Books giveaway, eyes, and mortuary science

The print edition of Harpur Palate 20.2 with my short story, From Scratch, is finally out in the world! Also! I have an extra copy of the journal that I would like to give away along with one other gently used book that I’ve enjoyed this past year (you can choose between: The Midnight Library, The Glass Hotel, or The Body Keeps the Score (non-fiction)). To enter, send me a message with your choice of a gently used book you’d like to receive with it and a good mailing address. While you are there, feel free to ask to be added to my infrequent newsletter. Your chances of winning are pretty good. My goal is to get more than 4 people to enter.

Harpur Palate issue 20.2, From Scratch was included.

I started writing what I think is a speculative non-fiction piece about my time at the ophthalmologist’s (had to look up the spelling for that one!) office. It’s making me reflect a lot on sight, something I’ve taken for granted all my life because I’ve had 20/20 vision up until recently. To be fair, my vision is still good and I don’t need glasses. Don’t roll your eyes just yet. It has come to light that I need further testing for glaucoma, it runs in my family and I have a couple of factors that are pointing to a potential deterioration in my optic nerve in the near future. Of course, I had to look up an anatomy of the eye chart which led to this diseases of the eye chart.

I’ve also been thinking a bit about funerals and sitting with grief. I’m thankful for places like The Dougy Center and people that can sink into the discomfort of another person’s pain. I’m working on this in myself and think about how meaningful it is for someone to be there for you when it’s hard for others to be there. Environments like hospitals, funeral homes, or simply being near someone in tears and having feelings of hopelessness are not places anyone clamors to. In terms of my life, I’m wondering how I can serve others in this way, to sit with them and their grief. Listening without judgment or solutions. Allowing the pain to wash out, to ebb and flow, but knowing that the shape of grief is never still. Never in one place. Anyway, I’m thinking a lot about this in terms of what my next career move might be. I’m a member of the Order of the Good Death founded by Caitlin Doughty already and a degree in Mortuary Science is not off the table. I need to go back and watch some Ask a Mortician YouTube series (also Caitlin Doughty). That may help me decide.

Visit my website any time and check out my other blog posts (I’m blogging more regularly again!).

Two firsts & some distractions

In my last post, I mentioned doing a #fridayfiction post on Twitter. It didn’t actually happen until Sunday so I’m going to call it #fictionSunday. You can see my tweet about the short story I read on the STORY Magazine website. It was actually an excerpt of a longer story that will be in the print edition.

More new things! I finally signed up and participated in One Page Wednesday, an event that Literary Arts hosts. Right now they host the event on Zoom, but before the pandemic people went down to the Literary Arts space and did an in-person reading. Basically, there are featured writers each month who read at the beginning of the event, and then others sign up to read their page. One of the Literary Arts staff members emcees the event (December’s was hosted by Jessica Meza-Torres) and it kicks off from there.

This is me ready to read out loud to people other than my toddler for the first time in a couple years!

I didn’t get super nervous, probably because I was sitting on my couch in my house, I didn’t have to go first, and everyone on the Zoom call was very supportive. I loved seeing new-to-me writers and hearing what they are working on. I hope to join the call again next month.

Other items I have found of interest, amusement, or otherwise distracting:

  1. This music video by Vremya & Steklo “Troll” was the #1 song in Ukraine in December. I found while browsing Twenty-two Twenty-eight literary journal’s website.
  2. Perfecting my vegetarian chicken soup (instant pot!).
  3. Read a few articles about Omicron. Here and here. I’m sure new stuff will continue to be reported on.
  4. I learned a little about the Transgenic jellyfish from the e-news digest I get from Nature. Researchers are learning more.

“Jellyfish neurons seem to be organized in hierarchical patterns that independently control different body parts, the scientists say. Transgenic jellyfish could serve as a model for studying how brains and nervous systems evolved, they suggest.”

– Nature

What are you doing to keep distracted? Have you tried anything new lately?

Okay, that’s all for now. Hope you are staying healthy and sane.

Aiming for 100 rejections

I have finally decided to aim for 100 rejections (at this point it’s more like submissions/applications) for the year. I’ve been hearing about this idea for a long time and I always kind of liked it, but was never committed to putting it into practice. Lately, I’ve gotten some of my energy back after the depression, stress and horribleness of the past two years. I’m ready to take my commitment to my writing to the next level! First, here’s what I’ve been up to when I’m not too busy toddler wrangling:

