. In fact, I didn’t know what he’d wanted to be because he didn’t often talk about himself, his thoughts, his feelings. He liked to talk about politics. He liked to philosophize. But rarely, if ever, did his own self come out directly in those conversations.
I remember the day he told me he wanted to be a forest ranger. He was counseling me to find a good 9-5 job that would pay me a decent salary, benefits, give me vacation days, etc…and write on the side. I explained to him that I just wasn’t happy with that situation. His initial response was, “Work is work, not because it makes you happy. If it made you happy, they would call it play.”
I responded that writing is work, but it makes me happy because it feels like I’m giving something back to the world. Then I asked what he’d wanted to be, and he told me about his dreams of being a forest ranger.
He gave that dream up in order to afford to raise a family. I have two older sisters and we grew up in a comfortable setting. I don’t ever remember a time when I was a child when I had to wonder how I would be provided for, and I’m so grateful to both of my parents for that. I know, as an adult, that such a narrative isn’t common, and even though we didn’t grow up rich, many children have to worry about how they’ll eat or whether home will be safe for them. The fact that I didn’t is a mark of my privilege, true, but also a mark of my father setting aside his forest-ranging dream to work in sales.
But I don’t have children to look after, nor have I ever planned on having children to look after. I’d like to think that if I did, I wouldn’t be so selfish so as to put my own dreams ahead of their welfare. As I only have myself to look after, I’d rather focus on the immaterial needs that I crave rather than material comforts. I get by, but I’m not raking it in, either. Sometimes that causes stress in my life, but I’m willing give up financial surety and comfort for the opportunity to write more.
For the opportunity to make writing my vocation, not my avocation.
In June 2016, my father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Recovery wasn’t on the table, but he hoped that with chemotherapy, he could live out the rest of the year. However, on September 9, 2016, his battle with that disease and the chemo ended. This was the most devastating thing I’ve ever experienced. I’m so similar to my father in so many ways, and we were close–his loss hit hard and took us by surprise, as not three months prior to his diagnosis, he seemed fine.
Before he passed, I made him a promise: That I would immortalize him through my writing. My dream of practicing my art became, in that moment, not just my dream, but a promise. A vow. As much as I write for myself, I write for my father, and for his memory.
Why do we do any of the things that don’t immediately serve some survival need? Because, my friends, we’re not amoeba. We’re humans, and as I said above, if we can’t expand our minds, then what are we doing here? I’m not saying that’s the only reason for living–there are many–and I’m not downplaying raising children. For those who want to raise children, I think it’s wonderful and beautiful to give so much of oneself to someone else.
My goal in sharing this post with you is, in part, to let you know me a bit better, reader to author, so that when I hold up that mirror, you’re willing to take a peek and examine what you see in the reflection.
But I ask you to think about why you do anything that you do–especially where the arts are concerned. We need the arts in our lives, in this world, but what do they mean to you? What do they give you? Ask from you? What are you willing to invest in order to flourish your relationship to the arts–any arts?