Are You a Success? By Whose Standards?

November 4, 2013

I’m still a little bleary-eyed and disjointed from odd train schedules and driving throughout the night — I just got back from the annual Call To Action conference, where I came up with ideas for at least two blog posts for Young Adult Catholics, so overall, I think it was a fruitful trip. Between audiobooks on the drive and traditional books on the train (not to mention a 7-hour wait at the station), I also finished three books–one of my favorite parts about traveling–including APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, which I’ll review here by next week.

Source: Flickr: Jim Henson’s Fantastic World

On the drive home this morning, I was listening to the new biography on Jim Henson. I’m always a bit nervous when I pick up biographies of creative geniuses, afraid that I’ll feel woefully inadequate by the time I’m done. I thought that would be the case with this one; Jim was already well on his way to the legacy that would become The Muppets by the time that he was in college. But as I follow the story more deeply, I realize that success to the rest of the world and success to Jim weren’t necessarily the same thing. Jim’s characters are recognized and beloved around the world, yet he spent years trying to break beyond being “a puppet guy”–even before he worked on Sesame Street, launched The Muppet Show, or created any of his feature-length films. He wanted to expand into doing “arty” films, including experimental videography, live action, and ambiguous messaging. He only attained moderate success in that arena, with many of the projects he wrote and devoted himself to during this time failing to find an audience. Those that did find an audience met with mixed reviews, and have faded into obscurity today.

It reminded me of the article I found most intriguing in Write Good or Die, “Success” by Kristine Kathryn Rush. In it, she talked about how many writers who are outwardly successful didn’t consider themselves successes because they hadn’t achieved what they really wanted to do. I can relate to this. I used to think being published in something besides a student journal would designate me “successful.” When I hit that milestone at age 21, I wanted to have something published in a book, then write for a wider audience, then publish fiction. Around this time last year, I even ended up with my name on the cover of a book (although I didn’t write it), and I felt as though I were a “real” writer for about a week.

There are other external measures of success, too. While I’ve never made a ton of money, I’ve been privileged to find work I enjoy ever since college, not to mention work that is in my field. My current combination of working part-time as an employee for a news organization and freelancing to round out my time and my income is my “sweet spot” as far as work-life balance is concerned. By my own standards, I consider myself pretty lucky. I know others who are as smart, talented, and educated as I am who have not been so lucky in their work lives, and I remind myself often that I’ve got nothing to complaint about.

Except. I don’t really consider myself a success. My dream of publishing a novel, which I’ve cherished since I was about 10, is still out of reach. And it’s hard to feel successful after spending over half my life writing books and still feeling like I don’t have the right answer to the question, “Have you been published?” or “What have you written?” I feel that the answer to what I’ve published and what I’ve written are not really the same, although there’s the tiniest bit of overlap.

I believe that writing is its own reward; in fact, it’s so rewarding that I have a lot of trouble getting myself to devote as much time to submitting my work as I devote to writing it. The E in APE totally freaks me out. But I know that if I go through life without publishing a novel, I will feel like I’ve failed at my own measure of success, regardless of what else I might accomplish. And if I do publish one? I have a feeling I’ll be plagued by wishes that more people had read it, that it got better reviews, that it sold more copies.

This all might seem like a rather discouraging thread, but its effect on me is the opposite. It helps me keep things in perspective. Even Jim Henson received three years’ worth of rejections on a project he loved that never did get produced. I hope that at the end of his too-short life, he was able to appreciate everything he had done, and not dwell too much on what he hadn’t. I hope I’ll be able to as well.

Because ultimately, the next dream will always be out of reach. That’s the definition of dreaming. And maybe that’s why so many people who were “success stories” by the world’s standards felt like they fell short of their own. And maybe that’s not as depressing as it seems.


Rumplestiltskin ebook, beta

July 22, 2013

I’ve brought Rumpled, my Rumplestiltskin retelling, through what is close to its final revision … for now. That is, I’ve implemented everything I intended to implement based on feedback from my writer’s group, and am ready to send it to someone who has never seen it for a proofread (my eyes might fall out of my head if I read it one more time at this point.) I still need to format it for Kindle and do a little more work on the cover, but in the meantime, I’ve uploaded the “beta” version to Wattpad. It’s free there, so I’d be delighted if you checked it out!

