Instead of writing yesterday afternoon, I spent a good amount time just just standing outside, watching and photographing clouds as they moved in over the lake. There appeared to be fronts colliding in front of my eyes. I wanted to write a poem about it, but have yet even begin to find the words to truely capture what I saw, so perhaps, this is an occasion where images need to tell the story. I don’t think my photos truely do it justice, but they will suffice until I find the right words.
These pictures were taken after the darkest cloud had passed over us. They were much prettier when they were past me instead of approaching or above me. Like I usually do, I am seeing a metaphor between these and my writing. I received about 13 rejections this week, but this morning, the Flash Fiction Press accepted one of my stories. Rejections can be like dark storm clouds, but they always pass, leaving something beautiful in their wake.
The summer is my favorite time to write. I get to all my writing out on the screen porch, and since my hours go down to part-time, I have plenty of time to sit out there and let my imagination go crazy. I couldn’t ask for a better place to create and be inspired.
As a writer, I often strive to avoid clichés. However, there are times when they are just necessary. The title of this blog post was one of them.
I’ve gotten over 100 rejections since I started sending stories out to publishes, but last week, and the week before, the stream of rejections was more intense. It was dark, and wore away at the thick skin I thought I had grown. Every morning, I woke up to at least one rejection in my inbox, and saw at least one more before bed.
Last Friday, I had three in morning and two more before bed. One of them was for a story I had really thought was going to get accepted. My thick skin had been pierced. I thought I was doomed to never be published again. I thought my writing sucked. I was a failure.
Saturday morning, I woke up to not one, but two acceptances. The first was saying Centum Press had accepted a story to their 100 Tails Anthology. The other was from book publisher expressing interest in a children’s manuscript I had sent them. I was and still am off-the-wall excited. I haven’t gotten a contract yet, so I don’t want to share any details, but I’m too excited to not saying anything at all.
The sun was finally starting to rise.
I did get one rejection Saturday, but nothing Sunday. Monday had a stream of rejections, which were thankfully tempered by an acceptance to Sick Lit Magazine. Tuesday, there were no rejections at all. Just an acceptance to Ink in Thirds.
Today? One personal rejection with a sentence of feedback that will help me revise the story, and one form rejection.
Since school got out for the summer, I’ve been sending at least one submission a day, sometimes as many as five. I’ve been constantly writing and revising. Whether its obsession or persistence, it’s working.
Things got darker for a little bit, but they the sun came up and washed away my doubts.
Jim Butcher, one of my favorite authors, said if your in a group being chased by a grizzly bear, you don’t have to be the fastest person, you just need to be faster than the guy next you. It may sound harsh, but the market is completely saturated with great stories. The writers who get overwhelmed by the rejections and slow down get eaten. The ones who keep writing and keep clicking that submit button get published.
I will not be eaten by the Grizzly of Despair.
I will keep running. I will keep writing. I will find homes for my stray stories!
And one of these days, I’ll actually get paid for them.
Three years ago today (June 22), it was a hot but breezy Saturday. I married a man who was more creative, kind and beautiful than I could have ever imagined (if you’ve been reading my stories, you know I have a big imagination). Since then we’ve bought and renovated a house, planted a garden, adopted a cat and had dozens of amazing adventures.
Our first adventure as a married couple (aka a honeymoon) was a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. This morning, I was looking through photos from that trip and started laughing at myself. I hardly took any pictures of my self and my husband. Almost all of them were either of my bouquets, or the scenery, as if those could somehow tell the story and document our trip better than anything else.
And maybe they did. Nature was the reason we choose Bar Harbor. Every day was spent kayaking, hiking and biking in and around Acadia National Park.
I don’t talk or write about religion much, but I’ve always felt closest to God when I was away from people, surrounded by forest, ocean and mountains. We had our official ceremony in a Catholic Church, but in a more private, spiritual sense, the hours we spent outdoors, just me, him and God’s creation, was part of that ceremony or ritual. We spoke our vows before God on the altar then acted them out on the trail. I made sure he drank enough water. He helped me up a rock my short legs struggled to scramble over. I watched when her perched on a cliff edge to take a picture. He made sure we didn’t over do it on the hikes. The more challenging the trail, the stronger our bond became. I don’t think I realized that three years ago, but looking back, its crystal clear. And I’m pretty sure its why my album looks something like this:
“I think I preferred your old hobby,” said Mr. Whiskers. With his sleek, black fur and yellow eyes, he looked like a mini-panther.
