Finding Better Balance in 2017

The Universe has a way of sending me exactly what I need, when I need it. As I wrapped up 2016, I reflected on the year. While I had stayed on top of all the things I’d said yes to (and then some that I inherited out of familial duty) with most of my sanity intact, I hadn’t accomplished as much as I wanted to or had set out to do. Keeping up isn’t always the same thing as being effective, I found.

Confession time: I had a really rough January.

I spent the last half of 2016 teetering at the edge of losing all the things I was juggling just trying to stay on top of everything. I volunteered enough hours in my several roles within the League of Utah Writers that I won a really prestigious award (when I’ve officially been awarded it, I’ll share details!) but I hadn’t completed the novel I’d been on track to finish when the year started.

I still haven’t.

A lot of this is because I decided (almost on a whim) to return to college to finish my degree. However, that wasn’t the only reason if I was being completely honest with myself. In the darkest moments of January I actually resented my shiny prestigious award. It represented concrete evidence of over 500 hours that I’d given to people besides me and my writing.

I spent 2016 doing things that were amazing. Don’t get me wrong. But much of it was at the expense of my own dreams and goals. I had done it all, except what made me happy and what meant the most.

Here’s where the Universe comes in. I follow a blogger and fellow writer who is a productivity expert. She supplies me with my yearly statistics and writing progress tracker and I’m in an online writing group she started. I don’t know her personally but she changed my life by writing about her own similar struggles last year. When I read her blog post reflecting about it, I realized just how ineffective I’d been last year at the things that really mattered to me.

I got to take a turn with my friends receiving, rather than giving, support and talked through a ton of these things with Hubby. Hard as it is to hear “I told you so”, he HAD been telling me this was where I was headed all year long. I just hadn’t believed him, thinking I had it in the bag and could handle whatever life threw at me. I was wrong.

Yes, me. Wrong.

Mark your calendars. This might not happen again for eighty years, folks!

What I realized from all of this is that my personal productivity was suffering because I was not focusing on the right things. I was doing everything believing I was being successful and effective and in reality I was neither. I started taking stock of things I did and evaluating if they were the right things to be spending my time and energy on based upon whether doing them would bring me happiness or achieve my own goals. When I approached things from this place, it was much easier to say no to things without my FOMO (fear of missing out) rearing up.

I spent February implementing changes and am in a much better place because of it. Here’s a rundown of the subtle changes I made that had the most impact.

FACEBOOK LAST

I moved Facebook (and all the other social media I do) last in order of things I do each day. I thought I was already doing this since I usually set aside specific time every day for that. The small change I made was to stop getting notifications that popped up when I would get a new message or someone would interact with me online. I was getting them so I would know if something pressing came up that I could handle easily. These things I thought kept me on top of things were actually Unscheduled Interruptions. Once I eliminated them, it was easy to see how much. I still can see the total number of notifications as a passive thing if I happen to glance at my phone over the course of the day. But not knowing the details of what I’m missing gives me the freedom to “do” my social media on my own time after the things that matter most are done. I do this even for email – which surprised me. But, the idea of keeping up on email and being reactive to requests doesn’t support the reality of getting the right things done. Let’s face it, email was created as a way to communicate without the need for instant response.

SHORT STORY A MONTH

I knew when I enrolled in school that my writing time would be cut in half at best and I was right. I lost steam on the novel and found it harder to pick up seamlessly when I only had stolen moments to write. But I still have stories in me and I’m much happier when I’m writing. So I committed to what’s left of my writing group to write a story a month with specific deadlines. We’ve only been at it for a month but January was successful. By the end of the year, I’ll have at least twelve drafted stories that I can have at my disposal when that perfect opportunity presents itself without stressing about how I’ll find the time. Making my writing the first thing I do when I have free time has kept the focus on my own creativity.

DELEGATION

This one is a tough one for me. But it’s been a year with my fellow leaders within the League and I’ve discovered others who are just as anal and committed to getting things done as I am. Knowing what each of their strengths (and weaknesses) are and who has what specific skills has allowed me to trust more and more things to others. I also get to be in charge of building a team to split up the work of putting on conferences and it’s going extremely well. Much more so than where I was a month ago when I was ready to quit completely so I could spend all my free time on my own writing. Bottom line, I love the work I get to do to help others achieve their dreams and find opportunities within the writing community to grow. I wouldn’t trade it but I’ve also found a way to make it work better within the boundaries of my life.

