chapbooks

I’ve been thinking a lot about putting together a chapbook, a short anthology of poems/fiction/whatever that is usually up to 40 or so pages long though the number is not a hard number. Chapbooks, mainly poetry and constructed in various forms, have been around since roughly the 16th century. As expected with the internet, paper chapbooks are not quite as popular as they once were, tho’ like vinyl they are making a comeback, so, why do one?

The non-blog works of lisarabey.com are, I suppose, chapbooks in their own right if you organise them into groupings which I’ve sorta done. But the online aesthetic isn’t what I’m shooting for as I recently joked to TEH I wanted to have a shelf of my printed work and printed chapbooks would be an excellent way to start to make that happen.

But how and where to publish them? (I’ll get more into the “what” later on.)

I’ve got a couple of options that are open to me: I can find a chapbook publisher and handle it through them or I can do it myself. With the chapbook publishing route, I can get the pieces professionally edited, the book designed, built-in distribution, and some basic publicity being handled. If I go down the route myself, I can either edit the work or hire an editor (thankfully, I know one and she is cheapish), do the design, distribution, and publicity myself.

After doing some research on chapbook publishers, I decided to go down the myself route. I’ve got basic ebook design and publishing down to a science now but I could always learn more and I like the DIY activity of it. In name, at least, I do have my own publishing house, so I can publish under that imprint. The distribution markets will be a tough nut to crack. I can sell them via etsy and check local bookstores and gift shops that could sell my work. Publicity, with prose at least, I’ll find reviewers, do social media, the whole nine yards.

But really, truly honesty between us pals? No one reads archives anymore and there is so much good in those words that not being seen by more eyes is a shame.

I’ve got two projects in mind for the chapbook route. The first is combining downpour on my soul and downpour revisited into a single work. Related pieces, downpour on my soul was published in 1996 and downpour revisited in 1997. The first one an online prose piece in response to dating on the internet in 1995 – 96. It was 47 pages handwritten and clocks in around 6000 words. It is an intense no holds barred look at my love life happening online and off. The piece was written in a manic phase that lasted two days. It was, for a very long time, one of the first pieces that received some minor notoriety. While no personal details are given, I have had men referenced in the piece threaten me with libel. (Obviously, none of it came to pass.) It’s also the piece most people seem to resonate with.

The second piece, downpour revisited, was written in 1997 as a follow-up / response to its predecessor. That one is as intense yet it’s formatted differently. As it was not written during a manic phase, the voice is less rushed, less obnoxious. It does, however, feel a bit forced at times but that could be I re-read the damn thing 90000 times in the last six months.

The second project is collating my pieces from Fucked Up College Kids, the ‘zine I wrote for in 1997 – 98. There are 12 pieces (located here — scroll down and on your right) where I rage, admonish, rant, and piss people off. I was 25 and did not know any better.  While the copyright has reverted back to me years ago, I’ve been in touch with the editor to see if I can use the name when I put that chapbook together. I haven’t heard from him yet.

From there I’d like to start writing chapbook only work and start releasing that as well. I’m pretty excited about this whole endeavour.

I’ll be offering all of my work. chapbooks and books, to download for free in pdf, .mobi, and .epub and you can also buy them as ebooks and print copies for reasonable costs. My reasoning here is I’d rather have more people read my work and be engaged rather than make a few bucks. (Because literally, that is all I would make and in the negatives after you add in the cost of work.)

But more on that later.

managing writing projects

  • 26 fiction book ideas
  • 33 fiction story ideas (shorts / novellas)
  • 19 fiction stories in progress
  • 6 non-fiction essays in progress
  • 6 fiction short stories finished
  • 8 fiction short stories to be edited / revised
  • 1 themed short story collection started
  • Afraid to say how many #100DayProject entries (i.e. not many)

And the big one:

  • 10 life projects

When I tell my therapists I have projects in the works,  I am referring to life projects. Things like “find a job,” “update/manage lisa.rabey.net” (librarian site), and so on are all individual life projects. Each “project” requires its own energy and resources. “Finding a job” meant spending 30+ hours a week on job searching, writing applications, finding references, and anything else associated with that task. I also spent five+ hours a week researching and updating my librarian (main career goal) site to keep myself fresh and relevant in the field.

Those two projects are related (but separate) and seem like they should take up a good chunk of my time. They are and they did but I didn’t have just those two life projects to keep me busy: I have 10.

Let’s give another example:

Code Louisville (life project #1) uses Team Treehouse (life project #2) as the foundational courses for Code Louisville’s cohorts. I reasoned I needed to also have a website to showcase my work which led to the creation of a consulting business (life project #3) for site design / content curation (of which I had enough knowledge to be dangerous but I was taking zero classes for, so I needed to take more classes to supplement (life project #4)). These life projects could be streamlined and consolidated into a single connected project (take only foundational courses needed for Code Louisville and use the website only as CL cohort increased, stop consulting services and taking additional classes).

But I didn’t think that way. I thought if I could do all the things, my chances of getting employed / noticed / famous would increase. We know how this story ends: Spread too thin and I was not a master of any and mediocre at best for most. How do I do I approach this to make sense in my head and to get the work done?


James Altchuer has the 5/25 rule. You make a list of 25 things you want to do and keep only five, the other 20 are distractions. I am using this advice to manage my projects better. Out of the 10, five were put on hold indefinitely. Two were consolidated (Code Louisville / Team Treehouse) which leaves me another three projects I can handle: update EPbaB (and the newsletter) once a week, work on my woo-woo makey feel good stuff, and writing for a total of four projects. Code Louisville / Team Treehouse are time specific and not immediate so that’s on the backburner for the moment; updating the personal blog and newsletter takes 10 hours a week (closer to five to seven but I want to be generous with time), and the woo-woo makey feel good stuff is my daily meditation, working on DBT, seeing a therapist which is also another 10 or so hours a week. In theory, since writing can be done at anytime and anywhere, I have about 30 – 50 hours a week I can devote to writing.

