My story in print!

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The issue of PRISM with my story in it spotted in the wild.

I meant to post this ages ago, of course, back when it came out. But I wanted to include a photo of the magazine actually in a store, and though I visited several branches I couldn’t find it anywhere in the time before I left on my adventure. By the time I got back in late November, it didn’t seem worth posting anymore. Although I did go back to the bookstore to snap my coveted photo.

But this whole year-in-review time seems to be as good as any for remembering that someone paid me for a story I wrote for the very first time this year. It came out in PRISM 53.1, the Fall 2014 issue. I’m delighted with the cover art on the issue, too, which is both classy and whimsical. The little blurb on their page about my piece reads:

“On the non-fiction side, PRISM 53:1 includes K.A. MacKinnon’s “Character Sketch,” a uniquely-structured piece about two women traveling through Europe as circus employees.”

I also wanted to include a link to Ayelet Tsabari’s web page. (If you haven’t read her stuff, you really should. ‘Yemeni Soup and Other Recipes’ is my favourite.) She taught me in the two Continuing Ed. creative non-fiction courses I took last year. Those classes turned out to provide exactly the right information at exactly the right time for me, in terms of the progress of my writing, and the piece PRISM published originally started as an assignment in one of those classes.

Anyway, Ayelet wrote a lovely post recently in which she bragged on behalf of a few of her students who are doing well, and I was one of them.

In other writing-related news, I have two stories out being considered at the moment. For one, I should hear sometime in January, for the other they’re saying ‘the first quarter of 2015’, so sometime before April, I guess.

I’ve been writing with reasonable dedication this month and I have another story that is about 500 words from being finished. I have sworn the first draft will be done this month, so that’s mostly my plan for this evening.

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Taking up the challenge

At his website, author Chuck Wendig issues a weekly flash fiction challenge. He’ll give a topic or a structure or a prompt, and the challenge is to write a 1000-word flash fiction piece within a week.

I came across this last Friday, when I was flagellating myself over a missed deadline. I thought a no-pressure challenge would be good for me, and 1000 words isn’t much. This week, Mr. Wendig gave ten random words and the challenge was to use five of them in the story.

It turns out the challenge was good for me. I came up with a story, worked out a plot, and wrote the whole thing. I actually finished it. I am inordinately proud of myself. I never finish anything. Except now I can’t say that anymore.

The last part of the challenge is to post your story on your own site and link to it in the comments at the challenge. I’m going to do that in a separate post shortly.

Doing the To Dos

This has been a getting-stuff-done kind of week.

I finished and submitted a story I wrote specifically for one magazine. They had a call out on a topic that said a lot to me. I started months ago, but it got a bit lost while I tried to beat my fiction piece into shape. The deadline was January 31st, so I made the push to get it done. I cut about 700 words going into the last draft, and it really did make the piece stronger. I submitted it earlier this week.

Today I’m sending out an older story to try and find it a new home. I got the last rejection letter for this one more than two months ago, now, but never actually sat down to revise it and find it somewhere else to go. I finally made the changes I had in mind, and I’m quite pleased with them. It’s all printed up now, and I will mail it on the way to my writing group later this evening.

Next up on the horizon is the 10th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest. A friend of mine from my writers’ group sent through the link, and we’ve decided that everyone in the group is going to write an entry and we’ll look at them at our next meeting, which is right before the deadline (Feb 1st, in case you’re interested). I moped around for two days, convinced I’d never come up with an interesting idea, wallowing in defeatist thoughts. And then I sat down and wrote a whole draft of the story in one night. I spent some time in the Wikimedia Commons, and one of the images jumped out at me. The story came from there.

I’m also debating submitting something to this: http://michaelmatheson.wordpress.com/start-a-revolution/ I’m not really a revolutionary kind of girl, so I did the same defeatist do-see-do in my head for this one, but I’ve come up with at least half of an idea. I’m having trouble forcing myself to sit down and actually start it, but I’m hoping that completing the Postcard story might boost my confidence. The deadline on this one is March 31st, which is a reasonable amount of time. I’ll see how things go.

My own little NaNo

I did participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) once. I was between contracts that particular November, so I had the time. And I did write my 50,000 words, so in a way I feel I’ve ticked that particular accomplishment off my list and I don’t have a lot of need to do it again.

That said, there are some wonderful things about NaNo. It sets a deadline, for one, and I am a writer desperately in need of deadlines. It also makes you declare your goals in public, and creates a community that will hold you accountable for those goals, as well as encouraging you along the way.

So I think I’m going to have my own mini-Nano. The big, bad fiction story I’m wrestling with is going to be my goal. I’m not going to make this about word counts like NaNo does. I’m guessing the final story will be somewhere in the 15,000-20,000 word region – too short for an official NaNo – but length isn’t really an issue. So I’m just going to make it about finishing.

I’m going to finish a draft of my fiction story by the end of November. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be ‘right.’ (Yet.) It just has to be a completed draft.

There. I’ve declared myself out loud. Anyone else want to play?

Signs of Dedication

I am not a morning person. And, in particular, I am not creative in the morning. When my schedule is flexible, my peak writing time is between 9pm and 2am. I’m not sure why, but that has been true since I was a teenager. Maybe it just takes a whole day of stimulus to wear my inner editor into submission, I don’t know.

Early yesterday morning, I got some notes back from my writing buddy about a piece I’m struggling with. This is a story I’m very fond of. And it’s not so much my beautiful prose that I’m attached to, but rather the fact that I’m writing about a time in my life that involved a whole soup kettle of emotions, and about a person at that time who was very important to me. My buddy’s comments were spot on, as well as being an exact echo of the comments I gave him on his current piece. So, clearly I should know better. Still, I was resistant. Because this is a story I’m very fond of.

My schedule had me running around all day yesterday, so the notes were left to percolate at the back of my brain. By the end of the day, when I sat down with a cup of hot chocolate and my laptop, I realised that I’ve received the same comments from three different people, now. That’s a clear sign that something isn’t working, so I sat down, determined to finally address the problem.

The hardest thing to let go of was the tone. There was a certain melancholy to the piece, a nostalgia, that I loved. It’s a feeling that permeates my memories of that time, and I worked hard to capture that in my writing. It was hard to accept that it was actually creating distance between the audience and the story.

So last night I sat down and shifted the whole thing into the present tense, something I had avoided on purpose in the previous draft. I rewrote or rearranged almost every section, and along the way I had a couple of revelatory moments – small fixes that addressed bigger problems.

I flamed out at midnight with two sections left to go. I knew I had to be at work today, so I couldn’t keep writing into the night, and my eyes were closing on me anyway. But. Today was the deadline to get stories in to be workshopped at my writers’ group this Wednesday. And I want the others to read this. I need to know whether I’m on the right track now.

So this morning, still in my pyjamas, I plunked myself back down in front of the laptop, bashed out the last two sections and mailed it off. All before breakfast.

I killed one of my darlings and I met my deadline. I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate this small triumph. It’s not easy in a busy world, so it’s worth crowing when we can.

Do you have a small triumph to crow about? Or a big one? Let’s congratulate each other, shall we?