Bolt of Inspiration

I started 2023 with very few writing goals because too many start to feel like obligations, and that’s the last excuse I need to skip writing time. My main goals were massive projects to work on all year:

  • Complete, edit, and possibly submit a novella-in-flash
  • Revise and query a YA book that’s been tucked away for over a decade

I also knew I wanted to take more workshops, and kicked off the year with two: one focusing on micros, one for sci-fi and speculative fiction.

I didn’t realize that, during those workshops, I’d get an idea for another massive project. The prompt was to use a photograph as your inspiration. I love ekphrastic work, so this was right up my alley. I even knew what photos to sort through to find the perfect concept.

When my paternal grandfather died, I spent a lot of time in his wood-paneled study. He had a box of prints curled with age. I loved sorting through them and trying to cobble together the true story of who took them, when, and where. No one knew. But I kept them and occasionally looked through them to get more clues.

I looked through the photos last week for this prompt and showed them to my dad. We searched each image for clues and then researched possibilities before realizing the pictures were from the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. Now we’re just trying to unravel the mystery of who in the family took them, with two major contenders: my grandfather and great-grandfather. Of course, they could have gotten copies of the prints from a friend or neighbor, and we’ll never know.

But the truth behind the photos isn’t my main concern. There are several sets that tell stories when you put the images in one order, then a different story when you shuffle them. And I can’t stop shuffling them, which led to my newest massive project: a chapbook of ekphrastic stories with the photos at the top of each page. I’ve already scanned the images and started writing, so I guess my previous resolutions will take a backseat for a bit…

2022 Writing in Review

Last year, my Writing in Review covered April to December with 44 submissions and 5 acceptances. For coming off an (almost) decade-long drought, that felt pretty good.

This year, I submitted the entire year, with 74 submissions across flash fiction, essays, poetry, and photography. Eight pieces/photographs/chapbooks are still out. I published one poem, 14 photographs, one essay, and 11 flash fiction pieces.

I had a chapter published in the Thirty West #antiwriomo novel, Those Who Scream. I wrote it last November and the book came out in May.

I got my first Best of the Net nomination for my Daily Drunk essay, “Douglas Fir Give Me Heartburn: Exploring the Magic of Christmas Eve on Sesame Street,” published last December.

I got my first Best Microfiction nomination from Atlas and Alice for my flash fiction piece, “No Place Like Home.”

I submitted three different chapbooks or microchaps, and one was accepted and published! Won’t Be By Your Side came out September 23rd and I’m very proud of the stories in that book, along with the cover design, which uses my photograph.

I also designed the cover for my friend Janet Dale’s chapbook, ghosts passing through, which uses another of my photographs.

I also submitted a collaborative chapbook to three places, and it’s still out at one.

I submitted a chapbook pitch to a publisher, which felt amazing even with a rejection because I’ve had this idea bouncing around in my mind since 2011 without any clarity of what to do with it. The pitch pushed me to figure out how to share these ideas, so I hope to work on this project more in 2023.

I also submitted a flash sample to Reflex Press and was accepted to write a piece for their collaborative novella-in-flash. My time will come at the end of February 2023, but I’ve loved getting the pieces in my inbox and letting my imagination run wild with what I might add to this amazing project.

I didn’t keep strict track of the workshops taken, but I think I took 9, either one-off generative workshops or more involved week-long or three-week courses. This is up from… maybe 3 in 2021? I love workshops and feel like I create a lot of material from them, so that’s something I’m going to try and make time for in 2023. I’m already signed up for 3 in the first quarter alone.

I also have other major writing goals for 2023, but since this is a time of reflection over 2022, I’ll recap with a general overview of satisfaction. I feel like I’ve accomplished so much since 2021, and of course the years before that were a desert, so I’m proud of where I am now. I feel like there are still goals to strive for and ways to have fun with my writing instead of always pushing myself to do more.

Two Month Celebration on YouTube!

I used to have a YouTube channel when I was in library school. Or maybe not a channel, but I recorded and uploaded videos every so often at How I Feel About Books.

Video isn’t really my format—I do much better with text. But I’ve done a few readings for my chapbook and wanted to use the audio in some way. So I decided to create some videos for a few of the to celebrate my book’s two month anniversary.

You can check them out HERE.

“Colors in the Air” published at Visual Verse

I now spend the first of the month eagerly awaiting the image shared by Visual Verse. You have an hour to write a micro or flash ranging from 50 to 500 words, based on or inspired by the image. I’ve always felt like such a visual writer anyway, with a scene or person encouraging me to make up a story, and so far I’ve been so inspired by their images.

I’m honored that they’re sharing my piece, “Colors in the Air,” this month.

After Twitter Dies

With everyone wondering what will happen after Twitter dies, I keep thinking back over my internet experience. It doesn’t hurt that I’m also in the middle of an extracurricular essay for March Fadness, which requires me to revisit my high school years in a way that completely consumes me, as the internet consumed high school me twenty years ago.

My family got internet when I was in 8th grade. I’d already experienced AOL via CD-ROM at a friend’s house, popping into chat rooms to lie about A/S/L and pretend we were interested in what strangers had to say. By the time our home desktop wired into Roadrunner cable, I was obsessed with Saturday Night Live, when Jimmy Fallon was merely a featured player and Chris Kattan ruled (shhh, let me have my delusions) as Mango and Mr. Peepers. There was a website,, which had bare-bones information about last week’s show and, amazingly, a strange hybrid of a chat room and message board. You didn’t need an account to post, which means anyone could use your screen name and pretend to be you, understandably causing much drama. But it was a fun community, and I made friends (and met my first internet boyfriend!, and just boyfriend-boyfriend!!) on that site.

