CURRENT EVENTS: New Year’s Resolutions Past and Present

In the grand blogging tradition I’ve observed the past several years, my December post will be solely about my New Year’s Resolutions: how I did (or not) accomplish my 2021 goals, what my plans are for 2022, and reflections on what I’ve learned. Hopefully, you’ll find my experiences helpful as well!

MY 2021 RESOLUTIONS:

Finish compiling my second poetry collection.

SUCCESS. I completed this goal midway through the year, sent it out to a beta reader for feedback, then re-edited the manuscript based on feedback. It’s currently being considered by a publisher. I’ve gotten favorable indications but no definite commitments yet.

Submit my second poetry collection to a publisher.

SUCCESS. I queried several indie presses and also investigated literary agents. As I said, it’s currently being considered for publication, but I haven’t gotten a definite acceptance yet.

Regain my former schedule.

MODERATE SUCCESS: Sadly, this was not possible due to circumstances outside my control, although I did do several in-person readings. Considering the limited venues this year, I count this as a limited success.

Do things that scare me.

SUCCESS. Again, due to circumstances beyond my control, the venues I scheduled were mostly solo–which makes me more nervous than usual before a reading, as the spotlight is solely on me. I also stepped outside my comfort zone to read in costume at an unusual event, Zombiepalooza! I experimented with face paint–another new thing for me!–and went dressed as a zombie unicorn from my short story, Quietus. That and other selections are found within my short story collection An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories!

Honestly, I was extremely nervous for this one, as I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out that the audience was really too young for the zombie stories I had picked for the venue, so I count this one as a learning experience.

MY 2022 RESOLUTIONS:

I actually came up with these resolutions in September, as I was planning ahead for the next few months. I’ve come to several conclusions over the past couple years. For one thing, as I’ve grown older I’ve realized the need to pace myself. I also know that if I make resolutions that are too broad, like become more organized, I’ll keep them in the most lax way possible, so this year I thought I’d try something a little different. Also, I’ve learned in the past year how to adapt my goals to changing circumstances.

The following goals for 2022 contain self-imposed deadlines throughout the year, rather than simply saying I want to accomplish them by year’s end. By breaking them into smaller and more specific target goals, I hope to pace myself in such a way that I’m not overwhelmed by the enormity of any single project. 

With that in mind…

CLEAN OUT MY CRAFT ROOM/WORKSPACE BY JANUARY 31st

After completing my first draft of Hera Unchained in November, I want to give myself a month (or two) to let the manuscript sit before picking it up again. My craft room, once my pride and joy, has been sadly neglected and become a catch-all for things-that-have-no-official-spot in my home. So I aim to make this area a viable workspace once again–SO HELP ME, THOR.

WORK ON MY MANUSCRIPT IN TWO MONTH INTERVALS

By allowing myself two months for each pass, with a month-long break between each one, I hope to allow myself a strict enough personal deadline to keep my writing on track while also allowing myself enough breathing room to let the manuscript rest between revisions.

CLEAN OUT MY GARAGE BY APRIL 1st

During my month-long break from the manuscript, I plan to clean out my garage. By clean out my garage, I mean get rid of anything we don’t need, organize things we do by finding space for them, create a better system for storing our recyclables, sweep, and–last by not least–get rid of all the cobwebs! It’s a monumental task, and I fully expect to either be crushed beneath storage boxes, asphyxiate on dust-bunnies, or be found dangling from a giant spider web. However, if I accomplish my goal and somehow survive the experience, I fully intend to…

ORGANIZE BEDROOM JULY 1st

I like to write in bed, since it allows me to sit so that my back is supported. This way I can sit and work for longer periods without throwing my back out. As a consequence of this, as well as other things I store in this room, it tends to become cluttered. By organize my bedroom, I mean clean my closets, sort through my bedside (and other) storage–including my bookshelves. I’ll also dust. I promise.

SUBMIT HERA UNCHAINED TO PUBLISHER BY DECEMBER 31st

My overarching goal for the year. I will adhere to my schedule for multiple (content and grammar) edits, beta reads, formatting, and eventually submit a highly polished manuscript to my publisher.

YEAR ROUND: 

PROMOTE PINHOLES: TRAVELING THROUGH THE CURTAIN OF THE NIGHT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

I will continue to try to schedule in-person events, but barring that I will do videos, podcasts, or other venues. I’d also like to include some promotion for An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days (…), although the focus will primarily be on the newer book. 

