Writing Questions: The Good, The Bad, and The Awkward.

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

The first Wednesday of every month, the IWSG posts an optional question, encouraging members to read and comment on each other’s blogs.

January 2:

What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

 

The Good:

I love answering questions about writing and publishing.

How did you decide to write a book? What did you have to do to get published? What type of things do you do when you revise? What are your favorite editing strategies? What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

The above questions are among my favorite conversation topics. I love talking about the hows and whys of writing and publishing.

As a writing teacher, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and researching how to help people (including myself) improve their writing. I’ve found one way to do this is to develop a good writing process, and as a result, I spend a lot of time observing, analyzing and tweaking my writing process. I love hearing how other people write as much as I love sharing what I do, what works about it, and what bugs I am still trying to work out.

Publishing is another topic I’ve spent countless hours researching. I still have a lot to learn, but I have a good base of industry knowledge that is growing every day and love answering questions about it.

Whether I’m talking about process or publishing, I find that I learn though explaining. Answering questions helps come to new  realizations and see things I didn’t know I knew. It prompts me to fill in gaps in my knowledge, to look at things from different perspectives, and to synthesize in new ways.

The Bad:

How is your book doing? How many copies have you sold?

If you have a writer friend or relative you care about, just do not ask them these questions. It might be okay if the book is on the NYT or USA Today Best Seller List. In any other situation, it probably sucks.

First off all, the writer probably doesn’t really know how their books are doing, especially if they are not self-published. Amazon tells the “publisher” how many copies were sold, so if a writer isn’t self published, they have to wait for monthly, or in some cases, quarterly statements to see how many copies sold in a set period of time.

It’s frustrating enough not knowing how many copies I have sold. It’s worse when I constantly have people asking me about it.

Friends and family have been asking me about Power Surge’s sales since a few days after it came out in the begining of October. I can make some guesses based off of the Amazon sales rank. For example, if I looked on Amazon and saw Power Surge ranked around 100,000, I could assume I sold one book today on Amazon. However, I have no clue if someone buys a book from iBooks, from Barnes and Noble, from my local indie book store, or directly from the publisher’s website, until I get my royalty statements.

The Awkward:

In the face to face world, I get pretty awkward pretty fast when people ask my what my book is about.

Online, if asked the same question, I can refer people to the blurb or take my time adapting a pre-made pitch for the question.

But ask me face to face? You get mubmled fragments about teenagers, Maine, and Demon Hunters, and my most awkward of all: “paranormal things.”

I’m pretty sure I’d sell more books if I got better at talking it up to the people at the dog park.

However, the most awkward questions of all are things like:

Are any of the characters based off of youself? What parts? Is anything in the book based off of something that really happened? The main character self-harms. Is that something you do?

Now, a more general question, like “what inspired you to write this?” is perfectly fine. However, when people start trying to use the book as a way to learn private things about my personal life, it gets very very awkward.

I know by calling the book “own voices” I am acknowledging that some the things that marginalize the narrator are also things I’ve experienced, but that doesn’t mean I want people walking up to me at a party and grilling me about which parts, especially if they are family. The last thing I want is people to think is that they can some how psychoanalyze me through my fiction.

Wrap-Up

If you want to talk to me about writing, I’m always happy to answer questions about writing itself, about the process and different ways to publish. I’m working on getting better at pitching Power Surge face to face. However, I prefer not to have to answer questions about sales I can’t really answer, and don’t want people using my fiction as an excuse to pry into my personal life.

2018 Publication Round-up

2018 is just about over, and while it may not have been my most fruitful year for producing new work, it was a fantastic year for publishing. My first novel was published. My short fiction and poetry appeared in nineteen publications

Of all of these, my favorite is my novel, Power Surge. For short stories, I’m most proud of “Ink and Ash” in The Society of Misfit Stories.

For flash fiction, it’s a tie between “You Won’t Believe How This Creature Changed Their Lives!” in Vulture Bones and “Roots” in The Cascadia Subduction Zone.

“Butter is Not a Dress” in Hashtag Queer Anthology Series is the best poem I have ever written!

If you’re looking for pieces to nominate for awards, check those out! Below is a roundup all of my 2018 publications, including cover art when applicable, links, and a short blurb for each story.

