Graduate of the University of Iowa

I’ve finally done it. I’ve completed my Bachelor’s degree AND I’ve gotten what I really wanted. A Certificate in Writing from the University of Iowa!

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I didn’t walk for my graduation. Because my daughter graduated on the same day with her traditionally earned degree in Secondary Education. She’s now a certified High School English Teacher.

With my Certificate, I am going to finish the novel I worked on, and find a wonderful agent who can help me place it with the right house.

I am also getting involved with the writing community in Iowa City and all the opportunities to encourage fellow writers that it offers! I believe it is important to stay around fellow creative people. Artists, and writers, and musicians and craftsmen. Their energy fuels my energy!

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Book clubs too are great places to keep in touch  with the pulse of the literary world and how readers are feeling about literature, weather it’s old, new, or in between.

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and of course, I am carving out dedicated time to write. New stuff. and different dedicated time to re-write, to edit, to revise when the heat of the moment has passed and I can look at the work analytically.

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But above all, I am going to enjoy! I went to college with every good intention at 18 like a good girl… and now at 51, that journey is finally finished. … or maybe partially finished.

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There’s always graduate school. Wouldn’t an MFA look nice?

 

 

Mission Creek Festival – Welcome to Iowa City

It was the first nice weekend of the year. It was the first big festival of the Iowa City festival year. And it was one of my first weekends in the area! Mission Creek Festival was like my welcome to Iowa City.

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A smorgasbord of cultural events focusing on literature and music, this event was never on my radar before but certainly right up my ally!  (for more details: http://missioncreekfestival.com ).

I’m sad to say that as a new comer to the area, I don’t really have anyone yet to go to these types of events with so I was only brave enough to venture to a couple venues. I attended a panel discussion for Iowa writing students made up of professionals in the publishing industry.  Wonderful discussion on the opportunities in that career path and great insider tips for those who are, like myself, hoping to get published. My favorite panel topic was ‘what not to do’ or “did you have any authors who turned you off right away?”.

  1. Always be gracious!! These are industry people who are typically overworked and underpaid and it is wonderful that they can take the time to consider your piece at all. Make them feel appreciated
  2. Get. Their. Name. Right. One of the panel was the amazing Kristen Radtke and she said she has writers misspell her name…and it’s right in the email address. Lazy and rude!
  3. If you use a form cover…make sure you change the house reference. There was an instance where the opening sentence was correct, but later in the cover it said “I would be honored that xyz house would consider my work for inclusion.” except it was the Wrong House! The panelist said she emailed back “well you should email them then..”.
  4. No mass emails. Janaka from Black Ocean said there was one that was a mass email that didn’t even bother to BCC the others in the group. That was ugly.
  5. Pitch it elevator style. No more than two or three sentences explaining the piece. Short and surgically  to the point!
  6. Focus the pitch on
    1. why you…credentials, publications, expertise or experience
    2. why now…what makes this readable at this time
    3. why this house…especially this one. be selective about the fit!
  7. Proof read. Proof read. Proof read!! Have someone else do it too, sometimes you’re just too close to see the errors.

Aside from the sage advice and fascinating anecdotes of the panel, I was wholly impressed with the crowd size and attention of the mostly early 20’s crowd that was standing room only at the venue at FilmScene and their extremely astute and mature questions! There is talent dripping with intelligence out here boys and girls. Get ready!

After that LitCrawl kicked off and I was able to partake of at least one venue’s offering. And it was stellar!

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I attended the event hosted by White Rabbit of wonderful poets presenting their work to a packed house! A well deserved packed house! The readings were amazing. I was in 7th heaven.

Except for the whole, attending alone thing. But hey, next time maybe I’ll have found some folks to rub elbows with and I’ll have a new social circle to spin in around Iowa City as well as at the festivals.

 

Saturday Scramble

Since I work full time and pursue my writing in the hours that aren’t dedicated to being the corporate cog that I am, Saturday’s are a precious commodity. This Saturday doubly so.

