In one of my favorite movies, “Because of Winn Dixie,” a little girl is trying some candy for the first time. It’s candy that tastes of sadness and she drops it from her mouth to the sidewalk and says, “Yuck. This tastes bad.” And though I haven’t eaten any sad candy, I’m having one of those days.

A month ago, I submitted my first submission to my online critique group. It was a flash piece that was over-edited and poorly proofed. I was in a hurry, trying to get back and forth to Montana, distracted — I have a lot of reasons for why it was turned in that way, but none of them really excuse me from the responsibility of making sure it was right.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression and this week the piece made its way to the front of the queue. Now there must be hundreds of writers who think I’m a hack because I forgot apostrophes and accidentally cut articles — and this is after spending weeks being complemented for my editing skills. One critique told me to make sure and fix all the errors before I sent it to publishers. (Thanks?) What’s worse is that no one has gotten the story. There’s too much going on, there’s not enough going on. And no one has been particularly polite or supportive. I don’t have as much trouble with negative feedback in person, but for some reason, the online lack of tone really gives me a lot of trouble.

I need to get a thicker skin.

Some excuses for blog neglect…

Hello blog. I’ve missed you. Well, a little. See, I’ve had my hands in quite a few pies these last couple of weeks. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • Writing several shorts: Mouse Trap (75 words), The Spider (1000 words), Sassy (1000 words), and The Artist (250 words). All need a few rounds of editing and a home. I’ve also outlined a new essay and have plans for another 1000+ word story. I’m working on shorts right now for several reasons — my travel schedule is such that it’s hard to buckle down on the novel, I’m trying to make myself move more slowly with the novel, and working on shorter pieces is good exercise for honing that voice of mine.
  • Critiquing at! This week I viewed a Horror synopsis and a fantasy short story. I really love critiquing. I hope, at some point, that I can edit for others, as well as myself. I’m trying to do 2 a week and can hopefully increase as time goes on.
  • I’m also working on a grant application to help fund my non-income-earning self.
  • I’m also seriously considering more non traditional options for my YA novel project and have broken out the tried and true pros and cons list. So we’ll see. All and all, it’s a very exciting time, despite also being a strange time.

We’ll see how this burst of creativity pans out in the coming months…

A little more on rejection…

Yesterday evening, in the middle of cooking dinner and downloading with the gentleman about our days, I checked my email on my phone. The first email in the list was a rejection letter from a publication I’d submitted to earlier in the week.

I started to read, expecting a summary dismissal. But it wasn’t a form letter. It was a personal rejection. It was brief but encouraging, complimentary and forward looking. And I was so happy. I mean, of course, I would have been far happier had they wanted the pieces, but I understood why they hadn’t wanted them.

In some ways, I’m glad for the rejection — the chance to build my ongoing relationship with it and process it in a mentally healthy way. I hesitate to submit because I don’t know what a lot of rejection feels like — and I’m frightened. So I’ve resolved to work on shorter pieces for awhile, to keep this exercise going. The future is exciting…


I’ve isolated what I should have answered during all of those stupid corporate interviews so many years ago. My greatest weakness is decisiveness. I hate locking into a decision. I spent three hours yesterday debating three plot points in my novel. I realize it’s a good investment because when I tried to fly by the seat of my pants, I made a big fat mess.

For some people, the creative vision seems really clear — I want to do X and this is how I’ll do it. For others, like me, it is anywhere from slightly to significantly more complex. One of the first pieces of advice I received from another author was never take the easy way out. And while that is good advice, I think I misinterpreted it into never make things easy, which is not the same advice.

Regardless, after Sunday’s fantastic “First Pages” class with Cat Rambo and Louise Marley, I’m feeling invigorated and renewed to run and play with my fictional future Olympians once more.

