Four Funerals and a Wedding

Well, these last few days have been quite thrilling.

Why, you may be asking, is your life so filled with thrill? Is it the fresh wainscoting that Dylan applied behind the stove? Are you elated by that random guy on a four wheeler who is driving through all of the snowdrifts on your residential road? Could it be that you bought new soap and now your hands smell nice?

NO.

(Well, my hands do smell nice. Like apple and cloves. Thanks, new soap.)

But here’s the good news: I had a poem accepted by Highlights High Five!

I took my New Year’s resolution of writing for children quite seriously, and since January I’ve sent out many, many stories, poems, rebuses, and action rhymes to various children’s publications. This acceptance followed four swift rejections, right when I was beginning to think that I should probably just cut my losses and become an accountant.

I’m so relieved that A. my writing is worthwhile, and B. I don’t have to be responsible for anyone’s finances. I mean, I can barely handle my own finances. A few weeks ago, I found a five dollar bill on a walk and spent it on a container of no-spill bubbles.

In any case, I’ll keep you updated on my poem. It’s been purchased, but I have no guarantee of publication date, so it could be ages before I see it in print.

I’m a patient person, though. After all, I waited a full week before deciding to buy those bubbles.

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P.S. I have never seen Four Weddings and a Funeral, but the reversing of the title worked for my rejection/acceptance metaphor (on a surface level, anyway). I probably shouldn’t draw comparisons between my writing and movies I’ve never watched, but what can I say? I like to live dangerously. That’s why I’ll be having TWO pieces of cake for lunch.

Changeling

It’s been about a month since I last posted, and that seems like a very long span of time, but in the writing world, it’s nothing. A month could be a single page of writing. Or an entire novel. Or thirty days of submitting, submitting, submitting and crossing fingers to ward off rejections.

(I’m in that last camp. I’ll let you know how the finger-crossing goes.)

Somewhere amidst all of that writing and waiting and writing some more, I managed to have a flash fiction piece published over at Enchanted Conversation Magazine. You may be interested in it if you like fairies, people who’ve fallen out of trees, or bacon.

Click here to read “Changeling.”

And now, back to waiting…

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Rejection

You guys. YOU GUYS. I got my very first rejection today! (Well, my first writing-based rejection. I have plenty of experience with never being chosen for dodgeball because I am terrible at, you know, dodging balls. And throwing balls at other people. And activities where I have to wear gym shorts that are two sizes too big.)

My lack of prior rejections has little to do with my talent and everything to do with the fact that I never submit my writing anywhere. It’s not that I’m amazing, it’s that I never give anyone the chance to reject me! This plan worked nicely for many years, but then I realized that if I want others to read my work, I have to be willing to risk rejection.

Which brings us to the email I received today.

 

Upon clicking into my very first form rejection, I was struck by the following thoughts:

  1. Hey, I finally have an update for my blog!
  2. Aw. 😦

This poem is one that I submitted to Babybug back at the beginning of January. It’s a tiny little thing, four simple lines that I tried to imbue with as much whimsy as possible. I also submitted another four-line poem on the same day, but I haven’t heard back about that one, yet. I’m not sure if that means they’re still considering it, or if I should expect another rejection in my inbox later today. Either way, I already have another poem edited and ready to submit, but I think I might wait a bit before doing so. I don’t want to overwhelm the editors, but I’ve been lead to believe that perseverance plays a big role in being published.

When it comes to getting work published, I do have big shoes to fill: my mom had a story published in Spider magazine. I recently asked her about her success, and she said the following.

“Well, I typed my story and put it in an envelope. Then I wrote a letter that said, ‘Hey, I wrote a story. I hope you like it.’ Then I sent it to Spider. I guess they liked it.”

Inspiring, Mom.

I must say, I’m rather grateful for Babybug’s short response time (less than a month) and that declined submissions don’t turn red in Submittable. (Accepted submissions turn green, so I was not looking forward to seeing a glaring red beacon of failure on my homepage.)

submittable
Names omitted to protect my poor, innocent writing.

So there you have it! I was rejected, but I’m okay.

I’m sure there are plenty of disappointments that await me in the future, but until then, I’ll just keep writing.