January 22:

“It Sucks to Be a Succubus” in Unnerving Magazine.

A succubus tries to have a fun night out without killing anyone.

February 6:

“Snow Fox” in Once Upon a Rainbow Volume Two

 Jealous Queen E’s attempts on Snow Fox’s life are trending.

March 5:

“The Blind Girl and the Troll” in Asymmetry.

A troll hungry troll decides to aid a refugee instead of eating her, and it alters the state of his existence. 

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March 21:

“Thunder Cars” in (Dis)Ability Short Story Anthology

Food shopping with anxiety is like weathering a storm.

April 3:

“Liberty Underground” in Teach. Write.

There is more to this seemingly haunted house than meets the eye.

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 8.31.16 PM.pngMay 1:

“You Won’t Believe How This Creature Changed Their Lives!” in Vulture Bones

Two siblings find a magical creature. 

May 31:

Dragon’s Bane” in Menagerie de Mythique Anthology.

Not your average dragon hunter

June 20:

“Gala Down” in Drabbledark

Politics and food don’t mix well.

June 22:

“Butter is Not a Dress” in Hashtag Queer Anthology Series

A poem about gender identity and clothing.

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 8.44.12 PM.pngJuly 23:

“Roots” in The Cascadia Subduction Zone

Home isn’t always the house you live in.

July 31:

“The Debutante” in Fantasia Divinity Magazine

A steampunk match-making AI. 

August 30:

“Djinn and Tonic” and “Surviving Seaglass” in Chronos

Two speculative drabbles that explore how supernatural being perceive time.

September 19:

“The Omen” in UnSung (Better Futures Press)

*There is no link to this one because shortly after publication, the publisher appeared to have folded.

September 20:

“A Kitten for the Kelpiecorn” in Four Star Stories.*

A kelpiecorn adopts a kitten.

*The issue it appeared in is no longer available and has yet to appear on the sites archives page.

October 1

Power Surge (The Evanstar Chronicles)

Being hunted by demons isn’t the worst part; it’s the lies.

October 14:

“A Curious Case in the Deep” in Broadswords and Blasters.

Two brave ocean explorers make an unexpected discovery.

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 9.17.20 PM.pngNovember 6:

“Piggish Persistence” in Empyreome Magazine

One magician tries to subvert the pharma-guild’s control on the medical. potions industry

November 1:

“Denial and Acceptance” in Trump Fiction: ECR Special Edition

Aliens invade in the final days of the Trump administration.

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 9.21.06 PM.pngNovember 12, 2018:

“Ink and Ash” in The Society of Misfit Stories

When the government outlaws the use of wands in magic, two siblings find themselves on opposite sides of the law.

November 30, 2018:

“Behind the Scenes” in Unrealpolitik

Werewolves play an important role in the National Park Service’s future.

 

YA: Teens First, Adults who are Young (or young at heart), Second

A few days ago, I read The Many Ways YA Books & The Community Isolates Teens by VICKY WHO READS. It was a thought provoking blog post about Young Adult (YA) fiction that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how teens are isolated from the books that are supposed for them.

Because adults are the ones writing YA, publishing it, and spending money on it, teen voices often get left out of the genre. This had me wondering if my YA fiction was guilty of isolating teens, and if as someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time with teens, I should even be writing books labeled as for teens.

I’m still grappling that and one way I am pursuing it is by reflecting on how I read as a teenager so I can see how it impacts my assumptions about teen readers. What I discovered about the later is worth sharing.

I was high school from 2002-2006, and I was barely aware that there was a category of fiction labeled as “Young Adult.” I think read about five YA titles on my own, unless you count the Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl series, but I think those are really middle grade.

Some of the books I was forced to read, like Lord of the Flies or A Separate Peace might be labeled YA now, but they were written long before YA was an official category.

I was actually in college when I started seeking out and reading YA novels. I met a girl who called herself Artemis, and she let me borrow a copy of Tithe by Holly Black. She introduced me Libbra Bray,  and eventually Cassandra Clare (whose books made me shelve Power Surge for a long, long time).

If I wasn’t reading YA in high school, what was I reading?

