13 04 2010

So I got a rejection letter from Blue Mountain Center for my residency application that I turned in earlier this year. This is going to sound weird or like I’m trying to play off this rejection, but I’m actually glad, because my consulting practice is really taking off and taking off a full month in September this year would’ve been really hard.

Still, it’s not fun to know I didn’t ‘get in’, but it’s for the best time-wise this year. Plus I’m already planning to spend three weeks in writing workshops this year—-if I get in to VONA again this summer, that is. Not getting into Blue Mountain for a residency means I’ll have to take a few local writing retreats to give myself more concentrated time to write, but that’s fine for now.

Besides, there’s always next year! And being a writer means you have to be persistent, if nothing else.


Updates: Two deadlines and My Work in Print Soon

5 04 2010

I’m in the home stretch of a run towards meeting two deadlines this week, one for the Hyphen/AAWW short story contest, the other for this summer’s VONA workshops. My first choices for VONA this year are the Advanced Fiction workshop with Mat Johnson in the first week, and the Fiction workshop with Tananarive Due (whose excellent Black vampire book My Soul to Keep I’m reading right now) the second week. Backups are the residency the first week with David Mura, and Advanced Fiction with Chris Abani the second week.

I’m feeling pretty good about meeting both these deadlines. I just need to proofread my short story for the contest, and do a little more editing on the pieces I’m submitting for VONA. The seven-day short story challenge I gave myself a few weeks ago has resulted in some pieces that I’m revising and sending in as my VONA submission. Another good thing about these self-imposed writing challenges—the creation of more work that can become polished, publishable stories.

I’m also waiting to hear back from Macondo (a long shot) and Blue Mountain. Send in and wait, send in and wait—the writer’s life.

I also met a new writing friend today, poet Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, who works for one of my fundraising consultant clients. It’s always nice to meet writers while doing my ‘day-job’ work. He’s heading to Denver for the Association of Writing Programs conference this week. Some of my VONA homies will be there. Part of me wanted to go, but couldn’t afford it this year—maybe next year.

Lastly, I found out that the new issue of Instant City with my essay in it should be out any day now. There may be a reading or two in the works to launch this new issue, will post details as I find out about them. It will be nice to hold it in my hands and to read my words in print and not just online.

Time to Write, Part II: Deadlines as Lifelines

30 01 2010

I’ve been feeling stressed but also blessed these last few days—and feeling more like a ‘real’ writer than I have in a while. I’ve been writing for, literally, hours each day, and there’s nothing like actually writing and producing work that you know some people are going to read (or that you’re going to read out loud, as I am on February 11th) to make you feel like your writing really matters.

I’ve also been logging a lot of hours writing grant proposals and reports for Generations Ahead, a cutting-edge organization working to make sure that the new genetic technologies are being used in an ethical and socially just way. I feel honored to write for them, as they’re doing important work that no one else really does, and it’s fascinating (and sometimes scary) stuff.

I’ve also been working to meet two important deadlines for my creative writing: an application to the Macondo Workshop, a program started by Sandra Cisneros. It’s a pretty competitive program, only eight people get in every year, but it sounds right up my alley. I submitted my application on Wednesday—wish me luck!

The other deadline I’ve been working on (and need to meet this weekend) is for a writing residency at Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks. I’ve been there once before and it’s a beautiful place—and I’ve realized that I need large blocks of uninterrupted time to really get deep into my writing.

All these deadlines, while stressful if I let them get to me, have also motivated me to get all this writing done. I’ve been editing like crazy, combing through my work with a fine-tooth comb until I feel like I’m getting cross-eyed, and getting feedback from some of my writer friends, which has only made my writing stronger. My experience as a fundraiser with all those grant deadlines has helped me recognize that these deadlines can really be lifelines—helping me get off my butt and away from the Internet and TV, and helping me get to writing.

So if you need to figure out how to give yourself more time to write, give yourself some deadlines. Better yet, to make sure you won’t just keep changing the deadlines to accommodate the rest of your life—which I often do when I set my own deadlines—commit to meeting a deadline for a writing contest, a fellowship program, workshop, or a writing group. This means making your intention to write public, and committing to someone other than yourself to give your writing to them to read. This is a good thing, although it can be scary at first.

This is how deadlines can really be lifelines—because they give life to our writerly intentions, cut through procrastination, force us to focus, and help us realize our own goals. And then, when you’re done with all your deadlines (as I will be by next Tuesday), you can kick back and take a little vacation from writing—and watch all the DVDs or read all the trashy novels you want—until the next deadline comes along.

Riding the Wave (or, Glad to Not Have Writer’s Block Right Now)

20 01 2010

There are rare moments for me as a writer (and for many writers, from what I’ve heard/read), when your writing flows more smoothly than usual, when you can’t wait to sit down and start your hands moving, when you feel like writing is one of those things you will never stop doing. You actually enjoy the writing, even when it’s not coming out perfect–you enjoy the act in and of itself.

I feel fortunate to be having that feeling right now–yesterday and today. And good thing too, because I’m on deadline–actually, two deadlines–right now. I’m trying to finish up the application essays and my manuscript submissions for the Macondo Workshop, Sandra Cisnero’s annual writers’ workshop, and Blue Mountain Center’s residency, which takes place at a beautiful retreat house in the Adirondacks.

I’m not a particularly prolific writer–the combination of my often-annoying but sometimes useful perfectionism and my propensity towards distraction by work, house chores, my husband, whatever whatever, for hours on end being the cause–so I find these moments to be precious. I gotta milk them for all their worth. And obviously, when I have things I absolutely have to get done because of deadlines (I’ve tried to come up with less morbid, more positive terms, but ‘deadlines’ just works for me), it helps not to be blocked.

But is it the deadline that somehow breaks through my writer’s block? Or is it the fact that this blog and the other one that I started in the past week have helped me cut through some of my usual resistance to sitting down and typing? Who knows? I’m not going to question it, I’m just going to go with the flow and hope it takes me in the direction that I want to go.

And gets me to meet those deadlines!