Finally! I’m done with my short story (now I just have to proofread it and re-edit it and market it…)

I did it. After nine whole months, I finished my fourth (and hopefully final) draft of my sci-fi short story “She’s All Light”.

Whew.

Of course, as you can tell by the title, there’s still a whole lot of work to be done to it. Now that I got the storyline down the way I want it, I need to get readers so that they can tell me if what I wrote was the best thing they’ve ever seen or that I basically wasted six months working on crap. Then I need to process their comments, perhaps fling myself on the floor in a bit of rage, or perhaps stare dully at a wall for a couple of hours, then somehow work up the courage to go over the story again to incorporate their suggestions…or just trash the whole thing and go work full-time as a secretary. Then there’s the finding of a market to send it to, and formatting it so that I can send it to that market, and spell-checking and grammar-checking and fact-checking…

But really, I am done with the story.

I think this is the first time I worked so long on a story. Normally, it would take me at the most three, maybe four months to do a story from first scribblings to final draft. But that was when I had oodles of time at my leisure. When I started working on the fourth draft way back in September, I figured it would take a couple of months…December at the latest. Boy was I wrong.

Part of the reason why it to so long was that the story itself is picking long–almost 13,000 words. I might be able to get away with cutting out some words during the final grammar/spell check, but when I worked on this fourth draft, I intended on making it as tight as it could. So it will probably stay at it’s high word count. Another reason was that this was a deeper story than I realized. I needed to go slowly just to make sure the story stayed in line.

And the real reason? My life exploded.

Between October and May, my writing slowed to a crawl. There were days when I could only work on SAL for 10 minutes. The days when we worked on the house to get it ready for sale…I’d do some painting, go revise a sentence, do some more painting, revise another sentence. Ugh. Not that it wasn’t a good thing. The slow going helped me to focus, making sure each sentence, each word contributed to the story as a whole. (And it helped that I started reading Francine Prose’s book on reading slowly).

But revising that story felt like pulling out a mouthful of teeth. One molar at a time.

I’m pondering now if I should focus exclusively on re-reading Willow to get it ready for its editing. But part of me is crying to work on something new. Some poetry, maybe or another short story, one that is more light-hearted than SAL. I want to work on something cute and fluffy.

Guh. I really have been writing drama too long.

Downsized Writing

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been digging poetry.

It’s not because April is National Poetry Month. I didn’t even know it was until I saw it mentioned on one of the blogs I visit. No, I’ve been reading the 16th Annual Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror Anthology (which I will do a book review on in the next couple of days–I promise). In it were some really good poems–Hansel, A retrospective, or the Danger of Childhood Obesity by Tom Disch; Seven Pairs of Iron Shoes by Tracina Jackson-Adams; Reading Myth to Kindergartners by Jackie Bartley; and After the Chuck Jones Tribute on Teletoon by Sharon McCartney (an ode to Wile E. Coyote and my favorite one). After reading those and other in the anthology, I started doodling around on my own. I haven’t been writing one per day–more like when the mood hits me–but so far I’ve written 5 poems in two weeks. Not bad.

It’s not like I haven’t written poetry before. When I got back into writing, I jumpstarted it using poetry. But once I started working on Willow and short stories, poetry somewhat took a back seat; it was something nice to dabble in, but I didn’t want to spend all my energy on it. That’s a shame, because I believe that my writing is heavily influenced by poetry. It’s using the same concept of finding the right words to convey the right image, and doing so in an almost lyrical manner.

It seems that my current fascination with poetry reflects the downsizing in my life. We’re in the process of moving from a 3-bedroom house to a 3-bedroom apartment in Madison, which means putting a bunch of stuff on Craigslist, giving other things away. It’s a little unsettling seeing empty space where our couch used to be–and I know I’ll be unhappy when the dresser I had since the beginning of college gets carted away. The upshot of this is that we’ll be getting new dressers once we get to Madison. It’s just a little sad knowing that we’re moving to a condensed lifestyle, even if it’s only going to be for a few months.

