I’m being published! And you can preorder!

harmonious heartsI don’t think I’ve properly mentioned this in its own post, but I am going to be published for the first time! A short story of mine, “Entrances and Exits,” was a winner for the 2017 Young Author Challenge by Harmony Ink Press, and will be published with the other winners in an anthology of stories about LGBTQ characters aged 14-21 written by 14-21 year olds. (They do this every year, so it’s definitely a great opportunity for some of you out there!)

I’m a bit nervous because between this and a workshop I did last fall (I originally wrote this in a class), it’s gone through a lot of edits and is a little blurry in my mind. But I did learn from class that I shouldn’t make changes that compromise the integrity of what I want to say. It’s also a little experimental, written with an “objective”/observer POV and entirely taking place in a foyer. But it comes from a place very dear to my heart–not just because the main character is also bisexual, but also because of the observations on heteronormativity and college admissions. (That said, the experiences and relationships definitely differ from my own!)

And now the anthology is officially available to preorder! It will be released on October 24. I’m excited to read everyone else’s stories! (I haven’t properly checked out the author’s portal yet but I do believe I have or will have access to an ebook early, but I don’t think I’ll review it because that feels a little biased!)

The official blurb for my story is as follows:

The foyer of the Huxtable family home has seen its share of struggles. It bears witness as siblings Pippa and Mike try to strike a balance between their dreams and the expectations of well-meaning parents. As Pippa grows up, she realizes the influence of everyday heteronormativity on her life, while Mike cannot seem to escape his driven sister’s shadow.

I’m very excited to properly start my publishing career, and this has been a great opportunity to gain experiences working with editors.

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Approaching Art vs. Approaching Academics

As I wrote about previously, I’ve had the fortune of taking part in a little writing workshop, which is ended this week. I’ve come away with a lot of thoughts and feelings, but I want to focus on one for now: the different mindsets with which I approached writing (art) versus how I approached school (academics).

I haven’t been able to take a solely creative writing class yet (though I will be my upcoming, first semester of college) because it was not offered at my high school. As such, this was really my first experience, even if it was a condensed workshop and not for credit. But that was really all for the better.

School and I have a complicated history. I love learning and for the most part, I loved school. I would insist on doing workbooks over the summer in early elementary school, just for fun. But there was also another reason I liked it: I was good at it. Teachers liked me. Everyone said I was smart. It was something to hold on to. But as the years went on, because of this narrative I imagined around myself that I figured others saw, I was afraid of taking risks and making mistakes. I got more and more anxious and upset, my standards for myself rose even higher (I think I only had one or two semester grades that were below 95%…), and I forgot how to enjoy myself. I wanted to know I was doing everything “correctly,” even if that meant typo-checking and adding finishing touches for hours, and ultimately I was much more concerned with the grade than the learning experience. (This is tied to a longstanding battle with perfectionism, as well as OCD which got worse as I neared the end of high school.)

At this point, I’m looking forward to college academics with my same high standards, hoping the greater amount of free time and general atmosphere will allow me to loosen up, especially as I’ll be starting fresh and my friends will be rarely taking the same classes as me. It was with that mindset I went into this writing workshop. I knew some of the others there, and I was nervous about reading aloud and comparing myself to others like I always do. But, surprisingly, I didn’t. Everyone had their own very different projects and interests, and I was actually pleased . The atmosphere wasn’t one of work, but one of artistic inspiration. And I loved it.

I always thought of myself as more of an academic, or at least more of a learner or even communicator, than an artist. But I might be reconsidering that.

Writing Workshop: Week 1

This past week, I started a three-nights a week, two-week workshop. It’s a small, local thing paid for by a grant and partially taught from a teacher from my high school. I’m so glad I had this opportunity–especially after my first experience.

I haven’t done workshops or even a real creative writing course before (we didn’t have any at my high school), so it was amazing for me to realize what could come out of me if given a prompt (something I don’t do very often). I knew plot and character basics, but it was still good to refresh them and hear different interpretations.

We are each writing short pieces for an anthology (which means I will be published!) which are around 750-1000. Flash fiction, essentially. Mine is a weird little piece that I started but never actually got to the characters and conflict a while ago, because I didn’t know where to go with it. And now, with that little push from the workshop, I have! And I’m pleased with how it has turned out, though it isn’t necessarily finished yet. The interesting thing was how the teacher had a different interpretation than I did. Though she still really liked it, I want to make sure my ideas get accross properly–even if there’s a magical/fantastical element. (Magical realism? Maybe.)

