Writers Are Made of Pencil Shavings and Unicorn Spit (and other truths)

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Earlier this week I tweeted something to the effect of “[we] balance the line between narcissism and self-loathing.” I’m sure some of you have seen this phrase on a meme or two. That’s where I got it, and it couldn’t be more IN YOUR FACE accurate if it included whiskey and frequent bouts of isolation. Whoever the original sayer of said phrase is, I give complete credit to you.

Sure, we joke. We laugh. We call ourselves IN-FUCKING-SANE. But behind that lies a deep-seeded fear that, yes. We really are certifiable. 

Writers are different. We see things in different ways and interpret our observations in ways that can be manipulated into story. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between what’s real and what SHOULD be real, because as we see it, fiction is the only real. Magic SHOULD and DOES exist, in our eyes. Psychopaths REALLY DO live in the apartment next door and the gates of hell DO open inside a Krispy Kreme shop. 

For people who don’t think that way, it seems like a pretty awesome way to live. And it is.

Most of the time.

In his book, Stranger Than Fiction, Chuck Palahniuk said: 

“The worst part of writing fiction is the fear of wasting your life behind a keyboard. The idea that, dying, you’ll realize you only lived on paper. Your only adventures were make-believe, and while the world fought and kissed, you sat in some dark room masturbating and making money.”

These are the times when thinking the way we do – disappearing into our worlds of fiction – is not so great. It’s lonely. We choose isolation over little misadventures out in the real world because the adventures in our heads are SO MUCH BETTER. And when we’re lost in the words of someone we admire, or absorbed in our own fictions, it doesn’t matter. We’re perfectly happy.

You know that feeling when you come out of a movie that, while you were watching it, reached deep in your chest and held your heart, making it dance in time to the movie’s tension and sadness and happiness? When the magic is over and the real world just doesn’t quite live up to what you’d just experienced? 

That’s how we feel. All the time. Every day. When we come out our darkened rooms, away from our desks or tables or couches or nooks where we write. The real world just isn’t up to snuff. So we go back to our darkened rooms. Our books. Our words. We surround ourselves with people who are lost in their own worlds – even if only in the twitterverse. 

Writers: I’m talking to you – it’s OK to be a little crazy (even that kind you’re afraid of). It’s OK to prefer the company of books to real people. Real people can really suck sometimes because they just don’t get it. It’s OK to be in love with your work. In fact, you should be. It’s OK to want to be alone in a crowd of people so that you can watch, undisturbed. It’s OK to miss out on things that you don’t really have an interest in, even though you think it’s something you should do just to be apart of everyone else.

You’re not everyone else.

You’re a writer.

*cue cheesy inspirational 80’s music because it’s awesome*

Short Fiction Monday – A Rant OR Douche bags, Get to Steppin’

Today, on this cold and cloudy Short Fiction Monday, I am pissed the fuck off.

Many of you know about Asfixia – and if you don’t, go here. SUBMIT! – and the submissions are finally coming in. Some great, some not so great, and some that I couldn’t even get through because, honestly, I don’t think they were serious submissions.

I’ve also gotten some pretty interesting hate email.

I know. Sounds ridiculous, right? HATE mail for putting together an anthology of short work – a medium that not only is hard as hell to write, but just as hard to market. But I love short stories, so I’m willing to put in the time and work that goes into crafting a fantastic anthology of fantastic work from fantastic authors. I, however, am NOT willing to listen to cocky, whiny, amateur writers tell me how it is. 

Because I am professional enough to not send each of them a reply email stating exacting what I think of their complaint, instead I will post this. Call it a PSA.

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If you have a problem with a publication’s guidelines, payment arrangements, or the editors of the publications themselves, DON’T SUBMIT TO THEM.

I’ll say it again.

If you have a problem with the PUBLICATION’s guidelines, payment arrangements, or the editors of the publications themselves, DON’T SUBMIT TO THEM.

We (and I mean a collective “we” – the people who sit and read submission after submission looking for magic) don’t care that you think your work is worth more than what we are offering. We didn’t come to you. You decided that you are TOO GOOD for us, so do the mature thing and move on. Don’t email me with semi-clever remarks expecting me to do something about it. All that we are going to do is make a note of who you are, and make sure that should anyone come to us with your work looking for an opinion, we’ll be sure to recount your little hissy fit.