On paper, this sounds great, but there is more coming down the pipeline. I’ve applied for several online tutoring jobs which while it nets me some much needed cash, it also means I’m going to be working about 20 or so hours a week which will eat into my writing time. Plus there is general life stuff: errands, going out, dog things, etc which has an unknown amount of weekly allocated time. Finally, FINALLY, there is the writing itself. I have books to read, notes to make, ideas to simmer, when do I actually sit down and just bloody write?


Writing is on the forefront of my brain for the last few months and I want to change my framing of approaching it. If I do X (which I’ve done a million times), then X would surely, finally (not really) happen. Good intentions, bad follow through and it’s fucking with my goals. Look at the writing numbers above: 26 book ideas stretching back to at least 2001. 80% of the ideas will never see the light of day. The remaining five, maybe 2 will come to fruition if I actually get cracking on them. The other numbers will roughly have the same percentage. The only increase, and probably better completion of, are the non-fiction essays since I can knock those out fairly quickly.

Therein lies the rub: writing isn’t just about writing, it’s about everything you do before (and after) you put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard). There are queries to write, research to be done, edits to be made, notes to take, possible classes to sit in, books to be read, and if you’re self-publishing, there is far more work to be done for promotion and hustling oneself out into the world.

I get overwhelmed with it all, fuck off the world and play Animal Crossing. Surprise, surprise – nothing is finished.


900 words later, we get to the point: How do I handle writing projects? Walter  Mosely’s slim treatise, This Year You Write Your Novel can be summed up as such: Allocate X hours in the morning for just writing and spend the afternoon doing administrative tasks (email, errands, research) and within a year, viola! A novel. Jonathan Franzen (jackass) has widely noted he has his wireless card removed (to prevent internet distractions) and once, “…writing in the dark, wearing earplugs and a blindfold.” to finish another novel. (Pompous twit.) But it worked for him. Other writers have even more wildly different approaches. I know of one writer who, with deadlines looming, writes whatever is due before the final hour. NaNoWriMo‘s approach tells you if you write 1600 words a day, NO EDITING, in the month of November, you too can have a complete (unedited), albeit, short novel.


Here I am, with more ideas to shake a stick at, finally time I can reasonably carve out to write, and I’m writing a blog post about managing writing projects instead of, you know, actually writing.


All is not lost! I use a 9″x12″ sketch pad to plot out my life and now I have a visual idea of what I can reasonably handle even if the other ideas are 10000% awesome. I’m, for the first time, learning from my reading in addition to enjoying it for pleasure. I’m reading technical books to refresh my English comp classes, I’ve started plotting (new!) some stories to get an idea of how I want the stories to land. I’m keeping in mind the advice I gave a few weeks ago and using the spreadsheet of doom to track everything. I am starting a task for the day and completing it rather than have many tasks unfinished. Progress on reframing my approach, tiny but visible, is being made.


It’s hard. Writing is hard. We do not come forth and spill out Harry Potter or Ulyssys on the first tries. We know of the rejections and the waiting and the struggles. We forget these things when we see authors we love become more famous or in some, become obscure. We cannot be everything at once and in all life projects, yet we try to be. We have a voice we want to be heard but we keep strangling it on the behalf of others advice with the thought of shame we are not doing things “right.”

And that’s our greatest struggle of all.

let me spreadsheet that for you

I’ve made lists and spreadsheets long before I was a librarian so when I desired to take my writing one step further and begin to submit my pieces, I needed a way to track everything without losing my mind. I’ve searched for such a thing but most of the tools were lacking. Then I came across Jamie Rubin‘s spreadsheet and later the one from The Sleeper Hit and the great spreadsheet of doom was born.1

I keeping a few of my examples to give you a better idea of how it works, starting from the left tab and over:

  • Upcoming deadlines Pretty self-explanatory. It has the name of the publication, theme/idea, due date, cost (if any), payment (flat rate or per word), and link to the submission information.
  • Stories I only count finished but you could break it up to include working as well. Title, abbreviation, word count. It should be noted some places have limits on word count hence this column. DO NOT MODIFY THE COLUMNS IN GREEN. This will become important later on.
  • Submissions Some of the cells will have drop-down options for each cell not green. Date (date you submitted);  market (which populates from the market tab); status (which populates from the configuration lists tab); leave the next three green columns alone; last date (when the piece was accepted); leave the next green column alone; and lastly, contact and notes.
  • Places to pitch The basic agreement is to collate listings of your favorite websites where you want to write and include the idea/theme of that site as well as the contact information. 75% of this list was compiled by The Sleeper Hit and I’ve been adding as I go.
  • Markets Market is similar to places to pitch with the difference by adding type of payment (populates from the configuration lists tab), the next six green columns pulling from the submissions tab, and the last green column pulling from the publications tab.
  • Publications A list of all places you’ve published coupled with how much you made for said sale. Story column will have a drop down generated by the abbreviation of your stories tab, markets pulling from markets tab; type pulling from configuration lists tab; fill in payment with how much you got paid (which will then populate the total payments column on the markets and payment summary tabs); payment date (date you received payment), and payment type (populated from the configurations lists tab); link to the piece and finally, year (which will be used in the submission and payment summaries tabs).
  • Submission summary for those who like charts.
  • Payment summary for those who like charts.
  • Configuration lists which are populated through the workbook. You can add cells (starting below the last filled cell) as necessary but do not delete the columns.
  • Instructions are for the Jamie Rubin parts of the workbook with links to their blog piece describing the process.

