(No) Time to Write

24 04 2010

You can probably guess from my absence on this blog that I’ve been busy with other things. Unfortunately, they have not been writing-related. On the other hand, my fundraising consulting business is thriving, which will help me take off three weeks this summer for writing workshops and retreats. So it’s a blessing for my writing that I’m so busy thusfar.

But this brings me back to a question that a lot of people I know who want to write but have intense, 40+hours a week jobs ask me often: “How do I find time to write?” I answered that question in an earlier post, and I find myself turning to that post now to remind me that, even though I haven’t had time to write more than a couple blog posts and journal entries over the past few weeks, I am still a writer, and I will find the time to write when I need to.

For example, I have two deadlines coming up in May that I’m setting out to meet, one for this Visions 2042 project: Notes toward a Racial Order Transformed, and another for fiction deadline Shareable.net, a web site that features content about sharing as a path to sustainability. I don’t know yet if my super-packed work schedule over the next few weeks will allow me to meet them, but I’m going to try my hardest and do my best.

And that’s pretty much all one can be expected to do. If we all tried our best most of the time with most of the things we do, I think the world would be a much better place.


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.


31 03 2010

Almost There

The struggle I have with my fiction writing is not finishing things. I think I’ve said this before. I have been working on two stories in particular for many years now. Yes, you read correctly: YEARS. They’ve morphed and changed and become nearly unrecognizable from their original state. And while that’s all okay, I’ve realized that I actually need to FINISH things in order to send them out for publication (not that my husband, bless him, or even my writer friends aren’t a perfectly good audience, but I’d really like more than ten people to read my work!). It was a peculiarly frustrating experience, not being able to finish my stories—I’m a very Type-A person who takes great pleasure in checking off things on my to-do list. But fiction writing, alas, isn’t as easy or linear as drafting an Excel spreadsheet of donor prospects or making five phone calls to clients.

So I was supremely grateful and pleased the other day when I finally felt a sense of completion on one of my stories. I won’t say which one it is since I am going to be sending it in as my entry for the Hyphen/AAWW short story contest, the deadline for which was extended to April 12.

I feel like I’ve really made progress, and I now have hope that not only is this particular story going to be read by the fabulous contest judges and other cool folks at Hyphen, but that I can and will finish other stories too. And it’s these small but significant accomplishments that make me feel like I’m moving forward, improving my work and becoming a better writer.

Digging Deep

25 03 2010

Not much to say today except that I am going to attempt to go deeper in these next two days—only six days left ’til the Hyphen/Asian American Writers Workshop short fiction contest deadline, and I’m getting nervous. I’ve cleared a bunch of time today and tomorrow to work on this, and also some time next week—not easy to do, as work has been picking up a lot and it’s hard to proritize my non-paid writing work when it does—but that’s still not a lot of time to make some magic happen.

I have one piece that’s done that I could submit, but while I like it it’s not super-interesting (about a young Pinay living in San Francisco in the ’80’ who meets a young Euro tourist and crushes out on him). It’s more of a cute, nostalgic story—nothing I would personally give an award to, so why should I expect anyone else to?

And then there’s an edgier piece that I’m leaning towards—an excerpt of which I read at a reading a few months ago at Modern Times Bookstore. This second piece is about two straight male best friends (one of whom is Filipino, the other Chicano) who end up having a sexual encounter, and the emotional fallout from that. The only thing about this one is that it’s not quite done yet, and I’d prefer to send something super-polished and vetted in for this contest.

But in the end, I’ll end up sending something in, even if I don’t think it’s absolutely ‘perfect’. I’m a bit of a fanatic about details and such and while that’s generally a good quality, it often keeps me from sending perfectly decent work out into the world—and thus keeps me from getting published. So I gotta dig deep in these last few days and pull out all the stops to make this piece as great as it can be. There isn’t really any alternative at this point.

And besides, I already paid my $20. The scrooge in me can’t let that go to waste!

The P-word

22 03 2010

No, not publication, but it’s polar opposite: procrastination.

I’m just not feeling like writing today, despite the fact that I didn’t go to my exercise class today and cleared a chunk of my calendar this week to work on this deadline. This frickin’ sucks. I hate it when I actually HAVE the time to write and my brain / body is just not motivated to do so. Procrastination for me comes in the form of me puttering around the house, looking for little tasks to do—I just finished cleaning my shower, for example, which I could have easily done later (after writing!). I finally got myself to sit down at the computer a few minutes ago to write, and of course the twin evils of Facebook and Twitter are tempting me down the rabbit hole of online social networking.

