Friday, October 2, 2015

A week of reminders P2

It was another long but rewarding week, and here are a few things I learned (digression: making lists is my new thing - I've been making all kinds of lists lately, and they've been bringing me great joy. Lists are highly recommended. If we get a Yelp for random things the way we're getting a Yelp for people, I would give Lists 5 stars). That said, my week of lessons in a list:
  • Starbucks is fast food (and expensive fast food at that, but the new drive-thrus are freaky cool)
  • I can't do it all; it's okay to turn down work
  • Emu oil can cure almost anything
  • Strange is okay
  • Freelancing work may not pick up for years, but when it picks up, it picks up fast
  • Travel is necessary for artists
  • It's good to practice what I prescribe
  • Not everyone has to "get" everyone else... let it be
  • Sleep is necessary for sanity
  • Complaining doesn't help anything
  • There's a National Coffee Day and I am its newest self-appointed ambassador 
  • Opportunities come in groups
  • Sometime you need to tell people to shut up, even if you don't know them (but only if they're being horribly inappropriate)
  • Investing a little time in organizational efforts reduces a lot of paper shuffling time later
  • I am a sugar addict (it's bad - I need help)
  • Having more than one full-length manuscript complete when submitting work is a very comforting feeling (good vibes are welcome)
  • Making lists keeps me on track
Writing prompt: Try writing a list poem. It can turn the way of flash, or not. I like the idea of writing a list of things in a junk drawer, as outlined on Poetry Soup. But this can be a mere catalyst. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A week of reminders

  • If you're allergic to avocados, you're allergic to guacamole
  • You don't have to do ALL the Zumba/yoga/HIT moves
  • You keep saying you're going to be more consistent with this blog, just a reminder
  • Dog park people are almost always nice
  • Good teachers are rare and valuable, and the world needs to start respecting them 
  • The internet just might be an actual black hole
  • If you don't plan to stay long at the party, bring cookies instead of wine
  • Be patient when trying to catch fast spiders
  • When you work six jobs, you'll occasionally forget which one you're supposed to be doing
  • The second person perspective is perfectly okay when referring to self in lists
  • When you have talented friends, they will forever release new and exciting work. Here are two friends' works that you can't wait to read:
  •  These writers' words are why you do what you do:
Gemini Ink Writing Workshop at the Guadalupe Home. Photo taken by Chris Shanahan, 2015

Writing prompt: Write your own week in a list. Pick one item and write a story about it. Maybe pick a few.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

If you want something done, ask a busy person

Two of my students pulled me aside this week to ask about how often I write, and my habit is so incredibly simple I thought I'd post about it: I write a little bit when I can and as often as I can.

Since becoming a freelancer, I love everything that I do. Well, not everything, but let's say I love about 97% of what I do. I feel as though I'm contributing to community, feeding my art, and feeding others' desires to create art. But my schedule is rather insane. I work 20 hours a week managing a Writers-in-Communities program for Gemini Ink, which I'm finally starting to get the  hang of. I teach an online class and will be teaching two classes online come October, I teach adult ed short story workshops one day a week in the evenings, I take on a maximum of two writing students each month who get personalized attention and support (I am a freelance writing coach and plan to take on more students in the future in exchange for giving up my work as an adjunct (love teaching online, but tired of being part of the machine), and I occasionally do some business writing), and still, still I am a WRITER first. Here's a very abridged version of my schedule:
  • Sunday: Wake up at 5:30 (repeats daily): Introduce myself to online class, prep for Intro to the Short Story (an in-class Adult Ed course), dog park, errands, shopping, WRITE, have dinner with husband
  • Monday: Go to Gemini Ink, the literary nonprofit I work at, read forty emails (I don't check work email over the weekend), check in with projects and work away till 4PM; get home, review writing coach student's work, cook dinner, WRITE, check online class, maybe watch some TV or read
  • Tuesday: Meet with writing coach student, WRITE, Zumba, go home and take a nap, prep and then teach a 3 hour workshop, check online class
  • Wednesday: Go to Gemini Ink, work a full shift, cut paychecks for writers, go home and make dinner
  • Thursday: WRITE, Read another writing coach student's work, return student one's work, check online class, go to Zumba, go to my husband's office party
  • Friday: Meeting at a WIC site 8AM, meeting at a WIC site at 9AM, Gemini Ink, Zumba, WRITE, poetry reading by the students - strong, homeless women with children who wrote dynamic poems as a part of our WIC program, probably cry, go out to drinks with husband
  • Saturday: WRITE, Zumba, Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
The writing comes in 10-20 minutes most days. Why? Because I'd be insane without it. I know some people who have far more time on their hands but worry about carving out a schedule. Time is about perception. When I had a more regular schedule--when I was rich in time but low on inspiration--I was, in fact, less productive. Although it took some adjusting when I made changes, since adapting I have revised my 75K word novel, written a novella that may become something bigger, and realized I am a fourth of the way through Rattle: A Novel-in-Stories.

The ideal routine or residency or writing life may vary for people, so it might be wise to stop looking for it? Maybe just live. Let it emerge.

Prompt: Write for 20 minutes every day this week. Without fail. Time of day doesn't matter, location doesn't matter, just write. Even if you don't feel like it, even if you feel uninspired. Just write.

woman business people

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Strong Silent Type

Envision the strong silent type. Seriously, close your eyes and see what you come up with.

