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I’m back from AWP in D. C. and had the best time while I was there!

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For a long time, my novel critique group has been saying, “We should go to a conference together.” Well, things fell into place and after I spent the night at Gina’s house on Tuesday, Mary showed up and we drove to D. C. We got there Wednesday afternoon, checked into the hotel, registered with the conference then we had dinner with the brilliant writer, Pamela Erens.

Up early on Thursday, I went to a 9am panel called, “Demystifying the Business Side of Writing and Publishing.” Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum led it and I learned great things from him, Whitney Davis, Carmen Gimenez Smith, Paula Munier, and Joshua Shenk.

From there, I went to “Time, Space, and Community,” led by Jac Jemec. The ins, outs, and quirks of residencies were discussed by Rebecca Makkai, Rachel Cantor, Erinn Beth Langille (I ❤ her!) and Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan. You know what’s fun? To know one’s underpants are part of this equation.

From the bowels of the Marriott Marquis, I went to the Book Fair and hit my prime targets. I tried to meet Paul Vega and failed. I did meet Kurt Baumeister—author of Pax Americana—and James Reich from Stalking Horse Press. (Talk about a thick business card!) I also tried to see Robert Vaughan at the Word Tango table and P. E. Garcia at The Rumpus, but all I got was an awesome tee shirt and mug that each say “Write Like A M-F.” (Sure, by M-F, I did mean mushroom finder. We can work with that, but I took a picture.)

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Mimi Schwartz, Phillip Lopate, Richard Hoffman, and Laurie Stone did a fantastic job of letting me know when real names were important or not during their panel called, “I Didn’t Ask to Be In Your Story: When Real Names Matter and When They Don’t.”

The next panel was awkward for the match up. I mean, ROXANE GAY was there—my hero! During “Beyond the Deadline: Surviving (And Thriving) In Magazine Publishing, it felt like  Katelyn Belyus was doing a great job but her panelists weren’t the target people to ask the questions she was asking. It was fantastic to listen to Chip Blake, Sy Safransky and Ms. Gay and watch them keep their cool.

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“Women’s Fiction: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It,” explained the reason why some agents requested comp titles. Thank you Dorian Karchmar!

Meeting up with Mary at the VCCA group meant I got to meet interesting people like Randon Noble. The conversation turned to food, which led to my first time eating Korean food. After that, I also had my first Uber ride with a guy who played a Mr. Rogers YouTube video and I fell a little bit in love with the whole idea of Washington, D. C. as a “city.”

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Friday meant Gina and I had breakfast together at the Washington Plaza near the pool. We attended the “Second Blooming: Women Authors Debuting After Fifty.” It was interesting, but I couldn’t help thinking that the people present kept saying they entered multiple contests, which required many dollars to enter so tier success seemed money driven and that bothered me. Does it mean only old people can be published IF they throw down thousands of dollars to win a prize? I didn’t raise my hand to ask Ellen Meeropol, Paulette Boudreaux, Jeanne Gassman or Cynthia Bond because I left there a bit early to call Husband.

From there, I went to “Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Organizing and Structuring Story Collections, but I couldn’t find the archives room on the map, and you know me with maps—I ended up in Salon F for “The Shape of Fiction: A Look at Structuring Novel Length Prose.” I sat down and Cliff sat on the end. A woman came in to claim the seat between us, but Cliff said, “Why don’t you sit in my seat and I’ll sit by my friend.” (Yeah, that’s right, Cliff Garstang referred to me as his friend!) Anyways, Christian Kiefer was the moderator and he was funny. It was an interesting panel with Jeff Jackson, Esme Weijun Wang, Janet Finch and Kristin Chen.

 

I then attended “From Flash Fiction to Microfiction: How Many words are Enough?” What an excellent panel! Pamela Painter, Sherrie Flick, James Thomas, Nancy Stohlman, and Grant Faulkner talked about prompts and results. Walking over to introduce myself to Grant, I ran into Len Kuntz! He was there with Robert Vaughan! They invited me to their table at the Renaissance for later that night.

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After that, I hit the Book Fair again. I saw Gina who was going with Mary to see Emma Straub & Ann Patchett speak in the Ballroom. I thought about going but decided I needed some alone time. At the hotel, I texted Jimmy and arranged a night out with him. He picked me up and we drove to Arlington to pick up his lovely fiancée, Lindsay. From there, we went to the El Paso Café for margaritas and quesadillas. The drive back into Washington was beautiful—multiple monuments were lit up. At the Marriott Marquis, we attempted to find Mary, but couldn’t find her. We popped into the Sewanee Writer’s Conference Reception. I did find Cliff, but it was so loud, we left.