Two kinds of rejection

In February, I joined a record number of people in applying for Clarion West, a prestigious six week intensive workshop for promising writers in the Speculative Fiction genre. I knew my odds were slim and while most applicants spent most of March biting their nails, I was distracted by Pop’s diagnosis and the accompanying personal world shift. I *almost* hoped I wouldn’t get in because maybe I wouldn’t be able to go with everything that was going on. But then I really did want to get in because it would be an incomparable experience, a new community, an intensive opportunity to share critiques — to learn to be a better reader and writer.

I received my rejection letter this week. I archived it away and felt a sense of completion, regret, relief. But then curiosity got the better of me. And I started to look at the twitters. A few people wrote blog posts about their rejections. Some even posted rejection letters. In the middle, some said:

We realize this is a disappointment, but hope you will apply to Clarion West in the future as our readers ranked your work highly.

Then, like mine, it said:

We wish you the best with your writing, and hope you have a productive summer. Thank you again for your interest in Clarion West.

And all of a sudden, I felt terrible. I received no middle paragraph. No encouragement to try again. No high ranking from readers. So how bad was I? Is there another letter that states, “Please never apply again, you ignorant hack” putting me squarely in the mediocre tier, or am I that hack? Oh god, I’m the hack! What am I doing? Just why do I think that I have any talent at all?

Then I think, snap the fuck out of it. This is the biz, these are the breaks. Show them or don’t. If you’re going to whine, go crawling back into finance and put up with moronic, chauvinistic yes-men for another 20 years while watching your soul die.

On second thought, let’s just keep those rejection letters coming.


Last Friday, dead on my feet, I spent the day downtown. I even wrote a post on my laptop — it’s marooned there for now which is probably best. I can only imagine the kind of writing that was coming from my addled brain.

I am headed home tonight to be with my family and thus giving myself a week off from structured blog posts. Life is going to change tomorrow and it may change in a number of ways, both good and bad. Time will help us through all of these changes — giving us a new normal — and I’m feeling strong enough to face those changes now.

With Chardonnay, of course.

Is there room for happiness?

Yesterday I postulated on Facebook whether there is room for happiness in literature. Some people answered that indeed there was enough tragedy in the world and that they wanted to skip that in their literature. Others answered that indeed there is no happiness without sadness. And while I agree in an absolute sense, I am still puzzling over the implications.

As I struggle with my own project, balance must be the key. I am not writing a tragic book — that just isn’t the story. There’s intrigue and mischief and the kind of pain that normal teens and adults feel in their lives (sorrow, loss, death) but there is no abuse or rape or murder. And I wonder if my original postulation should have included a delineation of pain.

I am left with this, though. It is sobering to think about how happy I am and how generally dissatisfied people seem to be on the whole. To believe that happiness is somehow must be only a temporary state of existence… After personally working so hard to be in a constant state of happiness where problems no longer have the ability to derail me, it’s downright terrifying. It’s not that I don’t think that life has the capacity to completely suck or take terrible turns, I just think that going forward, I’ll choose to face it instead of to hide. But only time will tell.

I have to laugh though, as I write this, because once a very long time ago I was written a letter in response to telling someone how unhappy I was. He wrote that if I was indeed that unhappy then no one (including him) was safe. At first, I couldn’t get my head around the statement. How could he have been so satisfied? Wasn’t everyone miserable? And though it took years for me to right myself mentally and that friend is a great distance away from me and my life now, I credit that as being the point that I learned that one didn’t have to accept unhappiness as the status quo.

Maybe it’s for that reason that I want to write about people who aren’t sunk in the miasma. Because I don’t think it has to be that way.


 “We’re in pursuit of happiness

Order of the day

And we’re on, on a mission to make it true

We do it almost every day”

Pursuit of Happiness – Weekend Players

Part of the reason that I wanted to return to writing full time was to explore happiness and its true forms and causes. I have so many friends who are in so many different places right now and I am curious, as I grow older, how exactly we begin to reconcile the lives we have with the lives we wanted.

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