Friday, May 22, 2015

5 ways to bounce back from rejection

One of my students recently asked me how she was supposed to submit her work when there was the horrifying possibility that it would be rejected.

As a writer, I am well-accustomed to rejection. Most artists know a thing or two about rejection. Even when it is an ordinary occurrence, however, rejection is never easy. In fact, as it comes less often and the artist finds her stride, it may even have greater impact.

Rejection is rejection is rejection. It's not terribly fun and there's no way I can think of to spin it that way. So here are a few coping strategies I propose.    

1. You know that low attention span we're all accused of having in the digital age? Yeah, use it to you advantage! After being rejected, find distraction. Modern times may mean that we are multitasking experts, but it also means there's always media to distract. Time to finally watch Justified or Mad Men. Time to read the new Toni Morrison novel. Time to read After the Gazebo (shameless!). Time to workout. Whatever it is, look over there .... something new.

2. Keep moving forward! It's not always the right time or the right piece or the right topic for that particular publication. It often has nothing to do with your piece.

3. Listen to feedback. Sometimes rejection is an opportunity to grow.

4. Start a new project. Use your energy for good.

5. Print the rejection out, if it's in writing, and put it in a special place. Maybe buy a decorative box or do like Stephen King and pin them up on the wall. Keep rejections as mementos, so when you've achieved all you wanted and more, they'll be there to make you smile at how far you've come.

Prompt: Free-write for 20 minutes about one of your mementos, something you've kept longer than five years. If you're like me, a minimalist, you have very few to choose from and it will be easy. For those of you who are more sentimental, just go with what's nearest. Set a timer. Go! If the magic happens, go 10 more minutes. If it doesn't, consider it training. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Presto change-o

For a long time, I’ve been overwhelmed. I’ve worked as a research analyst while teaching fiction online, contributing to freelance projects, and trying to write creatively on top of all this. This ridiculous schedule has amounted to very little downtime, and over the last few months it has taken a toll. I haven’t been sleeping well for a long time, but I’ve been too scared to leave my day job due to worries over money. 

Well, a few months ago I decided not to let my fears surrounding money dictate my life any longer. I was making myself sick, and there’s really no greater cost. So, I said hell with it. I made a goal to change my lifestyle by June 1, and I’m so happy to say that the universe opened up. I am at the apex of change, and I couldn’t be happier. 

I have recently taken on a new position as the Writers in Communities Program Director at Gemini Ink, a literary empowerment organization that brings writing and reading to communities in San Antonio and beyond. Writing changed my life by allowing me to realize that I had a voice, and a voice that matters. This position will enable me to pay that forward in many ways. 

Being a WIC Program Director is drastically different than my current full-time job, and I’m in a whirlwind of emotion. This is me, making a move that is scary but necessary, and I am eager to get started. Because I am living my art now, in all regards, I also plan to dedicate more energy to my writing and building my writing career. After theGazebo will be the catalyst for this, I hope. I’m so proud of this book, and I hope you will read it if you read this blog.  I put my all in, and I did it for you.

Speaking of blog … since I will have more scheduling flexibility and a whole lot of new and interesting experiences, I will update here more regularly again soon. For real this time! I mean it!! I’m going to aim for every other week.

Image Copyright (c) Mark Knox, KnoxworX multimedia


Write a story about a character on the verge of making a major change in careers; for instance, a model who is taking on a new career as a real estate agent or research manager; a physician who retires and takes on a job at a cafĂ©; a retail worker who begins a career in mystery shopping… Have fun with it. Show the consistencies in character and how s/he changes with environment. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

One way to take a day off

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”  

I'm visiting this sorely neglected blog to share some exciting news. After the Gazebo is now available for pre-order at Amazon and Rain Mountain Press. I hope you'll check it out. I am incredibly proud of the book and eager to share it with you.

I have a touch of stomach flu (not the ideal way to get me time), so I am off to watch Wild and hang out with my dog. Before I go, though, here's a quick prompt: 

Read and reread your favorite poem. Take the premise and run with it as a short story. Or vice versa. I assure you, this prompt will take you places wholly unexpected.

xo Jen

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A long weekend

I took a long weekend to relax a bit, to write and recharge. I feel fortified. Sometimes it feels as though I need to schedule time to breathe, then when I do have time I forget how to relax. I know I'm not the only writer who feels like this. For those of us, here's a prompt I offer as a writing coach:

1. Set a timer for five minutes and free-write.
2. Set a time for ten minutes and breathe. (Breathe and walk, breathe and meditate, or just stare out the window and breathe.)
3. Set a timer for ten minutes and write as fast s you possibly can. When you're done, hit save and go about your day.

This no-prompt exercise is something of a writing meditation, and it's designed to clear the slate and take a writer completely out of the day-to-day.

In writing news: I have a brand new piece up at The Saturday Evening Post. News on After the Gazebo is forthcoming. Big news. Huge. :)

Where to breathe in a pickup measure

Enjoy your week, and remember to breathe!

xo Jen      

Sunday, March 15, 2015

New Rattle story

New Work! I have a new piece up at Per Contra. It's synergistic to be writing a Rattle story the day another one is published. I hope you enjoy it!  "Scratching the Silver" is a prequel to "West on N Road" (published in Superstition Review). It is about the time Rattle tried to reach out to his daughter, a time she may or may not remember later. It's here

Friday, March 13, 2015

Despite the unexpected

The San Antonio Lit Fest happened. What a whirlwind! I can honestly say that not one the lovely readers in the image below didn't impress and inspire me. We came, we read, we connected. It was beautiful. 