It’s Story-a-Day May!

May 14, 2012

Yes, I know that we’re halfway through the month, but better late than never, right?

Did you know that May is “Story-a-Day” month? Yup, it’s another one of those writing challenges I love so much. This time, the challenge is to write one story every day. How you define story is up to you.

This is definitely the writing month challenge that intimidates me the most, which is probably why I’ve only attempted it once (and I think I only wrote 4 stories). Still, the challenge intrigues me, especially as I continue to ponder the short story form. This seems like the perfect opportunity to pound out all those half-baked short stories ideas floating around in my mind, right?

Even if you don’t participate, the StoryADay website has a great blog, and you should definitely sign up for the daily prompts. They might inspire your writing beyond the month of May … or you can do like I do, and foist them on your students or your writing group. 😉 (I use them for the Teen Writing Group I lead at the library — thanks, StoryADay May, for making my job easier!)

I’m Officially a Goodreads Author!

August 1, 2011

My bit of writing excitement last week — which I’ve already blasted around all the social media to which I belong — was being accepted into Goodreads Author program. I’ve been a member of Goodreads for over three years now, and recently I was looking at the collection of science fiction short stories, Queer Dimensions, in which I published a piece. I noticed that several of the short story contributors in the anthology had a “Goodreads Author” credit next to their names, but that acknowledgment was woefully missing from my name. So I did a quick Google search, applied to be part of the program, and voila! Three days later, I, too, have become a Goodreads Author.

The best part of this transition is probably that it pulled up a few reviews of the anthology that I hadn’t read before, including one that referenced my contribution, “The Man in the Mirror” as “the most sincere of the stories.” I also appreciated this review from Lily:

THE MAN IN THE MIRROR by Lacey Louwagie
This well written story is about what could happen when everything you’ve always wanted starts to come true. In this sweet yet oftentimes sad story the heroine learns that being yourself, and not trying to be what someone else needs, is the only way to truly be happy. Very nice story with an excellent ending.

As endings are the most challenging part for me to write, I was particularly pleased that she commented on the ending.

There are some scary things about crossing the threshold to “Goodreads Author,” too. One is that now I’ll have to be ready to buck up and accept negative, even scathing reviews, of what I’ve written (Lord knows I probably deserve it, after some of the reviews I’ve written!) I admit that when I review a book on Goodreads that designates the author as a “Goodreads Author,” I feel more hesitant to write something negative. A good friend of mine admitted to feeling the same thing, but then made peace with it by deciding that authors just need to accept that not everyone is going to like their work. It’s part of the territory. I agree with her. Now let’s see if I can take as good as I can give (one thing I will NOT do is leave comments on bad reviews “defending” my work. Readers have every right not to like what you’ve written, no questions asked.)

And then there is the issue about being brave, too. I tell the world I write speculative fiction, but it’s not as widely known that some of it (much of it, if I’m totally honest), addresses queer themes in subtle or overt ways. I know that this means some people will judge me immediately as a person, and skip right over the writer part, skip right over what I actually have to say (“oh, she’s part of that agenda”). And that saddens me. But it’s part of the world we live in, and it’s not going to get better if we continue to hide.

Mostly, though, I feel challenged. Because as good as I thought it would feel to reach this milestone, I find the one book to my credit looking pretty piddly on my author account page. I want more books there. MORE!! Around this time next year, I’ll be able to add the book I’m working on for ACTA publications to the roster. Hopefully by the time that one is there, I’ll have another in the works that I can look forward to putting in spot number three.

What are Your Three Writing Wishes?

July 7, 2011

SheWrites is asking members to record their year’s three writing wishes here. (I’m reinterpreting wishes as “goals,” since my *wishes* would be a) publication with b) fantastic reviews and c) high sales — but I’d rather list things I can make happen on my own.)

Now, this seems rather fortuitous, as one of my writing wishes for this year is to become a part of an online writing community, and SheWrites is the one that holds the most appeal because of its support of and connection to women writers from all walks of life and all stages of their writing career. For almost two years now, I’ve received their weekly emails and as such have been something of a “lurker” in that respect, since I always read them but only occasionally click through. But in those two years, I’ve seen a passion for writing and a warmth for other writers at SheWrites that isn’t particularly evident at other online writing communities I’ve explored, although I’m sure they all have their areas where they shine.

