Anatomy of a Novel Edit

We spend a lot of time, as writers, looking at processes. Ours. Someone else’s. We eschew conformity. We crave it, too. Today I turned over the first of a few rounds of developmental edits with the wonderful editor 47North paired me with, Caitlin Alexander. I found myself laughing at the state of my usually neurotically-organized-into-stacks desk and thought I’d try my hand at a diagram. Ladies & gentleman, I give you the Anatomy of a Novel Edit (click image for larger size):

Editing Aftermath

xo

All the Best Feels

I’m not going to lie. Announcing the sale of my first book last week was tremendous in every way. I’ve also realized I’m glad I’m doing this at 37 — I don’t know if at 25 (or whatever arbitrary age) I’d have recognized how colossally fortunate I am to have met and befriended so many amazing people in one lifetime. And in a time where we can remain virtually connected and celebrate our successes (and lament our sorrows) together. It’s a lot for one heart to hold.

I know, I’m getting mushy. And it will get worse in a minute.

I received more great news last week. “The Perils of Rosella,” my CNF piece pubbed in May by Cartridge Lit, was among their Best of the Net nominees. This piece was about the death of my (grand)father and instead of overusing metaphor, I used metaphor exclusively, pairing the months spent back home trying to help him battle lung cancer with my favorite childhood video game, Kings Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella.

I’m, of course, humbled and honored to share the nomination with so many other talented authors. If you haven’t had a chance to read these pieces — again, all inspired by the presence of video games in our culture, I encourage you to take a few minutes and visit (Seriously. “After I Heard Another White Woman at the Bar Talking About Michael Vick and the Death Penalty” by Jason McCall is one of the best poems I’ve read all year.) Don’t be fooled by the gaming premise: this mag is churning out some of the heaviest hitting short form lit around. Creator/Editor/Litentrepreneur Justin Lawrence Daugherty and Managing Editor Joel Hans are developing this project from their hearts into a serious contender.

The painful twist here is that his belief in me was unconditional and ever present. In fact my very first terrible book I wrote at 9 was dedicated to him. If he were here, he’d be buying champagne. If he were here he’d tell me the bitter comes with the sweet. If he were here. If. If. If.

If he were here he’d tell me to remember Kipling: “If you can dream — and not make dreams your master.”

But here’s another if: would I be the same me without that specific loss? Zell and “Perils” and countless other works would not be the same. He continues to be here — shaping things via the person I’ve become over time. For this too, I am grateful.

xo

I Sold My Novel! — Or The Thing I’ve Dreamed of My Whole Life

Lucky for me, contract negotiations take a little while. That’s good because I’ve been puzzling over the best way to announce the novel that demanded to be written — my epistolary, fairy-tales-invade-Los Angeles novel, Letters to Zell, has been bought by 47North and I will soon embark upon the last leg of the publishing journey for this particular project.

The sanguine side of me says, tell them again how you’ve always wanted this with your entire soul and that your brain never shuts off and that you can’t believe the gamble you made with your job and everything else actually paid off it’s like a dream come true or your very own fairy tale you can’t believe you haven’t woken up yet.

The other side says, shut up, just announce it like a professional and be done with it. Let people think you’ve got this all under control.

So like a true Gemini, maybe I can give you both. I sold my book and if all goes to plan you, dear reader, will be able to read it in June of 2015. (OMG! OMG! OMG! *Epic Squee*)

Thanks to everyone for the support. It truly means the world to me. Special thanks, of course, to my agent Cameron McClure for all of her patient guidance through this process. And of course to everyone over at 47North, especially my acquiring editor, Jason Kirk. I’m so looking forward to what’s next.

xo

Reviews: UFO 3

91CNXNKlEzLLast week, Tangent Online published a triple review of Unidentified Funny Objects 3, edited by Alex Schvartsman. I read them with one eye closed, ready for the great shoe in the sky to come down on my head.

However, the reviewers had nothing but praise for “Into the Woods, With Zombunny,” noting that as utterly ridiculous as the story and concept were, my utter commitment to the zany saved the day.

You can read the reviews here and pre-order your own copy here.

Healing Thoughts

Last Tuesday I finally resigned myself to surgery I should have had months ago for the ruptured disc sitting on my radial nerve. Almost 10 days later, I’m experiencing new pains and limitations, but all in the name of a pain free life six to twelve weeks from now.

I visited my specialist who cautioned me to take it easy. It’s hard. I love reading and catching up on guilty TV series, but I also feel an underlying panic. Is the house clean? Should I have gone to the grocery store? Is there something I haven’t done?

I’m consoling myself with my mantra that art out requires art in. So if I’m a bit quiet for the next couple of weeks, it’s only because I’m focusing on ingesting art (and the basket of chocolate covered everything my darling Izzy sent me). xo

Tug of War

Ea10594216_10152396896853725_1837445640_orlier this month, I made a quick trip back to Montana to participate in a collaborative art project. My hometown of Billings is a place I’ve had trouble reconciling over the years. As an adult, I didn’t believe I belonged there. After five years in larger cities, the homogenous feel of the town was a bit smothering — I didn’t wear the right clothes or listen to the right music or think the right things. And yet, I want to want to be there. It is where my roots are, the last of my family, the vistas I know by heart.