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Kelsey vs. the Librarians

I think I’ve been placed on some kind of watchlist at the library. Whenever I enter, an alarm sounds. (It doesn’t matter that I can’t actually hear the alarm. I know it exists.) The librarians squint at me from beneath furrowed brows as I drag Oscar past the fish tanks and into the relative safety of the play area. I’m also certain that security cameras follow my every move, and not just because of the one time I didn’t drag fast enough and Oscar practiced his new drum solo right on top of the cherished Angelfish.

I blame children’s magazines.

Magazines1

In my elementary school days, I was awash with writerly success — I won savings bonds, had my stories animated for children’s shows, and performed poetry for the local school board. While I expect that my prized status had more to do with the fact that I spent all of my time entering contests and less to do with actual merit, I could still claim that I was an award-winning author.

In middle and high school, I continued to enter my writing in various contests and would occasionally win awards, but I was much more likely to pen angry poems about angels and drowning and bruises and squirrel them away in notebooks, never to see the light of day.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve submitted my work anywhere, and for some reason, when you’re an adult, no one cares that your poem about snowflakes won first prize in some regional contest when you were eleven. (I do maintain that that was a damn good poem, though.) Now that I am old and grey and unable to stop writing long enough to feed myself anything other than peanut butter crackers, I feel that same urge I did in elementary school. I want to write. More than that, I want to share my writing.

That’s how I first angered the librarians this past fall. Buoyed by bright, shiny optimism, I decided to read a bunch of children’s magazines to get a sense of what kind of work they’re publishing. When I approached the circulation desk carrying 27 back issues of Spider and Cricket, the librarian’s face fell. As it turned out, the magazines were not entered into the digital checkout system, which meant that she had to write the due date by hand in the back of every single one.

Oops.

The second time I incurred their wrath, I checked out just fifteen magazines. (I suppose I’d learned my lesson.) Much to my relief, the magazines had been entered into the system, though I’m at least 56% sure that I had nothing to do with that. All was well until I attempted to return them — for some reason, the librarian was certain that I had overdue magazines from the last time I was there.

Now, I have many flaws, many, MANY flaws, but I don’t turn in library books late. My delicate southern sensibilities are offended just thinking about it.

Thankfully, the librarian who I first had a run-in with was also on duty, and she was able to confirm (with only a slight snarl) that she knew me and was certain that I’d turned in all of my magazines.

Score.

I decided to lay low for a few weeks — over the holidays, I focused on poetry and nonfiction and was delighted to have two works accepted to various websites. When the adrenaline wore off, however, I was back at the library with another stack of magazines.

Unfortunately, a third librarian was on duty. Her perky ponytail and optimistic smile assured me that she somehow knew nothing of my shiny, magazined past. I approached with some trepidation, and working quickly before she could match my face to the wanted poster in the break room, I began to scan my magazines.

Of course, I only made it through five before the machine began to whoop and holler. “WARNING. THIS WOMAN IS CHECKING OUT AN UNGODLY AMOUNT OF MAGAZINES. WHY DOES SHE NEED SO MANY. WHY MUST SHE DO THIS TO ME. WHY. WHY.”

The librarian’s ponytail dropped a degree or two. “Is there a problem?”

“No,” I said, sweat already beading on my forehead. I frantically tried to swipe another issue of Highlights.

“WARNING. THIS WOMAN HAS TURNED CHECKING OUT MAGAZINES INTO A CLANDESTINE ACTIVITY. WHY IS SHE SO SHIFTY. WHY.”

I paused. “The machine doesn’t seem to be letting me check these out.”

She eyed my stack, which was at least as tall as I am. (And I’m tall.)

“Try swiping again.”

The machine croaked angrily. So did all of the people in the line that had begun to form behind me.

She sighed. “Okay. I’ll just scan you in by hand.”

31 magazines later, I was free, she had fourteen new grey hairs, and my name and picture were emblazoned across every entrance of the library.

“WARNING. DANGEROUS READER. DO NOT LET INTO THE LIBRARY, LEST SHE ATTEMPT TO CHECK OUT MAGAZINES AND CONTRIBUTE THE COLLAPSE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION.”

