Does Your Story "Choose" YOU?

What I mean by that is: have you ever had the experience where you wrote a story that was “handed to you” opposed to something you had in mind? When I say this, I don’t nessecarly mean you get the fully formed story and you can draft it in months or a week, as opposed to many years, even decades.

I’m talking about stories that may hit too close to home for the writer, but they just had to write it, no matter what, and whether or not they publish it, it seemed to help them in some way.

I often hear writers talk about this serendipitous, impossible to explain experience of a story they need to write, but normally wouldn’t, or even didn’t want to write/enjoy writing, but later saw it was worth it.

While I feel less down on myself to hear writers, especially those farther in their careers than myself at present, admit to this, I personally have not found this experience either helpful or enlightening, and maybe that comes from my impatient and stubborn nature.

I feel like a hypocrite for saying this, but I feel conflicted with this issue, and as someone who strives to be less restrictive with what I write, I struggle with being free in my writing, because most of the time, it’s led to my biggest flops, and no amount of editing will fix it.

I know about living with a mental illness.

I know about living with a parent with a mental illness.

I’m not in denial about either of these things. But I don’t want to write about it.

Not as fiction.
Not as nonfiction.
I just don’t want to go there.

Even if I did, the distance needed to not just be a tedious rant is nonexistent.

I’ve often heard writers say that sometimes what you don’t want to write is what you need to write, and I’m not talking query letters (They go without saying!) but writing stories about topics or subjects you either are too afraid to write, or simply don’t want to write because they can hit too close to home, or your angst/depression/rage towards the issue(s) involved with personal experiences in certain topics cloud your ability to write (and rewrite, yuck!) the best story you can, instead of a one-sided rant, and we get enough of that from “reality” television as it is, and if you don’t want to be part of that world, and I sure don’t, why add to it?

I’d LOVE to hear other sides to this topic. Please share your experiences of instinct and happenstance in the comments below.

I’d like to think I’m not alone, but sometimes I wonder, I think my old critique group friends are braver than I am in this regard, or they just hide their mixed feelings so well I’d never know.

Until next time,

This Literary Rat’s hitting, or rather, I mean "Reading" The Books, This Time,With Joy!!

As many of my writer friends know, I’ve had a hard time reading books without either jealousy or feelings of inferiority cloud my judgement. Many warned me to start putting my self-pity in check, and they were right, but it just took a long time to get there, but I have and I’m ready to fight back!

I’ve got a lot of reading to catch up on, and I don’t mean books on craft (Though I need all the help I can get with query letters!) but actual books. The novels, Poetry, and nonfiction books I was not able to enjoy because trying to improve my craft like I did, came at the price of not reading like I should, and used to before query letters broke my resolve more than once the last two years.

I know many writers do well thinking about books in this manner, many of my favorite writers go by their own version of the self-study method, but for me, it just makes the frustrations I already felt even worse. For me, books I read for me, and not for school, need to be fun and engage my interests.

I have to first read to enjoy it, and maybe after I can find some technique I can use to help my writing.

But first and foremost, I have to enjoy the book I’m reading, the books that made me decide to be a writer in the first place. I lost touch with that part of myself for too long, when I struggled so hard to fix my weaknesses, but I’ve got it back and I’ll make D*** sure I’ll never lose it again.

I’ll explain more on what I’m doing differently for the better later on today.

Until Then,
May the Fantastic Fauna Be With You


Take the "P" out of pain and add "G" for Gain

No Pain, No Gain.

At some point we’ve all heard or been told this phrase countless times in our lives. Especially in recent years, when our economy, government, and even Mother Nature dealt us pain we often fear they’ll be no gain at all.

But this is neither a financial or political blog, this blog is for aspiring and emerging children’s book writers, but trust me, I’m going somewhere with this.

Just like the troubling times going on worldwide, and in our respective homelands, every man, woman and child faces their own trials and triumphs. But just as our predecessors survived and thrived despite The Great Depression, and two World Wars almost back to back, we’ll survive these tough times too, even though sadly many of us will recover far slower than others.

But while the modern phrasing of this now clichéd saying is most well known, it comes from an old proverb coined by one of America’s most influential voices, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, who said in his Poor Richard’s Almanac: There are no gains without pains.

While this witty pearl of wisdom is mostly used in modern times as a self-motivator to physical fitness, it definitely applies to writers to further understand our craft, and sharpen it, like a hand crafted Chinese meat cleaver.

You’d be surprised at some of the common turns of phrase we still parrot today were first penned or made it wittingly candid by him.

“A penny saved is a penny earned” is another of his most well known quotes.One I’ve yet to master, but at least I’m not drowning in debt, and that was a ditch I nearly dug myself in, but now I’m in the black and intend to stay that way.

