Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Come and sit by my fire, and I'll tell you a story.

I am taking a quick break from the insanity of packing (my Mom is here helping, and it is still so nuts, there is actually a box downstairs labelled "weird shit") to tell you about a wonderful project I am so thrilled to be a part of.

Fireside Magazine, Issue 2 (and beyond).

I'll let you click over and see the details, but the short version is, it's a Kickstarter for a fabulous magazine, with short stories and a comic, and wonderful artwork. There are so many amazing people who are part of this - Stephen Blackmoore! Galen Dara! Damien Walters Grintalis! Jake Kerr! Steve Walker! Brian White! - and I am delighted to be involved.

And I really, really want to write this story. If you like, you can even be in it. (Cue diabolical laugh.)

Thanks so much to those who have supported us already, and thank you also to those who will support us in the future.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pushing pause

In two weeks, I'll be on the road. My house is a shambles right now - there are boxes all over the floors, bags of things to be donated ready for their Monday morning pickup, books in piles to be sorted, half-disassembled closets. There are two manuscripts and notes for a third project marking space on my desk.

I think my brain, or maybe my self, is partway on the road already. I have a week of goodbyes coming up here, and I'm making plans for a week of hellos when I am there. I turned in my last set of grades last night, and I'll turn in the key to my office next week. I feel inbetween and almost, and I alternate between wanting to play in the boxes like my cat and wanting to hide under the bed with my dog.

I will miss this place, but I don't regret leaving it, and when I talk about leaving, I say that I am going home. I am trying very hard to make this move and the changes that come with it a real new beginning - to think carefully about the choices that I am making and how well those fit with the life I want to have. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Not quite radio silence, but turning the volume down

This morning, I looked in the refrigerator, and there was no food to eat for breakfast. Nor was there breakfast food in the freezer, or the cupboards. There was food for Sam I Am and Stella, and there was coffee, but otherwise, my choices were pretty much nonexistent.

That sad state of affairs has been remedied, but it's what leads to this post. 

Remember yesterday, when I said the moving truck was arriving in 21 days? Well, what with the revolution of the Earth around the sun and all, today that number is 20. And some progress towards being ready to move has been made in the intervening time, but not all. (Shocking, I know.) And there's still the grading papers and the deadlines and the ballet that is premiering in under two months.


I don't think I'll disappear from here completely, and I'll still be on twitter fairly regularly, but in the interest of making sure that the house gets packed and the papers get graded and the words get written and I don't starve in the process, I'm giving myself permission to take "blogging" off of the to-do list.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

All of my history etched out at my feet

Somehow, it is only Tuesday.

It's been a little less than two weeks since I knew for sure that I was moving back to the Twin Cities. I've taught my last classes, turned in one set of grades (I get the next set of finals on Friday), and made my grad students very happy by opening up my academic bookshelves to them. I have reserved space for my worldly goods on a moving truck, and leased a new apartment in St. Paul that I love.

Said moving truck comes in 21 days.

I still need to grade that second set of finals, and clean out my office at school. I need to pack up my house, which will involve a lot of sorting, as I am moving into a one-bedroom apartment. As much as that will be work, I'm glad to do it, glad to pare my life down to the things I really love.

I guess that's really what I'm doing in this move - paring my life down to the things I really love. I'm looking at what exactly I need to do the work I'm going to do - the writing - and also, at what exactly I need to make myself happy. And it's a weird sort of thing, to think about happiness as part of a life plan, and maybe that says some things about me, that I haven't included it as a major part of the calculus before. (Or at least not since choosing a college in high school, which was really the last time - half a lifetime ago - when I really thought I could do whatever I wanted, and so I should pick the thing that would make me happy.)

I know I'm going to have to work hard. And there are going to be days that worry me, the days that all of us have, when I feel that any career other than being a writer would surely have been a better choice. There are going to be times (probably about 6 am on a February morning, when I am walking Sam I Am) that I curse the weather. But all of those things are my choice to have. And I am going to work, and shape my life, in a way that looks like happiness.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Overnight success, thousands of nights in the making

I was talking with one of the grad students in my department last week, and she asked me about what I was going to do when the semester - and my fellowship - ended. I talked about moving, and jumping into freelancing, and how I was both excited and nervous about it.

"Well, why don't you just throw something you've written up on Amazon? You've published stuff before, and it's so easy now. My partner and I are thinking about writing and publishing a novel that way this summer, to help with grad school costs, you know? You sell enough copies, you don't have to worry."

It was true, I supposed, that if they sold enough copies they wouldn't have to worry. I wished her luck, and excused myself to go teach my seminar.

Well, and why don't I just throw something up on Amazon? First, let me be clear: I have no problem with self-publishing. Obviously, some people have had tremendous success at it. For many others, it's a useful and satisfying part of their writerly portfolio.

But for me, right now, it's not the right choice. I don't want to learn how to convert my manuscript files into ebook files, or to learn how to make those files readable across a variety of platforms. (And no, I am not asking for advice on how to do this or reassurances that it is easy.) I don't want to have to find and pay for content editing, or copy editing. I don't want to have to find and get permission to use cover art, or commission cover art. I don't want to have to research pricing, or worry that my book is suddenly going to be discounted or given away free without my knowledge or permission. I don't want to immerse myself in any of the business parts of being a publisher. I want to put my time and energy into writing.

And here's the other thing: selling enough copies "not to have to worry" is at least as difficult in self-publishing as it is in traditional publishing. An Amanda Hocking (who is now traditionally publishing, for what that's worth) is just as rare as a JK Rowling. And sure, those are extreme examples of success, and yes, I could keep a roof over my head and Sam I Am in pug treats with fewer sales than millions and millions, but my point is that most writers' careers look vastly different to those two.

I've been watching Amanda Palmer's kickstarter for her next album. It's been amazing to see the enthusiasm of her fans. The speed with which the album has been funded looks like overnight success (Or faster, even, as I think it only took six hours for the project to be funded.) But as she mentioned on twitter last night, this fan community, and her relationship with them has been years in the making. She has worked incredibly hard - and not just on the immediate album and its associated art - to make this happen.

Which leads me to the other reason that, right now, I'm not looking into self-publishing as an option: audience. The problem with the fact that it's so easy to self-publish means that a lot of people do so, and it's very hard to find the signal in the noise. Books get lost. And again, I understand that this doesn't always happen, and that traditionally published books can get lost in the crowd, too. 

But I've only been publishing for two years. And while I am grateful beyond words to everyone who has ever read anything of mine, who has taken the time to write and tell me they liked something I wrote, I don't have the audience yet to fling a book out into the world and hope for it to become - or even find - a safety net. So no. I am not going to just throw something up on Amazon and hope for the best. I am going to keep writing, and writing the best stories I can. And I am going to keep being grateful to and overwhelmed by the people who have said they liked things I've written, or who have asked me to write more. And maybe one day, when I've worked really hard, I'll get to look like an overnight success.