Some notes:

Yes, this seems overly complicated and could probably be simplified in bits but I found its current status to work well. Markets and publications and places are used interchangeably. (I should probably fix that some day for consistency.) As I’m a very visual person, having the visual gives me a better idea of how much work I’ve done in writing and submitting. At least one more tab I’m going to add is one for novel writing for daily word counts. (I don’t count blog pieces, journal entries, or anything of the sort since those have no value other  privately for me.)

There you have it!

1. The spreadsheet can be modified to fit a variety of projects, not just writing.

“what the hell do i write about?”

“what the hell do i write about?”

this is a question i’ve mulled over for ages and i can’t seem to find a satisfactory answer. i tried chick lit many years ago but while i loved to read it (shut it), several of my pieces started out strong and eventually  fizzled. i suppose if i found an editor who could help make a difference it would have been different, but in the end my heart wasn’t into that genre anymore.

next came fantasy/sci fi/paranormal/magical realism. i love the works of terry pratchett, jasper fforde, and others, and i’m keenly interested in mythology and fairy tale, and while that’s all well and good, and i have notes up the wazoo on various pieces, i just cannot get going on building my worlds.

then i started dabbling in mysteries with cabinet particulier (working title), “…a book project about a near-failed Edwardian actress who finds she is extraordinarily talented with a still camera. A little too extraordinary. It’s 1907. Throw in a bit of magical realism, fairies, Arthur Conan Doyle, motorbikes, and a murder and you have the makings of a fantastic world” (i apparently write fabulous summaries), but that’s stalled not because i’ve lost interest but everything else going on in my life has pushed the book far into the background.


i’ve been contemplating recently on two very important points:

  1. i should keep writing no matter what i do
  2. and this quote by theodora goss: “i tell myself that I’m allowed to be jealous of another writer if i’m willing to be jealous of everything, the good and the bad.”

the last one is particular poignant because i follow two women writers who’ve started from nothing and ended up blowing up huge. i’m jealous of their success, their recognition, and their fans who love them. but i remember both struggling, finding an audience, wanting to be read more than anything in the world, their  failure after failure and lastly, never ever giving up.


one thing i’ve learned about myself this past year, and one trait i’m thrilled to finally have down pat, is starting something and continuing on. i’ve meditated for 413 consecutive days; i’ve recently started weight watchers and i’ve been diligent on keeping on track (and so far losing 12 solid pounds since starting and 19 pounds from my highest weight recorded earlier this year); doing yoga on a continual basis, and the most important one: being smoke free since january. these are but small things but knowing i can start and continue a single thing has helped pushed me into doing more things  i can actually follow through with.


this new ability is v. important. i have adhd and coupled with my other brain gifts, starting projects, following through, and finishing those projects has only succeeded 1% of the time. so why the (positive) change? i attribute it to drugs, mainly, but the feeling of doing something and finishing something has made a huge impact on my life. i remember the feeling when i finished my book; this feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction i created something and i gave it to the world, which gave me a natural high.

and that high is addicting.


i’ve spent a good portion of my morning reading through what i have written in scrivener and upon closer inspection, things aren’t as half bad as i feared. the writing spanned from chick lit to magical realism; some better than others (despite my earlier assessment) and i found myself wanting to complete some of that work. there is a lot to work with, with some pieces closer to completion than others, which is only right. i have some fairly good ideas i cooked up and i can see where the mania pushed some work further down the road in terms of tone and plot while others are dark and short relative to the depression i was going through at the time. there is quite a few non-fiction pieces in addition to the fiction, with smattering of erotica and poetry (which is terrible. i am certainly no poet.

my voice in some pieces is fresh, while others are still in need of a lot of work. i caught myself, after reading a few pieces, finding stuff similar to other voices. the question gets turned not from, “what the hell do i write about?” to “how can i make this mine?”


“what the hell do i write about?”

the question remains valid. i am worried, and to be frank still am, i would be regulated to writing about the things i feel strongly about (myself, mental health, libraries, comics) rather than widen my horizons into other areas (short stories, novels, erotica).


i’ve always struggled with anxiety about my writing: it’s trite; it’s not strong enough; the story has been retold too many times. i feel overwhelmed i cannot compete on the big stage. my writing is never good enough.

i’m going to add more pieces of advice i received about writing:

  • read your work out loud
  • remove as many “thats” as you can
  • use a thesaurus liberally
  • watching your “-ings”
  • watch your verbs
  • just because you’re sick of your writing doesn’t mean someone else is

the last piece stays with me more often than not and is underscored by people who tell me they love my writing. so why don’t i have belief in myself?


“what the hell do i write about?”

in the past i felt writing about this topic would get done to death, but today i think it’s okay to keep hammering the point when necessary because it’s a good reminder it’s okay to be scared, overwhelmed, and insecure. not everything is going to be perfect from the belly and it’s okay to have some bad work as well as exceptional work.

the last piece of advice i’d give a new writer: it’s okay to be scared.