Spending time on what is really important to me and focusing my efforts on activities that drive my goals, not just crossing off things on a list, has made a huge difference for me. The key for me is mindfulness about what each thing I’m doing and how it is contributing to those things that matter most to me.

Shout out to Jamie Raintree, without whom this journey out of my dark place would have taken forever! Here’s to a fantastic and productive 2017.


Overachiever: College Edition

I am now officially a sophomore and entering my third term since returning to college. Just got word that I made the President’s List because I have a 4.0. Not going to lie – that feels amazing and worth every amount of hard work and suffering when I say that. I found out recently that my perfectionism comes from my Dad – who very quietly his whole life has never started anything he didn’t know he would be good at and who pushes himself to do everything perfectly. Overachiever is apparently a genetic trait.

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2016 Book Archive

Time once again for the yearly recap of my reading. I’ve read a bunch of books this year and while I no longer have time to do extensive reviews of each on GoodReads, I offer you the following short reviews in case you’re looking for recommendations. This also is my way of keeping track of what I’ve read in one nice and neat format I can look back on. These are in chronological order because this year my OCD got the best of me. Enjoy!

  • Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill – I wanted to love this one after NOS4A2 but it was not quite as good. It was enjoyable as a horror/thriller but it didn’t stick with me like previous reads written by Hill.
  • The Finger Trap, Johnny Worthen – great meandering mystery with a main character who has distinctive voice. It was like getting a glimpse inside a middle aged guy and figuring out exactly what makes him tick while he tries his best to become an unwilling private investigator to save his own skin.
  • The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah – this was a book club pick and was heart-wrenchingly good. I cried, I rejoiced, I weeped. A period piece about WWII, which I don’t always love, but was extremely good. Highly recommended.
  • Old Scratch and Owl Hoots: A Collection of Utah Horror, short story collection – this was a fun jaunt through the minds of Utah Horror with a western theme. Western is not one of my preferred genres and not all the stories were created equal but there were several that were worth reading that I enjoyed. Short story collections are fabulous when trying out new authors or for fast reads between larger ones.
  • Waiting for Sunrise, Eva Marie Everson – another book club selection but one I didn’t particularly enjoy. It was light beach reading with a side of religious overtones. I know lots of people who liked it and thought it was inspiring but it wasn’t my cup of tea.
  • The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King – what’s not to love in a story collection by my favorite author? Some were weird, some were frightening and all had something to like.
  • Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5), Brandon Sanderson – the “middle” book in the second Mistborn series. I LOVED the first three books and while it is interesting and fun to revisit the world that has evolved around the magic from the first three for 500 years, I don’t love or feel as invested in these characters as I wish I did. A fun fantasy from my favorite fantasy author but not my favorite from him.
  • Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku – research for my current novel in progress. Should have been titled “Technology of the Future” since it was more about that than physics. Exactly what I wanted and sparked many of my futuristic elements when writing my future-based story.
  • Shadow of the Wind (Cemetary of Forgotten Books #1), Carlos Ruiz Zafon – another book club selection and a fabulous experience on Audible. It was written in Spanish and translated to English and hearing the audio narrator pronounce all the words properly gave it a beautiful tone. Many remarked that this one had so much going on that they felt like it was heavy and needed cliff notes but I loved it because it was meaty with layers that built upon themselves. Highly recommended.
  • The Tell Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe – a classic horror tale that I had never read. I don’t always enjoy classics but this one was light and fun and a quick read.
  • Living the Secular Life, Phil Zuckerman – I heard an interview with the author on NPR and it intrigued me. Loved reading this one since it applied very much to my own secular life. If you’re a secular person, or love someone who is, this is a great book!
  • Strangers, Michaelbrent Collins – I gave this local favorite horror author another try after hearing the premise of this story at a convention. While I liked it better than his zombie series, it was very fast paced and heavy handed. It also left you hanging at the end with a cliffhanger that feels like a ploy to get me to pick up the next installment. Still a huge pet peeve for me when authors don’t finish a story and think it necessary to leave readers dangling. It was fun and gruesome so if you’re into that kind of thing it was not disappointing. Just be aware of the loose ends left dangling at the end and if it isn’t something you can get past, don’t start it.
  • Yellow Crocus, Laila Ibrahim – another book club pick that I really liked. This one was a period piece from the era of slavery written from the perspective of the privileged white girl raised by the African American wet nurse. It was very entertaining with great characters that I felt connected to. The story felt fresh to me with a perspective I’ve never considered. Very good pick for a book club discussion on diversity.
  • Calamity (The Reckoners #3), Brandon Sanderson – the final installment of this fabulous “superhero” fantasy series that my entire family was highly anticipating. The whole series is well worth your time if you love fantasy or superheroes.