We are nearing the end of the semester and the crush of writing to complete is a constant pressure. I need to get a decent 10 – 16 more pages done on Independence for Advanced Fiction.  This piece is both my life’s achievement and nemesis. I want it to be done. That’s what I want. I’m not getting it done. That’s my big problem. I don’t think one piece of this story has flowed smoothly. I have not ever had that moment other authors talk about where ‘the characters just took over and I just couldn’t type fast enough..heeheehee…I had it down in like about a week.” Nope. Not Independence.

I’d be ashamed to admit how long I’ve been working on this story. Just to think of it makes me want to snap all my pencils in half and delete Scrivner.

It’s been so long that now it’s personal. It’s this damn book or me. I have to wrestle it out to not feel like a literary failure. Independence can not win.

But once it’s out, Independence will be a winner.

huh. whaddya know about that.

Writer’s are weird…

 

THAT time again..

Writer friends, you know the time… Revision time.

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I’m working on the Bay Town books right now. Revision is such a tame word for the work that needs done on them. Or the time it will take. Silly ole day job goes and gets in the way right now too.

I’m talking major overhaul here and frankly… I’m intimidated by the whole thing.

So I’m here, mouse in hand, begging for some sage advice. Writers! Ahoy there! When you are afloat on the sea of revision in the eye of the hurricane that is writing a book, with the far wall approaching, WHAT tools do you use in the revision process?

Do you play with POV, do you write out the chronology? Do you map characters? Do you do all this heavy remodeling on screen or do you print out?

I’m new to Scrivner having used WriteItNow in the past. I keep hearing that Scrivner has more functions. Unfortunately (maybe) for Baytown 1: Into Each Life, it will have to live on WriteItNow since Scrivner won’t import their files. Or maybe this program I’m using will be just fine!

If I’m over-thinking this, let me know. I tend to believe perhaps I am. Since I have a blog post written yet nothing revised on Into Each Life. (Good indication of major brain freeze and procrastination)

Which brings me to another point. What about procrastination? In my heart of hearts my deepest desire is to write. But it’s exhaustive and daunting at times and it’s difficult to clock in that seat time. I feel like in order to produce work I’m practically morphing into another world when I put my brain to my characters and story. When I’m done for  session, or interrupted, which is more common, I feel as if I’ve just returned from a demanding dream, nearly a nightmare, a fugue state, if you will.

My only strategy against looking at my work as Sisyphus looked at the rock is simply immersion therapy. I have to do the work and do it consistently!!… again… for those who just scanned to here… CONSISTENTLY!! Do It Daily. That means every day. For at least a set time. 30 minutes, an hour? Carve it out. If it takes me 15 minutes to morph into the story, then I carve out 45 or an hour and 15 to write. If I’ve got story hangover for 10 after I’m done, I tack that on.

What I’ve found when I do this… and No, I don’t always do this (more on this later)… is that it doesn’t take me as long to morph. It doesn’t leave me as exhausted and I perk-o-late better. My story sticks with me and my waking brain can play with it even while I go about other duties. (But not at work, don’t worry Boss, I’m always focused on work there! *cough cough)

Sometimes though, sometimes… it takes the fugue to break through from an ok piece to something greater. It takes that soul immersion.

Writers! Do you find this? Do you schedule? What else works? Carry a notebook? Give Siri notes? Let’s hear from you!

While I solicit advice, I also know that when it comes to writing, whatever helps make your work better is what you do. What ever tactic, or method. What ever time or type. Print the whole bad boy out or work on a dual screen or on your laptop. With a crowd of people or workshopped with your writer’s group, or alone with Game of Thrones soundtrack in the background. (which is me, today,  and actually counter productive to Baytown which is not very Thron-ie at all.)

These revision have sat here, ruminating, for months. I’ve meant to get to them. I really have. It’s a course called the Art of Revision in my curriculum at University of Iowa that, to continue the Sisyphus-ian analogy, got me to put hands to boulder and start pushing.  I’m excited to be back at work and back in class and looking forward to a productive fall as well. It’s one more step to seeing what I can do with all this. As old as I am it just may be too late to be looking, but at lest I’ll never have to wonder.

