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Hey Kids! There’s a New Blog in Town!

Well, in my spare minute a day I started a new blog. I think you can never have too many irons in the fire, right? Anyway, it’s just a silly look at the many books out there that never quite made it to “Great American Novel” status. It just went up today, and if anyone is bored…please stop by and check it out! I plan to update it very often. Hope you like it!!

The Opposite of Bestseller

http://theoppositeofbestseller.wordpress.com/

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And….the survey says?

I have been writing, now, for many years. Every time I start writing something new I always think “This is it! This is the writing piece that I will finish. It will define me as a writer and set me on my path to publication and personal fulfilment.” And then none of that ever happens. Repeat to fade.  I then force myself to see the bright side to the madness with each project stall, “Ahh, well. Another scrap in the heap. At least computer files don’t pile up all over the floor”.  No, they just get lost and deleted with the next worm invasion. It makes me sad to think how many of my blurbs and brain farts  the world will never know.

Writing is just about impossible without feedback. I am so fortunate that I have such an amazing audience here on my blog. I am so appreciative for every comment I receive from you all.  Since I never have feedback on my writing outside of my blog, “Fortyteen Candles,”  it has been a real challenge for me to move forward to work on bigger projects. In case you do not already know, I live in a cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere. On the bright side, where I live puts me in a great position  to find answers to such questions as:

  • What kind of liquid fertilizer works best on corn?
  • Is that alfalfa?
  • What’s that smell?
  • When are you going to Walmart?

Back to me and my problems. Just kidding – they are now everybody’s problems! Anyway, I’ve been all over the writing map in my life…poetry, screenplays, sonnets, short stories, essays, letters to the editor, chapters, greeting cards, whole books, a million outlines, and a billion scraps of paper containing earth-shattering topics and story plots that never amounted to much. Enough, I say. Enough. I am officially, today, here, right now, stopping the insanity. I’m getting it together in a good way for a change. Furthermore, I like to believe that someday the world will thank me. Ok, a bit too much. Seriously though, I have decided to take the opportunity of asking all of you for your opinions on my writing so far. If you like my blog and enjoy what I write then I’d like to get your insights as to what you think would be a good path for me to take my writing on next.

At this time, I turn to you dear readers to help me out with a survey. I am asking you all for your valuable feedback. Just let me know what types of stories I write that you find the most interesting, entertaining or meaningful? I would be so appreciative to have  your thoughts on my writing so far. I’m hopeful I can take this information and commit to my next writing project….which I already have two really great ideas about. Sigh. I thank you sincerely, truly and in advance. Thanks.

Now, without further adu….here is the official Fortyteen Candles Writing Survey 2012. Oh, and you can pick more than one answer if you like.

Na.No.Wri.Slo

This November a yearly writing journey begins for thousands of aspiring novelists. National Novel Writing Month, or “NaNoWriMo” was created years ago as a way for struggling writers to finally put a time limit on their dreams and commits them to finishing a novel in an international group effort.  Ideally, this would be one of the fabled Great American Novels. But, as any true writer knows, just having a completed manuscript is worth all the gold in the world. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in  the span of one month: November. That breaks down to about 1600 words a day. Sounds simple enough, right?

The writers that I’ve heard about who are able to work on this project literally start the day with a pot of coffee at Starbucks and sit in front of their laptops writing and writing and writing themselves insane. They take brief bathroom breaks, I believe. But not too long as to avoid any procrastination with buying more coffee. Or eaves dropping on another writer. Or doubting their work. Or wondering where their plot lines are going. Or wondering if they really have plot lines. Or plot points. Or becoming unsure if their work is a science fiction romance or a simple down home cookbook.

For years I always dreamed of writing a book. I mean, how romantic would it be to be part of a creative wave of writing energy, inspired by the dedication others around you have with pushing themselves forward to completion? Thinking this was the push I finally needed, since we all know writing in solitude can be tortuous, I went so far as to sign up for local chapters of NaNoWriMo a few different times in the past. Why not? A) It’s a global event B) that is free (just the right price for writers) and 3) it gives people the opportunity to get caught up in the creative updraft of a million pounding keyboards. Destiny? Finished book.Reality? Hmmmm….the idea looks good on paper.

Sadly, the furthest I’ve ever made it into NaNoWriMo was the actual signing with my local chapter before the event begins. Usually it is in September or October that I convince myself “This Is The Year I Will Write That Damned Book!” Must be the changing of the seasons, or the back to school mode, or Fall is just so darn inspiring. Anyway, as the days got closer to the November First start date every year, my email inbox would start to explode with emails of NaNoWriMo deadlines, inspiration, encouragement and tales of other’s writing success.

Let me explain that the idea of a writer toiling away in a creative frenzy doesn’t include the actual reality of many writers: Family. Jobs. Commitments. The day-to-day grind of washing dishes, preparing meals, keeping your loved ones clean, and who can ignore the daily “must do’s” of scrubbing the floors and curling up into a fetal position and crying? Please. And so on. These are the necessities of keeping life functioning and moving forward. Unless you are young and not married or without kids or are in a position to be able to dedicate thirty days to doing nothing other than writing, drinking coffee, writing, going to the bathroom, hallucinating. Not that there is anything wrong with this. This is my dream life if I ever win the lottery. No doubt.

