Art Against Fear

It takes a lot of courage to write. I’m not big-upping myself, I know that if you are reading this, you probably write.

(All my friends are artists, even the ones who don’t acknowledge that part of themselves. You are courageous, and I love you.)

It takes even more courage to present that work to scrutiny, to ask someone who owes you nothing, if they would please like to buy your work and promote it with their name attached. My courage usually fails here. Query letters are a social game, with indiscernible rules, where a win grants you a few more seconds to pitch your work, and a fail is mark on your name. “This one does not belong with us.”

Or, that’s how it seems, when you are all alone, reading every book in your writing-instruction library and wondering how anyone has ever liked their own work enough to write “Dear Editor…”

I am becoming more courageous. That has not come from the years writing alone. (That had its own uses, which may be a post for another day.) It’s because I’ve met people in the industry. I’ve seen so much kindness from fellow authors, and editors, and agents. And I know that every one of those people are in the industry because they love stories and they want to make stories happen.

I sent out a couple really big stories recently, and I am not worried about them. If they sell, I will be thrilled. If they don’t, I will send them on to someone else. I won’t have offended anyone for sending a story they don’t want. I won’t have made some great social blunder that will keep me out of print forever.

Nobody seeks failure in their inbox. And if you’ve found an editor who does, you didn’t want to work with that person, anyway.

 

Also, if you know some magic, use it! Fear tells stories. Its favorite story is the one about all the possible disastrous futures that could result from your actions. But stories are my magic, and I’m really good at upsetting the narrative. I once put on skull face paint to set up a poetry reading over the phone. Fear didn’t know what to do with the shear absurdity of my actions, and the phone call went exceptionally well. Not every magic needs skullface, but allow yourself the tools you need to overcome fear. Sometimes just a favorite pair of sunglasses will alter your perspective enough to send that query letter.

 

In other news, I’ve been reading some brilliant stories while not updating this blog. Here’s a few recent favorites:

Robo-Liopleurodon! by Darcie Little Badger is about the futility of being a scientist when the world has stopped listening to scientists, and the piratic ways to fight back!  (And just keep reading through the rest of Robot Dinosaur Fiction after you are done because it’s seriously great.)

After Midnight at the ZapStop by Matthew Claxton is absolutely delightful, and I love how dang mundane this incredible science fiction world is to the poor guy working the counter at the only 24 hour 3D bio-printer shop in town.  The way all the pieces come together in the end is super satisfying, too.

The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly is a total magic trick.  A despot slowly savors another delicious meal while the protagonist relives the years in which he rose to power, and the ways she failed to resist.  Also, there are magic pastries that allow you to relive specific memories, and I want to eat (almost) every single one of them.

Luminous Mermaids

Florence Leilani Folsom

Wonderful News! Intergalactic Medicine Show bought my story The Late Mr. Folsom’s Luminosity Shop, and will be publishing it in October!  I’m so excited to finally share the story of Florence Leilani Folsom and Oren Honeydew!  This story merges my long standing love for luminescent jelly-mermaids, and delight for heroic low-level bureaucrats.

wrecking it

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like.  But I’ve still been making.  I acquired some watercolors and big paper for free or nearly, so I didn’t feel like I was ruining materials while painting portraits of the three main characters from my trio of stories on spiders.

Only one has been printed.  Silk Will Hold Her Bones Together is Tillie’s story, and it’s still live on The Iowa Review’s online back catalogue.  There’s a link to it under my bibliography page.

TillieMackenzieMavis

The colors are more vibrant irl, but I’ve only got my camera phone to show you.  It’s nice to make without worrying where it’s going to end up.  It’s hard to sell stories, and I’ve needed a win that comes from within.

These may end up in a small book of three stories, or this may be where they end.  Either way, I’m happy.

Happy making, making happy. 🙂

Hi, I’m Megan!

Fabulous news first: My story “Where You Get Your Ideas” is live right now for any ears to hear at Cast of Wonders!

The host A. Merc Rustad had so many nice words about my story (and I totally fangirled while listening because I have been a fan of their work for a while), and Dani Daly did such a wonderful job with J_’s voice!  Please give it a listen.  I can promise blood forged swords and banshee skulls, but There’s no fighting in the ideas shop!