To me, an automatic association of the strong silent type is Don Draper, a man in a suit at a bar with a cigarette, or maybe a man in a cowboy hat who kills bad guys and abides by a twisted ethical code (Yes, I watch Justified. Rather miss it, actually), or possibly a man with a sweet smile and dangerous stare. At a stretch, I envision a shy drummer who is quiet but a known bad boy. 

Notice the similarity? If you don't, another way to examine social associations with "the strong silent type" is to run the phrase through a search engine. Now do you see the pattern?  

Growing up, I learned that the words strong and silent were only ever paired together when describing men. Women, on the other hand, the women I grew up admiring, seemed to naturally bear the burden of conversation. They were supposed to be quick to verbalize whatever was right in front of them, or they were weak. They needed to speak, even if said verbalizing seemed quite unnecessary.

In Kindergarten, I didn’t talk a whole lot. I made friends with a girl named Octavia, who was also rather quiet. We would have deep discussions about lizards, and when people would pick on us Octavia would put them in their place. She was quiet but no pushover. I’ve lost touch with Octavia, but if she’s still around, I’d love to buy her a good meal because she was a good friend and also because she was totally confident in who she was long before I was. I felt as though something wasn’t quite right about me.

I began to engage a little more in grade school and found quite a few good friends, but I was still relatively quiet. I wasn’t so much shy as contemplative, observant. “Why are those girls giggling when the teacher is telling us about butterflies?” I’d wonder. “This is interesting as shit!” Okay, I probably didn’t actually think “interesting as shit,” but you get the idea. I would become annoyed when I couldn’t hear the teacher or when my thoughts were overpowered by trivial chitter chatter. I was called stuck up a few times by other kids and thought maybe it was true.

My parents often tried to get me “out of my shell” by encouraging me to go out and play with the neighbors like my sister did. I wanted to read and watch TV and experiment with my science kit or my magic kit (I was fond of kits). When I finally did go out and “play,” urged on by their insistence, I felt awkward and, to add to the weight of my involuntary presence, I also began to feel slightly ashamed of having not wanted to go out in the first place. What was wrong with me? Did I not know how to really have fun? I thought a good book was fun. What was defective about me to make me this way?

Since then there have been a lot of books written about introversion that distinguish it from passivity. Here are a few:

Is it just me, or are these some mighty wordy titles? Is there a strong positive correlation between introverts and the use of colons in titles?

Wordy titles or no, many of these books are interesting. Some distinguish shyness from introversion, and some claim a sort of spectrum on which introverts can sometimes display extrovert behaviors or fall somewhere in the middle, being classified more accurately as omniverts  or ambiverts. I bet the majority of people in the world would fall into some version of this in-between, but the point is, all types are perfectly fine so long as they're content with who they are.

Introvert, extrovert, omnivert or ambivert, I am proud to be a woman who considers herself the strong, silent type. I am a woman who loves solitude and could (often) take or leave small talk. But I am also a woman who can deliver a good speech, who feels comfortable networking, who can manage an event but can also find comfort in the click of my keyboard and the sound of birdsong. 

A woman can speak out when necessarily but she can also appreciate quiet moments and remain strong. Unique personalities exist for a reason. Meanwhile, I don’t find near enough strong, silent women in stories, so I’d like to incorporate this subject into today’s prompt.

Prompt: Write a story about a woman protagonist who is the strong silent type. A protagonist who is an observer doesn’t necessarily have to be passive—keep that in mind. In fact, because she’s your protagonist, make her assertive as hell. Make her a hero. A strong woman, of few words.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Desiccant


As promised... Here's a link to my strange new work (flash fiction) at Octavius Magazine. Read up! 
 Thanks to Editor, Samuel Best


Friday, August 28, 2015


Today I ate lunch alone at a vegetarian restaurant and took my dog to the dog park to run her little heart out. It was seventy degrees this morning, a welcome break after a month of staggering temperatures in nineties and hundreds that felt all the more unbearable due to the humidity. Today was a day off after months in which I had at least one freelance project to deliver on each day (there are no weekends in freelance).

Today was glorious and slow-paced, a thing I crave from time to time. I even took a nap in my husband’s nap chair (he uses the chair to read news, too, but the thing seems magical in its ability to invite sleep). Today, I got a rejection (one I thought would be an easy get) and an acceptance (a longer shot – a dynamite publication for one of my strangest pieces ever. I look forward to posting this new piece of work because I haven’t been writing as much short fiction and got so used to that sense of completion.

With focus on my novel and my work, I haven’t been allowing myself the luxury to write much short work. I know I miss it because I seem to have mentioned my dismay on the phone in an interview with SA Express News about After the Gazebo. So I wrote a very short piece, semi-autobiographical (what isn’t – even at the fantasy level?), and now I feel refreshed. I believe that short fiction writers who dare the novel path should never completely abandon their shorties.

It’s funny, I was planning to speak highly of my novel during that phone interview, but I think there are times when I can’t even pretend to like the thing. I love and believe in the story, am proud of it, but it’s such a monstrous thing—has taking up years of my time and caused me more than a few uneasy days—that I believe there’s some resentment that has built. My hope is that ours is a tumultuous, passionate relationship that will end well. We will part, when it’s time, on amiable terms. 

We’re soon to part; I can feel it.

In the meantime, here’s to short fiction breaks and seventy degree days in South Texas! We need all the breaks we can get.

Today’s prompt: Write a story about a retired couple who drive some distance to a landmark site they’ve been looking forward to visiting for some time. When they get there, they are extremely disappointed by what they find and begin to argue. As they argue, a buried secret emerges. *I’m doing this one myself, as soon as I hit publish on this blog post. Have fun! 

xo Jen