  • A Walk In the Woods, Bill Bryson – this started out well but was more a travelog than a memoir. I had hoped it was another like “Wild” but it was merely an account of one man’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail in middle age. Skip the book and watch the movie on this one. All the funny parts and none of the boring recounts.
  • The Dark, James Herbert – this was a monthly selection of the Horror Afficionado Goodreads group that sounded interesting at a time when I needed something new. It was meh – mostly because it was more suspenseful because the author strung the reader along with very little new information. The reveal at the end was a let down and I realized it was an older book and forgave the shortcomings. If you want a scary story but don’t love the modern horror genre, this would be a good one to check out.
  • David (The Unseen #3), Johnny Worthen – I had been waiting for this final installment of one of the best written YA series ever and was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy so I didn’t have to wait until the release date. Lucky since it kept getting pushed further and further out. It helps to know the author personally. This was a very satisfying wrap up to a fantastic story. If you haven’t read all three, you should.
  • Keep Quiet, Lisa Scottoline – another book club pick. The premise is that a father and son are driving home late, the son driving even though he only has his learner permit and isn’t supposed to be driving at night, and they hit a jogger on a deserted road. The father decides his son’s future is too valuable to risk and tells his son to keep quiet. I found the story extremely frustrating because the characters kept making insanely bad choices and the plot twists were outrageous and unbelievable. Not one of my favorites but could be a light beach read if you’re into that kind of a story.
  • Vicious, V.E. Schwab – book club pick that I really enjoyed. Another take on people with extraordinary gifts where two extremely intelligent college friends become nemesis’. It was a great book for a discussion with readers since there was no clear-cut good guy or bad guy but rather complex and layered characters with believable motivations. Highly recommended.
  • The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn #6), Brandon Sanderson – had to finish the series but, again, not my favorite. It has more of a steampunk flavor and none of the characters I initially loved from the first three books. It was fun and lighthearted but I’ve come to more fully appreciate Sanderson’s epic fantasy.
  • The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1), Stephen King – after discussion with a friend who was reading the Dark Tower series for the first time, I decided it was time to re-read one of my all time favorite series. I more fully appreciate the first installment knowing exactly how the entire series plays out but it is still my least favorite of all seven.
  • The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2), Stephen King – being back in the world of the Gunslinger and his Ka-tet, I couldn’t stop. This was the first volume I read – back in junior high when it was first released – and still is so much fun to read.
  • The Passenger, Lisa Lutz – book club pick that was layered with suspense and mystery and thoroughly enjoyable. There were mixed reviews from some during our discussion but overall well received. If you like psychological thrillers that keep you guessing, this one is a fabulous one.
  • The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3), Stephen King – still my favorite series ever and I loved being back with my favorite characters on their journey.
  • Burying the Honeysuckle Girls, Emily Carpenter – this was a book club book that was surprisingly good. About a girl whose mother and grandmother are surrounded by mystery when they go crazy and either died or disappeared. As her own 21st birthday approaches, she tries to unravel the mystery before she suffers the same fate. I really enjoyed this one and later found out it is a debut from a brand new author.
  • Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4), Stephen King – still my favorite in this series. I found myself quoting the iconic lines along with the narrator several times. Still one of the few books I’ve read more than once. I believe this is the sixth go for me and I still loved every minute of it.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – this was my pick for the book club since no other book I’d read since my last pick was as poignant. I listened to it again in preparation for leading the book club discussion and it was even better the second time. Such beautiful language and such a heart-wrenching story. Highly recommended!
  • Jewel, Bret Lott – book club pick that I, unfortunately, couldn’t find unabridged on audible. I thought it wouldn’t matter if I read the abridged version but found I had missed a lot of the meat of the story once I was mid-discussion at book club. A story about a mother who has a child at a later age, after she already has a house full of children, who has Downs Syndrome. The emotional parts were skimmed and if you’re going to pick this one up you should NOT settle for the abridged version.
  • Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower #5), Stephen King – I realized that while I’d read and re-read all the books in the series leading up to this installment, while I and the rest of the world waited impatiently for King to finish what he started, I had only read this one the one time when it was released. While the first 4 volumes felt like visiting with old friends and reminiscing about all the most loved stories from our past, this one was fresh and new and I’d forgotten a lot of things. Loved it as much as the first time.
  • Song of Suzannah (The Dark Tower #6), Stephen King – again, fresh and new and felt like I was reading new material. So glad the last one was on the book shelf and ready to go once I finished this one.

