Story Slam WINNERS

In the 2013 Stanford Story Slam, there was one first-place winner, and two runner-ups. The story I wrote with my writing group captured the first runner-up, so we essentially won second place! See our story “At Bike’s End” listed as a runner-up in the 2013 Winners tab of the slam webpage.

story slam winners

This was a ton of fun to do—I thoroughly enjoyed spending several hours with three other writers discussing plot, character, diction, etc… It is so gratifying to see our hard work rewarded. We have all grown so much as writers over the past few years, and now we’re starting to see our dedication pay off. Not that there won’t be a ton of rejections and failures ahead, but this win is just the beginning.

Story Slam my section

Section 2, “The Routine,” written by yours truly. (I also came up with the title–you can see our title thread here.)

I also managed to submit my query letter and the first five pages of my novel for a couple of meetings at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference. Despite having gone over the query and pages with my writers’ group, and incorporating incredible advice from a successful author friend, I spent the days before submission stressed, worried, second-guessing. I was freaking out. Especially the hour directly prior to submission.

Had I really done my best? Would my best be good enough? How important is it, really, to get exactly 25 lines of text on each page? (I learned from my friend to turn off “widows and orphans” in Word, and in doing so learned what “widows” and “orphans” even are.) I chose Times New Roman, but what if my readers are in the Courier New camp?

And on, and on, and on. In the minutes leading up to submission, I called several members of my writers’ group, frantic, to ask their advice. Ultimately, I just had to make choices and go with them.

Tomorrow I’m speaking with a literary agent, a friend of my father’s massage therapist (that’s how networking works, right?), and while he doesn’t typically represent my genre, I can’t wait to ask him all kinds of questions and listen with rapt attention to his advice. As my uncle reminded me yesterday—he is an accomplished writer/director, and yet still had a treatment he’d written torn apart by his writing guru—there is always more to learn.

(P.S. For those grammar buffs out there who might be wondering, both “runners-up” and “runner-ups” are correct, according to Merriam-Webster.)


Fading Writers’ Group

            One lonely wine bottle. Used to be I’d host a writers’ group and send four or five bottles to the recycle. The group is dying out.
            We’ve faced this before. Life gets in the way and people end up doing other things. We have two members moving to Boston and several with other work or personal commitments. The thing seems to go in ebbs and flows. The flow, last time, happened when I took a couple of classes at UCLA Extension and invited fellow students to join. This time, I’m not planning to take any classes.
            My other group is thriving. I can’t help but compare, and wonder, what makes a writing group tick? Why are some people so committed, and others not? And inevitably, what can I do to spark that commitment, or how do I find other people who already have it?

Post-Draft 2

Feeling proud of myself for completing the second draft of my novel, I promptly stopped writing. For two weeks.
It was kind of like taking a vacation. There was some relaxation to it, something like a reward. I’ve accomplished something, now I can take a break. I spent my time doing other creative things, like carving pumpkins and making Halloween costumes.
And after two weeks, I felt like a total bum. I was still creating things, and I was still making money babysitting, but what was I living for? I had this vague sense of that question roaming around in the back of my mind: what am I doing with my life? 
An interesting side effect was what happened to my writers’ groups. To one of them, I began submitting chapters from the completed second draft, and everyone else began submitting. Where before we had one meeting with only a single submission, suddenly we had a meeting where every single person in the group submitted. With the other group, about the time I stopped writing, the group began to fall apart. One meeting got pushed back two weeks due to low attendance, and then another meeting got pushed back, and where we had been meeting twice a month, the meetings dropped to once a month. And my blog, where I had been keeping up a steady post rate of 3 per month (usually all squished in at the end), fell to only 1 in October.
So I started writing again. I returned to a couple of short stories, one of which I had received several rejection letters for, and another I felt was close but hadn’t yet begun to send out.
I’ve received some feedback from my readers on the second draft, and I think I will be ready to begin the 3rd soon.