I’ve spent more than a quarter of 2014 in Montana and it’s almost as if I can’t escape. 10594212_10152397783038725_273837226_o

But.

There are people making a difference. 10563241_10152398473888725_1688343422_o

 

 

People using art to start a conversation. Some of these people were my friends. Now almost all of them are my friends. Asked to join in the concept of “Tug of War: Where Conflict Resides,” I sent a batch of appropriate work. Directors Krista and 10566186_10152396896753725_1645549653_oMike (who developed the idea), selected “The Great Divide” and “From the Kitchen of Helena Wilson” as components for the show. Around there were moments of dance, poetry, visual art, metaphor, audience inclusion, heat, light, breath, and the magic that comes from being a part of something truly unique.    10592094_10152396896603725_1259011211_n

I sat talking to some of the younger dancers before the show. They weren’t sure what some of the pieces meant, how they related to a tug of war. Some of their confusion, I said, was because they still had so much life to live before they could feel love and loss the way those of us in our 30s do. I hope someday they’ll look back and realize how lucky they were to touch so many creative minds at once, supported by a subset of a community that loved us back. I know I’ll carry this tiny hope, this flame of gratitude with me for the rest of my life. xo

Please check out just a few of the artists I was privileged to work with:

The Sea

Update 8/27/14: Editor Nerine Dorman has found a new home for this anthology. An updated purchase link will be provided as soon as we have access.

Update 8/13/14: Dark Continents Press has sadly closed its doors. I have a few copies of The Sea in paperback and, of course, the electronic version if you are interested in reading. Please contact me for details.

“Songs of the Sea,” my first and (only) pirate story is out today in Dark Continents Press’ beautiful anthology, The Sea. Available now electronically with paperback version to follow.

Thanks for reading. xo

You Said There Wouldn’t Be Bears

Up today at Big Truths (a division of the beautiful Little Fiction), my segmented essay “You Said There Wouldn’t Be Bears” explores fear and the times in life when fear surprises us.

These days, You Said There Wouldn’t Be Bears is a personal refrain. Every time I’m hyperbolic (which is a lot, surprise) or prone to generalities and pronouncements (also a lot), I hear it in my head. The humbling bear bounds down the mountain and makes me re-examine from whence my bluster comes. But the less I know I know, the less scared I become.

Thanks for reading. xo

Writing Process Blog Tour

Lately I’ve been late a lot. This isn’t normal. I’m the person pacing the block before your party. I pad my padded time, leaving 15 minutes early before I go anywhere. I will spare you the excuses. But it naturally it falls that I’ve been going to publish writing process blog sharing thing for some time now. I was tagged by VP classmate (and writer of some pretty terrific YA), Nicole Lisa and I’m passing the baton onto once of my very favorite creatives, Jill Seidenstein.

 WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

As soon as a recent dose of “Life” removes its heel from my windpipe, I’ll get back to my new novel — a tale of Cassandra and Cressida as they find themselves amidst a near future, post-pandemic Trojan War set in the New West.

Even though I’ve been anxious about getting to the writing part, having a longer time to think about my characters before I dive in isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I write quickly when I know where I’m going. When I don’t I meander and start down roads I inevitably abandon. While I’m dealing with “life”, I can use my downtime to mentally explore Cassandra and Cressida so that they are lifelike and natural when I finally put them on the page.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THE GENRE?

My work straddles the line between literary and genre fiction, almost to the point of being unclassifiable. The fantasy elements in my latest novel-in-progress will be barely there (Cassandra is a seer, but I haven’t added any other magical sorts of elements *yet*). However, I am dealing with mythology and a culture with a deep reverence for god(s). My writing explores the facets of friendship and family and love and hate and home as if they were all a part of the same gem — in my experience, they are.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

We retell stories over and over. As a novelist, I find myself interested in the characters I feel haven’t had their say, to shine a light in dark corners. As a short story writer, I want to share an image, a moment, a breath of truth — that moment when the light floods into a room (regardless of whether it’s a serious room or a zany one). I read in order to feel those moments and I want to give those moments back to my readers, too.

HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

For short stories, I usually have a sentence or two I’ve jotted down for an idea. Once I’m ready to really work said idea, I usually bang out a story in one or two sittings (any more and it’s likely the idea wasn’t as fantastic as I’d originally thought). I am a writer who needs to rest her words. I go through the resulting drafts once a week for three weeks for developmental edits and a final editing pass for typos in order to try to catch any boisterous awkwardness & errata.

As a novelist, I’m not much of an outliner, though I do enjoy drawing big maps in crayon and sketching characters on my office whiteboard. I typically jot down the high points of my characters’ arcs in a big notebook, but detailed outlining makes my prose fairly dull. (I have friends who flourish under that same model, so I’m not saying it’s wrong, just not my cuppa.) I sit down and read my progress on my kindle or printed pages — somewhere new and without distractions — in order to gut check where I’m going. I have a writing group and some trusted critique partners to look over things and give me honest feedback, without pulling punches. I also like to workshop formally and will look for those opportunities when they align.

Thanks, again, to Nicole for tagging me in this very fun exercise. I know you’ll all enjoy Jill’s take on things over at Slowbloom!