That said, it is not easy to put together a reading for 13 people. I had been so nervous about organizing everything that I didn't really prepare fully my own reading, and I didn't sleep. I double-checked everything, bought a Thank You card for the library manager who had reserved the space. For all the double-checking, however, and all the assurances that everything was in place, we showed up to find the library manager gone and those remaining unaware of our event. The lights were off in the area due to energy savings for Spring Break, and two of the readers were lost. Timing was tight, and we ran out of time for the last few readers.  

That real-life, blooper-like glimpse behind the scenes aside, the reading was a success. Steve Adams, who has a background in theater, saved our lighting situation and even upped it a notch, giving us artistic halos. The readings themselves were so incredibly diverse and poignant. The people behind the writers were a blast to hang out with after our reading. Just look at that crew... totally worth every last minute of preparation. I'm ready for the next iteration. I'm old hand now.

Photo (c) Octavio Quintanilla

Today's writing prompt:

Using my sneak peek as a model, write a story in which a character has big plans for something that doesn't go as expected. Throw a series of obstacles in the character's way. Stretch your mind to imagine every single thing that could go wrong in this scenario. And if you're feeling generous, maybe make it all work out in the end.

Enjoy your week!

xo Jen

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ask away

People have never seemed to have any reservation about asking me for favors. Usually, I'm more than happy to help out and make the time. Meanwhile, I hate asking for favors myself. I'm a horribly busy person, and those I have to ask favors from are busy too, but I have swallowed my desire to say I don't want to be a bother him/her (lame desire), and have asked anyway because, quite frankly, I currently need help getting things done right now. This is a temporary situation, and it has taught me a lot.

One way I've been putting myself out there is in regards to After the Gazebo. When a book is about to come out, a writer needs to stand tall and own her work, put it out there and collect feedback, work with her publisher (mine, Rain Mountain Press, makes this part easy), and tell the world about the art she is going to share.  

We almost have a cover for After the Gazebo. The unveiling is forthcoming. The winners from my website will be announced. I am collecting encouraging blurbs (one of many things I've been asking for lately). In fact, here are a few to whet the appetite a bit:

“Jen Knox writes the healthy fiction equivalent of the detox smoothie you’d get if you poured half a cup of Mary Gaitskill, two tablespoons of Mary Robison, a teaspoonful of Raymond Carver, and some chilly Laura van den Berg, into a Tom Waits blender and hit puree. Here are twenty-four darkly fun stories populated by everyman and everywoman genetically predisposed to ‘tough luck but hopeful genes,’ and primed for fight or flight. And yet she has the uncanny ability to make you root for even her most unredeemed characters in all of their stressed out glory. All of them inhabitants of our lonely damaged universe, searching for connection in the daily grind of everyday losses.
—Richard Peabody, editor Gargoyle Magazine

 The perfect pitch, the flawless diction, and the aura of calm are all grace notes with which Jen Knox cloaks the troubled waters of the human heart. A Knox tale begins in a recognizable place, but in every one of these brilliant stories, she confounds the reader’s expectations and ends them in eerily beautiful, untrod territory. The stories in After the Gazebo seduce yet refuse what is coarse; they disdain the slipknot of the obscene, and still they electrify. Exquisite and edgy, they quietly shock. The reader bestows a rock solid trust in this narrator’s voice and is willing to linger with the energy drinks and flat-screen TVs, the 12 Steps, the cubicles and performance reviews, the bus rides and DMV’s eye tests. This author does not hide behind the exotic but with great skill and generosity braves the commonplace. These stories go fathoms deep—all the way to the shivery core, where the familiar heightens into the sublime, and then into the dazzling. The perceptible world has been sorely neglected in fiction, perhaps waiting for a writer with the craft and courage to take it on. Jen Knox is that writer. After the Gazebo is that book.
Stephanie Dickinson, author of Love Highway

Amazing blurbs from amazing writers, right? And there are more. I'm floored. I recently wrote a piece on fostering literary citizenship, as inspired by my trip to Otterbein University, and it appears in Fiction SoutheastIn it I mention the feedback loop that develops when a writer reads and a reader writes. I mention giving but also knowing when to nurture your own work. The balancing act can be tricky, but it is so incredibly gratifying when such kind words are offered by writers whose works I have long admired (check out The Richard Peabody Reader and Love Highway). 

Since I haven't posted in a while, I wanted to close by sharing one of the prompts I give my one-on-one writing students because I find it great for those who have trouble finishing stories:

Write a dynamite opening sentence. Write a dynamite closing sentence. Let them sit a few days, maybe a week, then when you have 20-30 minutes to write (after these two lines have cooled off and been churned around in your thoughts), fill in the blanks. 

Have a wonderful weekend. Love what and who you have to love. Do the work. Be proud of it. Ask for help. Stand tall. (I love this woman's hair.)

xo Jen