Thanks to Audible and the power of multi-tasking, I was able to read 30 books this year. A number I thought I’d never attain again when life got crazy. So glad technology allows me to continue to enjoy this pastime I so enjoy. Here’s to reading even more in 2017!


Submission Stories: 2016’s Cautionary Tale

I was instilled from a young age by my parents – Mom in particular – that I could do anything I wanted. What no one told me was that I couldn’t do everything at the same time. It’s been a long year of operating at the uppermost limits of my capacity while trying not to lose what’s left of my sanity while I also suffer from a rather rare condition called FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out.

So begins the cautionary tale of 2016…

Back in January, the Utah Horror Writers decided on the theme for our next anthology. I was still riding the high of being published in the last one and started right away on brewing up a new story – this one even better than the last. Or so I hoped. A few weeks later, I had come up with a premise for the story and jotted down a few notes. But I was still deep in the throws of the first draft of my latest novel so that’s all I paused for. My subconscious could work on it while I finished the current project.

Fast forward to March when all the craziness of running a chapter of the League of Utah Writers descended on me – because I couldn’t say no, of course. Progress on the novel continued and I tried not to admit how much the pace suffered while I split my “writing time” with things related to writing but not all of it spent putting words on the page. The main focus still the completion of my latest novel, the horror story could wait a while longer. How long could it really take to bust out a short story, right? I’m a professional now with two of them published so I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal.

Then I decided to go back to school and things ground to almost a halt on any writing – minus my English Comp courses that is. It was then, when my self-imposed deadline (goal) of having the novel finished before school started flew past and I still wasn’t finished, that I admitted, as I struggled to find balance in my everyday life, school work spilling over into my writing time in order to keep up, that I wasn’t going to have time to write a short story for the anthology.

I told myself it was fine. My number one writing goal is finishing this novel. This amazing novel that started early on to pour from me. I refused to step away from it long enough to build and grow a completely different story since that would take me two steps back when it was time to return to the project. Added was the fact that all this time had gone by and no concise story or characters had grown from my initial premise I’d jotted down months ago. Which meant it wouldn’t come easy if I did pause work on the novel to write it.

Nope. I do not have a short story to submit to the anthology this year. Sorry. I told everyone this. I was fine with this. I was sticking to what my number one goal right now is and I felt good about it.

Then my fear of missing out reared its ugly head. I went to my writing retreat and there were several people working on short stories for the very same horror anthology. Some of them read excerpts aloud and they were good. I wanted to have a story to submit. Why couldn’t I? Oh, right, because my original idea was complicated enough it required a full novel to do it justice. No, I reminded myself that my number one goal was still the novel.

No short story. No short story. No short story.

I told everyone who asked that I was not submitting. Nope. Not this year.

Two days before the submission deadline, a snippet of a dream came to me. One that I’d had years ago and had stayed with me, plausible and terrifying at the same time. Hey, it would work as a flash fiction piece – super short, maybe one scene. BAM. Self-delusion engaged.

I started to write it between my school assignments. It was really cool and really fun to write. I finished it about an hour before the submission deadline. Finished the FIRST DRAFT, that is.

Everyone knows you don’t submit a first draft. Anywhere. For any reason. You’ve got to step away for at least a day or two to get perspective on the writing itself. Better if it’s longer. Then you read it and revise it because you WILL find problems. No one writes a perfect first draft. No one. Ever. Once you’re done with your revision, you’re still not ready to submit. You’ve got to show it to other people. Have them read it and tell you what you missed but didn’t see. You incorporate that feedback and do another revision. THEN you’re probably ready for a submission.