But NO! I told myself—get on your blog instead and write about your procrastination. At least you’ll be writing! And this blog has saved my writing self more than once since I launched it about two months ago. It does help to write out my challenges with my writing practice—which is exactly what I wanted this blog to do.

Ok, I’m almost 200 words in and I’m starting to feel better. I think I’m going to keep writing on the computer—I recently started revising a short story I desperately want to finish by hand, and it’s been an interesting process, but more on that later—and work on a couple of pieces, one of which is definitely a contender for the Hyphen / AAWW contest. Deadline countdown: only 10 days left! Maybe I’ll find some kind of app to add to my blog/Facebook page to keep me accountable to my goal.

And of course, dear reader, you are encouraged to deliver a swift kick to my lazy writerly ass in the form of your comments. Thanks in advance.

My First Fiction Contest

19 03 2010

I half-decided a while back to submit something for the Hyphen Magazine and Asian American Writers Workshop 2010 short story contest. But today, just a few minutes ago, I actually paid the entrance fee of $20, which means I’ve lit the proverbial fire under my ass. This year’s contest judges are authors Alexander Chee and Jaed Coffin.

The deadline is coming up very soon: March 31, so I don’t have tons of time. I’m going to really need to spend a lot of hours writing, revising, polishing. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to submit—it’s a toss-up between two stories I’ve been working on, neither one of which is very ‘Asian-American’ in an obvious way, but there are no theme restrictions, so hopefully that won’t be a problem. Both of the stories do feature Asian-American characters (Filipino in both cases).

I’m a little nervous about submitting something ‘good enough’ in time for the deadline, but I need to remind myself that even if I don’t win, just entering something into the contest will help me get my name out there, and get my writing into the hands of published writers and other people in the business. If I win something or get any recognition out of this is sort of incidental, a nice icing on the cake (and of course something I’ll be hoping for, I am an overachiever Capricorn after all!), but I can’t stay focused on that as I prepare my manuscript. I just have to focus on getting a story done and polished as best I can, and on time.

Another note: my former co-worker and fiction writing comrade

Seven-Day Challenge: Write a Story Each Day

9 03 2010

Ok, time to get serious now, folks. Time to stop frakkin’ around and spending my writing time blabbering in my journal or waxing philosophical about books or the careers of other writers. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that, but my fiction writing is never going to get done if I never, well, DO IT. Nike’s right, and so are all the writing teachers and buddies I’ve ever had who would keep encouraging me to ‘just write’. Because reading about writing or talking about writing can never replace the most important act of a writer—to write!

So I’m giving myself a personal kick-in-the-butt challenge, and I’m making this a public commitment to you so that I will (hopefully) follow through on it. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog, to hold myself accountable to something larger than myself, even just symbolically, so that I wouldn’t backslide into unproductive patterns of not-writing or (even worse) coming down on myself for not writing. This blog’s purpose is to keep me writing, and to keep you posted on my writing life in order to connect with you, but also to keep me motivated to keep going. Writing can be such a solitary and lonely practice, and I need all the help and support I can get.

Ok, so here’s the challenge—partially inspired by the challenge I put out to my friends on Facebook not long ago, to write a short short story in their status updates, which I’m glad to say several friends did—I am going to write a short story of any length (and I mean any length—like if I can tell the story in five words then it’s all good!), one per day, for the next seven days. I will start with today (Tuesday, March 9, 2010) and end next Monday (March 15, 2010). The purpose of this kick-start exercise is two-fold: one, to get me back into the practice of writing; and two, to help me hone my storytelling skills so that I can finish some of the fiction pieces I’ve been working on and get them out into the world. This challenge is also partially inspired by a workshop with Ana Menendez that I wish I could take at the Centrum Writers’ Conference in lovely Port Townsend. Ana’s workshop is going to do what she calls a “Van Gogh Story Marathon” and write a story a day, with the knowledge that even a master of craft like Van Gogh started out with terrible paintings, and through practice, practice and more practice, was able to improve and become one of the most celebrated artists of all time.

Unfortunately, as much as I love Port Townsend, where I spent a fair amount of time last year during my Windcall retreat, I don’t think I’ll have the funds to make it to the conference this year. So this seven-day challenge will be my own homegrown version of Ms. Menendez’ marathon. The stories all need to have a beginning, middle and an end, and I’ll be focusing on completing a narrative arc, as small as it may be, in each piece. They don’t have to be perfect or even that good (and most often will not be). The point is to write something, finish it, and post for public consumption.

I will post my first story by the end of the day, and would love any and all feedback on it once I do. Wish me luck! And if you’re so inspired and need a kick-in-the-pants exercise like this to get your writing going, please feel free to join me in my challenge. Write away!