At the Renaissance, we found a table populated with the brilliant Robert Vaughan, Len Kuntz, April Bradley, Karen Stefano, David S. Atkinson, and Robert P. Kaye It was such a great time. Jimmy and Lindsay left after one drink because they had to drive home.

Mary texted, then came to the bar. As that collection was breaking up, Cliff and my new best friend Jody Hobbs Hesler came round and we went to the next bar and before I could believe it myself, it was last call. I toddled back the many blocks to my hotel and in my effort to be Best Roommate Ever, I took off my jacket, blazer, and shoes before I went into my room so not to disturb Gina. Well, I left my blazer hanging on the next door’s knob. I woke to see Gina gone, my blazer missing and vague memories from the night before—a few captured on my phone.

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(This last one was from Mary’s phone. Thank you Mary!)

Anyway, after quizzing Mary, I went downstairs, asked at the desk and got my blazer back. I went to the Book Fair, bought Robert’s Vaughan’s Funhouse and he signed it. At the Word Tango table, I got to chat again with the lovely Jennifer Kircher Carr and meet Elizabeth Pettie. I ran into David S. Atkinson and he handed me his book, Apocalypse All the Time, for possible review. I picked up the free book I’d won in a drawing by Writing By Writers. I was supposed to wait until 4 p.m. but as I was leaving, I was able to choose The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch.

I saw Pamela on the way out to meet Gina and Mary. While waiting, I saw the guy from the first panel and had a chance to talk to him and exchange business cards. Such a circle, huh?

It was lovely fun. I’ve left out meeting Gay Degani in the hall just before a panel and getting a hug…not having to feel bad about missing Kim Chinquee’s off-site reading…receiving Mia Avramut’s lovely message…randomly bumping into Claudia Cortese on the sidewalk…finding P. E. Garcia’s voice fine, not strange…getting to meet Paul Vega later on…Beth Gilstrap recognizing me…and a thousand other details that were fabulous though not as fabulous as you for having read all the way through!

THANK YOU!

It’s great to be back though I did have to have my picture retaken at the Board of Education meeting on Monday night and the weather returned to winter and it looks like this outside:

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Ah, home…

*These are my creekside reflections. Your experiences should vary.

Tuesday greeted me with an email saying I was nominated for an award. It was a great start. I spent time tiding up and attending to loose ends—well, as many as I could manage. After doing some shopping, I went to see Betty and was sad to learn Rudy passed on. He was a good horse and will be missed. Of course after that, I got stuck in her driveway and she was wonderful in helping me get out, but oye, what a chore and after her sadness. Then I came home to a bit of a tiff with Husband, so, I guess that’s the way it goes.

I had to work on Groundhog Day proper (fun fact: my other husband (on stage) also has February second as his birthday) and then Husband took me to J. P. Fitzgerald’s for dinner. All of which is to say, the lack of time at home and laziness have put me behind and thus, this post is late.

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The weather outside is a delightful reason to stay in this morning, catch up on the tax paperwork we have to take to the CPA on Saturday after I get my hair done. I need to firm up my itinerary for AWP panels I want to attend and start packing. I’m going to Washington D.C. though I’m not happy with some of the things going on in the capitol and I’ve been calling to let it be known. I suggest you do, too. The Internet makes it incredibly easy to find the numbers you need. It only takes a minute or so. I mean, come on, someone with the lack of skills that DeVos has? How can you not speak up? It’s our country and the congressmen represent you no matter how you voted. And that rant is over. (Another fun fact: The girl who lived down the street from me and was one of my best friends also was born on Groundhog’s Day.)

I’m excited and have plans to meet many of the people I know only through Facebook and literary journal. And artwork. Until next time, I hope your Black History Month is insightful. Many thanks for stopping by!

 

*These are my creekside reflections; your experiences may vary.

Yesterday was my turn to host the novel critique group. Spoiler alert: Early in Near Eden, New York, Pete brings caviar to Tara’s house to win over her cat. Anyways, at the previous novel critique meeting, Mary had said she hadn’t eaten caviar but thought it was salty and maybe the cat wouldn’t like it. Then, New Year’s Eve arrived and listening to NPR that morning, I heard Scott Simon interview Susan Stamberg. She described a dish called Caviar Pie. On the off chance they did, I asked a guy at Wegman’s if they sold caviar. They did, and some of it was reasonably priced.