Did I do any of that? Nope. None of that. Zilch. Nada.

I SUBMITTED MY FIRST DRAFT.

Yes, you read that correctly. I completely justified it to myself. I had read it three or four times. Out loud once, too. It was fine. Because the alternative was not getting it submitted before the deadline and then I’d for sure miss out.

I hit send at 11:57pm – with three minutes to spare.

I regretted it almost immediately. I knew better. What was I thinking?

Understandably I was not selected to be part of the anthology this year. It was perhaps my easiest rejection ever, since I agreed that my piece wasn’t up to par when I went back and read it a few weeks later. It still hurt. It was a rejection all the same. But I understood.

Did I learn from the experience? Yes. Will I ever do that again? I want to say absolutely not, but I also know myself and I can’t guarantee it.

What’s my lesson in all of this? The “rules” as they are loosely thought of by most of us are there for a reason. Let this be a painful lesson I lived through so that others don’t make the same mistake I did. Do not ever submit a first draft no matter how great your desire to do so. Do not query a manuscript until it is polished and just as perfected as you can get it.

I’m back to focusing on the novel – amidst the chaos of being a college student again. I’m keeping my eyes on my biggest goals knowing that right now there are major things that I’ve got vying for all my resources and it will most certainly mean missing out on other things in the future. But that’s okay.


Lessons Learned: The Adult College Life, Overachiever Version

If you’ve been with me on this journey of mine for any amount of time, you know I pride myself in being an overachiever. I’ve always been driven and when I find something I want, I make it happen. I don’t know how, it’s just the way I’m wired.

A current glimpse of the large things I’m juggling include full time job where I daily get handed new processes to develop from nothing, motherhood/parenting/spouse duties otherwise known as adulting, full time college, League of Utah Writers chapter president and state board duties including developing a new position for conference committee chairman, finishing my current novel. This is my baseline as I like to think of it.

I’m halfway through my second term of college – the one big thing that I’ve added and arguably the biggest thing I’ve taken on in a while. Terms are 9 weeks long, with one class at a time considered part time, two classes full time. The first term I eased in with a single class – English Composition I. It took a few weeks to figure out how to adjust my schedule and allow enough study time to complete the assignments on time but the material was easy-peasy. Because it was writing. By midterms I was feeling like a pro and I sailed through the rest of the term.

Arguably this probably gave me a false sense of how “easy” it was going to be to transition to full time the next term.

Second term (the one I’m currently in the middle of) I took the planned leap and committed to full time. Honestly I don’t know if I can maintain this load, but I also don’t want to have to deal with school for longer than I have to so I’m sucking it up and dealing with the insanity in order to get it done as quickly as possible. What did my counselor and I determine would be the best options for me? The only things left in my first year requirements, of course. What were these two classes? English Composition II – how hard could it be given how easy the first one was – and Applied Finite Mathmatics – the one and only required math class I have.

You can see how I was lulled into a false sense of how easy this term was going to be, can’t you? What I have found is that it is NOTHING like I thought it would be. My second English Comp class is a research paper – which doubled how long it takes to do every assignment compared to last term. And math? Math that was touted as the easiest option for me is like having to learn a foreign language. And has lectures that doubled the amount of time I had anticipated I would need for each week.

All this gave me a level of stress the first week that I’m sure you can imagine. I thought I knew but I didn’t know and it took a couple of weeks to adjust – again – to what my expectations were compared to the reality that I had.

Which is when my inability to say no came back to bite me in the ass. Hard.

Ten months ago – long before I ever dreamed I’d be back in college – I said yes to something and then promptly forgot about it since it was a future project. Plenty of time to think about it later. In other words, perfect storm perfectly set up.

Week three of this, my first full-time term, corresponded to the deadline of this project I’d committed to last year. In a week of school insanity, I had to also read 500 pages of writing to judge the submissions most worthy, in my opinion, to be included in an anthology. In fairness, I had two weeks to complete this reading but I burned the first week suffering from my annual fall-allergies-feels-like-a-cold sickness that had me completely unproductive.

I got through it but not without missing many of my deadlines. Two of my assignments were late and I blew the deadline for my selections to the editor by almost a week. But I got it all done. I had many a meltdown and felt completely overwhelmed on too many occasions that week, but I got it done. My children and husband survived, barely, despite the raging stress-ball of crazy that the uber-sleep deprived version of me turned into.