KEEP UP MY MONTHLY POSTING SCHEDULES FOR MY WRITING BLOG AND MY PATREON

I post once a month to my writing blog at www.catrussellwriter.wordpress.com as well as a separate post (usually complementary) to my Patreon at www.patreon.com/authorcatrussell.

2021 REFLECTIONS:

This year was better than last, although 2020 did set the bar pretty low. The absence of murder-hornets alone made that an easy accomplishment! All kidding aside, I’m proud of what I’ve learned and accomplished this past year. 

Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope you’ll return in January. I’ll start 2022 with a post about the books I read in 2021, so maybe you’ll find your next great read! In the meantime, stay safe and well, and Happy New Year!

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*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons Licensing.

WRITING PROMPTS aka Switching It Up In Honor of NaNoWriMo!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short! If you are one of the thousands participating in the insane writing challenge to write a 50k rough draft novel within the thirty days of November, may God have mercy on your soul. JUST KIDDING! What I mean is, good luck! I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for NaNoWriMo, I never would have started writing. It gave me permission to write badly, which then turned into practice and workshops and feedback which led to getting MUCH better (despite this run on sentence, TRUST ME) to the point that I have two published books, one more to be published this month, one awaiting a publisher, and one currently in the works as my November Nano novel

So, if you are a fellow wrimo (NaNoWriMo writer), at the time this posts you are reaching the end of week one and entering the dreaded “Sophomore Slump”–aka week two. So here are three visual writing prompts to give you a little inspiration. See you at the finish line!

*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons Licensing.

*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons Licensing.

*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons Licensing.

POEM: “spark”

colorful lights in stormy sky over skyscrapers
"spark"

I hobble out of bed at daybreak
an Igor with dreams of being both doctor
and creation, waiting for just one spark,
juice enough to fuel that night's creation.

Excitement looms on this horizon
pregnant storm clouds heavy with rain,
whipped overhead by hurricane winds,
ready to strike, incite the dead to life.

Petrichor coats my tongue, fills my head,
lightning flashes, blue-white channels
blaze down these rods to these hands,
fire enough to burn, birthing this beating heart.

My blood boils, my eyes open.



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*Thank you for visiting my writing blog. I hope you enjoyed the poem! If you’d like to read about its creation, I will be dissecting it next Friday on my Patreon.

If you would like to read more of my writing, I will be posting once a month (both here and on my Patreon) for the foreseeable future; I’m concentrating on my next poetry collection, as well as writing a novel.

In the meantime, Happy April--aka National Poetry Month!

POEM: “untitled”

untitled

i remember when i thought twice,
thrice, a dozen times moreover
whether to call myself writer,
a title hallowed in my heart
throughout my childhood years,
the ones who wrote the books
i devoured with my every free hour,
my escapes into worlds of make-believe,
my gateway to learning beyond
what adults prescribed for me

i’ve known too many writers
to be intimidated by the title,
known their kindness and generosity,
heard of others’ lack
lucky enough not to experience it myself

i remember when i hesitated
to call myself poet, the title
seemed too pretentious, too artistic
to apply to just anyone, like lumping Van Gogh
in with the man who graffitis the roadside
in the dead of night. but why not?
why should a canvas command more respect
than the underside of an overpass?
why should the verse of authors long gone
hold more esteem than the coffee house clique
reciting their rhymes in the meeting place
of modern minds? the old and new both live

i’ve known too many poets
to be awed just by the word
when their humanity alone humbles me
my own attempts to grasp each
abiding image, each emotion collaged
upon these pages like flowing script,
rivers of ink and electrons
imprinted upon our collective minds

with or without title, i’ll write
these words, this verse, hope
someday they will be read, felt,
imbued with life

words change form throughout time as organic
as a climbing vine growing with each age
titles are more specific, rigid like concrete
i call myself the words
the titles themselves unknown

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*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons Licensing.

POEM: “Original”

Original

.

I sip poetry with my tea,

it seeps out like sun through a window,

it leaks through my fingertips.

I breathe in each page,

I live in these words.

.

Can I claim my voice as my own

when nothing comes of nothing?

There is no sound in a vacuum.

.

Can my whisper be heard

above the roaring wind,

or am I part of the chorus?

2020-03-30: Virtual Poetry Reading for Soul Picked Clean by Cat Russell!

Today is the one year anniversary of the Book Launch for my first published book, my poetry collection, Soul Picked Clean.

Since an in-person event is obviously not possible now, I wanted to celebrate online! I read a few of my poems, explain the thoughts behind them, and talk about how to keep in touch online. Enjoy!