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Obviously, not hosting the Christmas shindig created a groundswell of decorating and celebratory angst that needed to be expressed and I’m happy Gina Detwiler and Mary Akers made the drive to put up with it.

My cat didn’t like the caviar cold, but cleaned the stick that held 10 or so fish eggs later that night, just before I left to attend SGI’s French Honor Society induction ceremony. Valerie Brown was making crepes after, but I was quite full by then. When I got home, I received a call from my friend/line editor in California. He wants me to stop querying until we go over the book at least one more time. I don’t want to, though. I probably will, but I’m going to be pouty about it. I think Near Eden, New York is good, and he agreed, but he wants it even closer to perfection. He also hates my query letter because it makes it sound too much like a lighthearted story. I tried to convince him it’s just a romance. He says it’s so much more. I love fights like this and am so grateful these are the problems I have.

And, oh yeah, it’s official, I was duly sworn in and it was on Facebook so it has to be true. I’m a Board of Education Member! Photo courtesy of Colleen Mahoney and the Springville Journal.

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Thanks for stopping by!

*These are my Creekside Reflections; your experiences may vary.

 

On the recommendation of my “ink guy” at Rapid Refill, I bought a new color printer/scanner on Monday. He’s the one that steered me to my black toner workhorse of a printer so I trust him. He pointed out that I’d spend roughly the same amount for new cartridges for my old printer and those aren’t refillable – and the one he suggested was on sale. I removed the Lexmark and cleaned the spot, then decided to clean that whole corner of my work area. That led to clearing off the desk. Since I was getting rid of the one printer, I cleaned the drawer with all the computer paperwork. And the next one down, and the middle, then another…

All of which is to say, this is what happens when I’m anxiously waiting to hear from beta readers:

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I just got off the phone with Nina and her niggles and quibbles are easily fixable. I took six pages of notes, which sounds like a lot, but I doodle. I’m looking at adding seven sentences and adjusting seven more. Mere tweaks! Well, compared to full out rewriting…

Yesterday, I met with Kim Moritz, the superintendent of SGI and picked up my laptop, learned passwords, and found out when the agendas were available. Looks like I’m really doing this Board of Education gig; it’s still surprising to me that it happened at all.

Lake effect snow is piling up and I have no interest in going anywhere today, so I’m off to fix the quibbles, work on a flash for Jellyfish Review, and after dinner tonight, make stock because I do that now – make soup the old-fashioned way with no cans.

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Thanks for stopping by!

*These are my Creekside Reflections, not yours. Your experience ought to vary.

This is my last post for the year and — knock on wood — we get to the new one before yet another celebrity passes. Cohen, Bowie, Rickman, Prince, and Princess Leia all in one year is devastating! Sadly, there were even more…

I’ve ended up with a bit of a time buffer that I’ll be using to play catch-up-on-the-paperwork. Such a fun game! I made a decent dent in the filing of my writing over the weekend, have been winnowing the newspaper stack each night, but I’m dreading the receipt sorting/gathering tax paperwork part of the game. Yes, I know, it could be worse and I am grateful for the problems I have, but I still sometimes wish I had a secretary so I didn’t have to play one in real life.

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Speaking of real life, I really was appointed to the Board of Education. Is that life imitating art or me getting suckered punched into a bureaucratic and political quagmire? Either way, it will be more experience to plunder for another story or two…

Writing wise, I only know I’m not getting my hopes up. When I finished Life and Crimes, I thought it was the best thing I’d ever written. Full requests from agents was so damned sweet and then, when they said no, it hurt. This book, tentatively called Near Eden, New York, is better written than that — in my opinion by a lot. What if it isn’t enough though? What if I need to write another book that surpasses this one in quality before I have a book published? It’s such a heartbreaking profession — not at all the way I imagined it would be when I started dreaming about being a best-selling author. I know I’ll get there because I’m not smart enough to quit, but in the interim, I think I’ll return to the Hot Pants office at Zoetrope and start churning out flash.

I stopped in there last night before I glanced at my flash file. I don’t have a lot left to send out. Again, I know, that is the best problem to have — getting so much accepted that I have nothing left to submit. I am grateful. So grateful and I would love to continue kvetching here, but that isn’t reducing the paper stack.

Thanks for stopping by!

12-29-2016

*These are my Creekside reflections. Your experiences may vary.