But, back to reality. I am encouraged that so many aspiring authors are able to partake in this NaNoWriMo journey. However, I’m feeling the pain of the aspiring authors who aspire to be able to participate in NaNoWriMo one day. Sitting down to the keyboard is a luxury I treasure between breaking up fights among my kids, washing dishes, doing laundry, working, paying bills and staring out my front window onto the bounty that is my cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere.

So, this year I’ve decided this year to expand on the idea of NaNoWriMo….I am starting an offshoot program called NaNoWriSlo. Yes, it is the National Novel Writers (who write) Slowly club. Our goal is also to produce a 50,000 word novel, but it is at a more practical pace – between five to eighty-two words a day/week. At this rate your novel will be complete in about maybe a couple a years or so? It depends.  You might not finish it at all. And that is also ok. This group will be very supportive, and encouraging, but also very realistic. A daily schedule for the first day might go something like this:

  • Morning: Make coffee, sit down at key board. Enjoy sitting down for a minute. Time to check email.
  • Mid morning: Update Facebook status: “Just started NaNoWriSlo…WOOOO! Don’t count me out John Steinbeck!”
  • Late Morning: Clean bathroom and start dishes.
  • Lunch: lunch
  • Early Afternoon: Refreshed and ready to go! Start typing outline. After seeing what that crash was from upstairs.
  • Mid Afternoon: Call Plumber to fix toilet damaged earlier when book shelf fell onto it somehow. Or that’s the story your kids are going with.
  • Late Afternoon: Coffee time! Also time to go to the store to get food for dinner.
  • Homework: Plan to start Outline tomorrow, first thing. For real this time.

So, our group will start around November first-ish, and go on until you think you’ve finished your work, whatever form that may be in. No pressure. At all. Or not even. We’re mellow like that. And if you do manage to finish something following the strict guidelines above, you will become the face of the NaNoWriSlo international campaign I will start-up. Just as soon as I can get up from this nice comfortable chair.

“On the New York Times Bestseller List!, I Want to Be _________”

Sitting here gazing out from my vantage point on the cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere, I find it hard to believe I once had a literary agent. In fact, I once had a few literary agents wanting me to sign with them. Crazy? Yes. But it’s proof that persistence pays off.

At the time I was working as a grunt in the publishing industry. It’s amazing the inspiration you find living on barely enough money to pay your rent AND buy spaghetti noodles for dinner. Plus, typing out the payment requests for authors and illustrators every day reminded me that other people were, every minute of every day, fulfilling their dreams of becoming published.

Somehow, I was inspired by my living situation at the time and became 100% committed to writing a humorous book about my experiences in New York. I worked on that manuscript day and night, which is easy to do when you have no kids, and can’t afford a social life beyond the obligatory pint of beer after work. My manuscript came together quickly because I wrote it with passion. Things are easy to do when you enjoy them. One day it was finally finished. I then dutifully studied how to write the perfect pitch letter, and found suitable agents to query. Suddenly, agents wanted to read my manuscript. I couldn’t believe my luck when one day I received two letters from agents wanting to represent my work! Here, I, low man on the publishing assistant totem pole, was now having to decide between two literary agents.

One agent had his own literary agency, and the other agent was really an agent’s assistant at an international entertainment agency. I went with the agent who owned his own agency, and in good faith signed on. Unfortunately, the plans he had for my book coincidentally “inspired” the publication he showed my idea to. Two months later my book idea was a featured story on their magazine cover. I learned the hard way about copyrighting – and how you can’t copyright “inspiration.” Sigh. Life goes on. I was never able to reach my agent by phone again, but a few weeks after the magazine with my story idea came out he left me a scratchy and vague voice mail saying he was in Los Angeles. Whatever that was supposed to mean.

Fast forward to recent times. My fears of making more mistakes with my writing and the publishing industry – and knowing my belief in the good of people doesn’t always work well in the business world – stayed with me for years. I had writer’s constipation. I had many ideas, and started many books, but then with no end in sight I would let them fizzle out. All because of a fear that I’d make another naive mistake and get taken advantage of. Then along came Joyce Carol Oates.

My writing career was revived earlier this year, thanks to some words of wisdom from Joyce Carol Oates. I don’t remember the specific words, because I read them on a blog and didn’t memorize them. But her words stayed with me and haunted me and sank into my brain until I was convinced she was right. This was my green light to go forward with writing again.  She said something along the lines that if she had to give advice to new writers she would tell them to start with blogging. It is a way to find your audience, to fine tune your writing and get quick feedback on your work. So, I started this blog. And she was right. She was RIGHT. SHE WAS RIGHT!