If you would like to attend my FaceBook LIVE Book Birthday Party tonight, please visit: https://tinyurl.com/rhmzktp

 

PODCAST LINK: https://authorcatrussell.podbean.com/mf/play/53ujkf/2020_03_30PoetryReading-SPC-CatRussell.mp3


*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons License.

POEM: “Shakespeare’s Writing Advice”

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

 

Shakespeare’s Writing Advice

 

nothing will come of nothing

space eternally waits to be filled

we fill ourselves with our surroundings

immerse ourselves in the stuff of life

stuffing ourselves to draw out 

inner worlds sifted through our own lens.

 

brevity is the soul of wit

so cut what doesn’t add flavor, 

add to the plot, the tone, the gently sloping 

arc of character, retain the essence 

of each point–even if that point is only 

water is wet while air is sweet.

 

to thine own self be true

for every fiction is a truth disguised

the heart of humor is aggression

the essence of poetry is vulnerability

and courage breathes life into 

the creation of anything worthwhile.

 

context is not everything:

you must learn to read 

between the lines.

 

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Today’s post comes a little later than usual due to personal reasons, so my next poem will drop next Friday instead of the week after. 

I hope you enjoyed the poem! Thanks for stopping by.

CURRENT EVENTS: New Year’s and the New (and Past) Decade!

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In honor of the decade’s end, as well as the new year, I’m posting my reflections on the past ten years as well as my resolutions for the next year. I’m obviously thankful for a loving family that I’m proud of, so this post is going to concentrate on professional accomplishments and goals.

2010-2019 REFLECTIONS:

I started submitting short fiction ten years ago, and my first publication credit appeared in Flash Me online magazine July of 2010, followed by my first print credit, the anthology The Best of Friday Flash: Volume One, and later The Best of Friday Flash: Volume Two. Over the years, I improved as a writer by participating weekly in Friday Flash and other online challenges like 52/250 A Year of Flash.

I’ve also blogged consistently and completed several rough draft novels via Nanowrimo. One of the novels, Pinholes, I edited over the course of a year into a serial, then revised into a single document and began subbing to different publishers. About four years ago, I began concentrating on poetry more than short fiction and sold a few poems to online publications. In 2017, I was honored to be invited as a guest author and speaker at the Massillon Library’s Local Author Fair; I was surprised, because I didn’t actually have a book, but they asked me as a blogger. That was my first scheduled public reading.

A couple years ago, I was finally able to attend writing events on a regular basis, so I’ve gone to writing cons and workshops ever since. Every month I go to Latitudes Poetry Night and The Write Stuff Writers’ Group. At Latitudes, I started participating in their open mic, because I planned to self-publish and hoped it would help me get over my stage fright.

A friend convinced me to try submitting to a press before I self-published. As a result, in March 2019, my first book, Soul Picked Clean, was published by Crisis Chronicles Press! At my book launch on March 30th, I gave my first scheduled reading as a published author. I spent the rest of the year promoting my book, scheduling reading events, and working on my next two books as well as my blog. I also began my Patreon page, renewed my podcast, My Writing Niche, and starting volunteering more of my time to help the writing community in general.

I’ve been lucky enough to live in northeast Ohio, a place blessed with two of the best library systems in the country–Cuyahoga County Library and Cleveland Library. And last, but certainly not least, I’ve been fortunate enough to know many lovely and creative people who inspire me both professionally and personally. This decade, and especially this past year, have been incredible. I’ll never forget it.

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Next, I’ll share my New Year’s Resolutions with you; the point of this is twofold. One reason is to set them down so I’ll see them as something solid to work toward, and the second is to publicly declare them so I’ll pressure myself to complete them. If I make a big deal about them online, I’ll be too embarrassed to not do them (or at least work heavily towards them)!

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS:

  1. Submit my short story collection to a publisher.
  2. Submit another poetry collection to a publisher.
  3. Publish my short story collection.
  4. Publish my poetry collection.
  5. Market and promote my work.
  6. Volunteer more.
  7. Do things that frighten me.

This may seem like a long list–most people have one or two resolutions, but they are mostly variations of the same thing. Namely, I want to continue to get my work out there, put myself out there, and not let fear keep me from opportunities. Maybe admitting to that fear isn’t a good idea, maybe articulating it gives it power, but I don’t think so. I know I’m not the only person who gets scared of new things and new experiences, but if the past year–no, the past decade has taught me anything, it’s that facing my fears has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I want to continue to grow, both as a person and a writer.

