Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Complete Statement on My Middling Success

In the past month I've heard more often than usual that it's hard for friends to keep up with the number of links to my work I'm posting. In reply I have tried to say, yes, me too. Even though that's true, I realize it sounds kind of bad, because I'm the one posting the links, so obviously I can keep up with them.

But I use a spreadsheet. Seriously. It has five categorized tabs and dozens of rows and without it, I would miss all my deadlines, lose all my pitch ideas, and go insane. I updated it this morning. I have filed twelve (12) pieces that haven't been published yet, most of which I expect out in the next month. At least that many again have been assigned to me.

This is not me bragging, I swear. I've been wanting to write this post for a while, and I feel like I've been writing breadcrumbs of it in many recent posts. What I want to say is that being prolific has been primarily a job (and not a very hard one at that), rather than a cotton-candy dream come true, and I don't expect you, friends and readers, to give a damn about every last thing I'm publishing. But I want to say it at length.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Vacation, HAVE to GET Away

I'm on vacation. Sort of.

My family didn't take vacations when I was young. My father was not a vacation guy; he was about as far from Clark Griswold as you can imagine in terms of wanting the family to be a certain way, or building silly/heartfelt traditions, or anything like that. I remember visiting my grandparents on both sides a few times when I was young; I remember going to summer camp; I remember going skiing in the winter. I don't remember going somewhere other than our home during the summer for relaxation and sightseeing. It just wasn't a thing we did.

These days, my husband and I rarely take vacations. We went on a honeymoon in 2011. We went on a trip a few years ago to the state of Washington for a friend's wedding, and extended the stay for a week in which we utterly, totally relaxed. I read Proust and stayed off Facebook. We looked at the view and ate croissants. It was wondrous. Last fall we went to the UK, but due to a miscalculation on my part, that trip turned out to be more stressful than relaxing, and some of it felt like work.

But that's it. We've been together for 12 years and have taken two full-relaxation vacations, one of which was our honeymoon.

Most of our vacation time at present is spent seeing family. Which is lovely, but not relaxing. Relaxing, to me, means zero expectations set or met. It means no sightseeing or activities unless in an equal ratio to napping in a hammock. It means no need to wear pants or makeup. Our families don't operate this way on vacation, so there's always adjustment of expectations at the beginning of a trip. I must remind myself that hammock time may be my priority on vacation, but it isn't my hosts'.


We have friends who go on trips to Japan and Italy who bustle through their weeks there, seeing things and doing things and going to fancy dinners and meeting new people. I have an acquaintance who spent his honeymoon on an African safari. I respect and sometimes love those people, but I still consider them slightly nuts. For me those would be stressful vacations, which is a contradiction in terms, right? Vacation is for fun and relaxation. Information intake is not relaxing to me. I do information intake for a living.

The arc of every Vacation movie involves learning to reconnect with family in spite of all the superficial trappings of whatever the relevant holiday trip is and means. Leaving out those trappings in the first place saves me a bunch of steps.

So here I am on vacation, relaxing to about half the degree I ideally would. Which is great; it's still relaxation. But since I've started working from home, I've lived in such wonderful quiet, with so much time to let my own thoughts bounce around the inside of my head. Being with people who expect my attention is more of an oddity than it is the norm now. So I'm looking forward to getting back home, to the peace and quiet to which I've become accustomed, rather than being here on vacation with animated loved ones who have lots to say and ask.

Out in the world (vacation does not stop bylines):

An essay about non-standard writing reference books at CRAFT. I really enjoyed writing this essay, because you wouldn't believe how often I've tried to insert these books into online advice threads only to be buried by "On Writing On Writing On Writing".

I reviewed New Poets of Native Nations for sinkhole. I called it a perfect anthology and I'm not exaggerating. Buy it. Also, I love reviewing for sinkhole, and hope to do lots more of it.

I reviewed The Blurry Years, by Eleanor Kriseman, for the Masters Review. It was an unusual book. The editor let me get away with a lot of vaguenesses, which I wrote in so I wouldn't spoil the reading experience. I'll say this: the book has a scenario in it that I have never seen in any other book, ever. If you like coming-of-age novels, particularly about girls, don't miss this one.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Unscheduled Leaps

I drafted this post in October of 2017. I was too much of a fraidy-cat to post it then, but as I continue to mull and feel things about leaving my job at the end of March (when will I stop feeling things about it? nngh), it begins to seem like posting this is important. So I edited it a little and here it is.


There's a lot to tell you about the last three months of non-blogging. A lot of things I did and saw that I want to record and analyze. I read Our Mutual Friend and it put me off reading for about a month; I wrote the beginning of a very hard thing, and keep finding more of it squirting out around my edges; I had some experiences with ...mmmteachingkindof and I really really loved them. I went to Santa Fe and regained my center, the feeling of what makes me me.