And yet, it’s also thrilling. The day we signed the lease, I was awake for most of the night planning out where to put furniture in our new apartment. Considering that I tend to snub HGTV, I’ve been bugging my hubby with: “If we get rid of the entertainment center and store the TV, we can use a smaller cart to put a computer screen on so it will fit on this wall. Then we can put the futon over here so it won’t get in the way. And then we can get a shelved headboard for our bed–that will eliminate our need for bookshelves, so we’d have more space to put a desk…”

Great. I’m turning into my mother AND my mother-in-law.

But I can’t help it. The challenge of decorating such a small space is one I’m taking up with great relish. And it’s the same excitement I’ve been finding in writing poetry lately. It’s short enough so that it doesn’t take too much time, which I’m scarce on nowadays. And yes, it doesn’t pay well, but it’s a form of writing that is very respected, if it’s done well.

I’ll end with something I churned out the other day. A Writer’s Digest blog, Poetry Asides, has been doing a Poem-A-Day challenge for the month of April. One of the writing prompts was “snooping on another conversation”. So here’s my tiny little contribution. Enjoy!

===============
$20 bucks an hour

“They had us in rooms,
Couldn’t do nothing
We’d watch TV, read books
and they always took blood…”

she stretched out her arm
to show the track marks
tiny bruises speckled
like moldy grapes

“We couldn’t do anything
they wanted to track
how the medicine went through
our bodies
constantly taking samples
our arms, legs…”

She let her sleeve fall.

“Was it worth it?” someone asked
She tilted her head.

“Well, I got a hundred fifty bucks.”

She rose from the table,
swayed slightly
catching herself with a
pinpricked hand.
“I’d probably do it again,”
she told us,
tugging down the hem
of her floral dress.

A post about how everything sucks (or the joy of experiencing changes in life)

(Disclaimer: the following post contains a lot of moping, groaning and whining about the stresses of putting a house on the market and life changes in general. You have been warned.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about life-altering events these past few days.

Death and tragedy ones, like the shootings what happened in Tinley Park and NIU this past month. Everyone in Chicago are still reeling over those. Sadder ones, like the breakup of a marriage or the end of a close friendship. More joyous ones, like getting married or having a first child.

And then there’s moving.

There’s something sobering about driving from your house one morning and coming back to see a “For Sale” sign sitting on your lawn. Even though I knew in my head it was going to happen, to see the actual sign with my own eyes, sitting on my own lawn, suddenly drove home the fact that this will no longer be my house. Someone else will sit in the backyard and gaze out over the pond. Someone else will wake up in the bedroom and paddle barefoot to the kitchen to put on a teakettle. In fact, that someone else probably won’t even drink tea; they’ll have a coffeepot. A coffeepot in this house!

I lived in this house for almost seven years. I know every creak in the floor (well, not anymore, since we fixed those), every crack in the ceiling (hmm, actually, that’s gone too, now that’s it’s repaired), every smudge and mark Daniel’s put on (which has been cleaned off…and given new paint…)

Actually, I take all of that back. Ever since we’ve done all the renovations to the house, I don’t know it anymore. Oh, the layout’s still the same, and the pond hasn’t gone anywhere, and we still got (most) of our furniture. But it’s not my house anymore. Everything has to be clean and uncluttered, and there’s a lot less furniture than I like, and the color of the walls are not what I would pick, and it looks too much like the inside of a (tasteful) furniture store than an actual lived-in house, clutter and toys and all.

My house looks so pretty. And it’s depressing, because I don’t recognize it anymore.

This past month has been crazy getting the house ready to put on the market. Now that things are slowing down, I find that I can actually take a breather for once and relax. I can say to myself, now things can get back to normal again…

Except, well, there’s no such thing as normal anymore. The last time anything has been “normal” in this household was back in September, when Daniel was going to daycare, I was writing full-time, my hubbie was working full-time, and life was good. In fact, I remember thinking at that time, hey, this is perfect. Everything is going nicely for once. I hope it lasts for a good long time.

And then October came. KA-BOOM!