I’m also hanging out with baited breath waiting for the release of the Wapsipinicon Almanac with my essay in it. And hoping I can volunteer to appear at readings.. like the one that will take place at Prairie Lights in Iowa City. That would be a bucket list item for me for sure!

Next time.. I’ll get into that whole Why-I-don’t-always-do-what-I-know-works thing. You know… the I should do this, or I should do that. You should join me for it!

 

 

 

Ya win some…Ya don’t

Yes I was super pumped about the positive experience with the Almanac. Riding that I saw a tweet saying there was a contest ending  that day for a well respected literary magazine that shall remain nameless to save my chagrin.

I happened to have a nice little literary piece that I thought might do pretty darn well. So I quickly submitted it. And giddy me wrung my hands for months happily awaiting the time for the announcement of finalists and then winners. But I didn’t exactly know what that time was.

Curious, I visited the website to look for information. Now this illustrious publication is produced in conjunction with a famous writers program at a state university. Aside from being distracted by some links to some amazing pieces, I found the link to the contest.

I couldn’t find a date per say. But my eye was caught by a HORRIFYING sentence. Remember how I just said ‘I quickly submitted’. Well I meant that. I very very quickly submitted. I submitted SO quickly I didn’t read all the rules. I read hardly any of the rules.. Ok OK I didn’t read the fuckin’ rules!!

“Student’s of (insert name of state university with the illustrious writing program here) are NOT ELIGIBLE!” *emphasis on bolded capitalized words is mine. I wish it had been theirs*

Not only was I not going to win, I was not going to be considered, I probably wasn’t even going to be read, and I wasted an entry fee,

but most of all… I’m embarrassed before my peer group. I’ve made an unprofessional and bumbling error for which I feel ridiculous.

My question to the two blog readers out there… do I write and rescind my entry? Do I write and admit my mistake? “Sorry I don’t care about the fee, but please disregard my entry?” “Sorry I was blinded by the looming deadline for a publication that has my utmost respect and is on my bucket list to be included in?”

I liken it to meeting your celebrity hero. How many times have we heard the stories of literate, normally eloquent people saying the most cringe worthy things when face to face with the object of their admiration? Like at an after party when, a tad over inebriated, I turned and stepped on someone’s foot and said. “oh God I stepped on you!” and looked up into the face of John C. Reilly. Yes, Wreck’ em Ralph, Step Brothers, John C. Reilly.

Yup. That’s me. Miss Grace, Miss Debonair.

All in all, I think it’s not a career killer. The mis-entry, not stepping on John C. Reilly. But then, what do I know 🙂

Wapsipinicon Almanac

I’ve seen it for years. Of course I have. It’s published just a few miles from here. But many of you haven’t. And, sadly, many of you won’t.

It’s the Wapsipinicon Almanac. A small independent press literary publication. And it’s a treasure.

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Now right off the bat I better say that I felt this way even before the acceptance of my essay for next years issue. (which I simply could not be prouder of!)

Full of essays, short fiction, memoir, and op ed along with some good ole fashioned almanac advice, the Wapsipinicon Almanac is delicious from cover to cover.

“well if it’s such a treasure,” you say, “why won’t I ever hear of it?”

There’s a specialness that goes oh so much deeper than the stellar writing and poignant eco-conscious writing. It’s the physical being of the pub itself. You see, Tim Fay, the publisher, editor, and main man at the controls, prints the Almanac on a century old letter type press. By hand. Once a year. He has some help with the setting, but 99% of the operation is in his hands start to finish. Which results in a fantastic publication of limited number. So get it quick if you want it!!

Liz Zabel at the Cedar Rapids Gazette wrote a nice article a couple of years ago covering all the intricacies of what lengths Tim goes to and what a labor of love it is.

(read it here)

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With such an undertaking Tim wants (and needs) to keep it simple. I’m sure it would have been a coast to coast sensation with a little slick marketing and some top pro reviews. He would have been buried in submissions! As it is it’s on the radar of the esteemed Iowa Writer’s Workshop of pubs to watch for current literary voices. (YES! Iowa Writer’s Workshop!!)

