I was going to submit this, but then I didn't because the due date was an insane day for me and also because I just can't seem to gather up the energy to submit to yet another contest. I covered that in detail in my previous post so I won't rehash it here. Anyway, here's a free story. I wrote it for the NPR Three Minute Fiction Round Five. In a way, I used it as a prompt because even as I was writing it I had a feeling I wouldn't bother to send it in. The story had to be 600 words or less. It had to start with the sentence: “Some people swore that the house was haunted.” and end with the sentence: "Nothing was ever the same again after that."
Today I seriously considered giving up writing for good. For about three seconds. Maybe a minute. I'm tired of submitting my book-length poetry manuscript (Dark matter) and having it not make the grade. I love that manuscript. I'm proud of it. I'm tired of submitting my chapbook of sonnets (Cloud studies) and my chapbook of prose poems (Glimpse). I'm tired of trying to find a home for my sci-fi lit novel (The Quantum Archives). Even when a poetry manuscript gets accepted, it doesn't really sell. Maybe twenty people read it. And then I checked up on the stats for my romance novel (it's under a pen name and hell no I'm not telling you what it is) and it's not selling anymore. I haven't even made enough on it to buy groceries for a month (I have two teenage boys that eat a ton but still). So I seriously thought: why am I doing this?
I thought about all the time I would have if I stopped writing: I could actually finish painting my bedroom or weed my rose garden. I could ride my bicycle every day. Go to the movies. And then I thought about how much I hated ladders and weeding and the future stretched ahead of me empty and rattling. What the hell would I do with myself if I stopped writing? So. I'm almost done writing a new romance novel and I have an idea for another sci-fi book that is so cool I've been dreaming about it. And there are those notes for the funny memoir and the next romance novel (mostly plotted out in my head) .
I guess I won't quit. I like writing better than painting or weeding. Better than pretty much everything else I could do. I've worked in offices: I won't even get into my passive aggressive clothing choices (let's just say the incident with the tie-dyed tights was not a one-time thing). And I love words. Metaphors get me all jazzed up.
. . . is a really cool thing. Okay, yes, he picked one of my poems today, so of course I like this new series of his, except he also picked nine other poems to feature. And he's good at it. I hope he keeps at it, because I love when someone else weeds through the dreck to find interesting poetry and then shares it with the rest of us. Thank you Gabriel!
I love this new project, Whale Sound. It's introduced me to some fantastic work by poets I'd not read before, and listening to someone read them has illuminated the poems in a way that I didn't expect. When I write a poem, I hear what it sounds like in my head, in my voice, and when I read it aloud, I try to preserve that emotion and sense of pacing. Listening to someone else read my poems is the ultimate test: did I succeed in conveying what I intended in that poem? Did I put enough space in between the imagery so that a reader can feel what I wanted as they read the poem?
My favorite poem at Whale Sound is He Calls Her Etsy by Karen Shubert. I love this poem. I love Nic's voice as she reads this poem, the fragile wonder of love and sunlight that she manages to infuse within the lines. I can imagine the scene so clearly and then the last line devastates me. Listen and be amazed.
Thank you Nic, for your incredible contribution to the world of poetry. I am so very honored.
I am a writer. I have written software manuals, insurance presentations, tests, letters, resumes, memos, poems, stories, novels, articles, interviews, and more. I have edited and proofread countless textbooks, journals, and other things. At no point in my life have I ever made more than $30,000 a year. The competition to get published is akin to jumping into a pool infested with sharks. Once you're published, reviewers and critics can punch a hole in your work and watch you sink to the bottom, all the while congratulating themselves on how cleverly they did so. At the end of the day, any non-writer you tell about your job thinks he or she can do it better with no arts education and a complete disinterest in reading. Everyone I tell about my poetry is also a poet; even that woman down the street who "jots a bit in her journal now and again" has been published by Poetry.com.
There are only two reasons writers keep writing. One is because we love creating something with words. The other is the hope that someday we will be in that top .05% of writers that makes the bestseller list (think J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown) and rakes in a ton of cash. Most of us will die before that happens.
This is why we like booze (and chocolate) so much.
(edited to add: I stopped working full-time when I had my two kids, just fyi)
(edited again to add: I should probably mention how cool it is to play with words. Seriously. Writing a perfect poem is one of the most sublime experiences I've ever had. So, while all that up there is still true, I should have explained more about the "we love creating something with words" part. Just sayin'.)