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.

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!

“Leaving the Canyon” published at Misery Tourism

Today my piece “Leaving the Canyon” is live at Misery Tourism.

This story is based on an experience I had when I was traveling the US alone in 2011. Back then I blogged on Allison Writes (see how “grown up” I am with Allison Renner Writes is now?!) and shared the true story. When Misery Tourism announced they were closing up shop, I knew I had to shoot my shot.

I went to the site and the randomizer told me “How about submitting a Randian objectivist tabletop game about death, you fucking misanthrope?” So I used the framework of that trip and added some game/Choose Your Own Adventure elements.