He’s stylistically visioned as well. The advertisments in the pub all adhere to the minimalist theme he’s held for 30 years. Simple lines, simple style. Clean. beautiful.

I’ve always wanted to grab the latest issue and do an Almanac Ad Tour and just go visit all these wonderful sounding places that know Tim, know the Almanac, and believe in both. How fun would that be!!

You can read more about it, more about how to get your hands on a copy, and more about the Tim and the letter press process in Tim Fay’s own words here at the Wapsipinicon Almanac’s website  

I’m still on cloud nine that I’ll be one of the contributing alumn!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scrawny Trees and Holiday spirit

I’m late getting my holidays decorations going this year. I moved. Well actually I moved twice. And quickly! After a year of trying I sold my house. The catch… ‘could I be out in 30 days?’… SURE! I said, scrambling to figure out how I’d get that done but VERY VERY much wanting to get my house sold.

So I bought a mobile home to live in until I found a place to move to. And I found that place fairly quickly. Which left me with 2 moves in 35 days. It was crazy! And I downsized. In the mele I can’t find my Christmas tree.

I couldn’t bear to go without one. I just couldn’t. No matter how NOT in the spirit I am this year. But once I got it home and got it put up I had severe buyers remorse. SEVERE! I didn’t expect it to be perfect, but this scrawny, crooked, skimpy thing can barely be called a tree.

It’s note even like the sweet Charlie Brown Christmas tree, that was live tree in need a saving, in need of nurturing, this thing… this is a manufacturing disaster and the saddest part is someone designed this dorky thing ON PURPOSE!!

But I added 300 lights and stuck it up on a box so my neighbors across the street (who have a huge gorgeous tree I may add) don’t point and laugh too much. After all I am new here.

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The same river twice

I’ve become enamored with a little river on my commute to work. I believe it is trying to teach me something. Or maybe just tell me something that I’m supposed to communicate to you all…

Or maybe it’s just a river. A small beautiful river in the quiet Iowa countryside. A river many people don’t think twice about although they, like me, probably cross it twice a day. To and From.

I believe this river… It’s name is the Maquoketa River North Fork … at this particular place is one of the most beautiful sights in Eastern Iowa. And that’s saying something because we’ve got some sights!

So in preparing to put down some of my thoughts I went online to see if there was a nice photo I could add… and do you know what?

Nothing looks anything like what I see every day. The photos I’m seeing are muddy, and flat, and lethargic and the river I see daily is none of these things.

Which I thought was curious. Is this piece of this little river the last of it’s original beauty? Have we tamed it and bullied it into blandness?

I’m worried now about this little bit of rural magnificence. Can something so small, some snippet of landscape be called magnificent? If it is coming to the end of its existence then I would demand so!

Which is what I fear for my little river section. That it won’t last. That instead of the rest of the river becoming.. or rather returning.. to it’s former self.

If you happen to travel US 61 north to Dubuque anytime… look for it about 5 miles past Maquoketa. But look fast and to the East… and look soon. Or I’m afraid you’ll miss it.

 

Introductions and all that Jazz

As an aspiring author I suppose I’d better get more comfortable with talking about myself. The fact remains, at this point, I’m just not.

As a single mom for over 13 years I’ve written my share of online dating profiles, it can’t be that much different can it?

SWF looking to share with other coffee addicted, bibliophilic readers who either love writing as well or at least appreciate the craft. That is… I love to write, read, talk about books and creating. I’ve found my love as a librarian. Being a bookseller didn’t quite suit me, I kept trying to give people discounts. My success was slated to be short lived with that business model, so I regrouped. I think I’ve chosen well.

It has also afforded me an opportunity to focus on some of the writing projects I’ve had going on. My main focus at this time is the revision of my successful NANOWRIMO piece. I’m still in love with it so I hoping that’s a good sign for things to come.

By the way…

I’m Laura.  Small town girl with a big city heart. It’s great to meet you! IMG_1125 (2)