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?

Writing tips from other writers #authortoolbox post

For the next couple of #authortoolbox posts I decided to reach out to my writing friends both authors I know in real life and those I know virtually. Please learn more about their writing as well. They have a lot of insight into their own process and you never know what will work for you.

I love finding new nuggets of wisdom (I’m not talking about fool’s gold here!) or a twist on an old tip that helps me get inspired, write better, or grow as a writer.

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For every question you have about writing, read lots of blogs/articles/chapters on the topic, because there are so many opinions out there!

– Raimey Gallant: http://www.raimeygallant.com

This is particularly meta since anyone reading this post is reading a blog to gain some knowledge and help with their writing. I love that! Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly with this writing tip. Read as much as you can until something truly resonates with you. If you need help with plotting, read about it many places. I’ve tried a few different ways to plot out my novel, either ahead of time or while writing, and I often modify my approach based on a couple of different techniques. In the end, that felt right and I read enough to feel confident that I would, at the very least, move my story forward.

Find the joy in writing. Don’t be afraid to genre jump, write bad drafts or fail, it’s all part of the journey.
–Author/Freelance Writer Melissa Uhles  http://www.melissauhles.com/
This particular writing tip is one that I have dabbled with, but haven’t fully embraced. I tend to write literary and add twists of speculative elements. I’ve yet to write a full-on romance or horror story. I love the idea though. I’d love to hear from others who do this and how it informs the way you move forward in your writing.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet and let you all think about these tips. I’ll have a couple more next month from various writer friends! And if you are feeling like a longer post, check out my interview with poet, Carolyn Martin, her newest poetry collection launches March 13.
I feel like I should apologize for my bad humor, the whole “fool’s gold” thing. It’s just how my brain works.

Letting go

Recently, a friend (Rebecca) posted an old “note” I’d written on FaceBook. It was called 16 things about me. The #11 thing was:

I think letting go is one of the most important things a person can do… and one of the most difficult things a person must do.

 

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Image from pixabay

 

There were other really insightful nuggets on the list (like the horrid snake tattoo that had the word Truth coming out of its mouth I wanted to get in high school), but that one stood out to me. I still believe this and it got me thinking about how certain lessons or trials come up over and over again and you must continue to choose how to react to situations. When I think about letting go of something today, most of the scenarios involve giving up control. It’s something that I don’t have anyway, but think I have. The other side of it is that I only have control of myself and my reactions to whatever it is I need to let go.

I like talking in the hypothetical about this idea. It’s easier to grasp and feels less intimate, though it probably leaves the reader a bit baffled. So, I’ll give a couple of examples…

Have you ever encountered a person who decides they are more important than you, and everyone around them? You know they don’t act in this specific way just around you, but it still gets under your skin. They are arrogant, unyielding, and rude. You have a choice. Let it get to you when they treat you this way and allow it to taint your day, or move on and let go. You’ll have to keep letting go any number of times with this same person until they no longer exist in your sphere or you have to face the conflict in a respectful manner (who wants to do that?). It won’t go away, but your reaction to it can help you cope.

Another example is when you have no choice but to let go. When it’s the hardest thing to do, but the only thing that will allow you to get through the day. It could be when someone dies or when a friend moves away. It’s something you can’t change so you have to find ways to figure out how to cope. You are in control of the way you move forward, but not in the act of moving forward. Does that make any sense?

Right now I’m struggling with a few things in relation to letting go. I feel conflicted most of the time and it’s not a mind space I like being in. I know I’ll figure it out.

I still my brain, breathe.

It will come when it’s time.

The only control I have is coping and striving little by little.

The only control I have is the way in which I allow for space for that which I struggle with.

 

New parent, must write: Author toolbox post

This parenting thing is relentless and I am only 20 weeks in. Duh, right? Well, somehow I am finding time to write. It’s different now. My resolve is bound to the conviction that if I quit doing something I love … Continue reading

Publishing Q and A with Sheala Henke

Today our Q and A takes a slightly different angle. Sheala Henke, fantasy author, talks about her path to a traditionally published fantasy novel.

Born and raised in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and local CSU alumni, Sheala Dawn Henke is a veteran educator, with nearly twenty years in the trenches. She’s the author of an honored title for the ‘What’s New in Young Adult Literature, 2018 Edition’ with her YA Climate Fiction series, IDEA33 and the new release with Pen Name Publishing of her Literary Fantasy novel, Story Bends. Sheala and her husband and two children thrive in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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Name a few of your favorite books/how they inspire you.

I find that the books that resonate most with me are the ones that pull on my heartstrings. They sit in very distinct emotional chambers in my mind that stays with me for weeks, months, sometimes years. I actually go through a process of grieving over books I’ve finished that have this quality. Only when I realize I can read them again, do I feel at peace. One of my favorite books that I read aloud each year with my students is A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. This book is truly one of the most deliciously, tantalizingly magical books I’ve ever read for young and old. I particularly love to read this book out loud as I prefer the audio version of books with such a musical quality like this one. If “words were the sweets in the mouth of sound” this would be on my Top 10 list. Natalie is also very engaged with her audience, and she has been a source of delight for my students as they continue to fall in love with her prose. She shares her writing journey and is very responsive to independent inquiries. She even went as far as to respond personally to a letter from one of my students last year who wrote to her about how much she adored her book. She followed up by sending us some wonderful Snicker Swag.

