A story a week? Maybe it’s time to look into Patreon

When I was in third grade, I used to make up stories from spelling lists. Granted, the stories made no sense; but it didn’t matter. It was a great way for me to learn how to spell and how to figure out the meanings for words, and to have fun doing it. I didn’t know it at the time, but that little game was preparing me for writing fiction.

Back when I was starting to write professionally, I used to do what I called “Happy Fun Freewrites”. It was similar to the morning pages concept Julia Cameron practices in her book The Artist’s Way, where you write three pages a day about anything. In my case, I found a writing prompt and then wrote about it for 15 minutes. They weren’t meant to be published, just something for my enjoyment, but every once in a while, one of them was reworked into an actual story. (My short story “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy” came out of a Happy Fun Freewrite.) It was a way to practice craft techniques. It was a way to get my morning pages in. But then I became full-time at work, and the little time I had leftover for writing was directed towards the novel or major writing projects. So I ditched the Happy Fun Freewrites because I just didn’t have the time.

Now that my time is more open again, I don’t know what to do with myself. It feels a little scary knowing that I can basically write anything I want. So rather than being frozen on figuring out what to do next, I’m going back to my roots. I’m bringing back the daily Happy Fun Freewrites. I miss that element of play and joy and discovery. And, to be really honest, it’s been a long, long, looooong time since I wrote short fiction. When I was just focusing on the novel or the novelette, I would get story ideas, and I would write them down, but I didn’t have the time or the energy to dwell on them. And over time, those ideas grew less and less, although they didn’t vanish completely.

When I was doing a bunch of organization a couple of weeks ago, I came across all my old Happy Fun Freewrites, and was surprised at just how many I wrote. It was heartening, but also scary, because it showed me that I used to do it all the time. Do I have it in me to write those again? Can I write like that again?

I decided to do a trial run this week and do the writing exercises in Ursula K Le Guin’s book Steering the Craft. I kept the exercises short. 350 words. Easy peasy. what’s 350 words? A few paragraphs. Not even a full page. On the last exercise, I wrote 600 words. Mainly because I had become engrossed and wanted to see what happened next.

Ah. Now it’s coming back to me. The joy and fun of writing.

But you know what…I think I need to bring some more incentive to it. Something that will hold me accountable. So I’m going to look into doing a Patreon or some other income generation. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do forever. I just never had the mental space to look into it…until now. It will get me back into writing fiction on a daily basis. It will help me improve my craft. And finally, it will give you, my readers, a chance to get more stories from me. 🙂

(…which is something else I’m dealing with. People actually do want to pay to read my stuff. It’s thrilling and terrifying and well, that’s the whole job of being a writer, isn’t it? So that’s the real reason why I’m doing this. It will help me improve, which gets better stories to you, which gives me a little income so I can find ways to improve more…and so forth.)

I’m still working out details and gathering information on how I want to do this. For instance, I want to offer other things besides stories: writing tips, faith thoughts, etc. And I need to figure out what type of stories I want to offer and the frequency. If I did flash stories, I can definitely churn out something every week, a la Ray Bradbury’s challenge, but a longer story will take a little more time. And I still want to send out stories to markets, so there’s that to consider. For any of you writers out there who use Patreon, or another income generating service, advice would be appreciated!

And, of course, all of this will have to wait until I get the novel out on submission, which is my biggest priority right now. So let me work on getting that out in the next couple of weeks, and then…well, stay tuned to see what happens next!

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Next steps and a friendly writing PSA

It’s been almost three weeks since I have finished the final edit of Weeping of the Willows. Since then, I haven’t played as many video games I wanted, but I did go down to Indy to attend Mo*Con. And if you’ve been on my FB, you’ve been seeing other ways I’ve been celebrating.

I’m now sitting down and looking at what I need to do to send this novel out. One of the first things I realized was that aside from get my novel out now now NOW, I had no clue where to start, how to do it, when to do it, or what I would be doing while the novel was on submission.

What I needed was to become organized. I needed direction.

I needed a submission tracking system.

Before I went full-time, I used to keep track of all my short story submissions in Outlook. It had been super useful. But then my job became more intense and my short story output sank so low so that I was only able to work on the novel and the occasional short story and novella novelette. Those I were able to keep track through Gmail, Submission Grinder and Habitica.

