One Sentence Story – Dear Kyle

After coming across a conversation on Twitter between Alex Shvartsman, Ken Liu, and several other writers, I thought I’d give this one sentence story thing a try. Check out #1ss on Twitter to keep tabs on the fun. And be sure to check out all the other entries listed on Alex’s blog. Here’s my entry. It’s about 317 words:

Dear Kyle

I’m writing you a letter on an old note card because I know you’ll find it amongst all the papers on your desk where you sit and crunch numbers hour after hour (so studious you are, so dedicated) and you’ve left me no choice after you never called me that night after the mathematics conference where you said my eyes were like infinity and my smile, a million prime numbers lined up in a row (I waited for days and days for your call, staring at my cell phone, willing it to ring, but your name never came across the display), but you never called and I’m left scribbling this on a piece of yellowed filing card, the kind you use for quick calculations or jotting down fleeting ideas or like the kind you place in that tiny box you keep in the third drawer on the left under the ledgers and shoebox filled with pencils—the box where you stashed the ring fingers of your dead ex-wife and the three dead girlfriends you had at the same time as her (because one just wasn’t enough, it never is) and four note cards with their names and the dates you killed them, along with a scrap of parchment that says, “Bernice, 32″—because you’ve left me with no other options and knowing you have my name in a box with women’s severed fingers has piqued my interest—I hope you’ll forgive me breaking in while you sleep—so I beg of you, call me, text me, write me, or come to my place (you know where I live, don’t you?) and let me tell you how your eyes are like two plus two equals four and how your smile is like pi calculated out to a thousand places and let me show you the container I keep under my bed—I think we have something in common.

This was fun! I had no idea where it was going when I started it, but something began to take shape about halfway through. Did some fiddling around with the beginning and it’s done, just in time.

The Time Has Come to Clean All the Things

Sorry for my lack of posting the past two weeks. It always feels like a cheap excuse to say I’ve been too busy to blog, because what does “too busy” mean, anyway? Still, I’ve felt too busy and neglected my poor Inkwell. For shame!

I thought I’d give you a quick update on what I’ve been up to the past two weeks. Not much writing has happened, let’s get that out of the way right off the bat. I have made some progress on editing Dr. Fantastic. I’m still in the first half of the book where the plot holds together well. But I’ve got my eye on the horizon and there’s a clusterfuck approaching, I just know it.

Other than that and my day job work, all we’ve been doing around here is cleaning, organizing, and painting. We have a lot of crap, yo. I mean, “holy hell, why did I buy this, what is this used for,” kind of crap. We also have a lot of stuff that’s been destroyed by the cats. Or mildew. Or cats and mildew.

In short, we’ve thrown out numerous bags of trash and junk. Unfortunately, this included almost our entire VHS collection. The tape within each cassette was encrusted with a white powdery mold. Living near the ocean or in humid climates, sucks! We also bought a bunch of storage boxes to replace old ones that had been, you guessed it, destroyed by cats and/or mold. I’m hopeful that these boxes will be longer lasting since they are not A.) Cardboard or B.) Fabric. These are smooth-coated paper boxes that don’t seem to interest the cats texturally and can be easily wiped off. Woo hoo! Organizing my desk involved throwing away a ton of paperwork. I’d venture to say a metric shit-ton, much of it from high school and college. Why was I keeping these things?

Amidst all of this, Matt painted the bathroom, which, as you might have guessed, was also coated in a lovely layer of mold. But it’s primed and sealed and painted now. Should last us until we move into a new place. Oh, and we decided to paint it yellow to offset the uglier than hell shower which is some kind of sickly off-white with blue-gray streaks in it. It’s not even egg shell white, it’s like if dingy was a color.

The yellow is really yellow. I’m officially calling it Motherfucking Yellow, because that’s the only intensifier that lets you know exactly how yellow it is. The sun is in our bathroom, and it is Behr paint called Center Stage. Seriously. Go look it up. It’s damned yellow.

I know it’s not advisable to try to “do all the things” as a part of the Unfuck Your Habitat plan, but I’m pregnant and I’ve got a sense of urgency thrown into the mix here. I’ve never felt the pressure more to get stuff done. That’s got to be a good thing, right?

Wish I had more time for writing. I know, I know. Make the time. I’m trying, I swear.

Links and Things for May 18, 2012

I’ve slacked off on the blog this week, my apologies. But I did find some interesting things in the meantime that I wanted to share. Hope you enjoy!

Blog Posts of Note

Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is by John Scalzi – An interesting post over at Whatever that pokes privilege with a pointy stick.

#The50 Things Every Creative Should Know by Jamie Wieck – Found this thanks to @freshnsteezy. Though it relates mostly to visual art, I found myself nodding at each point because creativity is creativity, regardless of your chosen medium.

When Publishing Goes Wrong…Starring Undead Press by Mandy DeGeit – Wow. Just wow. It’s hard to believe people can be this crazypants, but apparently they can. A reminder to us all: be careful about the markets you submit to.

Free Fiction

“The Tome of Tourmaline” by Ken Liu

“Ravages of Time” by Alex Shvartsman

Other Interesting Stuff

Interview with Chuck Wendig at The Contextual Life – I love his writing style on Terrible Minds and have added Blackbirds to my to-read list.

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast: Episode 60: Brian Greene – Lovingly referred to as the “string theory guy” in our house, Greene delves into all sorts of mind blowing topics, like the notion that our universe and everything in it may be a hologram of sorts.

Did you find anything cool this week? Share it in the comments!