Magazines 2

Man, I hope I get something published in a children’s magazine. I’d love to see the librarians’ faces when I approach them with a single issue, and instead of checking it out, open it to my byline. That would almost make it worth it.

Well, for me. Not for them.

Wish me luck!

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Acceptance

I haven’t written in quite some time.

Actually, that’s not true. I have written anything for this blog in quite some time.  I started it as a way to document my writing progress, and in doing so, I boxed myself into a space where I felt like I needed to have something to share in order to…you know. Share.

Mostly, that means that when I miss Thanksgiving dinner (two of them!) because I’m evacuating from every possible orifice, it doesn’t warrant a blog entry. It does, however, warrant 3,000 texts to my parents to make sure that I’m not dying. (Spoiler: I didn’t.)

The things that would fit this blog — NaNoWriMo, cool poems that I’ve been reading, the words of friends and family, the story idea that I came up with in the shower — are done so quietly that most people aren’t aware that they’re happening at all.

So here’s what I’ve been doing lately. Loud and proud.

  1. I’ve been reading a lot. A LOT. It’s wonderful! Poetry, short stories, old YA favorites, WebMD articles on Norovirus…you know. All of the good, inspiring stuff.
  2. I completed my seventh NaNoWriMo attempt. This year was a little different, though. Rather than writing my own novel, I was reworking my mother’s very first NaNoWriMo novel, a story about Salem, Massachusetts, men lost in time, perfume, and strange cats. It was an interesting experience, one that I’m no where near completing, but it was also a welcome respite from forcing myself to pound out 1,667 words of ORIGINAL writing each day.
  3. I’ve been writing a lot of poetry and short stories. While my big goal has always been to have a novel published, shorter works are my heart. I can’t break away from them. In the moments where my son isn’t sticking his fingers in my nose and the dishes aren’t spilling out onto the counters, I sit and I write poems and stories about howling and hot dogs and water and birthday cards.

None of this seemed worth sharing, though. The act of writing is sometimes a quiet one, one that I mostly share with Dylan (“Hey, will you read this entire novel? And then give me feedback? Even though I’m rewriting it? Even though the majority of what you’d read wouldn’t end up as part of the new plot?”) and my parents. (“Hey, will you read this short story? And then give me feedback? Even though I don’t always take constructive criticism well?”)

Today, however, I’m sharing.

When I first began to post my writing online, I primarily submitted my work to DeviantArt, where I found a lot of like-minded writers. I also submitted a piece or two to random publications, just for the sake of it. Now that I’m looking to get my work out there again, Submittable has become king.

Honestly, it’s all a little overwhelming. I feel somewhat out of element whenever I’m browsing places to submit my work, like that one elderly neighbor (you know the one) who tries to send emails through Microsoft Word. Sharing your writing is scary stuff, man. People look at it. They READ it. They judge it. Sometimes they delight in it. (Sometimes not so much.)

Sometimes, they accept your poem for their website. 

Keep an eye out on December 21st, everyone. This is just the beginning.

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More Important Lists

Reasons I’m not writing:

  1. My dog is chewing on my laptop.
  2. My baby is chewing on my laptop.
  3. The skin on my knuckles is so dry that it cracks when I try to type.
  4. My yard is covered in leaves, and while I haven’t actually raked them, I’ve dedicated a significant amount of time to thinking about how I ought to be raking them.
  5. MAKING LISTS IS MORE FUN.

Reasons I am writing:

  1. The world is dumb and stupid and scary, and sometimes writing is the only thing that makes sense.
  2. I’m a kickass writer. (I am also, as you can see, quite modest.)
  3. I have a lot going on in my head, and if I don’t write about it, my husband has to bear the brunt of my neuroses.
  4. If I don’t meet the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo, my students won’t respect me. (They may also jeer and/or throw things.)
  5. I’m sick and tired of how insipid most children’s books are.

I want to read stories about stolen shopping carts, pillows covered in glitter, dogs wearing tutus, shampoo with magical properties, dilapidated boarding houses, and shifty glances between people who don’t like each other but share an uneasy respect.

So that’s what I’m writing.

Wish me luck.