Now that I’m in my new position at work, I bring my laptop with me for writing, which means I don’t need to work across scattered apps. I also have more time to dedicate towards writing, and I have the headspace to actually plan things. With the novel being done, I need a new record management program, something more robust to keep track of queries and deadlines, and also help me get back into practice of writing and submitting short stories, as well as help me to brainstorm the next large writing project I have.

So I’ve decided to resurrect Outlook. Truth be told, I’ve always had it on my laptop for work related things, but I hadn’t opened my personal PST file since 2014. Initial impressions:

  1. I had a running list of over thirty short stories I had started but never finished. That startled me, because I don’t remember being that prolific in my writing. It’s a nice surprise, and it tells me that I can be that way again.
  2. It was also nice to see that I kept notes on the revisions of the novel. Granted the notes go back to 2014, but still that’s five years that I have been working on the final draft of my novel. It’s nice to have a record of that history.
  3. I’ve completely forgotten how much I changed Outlook to make it work for my needs. I made my own task forms, I created my own custom fields, I created my own views so that I can one click of a button, I could show which stories were being worked on, which stories I decided to trunk, which stories were rejected and needed to be sent out again, and which stories had been accepted. I was an Outlook wizard. Seeing that made me feel good….

…until Outlook saw that I had opened an old folder and rather than wait until I moved the old data to the new folder, it instead updated the folder and in doing so, wiped out all the tracking information and submission notes for every story that I’ve ever done, including the novel notes.

anime-freak-out-gif-8

Okay, so now here’s your friendly writing PSA reminding you that backups are more for just stories. If you use any project management or tracking software, be sure to back those up as well. So after I picked my beating heart off the floor, I turned off Outlook sync, went to my backup, restored the old files, moved them to the proper new folder, turned the sync back on, and now everything is backed up and fine again.

OH DEAR GOD FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY PLEASE BACK UP YOUR SOFTWARE I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH REALLY I MEAN IT BACK UP YOUR SOFTWARE BACK UP YOUR FRICKEN SOFTWARE GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

So Outlook’s up and running, and according to my novel’s task list, the next step is for me to start researching and compiling a list of editors and agents. How will I do it?

Uhhhh…that would be the next post. Although suggestions would be appreciated (hint hint)

Willow Update: THE LAST ONE (unless it gets picked up)

It’s done.

The final revision of my novel is done.

I’m all done.

I started writing this in 1994. On April 28, 2019, I completed the final revision of the novel. During that time, I wrote, rewrote, tossed out, threw away the novel entirely. Started over. Revised. Finished. Threw it out again. Started over one last time, revised, went through hell, came back, and now it’s done. It came out to 140K, which is a little more than I wanted (I was shooting for 120K), but overall, I’m pleased with the word count.

Second book should be easier now, right? Right? Hello??

Part of me is freaking out and going oh-no-i’m-done-what-do-i-do-now and running around in circles. But the writer me, the short story me, the one who has sent out hundreds of submissions and racked up sales, is grabbing the panicking me and saying, “Stop. You already know the next step. It’s okay. Take a deep breath, do some celebrating, and then, do the thing.”

So I’m taking a week or so off to recuperate. Clean my house. Play some video games. And then there’s some things I need to do:

  • I still need to format my novel, which means compiling it from Scrivener into Word, then spell check and format it.
  • It’s finally, finally time for me to start researching agents.
  • I need to put together a list of said agents. I also have a couple of publishing houses I plan to submit to outright, but it’ll be good for me to look for an agent who can negotiate well.
  • I have to put my synopsis together, which will also include doing one for the whole series. And yes, Weeping of the Willows is the first book in a series (I was hoping a trilogy but I had to split this book in two in the initial draft, so at the least, it’s a 4-book series).
  • Then, the query letter.
  • And lastly, start submitting my book!

I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t know if it will get picked up by a publisher. I don’t know if I’ll run out of options and publish it myself. I don’t even know if I just shrug and say, “well, it was a good learning experience,” and I just never make it public.

But I can honestly say I wrote and finish a novel. That’s a huge thing to celebrate in itself. For all of you who had stuck with me this long, thanks!

In the meantime, I can finally, finally, start considering my next project. Stay tuned!