Interchangeable Goals

Sometimes, you just have to be good with getting anything done at all.

At least, that’s my perspective on things these days. Normally, I’d beat myself up over not hitting a certain word count per day. Or failing to work on novel revisions. Okay, so I still beat myself up over these things. But I beat myself up less. Which is important, relatively speaking.

I digress.

Getting mad at myself for failing to complete certain tasks repeatedly isn’t productive and tends to throw me into a cycle of failure. That is, if I failed yesterday, I’ll fail today, so why even try?

But this negative self-talk is harmful and counterproductive. I still engage in it often, but trying to put my focus onto what I do accomplish is much more helpful. For instance, I didn’t write any new fiction today.  But I did write this blog post and finish a critique for a writing friend that I’ve owed him since forever (sorry!). That feels good to check off the to-do list. Once I finish this post, I may even conquer revisions on something small, like a short story or a scene in my novel.

My point here is if a strict plan of action isn’t working for you and causing too much stress or self doubt, dial it back. This doesn’t mean you should change your goals; rather, it means you should refocus them. Become flexible. So long as you’re accomplishing something you want to accomplish, be happy. I’m hoping that checking things off my to-do list on a daily basis will inspire me and build the confidence I need to tackle larger projects.

I know this all sounds like armchair psychology. Honestly, it probably is. But I’m trying to work through complex mental blocks in how I view tasks, failure, and success. Bear with me as I struggle. And please, feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.

Links and Things for May 11, 2012

I’m afraid this is going to be a short one today. I’ve been busy this week and haven’t had as much time as I usually do to devote to reading blogs and engaging in media in general. But I did happen across a few cool things I wanted to share.

Blog Posts of Note

Too Smart for Kids: A Promise to the Readers of Fairyland by Catherynne Valente – Because books should be challenging and reading for kids is an act of discovery. Yes, yes, yes.

Vocabulary  by Christie Yant – Discusses the joy of learning new vocabulary while reading. I’m lazy and often try to glean the meaning of a word I don’t know from context alone. Since a Kindle has been added to my life, I can look up words as I go. My desire to learn new words and my laziness are satisfied.

Using Index Cards to Plan Short Fiction Submissions by Michael Haynes – It’s exactly what it sounds like but I think I need to do something similar if I want to get all these languishing stories off my hard drive and back out into the world.

Free Fiction

“An Old Acquaintance” by K.G. Jewell

What I’m Reading

I finally finished Unholy Magic by Stacia Kane. It’s really a quick read, I was just reading slow, if that makes sense. Super fun and I recommend the whole series so far. I may read the next book in this series, City of Ghosts or maybe something else like Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig. Not sure what I’ll dive into next. Anybody have suggestions?

What have you found this week? Leave it in the comments!

The Stories I Will Tell My Child

“We’ll eat you up, we love you so.”

So say the Wild Things in Where the Wild Things Are when Max is leaving the land of rumpuses and heading back home. Upon hearing the news that Maurice Sendak died, my first thought was about how I’d be reading this story to my daughter once she’s old enough. How important it is for both Matt and I to pass on the things we loved as children to our little girl. And I was filled with a sense of sadness at life and the ends of things and how happiness is only fleeting.

Yes, I waxed philosophical. I can’t help it. Everything makes me think about my soon-to-be-new role as a mom. And it terrifies me and excites me and makes me want to be better in every possible way. I wonder will I be good enough? Will she hate me? WIll she think back on her childhood when she’s an adult and think, “Hey, my parents did they best they could”?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I know one thing for certain. I’ll be reading Where the Wild Things Are, and A Wrinkle in Time, and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Matt will read her The Hobbit, and The Stinky Cheese Man, and The Velveteen Rabbit. And our daughter will know and love books and stories and the imaginary worlds where the impossible, for just one moment, seems possible.

We’ll do that part right. I know it.

On “Knit” and the Writing Process

I thought I’d try out something new here. I recently had a short story published at The Drabblecast, and I was thinking it might be fun to go into a bit of detail about my approach to the story and how it met its final form.

This is the first story I consider to be a part of my most current batch. Even though it was written in 2010, my approach was considerably different on this tale than on those previous.

What was the difference, you might be asking?

Simple: I didn’t fret about quality.

Well, at least in the drafting phase. This was the first time I can recall throwing caution to the wind and writing a story just because I wanted to. Because certain words sounded nice together. Because I wanted to tell something creepy and beautiful at the same time.

And the first draft was horrendous, as most first drafts are. It made next to no sense and was filled with tangents that took the story off course. So I focused the plot and trimmed it down. I cut out phrases I thought were cool. I killed my darlings.

Once satisfied, “Knit” was sent to 9 different markets, one after the other. I piled up the rejections. I received additional feedback from beta readers along the way and made a few subtle tweaks for clarity and consistency. Finally, I sent the story off to The Drabblecast.

But the acceptance didn’t come right away. I received a rewrite request first that required me to cut the story again by about 300 words. Much of the rewrite revolved around removing a distracting subplot involving the mother character. Basically, I had to focus the story more on the father to make it fulfilling emotionally.

They were right. I made the revisions, showed a few beta readers and off it went. Yay for acceptance!

I’m proud of “Knit” and the process required to get to the end product. I wrote freely for the first time. I channeled personal anguish into the tale–something that I’ve since done with regularity. And the story that I was left with is filled with darkness, yet there is beauty there. If sadness can be beautiful.

I hope you all enjoyed the end result.