I’ve continued to fine tune my novel—with the goal of sending it to agents before the end of the year—by integrating notes and feedback from a new round of readers. I also recently took a great workshop at the Thurber House with Kristen Lepionka about writing query letters, so I’m feeling confident and prepared.
At the same time, I’m beginning to stretch my short story muscles again. Drafting new, but also revising old stories that I never sent out. I’m seriously enjoying the rush of sending a completed story to a journal—the sense of accomplishment and patience that comes while waiting for a response. I got another rejection just today!
I went five years without sending anything out. During that time, I drafted several full re-writes of my novel, published a few issues of The Outbreak, wrote for this blog, and got a job where I write most of every day. Those have all been wonderful experiences, and I’m continuing most of them. But I’m thrilled to be back in the draft/submission/rejection/submission game. I've renewed my Duotrope subscription and even established a profile on Submittable for the first time!
Adding short stories back in, as well as the “final” push on the novel, has pretty much eliminated blog time. I’m spending all my severely limited personal writing time on those projects. But there’s one more reason.
Last summer, I spite-finished Ulysses. And I haven’t been able to hold my attention on a novel since then.
Let me back up. Years ago, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC. I joined a charity group (we raised money for an AIDS clinic) that I trained with for six months, running progressively longer routes each weekend. At the beginning of that training, I jogged three blocks up my street, nearly collapsed into a wheezing heap, and walked home. Six months later, I finished the marathon at 5 hours and 10 minutes—not breaking any records but thrilling all the same. I did it! With such a sense of accomplishment, I even signed up for another marathon! After a week or two of rest, which is about how long it took me to comfortably walk down stairs again, I started my own training program. But within a mile or two, I knew. I hated running. Running is boring and painful. Even if someone was chasing me, I couldn’t imagine running 26 more miles—at some point, I’d turn around and fight.
So that’s what happened after Ulysses. Novels became boring. Of course, they didn’t change. But my attention span did. I have managed to complete a couple since then--The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Awake by Andy Havens, and even American Gods by Neil Gaiman—and I hope to get my thoughts about those up on this blog soon. But there were many more novels and longer non-fiction that I picked up and put down unfinished.
Then, I remembered short stories. I started with a collection that was highly recommended to me: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. And even though I got impatient during some of the longer stories, I really enjoyed it. I could get into fiction again! After that, I tried crime and mysteries and became enthralled by PD James’s The Mistletoe Murder. Currently, I’m reading A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, a collection of short stories so moving that I arrive to work in tears with some frequency.
Although I’ve been quieter here and on other social media, I’ve been much louder in real life. It feels like I’ve been writing and reading constantly, and I’m excited by it. I interrupt friends mid-sentence. “Have you read Lucia Berlin? You MUST find her. This PD James story blew my mind! The Ray Bradbury story about the rain… yes!” I’m thrilled to the point of gushing. I’m falling in love all over again.
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