Honk honk: 2016 wrap up edition

On the whole, 2016 was a shit year with a few bright spots. Here are some of those bright spots, specifically related to writing (though I’ll write another post about all the wonderfully bright people I had the pleasure of spending time with in 2016).

  • Permafrost, a fine literary journal that published my short story “The Time I Listened to Nothing But Warren Zevon for One Year Straight,” also nominated that story for a 2017 Pushcart Prize. This is my first Pushcart nomination, and to say I am honored is an understatement. This nomination has been a huge encouragement to me and my writing, especially at a time when everything was starting to feel pointless. Thank you, Permafrost!
  • I have been writing blog posts for The Rumpus for about a year and a half now, and recently began a new blog column called This Week in Books, where I highlight a recently published book from a small or independent press. I love writing about books (what? you already knew that?!), and love indie presses, so this is a perfect fit for me. I am so grateful to The Rumpus Managing Editor Marisa Siegel for giving me this opportunity.
  • October 2016 marked the one year anniversary of becoming the lead editor for Eleventh Stack, the blog for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where I work. (Again it’s that writing about books thing…) I’m so very proud of the work all the Eleventh Stack bloggers have done over the past year, from beta-testing the library’s new website to writing phenomenal content about everything from Beyoncè to beach reads. Leading this blog is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job, and has been a phenomenal learning experience for me as an editor and writer. Hats off to LA for trusting me with this project, and always being quick with advice and wisdom.

What good things came out of your 2016?

Honk honk: August 2016 edition

Today is the first day in a long time where I haven’t had to be anywhere or do anything. It feels nice, if weird. I feel like I can breathe a little, plan the rest of my summer, and actually enjoy the nerdy nerdy things I love (oh video games, how I’ve missed you).

Time, as always, still runs out before I accomplish everything on my list (plus all the things I want to do but don’t put on my list), but I still have a good number of accomplishments to round up from the first stretch of summer:

  • My short story “What Jeannie Needs” was published in Rose Red Review,
    an online journal that publishes modern fairy tales. I’ll write up a little behind the scenes post for this story in the near future.
  • I interviewed Ranbir Singh Sidhu for The Rumpus. If you recall, I wrote about Ranbir’s book Good Indian Girls on this blog and followed that up with a short interview. After reading his novel, I wanted to do something more in depth. I highly recommend Deep Singh Blue, especially for anyone who’s ever felt completely out of place.
  • My short story “The Time I Listened to Warren Zevon for One Year Straight” will appear in Permafrost’s Summer 2016 online issue.
  • For the work blog, I wrote about my corgi’s degenerative nerve disease and the debut novel Lily and the Octopus, and apparently made some people cry. I also wrote about Pokémon Go, which hopefully didn’t make anyone cry.
  • And finally, my review of Sherrie Flick’s Whiskey, Etc., written for the work blog, was syndicated on Littsburgh. This is another fantastic book that I highly recommend.

Even though this is a great list, I feel guilty about the things I haven’t done: written a synopsis for my short story collection and novel so I can attempt to sell both projects to an agent, reading a friend’s novel, reading my husband’s novel, devoting serious time to Wild Age Press… I could go on forever. It’s something I’m working on with my therapist.

Maybe one day I’ll hack this time thing. But in the more likely scenario that I don’t, I’ll try to remember that friends, family, and writing are the important things, and those should always come before all the necessary chores of life.

On not writing

This has been one of those weeks where the words won’t come. Maybe it’s the heat and the humidity, maybe it’s the rough month I’ve been having, maybe it’s stress over money, and maybe it’s all of those things.

Sometimes, when I can’t write, I have to write about not being able to write to break through whatever block I’ve thrown in my own path (and it always is of my own design, unless I have a migraine, and that’s a different problem).

Not being able to write, not feeling like I’m adequately describing the story I see in my mind or the reasons I believe this or that, feels a lot like being stuck in a pressure cooker. All of those words build up and get hotter and hotter, but there’s nowhere for them to go. They’re stuck inside, and they can’t get out until I find the release valve.

When I don’t write, I start to feel stale, like week-old bread. I begin to harden, to lose my elasticity. I get irritable and discontent.

The best weeks and months are those when I get a steady pattern going: wake up at 6 a.m., eat breakfast, write for an hour or a half hour, then play with my dogs and get ready for work. It doesn’t even have to be every day. It can be three days out of five.

The worst weeks are ones like this one: too much stress over money, school, and the future, too little sleep, and hardly any writing. Weeks like this make me want to quit my job out of sheer frustration and become a full-time freelance writer—something I am capable of doing, certainly, but that doesn’t make the most sense for me right now.

Once I pick up a pen and drag it across a fresh sheet of paper—even to write about not being able to write—I remember why I love my job. Why a 9-5 actually works incredibly well for me. And most importantly, why I’ve built this life around the written word.

And then I can breathe again. Soon enough, the words flow.