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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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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Tales from First Grade

As far as I can tell, there are two different ways to determine whether you’re truly an adult. The first is that you can only swing for thirty-five seconds before throwing up, and the second is that when your parents come to visit, they begin to leave things behind.

Now, I use the the term “things” pretty loosely, here. I’m not talking about when you were in college and your parents would drive out on a Sunday, carefully pretend not to notice that you’d shoved all of your illegally acquired items into the closet right before they arrived, and then take you to Target for some celebratory ramen and mascara. I’m referring to those things that you can’t consume. Mementos. Your childhood  in the form of old rag dolls and ancient French textbooks. For example, every time my parents come to visit, they leave behind at least three big boxes full of books. If you’ve ever had to move books, you know that they are heavy, so once the boxes are parked on the living room floor, they’re destined to stay there for a minimum of three weeks. (Or possibly until I die.)

I equate these books with rodents. Leave them unattended for too long and they begin to multiply.

Dylan, who would at some point like to have his living room back, was going through the boxes the other day and discovered an ancient Kelsey artifact. Buried amidst my ninth grade report cards and a bookmark emblazoned with the word ~*imagine*~ was my journal from first grade.

Throughout my life, I’ve wanted to be many things. A singer. A teacher. A National Geographic photographer. (Most notably, I wanted to be named Katie.) The one constant, though, is that I’ve wanted to write. Even at six years old, I had stories to tell.

Please enjoy.

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“I dug in my garden to China. It was hard work but it was fun. I knew how to talk Chinese. It took me five years to learn  how to talk Chinese.”

As you can see,  entry illustrates both my love of foreign languages and my sweet green and yellow sweater.

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“I have an invisible horse. He likes me. I am good with him. I found him in the Western.”

But where did I find that awesome hat?

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“I have a hamster at my house. He is cute. He is fun to play with. He died. I am sad.”

Something about this journal entry reads as very Postmodern to me. Regardless of its categorization, I think we can all agree that it is pure literary genius.

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“There was this lady in my mailbox. She scared me. She was skinny.”

Um. What exactly was I trying to illustrate, here?

(Maybe I’m not an adult after all.)

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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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