If you’ve read this far, I know this is much different than my usual poetry posts. I don’t know if sharing this helps you at all, but I hope it does. I know it helps me to read about other people’s experiences. If you would like to share your resolutions or have any polite feedback, I’d love to hear it! Thank you for visiting my blog, and I wish you the very best for the next year–and decade!

Happy New Year!

 

 
*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons License

ON WRITING: CUYAHOGA LIBRARY’S INDIE AUTHOR CON & SHOWCASE–Part II

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My last post concerned the Cuyahoga Library’s Indie Author Con and Showcase on October 13th, but there was way too much information to convey in a single post. So here, as promised, is Part II of my post about the con. Enjoy!

Legal Issues for Self-Published Writers

This segment of the con featured Jacqueline Lipton, founder of Authography: a company dedicated to sustaining authors with legal and other issues. She also teaches writing courses online, writes the Legally Bookish column for the SCBWI bulletin, has received awards for her fiction novels, and holds multiple degrees. Her upcoming book, Law & Authors, will be published in 2019.

“Write what you need to write, and worry about the legal stuff down the track.”

I know many authors worry about the legal ramifications of what they write, because they are afraid of accidentally committing a legal blunder, so this simple piece of advice felt very reassuring. It’s not necessarily that you won’t make mistakes, but that you mustn’t let the fear stop you from creating. If you are worried, you can seek legal advice by having a lawyer look over your work or by using some other legal resource, but the important thing is to not let fear stop you. Fear is the enemy of creativity.

In the interest of passing on some of what Ms. Lipton shared at the conference, I am sharing the photos I took of her slides (with her permission), as well as notes I took of the Question & Answer session afterwards.

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Q&A:

What are the issues using quotations?

–Ms. Lipton explained that much of what you may want to use may be considered Fair Use, but because Fair Use is so uncertain, traditional publishers will want legal permission. This is a site you may consult for more information. authorsalliance.org

What about issues concerning more than one person using the same Pen name? Is it a copyright or trademark issue?

–If you or someone else uses the same pen name, you do not need to do anything. Others may have the same name, but it does not tell you anything about the underlying work. If someone is using your pen name, because they are copying your work, it’s a copyright issue anyway.

What is the definition of a Trademark (in greater detail)?

–Trademark concerns work a particular market (narrowly identified). Ex: The For Dummies series, etc.
Problems occur when you look closely affiliated with the other market. The main question asked concerning Trademark is, How likely would consumers be to mistake one product from the Trademarked product? Ex: orange arches compared to McDonald’s yellow arches for hamburger restaurants.

That completes my summary of last month’s writers’ conference. If you have any particular legal questions, I suggest you consult a lawyer or other official legal resource, but I hope this summary proves useful in a general sense.

I will post again next week, but I also wanted to tell you of an upcoming event. I am very honored to have been invited to participate once again in the Massillon Library Local Author Fair. The Fair takes place on Saturday, November 10th from 11am – 2pm, and features many talented local authors! I will be reading from my work, as well as have a table with some materials from Literary Cleveland to give out. If you are able, please stop by, listen to some cool authors, visit their tables, and maybe pick up a book!

*Permission to post photo of flyer kindly granted by Cuyahoga Library

***permission to summarize this session for the blog kindly granted by Jacqueline Lipton.
**permission to use photos of her slides generously granted by Jacqueline Lipton. The photos themselves were taken by myself.

ON WRITING: CUYAHOGA LIBRARY’S INDIE AUTHOR CON & SHOWCASE–Part I

Two weeks ago, on the 13th of October, Cuyahoga Library‘s Parma-Snow branch hosted a free Indie Author Con and Showcase. Cuyahoga Library is a pillar of Northeast Ohio’s literary community, with multiple programs and facilities supporting writers and bibliophiles of all stripes. However, I realize not everyone is lucky enough to live within driving distance of this fantastic library system, so I want to share some of the information I took away from its most recent conference. Since there is a lot to convey, I split the information between two posts.

Truly, one of the things I love best about cons is meeting new people with the same interests as myself, as well as reconnecting with others I have not seen for some time. It’s invigorating to be surrounded by creative people, and I always leave more inspired than when I arrived. When the conference started, the first panel of guests were representatives of different local writing organizations. I will link to them below, along with short descriptions.