I’m also loving seeing what everyone else is putting together. We’re all so different, but all have great ideas!

I am 10x more looking forward to my short fiction reading and writing class in college, now!

The Habit I Need to Kick to Write

I’m rounding third base on a novel right now, which I have spoken about before. It still feels very much piecemeal, as my ideas of it have changed over time, and I’ll need to edit a lot to make it coherent. Several times I stepped away and worked on different projects. This sometimes happened because of the technical difficulty of structure or writing particular scenes, but it would also happen because this book is rather personal to me, and I would sometimes want to step away for some perspective or not want to revisit the topics. And yet, I continued to return because it was so personal and important to me.

Because of this, a habit/quirk of mine has also been making this book difficult to write. See, since at least kindergarten or preschool, I tend to pretend that someone else can see my life through my eyes. It’s often because I’m excited about something and want to show a friend, or I want to introduce a favorite show or movie to another, or something reminds me of my parents or a teacher (or their class) or another acquaintance. So I’ll imagine they’re there with me, often looking through my perspective.

When I’m on the computer, I’ll always have my current writing project up, as well as the Internet and whatever else I could possibly work on (a blog post, email, etc). This certainly isn’t the best strategy for time management, but it’s a habit. Naturally, before I start writing, or when I’m stuck, I’ll end up on the Internet, and something will remind me of someone else, and then they’ll be there on the computer with me. And when they’re with me, I’ll have difficulty shutting them out and going back to writing–especially if I’m writing an emotional, personal scene. It’s kind of like someone is watching you write over your shoulder, which is never pleasant. Some fun dialogue scenes I can write, but it’s those serious emotional moments that are based on aspects of my personal life–situations that these people who are “with” me may have been involved with–which are difficult to focus on and just write.

I haven’t kicked this habit quite yet, but the upcoming weeks for me are a little busy, so I think I’ll be able to schedule specific times to work on specific things, which should increase productivity and concentration and allow me to immerse myself in my story.

When the words just flow…

After struggling on and off this summer, I’ve finally hit a groove and I’m really enjoying and am excited about writing. I also finally hit about 50,000 words on my project**, which makes it an offical “novel,” even though I’m currently adding and rearranging more than writing linerally, which also means that some written scenes will probably be reworked or deleted.

Nevertheless, last night I went to bed thinking about how I was potentially so close to being done with the rough draft, and how I could send it to my friends for a first read (after I just read through it again and insert ir change some things I want to make it consistent, as some of my ideas changed halfway through, and some minor characters don’t have names). It was such an exciting feeling, especially as I’ve poured so much of myself into this story.

My struggle with this book–which I’ve been working on for a year and a half–was that I wasn’t advanced enough for it. It’s middle grade, but that meant I needed to keep it accessible and plot-driven enough to keep my audience reading while also telling a character-driven story. I originally began with some magical realism, but then I began rethinking that. Then I wondered if I needed to reshape what I had written all along a more higher-stakes plot. Whenever I got stuck, I would often put it away and move to another project with more momentum. Sometimes, I stepped away from it because the subject matter was often so personal. But I always returned.

This summer I planned on taking what I had and making a chart from which I could then add or rearrange, still thinking I would have a more dramatic plot. Instead, I found I rather liked what I had, more than I’d thought. I came up with more ideas that I liked much better, and I’ve now been working on adding them, and then using that additional background, I’ll move forward. There were only a couple of chapters left, after all.

I’ve still got a lot to figure out, but the idea of working from a draft than from ideas that aren’t on paper is so relieving. I’ve started many projects, but I’ve honestly only finished one book before, and that one was very different (fantasy, 90,000 words) and I was 12. (I did reach 50k on the sequel, but I never go further with other projects because I kept editing that first one, until I realized it just wasn’t what I wanted anymore.) It’s yet another component to this new stage in my life, and like college and being more independent and meeting new friends and finding new opportunities, I’m happy.

**It’s a middle grade realistic novel. It’s broadly about middle schoolers figuring out who they are and who they want to be, perfectionism, mental health, friendship, and how stories and characters as well as the Internet shape our view of the world.