 

p.s. i’m going to do a variation of the #100dayproject where i write one page a day for 100 days. i’m not going to post that shit on instagram, as dictated on the project page, but i think in the end i might post here to my blog or do something for accountability. anyone want to do a project along with me (doesn’t have to be writing) for moral support?

here we are, yet again

blew the dust off of scrivener a few weeks ago to see what horrors laid within and discovered two short stories i recently allegedly written. alleged as one of them is very well by me as it is about a serial dream i had several years ago but the voice and tone is slightly different and the other? the other i’m not so sure as there are glimpses of me here and there but the story and verbiage feels like someone else. does that make me hack? i’m so poor in creating my own world i must reach out to take someone else’s voice?

who the fuck knows.


lately i’ve been contemplating on changing my writing professional name to something else. sometimes i think lisa rabey is too tinged in controversy to move forward than i think i would find redemption in my writing life by keeping my name.


a piece of advice i received seemingly a lifetime ago was thinking about writing was also work. just because i wasn’t putting pen to paper didn’t mean i wasn’t doing something and that it just happened to be in a different space. i remain skeptical.


i’ve become a huge fan of newsletters in the last few months because why browse the internet for things to read when someone else is already doing it for you? many of the newsletters are written by writers who add essayists to their slashes (fiction/memoir/essayist would be my slashes) as well but are getting publication and maybe payment for their work because THEY ARE ACTUALLY PITCHING TO THESE WEBSITES.

i know — i’m as shocked as you are.

as i read their work, i became more influenced on what i could write and the list just keeps growing.

as of this writing, i have come up with 20 different pitch ideas and essays i’d like to write. maybe it’s not too late afterall.


it is seemingly convenient to forget when i was on a pitching spree last fall those pitches were accepted and some of them were paid gigs.


longtime readers of exit, pursued by a bear know i’ve been traveling / moving around a lot these last two years and many of my belongings continue to remain in boxes. much of these boxes have been repacked and renamed so i always slit the tape, check the contents, and then tape it back up to verify its contents when i land in a new place.

a couple of boxes remain what they are marked: notebooks. as one would guess, notebooks covers diaries, journals, other writing from my catholic tinged youth until my mid-20s. much of it is fiction, more of it is diaries. i’m afraid to read any of it because what secrets they hold may be just that – secret. but these boxes are comforting, they tell a linear story i seem to casually put on the shelf and maybe i am not the hack i continually tell myself to be.


here we are, yet again.


if you’ve been paying attention you get the subtext something is up and that something is i’m going to keep trying. even if i have to recoup and beat and recoup and beat until my dying breath on this topic of woe is me and woe is my writing life,

i’m going to keep trying because that is what i do.


i expressed my fears to the ex-husband, he who is my biggest fan, and he remarked he’s played thousand of hours of basketball but he’s always suspected he wasn’t quite good enough for the nba (though at 6’7, he’s certainly tall enough) and because of that he has never tried out. so maybe, he posited, that is what it’s like for me? maybe it isn’t about the name recognition, literary fame, or writing a solid story. maybe it’s just the sheer joy of writing that should sustain me.

i’ve been thinking about his comment and i’ve come to the conclusion it is not so much as being rich and famous but that i have a voice that i want the world to hear.

maybe that is all that matters.

hapax legomenon

Dear Internet,
I’m procrastinating terribly. I have to finish (well, to be truthful, start) my homework for How Writers Write Fiction 2015, I have a review to write for Nerd Underground, I have a few reviews I need to get up for No Flying, No Tights.  PLUS! I have to possibly do some homework for a coding project I’ve been working on (waiting to find out if I’m in the group needing to complete this or not), prep for NaNoWriMo, Plus look for jobs, do yoga1, shower, and god knows what else I need to do today.
It doesn’t help I didn’t wake up until nearly 13:00.
My sleep has been off kilter these last two weeks and it shouldn’t come as any big surprise. I go to bed at a reasonable hour but getting up seems awful and terrible. I want to cozy down with Teddy2 and sleep the day away. But I get up eventually and do my things.
But today I procrastinate.


Monday I received a phone call from a local university if my references check out, they will be scheduling a phone interview. An email showed up today with the available times. I whooped and hollered about said email. I’ll be back in Louisville sometime this weekend and fingers crossed (and other appendages) I get this gig. The tuition remission is amazing: Up to 18 credit hours a semester. This could mean I could go for a third masters in Art History, or Writing, or something else completely. I can get a third bachelors in Italian or French. I am salivating at the thought.
Obviously, I need another degree.
Leaving my last position was of my own making, which isn’t really a determent on how I feel about the last 18 months. Really. But if I get this gig, that app would have been 160th CV I’ve sent this year. If I don’t get this gig, I’ll start applying in January when the academic cycle starts again.
I’m more thrilled at the thought of living on my own! Paying my own bills again! Having money to buy things! You know, all the good stuff.


Several of TheBassist’s friends got in touch with me in the last few days and well, it’s been good for my soul to sort things out. Some things were confirmed about what I assumed and made a small tear in my heart. But he has been adamant with them, and with me, I was his one and only and I take small pleasures with that information. I’m not so angry as I thought I should be because as I said, I was also party to this game. I can’t fault him too much, though I have tried.
I said to one of his friends:

I love him and I’ll always be in love with him. But I fell apart (not because of him, but it didn’t help) and I need to gain my whole self back. If he comes back, he does. If he doesn’t, well, he doesn’t. And I’m ok with that.