His human rubbed his head and scratched under his chin until he purred.
“You’re such a handsome boy,” said the human.
“I appreciate the massage and compliments, but I do not think you understood me. I said I think I preferred your old hobby.”
“You’re a talkative little guy today,” said the human, intensifying the rub.
Mr. Whiskers meowed in frustration. The human never understood him.
“What’s wrong?” cooed the human.
“You,” hissed Mr. Whiskers. He swatted the human, with his sharp claws out.
“Ouch!” The human jerked his hand away and sucked on his bleeding finger.
“Serves you right,” muttered Mr. Whiskers as he stalked away.
He hissed at the litter of fluffy kittens as he walked by, letting them know that if they dared swat his tale, he would scratch and bite them. They cowered behind the couch cushion.
Pleased with himself, Mr. Whiskers leapt on top of the mini bar and took a bath. Rescuing kittens was a noble hobby, but one that he would prefer not to happen in his own territory. He really wished the human had just stuck to knitting. Those balls of yarn had been so much fun to bat around the house.
As you may know from my previous posts, patience is something I struggle with. Sometimes, I’ve wondered if my lack of patience was going to prevent me from succeeding in the writing world. I wrote about this struggle, and how it can be both a gift and a curse, in recent post on The Muffin.
Just last night, I submitted a second draft of a story and felt sick after hitting the submit button. My instincts were telling me I should have let the story rest and revised it more before sending it out. Especially since on Monday, a story that had been revised and rejected more than ten times was accepted to an anthology called After Lines. I had to wait 59 days for a response, but in the end, it was worth it.
I know I need to be more patient, so during the summer while I have the time off from teaching, I try to do things slowly to teach myself to be patient. One way I do this is with my garden.
Unless it rains, I water the vegetables every morning. I don’t use a hose or sprinkler. I do it by hand with a single watering can that I fill from a rain barely.
The can takes a few minutes to fill, especially when the barrel is near empty. Next, I have to carry the watering can over to the garden. I have tomatoes, peppers, corn, summer squash, winter squash, cucumbers, salad greens, soy beans, carrots, onions, potatoes, scallions and strawberries. There are several of each plant. One can only does a fraction of the garden, so I have to make several trips and wait for the watering can to fill every time.
The task is time consuming, but since I am only working ten hours a week in the summer, I do have the time for it. It forces me to wait for something, to do nothing for a few minutes while the watering can fills. In those moments of doing nothing, I can think and reflect, I can listen to the birds and watch my surroundings. Thankfully, I have a very good view from the rain barrel.
Flowers blooming in the rain garden
Looking down at the lake from the rain barrel.
The corn plants take a whole can of water by themselves. However, watching them grow from seeds was also a test of patience. I wanted the instant gratification of seeing their little green leaves poking up within a day or two of planting the seeds. Every morning when I watered, I would stare at the soil and see nothing, much like I obsessively refresh a submission manager hoping to see the status of my story change. Both corn and submission responses take time. I had to wait, and my patience was rewarded when a week later, I finally saw those green shoots poking out of the soil. Now, I have to patiently water and weed around them while the spend the summer growing.
The tomatoes were also a test for my patience. They germinated quicker than I expected, but came up stringy and floppy, unable to stand up on their own. I thought they were doomed. I waited a few days, and when they didn’t stand up on their own, I started searching on google to see if there was anything I could do to help them.
One website said that if I buried most of the stem when I repotted them, they might get stronger and be able to stand up straight as the stems thickened. However, I was afraid the stems were to fragile and would just snap if I tried to transplant the tomatoes.
I did my least favorite task: I waited.
I let them grow like floppy vines. They didn’t die. The stems got thicker and they grew a second pair of leaves. I moved them to my mini green house on the patio and waited some more. When the stems grew even thicker and the roots came out the bottom of the seed tray, I moved them all to bigger pots, burying three quarters of them stem.