I eventually found my way to diary-x, where I read so many cool journals that I needed to start one of my own. But since everyone seemed just as untouchable as the classmates I avoided at school, I couldn’t be myself. My time on diary-x marks a major instance of me being what you might call a “catfish” online, though I didn’t do it to try and meet anyone. I just wanted my life to sound more exciting than it was. I wrote about extracurriculars I didn’t participate in and parties I wasn’t invited to.

I found my way to LiveJournal when I was searching for Aerosmith fan sites. I found a user called “RagDoll13,” and, in my 13-year-old mind, I was sure she was a fan of the song from Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation album. (At the time, I did not know what else rag doll could mean.) I excitedly commented on one of her posts detailing an experience she had with a man she met at her job as a drugstore clerk. She immediately posted about not realizing minors were reading her journal and went private. So I started a journal of my own, as myself. And another, when I needed a new username. And again. (It seemed easier to start fresh as opposed to spending money on a rename token.)

I made friends on LiveJournal, two that I’m still close to these days. I liked the sense of community, the way it was so easy to pour your heart out and people would comment kindly and that was that, you were friends. I also liked the literal communities, which you could find based on your interests. I met my two life-long friends on the Seinfeld and Mitch Hedberg groups.

I also connected with real friends on LiveJournal. It was almost our social media site before there was MySpace. A group of seven or eight friends all had LiveJournals and would post about our weekend plans. It was how I found out that no one liked my high school boyfriend, how I learned about privacy settings, how we grew apart. I remember posting on LiveJournal as late as 2008, even while I had a MySpace profile.

I remember trying to make a Facebook account like my new boyfriend had, but he went to a “real” university and I was in community college, so my email address wasn’t eligible. I eventually went to a “real” university and made a Facebook account and posted someecard memes to my friend and later roommate that still make me laugh today. That site was my distraction when I should have been writing papers, which I instead crammed into one all-night session and still got all As, so I’ve never learned my lesson.

Somewhere in the mix of leaving LiveJournal and joining Facebook, I created a blog that was more about writing, or attempting to be a writer. My roommate read it, and yet another boyfriend. Then I started to get more followers, over 100(!!!) at one point, thanks to blogging challenges and guest posts and Google Reader. It was during the time when you stopped using a screen name online and started using your real name. Sometimes I still miss creating a clever name that encapsulates my interests of the moment, but overall, it’s nice to be me.

I joined Twitter somewhere in this time, but I didn’t have a smartphone so I had to text tweets to a five-digit Twitter number while I was at work and hope it posted and made sense. I considered a group of friends there my “morning show” because we tweeted at each other every morning on our ways to work. Then I spent the morning drinking coffee and reading blogs on Google Reader, quickly clicking away when my boss walked by or a coworker poked their head into my cubicle. I spent the day thinking about funny things I could write about for a blog post. As I got more comfortable in that job, I simply started blogging at work—why wait until I got home? There’s something so comforting and cozy thinking about work life and blogs back in 2007-2011, isn’t there?

Google Reader closed and I never got the hang of anything else – Feedly? BlogHer? I can’t even remember now because they couldn’t compare. Some friends still blogged. Some started making podcasts. I got pregnant and didn’t want to be a mommy blogger, so I just… stopped. Stopped writing completely.

I’ve thought about using this space a LiveJournal/Blogger type situation before, when I first started it up. But I had a full-time job outside the home then, and was still healing from my divorce (as wonderful as divorce can be when you initiate it yourself, it’s still a major adjustment), so writing regularly, and personally, was a big ask. But more often than not I find myself thinking about my experience with the internet and the connections I’ve made.

I want LiveJournal again, though it will never be the same as it was when I was 16 and unafraid of spilling my personal life all over the internet. I want a Twitter morning show even though I don’t follow those people anymore. I want a blog where I’m not uncomfortably aware of the myriad ways someone could snark on everything I post about my trivial days. So I’m stuck in this weird limbo where I think this blog should be professional(ish) and only share serious updates and publication news. I go back and forth between treating Twitter like a networking site and a place where I can drunk-tweet every thought that crosses my mind. And I use Instagram to post pictures of books I’ve read and, of course, my cat. I’m left without an outlet to really spill my thoughts, which is probably best for everyone involved.

GIVEAWAY! One Month Celebration

CLOSED! Thank you to everyone who entered and shared the giveaway on Twitter and Instagram. Lauren Voeltz is the winner!

I can’t believe my book has been in the world for one month now! So many friends have posted pictures on social media and shared their favorite stories. Oh, and David Sedaris has a copy of it! I went to his reading last week and gave him a copy at the signing. He asked what it was about and said “I look forward to reading it.” !!!

To celebrate, I’m hosting a giveaway. You’ll get a signed copy of the book, a super-cool Venus tea trap, and two delicious teas from my favorite companies.

The Pomegranate Punch Decaf Black Tea from Plum Deluxe has a fresh citrus flavor mirroring the clementine from my story “Lost and Found.”

The Firebird chai from Wendigo Tea will make you feel “Electric Inside” like the first story in the book.

Comment below with your favorite hot beverage, and visit Twitter and Instagram to see how to earn extra entries!

Contest open until Saturday, October 29th, at midnight Central time. I’ll announce the winner on Sunday!