At the crux of it all will remain true for a very long time.
Meditation and yoga has been helping, which is a big part of the reason I’m not flying around on my broom stick wanting to physically eviscerate him. I feel pretty good actually! Not the, “I will say I’m feeling good and I don’t,” kind but the, “You know life is pretty okay at the moment. This was a temporary set-back and I will recover from it” kind.
What is bothering to me, and I think is worthy to be bothered about, was his direct request to tell him when I disappear from his life (which I took to assume he meant off of Facebook — because you know, it’s my “preferred method of communication”). So I told him. And the way Facebook works, much like texting, you can see if someone read your message or not. He hasn’t. I’ve been banished to the otherworld, much as he did to me before, much as he did to the women pre-me. As I mentioned this in previous posts, I get the radio silence — I’m his “kryptonite.” He often reiterated he could quit a lot of things but he couldn’t quit me. He even alluded and remarked on the break-up call he’s not too bright when it comes to leaving me alone and we very well could pick up future endeavors.
I write to understand, to look for patterns, to soothe my feelings. I will have to accept it is what it is and not anything more. There are a million and one reasons he said what he did (to break it gently, to be cruel). I hope not to continue on this path of naval gazing in regards to him. Not much more can be said or done at this point. I’ve aired my dirty laundry, I’ve done what I can to soothe myself on the past, present, and future.
Plus, I promised Krazy Kate I wouldn’t turn this from a post here or there to a fucking book.
So there’s that.


I’ve started to get excited for the Louisville move. It will be nice to see my things again, have my clothes in drawers and hung up in the closet. To unpack my books, put together my Lego MINI, to have a desk again and not sitting on these hard ass barstools as I’ve been wont to do these last two months. (Two months! Jesus.)
Louisville is becoming a lovely city, everything Grand Rapids is slowly becoming. There are a lot of active groups around town, a great music scene, bourbon, and great food. There is, of course, my requisite Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s (someone has to keep me up to cookie and cocoa swirl cookie butter. Delicious with pretzels).
TheExHusband lives in a condo downtown, which makes getting to a lot of things by foot. He’s around the corner from the soccer stadium, we caught a few games this summer, which also cheers me up. Plus the food. Did I mention the food? One of my favorite breakfast places ever is located on the first floor of his building.
So while I like Louisville but not really love it, it will be a good chance to kickstart my life. Which is more than I could ask for.


NaNoWriMo kicks off on Sunday and I’m going to wholeheartedly do it this year. (Ignore the 13 years, according to my profile, I have tried to “win” and never did.) I’ve been working on my Edwardian mystery during the Writer How To class and I’ve learned quite a bit on writing, structuring, and plotting. The first chapter, or so, sounds loads better than the first draft I started all those months ago. I’ve been plotting, in my head, how I want this story to flow and I think, hopefully, possibly, I can get it kicked off again.


I stretched a truth, more about TheBassist:
He attempted to argue, and I disagreed, he’s not a factor in my life. He’s holding me back. But knowing him, as I know him, if he check’s up on me, and see’s everything is going swell in my new locale, it will cement his desire not to contact me. He would be a determent to my life, he’d think, and I vehemently disagree on, even with his bad faults I swung around like a bat, there is so much he has given me; he IS a part of my life and I’d want him to share my success with him and hopefully we could work out the downsides.
Wishful thinking.
xoxo,
lisa
P.S. 1. Yoga circuit is as follows: Circuit 1: Greeting post, mountain pose (30 seconds each, rotated through 3 reps). Circuit 2: Superman, cobra, hare, diamond, and dancing shiva poses (15 seconds each, rotate through until completed 3 reps). Circuit 3: Shoulder/pec stretch (30 seconds each, 3 reps) and calf stretches, each leg, 30 seconds each, 3 reps.
2. Yes, I am a 43 year old woman who sleeps with her 40 year old teddy.

P.P.S. Don’t want near daily emails or can’t make it here everyday but want to keep up with what’s going in my world? Subscribe to A Most Unreliable Narrator, a monthly-ish newsletter roundup of what’s happening. Bonus! Comes with GIFs!

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2013, 1998

home is where the…i have no bloody idea

(This piece is longer than I had intended so grab a cup of coffee or beverage of choice.)
Dear Internet,
I’m taking a break from working on the “How To Write Fiction” MOOC, and oh boy aren’t I in for a treat.
In the pre-week comments I stated I wanted to strip everything I knew about fiction and if the critiques I’ve received on my first draft are any indication, I’ve got a long way to go. (However the general underlying response was my first draft was intriguing, so I’ve got that going for me.) If I would have taken this class even a year ago, I would huff my work was perfect and the cleansing was not necessary. This time, I am not so angry that I’m throwing insults about “how dare they” around the cabin.
(Or maybe I’m still sedated from the Klonopin I took the night before.)
This is all prep work for NaNoWriMo, which I’m hoping will allow me jump start my novel, get a rough draft done, and so I can feel accomplished. I have plotted out some of the work, wrung my way through other;  fingers crossed I’ve not created a hot mess.
 


I’ve started using marginalia from the British Library’s collection again in the featured image as it is in the public domain, it’s pretty, and because I can.


I’m still sick because my body is an asshole and has nothing better to do. I’ve started week three of a cough I can’t shake, which I think has more to do with quitting smoking and getting rid of the crap in my lungs than being actually sick. Whatever the case I sound like death’s rattle when the coughing fit starts with the bonus of learning how to spit like a man.
Sexy.


We’re now inching towards the end of week two of TheExHusband’s jeep still indisposed. It’s sitting in a parking lot of the local mechanic who, it turns out, is the only mechanic on duty. TEH is adamant of giving the guy business since the shop recently did super minor work for free. It’s frustrating and endearing at the same time, with the lean towards frustrating than endearing. All plans have been canceled as we wait to find out the status of the damned thing, so goodbye East Coast, I still love you.
I’m championing selling the piece of shit for scrap and buying a new/used car from a dealership in Louisville rather than some shady garage (as he did this money hole a few summers ago). It’s a good shot I’ll be driving him down to Louisville once we find out the status of the Jeep (which I’m betting is a goner. If I’m repeating myself it is because it is my every desire the thing is beyond repair).
In the meantime I’ve had TheBassist ship me my winter things because it’s dropping into the low 40s and high 30s. There is a good chance if I’m still here by the end of the month or early November, there will be snow. Literally, winter is coming.