If you became a writer to make money, you’re in the wrong industry. You may make money. You may make a lot of money. But most likely, you won’t. That’s just how it is. If you don’t care about your work being read then PLEASE stop polluting the market stream with your shit. 

This has been your Monday morning PSA. Enjoy your day, everyone. Read something.

Short Fiction Monday – Excerpt AND Contributions?

‘allo, dearies. 

Here is your short fiction fix on this lovely Presidents’ Day Monday. It’s like a double-whammy of shit, isn’t it? It’s Monday, AND you can’t go to the bank and get laundry money because they’ve closed for some obscure holiday that doesn’t really mean anything anymore. Never fear, Crunchy-Smooshy is here for you.

Excerpt from a yet-to-be-titled WIP:

 

There’s a formula for gauging phone calls before the other party has answered. One ring, and they’ve been waiting for something important that isn’t you. They’ve been staring at it, playing with it, willing it to ring. And then finally, FINALLY, it comes to life. It’s better to just hang up without introducing yourself, lest you send your own hide in for verbal slaughter. Four or five rings, and you’ve torn them away from something; dinner with the family, an engrossing novel, a homemade explosives project. Take these on a case by case basis. Women are more likely to turn you away than men, especially if you’re me. I’ve been told my voice is sultry when detailing the many uses of a telephone book.

Three rings, though, that’s the sweet spot.

This isn’t something they teach you when you answer an anonymous internet ad looking for people who wish to ‘work from home!’ ‘All you need is a computer and a telephone! It’s EZ!’ You learn by doing.

Three rings and they’ve been waiting for you to call. No, really, they have. It’s their day off and nothing interesting has presented itself as a suitable distraction. You are their distraction.

Don’t worry about selling, the anonymous emailer attached to the anonymous ad tells you. Just log your calls and collect your money.

Sometimes I don’t even market what I’m supposed to. The spreadsheet in my weekly email will call for entertainment magazine subscriptions; I sell them slippers made in the likeness of their favorite United States President. God bless America!

Sometimes, a girl just wants to have some fun.

 

I’d had a productive morning. One entry left on my daily spreadsheet, and it was just past two.

One ring. Two rings. Three rings.

“Hello?”

Perfect.

“Good afternoon. Would you be so kind as to connect me with the matron of the home?”

I cradled the phone between my shoulder and ear while fingering a copy of Little Women. I’d finished reading it over lunch and was itching to try it out.

“Who’s calling, please?

Her voice was calm but reserved.

“Jo March, madam. I’m calling to invite you to participate in an unbelievable opportunity in literature.”

I wished Jo March had a British accent. I loved doing British.

Shuffling against the speaker on the opposite end. She was switching ears.

“Is this a joke?”

“Fiction is no joke, ma’am, unless of course you’re reading comedy. Then all of it is a joke! Unless it’s bad comedy, in which case it’s better used as kindling in my humble opin –“

“Just get to the point, please.”

“Yes, yes, of course. I am offering escape in the form of words. Penny Dreadfuls, specifically. For the cost of a typical novel you will receive five stories in which you are taken through perilous adventures, one after the other.”

I paused.

“Hello?”

She’d hung up.

Unfortunate, since I hadn’t had the chance to tell her about the imaginary friend that accompanied every purchase.

Classic characters are always a risk.

I logged the call, sent my end-of-day email using an out-of-date but perfectly useable desktop computer, and considered my options for the rest of the afternoon.  

 

CONTRIBUTIONS?

Would you like to contribute a story to short fiction Monday? Email me at authorlady22@gmail.com. 

Submissions are also STILL open for Asfixia. Send me ALL THE WORDS!

Short Fiction Monday – “The Writer”

I submitted this story to a local short-short competition. Although it was a finalist, it didn’t win. I hope you enjoy it, then write your own short-short. What’s the best story you can tell with the fewest number of words?

 

“The Writer”

It was every bit of December outside. The writer didn’t have a pen but he was determined to get his story out before it turned putrid in his gut.

His mind swam and his tongue was cotton. He needed another drink. 

A moment of reflection, then, release. He had to do it quickly. To get it out. To get her out.

“You’re drunk,” a voice said behind him.

The writer shrugged. Shimmied. Zipped. The purge left him lighter.

Her name would sit, steaming and yellow, where he’d written it, forever. Or at least until Spring.