Much December Goodness (ie, Updates, Character Development, and Publishing News)

‘Tis time for an update, so some say. 🙂 As you might have guessed, the past few months have raced by, filled with writing afternoons, crazy teaching moments, and breathtaking travel. Instead of legitimately participating in November’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for the unindoctrinated), I decided to set a longer-term writing schedule to weave a new story onto the page. With any luck (and, err, gumption), in the next three months I will have a solid first draft ready for first readers and feedback.

These initial stages of writing are the most difficult for me. At the beginning of a story, I don’t have an immediate connection to my characters. I may know their names, have a general idea of their appearances, or understand one unquenchable fact about their pasts, but they aren’t yet people. I don’t enjoy or despise the protagonist. I’m not in love with the hero. I  rarely, if ever, instantly care about their futures. My characters start as acquaintances; they have the potential to develop into full-blown help-you-bury-the-body friendships, but at the onset, we can only smile and reintroduce ourselves awkwardly at every engagement. I’ve tried character mapping and profiles, but they feel insincere and inorganic to my creative muse. Thus, I am left to struggle and force banter at the equivalent of a friend-of-a-friend’s fancy cocktail party, where the host is dating my ex and I’m wearing knee-torn, mud-splattered jeans.

It does get easier. After spending a lot of time with my characters, I start to hear their voices in my head (usually at inopportune moments– for example, at the doctor’s office). I begin to understand better their motivations and fears, as well as their intrinsic reactions to other characters. The story smooths out. Plot points are reached. Words fly on the screen, and whole scenes pop into existence in mere minutes.

Until then? My characters and I circle each other dubiously, and the story putters along.

With any luck, I’ll be partying with my characters soon. 🙂

***

Now, in other news, I just learned that The Monongahela Review will be publishing a poem of mine in the upcoming issue! 😀 MR is an awesome online lit journal; you can download current and previous issues for free as PDFs or read online through Issuu.

As soon as this baby drops, I’ll post links and many, many exclamation points! 😛

***
AND… in some other news, one of my poems will be featured this week on Andy Knowlton‘s A Poem A Day blog!

The story of Andy’s and my acquaintance is rather charming, in a You’ve-Got-Mail-without-the-love-affair sorta way. Towards the beginning of my residence in Korea, I read an article online about international grassroots poetry movements, a segment of which was dedicated to his Drunken Poets project. Turns out, Andy is an American writer based in Seoul, South Korea, a mere 3.5 hours from my town of Yeosu. I shot him an email, admiring and cheering on his art/poem efforts… and he wrote back. Thus began an electronic friendship. 😛

Andy creates his own artwork –the epitome of cool– for his A Poem A Day blog. Check out the work he’s done to this point (Day 340)! It’s impressive. I’m very honored and excited to be included on the website!

As soon as the poem/artwork posts, I’ll share it with you here. I may also print out a million copies and mail them to friends and/or random strangers. There’s a 50/50 chance you’ll get one. 😉

Check out Andy Knowlton's website for more info on his poetry, The Drunken Poets project, and his A Poem A Day blog! [andyknowlton.com]

Check out Andy Knowlton’s website for more info on his poetry, The Drunken Poets project, and his A Poem A Day blog!

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Filed under News, Poetry, Publication, The Novel, Woo Hoo!, Writing

Oooh! Prick of the Spindle!

I’m super excited! The new issue of Prick of the Spindle just dropped, and in it, you can find a poem AND poetry review by moi. (This marks my online review debut, too.)  I can’t wait to read the rest of the issue! 😀

[I promise, I didn’t purposefully rhyme the last few sentences above. I’m a poet. It happens naturally. Please don’t throw rocks.]

You should check out Prick of the Spindle immediately. This second. Go. Now. …And enjoy! 🙂

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Filed under Literary Review, Poetry, Publication, Woo Hoo!

20 Steps for Starting a New Writing Project

A Writer's Tools

 

1. Check Facebook.

2. Check Twitter.

3. Respond to at least 7, but not more than 56, tweets and/or Facebook statuses.

4. Check email.

5. Google pictures of your main character.

6. Get distracted by pictures of Richard Armitage.

7. Refresh Twitter.

8.  Search Pinterest for photos of your setting.

9. Pin 13 different recipes for pie.

10. Double-check the Fall TV Lineup.

11. Double-check your DVR.

12. Browse Spotify to create a writing soundtrack.

13. Dance wildly around the room to Queen and Silversun Pickups.

14. Pour a glass of water. Hydration is important.

15. Open Microsoft Word.

16. Check Facebook.

17. Decide your main character’s older brother has a tattoo.

18. Google cool tattoos.

19. Return to Word.

20. Stare blankly at the blinking cursor for an hour before heading to bed.

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Some Exciting News!

I just received word that Prick of the Spindle [http://www.prickofthespindle.com/] will be publishing one of my poems in the upcoming online issue!  😀

Prick of the Spindle is a bold, stunning literary journal that really pushes the boundaries on voice, form, and image. I am deeply honored to be included on the website.

I’ll let you know when the new issue drops!

 

*Side note: You know the poem I mentioned in my post “Fireworks Across the Ocean,” the one I completed after arriving in South Korea? Yeah, this poem is it. Something for you to look forward to!