Lesson learned: don’t put off thinking of the future projects that are looming when you’re operating this close to the upper limit of capacity every day. I’m now pouring over my memory banks for other time bombs of “yes, I can do that and I’ll think about the ‘how’ later” that might be waiting for me up ahead.

For now, I’m afloat, and optimistic that I really can do all of this, even though – for the first time ever – I wake up in the morning and wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I am capable of this time. Stay tuned for updates!

 


Ghost Hunting with the Horror Writers

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Photo Credit: Callie Stoker

Last Friday night the Utah chapter of the Horror Writers Association went on a paranormal investigation at the Benson Grist Mill with the Pod Goblins. I caught my first EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) on audio – currently waiting (impatiently of course) for the professionals to clean it up and figure out the entire message but there’s definitely a man’s voice that starts out saying what sounds like ‘Hello’. The thing about EVPs are that you only hear them after you play back the audio, not when its happening real time. I can’t describe hearing that voice the first time. I still get goosebumps!

Once I get the audio back, I’ll post it here with a full write-up.

In the meantime, one of the other Horror Writers, Caryn Larrinaga, who experienced ghost hunting for the first time that night, did a full write-up. Some of her experiences were shared ones with me so I asked her if I could link my readers back to her site for a little taste of what the night entailed. Check it out here: http://carynlarrinaga.com/blog/2016/10/16/ghost-hunting .


Fall Conference 2016 Recap

What a weekend and what a crowning jewel of an event for this incredible year of the League of Utah Writers. As a committee, we faced many challenges. Biggest of which was having to change both dates and venues mid-year when it was announced that Salt Lake Comic Con was happening the same weekend the Fall Conference was also planned for.

We picked a new venue – with a price tag far higher than originally anticipated – and got to work. It was my first experience on a planning committee for an event this size and it amazes me the things we got done in the three months from our first meeting until the event itself. I was officially the vendor coordinator and kudos must be given to the incredible people who volunteered their time during the weekend to make sure things ran smoothly. They all helped me make it look effortless.

I took only random photos which speaks volumes to how busy I was the entire weekend. It was not my first time as a panelist but it was my first time doing solo presentations and I had a blast. It was humbling when both the room was full and people came up afterwards to either ask questions or tell me they were sorry they’d missed one because they’d heard it was great.

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Commemorating the event with badges for my collection

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Observing the Diversity Panel – which included three friends who did amazing jobs

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We may or may not have gotten a little lit after a very long day. I blame the wine guy at the restaurant who really knew his stuff!

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Best wine I’ve ever had!

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We were so hungry we devoured dinner before I could get a photo of how pretty it was. This is the devastation

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Sitting next to a fellow Infinite Monkey during a powerful presentation on the mindset of money. Had to snap a pic!2016-09-23-14-23-43

The very first panel I was ever on was at a League event and this guy was there. Now he’s a trusted colleague and a great friend. This is us right before the panel on Horror – our favorite subject!

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The “after party” playing makeshift version of Avalon – my new favorite game.

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Passing of the gavel at the end of the banquet. Capping off a great year and looking ahead to more greatness to come.

I’m so proud to be part of the League of Utah Writers – it is an amazing organization.


Author Interview at “Idea Creations” today

I did an interview with Kathryn Elizabeth Jones. Check it out HERE. It was a fun interview and I thank Kathryn for having me!


League of Utah Writers Fall Conference 2016

I’m excitedly preparing for yet another event that has taken a bunch of my time and which I should have said no to. But I couldn’t say no and I don’t regret any part of my involvement in the planning of this upcoming event. The League of Utah Writers has been around for over 80 years and this is the premiere event of the annual calendar. This year’s conference is being held in Provo, Utah September 23-24. It’s going to be a fabulous weekend and I’m scheduled as a presenter on both days of the conference.fallconfluwfinal

Because I’m a tad on the obsessive side when it comes to details (and I have mad skills with a spreadsheet) I got to put together the programming lineup after the committee picked the presentation proposals that would make up the conference. As a result, there is only one offering of the major class tracks during each hour. Which means if you’re there to learn about publishing, genre fiction, marketing, non-fiction or poetry you won’t have to miss anything. Craft classes are offered a couple of times an hour with lost of variety and we’ve got a sprinkling of self-development and other treats. Of course if you want a smorgasbord of everything I can’t really help you there other than to offer condolences since all the classes look fantastic.