I’m 80% doing okay, taking into factor the most recent meltdown (that was three weeks ago? Fuck. It felt like yesterday.), the sickness, the Jeep bullshit, and other maladies. I’m anxious about the right things instead of jumping off the ledge about others.
It’s lovely to be at Throbbing Cabin in the summer and early fall for a week or two. I could handle a month, but we’re now closing in on two months in late fall and we’re getting close to becoming batshit crazy. The nearest villages are 10-12 miles away and the big city of Traverse City takes 30-40 minutes to get to. Three of the closest villages are tourist traps and after a while you get tired of $15 burgers and trunk slammers from Florida. I often go walking around our area but without a proper coat it gets a little chilly and I can only walk in certain areas thanks to the big hills and little valleys (and the goddamned golf courses).
I’ve completed 98 straight days of meditation. Tada!
Throbbing Cabin is 1000 sqft and surprisingly we’re not killing each other or fighting (just crazy from lack of things to do), which I consider with all the circumstances to be a small victory. TheExHusband turned on internet the first week I was up here, brought up a TV from the old house; which coupled with my Roku means we’ve got loads of things to keeps us entertained. He works all day in the second bedroom which we flipped into an office for him in the summer of 2014 while I work on the breakfast bar in the kitchen. We are more or less out of the other’s hair.
It’s cozy and we do not lack for anything. I have my coffee maker, there is a working regular stove and apartment sized fridge. The closest of all the villages has an all in one gas station / deli / pizza place/ grocery / video store. They even sell Lisa-milk and GF food stuffs. The village also has a post office, two resturants, a free library inside the bank, a meat shop, a knitting store, and a local art gallery. For laundry and weekly groceries, out to TC we go. The area is pretty much perfect except for the location and the so dark you can slice it with a light saber which does not make even a dent into the denseness. However, lack of light pollution does make for a pretty sky.
The cabin is well heated from several space heaters. While there is baseboard heat, the first winter we were here, and only for 2.5 weeks, the electric bill was $500. For 2.5 weeks. Two space heaters heating up this entire place will run TEH, for a month, around $150. The baseboard heat will only come on when it dips below freezing so the pipes don’t freeze, which if the weather is any indicator is going to be end of this week, early next.
(And my rush to get the fuck out of here is compounded by the storms of 2013-14 bought 240″ of snow to the area. That is not a typo.)
(I know I keep flipping between “we” and “his” when discussing about Throbbing Cabin because of all the work I’ve put in to it, it still feels like “mine” even though TEH got it in the divorce. I declined his offer of ownership as so much work needs to be done, such as $15-20K for a new septic tank and drain field. It’s lovely to visit but I don’t want to own this place. At all.)


I’m 1100 words in and I haven’t even touched the main point of this piece which is “home,” what it means, and how I want to achieve it. (This is inspired by Theodora Goss’ piece on a similar topic on crafting a life.)
Which is a very good question and the apex of my problems since I was born and one I keep struggling with it often takes over my life.
The original plan was to move to the East Coast, retreat for a few months, look for a job, and get a place of my own, preferably with TheBassist. The plan changed. Then it was to Grand Rapids for six months while I healed emotionally and mentally which turned out didn’t happen and it was suggested I couldn’t, shouldn’t, live alone. Then it was to Louisville, then CT. Now it’s at the cabin, then more than likely Louisville, then who the fuck nows. If I end up in Louisville longer than two months, it’ll be the first time I’ve stayed anywhere longer than 1/6th of a year since October 2014.
For all intents and purposes, I am homeless. My possessions, what is left, are at TheExHusband’s house. Some of my things are at TheBassist’s. I’ve pared down my car goods to between 1/3 – 1/2 of what I took to The East Coast last October. I’ve been living out of two small bags and a bag full of toiletries since the first week of September when I arrived at the cabin.
During all of this whiplashing around, the goal and my greatest desire has been a job, financial independence, and a place to call my own.
I’ve applied for, between writing and librarian career tracks, 150 jobs since February of 2015.  I’ve made a grand total of $150 off my writing since August. My day to day living funds ran out in July (TEH has been supplementing me since August). My mental health, while mostly stable now, still has it’s downsides (mostly brought on by pre-menstrual hormones these days). I’ve taken my crazy pills daily since November 2014. I’ve racked up (and half way pared down) nearly $40K in credit card debt within the last year.
These are the facts.
I’m not revealing the minute details for sympathy, understanding, or a handout. This is what it is. This has been the apex of my life since forever and a time ago.
What am I running from or who or why?
I’ve been moving house every two to three years since I was 13. Throbbing Manor, where I lived for four years, has been longest place I’ve lived on my own since I was 24. Prior to that, my mother changed our living locations every 2-3 years from ages 13 – 24. So insofar as actual living space, I do not know what home means.
(When I’ve been at TheBassist’s or TheExHusband’s, even if room was made for me in their space, it still feel like “their” space, not mine. I was just a temporary boarder who happened to be cute. (It should be noted that was never their intent to make me feel uncomfortable, they went above and beyond to make me comfortable, but that is how I often felt.))
It’s been remarked numerous times over the last 20 years I’m running from something because of the shifting or it’s a pathos of my disease. I’ve never known physical space as mine, it was always someone else’s, even when I’ve had roommates. I’ve always felt like a visitor instead of a primary occupant.
(Which is why if you’ve ever visited me at any of the places I’ve lived, there has hardly, if any, decoration to showcase my personality. Decoration was in the form of my clothes, which are cheap and easily disposable.)
I know I’ve romanticized where I want to live. Do I want an adorable apartment in a big city? A home of my own in a quaint little village? A flat somewhere in Europe? This parallels the kind of life I also romanticize. Jet set traveler? Famous writer? Raconteur around town?
I want to be everything, live every place, and be every person.
This, obviously, throws a wrench into daily life plan and reality, most which seems to blur together into one grey line.
If home cannot be about a place, then what about being with a person? If i could not feel at home with the two most important relationships in my life, TheBassist and TEH, then how does that bode for me? What does that say about me? I’m too frightened to forge a relationship with anyone, romantic or platonic? Why do I destroy everything that should be the best of my life?
If home is not about a place, or a person, what about the material things? I have my cases and cases of books, 50-60% I’ve now donated. My clothes, shoes, and accessories which I’ve significantly pared down and donated the rest. Personal objects or things I’ve picked up over the years, donated.
I’m cast adrift with no thing, person, or place to call my home.
If it’s not a place, or a person, or things. Then what is home and how do I get there?
xoxo,
Lisa
P.S. Don’t want near daily emails or can’t make it here everyday but want to keep up with what’s going in my world? Subscribe to A Most Unreliable Narrator, a monthly-ish newsletter roundup of what’s happening. Bonus! Comes with GIFs!
 

