Thursday, September 30, 2010

The pinnacle often feels like a plateau

About 15 years ago when two attorney friends of mine were enjoying tremendous media coverage during a murder trial, they noted that what probably looked like a career high point from the outside was a difficult and even disturbing time for them.

I'm there, now.

My first book, an ebook, comes out in the next few days. (I'll post here when it happens.) But I'm frustrated at not being able to take a day or two to enjoy the process for rolling out the PR for it on various websites and blogs.

I'm freaking out over a half-dozen projects for my web content business. The business requires a certain momentum to remain successful, which means that I can't "park it" for more than a day — or even guarantee that during the day I park it I won't get a ticket from an impatient client accustomed to "always on" service.

On Monday, an old friend from the folk arts scene died unexpectedly. This is someone I've worked with on folk arts events, including the Northwest Folklife board, since 1985. He was all involvement and no ego, and, as you can imagine, someone like that was in demand everywhere. He did everything from running the sound board at dances (of course, he had his own sound system he'd share) to guiding the executive committees of several organizations. Yeah, he was good.

I want some time to spend with friends talking about what he meant to us, and, even more, I want to spend some time on the dance and music scene he worked so hard to foster.

Instead, I spent the day writing a document explaining to a client how the Protect Document function works (it works horribly!) in Word.

Lots of vivid things happen to me, every day. I've got to figure out some way to better experience them.

Friday, September 24, 2010

At Foolscap

I'm at Foolscap in Redmond this weekend, setting up the auction that raises funds to underwrite the group's publicity/outreach work.

In other exciting news, my ebook on the iPhone is likely to be published late next week. I've started a website that will support it, iPhone 4 Tips, and ordered cards for the book (business cards that focus on how to purchase the book rather than how to contact me). I already have two speaking engagements and one radio interview scheduled. And, weirdly, there's going to be a reading at Hugo House Oct. 5 of the book of essays on women over 50 (In Our Prime) that I contributed to a year or so back.

It is useful to be at Foolscap with so many other authors, both new and seasoned, and listen to war stories.

My regular client work — blogging for my major client, and newsletter articles for three others, continues to hum along. There are two small businesses that I'm doing brief web audits for; unfortunately, I've never figured out a way to make money doing small business websites. The answer is to design website seminar for small business owners, which was what I was supposed to have been doing this summer when the ebook project turned up.

September went by in a blur. I'm hoping October is a little more reflective and that I find a better yoga class.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


This is a story about rejection. It has, if not a happy ending, at least an optimistic one.

As many of you know, I write fiction. Each spring I take the half-day writers workshop at Potlatch. Four or five writers submit stories in advance and then gather to critique each others' work and have it critiqued by the workshop instructor.

Last year, after the workshop, I was talking with another writer of unpublished short fiction and we challenged each other to a submitting contest. The problem, you see, if you love writing, is not writing.

It's submitting what you write — and getting those rejection letters.

One of my Potlatch-community mentors, David Levine, endeared himself to me by publishing a spreadsheet showing how many times his stories are submitted and rejected before being published. He blogs often about getting a story rejected and sending it on to the next publication. It's inspiring. Shortly after I met him, one of David's short stories, "Tk'tk'tk," not only got published in a major genre magazine, but it won a Hugo award (presented at WorldCon by Harlan Ellison, who growled "David Levine, are you here? Get your ass up here!").

Anyway, back on earth...

My friend Julie and I got chatting after Potlatch and challenged each other to a submitting contest. First person to submit wins.

Nothing happened for a few months, but then came the Clarion West Write-a-thon, a fundraising event to benefit the Clarion West Writers Workshop. As a member of the Clarion West board, I needed to gather people to support my writing goals for the summer. I asked for, and got, $250 in support for my goals. My goals were to submit two stories.

Which I did.

(A huge thank you to the friends — and one complete stranger — who underwrote my work.)

Here's the story of what happened:

The first story, a dystopian tale about a bitter elderly woman in the near future, was rejected by a Major Science Fiction Magazine about three weeks after I sent it. This was the kind of rejection you hear about. The proverbial self-addressed stamped envelope arrived, containing the cover page of my manuscript with a slip of paper (God forbid they should waste a whole page) stapled to it that basically said "Does not meet our needs."

 At the time I got the first rejection, I was dragging my feet with the second submission.  It's  a story far better suited to one of the Big Three science fiction and fantasy publications. A pro who had reviewed it for me had said if I made a few modifications to it she'd be willing to "introduce it" to a magazine editor. I made the modifications, but wasn't able to connect with her. Time was running out on the Clarion West Write-a-thon, so I went ahead and sent Story #2 off to Another Major Science Fiction Magazine.

To appreciate what happened next, you should know that Story #2 has a peculiarity that had alarmed everyone in my last writing workshop: It's about a writer, and you aren't supposed to use a writer as a protagonist. However, people had agreed that because it was a humorous story, and didn't take the writer seriously, I might be able to get away with it. Also, the writer is not a science fiction writer — he's a writer of Los Angeles crime fiction novels. So, off it went.

And this is where the story gets optimistic.

After four weeks of waiting, the story got rejected. But it got rejected in that wonderful, constructive way that you want. I got a personal letter from The Big-Name Editor. He'd thought my story was funny — he even played along with the joke in the rejection letter. Which was a helpful analysis of what in the story had worked for him — and what hadn't. My God, he'd read the whole thing!

So tonight I opened up my spreadsheet (yes, I have a spreadsheet, just like David does) and I recorded the rejection. I haven't quite decided where to send the story next, as the market for humorous urban fantasy is limited.

But that's OK. Because I have a Halloween story out for consideration at a small online publication. And I'm hustling to meet a deadline to submit a fable for a short story collection. And the writing is the fun part.