All other news second:  I went to NorWesCon41!  It was big, and frightening, and I managed to talk to people before the convention is over.  In previous years, I was an awkward specter so overwhelmed with human contact that I forgot to tell Tina Connolly how much I loved Iron Skin until we had already parted for the elevator.  (Very glad I ran back to tell her, because she’s wonderful and Toasted Cake is now a delicious part of my weekly story diet.)

Leaving my routine is difficult, even for things I really love.  Like story telling, and learning more about story telling, and lavish costumes derived from a communal love for story telling.  NorWesCon is something I have been to before, but it only happens one week out of the year, and it changes in small ways that can’t be foreseen.  It’s difficult to make it routine, and so I plan myself around it.  I use some magical thinking to keep grounded; clothes I’ve made, favorite boots, calming objects in my purse.  And I have my schedule on my phone so I know what to expect.

Still, the biggest obstacle for me is the number of people.  But that number drops dramatically when you hold out your hand to people you’ve only met briefly online and say “Hi, I’m Megan!”  Then you only have to worry about the people standing with you!  And they do cool things, make cool things, travel to places you don’t know much about and oh my goodness it is so wonderful to meet people.

This might seem obvious.  This was not obvious to me in 2016.  I had only brushed with it at the end of NorWesCon 2017.  This year I managed on the first day.  It might have been the “everything is fine” code I knit into the fabric of my sweater, but I think it has more to do with the incredibly welcoming community of science fiction and fantasy writers that will bring you in and ask what you’re working on.

I am having a harder time writing this than I thought I would.  Admitting my anxieties is still something I’m getting used to, and it takes a lot more strength to acknowledge them than it does to suffer them in silence.

Highlights of NorWesCon:

A hotel beer with TJ Berry who shared my woes over working retail at a bookstore, and has a book coming soon called Space Unicorn Blues.

The Fairwood Writer’s workshop read the first three chapters of my novella, and gave me suggestions to revamp it in a way that could make it traditionally marketable.  I have a lot of work ahead of me, but it’s worth it to get this book into a trad publisher.

The readings.  Always the readings are wonderful.

Lowlights:

Putting off anxiety in big ways manifested in a small strange sensation that my toe had come detached from my foot inside my boot, and it got so strong that I missed a YA writing panel I wanted to see.  My toe is still attached, and there are no bloodstains on my boot, but I definitely had to spend some time in the bathroom massaging my foot to ensure my body was working.

 

 

Character study

I am planning a new story!  Here is how I’ve been planning:

j and Gnat and a dragon

I am certain that these two characters will at one point encounter a dragon.  And I am certain that Princess Natalia Neinugrava will be wearing frilly boots with suspiciously practical soles.  J_ will wear their favorite tee-shirt, even though it could never be described as lucky.  I am less certain how they will get to the next scene, because my plans for stories are a collection of scribbled scene ideas and drawings and scraps of dialogue that I am looking forward to writing.

I am sure that there are very practical ways of composing an outline, but I have a very hard time focusing on the practical when I am sitting down to write.  I have to make a game of it.  I write through the scaffolding parts of a story and am rewarded with the pieces I am most excited to write.  Dialogue and image are fun for me.  They make good rewards.

But without the context of the story they live in, they’re flat.

J_ Tillie Gnat

The trick is staying excited about the ending.  But its hard to think of the fun that far in the future.  So I draw my characters and I think about what they wear, what they think is funny, and how they’d like things to end.  And If I’ve done it write, they’ll carry that fun through after I’ve gone through the trouble of beginning.

And middling.

And to be honest, ending is hard, too.

Writing is hard.  Staying focused on a story is hard.  Sustaining the joy required for creating is very hard.  But I have managed before.  I’ll do it again.

I have another week before drafting begins.  In between, I am attending NorWesCon, which is a local-to-me convention for science fiction and fantasy.  Aside from books and the hours I’ve spent writing, it is where I get a lot of my craft education.  MFA’s are expensive, and difficult to break into when you’ve got a spotty history of education and a healthy interest in speculative fiction.  Summer spec-fic workshops are difficult to get into because of the number of applicants.  Many of the writing panels at NorWesCon are tailored to newer writers (people who have yet to sell any stories), but there are a few that focus directly on what I want to write.

Some of my favorite educational moments from last year came from watching other writers read, and I am excited to have that opportunity again.  The best education in story telling is still enthusiastic story reading.