Weather Dictation

In theory, I should be headed to Lockport for the novel critique group meeting at Mary’s house. The threat of 2-3 feet of lake effect snow negated that trip so I was able to get farther along in the Pete and Tara book.  I’m so close to the end and I’m excited—in a tempered way. I’m trying desperately to not think about the next steps. I’ve been editing as I go, so that isn’t the problem, it’s the thought of another round of that fun game I call “Agent Hunt.” Hell, I’m still waiting on responses from the last round for the last book…

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Prize for “First Christmas Card to Arrive” this year goes to a dear friend in Kentucky. Poor thing thinks she’s behind a letter to me. Sorry Natalie, that’s me. I’m the one who owes you two letters now. I’m sure I owe other people letters, too. I get caught up with writing and then assume that social media will fill in the gaps, but the people that I write to and write to me are often not on social media. I need to be better disciplined about such things. I think I’ve said that before. It sounds familiar somehow.

Remember to shop local! I stopped in at Herbs & Things last Saturday and found gifts for the few I’m buying for this year plus a gift for me at Kellie Shanley’s shop. I’m loving the scent diffuser I bought there—far more lovely and useful than a lava lamp.

All right, it’s short this time, but I do want to say that I am so ecstatic that the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts accepted “Meeting Notes”— one of the original Pete and Tara stories (which didn’t make it into the book but became the genesis for it). THANK YOU RANDALL BROWN!!!! In the funniest bit of irony, that story is set at a school board meeting and today, the questions that are going to be asked of the candidates at Monday’s board meeting arrived in my inbox this morning. I’m going to have to start writing historical fiction so things like this will stop occurring.

Thanks for stopping by!

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*These are my Creekside Reflections; your experiences may vary.

I was still feeling strange last Thursday, that’s why this post is a week late. My essay on attending last year’s International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day appeared in the My View column of The Buffalo News on the 8th – Election Day. I didn’t know if I was going this year or not. I decided last Thursday that I would. It’s a good program and a good place to be before the holidays begin.

Thanksgiving being held on different dates, the fact that my family often celebrated on the weekend before or after the holiday and the time factor blur what this is: the 20th anniversary of an argument that changed my life.

I’d let it go if I could. I was three days into not smoking, XO Man had invited me into his life, I was planning to go back to Texas and I was happy. Then my mother and I got into a fight. It left me devastated and feeling unworthy of love, happiness, or progress. Instead of going to Texas, I stayed in a miserable spot, started smoking again, and stopped growing as a person for a long time.

At Christmas, my mother was the opposite; full of delightfulness and laughter. I didn’t trust her. My “big” present was cash, which is what I wanted. I’d also gotten a bag of little stuff. I don’t remember now – whether I found them before or after – but there were a pair of earrings in that bag that I really liked but I didn’t have time to send her a thank you note. I wore them to her funeral; I haven’t worn them since then.

I suppose that is a pattern that repeats. I don’t know what my mother was going through when she picked that fight. I doubt my stepson realizes how pissed I was last year that I was not expecting him, his girlfriend, and her best friend to arrive the next day. I didn’t have time to clean properly, Husband had told me in no uncertain terms that the wedding reception was not going to be here and I told him to tell Stepson because I didn’t want to get involved in it. No. That morning, I got a request from an agent. I had no idea when they were going to arrive, or if they still were so I was working on getting my book submission perfect when they walked in demanding all of the attention.

Last Christmas, I tried to be tolerant of Stepson’s abysmal behavior toward all of my guests and his father and I could cope until he shoved something in my face and told me to do something with it. When I refused, he walked away telling everyone I was acting like a bitch. After that fight, I have no interest in having a gathering here over the holidays, if ever again.

I’m truly grateful that Shirley Palmerton invited Husband and me to her home for dinner today. I’m thrilled to be spending this day with fellow writers and their spouses. It’s good to have found this tribe. For Christmas, we’ll be at Husband’s brother’s house. I’ll bring some food there because Niece must have her quiche so she shall. We’ve agreed to no gifts, which is a huge relief.

The novel had a hiccup and now I’m dreaming the end. It shouldn’t take much longer to finish once I sit down to wrap it up. I had another flash picked up by 200 CCs. Thank you Paul A. Hamilton. And thank you Christopher James for my faux pas. I’m truly sorry and while I am still embarrassed to death, it’s a lot harder to pull that off than I thought, especially today.

I’m grateful for all my friends, the writers and artists, the editors and designers, the singers and actors, teachers and medical professions, builders and retail workers, musicians and thinkers of different points of view as well as the people who agree with me. If you think I left you out, know you’re in a class by yourself and I didn’t want anyone to think I was playing favorites…but we know, don’t we?

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.

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*These are my Creekside holiday reflections. Your experiences may vary.