LaShawn’s ConFusion 2019 Schedule

As Monica Valentinelli announced on Twitter, yes, I’ll be attending ConFusion 2019 for the very first time! When I’m not wandering around in a daze taking everything in, you’ll find me on these panels:

Project Management Software In Publishing
Friday, 3:00pm Ontario

Taking a title from manuscript (or idea) to the finished product requires more than an editor who polishes and enhances the story. Distributing the correct information to various channels can become cumbersome when relying on classic spreadsheet styles. Project management tools are plentiful in the market from custom software to free online organizers. How can strategies in project management help create a smoother product?

Panelists: Pablo Defendini (M), Geralyn Lance, LaShawn M. Wanak, Chris Bell, Natalie Luhrs

Wakanda and The Political Power Of Alternate Presents
Saturday, 11:00am Ontario

While The Princess Bride and Black Panther both feature fictional countries, Black Panther uses its alternate history to challenge common narratives about colonialism, centering political commentary in its worldbuilding and plot. How can Science Fiction best use alternate history and alternate present to center and celebrate people whose real histories bear the scars of colonialism, genocide, and/or slavery? How can alternate histories that don’t center on these themes avoid making light of, or reinforcing the inevitability of, these atrocities?

Panelists: David Anthony Durham (M), LaShawn M. Wanak

Reading
Saturday, 3pm Rotunda

Don’t know what I’ll be reading yet, but it will be something good!

Panelists: Cherie Priest, Cassandra Morgan, LaShawn M. Wanak

2018 Year in Review and Eligibility Works

2018 was a bizarre year for me.

In order to explain this year, I need to back up a bit to the year of 2016. There was a whole bunch of stuff going on that year that I couldn’t really talk about online. The only way I could cope with it was by writing. So I wrote. A whole lot.

One particularly bad day, I was checking the twitters when this thread from Rachael K Jones popped up on my feed. And then, she wrote this:

That tweet stayed with me through the craziness that followed: selling our house, buying a new one, day job insanity, the election of 45. And then 2017, where I continued my push to finish the novel and got back into publishing nonfiction. All the while, the dayjob got busier and busier, and I was coming home more and more exhausted, until in May 2018, I realized that that if I was going to write more, I needed to find another job. Either one that was less intense or less hours.

So I started looking. It took way longer than I thought, considering that I hadn’t really looked for a new job in ten years. But I’m happy to say starting in February 2019, I be starting a new admin position. Same place, still full-time, but I’ll get two afternoons off to write while keeping my benefits.

It’s a start.

Oddly enough, in 2018, as I searched for a job that will allow me to write more, I got a surprising amount of fiction and non-fiction written and published. In April, my short story “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy” was published by Fireside Magazine. In July, my novelette “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good” was published by FIYAH magazine (this was originally the novella I wrote in 2016 before I cut it down to a more readable length). I also wrote a third short story that will be coming out soon, but that hasn’t been officially announced yet, so shhhh! But both the two stories mentioned above are eligible for awards, so read, enjoy, share, etc.

I also wrote a bunch of non-fiction articles, including an exploration of Nisi Shawl’s Filter House on Tor.com, a review of Janelle Monáe’s album Dirty Computer in Apex Magazine, and…heh hehe, another article that remains secret for now, but will be published sometime this year. And all of that while writing cover letters and filling out job applications and updating my resume.

Of course, with all the above, my editing input on the final draft of Willow tanked. As of today, I’ve only managed to complete 68% of the final edits. Which, actually, isn’t so bad, considering that I worked on it on top of all the other things I worked on last year but still. I laughed out loud when I saw the deadline I had originally set for myself, which was March 2018. Yeah, that sooooooo didn’t happen.

But it’s now 2019. I got some time freed up. I don’t have any writing projects pending for the next couple of months. Well, one, but it’s a quick one. And, before 2019 ended, I fixed the last major chapter that needed serious fixing (chapter 27). So all the edits from this point on should technically go fast. I’m resetting the Willow Final Edit clock to March 2019. At 68%, I know I can do it. You can cheer me on at @tbonejenkins on Twitter. And then once I’m done, I can finally tackle the goals I had written for 2018.

Butt in chair, eyes on the prize. Let’s go.