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How to Not Write a Novel in Thirty-Seven Easy Steps

1. Attempt to remember your password for the NaNoWriMo website.
2. Press the “forgot my password” button.
3. Attempt to remember your email password so that you can retrieve your NaNo password.
4. Finally log in to the NaNoWriMo site.
5. Ignore all 77 of your unread messages.
6. Spend five minutes trying to come up with a title for your novel.
7. Decide that your novel’s title is Working Title.
8. Eat a piece of candy as a reward for coming up with a title.
9. Open Scrivener to a new project page.
10. Carefully place your hands on the home row of your keyboard and attempt to type a sentence.
11. Fail miserably because you’ve never been able to type with your fingers on the home row.
12. Reassure yourself that hunting and pecking is a legitimate means of typing.
13. Eat more candy.
14. Drink a glass of milk.
15. Put on socks.
16. Change your novel’s title to Fable.
17. Remember that Fable is the name of a video game.
18. Change novel’s title to Working Title (again).
19. Throw away all of the candy wrappers that you have accumulated.
21. Attempt to type a synopsis for your novel.
22. Remember that you have not planned out your novel.
23. At all.
24. You have no idea what to type. Your heart is racing.
25. Is your novel about fables?
26. Probably not. The title just sounded cool.
27. Maybe your novel should be a retelling of a fable.
28. Decide that your novel is definitely not a retelling of a fable.
29. Fables are lame because they have morals.
30. You have no morals.
31. You also have no ideas for NaNoWriMo.
32. Open a new project page (despite your old one being blank) and write down the first thing that comes to mind.
33. “My secret sadness is that I’m half a person.”
34. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN.
35. Maybe you should try to write a fable instead.
36. Open a third project page.
37. Write a blog entry about how not to write a novel in thirty-seven easy steps.

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The Healing Power of Corn and Poetry

It’s been a rough month. Like, really rough. Not only have I been plagued with a runny nose, sore throat, violent cough, and conjunctivitis (twice!), but I was cursed with a package of Skittles that only had one red. ONE. Honestly, what’s the point of even eating Skittles if you’re only going to get one red?!

(Hint: there isn’t one. Don’t bother. Life is meaningless.)

Thanks to my son’s underdeveloped infant immune system, I’ve been playing host to a veritable menagerie of viruses and infections instead of writing epic narrative poetry and planning for NaNoWriMo. Since Typhoid Mary couldn’t attend daycare with a fever of 103 and a nose full of shockingly chartreuse snot, the blocks of time that I typically dedicate to writing were unceremoniously snatched away so that I keep him home and cough on him. (Though, to be fair, he coughed on me, too.)

The upshot of everything was that, by the time I convinced the baby to go to bed at the end of each day, I was far too tired to stay up and write. Then, to add insult to injury, I was so busy coughing up my phlegm-filled lungs that I didn’t go to the Virginia Children’s Book Festival, which I’d planned on attending with a writer friend.

I pouted, guys. Like full-on petulant lower-lip pouting. I may have laid on the floor and cursed at the ceiling. I waved things around in a dramatic fashion and coughed some more. I was tired, I was cranky, and I felt like I was never going to write again. It seemed that every time I blew my nose, I was leaking inspiration.

I’ve never been one of those brave souls who don’t want pity. Quite the opposite, actually. I want pity. I demand it. PITY ME.  My family is pretty good about pitying me when asked, but they’re also really good at helping me forget to feel sorry for myself. (Also, they don’t mind if I cough on them.) That’s how I found myself lost in the corn with them this past weekend.

By then, the cough was mostly gone and I felt well enough to walk through the endless maze and make several corn related puns. This alone was enough to perk me up, but it was when I drove home, my husband and son both sleeping peacefully in the backseat, that the first line of a poem winged its way into my head.

That night I sat down and wrote, and my other pack of Skittles had six reds.
If that’s not the meaning of life, I don’t know what is.

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Birdhouses and Sweaters

The bad news is that I have no idea what I’m doing.The good news is that the aforementioned bad news has not yet sent me into an existential crisis. (Or maybe it has, but if this is an existential crisis, then I find it all rather disappointing. I would expect there to be more tears and fireworks, both literal and figurative.)