Today was the first time in weeks that I didn’t have to concentrate on working on the house. Oh, yes, there’s still cleaning and all, but most of the renovations are done. And you know what? I have no idea what to do. I suppose I could write, but what will Daniel do in the meantime? What do I do with a three-year-old in the middle of winter? According to that ‘perfect schedule’ I had in September, Daniel would be in daycare interacting with other kids and I would be working on Willow. Now that we don’t have (nor can we afford at the moment) daycare, Daniel spends his days playing by himself or parked in front of the TV, which is where I’ve been placing him throughout most of the month of January while we were working on the house. I can start taking him to playgroup again, just to get out of the house, but outdoor activities are definitely out, not until we start having weather that’s not in the single digits.

And writing? I can ease back into that, but those days of working four to six hours a day? Gone. At the most, I can do writing after Daniel goes to bed, but usually, I’m so tired, the most I can manage is fifteen minutes worth of writing before calling it quits. Work on Willow has slowed to a crawl, and working on short stories have become non-existent…

You know, I think I’m in mourning. I’m mourning the fact that everything’s changed, and nothing will be the same again. Not my writing time. Not my house. Nothing. It sucks.

Everything sucks.

Maybe I should cheer myself up by listening to Tom Waits.

(Caveat: This post is merely the author’s method of blowing off steam and in no way reflects the philosophy of the Cafe in the Woods–which is to sit back, relax, and have a cup of tea. Yours Truly promises that the next post will be more uplifting. In the meantime, you’ll just have to make do with what you got because the teapot is in the corner, sulking. And the table’s passed out in the corner. And the napkins are debating about the theory of relativity. And the carpet needs a haircut…

…And you can’t find your waitress with a Geiger counter, and she hates you and your friends and you just can’t be served without her. And the box office is drooling and the bar stools are on fire, and the newspapers were fooling, and the ashtrays have retired…cause the piano has been drinking…the piano has been drinking…the piano has been drinking…not me…not me…not me….not me…not me…)

Finally, a breath of fresh air–cold, snowy and wet, but fresh all the same…

We got a rhyme for rain: rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day. What about snow? Why don’t we have a rhyme for snow? Snow, snow, you really blow. Go pile on someone else’s toe. Feh, not exactly Hallmark sentiment, is it?

It’s not the snow, though, that’s been making things slow around the Cafe. I warned you back in December that I won’t be posting much due to our quest to making our house look spiffy to sale. And that’s pretty much been the case. We’ve been doing so much work, I haven’t done much of anything. No blogging, no writing. When I do, it’s quickly snatched moments of time: 5 minutes before I paint trim, a couple of minutes just before I head to bed, utterly exhausted. Occasionally, my hubby has watched the boy so I can escape to Panera and catch up on stuff there. Writing’s almost become like a date for just myself. (You got a couple of hours to spend just to yourself. Are you going to the mall to buy something? No, I’m gonna write! Yay!)

However, today, I can finally see hope on the horizon. The major renovations have been done, so mostly it’s just little things on the house that needs fine tuning. Oddly, it’s also the little things that’s driving us the most mad. But we knew that. We knew that when we decided to do this, by the time this part rolled around, my hubbie and I will be snarling at the house and each other like frothing dogs. But that’s the case of any type of move. It makes you crazy. What was it about moving being one of the most stressful things in a person’s life?

I think I’m rambling. I’m not surprised. But the fact that I’m sitting here, butt in chair, writing this out means that time is finally freeing up again, that I actually can sit and write and breathe.

Boy, do I miss it.

I know that it’s a respite. Once the house sells, then the flurry of activity increases again. And let’s not even think yet of what will happen once we get to Madison. But for now, I’m going to enjoy having some writing time that’s somewhat close to my pre-move schedule. Maybe I’ll even tackle working on the Cafe itself–a renovation that’s long overdue…

Oh, and by the way, just because I haven’t been able to do writing much this past month doesn’t mean that my stories have been sitting idle. Stay tuned to the Cafe for some awesome announcements over the next couple of weeks.