  1. I applied to a fellowship! I’ve NEVER done this. I’m not holding my breath, but I decided that it was time I believed in myself enough to try for something like this. Next year’s goal will be to apply to more than 1.
  2. Slowly I am aiming to get back to jogging 3 miles three days a week. So far, I’ve been able to jog twice a week for a little under 2 miles. Part of that is due to time, but a BIG part is due to my lower fitness level. Running is HARD when you haven’t done it for years …
  3. Oh, um, I have a new obsession, Orchids. I am not allowed to buy anymore, but let’s just say PROJECT ORCHID REJUVENATION was a success! I’ll do a post on that in the future probably.
  4. One of my stories was accepted for publication back in December 2020 and should be published in the next couple of months. With COVID a lot has slowed down and publication timelines are no exception. If you want to get notification on when that happens, sign up for my tiny e-newsletter. I generally only send an email out 1-2 times per year.
  5. I wrote a new short story that I am really proud of. After trying to write it as a creative nonfiction piece, I turned it into a short fiction piece in one day. I revised it a couple times and had a writer friend review it before sending it out. It was based on a call for short stories from a journal I’d been pubbed with in the past.
  6. A few months ago I started writing a new novel. This one feels a bit different than my other ones. It seems to have more focus in many ways, but I’m only about halfway through writing the first draft so we will see what happens. It involves TIME TRAVEL!
  7. I signed up for a community event through Literary Arts called One Page Wednesday in December. It’s where you can listen to others read a page of their work in progress and if you want to read, you can too. I love this idea and have always wanted to go to one of these events.
  8. I also signed up for an online fiction workshop through Catapult. I’m excited about this one because it centers around time and how to utilize it in your novel. I’m very curious about this topic since my new project deals with time travel.
  9. And then I decided to see how many submissions I’d sent out this year. This includes three short stories, a novel, and the fellowship. I counted roughly 70 submissions, 10-12 of those are still pending. This led me to decide to rack up some rejections and start counting in 2022. This is where I’ve decided to aim for 100.

Okay, that’s my update for now. I can’t promise that I will update this blog more than a couple times a year, but we’ll see. What about you? How are you doing and have you set any goals for yourself?

The Matchbook Room

My piece was published on the Eunoia Review website! Check it out.

Eunoia Review

First performed by an actor as part of the Liars’ League Portland (now defunct)

What I wanted to tell you about was Grin. How she collected matchbooks and how it’s a dying art form. Her full name was Grinalda. She’d inherited her father’s modest collection when she was 25. At first, she didn’t like me, thought I was a know-it-all. Most people would agree with her, but I learned to soften my delivery, how to stop being didactic after a couple of shots of Four Roses whiskey. I liked it on the rocks and without flourish, but you don’t care about that. At first, Grin kept me around because of some familiarity or softness in my dark eyes. Later, I helped her make more money and became indispensable.

Tall, lanky, awkward. Grin muddled through the streets as if she were lost in a corn maze. We met when I found…

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Author Q and A with Erica Steele (this week includes author toolbox blog hop)

Before we dive into our next Q and A, I wanted to mention that I signed up to be part of a Blog Hop with Raimey Gallant. She contacted me a few months ago and mentioned that she would be … Continue reading

It takes more than long locks & a killer one-liner

(previously written) I am closing in on week two at home with a newborn. Whoa. The whole experience is rather indescribable, the word that best describes it is ineffable. My husband and I were talking about how surreal, wonderful and awe-inspiring this whole pregnancy and birth thing is and when he was trying to describe it to a friend he said that word popped into his head.

in·ef·fa·ble

inˈefəb(ə)l/

adjective

1 too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words.”the ineffable natural beauty of the Everglades”

2 synonyms:

3 indescribable, inexpressible, beyond words, beyond description, begging description; More

4

◦ not to be uttered.”the ineffable Hebrew name that gentiles write as Jehovah”

The word aptly describes the birth of my son and the days following it. Still, words only describe the feeling but they can’t fully explain the physical or emotional aspect of this adventure.


Weirdly enough, this post somehow only was published for a short time. Maybe it was my embedded link of the Guns and Roses song Patience? This music is something that I listen to while breastfeeding and I also pondered why more songs don’t include whistling nowadays! I’ll try it again so you can have the pleasure of watching Axl, quite the showman in his day.


In any case, I mentioned that I am not planning to make this blog about motherhood or child rearing now that I have a son. I have a son! Soooo, a quick update on my writing . . .

Shortly after giving birth I received a rejection from a Literary Agent that had my full manuscript. I wallowed a bit and felt like I’d never publish a novel as long as I live (the drama usually dies down within a day or so). The next day, I received an upgrade request from an agent who had a partial (about 50 pages) of my manuscript and she asked for the full! More confident again, I sent out the full and am trying to forget about it, which is kind of easy when I am constantly taking care of my son. I still have another partial out and some queries so I have a few more chances to catch someone’s eye. If nothing happens this round, I’m planning to research small presses to see if any of those would be interested.