Anything Tolkien. I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings multiple times. I read Tolkien’s short stories and poems. I started The Silmarillion and then I took a break from Tolkien.

The Star Wars Expanded Universe, which sadly is no longer cannon. There were plenty of books in that series to keep me busy for a long time. Why would I bother with the YA shelves when all the good Star Wars stories where in the Sci-Fi section?

Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels were one of the best things my senior English teacher introduced me too.

I’m almost certain I was a senior in high school when I started reading The Dresden Files, though it might have been the summer after graduation. I know was not happy when I got to White Night and realized it wasn’t out yet.

I loved these books. I bought them in used book stores, or the used “Section” of my favorite indie bookstores (Jabberwocky and Toadstool). If I couldn’t find it used, I went to the new section, and if it wasn’t there, Borders almost always had it. The staff often said they could special order things for me, but I never wanted to wait that long.

I didn’t really write reviews since I didn’t spend much time online. There was one computer in the house that I shared with my parents. The only review I remember writing of a bool was for my local new paper’s teen authored page. Normally, they published teen authored movie reviews every Saturday. But one week, they let me choose a book from a selection of ARC’s they’d gotten. I picked a science fiction novel by Mike Resnick.It wasn’t YA. I don’t remember which one and I don’t think I’ve ever read any other books.

I occasionally pre-ordered things, especially if it was summer and I had money from my job as a game attendant at Canobie Lake Park.

Like many of the teens mentioned in Vicky’s post, I did not have a huge influence on the industry.

The other question is, did I connect to those characters?

Jaina Solo and Mara Jade Skywalker are still two of my favorite heroines and I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive Disney for erasing them. Mara was an adult, but when I started reading, Jaina was a teen who acted as much like a teen as one can when being a Jedi and the daughter of Han and Leia. She acted more teen-like than the adult characters, and as she aged, her voice matured appropriately.

And with the other stories? Tolkien?  Butcher? Kurtz?

No. Their characters weren’t other teens with relatable experiences. They were fascinating heroes I could vicariously live through for days on end, but they didn’t really share problems or experiences with me.

They weren’t necessarily characters I needed. They didn’t show me it was okay to be depressed, or that medication wouldn’t change who I was or ruin my ability to be creative. They didn’t help me understand why I was so jealous of the girls who boy’s clothing or help me understand that I could dress like that too if I wanted to.

Honestly, I can’t say the actual “YA” books did any better. Later, when I read YA in college, I found those characters relatable to my self as a college student. They weren’t much more relevant to high-school me than Harry Dresden or Bilbo Baggins.

These are books that had a big impact on my writing: Holly Black for the better and Cassandra Clare for the worse (because I thought there wasn’t room on the shelf for both of our demon hunter books).

I try to write the books I think would’ve helped me if I picked them up as a teen, but I’m 30 and I can’t help but wonder: are my teens to mature? Did I Erin Evanstar grow up too much between draft 1 and draft 15? Will they help teens how I imagine? Will teens even read Power Surge?

So far, more 3/5 of my reviews are from adult men.

The only non-adult feedback I’ve gotten is from the 7th grader in my neighborhood who hangs out with the adults more than the kids. They said they were loving it so much that their mom had to take it away so they could do their homework. They said it was relatable, but when I asked why, they said it was because of the protagonist used “they/them” as a pronoun. How much of this kid connecting was because the 17-year-old character as a whole was relatable, and how much of it was because they just hadn’t read many other books with enby protagonists?

I have no clue.

Going forward, if I truely want my books to serve teens, I need to seek out feedback from teen beta readers and read whatever teen authored reviews and book blogs I can find, otherwise, my “YA” will be for adults who are young, not teenagers.

Five Friendly Places that Pay for Fiction

Finding a place to publish a short story can be intimidating. Submitting a story  I’ve poured my soul into out to a literary magazine is scary enough without worrying about what happens to it once it lands in someone’s slush.

And there are so many places that publish fiction. I have to think about things like what kind of stories the market publishes, how much it pays, what their response time is and whether or not they take simultaneous submissions.