Story Notes: “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good” available at FIYAH Magazine

Should’ve posted this earlier this month, but yes! I got another short story out! “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good” has been published in FIYAH’s Music issue, which you can buy now! It also comes with a poppin’ Spotify Playlist and another gorgeous illustration!

Ain’t that gorgeous?

If you’ve followed me on Twitter, you’ve heard about this one a lot. A few years ago, I stumbled onto the rockin’ blues gospel music of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, which I didn’t even know was a thing. That got me listening to more women who played guitars in the 1930s and 40s, and when I came across Memphis Minnie, I knew I had to get them into a story together. Also, I am so stoked that this was published a couple of months after Sister Rosetta Tharpe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Now if we can only get Minnie inducted…

I also wanted to write a story featuring my hometown, specifically, the south side of Chicago where I grew up. Fun fact–the real Sister Rosetta and Minnie actually did live in Chicago in different parts of their lives, but there’s no evidence that they’ve ever interacted. Seeing that most gospel musicians considered blues artists as heathens, I’m not surprised. On the flip side, Sister Rosetta came under a lot of fire for putting gospel hymns against “devil music”, so who knows.

The story give a couple of callouts to the history of the Chicago’s South Side: The Regal Theater, which was big for black entertainers in the 30s and 40s; the Ida Wells homes, a series of low-income housing mostly populated by blacks, and the Bronzeville and Bridgeport neighborhoods. And my favorite: Rita Moy, daughter of Frank Moy, mayor of Chinatown, who really did like to dress in men’s clothes. There’s even a picture of her!

Finally, I wrote this story because I wanted to show a relationship between two women of different beliefs. Sister Rosetta was an evangelist through and through, and she was also queer. Memphis Minnie, on the other hand, had a rough life: busking on Beale ave, doing a stint with Ringling Brothers Circus. Although Rosetta and Minnie never met in real life, it was fun imagining the sort of conversations they could have. You can read more about these women in their biographies: Shout Sister Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Woman With Guitar: Memphis Minnie’s Blues. (Also for Minnie, there’s a description of her written by Langston Hughes)

And finally, listen to these women songs. I can repeat myself enough: they…are…AMAZING. Here, I’ll even get you started.

LaShawn’s WisCon 42 Schedule

WisCon 42 is coming up in a couple of weeks and I will be there! For those of you who are going, here’s where you can find me.

Friday, 5:30pm: POC Dinner
It’s our POC annual dinner! If you’re a person of color and haven’t gotten your ticket yet, sign up here. Even if you can’t pay, please sign up for a ticket so we know how much food to order. I’m also coordinating volunteers for the dinner to help with setup or cleaning afterwards, so you want to help, let me know in the comment section of this post and I’ll get in touch with you.

Saturday, 4:00pm: Steven Universe Sing-along
From “Giant Woman” to “It’s Over, Isn’t It,” Steven Universe offers a variety of beautiful songs in different genres that we can all sing our hearts out to. Hopefully we’ll be able to sing up to the latest song “A Distant Shore” and WE WON’T LIKE BE TALKING ABOUT THE NEXT EPISODE AFTER THAT BUT DANG THAT PUTS SOME OF THE SONGS IN A WHOLE DIFFERENT LIGHT NOW DON’T IT.

Anyway, I will be there.

Sunday, 1:00pm: Reading @ Michaelangelo’s — Smash the Patriarchy
Join me along with fellow readers Monica Valentinelli, David Levine and Naomi Kritzer as we read stories that will unsettle you, make you uncomfortable, force you to think and feel. Come for the stories. Leave with possibilities. I’ll be reading my latest short story, “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy”, that was published in Fireside Magazine last month.

Sunday, 2:30p: It Is Our Time: A People’s Celebration, Exploration & Analysis Of Black Panther
In which I geek out with a bunch of other people about Black Panther.

Monday, 11:30am: Sign-Out
This year, I got a whole bunch of stationary I want to use up. So if you visit me at the Sign-Out, I will write out a quick flash story on whatever subject you like. It will only be at the most a paragraph, at the most, 100 words, but hey, free story from me !

Of course I’ll also be around just to chat, so if you see me, feel free to say hi!

(Unless I’m peopled out…or working on the novel…in which case, a wave would do….)