My main reason for wanting to join an online writing community is to further my goal of understanding the short story as a literary form (and writing option). I’m fortunate to have my wonderful speculative fiction writers group, who monthly battle valiantly against patchy Internet connections to Skype me into their meetings in Duluth. I’m doubly fortunate that a couple members of the group are particularly good at speculative short stories. But I feel a little at a loss when it comes to getting feedback on short stories of a more literary nature, and so those tend to gather dust while I wait for them to (at some point!) critique themselves. Since I’ve waited over a year and a half for that, I think I really need to take matters into my own hands. And so, these are my three writing wishes for this year:

  1. To evolve from a lurker to a participating member of SheWrites.
  2. To Workshop and Revise my literary short story, “Closeted,” and to submit it (I originally wrote it for GlimmerTrain’s semi-annual short story contest with the theme of Family.)
  3. To finish writing my retelling of Rumplestiltskin, which was supposed to be a short story but is languidly stretching out into a novella, and to bring it through its first rigorous round of revisions (right now, it’s at that awkward stage where it’s already ITCHING to be rewritten, but I’m trying to at least throw the rest of the bones out before I start rearranging vertebrae).

There are other things I hope to accomplish in my writing life by this time next year, such as participate in one last NaNoWriMo before I’m an old married woman (my last NaNo as a single gal, not my last NaNo ever), and get an agent to request the full manuscript of Ever This Day. But if I can at least accomplish 1, 2, and 3, I will be quite content.

What are your top three writing wishes?

Poetry, Short Stories, and Realizations

May 1, 2011

A good friend just reminded me that today marks the beginning of Story-a-Day May–a challenge to write a story every day for a month. This comes on the heels, of course, of Poetry Month and Script Frenzy, a challenge to write 30 poems in a month and to write a script in a month, respectively.  And then, of course, there is my personal favorite, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the challenge to write a novel in a month, in November. This has me thinking that one could easily spend a whole year devoted purely to writing challenges, with all the “off-months” consumed with revising the frenzied outputs of April, May, and November.  In fact, I like this idea so much that I’m tempted to make this my “writing project” for 2012 (which is, incidentally, also the year that I’ll get married, which should give me plenty of material.)

As of now, I came in short of the April 30-poem challenge at 23 poems (respectable or measly, depending on your perspective). 24 if you count the one that LiveJournal deleted of its own volition.

Until November, I’m continuing to explore short forms. I realized recently why poetry and short stories are so difficult for me — it’s because my writing Kryptonite is endings. With these forms, the end is always looming within sight, even from the very first word. Perhaps my preference for novels doesn’t come just from the fact that I read more in that format, but because it allows me to procrastinate writing an ending, sometimes for years and/or for over a hundred thousand words. BUT shorter forms also mean that I get to revise sooner, which, for me, is the fun part.

I won’t be doing Story-a-Day May, but I WILL commit to finishing my short-story-in-progress this month.  Strange that that can feel like a bigger challenge than the 50,000 words demanded by NaNo!

Back to the Classroom

June 10, 2010

I’m writing again, and I finally have a plan.

It’s been two months since I finished the second draft of my YA novel, and as usual, I was taking a “break” between projects. It was a productive break, as I managed to write a handful of poems, a short story, and lots of journal and blog entries. But two months tends to be sort of my “breaking point” between projects, when I start feeling a little batty for lack of writing structure. So when I woke up earlier than usual yesterday and had a whole blissful hour for writing, I decided what my next project is going to be: writing exercises.

I admit, it feels a little like a demotion to go from writing novels to doing writing exercises. In the past, I tended to scorn writing exercises (although I had no trouble doling them out to students!) because they took time away from my “real” writing. Well, I’m not ready to start a new novel, and Story-a-Day May revealed to me how productive exploring can be. Also, I ended up telling my mom about one of the stories I’d jotted down in my picto-journal, and as I told her about it, I realized it could actually be developed into a good short story.  So I’m going to take some time to work through reading and doing the exercises in Wild Ink, perhaps in conjunction with revising my novel. After I’m through with Wild Ink, I may be ready for a novel again (it may be November by then, after all!), or I may want to spend some time continuing to explore within the short story genre. Either way, I plan to have a full notebook of ideas to draw from. And I can’t wait!