Another author I adore for his unique and lyrical style is Neil Gaiman. His writing is leaps and bounds above anything else I’ve ever read and I’ve decided that if winning the lottery was in the cards for me, I’d happily trade it for a little whisper of his magical page dust to transfer to my own work. I also truly admire his dedication to improving his craft. I feel like he’s along the same lines as Steven King with his abilities and his commitment as a career writer.

I’ve also fallen in love with and stay true to a few classics that will always resonate with me. I’m a Jane Austin fan, through and through and I enjoy the disturbingly ethereal works of Nathanial Hawthorne, whose short story, The Haunted Mind was the initial inspiration for my Literary Fantasy, Story Bends.

I’m a fangirl for a good epic tale like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and Kent Follet’s Pillars of the Earth. I enjoy the way they both write with such sensory detail enhancing the reader’s experience to ‘live the days’ with the characters. It’s a writing style I aim to emulate in my work as well.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How did you decide to self-publish and what were some roadblocks and positive experiences you encountered?

My publishing journey began in a room with over 300 people at a conference for the National Gifted and Talented community. Like a burst of bumbling brilliance, it came while listening to the Keynote author, Stephanie Tolan speak about creativity. At that moment the seed of an idea came to me while I was taking notes. I sketched out the most god-awful Frankenstein rendition of a thinking map outline for what later became my first novel, IDEA 33-A Regeneration. What sparked the ignition to move it from idea to page occurred the following day when I went back into my classroom and shared the experience with my students. They were full of questions. They wanted to know about the story, the characters. There was a wanderlust in their eyes I couldn’t put down. They wanted to READ this story. This story that didn’t exist…yet. They wanted more, and it was up to me to deliver it.

So, what did I do? What anyone else out of their ‘write’ mind would do, I went home that night to hatch a story and stayed up until the crack of dawn to get enough of it down so I could share it with them the following day. Even then, I didn’t come to understand what I was doing. I was writing a novel. My first novel. I was not well-versed with the writing coat of arms or a lifetime of craft study. My writing journey was as organic an experience as any other happenstance, and as the days wore on and the yellow bricks on my road to publication evolved, I evolved with it, laying each ever-loving bricks with the support and encouragement of my family, friends and most of all, my students. I wrote the entire book that year with built-in Beta readers and they stayed with me years after the maiden voyage. In fact, we hosted a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a full manuscript revision with a professional content and copy editor team.

In that time, we began an after-school writing group called the Write Muses, operating on one mission statement, grounded on the ‘If you build it, they will come’ theory and working on our craft together. And, THEY KEEP COMING! The group has grown and changed over time, with a membership of over thirty young aspiring writers and purveyors of their own inner guide to feed their passion. We meet twice a month and the membership is free and voluntary. They mentor one another, they learn the art of critique and find a space where they can cultivate their interests. Many of the original group members have gone on to accomplish amazing things outside of our space. They are artists, speakers, engineers, and musicians and they know what it means to feed a curiosity with every breadcrumb of success.

How did you find your way to getting traditional pubbed and why did you decide to go down this path at this time?

I have always been somewhat of a closet writer, journaling the days away and writing poetry, and although some may see my experience with how I came into publishing as a Cinderella tale, I happen to believe in the magic of perseverance and grit. Where I’ve landed today didn’t happen on accident or with the swipe of the magic wand or as a result of my Fairy God Agent. I’ve had nothing but my core conscience and a drive to keep improving my craft. I believe I will be agented one day in the near future, and I look forward to that day, but I look more forward to a future of ‘manucripting up’ to write more quality books that alter perspectives for readers of all ages. It was with pure spirit and grit that I’ve moved from point A to point P in publishing. I also believe it was due to the fact that the kids have always served as my direct muse. Without their persistence and cajoling, I might not have been enticed to take the first, second and twelfth step on a journey toward the first traditionally published Literary Fiction novel, Story Bends with Pen Name Publishing. It was a promise I made to myself and to them and our story continues…

What advice do you have for other writers about deciding what pathway to publish to take?

Choosing the path to publishing is a very intimate, personal decision. In today’s market, it can take on an overwhelming number of forms, and it really depends on each individual’s goal. I would offer the advice to consider joining a writing group or take a platform building class on branding to really dive into the ‘Why’ behind your writing. That is what success-minded people do in every industry. If writing is just a hobby, and it fills you up, then that’s all it should be. If you want to pursue it further, join a local writing group or organization to start learning more about the industry and the market and take on the beast of the craft by writing each and every day. I’d recommend you sign up for one of the myriad of social media groups who share and create together. These communities are priceless, and you can stay as anonymous as you’d like as you choose what level of engagement you wish to pursue. I also highly recommend some low-cost conference opportunities like WriteOnCon which hosts an amazing three-day intensive online conference with an even more amazing lineup of writers, editors, agents, and industry professionals in a safe (put yourself out there at your own pace) space. For more information visit their website and full conference admission is only $10! It’s probably the best deal in the industry for anyone who needs a little help navigating where they stand and it is a great place for writers of all levels.

https://writeoncon.org

What three words describe your writing.

Versified, Lyrical, Expressive

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to those in the industry who embrace and support debut writers and who take a chance to build relationships with people like myself who are new to the industry. I am humbled by the kind and generous individuals, editors, agents, publishers, authors/agents who offer support and a safe commune for those of us who are new to the experience.

 

Find her here:

http://sdhenke.com/

Twitter: @HenkeSheala

Insta: @shealadawnhenke

FB: @authorshealahenke