But here's the main thing: I'm proverbially riding off into the sunset from my job.

Git along, li'l rexy

Sort of. I'm not leaving my job entirely, and I'm not withdrawing from it soon. I'm planning on working for the law firm I work for essentially forever, or for as long as they'll have me, but I'm cutting about 3/4 of my hours gradually over the next four months. [This turned out not to be feasible, in a way that's still disappointing. That job is gone for good.]

I don't have other plans for money right now. I don't have another job, and I don't have other opportunities on the table - aside from those I've applied for, which has little to do with getting them. But I'm sinking, losing ground creatively and just-general-life-ly, and it's because I spend 7:00 am to 8:00 am every morning driving all of 15 miles to get to work, and then I spend most of my afternoon hours sprawled on my couch or in front of my computer decompressing from the experience of work. I may be a hopeless wimp in terms of how most people do modern American life, but that's irrelevant; what's relevant is this way isn't working for me.

It wasn't any fun to realize I needed to do this, and it took me a year between realization and action. A YEAR. I don't know what would've happened if I'd leapt earlier, but I didn't, I'm leaping now, and here's what happens next.

  • I'm teaching a sentence workshop on November 11 for San Fernando Valley-area writers. 
  • I'm running a monthly writing group that's growing in interesting ways. 
  • I'm volunteering at CSUN, working with students on the literary magazine. 
  • I'm in the early stages of partnering with [redacted]. 
  • I'm applying for proofreading and copy editing jobs, even weird ones. 
  • I'm long-distance-volunteering at [redacted] to mentor young writers. 
  • I'm querying agents with my writing craft book and my urban fantasy book. 
  • I'm querying small presses with the other two manuscripts: the secret project and an essay collection. 
  • I'm making zines of my littler work. 
[I can't believe it, but almost none of this worked out. 
  • The sentence workshop was terrif and I want to do another one, but I still suck at promotions & marketing and can't afford to pay anyone to do it for me. If I'm going to teach workshops, something has to happen to draw strangers into them rather than just friends: a book, a partnership, a marketing campaign, something. I don't know how to make this happen other than what I'm already doing. 
  • The monthly writing group has dissolved because it was an astounding amount of emotional effort and people kept blowing it off. When I stopped sending emails about the group early this spring, no one spoke up to say they missed it. 
  • Volunteering worked out great in terms of enjoying myself, but did not net the main effect I was doing it for. 
  • Partnering broke even, but that's about it. 
  • I'm not applying for those jobs anymore - no time, with my writing schedule. 
  • The mentoring thing totally blew up for reasons not of my making. 
  • Still querying but nothing has happened. 
  • Making the one zine was a good idea but has netted almost nothing practical (interest from a publisher, etc). I'm trying to decide whether I should attempt something bigger for my next one, still handmade but with a press instead of a printer, but it's too overwhelming to think about with all else going on.] 
All of this is stuff I can do. I know I am weak at marketing myself, but I'm strong at distributing my energy to a variety of points. Like a seed strewer instead of a seed planter. I'm also strong at my passion, so I'm leaning into volunteering for what I enjoy, instead of waiting and hoping for something paid + passionate to cross my path. Yeah, I hope the volunteering will lead to a job somehow, but the volunteering is adding to my life in itself.

I have other ideas. And I have essays and books to write. And I have piles and piles of other people's books to read. It's all too much to do while holding down a decent job, so the job had to go [this was the main truth I avoided facing for too long, and now that I have, it's so much better] ...or at least to morph. I was scared to ask, but I did, and it turned out okay. 

So here I go. Leaping. 

High hopes for a soft landing
If you want to help, subscribe to my newsletter, tell someone else about my blog or my newsletter, or share links to my work. You can also spread the word about me locally, if you live in LA. If you want to partner with me to teach workshops in your area, I might be down for that.

If you don't want to help, cool. Not everyone has to love me. 

Pictured: me when excited to see someone

(Truth is, the gifs I got when I searched "cat leaping" and "dog leaping"
were so amazing I couldn't stick with just one.) 

Friday, July 6, 2018

A Networking Story (with Parentheticals)

What a month it's shaping up to be. Six of my reviews will appear in four publications, plus there are six more that could appear this month, plus a super-fun listicle I can't wait for you to read. I've attracted a lot of wonderful books to myself in the recent past, even if some of them are very long. The past week has not been especially productive, but I think I was burned out. I read 21 books in June. That number includes a couple of 40-page chapbooks and a couple poetry books, but still. That's a lot.

In another week I'm going on vacation and I'm taking both work books and fun books with me. I decided my trip-out plane book will be The Grip of It, which I really should've read last winter when duncan recommended it, but now it's finally on my coffee table. Can't wait.

Today I want to tell you a story. I constructed it with fictional names and titles to make it clear, but still anonymous.