There are many markets I send short stories to over and over again only to be repeatedly rejected, but I’ve had great experiences publishing with the following five markets. I’ve had at least one story accepted by each, and sent a second after publication. They are listed alphabetically.

  1. B Cubed Press not only published the most profitable anthology I’ve ever had a short story in, but it is run by an enthusiastic editor who cares about his authors as much as he cares about the quality of their stories.
    • Responsive: All submissions get a receipt confirmation so the writer knows the story isn’t languishing in email limbo. All submissions get a response once a decision is made. Editors periodically post updates on the BCubed Press Facebook Group. Most questions are answered promptly.
    • Strong Community: There is a Facebook group populated with an engaged community of writers who support each other and share ideas.
    • Short  Story Pay: $.02 a word advance + royalties and an e-book
    • Read B Cubed”s latest anthology “More Alternative Truths”
  2. Broadswords and Blasters
    • Responsiveness: Confirms receipt of stories, responds to all when a decision is made, and is known to give personal responses when time allows.
    • Active on Twitter: Broadswords and Blasters engages with authors and readers on twitter. When open for submissions, they use twitter to be transparent about their selection process. However the two things that impress me most are how supportive they are of their authors, and how quickly they are growing
    • Short Story Pay: $15 per story + an electronic copy of the issue
    • Read an issue here
  3. Fantasia Divinity
    • Responsiveness: Generally, emails get an auto response that confirms the submission was received and provides information about response times. Once a decision is made, all stories get a response.
    • Active on Facebook: Fantasia Divinity has a very active Facebook page where they share status updates about where they are in the process of getting a book or issue ready, cover art, and releases. If they get behind on their responses, they generally will post about it so waiting authors know what is going on.
    • Short Story Pay varies per project. Original stories accepted to the magazine receive ½ of a cent per word. Stand-alone pieces are royalties only. Anthology pay varies between the magazine rate and printed contributor copies.
    • Read an issue here
  4. Nine Star Press
    • Responsiveness: An auto response confirms receipt of stories, and once they receive a response email once a decisions is made. Most of the rejections they sent me have been personalized.
    • Strong Community: The NineStar Press authors Facebook group is a fantastic place to meet other writers, find critique partners, get advice about marketing stories and discuss your craft. They are one of the most supportive and generally awesome writing community’s I’ve had the chance to be part of.
    • Pay: Royalties + e-books.Note: While NineStar does publish short story anthologies, novelettes, and novellas, they are primarily a boutique novel publisher.
    • Read my favorite NineStar Press Novel
  5. Owl Hollow Press
    • Responsiveness: All submissions get a response once a decision is made. Every rejection I received from them was personalized.
    • Very Social: Owl Hollow Press is active on a number of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They are the only publisher I’ve worked with who has ever mailed authors free swag to use as promotional material. The bookmarks were very popular at work.
    • Short Story Pay: $50 per story + 1 print copy. OHP does publish novels, but  I think the pay (royalty rate and/or advance) may very from contract to contract.
    • Read their latest anthology here

If you choose to submit anything to any of these markets, please do your own research too. I did my best to provide accurate information, but these markets can update their rates and policies at any time. Plus, I’m human, which means I make mistakes. The publishing world is scary; these are just a few of many places I’ve had positive experiences publishing short stories with.

Read their guidelines carefully, and make sure they publish the type of story you are sending them. If you are unsure if a market is right, reading some of their published material is a good way to learn more about their tastes. Whether you read their previously published works or not, just please please make sure you follow their submission guidelines. I can’t count the number of I’ve times I seen editors stress how important this is.

B Cubed Press, Broadswords and Blasters, Fantasia Divinity, Owl Hollow Press, and NineStar Press are not the only markets I repeatedly submit to, but something about my experience with each was memorable enough for me to send them more work after they published the first accepted piece. Some of those submissions were accepted, but others weren’t. Of course, I won’t let the rejections stop me from sending these editors more stories in the future. They can’t get rid of me that easily. 😉

 

Feedback is a Two-Sided Coin

Every writer needs feedback, and I am not exception. I hunt for it more than my cat hunts for bugs. However, I was recently reminded that I really need to be careful with how I use and respond to it in the same way that Goose needs to realize its okay to hunt flies, but not bees. If I’m not careful about what feedback I take, I might just get stung.