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2010, 2001

giving birth to the world

Dear Internet,
When I gave birth to my first self-published book, The Lisa Chronicles: Vol 1: 1998, in January, I experienced a divine feeling, for that is the only way I can describe it, when I hit “publish.” Here was something many years in the making in which I was able to clean up, organize, and present as my baby.I knew it wasn’t going to be a big seller as the singular goal was to give it life.
Sales have not been spectacular but I want more of that feeling. I want to give birth to writing things and even for just a little while, feel like I am queen of the world.


I want to say the last year has been one for self discovery and I want to believe I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. I want to believe all of this is worth it, all the pain, the smearing of my reputation and name, the rejection from several communities has been worth it. I swore to anyone who would listen that I had to sleep with me at night and as long as my conscious is clear, that’s all that mattered.
But at what price does “doing the right thing” come?
I keep talking about my exhaustion levels. I keep mentioning how this lifestyle I’ve jumbled together from bits and pieces is tiring. I harp on how this is effecting me. Underneath it all, all I feel is I must do something with this life of mine. I must take what has happened and create some kind of purpose or meaning. If this doesn’t happen, I feel, then I beat myself up over and over and over again for being a failure. A loser.


I stare at my screen, that taunting cursor winking at me. A million and a half ideas and nothing is coming forward from my brain to my mouth to my hand. My sketch book is a mockery. I cannot get it out of my head if I cannot make a living at doing this, wha then will I do?  This thing, this writing, chasing that dream that so many have gone before me and so many of them magnificently failing. When editors tell me they love my voice and my writing, I am convinced they tell everyone the exact same thing. How is my voice unique and how can it make matter?
What if everything I’ve been telling myself is a lie? What if this is all there is?
xoxo,
Lisa
P.S. Don’t want near daily emails or can’t make it here everyday but want to keep up with what’s going in my world? Subscribe to A Most Unreliable Narrator, a monthly-ish newsletter roundup of what’s happening. Bonus! Comes with GIFs!

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2014, 2013

water off a duck’s back

water off a duck's back
Dear Internet,
We’ve recently discovered RuPaul’s Drag Race, which shockingly I haven’t been watching before this. If you need to get your fix, seasons 4 through current are on Hulu. It’s like Project Runway, but much cattier and funnier; an obvious perfect complement.
Expect my mouth to get raunchier thanks to new phrases and saying I’ve been picking up, like “cock sucking dick pigs,” courtesy of Jinkx Monsoon! Which speaking of Ms Jinkx, the episodes we’ve seen so far (seasons 4-6), she’s by far my favorite queen. There is something about her, even though it would seem Sharon Needles or Bianca del Rio are more my speed, that grabs at bits of me and wakes me up.
(We’ve started on season 7 and in one word: meh.)
The resonation of Jinkxy comes from a few weeks ago when someone on the internet made various disparaging comments in regards to my writing. (I know, I know, I KNOW.) The sum of which can be distilled down that I was/am a pompous, illiterate hack. The thing was this didn’t feel like your average internet trolling — this felt personal. Very personal. The person, of course, hid behind an anonymous name but I have my suspicions. I may be way off base on who it was but the commentary hurt. A lot. It’s been banging around my brain as if none of the small steps I’ve taken have amounted to really anything or what’s been published is worthy. I have my fans but then again so does Dan Brown.
This phenomenon is known as imposter syndrome which according to Wikipedia is, “…a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” I first became aware of this in the tech community, primarily women, who struggled with their accomplishments in a male dominated world. I didn’t really see myself, then, as having a modicum of feeling under accomplished but stepping back recently in this new world I’ve created for myself, I can see it whole heartedly.
The biggest of the impostering happening is for my writing, which is why the anonymous c0ward’s comments was a broadsword into my side.
A few weeks ago, Jim C. Hines, in a nod to the Hugo awards kerfuffle, discussed a recent conversation within the SF/F community about the “cool kids.”  The tl;dr breaks down that several of the sad puppies accused the more well-known of authors / personalities within the community of being too cliquey and why Hines, and others, reject theses ideas presented.
I remember in high school (and after) always feeling extremely left out of everything. No matter what group I was hanging with, there was always a clique within that group that seemed cooler than me. It never occurred to me those I deemed more awesomer of having their own insecurities, issues, and even jealousies. Basically the same as me and everyone else we know. Their feelings just felt impossible to believe they shat like the rest of us. All we ever see is the finished project not the pain, sweat, and tears that went into them.
It’s always hard to feel your worth, that your contributions are worthwhile, that you are worthwhile or matter. It’s hard to shake the demons snapping at you  as you run towards your dreams.
Isn’t it easier to “what if” your way into not doing anything? Isn’t it easier to presuppose your failure before anything happens? Isn’t it easier to lock yourself in the closet of your brain and not do anything, ever?
It’s hard, I know, to move forward and do what you want. It’s hard to believe in yourself. I know it’s hard; I still don’t believe in myself 99.999% of the time. It’s hard to shake off the old demons that reverberate from your entire life. But you matter. Your work, your dreams, you matter.
Water off a duck’s back. Water off a motherfucking duck’s back.
xoxo,
Lisa