Find Your Writing Tribe

Sisters in Crime

–This group meets monthly at the Twinsburg Library, primarily for female writers of crime stories, both fiction and non–although male writers are also welcome. They periodically organize field trips for members. In the past, they have visited the Medical Examiner’s Office as well as the Natural History Museum. At meetings they may have guest visitors, such as a poison expert giving a talk or a visit from a cadaver dog. In November, a judge will speak to them about criminal procedure and trials.

Literary Cleveland

–This writers’ organization hosts multiple events, both free and low cost, at various locations throughout the Cleveland area. They have published a chapbook of Cleveland stories, and will take part in the Cleveland Humanities event; they also host members-only mixers, and offer monthly poetry workshops and general writing classes. They also organize a free writers’ conference called INKubator annually at the Cleveland Main Library. Membership is $50 annually.

Skyline Writers

–A writing group that meets monthly at the Parma branch library for kind and helpful feedback. Interested parties can go to one meeting without submitting, then after they may sub a 3,500 word manuscript for critique by the group.

Literary Akron

–Literary Akron is relatively new organization dedicated to promoting writing and appreciation for literary arts in the greater Akron area. They have been working behind the scenes to bolster a number of smaller efforts around town and are planning a formal launch of the organization in early 2019.**

In the meantime, they may be contacted via email at Literary.Akron@gmail.com

Northern Ohio Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

–This local group aims to support authors and illustrators of children’s books, focusing on community and craft.
Northeast Ohio Romance Writers of America

–This organization requires membership in Romance Writers of America, although interested parties may attend two meetings for free. They meet one Saturday a month year-round (except in July) from 10am – 1pm. Other benefits include online workshops (membership not necessary), a Spring writing contest, and an annual members-only retreat in November.

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Hybrid Authors: Best of Both Worlds
(Mary) Kathleen Glavich & Abby L. Vandiver

This second panel of guests featured two prolific authors kind enough to discuss their personal journeys via combined traditional and self-publishing. While a traditional publisher has more control over content since they are investing financially in the work, self-publishing authors exclusively control their content while assuming any financial risks.

Mary Kathleen Glavich has written over eighty religious books since 1972. While she’s published traditionally–and still does, on one occasion a publisher broke their contract with her; she decided to publish the book herself. She enjoyed the complete editorial control she had over content and cover choices, and has since self-published some of her previously out-of-print books as well.
Abby L. Vandiver has published twenty books in the five years since she began her writing career. She began self-publishing as a way to generate revenue and get her work known, before transitioning to the traditional publishing model. In 2017, she made the Wall Street Journal’s Best Seller List, which attracted both a traditional publisher as well as an agent.

Her first book, however, was a manuscript she had written years earlier, that her daughter found in the garage. When Ms. Vandiver decided to publish, she did not want to go through the process of traditional publishing, including the waiting period for a manuscript to become a published book. She also did not want to spend money for a vanity press. She discovered she could publish her book, without cost to herself, through Amazon.*** The first two months, she had no sales, so she analyzed the best seller list and made some adjustments. Then she sold five books–still without cost to herself. She invested $25 (EREADER NEWS TODAY, now priced higher)for a promotional package, which resulted in selling 525 books!

Every book after that became a best seller in her category, through independent promotions and FaceBook.

Although she started as a self-published author, she was approached by an agent for her second book, and now has traditionally published books as well. She spoke at length about the Amazon publishing model she used, as well as the difference between traditional versus self-publishing.

At this time, Amazon takes about 70% of royalties for discounted books (.99 cent model). However, if the book costs more (not discounted), the model is reversed. Amazon also pays for each page read on borrowed books and lets you sell at your own price, although it does not allow you to publish in other formats. She suggested the discount .99 cent model as a great way for self-publishing authors to market their books, by getting their name out there and read; the discount model can be profitable.

During the Question and Answer session, both authors agreed on the necessity of establishing an author platform through social media and a website. Mary Kathleen Glavich also suggested using other local promotional media such as tv, radio, and newspapers. Abby L. Vandiver suggested promotional FaceBook parties with other authors, Twitter groups, and creating virtual box sets with other writers–utilizing their combined marketing resources. She also advised asking other indie authors for suggestions, as they are generous and love to share their expertise.

Part II of this post involves legal issues for self-published writers and will (hopefully) be up next week. I hope you found this helpful, and–if you don’t already do this–support your local libraries!

*Permission to post photo of flyer kindly granted by Cuyahoga Library

**Description courtesy of Scott Piepho

***I do not know if this Amazon publishing model is still current. I would suggest further investigation if you are interested.