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, nbc.com/snl, 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.

2021 Writing In Review

Since April, I’ve submitted 44 times to 32 different outlets. For someone who hasn’t been on a submitting spree since… 2011? I’ll take that.

Out of those submissions, five are still out. Five were accepted.

  • My one-sentence flash is published HERE.
  • “Just a Little Crush” is published in an anthology you can find HERE.
  • “Douglas Fir Give Me Heartburn: Exploring the Magic of Christmas Eve on Sesame Street” is published HERE.
  • Another one-sentence flash is forthcoming from Rejection Letters.
  • The last acceptance is a chapter in the Antiwrimo novel that will be published by Thirty West next year.

I wrote a hybrid chapbook with a friend and we submitted it to 7 places (included in my total numbers above). It’s still out at 2 places. We have a list of other presses to submit to in the new year.

This year I became a Priority Editor at Flash Fiction Magazine. I’ve learned so much about reading, selecting, and editing stories for publication. I’ve loved working with authors and feel just as excited to email them about publications as I am about my own acceptances. I also worked as a judge for one contest and will do that again in January. In the new year, I’m taking on new responsibilities, including leading editorial meetings and hosting their Zoom events. I love having my foot in the door of another publishing outlet, along with Split/Lip Press, which I’ve been with for a year and a half now!

In more personal writing news, I took a week-long flash workshop with Nancy Stohlman this summer and a 7-week course through SmokeLong Quarterly this fall. I’ve done a few one-off workshops too, with the likes of Kathy Fish, Tommy Dean, and Gotham Writer’s Workshop. In each course, I’ve read extensively, pushed my writing limits, and met amazing people. I’ve even started a workshop with one group, and we’re still going strong. Getting feedback from other writers and giving them mine as well has helped me grow so much as a writer.

I typically take my “new year” as birthday to birthday, but as someone who loves fresh starts and goals, I’ll follow the calendar year as well. I already made resolutions on my birthday and am well on my way to reaching them. As far as public resolutions go, I don’t have anything concrete.

  • I want to submit more this year, especially since I’ll be starting in January instead of April!
  • Hopefully that means I’ll publish more as well.
  • I need to work on REVISION. I have so much work that I write and then put away. I’m in two critique groups and get amazing feedback, so I need to take advantage of the help these writers are giving me and really revise my work. I like the idea of it more than the actual action…
  • I’d like to continue to grow in my publishing roles to really make the most of the experiences.
  • I’d like to write a chapbook of my own, or perhaps a novella-in-flash.
  • I’m already scheduled to take another workshop with Kathy Fish in January, but I might look to take more in summer or fall.

If you’re interested, check out my 2021 Year in Reading post.

Few and Far Between

Apparently, I’m lucky to blog once a month, getting this one in just under the wire. And I’m only writing because I’ve been reading about blogs lately, like old-school blogs. Blogs you read if you were in your 20s in 2008. Blogs that connected you to others or inspired you or created friendships.

I’m someone who used diary-x and LiveJournal. I met two of my best friends through LiveJournal, and we’re still close to this day, so I’m no stranger to connecting online. Blogs did that. And I miss that. But I also understand the need to be professional, especially here, in my writing space. But if it’s my writing space…

And off I spiral.

I look at my life and can’t believe I’ve been making a living as a writer for over a year now. If you told my eight-year-old self that this was possible, I think she would have been thrilled, but skeptical. Yet here I am, still thrilled, still skeptical.

But that’s not what it’s about tonight. I’m thankful for those jobs, grateful for what they’ve given me. But tonight is about creative writing. It’s about cracking my shell and inspecting my process as it happens.

Getting an idea. Writing. Revising. Reading aloud. Revising more.

I won’t submit this piece until later, so I’m sure more revision is to come. If you told my twenty-year-old self that this was possible, she would have smirked in your face. (She hated revision.)

But I feel like I’m twenty again. I’m grateful that I don’t have a full day of college courses and work waiting for me tomorrow, but there’s something invigorating about staying up late (shhh – to a single parent, 9:45p is indeed late) and writing and focusing on creativity and forgetting about the endless To Do lists and have I cleaned but did I call and how will I manage drop off and pick up along with…

Not tonight.

I feel lucky to write and get paid for it. I feel lucky to write because ideas won’t leave me alone. I feel lucky to submit and get rejections and try again. I feel lucky to be part of creative writing workshop groups that let me read and critique great stories and give me necessary feedback on my own work. I feel lucky to read and edit other people’s writing, to send them acceptances and take part in their excitement in some small way. I feel lucky to work with an amazing press and support their fantastic team and writers and readers. I feel lucky to be so connected to the literary world while still knowing there’s so much left to explore.