The theme this year is “Write Here. Right now”. To support this we have a lounge planned where writers can rest, connect with each other, participate in word sprints, jot down their inspiration from a recent workshop or panel, or work on submissions for the flash fiction contest. In so many ways I wish I wasn’t part of the committee who will be responsible for running the event so I could sit back and enjoy as a full participant. I’m honored to be part of such a community that is going through a revitalization period focused on inclusion and community. Writing is a solitary activity but it doesn’t have to be.

Here’s my schedule (subject to change of course…)

How to Scare Your Audience Panel – Friday 2:30PM

Short Stories: How and Why Presentation – Saturday 10:00AM

Maximizing Your Writing Time Panel – Saturday 11:00AM

Writing Groups 101 Presentation – Saturday 4:30PM

 

If you’re a local writer who is interested in attending, you can get details and register HERE.


Bittersweet Priorities

It was exactly a year ago I was making official appearances at events like Steamfest and gearing up for Comic Con – approaching now in three weeks. Instead of being at Steamfest this weekend with many of my writing friends, I was fulfilling commitments to family and friends. It’s tempting to look at a small snapshot – this time last year vs. this year – and be sad that I’m missing out.

In the past year, I had another story published, became highly involved in the League of Utah Writers, and continued writing. I was promoted at my day job, returned to college and now have two competitive dancing daughters instead of one. But I’m not at Steamfest and I’m not scheduled as a special guest at Comic Con.

It is tempting to wallow in all the fun that I’m missing. Fear that my absence at these events this year will look to the public like I was some kind of flash in the pan that has already faded away. All very human nature reactions.

I’d be lying if I didn’t have moments of these kinds of fears.

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However, I’m also a realist who is very good at pulling myself up by the boot strings (or putting on my big girl panties if you prefer that cliche over the other) whenever those moments creep up on me.

No, I was not a guest at Steamfest this weekend. No, I am not a scheduled guest at Comic Con this year.

BUT…

I AM almost done writing one kick ass novel – if I don’t say so myself. One that at least one acquisitions editor already wants to see when it’s finished. It isn’t my first novel, but it is the first I’m proud enough of to find an agent and a publisher for. This alone is epic.

I just successfully facilitated one of the premier events of the summer for the League of Utah Writers – an advanced workshop on querying that brought together professional agents and editors to give inside secrets to others like me ready to find homes for their work.

I am on the planning committee for the League of Utah Writers Fall Conference coming up next month. It will be a two-day conference unlike any the organization has put on before. Two full days of presentations from industry professionals with new and exciting content that no one has seen before in the Utah writing community.

My chapter of speculative fiction writers is still growing and folks who come to check us out seem to stick around. It’s a sign that we are offering all the things that I was looking for in a local community group several years ago, back when I was at the cusp of being published and needing to leave my solitary writer existence. This writer gig is a lonely life but it doesn’t have to be. I’m thrilled that, for some, our group is a beacon in the dark while on their own journey.

I’m going to attend Comic Con, helping represent both the League and our local chapter of the Horror Writers Association, but I have to pay my way in the door. So what. I’m also not obligated to dress up in cosplay which was never my thing to begin with.

My husband, who is not only supportive but exceedingly indulgent when it comes to all the time I take away from our family to make my dreams of being an author a reality, is also my voice of reason. Recently, while I was lamenting that I wasn’t going to be at all the events this year, he reminded me that I’ve been doing more important work that none of the rest of it would matter without: I’ve been writing. And I need to keep doing that more than I need to go to events.

The life of a writer is a mental exercise of self-motivation, full of more rejection than success. The drive to keep going when the odds are stacked as highly as they are against every one of us is enviable. If you have it, even a tiny inkling of it, it must be nurtured.

Instead of worrying or obsessing about all the differences that this weekend has over last year, I’m focusing on what my main goal is: novels with my name on the cover. As long as what I do every day, every week, puts me further down the path that leads there, then I’m doing the right things.

As bittersweet as it is, I know that not being at Steamfest or Comic Con doesn’t mean I’m not still doing the things that matter. Without having written books that people want to read, there’s no reason for me to be there anyway. So I’ll keep plugging along. My fear of missing out be damned!