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2013, 1999

in the woods, late at night

Dear Internet,
Everything is delightful at the cabin.
The tree guy came out and 10 trees need to be removed either for some tree disease, growth problems, or were hit by the storm. TheExHusband (TEH) is here to chainsaw and chip away at the pieces that are easily chippable and chainsawed. He brought up a TV, the argument being if he wants to rent this place, there are things that renters are going to expect: Like a TV with some kind of DVD appliance and a working upstairs bathroom. I think TEH’s goal is to get most of the reno and repair work completed by the end of 2016 with renting beginning 2017. So if anyone wants to rent a cabin in Leelanau Peninsula, mere minutes from Lake Michigan and cute as balls towns, just let me know.
I’ve been doing all kinds of writing while I’m up here. I woke up the other night with two lines stuck in my head, ending with writing 1K words on paper before falling back to sleep. When I transcribed it the following day, it wasn’t half-bad. Not awesome, but not too shabby for half-asleep notes.
One of my problems is organizing the ideas. I get it, I’m a librarian. I’ve been known to organize my underwear. But this is a hot mess. Here is what I’ve been doing AND is working for me: I’ve created a project in Scrivener that tracks stories in progress, stories completed, pieces I’ve sold, and so forth. I use a Google spreadsheet to track markets/submissions/payments. But ideas themselves, fiction and non, live everywhere. I originally bought my Filofax as a proper planner, finding I could not keep track of things digital (strange, no?). But the calendaring was insane (putting the same event on paper and digital), so I ripped out the calendaring pages and turned it into a one stop project/writing book.1 Once I organized the beast, trascribed the ideas and notes from all the other places into the appropriate sections, my writing life is much more manageable and easier to transport.
My non-fiction work has been selling, which has been awesome, but to non-paying/token markets, which has been frustrating. I am keeping to my guns and not submitting to markets I would not personally read. It’s a weird balancing act: One group proclaims: “Get your name out there, submit everywhere and everything” and there is my side which is to submit to only places you would read or want to read. I’ve been told it’s about building a  personal “brand,” which makes me squeamish. Dude, all I ever wanted to do was write not worry about this “branding” bullshit. I am tenacious but also stubborn as hell about such matters.
My fiction has been a struggle. A big struggle. It’s not for lack of ideas or writing the beginning but for getting past the beginning and finishing the damned thing. My novel is so stalled right now, I can’t even joke about it anymore.
I can create pretty great flash fiction, but anything beyond 2K words is eluding me and it, unsurprisingly, frustrates me.  Because I’m broke as fuck, I’ve signed up for the free MOOC from U of Iowa, How Writers Write Fiction. The two big writing cabals to hone your chops are the U of Iowa’s MFA program for fiction and Clarion SFF, both of which I cannot afford, so this MOOC has been a benediction from the gods. (There is a whole argument on whether to get a MFA. Or not. I wobble back and forth on what to do but for now the idea is just shelved.)
Other MOOCs of similar ilk are more generated, I found, on teaching people the inner workings of writing, such as how to construct a sentence and so forth. Stuff you find in high school composition class. I was/am not opposed to heading to a community college (cheap, local) but I’m not in a place long enough to actually attend the classes. Internets for the win.
I’m traveling again at the end of the month and as I said to TEH this morning, what I am taking with me keeps getting smaller and smaller. When this whole journey began, Jeeves was so jammed there was barely room for TheBassist: And he was driving. Now the amount of shit I’m carting around is 1/3rd of that. In fact, for the last two weeksish, I’ve been living out of two, medium-sized, bags for clothes, two baskets carrying my books to read and other writing miscellany and lastly messenger bag which holds my laptop, cords, and Filofax (see above). Teddy is always in the house with me; what more do I need?
I can easily answer this question: A home, a place for my books, and a world to call my own.
I am exhausted.
xoxo,
Lisa
1. How I organize my writing/projects: Front matter is that week’s-ish TODO list, the tabs (stories, books/freelance, jobs/classes, misc) bought from Etsy, extra paper also from Etsy, and last but not least, my beloved erasable gel pens.
P.S. Don’t want near daily emails or can’t make it here everyday but want to keep up with what’s going in my world? Subscribe to A Most Unreliable Narrator, a monthly-ish newsletter roundup of what’s happening. Bonus! Comes with GIFs!

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2000