Feedback comes from people. People are all unique and different from each other. They have different preferences. One person may hate a story another loves so every writer needs to be careful with how he or she uses feedback. Three personal rejections I received for the same  story illustrate this fairly well.

Rejection A: “Thank you for giving me a chance to read “Berserker.” The opening scene of this grabbed me and it held my attention to the end, and I think it’s an interesting premise, but overall the story doesn’t quite work for me. In part, the changes of becoming a mother don’t feel like they’re really followed through on. In part, Mina’s change of heart at the end feels too abrupt to me, and the story doesn’t deal with the consequences of her getting caught committing an assault. I’m going to pass on this one for ____, but I wish you best of luck finding the right market for it. I appreciate your interest in ____and hope that you’ll keep us in mind in the future.”

After rejection A, I did make some changes. The feedback was specific,and in some ways, objective. It wasn’t just about what the reader likes, but pointing out a loose thread of plot. Once I was confident that I had tied up those loose ends, I started submitting it again. I got some form rejections, but I also received two more personal ones.

Rejection B:  “I like the overall concept. The present tense isn’t helping you. The piece needs proofreading. I wasn’t as engaged as I’d have liked, and her victory over the curse was too easy. The piece relies on the curse selecting people who are definitely bad, which removes some of the most interesting moral potential from the story.”

I thought about making some changes after reading this, but in the end, all I did was fix a few typing errors. The story was about more than just Mina’s victory over the curse, and changing the nature of her victims would take the story somewhere I didn’t want it to go. I was nervous, but I kept submitting.

This was my next rejection:

Rejection C: “We thoroughly enjoyed your story–it’s one of my favorites so far. However, with limited space in the anthology, we didn’t feel like it was the best fit for our theme. It’s a unique premise and the writing is strong, so I have no doubt you’ll be able to find a home for Berserker. Thank you for sharing, and best of luck in seeking publication.”t 

Yes, it is a rejection, but it does validate my opinions of my story. I knew when I sent it to this place that the piece was only loosely connected to their theme. In fact, it took me a fews days to convince myself it had any connection to the theme at all. Even though it got rejected, I’m glad I sent it. The piece is in progress with a few magazines and contest that are not restricted by theme, and to one more themed anthology that it is more directly related to. If at least one of those editors reacts like C, then hopefully, I will get an acceptance letter. If not, I’ll keep on sending it out.

I seek feedback wherever I can get it without spending more than a few dollars, but I am very selective about how I use that feedback. We should all analyze and think critically about how we use the feedback we get. Here are a few tips for doing this:

  • Reflect on your initial reaction to the feedback. If it is something like “Oh, that makes so much sense! I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself,” then you might just want to take their advice. If it makes you cringe, ask yourself why.
  • Does the reader seem to get the point of the piece? If your answer is yes, then you might use their suggestions. If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t take their advice. However, if they didn’t get it, then there must be a reason. Try and figure out what it is so the next reader does “get” your piece.
  • What effect will the suggested revisions have on your piece? Don’t be afraid to explore and take risks, but in the end, you probably should take advice that feels wrong. If it brings your story in a direction you know you don’t want it to go, then don’t do it.
  • Think about how the feedback is framed. Is it about the editors preferences? or an objective comment about the structure, plot or character? Are they using words such as like, prefer or want? These might signify the response is based on their personal preferences. If they use more specific, concrete language, you can get a better idea of whether or not its a piece of advice you want to take.

Remember, the story is your creation. Feedback can help you see things you got too close to notice. It can help you help other people to appreciate your work. However, if you let it control your work, and you find yourself writing to please one editor or another, then your writing will no longer be your own, and more than likely, it will get worse, not better.

Hunt for feedback like an alley cat stalking a mouse. Use it as selectively as a spoiled house cat who only likes a few flavors of fancy feast.

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A True Cliché: It’s Darkest Before Dawn

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.

Write on!

©2016 Sara Codair

 

 

Micro Fiction: The Lament of Mr. Whiskers

The Lament of Mr. Whiskers

 by Sara Codair

“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.

