Cascade Writers 2014

10521745_10152353904753725_1063133844_nI’m running the Cascade Writers Conference this weekend — scheduling and bustling and talking. It’s so much fun to have this small community of writers, connecting circles and fostering friendships.

Last night we skipped traditional programming and hosted a meet & greet instead. We played a game and ate cake and at the end of the evening, groups had formed to start writing, socializing and creating. Unlike my dog (pictured) everyone was cooperative about wearing their badges, even the first year folks, who we badge with a color to make sure they are included, welcomed, and nurtured.

Today starts the first of the critiques and I’ll be watching for folks, who, like me, found their first experience to be unexpectedly emotional. Life happens all around us, even when we’re here in this safe space. I take this responsibility seriously and though I’ll be the most relaxed come Sunday, the big worries are over and now we come to the business of writing.  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!

 

Up in the Air

I’m writing from one of my favorite places, an airplane somewhere between San Francisco and Salt Lake. For the past six weeks, I’ve stepped out of my own life to help my family. I won’t say it’s been rosebuds and cherries. It’s been tears and new chapters and torn pages and hurt feelings and sore necks and shoulders. But the project is winding down. I’m headed back to Montana tonight to collect my things, say my goodbyes, and take one of the dogs home with me to Seattle.

I’m slushing for an exciting anthology focusing on sense of place. Moving my grandmother from one home to another — neither of which have ever been my home — makes me homesick for my own little house in Seattle in a way I had not known possible. When Adam brought a couple of dresses for last weekend’s wedding, I could smell the house on them — smoke but not smoke, plants but not plants, soil, wood, the particular combination which makes our home ours.

It’s a particularly good time to read these stories as my soul reaches out for the chance to say, yes, friend. I feel that too.

Games

1. I wrote this thing, “The Perils of Rosella.” It’s part processing a death. It’s part cracking open the chest of childhood. Its part figuring out who I am now.

2. There’s a home for this piece and it’s a mag called Cartridge Lit. I believe in what they’re doing, investing time and energy into storytelling influenced by games. Because it’s a part of our narrative. In 50 years almost no one will remember a time without this frame of reference. It’s a brilliant concept — dedicating a place for those stories.

3. It’s a piece I was terrified to write, then terrified to finish. Sometimes playing with format can burn a writer badly. But this came out burning, so it turned out to not matter so much. I read an article this morning postulating that the responsibility of any essay to make sense lies within the reader. I hope, then, that you’ll read this mixed bag of game and genre and reality and recounting of this thing and I hope somewhere deep inside it reverberates in you, dear reader. Maybe you, too, will remember a story like mine or like Amanda Miska’s tiny, gorgeous piece, FA6-DBB-4CI, or like Brian Oliu’s chilling Goonies II. These stories are in all of us, even in a game of solitaire. May we all look deep enough to find them. xo

AMERICANA

As I write this post, I’m sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen, watching the May snow fall thin and fine. It’s not sticking, but it’s as Montana as the weather gets. I wrote “Pros & Cons of Montana” as paean to my home place, the land that pulls me like a magnet, the sky that I still dream about — wide and unforgiving. Synaesthesia‘s lush new issue features countless writers I admire and I couldn’t be more humbled to be among their words. Grab a drink and a spot on the grass and read with me. Share what the bones of this great big beautiful country sing to us in the silence.

New Sale: Unidentified Funny Objects

I’ve never liked the idea of zombies. I certainly never thought I’d be able to write a zombie story until I read William Jablonsky’s brilliant “The Death and Life of Bob” in Shimmer (#16). That story helped me understand that to write about anything, all one has to do is frame it within a tangible reference point. I thought of all the ways to do just that, patted myself on the head, and promptly forgot about it. Last fall, I found myself a member of an anthology challenge group, staring a zombie prompt right in the face.
At the same time, I was also working with fairy tales, particularly puzzling over Rapunzel’s parents. How could they simply trade their child for lettuce? So reaching into the dark expanse of the unwritten fairy tale, the story of Squire Ulrich and the Zombunny was born.
I sold this long (for me) 5K word story this month to Unidentified Funny Objects 3, a wildly successful series edited by VP classmate & short story expert Alex Schvartsman. We’re still going back and forth on the name of the story — it’s a difficult task. But I’m thrilled to be sharing a TOC with the likes of Piers Anthony & Tina Connolly. Writing humor is tricky and I’m glad our Zombunny has found a nice home warren, expected in the fall of 2014.

Introducing Cameron McClure

I’m over the moon to announce I’m now represented by agent Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

I had the joy of meeting Cameron last summer at Cascade Writers. Even if I had not been able to chat with her about Letters to Zell, I would have enjoyed her wit, her take on breaking the rules, her feelings on books featuring animal fugitives, and her amazing hair. As we move forward in the world of publishing as a team, I look forward to our partnership. I have so much to learn and I can’t wait to get started.

xo