In all my life’s ups and downs I have been so inspired by the bloggers here on WordPress. There is endless creativity out there, and an audience for everyone’s voice. I usually never know what to write about, but somehow the words show up. They always say to “Write what you know!” But that is hard to narrow down, and really not helpful. The freedom to write here on my blog without judgement, expectation or limits is what helps me color outside the lines.

I often get confused on what “humor” writing really is. Why are there two categories of humor that agents represent: Humor: Non-Fiction and Humor: Fiction? What is the difference? If I write about my experiences but embellish, or change the names to protect the innocent is it now fiction? These are the little details that lead to procrastination and a cobwebbed keyboard. I was so frustrated by this question that one time I asked a literary agent in an online discussion forum what the difference between these two categories was. I received a snarky and condescending answer in return. And I still didn’t know the difference between the two. Sigh, again.

I’ve recently been hit with a lightning bolt of an idea. One of those “Of course!” moments of what would be a fun and interesting writing project to take on. And taking a chance on writing is always a good gamble….it’s free! Which is good in this economy. Starting today I’ve created an outline of something that perhaps I might finish. And send off to some agents. And hopefully get published. And if I’m published, I damn well better get on the New York Time’s Bestseller List. No pressure, if you know what I mean.

The economy sucks….but there’s hope

So here is a more serious post from me. I am a multi-faceted individual, you know.

This economy is really scary. This isn’t news to anyone, but I wanted to vent my two cents here. I’ve recently been frustrated beyond my limits with this very topic. Namely because there isn’t an end in sight. It is emotionally exhausting to see the personal struggles of family and friends who haven’t been able to find full-time jobs with benefits in months. Years, even. The bills don’t stop! In fact, they do tend to stack up pretty high. Hey, that’s a career option – debt collector. Kidding, of course. But, it’s enough to get a person down.

It seems like years ago people had the option of changing jobs if they were dissatisfied with the one they currently had. Call it “climbing the career ladder” if you like, but there was a certain freedom in knowing that you could move around in search of financial and/or personal satisfaction and/or happiness. This wasn’t to last, however.

When I first graduated from college I earned a liberal arts degree. What did this really mean? I had no idea! Sure I racked up plenty of student loan debt, but I had the keys to the city! And no family to support! Any job was something I could consider, since I hadn’t really learned any specific skills. I could dazzle you with any 101 information at all – be it philosophy, psychology, sociology. History of Ireland? Sure! Printmaking? Why not! I knew a little of everything. I was born to be on the game show “Jeopardy!” Tragically, the only 101 I didn’t take was Economics. This class might have sobered me up quite a bit before graduation. And saved me from landsliding into debt.

My post-college graduation time in the big city was a duplicate of my college years. I took “101” jobs in a variety of interesting industries. Publishing? Sure! Broadcasting? Why not! I tried whatever I liked and soon got my fill on these “career appetizers” after a few years.

Once I moved from a large metropolitan area to a smaller town I realized I needed specific working skills to earn a steady paycheck. In other words, I needed something called “job training.” I headed back to school and became trained in a health care field. This was one of the best decisions I made because, as far as I could tell, I would always be able to find work. But in recent times I’ve learned that there are no guarantees in life. Not even with a degree in the health sciences.

Some people I know made the decision to hyper-specialize in college majors that were more an area of a personal interest rather than a career launch pad. They did this with the best of intentions – hoping the job marketplace would be able to squeeze them in somewhere after graduation. I almost did this myself, but realized I didn’t want to be a college professor teaching crusty old philosophies that were disproven centuries ago.

The people I know who hyper-specialized in their majors made the sad mistake of not going all the way and earning a PhD. This ultimate hyper-specialization would have at least made it possible for them to teach these hyper-specialized crusty and disproven (or soon to be) philosophies. Lesson learned: a hyper-specialized major, without the highest degree possible, will have a very hard time finding a job. Also, it makes leaving unsatisfying work just about impossible because there is no next step option available. Next Lesson Learned: You’re damned if you do, and your damned if you don’t.

So, where am I going with all this? Today, even if you have official “job training” this economy will suck to you and everyone you know. There are no job guarantees, it is hard to climb a career ladder, people are fired, and jobs are not plentiful or available. Competition for scraps is very high. It is scary and frustrating. Some may say it’s a good climate for entrepreneurs. But, after several entrepreneurial attempts of my own I realized that no matter how inspiring he may be, Donny Deutsch is only preaching to the wealthy, self-funded business types.

One day, after living under the weight of possibly being an unfulfilled cog in the wheel for the rest of my life, I realized there is still hope at least for creative freedom. After all, writing is free! And free is always affordable. Anyone can be an entrepreneur with their blog. Build a name for yourself, create a market. Make a free website and dare to be yourself. Find your voice. Find an audience. Make a brand. Freedom of the WordPress. No longer is the media tied up with big publishing houses or broadcasting companies. No longer do I have to compete for literary agents. Thankfully, the internet can keep creative freedom free. Make the most of it. I know I can’t afford not to. Is that a double negative? Then let’s say “I know I can afford that, at least.”

Whew! Rant and vent over. Thanks for hanging onto the end, if you were able to do so.

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