For a while, I thought they were going die. They wilted and they still flopped. I bought a few tomato plants from farm stands and flea markets, just in case. However, I never gave up on my floppy plants. I kept watering them and turning them to they had to straighten out to face the sun. Eventually, they got too big for the shelves of the green house and went in the ground.
Now, they look healthier than the bought plants.I forced myself to be patient, and it paid off.
The peppers were one instance where my patience failed me. They are stories sent out too soon.
They germinated and grew quickly, like a draft finished in one sitting. When I saw their roots getting tangled at the bottom of the seed tray, I should have just moved them all the bigger pots. However, we were past the last frost date, and the weather was hot, so I thought, “why not put them in the ground?”
I knew it was still early for peppers and that Massachusetts weather is fickle. Just because we get one 90 degree day in late May doesn’t mean much. I put more than half of my peppers in the ground and a week later, the days were barely reaching 70. Those peppers have not really grown in two weeks. The ones still in the green house are twice the size.
Peppers in the ground
While the peppers may have been a failure, the squashes were not. I started them indoors and planted them late may. I remember looking at all the empty space in that patch of my garden, fighting with myself, resisting impulse to plant more squash. I resisted my impulses, telling myself to be patient. And it’s a good thing I did.
While the yellow squash and cucumbers are taking their sweet time, the zucchini plant is sprawling across its designated space. It has several flower buds of both genders. It won’t be long before I’m picking my first zucchini of the summer!
I have yet to perfect the art of patience, but I am improving. This year, the garden is already doing better than it was last year, and my list of accepted and published stories is growing. My plan is to keep practicing patience, and to keep documenting it through writing so that both me and others struggling with the same issue can learn.
Over the next few weeks, keep an eye out for posts about my raised beds, growing potatoes in trash barrels, gardening lake safe, writing, tutoring, and traveling with a cat. I’ll also continue to post micro stories and the occasional poem or recipe.
I’m known by my family to be a very picky eater who generally does not like anything too mushy. Surprisingly, I LOVE meatloaf, but only when it is made a certain way – the way my mom and I make it.
Before I started cooking it my self, I used to order meatloaf in restaurants, but either it was too spicy, too goopy or too plain. I tried it at my mother-in-laws house, and while the texture was right, it was devoid of all flavor. I gave up on trying to find a new meat loaf I liked and decided to learn how to make my mother’s recipe.
Like stories, I revise recopies dozens of times before I’m happy with them. This meatloaf recipe is no exception. After lots of trial and error, I have turned my mom’s recipe into something I like just a little better.
Now, before I get into specifics, I will warn you that this recipe isn’t exactly conventional. I don’t properly measure when I make it, but that is half the fun with it. I can share my ingredients and process, then you can customize it to your own tastes – almost like a pick your own ending story.
1 to 1.5 lbs of ground beef, as lean as you can get it.
Half a roll of Ritz crackers, crushed
Half a packet of Liption beefy onion soup mix (dried onions, onion salt or powder, paprika, and garlic powder will get you a similar taste if you don’t gave the mix)
A squirt of Zesty Italian Dressing (Kraft, Wishbone and Market Basket brand all have as similar taste)
A squirt of Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory and Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce
A few squirts of ketchup
Mix the dry ingredients (crackers and soup mix) in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, BBQ, and salad dressing. Make an X across the surface of the mixture with the ketchup then add the ground beef.
I mix it all together with two wooden spatulas. My mom prefers to use her hands. Either way works, just make sure it all gets mixed up evenly.
Once its mixed, put it in a loaf pan. For best results, use an old fashioned one with a glass lid. Drizzle ketchup across the top of the load.
Bake it for 45 minutes on 375 for 1.5 lbs or 350 for 1 lb of beef.
Take the meat loaf out of the oven and drain the liquid fat. Put it back in without the lid and cook for at least another fifteen minutes. At this point, I check it with a meat thermometer, and if it isn’t well done, then I put it back in the oven until it reaches the correct internal temperature (at least 160 F http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html).
Let it cool for a few minutes then serve with your favorite vegetables.