But Time is Money, A place for everything, and everything in it’s place, and even, Honesty is the best policy. They all came from the witty Doc Franklin himself, whose words no less true now as they were in colonial America, but despite all the ignorant prejudice and inequivalent among the American colonists faced with England, and even amongst themselves, imagine how scathing it could’ve been if we had colonial equivalent of television, Facebook, or Twitter? Can you say, “Social Death By Journalism?” 

I’ll take Death by Chocolate instead, cake that is.

One of my favorite Franklin phrases is one I first heard in 2002-

“A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.”

Peanuts Charlie Brown I imagine would find much solace in that quote. I sure do.

What I gather this means is that it’s never too late to better one’s education, or build character, and integrity where previously there was none. Something I think all writers, but especially newcomers to the field like me, need to remind ourselves every day, minute, and hour we live and on the endless journey to improve our writing, for ourselves, and the readers we one day want to have. 

Many wise and more patient writers than I always told me, the journey is more important than the destination. But I believe it’s too stark a message. Though I’ve come to see the truth to it. The destination is still important. 

If it wasn’t, many of the truly joyous moments in our lives, both as a country, as well as individuals, would’ve never occurred. I hope Ben’s Words, and mine, bring you the comfort and joy I’m starting to find again.

I’ll leave you with my all time favorite quote from Dr. Franklin I sincerely wish all my readers and fellow writers can achieve in some form, for their sake, and for the sake of the future generations of wordsmiths-

“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Until tomorrow,
May the fantastic fauna be with you.

P.S: While I applaud Ben for his searing sentences that speak truths we often recoil against, but need to hear anyway, I feel sorry for dogs everywhere when he uses these loyal, brave, and playful companions as metaphors on the sins and frailties of human nature. But I did find one dog quote by Dr. Franklin that shows that loyalty. As an animal lover,  whether the creatures of fact, or fiction, it was a quote I was glad to find.

Many Thanks, Ben. Many Thanks.

Is All Published Work Really Created Equal? Or When Taking "Baby Steps" Aren’t Enough Anymore

Sorry for going dark again, but I had to think hard about what I wanted to do next, and I needed the write words to come to me, and they have.

At the outset of this blog, I said I was unpublished, and it’s true, but only in terms of being paid.

Last summer, my old critique heard about these anthologies that were looking for submissions, and they all suggested I submit to them as they did,

At first, I resisted. Why? Because I wasn’t getting paid to contribute, and it won’t count as a clip I can use, since I wasn’t paid and the anthologies weren’t from a well-known press.

So, why’d I submit anyway? One reason only-
I was tired of hearing “No” from agents I queried my books to.

They accepted nearly everything sent in, no fierce competition was nice, but it felt hollow to get published this way. The few short stories I’ve written are longer than most magazines are willing to consider, 500 word gems do not come easy to me, no matter how much I work them.

Another perk was these anthologies didn’t want “All rights” as most magazines do now, and I’ve yet to learn how to write things I know I won’t want to reuse the same world and characters but still have the level of quality and care put into it.

I thought if I’d be able to let go of my frustrations if I sent those anthologies my stories because I knew they wouldn’t say “No” unless I submitted too late and all spots were spoken for, but that didn’t happen.

Even now, nearly six months later, and despite all my efforts to do so, I don’t feel any different about this.

Everyone in my group and other writers I know preached to me it doesn’t matter and that I should be grateful I was published somewhere at all whether I was paid or not, but they don’t understand how I feel, because they have other things they’re good at, things people value and are paid for their hard work. Even if they never get published (Which would be a shame because I know how good they are) they do so many other things that make them feel needed and feel some sense of accomplishment, even if they hate the job.

I know there many writers who believe any non-scam published work means something, and yet many writers believe writers disserve to be paid for their hard work. I think both points are valid, but even though many writers don’t make a living solely through their words, it doesn’t mean we always want to give or work away for free. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being charitable and sharing what help I can offer to my fellow writers, we all need some kind of support, but I still want to be paid for some of my hard work, and I don’t think that’s shallow to feel that way.

I know these are frustrations I’ll always have to deal with, just like the writers before me, but I hope solace comes for me sooner rather than later.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you handle setbacks in your writing career? What helps you make peace with the waiting game we in the business always play?

Did writing stop being fun for you? Were there times you felt like you weren’t getting any better in spite of the months and years spent revising?

If you are interested in the anthologies where my work appears, click here, and search for the following titles.

Trunk Stories

Something in the Attic

Yarns for our Youth 2 (Not yet Available. Coming Soon!)

I might not update this weekend, as I’ve got a lot of reading and soul searching to do, but check back Tuesday, March 1st for an important update about ttheT.A.A. Prose and Poetry Slam.

Until Next Time, May the fantastical fauna be with you,