Mostly, I am fascinated by my own inconstancy. I love new projects with a hideous, wild abandon, which explains the hundreds of dollars worth of expensive merino yarn crowning the dresser like some sort of home-decor Pinterest project gone wrong. How many sweaters have I knit, you may ask? (Hint: less than one.) My hands cramped far too badly to ever become anything more than an amateur fiber artist, so I set my sights on becoming someone who paints birdhouses instead. (I’m not sure what that person might look like, but I’m fairly certain that I’d like to be them.) Unfortunately, I was unable to become the Monet of the birdhouse world because I had to buy the paint. And the brushes. And the sealant. And the book on how to paint. By the time I recovered from the Walmart trip, I didn’t even have the energy to peel the plastic shrink wrap off the paint bottle. There’s now a streaky white birdhouse sitting on my front porch — or at least, I think there is. I can’t say for certain because I refuse to acknowledge it. (We all know that staring abject failure in the face isn’t good for the skin.)

birdhouse

When I was nineteen, writing was easy. (Or maybe it was just life in general that was easy, but nineteen-year-old Kelsey certainly didn’t think so.) My days were spent in one of two ways: I was either committing indecent acts of love, longing, and self-reflection, or I was writing poetry about those same indecent acts of love, longing, and self-reflection. Simple. I lined my pockets with loose stanzas and slept on a bed of cliche metaphors each night. It was easy and rich and I loved every damn moment of it.

So then how do I explain what happened next? There’s no sense in any of it, and all I know is that it stopped being easy. I stopped loving it. One day, for reasons that are vague and tenuous, I stopped writing and focused my energies on painting birdhouses and knitting sweaters. Why? Who knows. Maybe because you don’t ache when you paint a birdhouse and sweaters don’t sap your emotional strength (at least, not the way I was knitting them).

Here is the thing: I’m deliciously and unbearably human, but I demand to be loved in spite of all my failings. There are those who say they don’t want pity, and then there’s me. Pity me. Love me. Tell my my hair is shiny. Tell me that the world has enough sweaters already. That’s what I want, but it’s not what I need.

Now I find myself staring down the computer screen and wondering what will come next in my perpetual quest to embrace the Next New Thing. I hope that I can harness this unbridled desire to return to my roots, but I’ve lived this story before. I already know the ending. Girl writes. Girl stops writing. Girl writes again. Girl starts a blog because that is what one does when they want to be a writer. Girl can’t think of anything to write, and so she buries her head in the sand for five years. Girl yearns to feel words stuck between her teeth and opens up a blank word document. Girl is torn between poetry and short stories and picture books and planning for National Novel Writing Month and grading Spanish quizzes. Mostly, girl is tired. Girl writes the word “girl” over one thousand times during the course of her blog entry and wonders if she should replace it with the word “woman.”

You’d think there would be some sort of message behind all of this rambling, but if there is, I haven’t found it yet. I just keep spitting out words and hoping they fall into the shape of something useful, which, if you think about it, sounds remarkably similar to the general process of creating stories. I may not know what I’m doing, but I’m definitely doing something.

Please, please let these words be more powerful than half-painted birdhouses.

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October First

NaNoWriMocHArt

Since tomorrow is October first, two important things will happen:

  1. In order to better traumatize the neighborhood children, Dylan will change out our boring, ordinary porch light bulbs for spooky purple ones.
  2. I’ll start outlining my seventh (!) NaNoWriMo novel.

(I think we are equally excited.)

My mother is the one who introduced me to National Novel Writing Month, so she’s the one to blame for the past six Novembers. Six years of frantic typing, meandering plots, poorly-designed covers, and antagonists who randomly disappear halfway through the novel have not yet (if you can possibly believe it) resulted in a polished, complex story that’s ripe for publication.

Here are some things that I have achieved over the course of six National Novel Writing Months:

  1. 302,954 words
  2. Two finished novels and four semi-coherent “things” that resemble stories
  3. Carpal tunnel
  4. Several classes of students who, while incredulous at first, end up finishing the competition and finding themselves remarkably proud of what they’ve accomplished
  5. Countless grey hairs (the kind that make me look like a witch rather than an elegant, dignified author)

But hey. Witches are kinda cool. And at least I’ll have the spooky purple light bulbs to match.

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