If you have leftovers, you don’t need to worry about a separate container. Put the lid back on the glass jar and place it in your refrigerator.
The following piece of flash fiction was originally published on Cracked Flash and was the runner up for their week 44 competition. I made some revisions based on the feedback I received from the judges.
By Sara Codair
The sword fell out of Lenora’s hand. It was over. After years of slaving away on the battlefield her ex-husband, the emperor, was finally dead. His head lay on the ground next to her fallen sword. She expected to feel some sense of excitement or victory, but she was empty, too tired to muster the smallest smile.
After fighting for years without victory, she had all but lost hope, believing the Gods were against her until the mysterious army of white knight appeared out of nowhere. These allies beat back the enemy legions and paved a way for her to reach the emperor and finally slay him. Now, she was watching blood pour out of his corpse like sand in an hourglass.
As the last of the emperor’s blood soaked into the ground, the landscape broke down. Bodies and vultures, mud and murder, armor and arms dissolved into tiny little squares.
Lenora looked down at herself. She still appeared solid. Crouching, she waved a calloused, gauntlet-clad hand through her enemy’s corpse. It went right through his pixelated body to a stone floor.
She choked on her next breath. She’d grown accustomed to the stench of blood, death and sweat, but it’d been a lifetime since she smelt melting plastic mingling with coffee and beer. It was terrible and beautiful and she sucked in as much of it as she could.
“It worked,” shouted a voice as foreign and familiar as the smell.
The battlefield was nothing more than fading dots dirtying the floor of a room filled with screens, wires and video game controllers. Two men rushed towards her. They bore no armor or weapons, and wore only ripped jeans and t-shirts.
“Nora!” shouted one of the men. “Thank God you’re back. Are you alright?”
“Ray,” she whispered as memories long buried broke through the dungeon doors. She ran towards him, all but collapsing in her lover’s arms.
“I love you,” she said inhaling the stale beer and coffee that clung to his breath.
“I love you too. You’re home now. You’re safe.”
She clung to him, crying to tears of relief to be out of the virtual hell her ex-husband had trapped her in. She was back in the real world. She was finally free.
It had been a while since I’d gone to any kind of author talk or writing event, so when my friend, Artemis, asked me to go see Grady Hendrix speak at Jabberwocky Bookshop in Newburyport, I agreed, even though I had never heard of Grady Hendrix or read any of his books. Artemis said we both needed to be more involved in the local “writing community” and even though I didn’t think this was going to be quite what she had in mind, I went along anyways.
I’m glad I let her drag me away from my little lake house and my keyboard.
I laughed. I learned random facts about the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s. I bought two books, and had one signed by the author.
I was awkward and asked Grady about his writing process, discovering he basically rewrote his book from scratch three times. I am more or less in the process of my third major rewrite, though it’s really the 8th revision if I count less dramatic revisions. I know everyone writes differently, but when I hear successful people following a similar method as me, it gives me hope that I am on the right path and that when I do get brave enough to send it out, someone will buy it.
I gained insight about the balance between research and just making things up. Grady said when he started writing, he went as far as having a chart on the wall with what the weather was like certain days and was upset when the real weather didn’t match what he wanted it to be, until he remembered he could just make it up. More importantly, what he said really got him into the right mindset to write a book set in the 1980’s was getting in touch with his own memories.
I’m not writing about the 80’s. My protagonist wasn’t even alive in the 80’s. However, Grady’s story reminded me that the best way to write YA, to write about being a teenage, is to really remember what is was like to be one. Even the tiniest memories can help me capture that state of mind and immortalize it on the page:
Trying to remember why locker combination while staring at a row of piss yellow lockers, getting overwhelmed the noise in the café and the smell of bad pizza, eating lunch alone, outside, in my hot pink parachute pants, or the exhilaration of getting to gym class, where I could finally run and move around freely can just bring me back to the write mindset to write a character who is 16 or 17. Even if that character isn’t anything like me, the memories help.
When the talk was over, Artemis and I bought books, got them signed, got stickers and went for a walk around Newburyport.
I had fun listening to is author talk. I learned a lot about the decade I was born in and about writing. I can’t wait to read his book. Most importantly, I left feeling motived to finish revising my own.