Another revision and another day

My current project, Lana Bong’s Shanghai Market, just underwent another revision. I cut something like 10,000 words from it and then added another 2,000. I’m more confident that the pacing is quicker and more urgent and that my character development has improved, but I still question myself. Most writers will tell you that they never really feel like they are finished with a project. I can’t dispute that. I still feel like I need to go back and double check that everything flows just right and that I didn’t take out any characterization important to the story.

This time around, I mostly took out flashbacks, long rambling scenes of one character’s genesis or defining childhood moments. I’m good at creating that backstory, but not all of it needs to be added into the project I’m working on. That’s why it’s so important to have beta readers and why I feel sorry for my early readers. There is so much more muck to wade through in my early drafts.

old-canal

Lots of muck to wade through . . .

I’ve already started sending query letters to agents, gotten a few requests for more pages, and sent those out. I felt confident in the pages I sent and hope to feel confident moving forward in the agents I’m sending queries to. Recently, that has become more challenging. I won’t name names, but there are a number of literary agents being called out for their predatory practices. It shakes my belief in humans and the publishing industry. I don’t get it, but it just goes to show that as a writer you have to go with your instinct. Really, with anything that’s all you have to go on. If something feels off, listen to that feeling.

In the next few months, I’ll be bleary-eyed and taking care of a newborn. I’m hoping to continue posting on the blog every so often and I already have a couple of posts scheduled for September. Look for the Q and A with the author, Rain Siversten.

Feel free to drop me a line anytime as well! I love hearing from people!

Q & A with Author, Erin Kettle

I met Erin at The Attic Institute in Portland. We took a novel writing class with Whitney Otto that connected us and kept us writing. I’m so glad we’ve kept in touch and now you get to learn a little more about her.

Erin Kettle is an author of women’s fiction. Her career is also in communications and EPatterson_Photopublic relations, most recently as a spokesperson for NIKE, Inc. As a result, Erin has written countless statements, manifestos, and press releases. Prior to her career in communications, she wrote for several publications as part of their editorial staff including The New Yorker, BRIDE’S Magazine and GQ.

Erin’s last two books were chosen to compete in a variety of unpublished fiction contests including Writer’s Voice on “Team Coffeehouse,” Query Kombat 2016, WriteClub 2016, PitchWars Setting Critique 2017, Query Kombat 2017 and Nightmare on Query Street 2017 and Nightmare on Query Street 2017.

When not writing or consulting, Erin enjoys spending time with family and friends and trying to catch her two young girls and two dogs, as they run circles around her.

What do you write?

Ever since I was little, whether watching a movie or reading a book, I was enthralled with how they would draw me into this fictional world. I wanted to find a way to write that could make people feel so deeply and would often find myself thinking of different types of story ideas. I remember writing my first short story in elementary school just for the heck of it in my spare time and wanted to create a whole book concept to go along with it. After college, I started writing editorials for magazines, moved into public relations and strategy work, but it wasn’t until I began writing novels that I realized how much if fed the soul.

Favorite book that you think is underrated?

I have to say that even though they are short stories, “The Body” (aka Stand By Me) and “Shawshank Redemption” are two of my favorites. Yes, they are both amazing movies as well, but if you read the book, the dialogue is literally verbatim. Stephen King is an amazing author, but the way he creates these characters that come off the page are outstanding in all of their faults and glory.

Favorite book from childhood?

There are so many from Shel Silverstein as the first shock and awe, to my first book love, “The Hunky-Dory Dairy” by Anne Lindbergh (1986) where a young girl stumbled upon a farm with people that somehow time traveled from the 1800s. I was fascinated.

Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?

Possibilities, dreams, survival

Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?

Inspiration is everywhere, and sometimes reality is crazier than fiction. Writing is a cross-pollination of ideas where you just keep pushing the narrative to see what could happen in a particular story. It’s exciting when it really starts coming together.

As a writer who/what is your muse (person, animal, vegetable or mineral)?

Sloth. Kidding! I just think they’re cute. I’d say I love snow leopards. I always loved their beauty as a child, and how stealth they were. That is until my mom told me they just wanted to eat me. At any rate, they’re unexpectedly interesting.

What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?

To be honest, in my first coming of age book, it was the sex scene. I kept imaging my family and nieces/nephews reading it one day. I just had to let go of that idea and try to be true to the characters.

What do you think helps you to become a better writer?

Relentless learning. I just finished up a five-week class last night at the Attic in Portland, Oregon. It’s not easy to go to class 8-10 PM every week, especially when life is so busy, but it’s so important to get out of your head and just try something different. I’m always reading, usually three books at a time as well: fiction, non-fiction and some type of writing book. I’ve realized the thought process I have when working through these books is really introspective as well.

How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?

Thinking about writing structure and character development, among other things, as a beta reader really helps to build up that writing lens to also dissect your own work.


Connect with Erin here:
Website
Twitter
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Instagram


Check out previous Author Q & As:

Beth Green, Crime Fiction Author
Karen Hugg, novelist