©2016 Sara Codair

Originally written for Cracked Flash

Practicing Patience: Gardening and Writing

Practicing Patience: Gardening and Writing

By Sara Codair

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 LinesI 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.

Watering

DSC_0793.JPGUnless 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.

Corn

DSC_0796.JPGThe 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.

Tomatoes

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.

Peppers

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.

DSC_0813
Green House Peppers

 

Squash 

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!

Growing Stories

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.

 

Writers, Book Signings and Exorcisms

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.

Why?

DSC_0733.jpgI 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.

***

DSC_0735.jpgWhen 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.

 

Flash Fiction: Hope

Hope

By Sara Codair

“Don’t feel bad. I’m pretty hard to kill,” said GiYu. His purple appendages were already reattached and his torso was knitting itself back together.

The human female nodded and sucked air in through her nose. The slurping sound worried GiYu that the mucus her crying had evoked was making it hard for her to breath. Her skin was still flushed red though, and everything he had read about humans had said they turn blue when they are suffocating. Her eyes were focused on on torso, watching feathery tendons flicker back and forth.

“What do you think of it?” asked GiYu.

At first, the female didn’t respond. However, GiYu was patient. He watched her brow furrow, her lips quiver and her shoulders square before she finally speaking it a quiet, raspy voice. “It’s…Like…like 3-D printing, only without the extruder. It’s…it’s magical.”

“Regeneration is the art of my kind.” GiYu beamed down at the missing section of his torso. It was wide and purple, but shaped like a an earth-tree half eaten by one of their furry beavers.

“Does it hurt?” she asked with a steadier voice.

GiYu shook his head. “It is pleasant, almost like mating. Some of my kind get addicted to it and harm themselves just to experience the pleasures of regeneration.”

“You’re not mad?” Her eyes were wider now, and the tears were starting to dry up.

“Quite the opposite.” GiYu wrapped a fuzzy, purple tentacle around the human female’s back. “I’ve met many humans, but none of them were born during The Melt. None possessed your unique abilities.”

The female’s hands had uncurled as she let out a slow breath. GiYu could see the tips of her ten tiny fingers now. He was pleased to see the flesh on the the tips were still smooth and whole and he was relieved that using her ability did not do harm to her.

“My own people think I’m a monster.” The human’s creamy cheeks glowed red as she looked up. It was the first time her two green eyes made contact with any of his seven eyes. “I burned my family’s home when I was seven. They wanted to kill me, but the government took me, experimented on me, deemed me unfit for service and sold me to you.”

GiYu pulled her closer. “We have plenty of use for a firestarter here on SyLur. Fire is the only thing that keeps the mold at bay, and it really isn’t a problem if you accidentally set me and my kin on fire. We rather enjoy it, and we hope you will enjoy our planet.”

“But I’m a slave,” said the human.

“For now,” said GiYu. “Dedication and hard work may yet earn you your freedom.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

GiYu was pleased to see a flare of hope in the girl’s eyes.

***

The above story was originally written for the Cracked Flash Fiction Competition. It was the runner up, which meant the judges wrote a brief review about saying a few things they liked and a few things they thought could be better. That draft had been written from a more omniscient 3rd person point of view where the human female talked a lot more. The judge liked the concept of the story, but said the following:

“I felt like her personality felt incongruous with her backstory–for someone who was a pariah for most of their life, and probably both mentally and physically tormented and abused (generally what ‘experimented on’ stands for, since experiments tend to not be gentle things), she felt far too talkative and adventurous. It would be more believable to me if she was more timid and had a lot more nonverbal gestures; it might have been useful to write from a more limited third-person view from GiYu, where he observes her more closely, and we hear more of his thoughts.”

So I took that suggestion, more or less, before posting the story here. The reader does here more of GiYu’s thoughts. The girl is more timid and has more nonverbal gestures. As she realizes GiYu isn’t going to eat her and is pleased with her actions, then she becomes more talkative.

You can see the original here.

If you have any further suggestions for the piece, I’d love to hear them. I don’t think this piece is quite finished yet, but I am trying document/show my revision process online. I learn a lot from revising and documenting that revision. I hope other writers can too.

Thank you!

©2016 Sara Codair