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…

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.

Review from Janet Writes

I met Janet Dale in a fiction writing workshop in 2009 and we became friends and writing partners. We’ve written together, edited together, and collaborated on many pieces. We wrote a chapbook together and are currently working on another series of pieces for a collection.

Her poetry chapbook ghosts passing through came out on September 6th, and I celebrated her book birthday here. You need to grab a copy of her book! She has a fiction background, as you can tell from how we met. But she also writes CNF along with poetry, so you get a bit of everything in this chapbook.

These poems are haunting memories you grasp for and miss but can never forget. Dale relates love, loss, and memory to science, physics, and outer space. Poems include Morse code and inspiration from Buzz Aldrin and Sylvia Plath, which gives you an idea of the diversity in this volume.

– me

Read the kind words she has to say about Won’t Be By Your Side here.

Happy Book Birthday to ghosts passing through

My friend Janet Dale‘s debut poetry chapbook, ghosts passing through, is out TODAY from Alien Buddha Press. These poems are haunting memories you grasp for and miss but can never forget.

I’m honored that she created some in our shared writing workshop, and that she wanted to use a photo I took of the dilapidated Central State Hospital on our adventure 11 years ago.

Read a few poems on the Alien Buddha blog and then order a copy for yourself. Also see how her art is inspiring others, as with this amazing collage.

Revisiting Past Writing

Sometimes I see a submissions call for works on a theme and I think, I have something like that somewhere. And I scroll through my archives and dust off something old and revise it a little bit before sending it out. Because much of my past writings are short stories that I had to push to make them hit the word count for writing workshops. It seems natural to cut them back down to the flash-length pieces I originally intended them to be.

However, something about the spring weather makes me want to tackle massive projects. So I dusted off something else, something much longer than a short story. It’s a novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2010.

I’ve struggled through many years of NaNo, but this one happened pretty naturally. I’ve even revised the novel a time or two, but it was always a half-ass effort, never knowing for sure what I intended to do with it.

But the story has been sticking in my mind lately, and I decided this is the project I want to take on this spring. And since the novel is actually based on a short story, I wanted to revisit that original work to compare the two.

My dad loved this short story when I wrote it. I was in college, sure I’d be a famous author one day, cut working as a graphic designer to get through school. So I formatted the story into a book layout, designed a cover, printed it, bound it, and gave it to my dad for his birthday. (Yes, I’m cringing that I thought this was a gift.)

And I even made a barcode sticker…

Anyway, now I’m incredibly glad I did that, and that he kept it! Not long ago, I lost all my documents from 2003-2018. Now I have a hard copy of the story I can type and save in a dozen different places. (My dad also saved a few other stories I’d given him to read, so I have those too!)

I re-read the story and actually really love it. I can clearly remember when the idea came to me, but I didn’t remember how I wove the pieces together to make it work. And now, loving the original story so much, I feel invigorated to tackle the novel. And finally do something with it. So that’s where I’ll be for the foreseeable future.