Writing

Writing and anything loosely related thereto.

Reading and Writing as Self-Care

It’s been a bit, dear readers. But on this blog I’ve always been pretty transparent about the fact that these posts are an occasional pursuit compared to my full time obsession with churning out other content like…I don’t know…my dissertation, my podcast, my novels and short stories (including “H&D Plumbing,” which is forthcoming from Fireside Magazine!).

Anyway, this is one of those occasional times when I feel like I have something to say that is best said here and not on Twitter or Facebook or even Instagram.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what writing means for me, and what reading means too.

I read voraciously as a child, but after my B.A. I’d read so much and so widely in my favorite genres that I started to feel like I’d read all of the good stuff and had only the slush pile to pick through for the rest of my life.

Of course, that cynical thought was really naive–I’m currently awash in amazing work by amazing writers. But it FELT true, and so I started reading a little bit less. And then I started an M.A. program, and read a bunch for school but very little at all for fun.

And that, my friends, basically destroyed me. 

Last year, at my wits end with anxiety and stress and insomnia that skyrocketed right after I graduated with my M.A. and only got worse and worse leading up to some major exams I had to take for my Ph.D program, I started seeing a therapist. She asked me what I do to relax and take care of myself, and I shot off a few rote answers like “drink tea,” “do pilates,” and “take deep breaths.” All of which are great. Really. But over the course of weeks and months, my therapist helped me realize that engaging body and mind in something you’re passionate about is also immensely beneficial to well being. My creative outlets and passions, the first things–along with exercise–I had been in the habit of letting drop when life and work got busy, help me acknowledge that my anxiety is real, but that it’s lying about what matters. They help me process this crazy world and my place in it. They help me get things out of my head and sleep at night.

So I’ve been making an effort to amp up my creativity when I’m feeling out of sorts, anxious, and exhausted.

And, guys? I think it’s working.

See, I’ve been doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge for a few years and I’ve noticed something interesting this year. When life gets hectic and stressful and insane, I READ MORE and, when I’m smart, I WRITE MORE, TOO.

I’ve given myself permission to turn to a good book, even when there’s something else I need to be doing. And let’s be honest: I’m a doctoral student and instructor–there’s ALWAYS something else I need to be doing. But that impulse to bury myself in a story–be it someone else’s or my own? That’s my body telling me I need a break. And I intend to listen from now on.

My insomnia isn’t magically gone, but I am getting more sleep.

My anxiety is still there, but I can still breath and relax and think about the future without turning into a vicious tangle of stupid emotions–even when there are PLENTY of reasons turning into a vicious tangle of stupid emotions would be a perfectly legitimate response to life right now.

 

 

 

What I Learned about Writing from Seanan McGuire’s October Daye Series: Ethical Representation

It’s a well-known and much bandied about truism that writers are like magpies: we find inspiration everywhere and borrow tricks and tropes and things from one another ALL OF THE TIME. A Google search for “writers like magpies” pulls up 1,010,000 results.

Sometimes, the shiny bits we steal aren’t ideas so much as best practices. And that’s what I’m going to focus on in my new, monthly “What I Learned about Writing from” series of posts. I’m kicking the series off with Seanan McGuire’s lovely October Daye series, which I discovered just as I was starting my PhD program and have been reading loyally ever since, because the series taught me something that’s been heavy on my mind, of late.

(Speaking of magpies and Seanan McGuire, the other day I ran across this post on her Tumblr and it is amazing.)

Anyway, to return to the topic at hand. Writing. Learning about writing.

shuffles through notes

Oh, yeah. THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD. If you haven’t yet read A Red-Rose Chain (Sept. 2015), you may want to stop reading here. And you may want to reconsider your life choices. Hie thee to a library or bookstore and read it (and the rest of the series, and everything else she’s ever written) ASAP.

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My Publishers Weekly Review

As an ABNA Quarter-Finalist, I won a Publishers Weekly review of my manuscript, They Called Her La Llorona:

This unique mystery features a father/daughter team determined to prove the innocence of a prime suspect in a horrible murder. Jesse Giles Clacher is technically retired as a New Mexico Marshal, estranged from his daughter Colette, thanks to his second marriage to Sadie. When a woman collapses into the restaurant where Clacher’s retirement dinner is being held (reminding them of the La Llorona legend), and her two little girls are found dead in the river and she is accused of the murder, Clacher can’t let it go, or let his successor railroad the woman. He calls his daughter, an expert on the La Llorona myths, and convinces her to come “home” to help him on the case. She is intrigued enough to agree. Although it starts as a way to avoid dealing with her boyfriend’s proposal, it quickly becomes a commitment to proving the woman’s innocence. However, there is a great deal going on behind the scenes in a story that is original and intriguing.

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In Which Disappointment (Albeit Expected) Occurs and the Author Plots Her Comeback

In Which Disappointment (Albeit Expected) Occurs and the Author Plots Her Comeback

ABNA semi-finalists were announced and, well, They Called Her La Llorona was not one of them. I expected that this would be the case; I only made it through one really good round of edits before the contest deadline and there are some things that I need to improve. I’m glad that I made it to the Quarter-Finals (which meant that I was a second prize winner and got a Publishers Weekly review out of the deal), and I’m ready to dive into more edits and start querying.