Wednesday, March 29, 2017

When Do You Think About "Where?"

The past few days have included several writer-full conversations touching on "where are you going to publish this?"

I've written a little recently (here, here, and here) (okay, maybe more than "a little"?) about matching written pieces to the needs and interests of particular publications.

Sharing finished pieces is an understandable need/desire/obsession/step in the process. Most of us tell stories FOR READERS--first for ourselves as readers, and then for other people.

One recent conversation held a new slant. A writer who's still in the early stages of a project has received suggestions from a person whose interest in the project is driven by business and publication. That's great--that's what the person providing input is supposed to do, it's her role. And there's nothing wrong with the suggestions, either--except that they may not work well with the story the writer WANTS to tell.

Which got me thinking about writing pieces for a publication (or publications) vs. writing pieces that find homes in publications. The first is what I did as work. It was a job. It was also really fun and personally rewarding (to say nothing of financially rewarding--it was a JOB).

But it wasn't driven from the same deep desire that I write from today. Which is also work, but a different kind of work.

I'm fortunate. For one thing, I'm older and so grateful to have experienced that thrill of contributing to magazines, writing and editing curricula, writing newsletters, summarizing and narrating research process and findings, and all the accompanying bits. The interviews with semi-famous people, passionate people, fascinating people. The research. The sense of being in a community and knowing little stories that others don't because you've spent time talking with this person about that thing they're doing over there. It was great.

I'm also fortunate in that I don't do that now. I still love working with experts in the limited ways I do (I edit a lot of proposals for motivated scientists and engineers doing really interesting research projects). But I don't HAVE to with the same urgency I had before, either for professional achievement or for financial reasons.

So in my writing, I CAN be driven by other questions: "What is the story I WANT to tell?" "What is the best way to tell it?" "Does this finished piece satisfy my urge to convey what I want it to?"

The question, "Where am I going to publish this?" comes later. Often, much later--years. Often, to be honest, the question sounds more like "Whyyyyyyyyy won't somebody just PUBLISH this??"

My situation may change. Though I am not (yet) a writer with an agent or a multi-book contract, if I were, I'd have to consider motivations other than just "me me me" and what I WANT to do. I would be in a business partnership, and I'd need to hono(u)r that commitment and their investment in my work.

Meanwhile, I have a stack of work that I've finished or that has come back. So: back to thinking about "Where?"
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What It Looks Like

Last week I wrote about finding a particular contest to enter. (The full post, at the blog for the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop, is here.)

I'm just back from the launch of the anthology, made up of ten stories that were chosen from contest entries. Here's the cover by artist Becca Paxton, chosen by the contest committee after inviting submissions of artwork on the theme of "Rebirth."

Becca says she hadn't thought of a title and so was calling it "Untitled." Clever. To me, it looks like Ophelia. However, she's the artist, so it's her call.

The launch and celebration was a grand event. So much work goes into a contest, and it provides great opportunities to meet other writers, talk shop, and generally broaden one's horizons. The reception, featuring food mentioned in each of the ten stories, is a bonus.

Thank you to the members of the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association. It is an honour to have a small part in your anthology series!
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How I Did It

I recently wrote a blog post for the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop, of which I'm a proud member, about how I even knew to enter a contest in another region and generally how I decide where to submit my work.

The tl;dr version: research.

Along the way, I mention Compose and the Ten Stories High contest, sponsored by the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association.

NOWW is also accepting entries for its contest--$10 (free to NOWW members) with excellent judges. Consider submitting!

For the full blog post, go here.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day: An Important Difference

On International Women's Day, I like to think about my mother and my grandmothers. Fiercely intelligent, curious, driven--and teachers, all of them. Doing the best they knew to do, though their actions might be viewed differently through today's social and moral lenses.

I think about my sister, whose companionship I treasure. I think of my nieces--competent adults with energy and gifts to share.

I think of women unrelated to me whose presence in the world has taken up space, and also, in some miraculous fashion, makes room for other women alive today and in the future.

Some years it's tough to feel optimistic about the role of women in the world. That would be this year. For me, anyway.

It's extremely difficult to accept that one particular woman--who had so much to give and gave it freely, who was upright (AND RIGHT), who never fit "properly" into a traditional "woman's place" role and paid for it over and over (AND NEVERTHELESS PERSISTED before that even became a thing)--has been deliberately cast aside.

I wonder what my grandmothers and my mother would think.

This year, I feel particularly grateful to live in Canada. Leadership on Canada's political landscape is also changing. It's partly in response to the turmoil in the U.S. and partly because time is passing, and party leadership needs to reflect the different needs and voices in the country.

And here's a difference about politics in Canada in 2016/2017: generally speaking, candidates for leadership who are women are wrong because their ideas are bad--racist, harmful, divisive--and not because they are women.

A small difference, but an important one. I cling to it. I also look to the growing strength of a new generation of political and social leadership in the U.S., in all its various forms of diversity, and hope to feel more optimistic next year.

Meanwhile, I remember my pride in the women who came before me, and yeah, I know what they'd tell me. Get back to work.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Three to Think About

Welcome, March! Here are three thinkers/writers/speakers whose virtual paths have crossed mine recently.

* Richard Conniff's strange behaviors blog, where he writes about animals and behavior and animal behavior. I've been reading and responding to this post in particular: Useless Creatures (and Why They Matter). Not everything in the world has to demonstrate its value by doing something for human beings.

* In the Sydney Review of Books, by James Bradley, this essay: "Writing on the Precipice." The idea with which I first engaged was his discussion of the power of story, one of my ongoing interests. He says, "There are moments though, when our stories fail us, moments when the world's complexities exceed their power." The rest of the essay also has much to ponder. He considers various ways people have recently written, both fiction and nonfiction, about science and nature. Reading and digesting it is taking time, in a good way.

* This talk, "Indigenization in the Time of Pipelines," by âpihtawikosisân (Chelsea Vowel), a Métis scholar and activist. I started listening to this while doing something else. So much to learn! Even her early pre-presentation thoughts about territory acknowledgments--where they're happening, where they're glossed over, where they're no longer causing discomfort--are enlightening. There's lots to engage with, all the way through. 

Here's how I'm starting March--and it feels like "a very good place to start,"* too.

* Yes, from the Sound of Music. Because I've also been thinking more about refugees, resistance, and patriotism lately.