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Filed under Publication, Woo Hoo!

Bellingham Review!~

The latest issue of Bellingham Review, containing two poems by yours truly, is now available! 😀

Since I live, you know, on the other side of the world, I’m still waiting to receive my copies, but based on the listing of writers on the back cover, the issue will be utterly phenomenal. I cannot wait to read it!

You should probably go pick up a copy, too. Right now. 🙂

[For ordering info contact bellingham.review@wwu.edu]

Bellingham Review Issue 66 Cover

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Fireworks Across the Ocean

I am one of those rare creatures always desiring adventure: Fireworks and ribbons, a new project, something to get adrenaline pumping and my mind whirling through galaxies. Growing up, I hunted for treasure in books. Later I relied on school and the occasional amusement park for a fix; taken out of my comfort zone or given new information to digest, I quickly learned and thrived. Yes, I was that girl in the front seat of the roller coaster, hands in the air, waiting for the fall. I soaked in every moment.

A few months ago, I decided it was time to shake up my world. I had reached an impossible plateau both professionally and personally, and my writing idea pool had stagnated under general stress and frustration. I wasn’t satisfied with the direction I was heading in any area of my life. I needed drastic change, something to keep me moving forward.

I am now writing to you from South Korea.

In March I accepted a job teaching English at an all-girls’ high school in Yeosu, a beautiful city on the southern coast, known by many for the 2012 World Expo. I officially settled in to my town and school about a month ago. Friends, I love it here. 🙂

Whisked away from everything and everyone I’ve ever known, I’ve already noticed a big difference in my writing: I’m more focused, more willing to wander in my thoughts without inner critics shutting down metaphors or suggestions. My words are reinvigorated with heart and passion and everything I worried I’d misplaced in the past couple years.

Julie Delpy’s character in Before Sunset (one of the most gorgeous romantic dramas ever filmed, for the record, and one of my all-time personal favorites) explains this feeling well: When describing her time abroad in Warsaw, she says, “After a while, my brain seemed clearer. I was writing a lot more in my journal, ideas I never thought of before. … I had spent the last two weeks away from most of my habits. TV was in a language I didn’t understand, so, all I [was] doing was… walk[ing] around, thinking right. My brain felt like it was at rest, free from the consuming frenzy.”

…Hello, Korea. 🙂

Moving halfway around the world to jump start your creative juices or climb out of your rut is not, of course, for everyone. Admittedly, I’m a wee bit crazy. 😉 But I’ve learned that giving myself a shock, moving outside my daily routine, can dramatically impact my creative voice.

Prior to departure, a good friend asked me how I thought my work would change in Korea; I hemmed and hawed and scrambled for an answer.

Then, during my first week here, I looked at a poem I started back in late 2006/early 2007. After slaving over every word and sound for months and months, I had set it aside, saved it on my computer as a work in progress; though I returned to it occasionally over the years, I was never in a place to hear its true ending. Within days of arriving in Yeosu, I discovered what was real and missing from the lines. That poem is now saved under “Finished.”

I find inspiration in the unknown and the strange. The land changing beyond my bus window as we turn corners, drive around mountains and ragged coastline; dodging scraps of burning paper on Gwangalli Beach, watching teenagers shoot firecrackers over the Korea Strait in Busan; navigating different menus and street foods as I walk through market districts around Jeollanamdo Province: all of these things give me a thrill. And that thrill translates into more words on the page and a fresh dedication to discovering my language and ideas.

Don’t settle for what is. Try something new. Rejuvenate your creative life. Trust me, the adrenaline is very addicting. 🙂

 

Hwasun Temple, South Korea

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Filed under Daily Grind, News, Revision

If I could build a house from books…

…I’d easily have a mansion. And I mean that in the literal, not the philosophical “books = knowledge = wealth” sense.

This is something I never thought I’d say: There might be such a thing as too many books.

When I was moving all over the place last year, I had to store my entire personal library in Rubbermaid containers. They were carted here and there, some stacked in family members’ basements, some tucked away in my apartment attic, some <cough> used as an end table beside my couch. Recently I had the opportunity to move all my book boxes to a single storage unit, and holymackerel! That unit is filled to the brim. Don’t ask how many containers are in there….

In case you were wondering, I still have at least 500 novels double-lining my bookcases and stacked around my apartment. And I may have also <coughcough> purchased another 10 books in the past two days. (It’s not my fault! There’s an adorable independent bookstore called Squirreled Away Books near the place I’m working this week, and I’ve spent each lunch hour exploring its treasures. Those books just jumped into my possession, I swear it.)

I have heard of the amazing new device called an e-reader, believe it or not. I own a Kindle, and I use it all the time. But for me, it just can’t quite compete with the feel of paper under my fingers, the smell of old ink and binding glue….

This week, I’m planning to weed out my collection, donating not-favorites and double-copies to the library, Books For Soldiers, or beloved family and friends. We’ll see how many book boxes I have left at the end…. [Still way too many, no doubt.]

How do you prefer your books, paper or e-reader? Any suggestions for the book-weeding process (or should I stand proud on my library-mountain)? Also, pray tell, do you know of any local meetings of Book Buyers Anonymous? 😉

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