Near the top of the list of things a writer needs to be successful is a really good critique group. I don’t care if you’re the most talented and dedicated wordsmith around (yes, irony in that word choice intended), you’re only half of what you could be without honest. trustworthy, and knowledgeable outside critiques (and then your own revision). A while back, I wrote a post about etiquette for critique groups and workshops because I’d been asked about what constitutes appropriate interaction so many times over the years, and after working with dozens of people since the late 90s, I’ve come to understand when I’m working with a professional and when I’m working with someone who just doesn’t get it, behavior-wise.
One of my critique group partners, Shirley Redwine, has recently started a blog, and on it you will find a link to my post about the DOs and DON’Ts of being in a critique group as well as Shirley’s commentary on interesting words and phrases — some of which are unique to our part of the country.
Go check out her blog at shirleyredwine.com, and spend a few minutes browsing around. Maybe even leave a comment here or there. (It’ll probably make her day, and she’s the kind of excellent person whose day you want to make.)
But most of all, keep an eye out for her work. She writes really good crime mysteries, and her protagonist Dr. Susanna Lucid is one of my favorites in the genre!
Every now and then, we have a WWW guest post from a female writer who isn’t a published author in the traditional sense (that is, she doesn’t have a book out) but who does have a thriving and regular blog which she writes for. And even though it’s true that almost anyone can have a blog and slap some content up into the Interwebz, cultivating and producing a quality blog takes work, creativity, dedication, and skill. It’s not easy, no matter how easy it might look to someone else.
Today’s review comes to us from Nerija, whose blog Postcards from La-La Land is worth checking out. When I saw her review of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl there, I asked her to share it with the Women Writers Wednesday series, and she graciously obliged. What follows here is a longer/modified version of her review, which was originally posted here.
This week an essay I wrote about my experience finishing up the edits for Finis. appears over at Jennifer Brozek’s blog as part of her “Tell Me” series, in which authors write about their books without actually writing about their books. In my essay, I discuss what it was like to be editing the story while going through a personal tragedy. It’s a short read, but I hope you’ll give it a look.
While you’re there, check out the other “Tell Me” entries from other authors. I’ve been intrigued enough to download samples of other books from those guest posts, and you may find some interesting things to pique your interest as well.
When WordPress sent me their end-of-year report on the stats for my blog, I regarded it with slightly less excitement than before. Yes, my stats are good and becoming increasingly better: my blog is being read in 89 countries (though I’m sure some of that isn’t actual readers), hundreds of people are now following along here (a steady climb upward which I’m grateful for), and––though this is not reflected in the stats monkey report––I’m not beating myself up if I don’t get a post out every single week. But this report, though fun to read, shows only a fraction of what’s been going on.
In addition to the regular kinds of stand-alone posts I write, my “12 Days of Christmas Music That Doesn’t Suck” series (the 2014 edition of which begins here) was received well, overall, again this year, enough to convince me it should be an annual tradition. There have been a few posts about style for “Fashion Fridays,” and in November I launched a new series called “Women Writers Wednesdays,” in which women authors review or respond to books by other women authors. The response to that has been exceptional, and you can look for it to continue on a weekly basis through the spring.
But enough about the blog, for the moment. My biggest writing news for the past year was my publication list. I was asked to write (and did) an article about hats and high tea for the Bayou City Magazine blog last spring. I had a poem (“Stillness / Unrelenting”) appear in Waxwing and another one (“At the El Felix”) appear in the Houston Poetry Fest anthology, where I was selected as a Juried Poet again. And then, of course, there was Finis. My short novella was published in August and is now widely available at so many ebook retailers. (Look for a contest in the next couple of months in which you can win a free copy, or just hop over and pick up a copy of it now while it’s on sale for $2.99.)
And although the last few months have been inordinately busy, what with my teaching job and my family (two kids under ten years old, yo) and our being in the process of moving to a new house, I have still managed to find some time to write! Yay! Edits on the novel are coming along. I have two volumes of poetry in the editing process as well: one a rewrite of my first chapbook, Gypsies, and the other a brand-new collection, Playing House. And I’ve done the preliminary interview work and research for a non-fiction piece on cosplay that will see the light of day at some point.
Sarah Warburton and I have expanded the list of writers who join us early in the morning on weekends and we’ve formed the very official Crack of Dawn Writers’ Group. Work with my Wednesday night critique group continues along well; we’ve even added a new member this month. And perhaps most exciting of all––because it’s very new and very different––I founded the Faculty Writers’ Support Group at school, where quite a few of the authors I teach with (and you might be surprised by how many there are in such a relatively small PreK-12 independent school) get together during our free time just to sit and write in a room where other writers are sitting and writing. This has been a powerful avenue to keep us connected to our art and to our creative selves, which has made a lot of us feel more balanced and better able to be Good Teachers who are also Whole People. I have felt more connected to a community this year than ever.
All in all, I have a lot to be happy about and grateful for.
So what does 2015 have in store for me? Probably a new office, for one thing. Assuming the house move we’re working on goes through, I’ll have a room in the new place which is big enough to be an excellent space for me but too small to be a multi-function room for anything else. I am so excited about this! I’ll need a new desk, since our old house has a built-in that we will not be ripping out and taking with us. I’m in the market for a really excellent roll-top (which you might already know has been a dream of mine since childhood). I don’t have a spinning wheel or a typewriter yet, but I don’t have to decorate everything all at once. At first, my journals and other books will be ornament and personality enough for that room, as well as this sign for the door:
On the blog, this April I plan to revisit the series of poems I featured last year for National Poetry Month (which begins here) and will soon be on the lookout for poets to consider this year. Sarah and I are hopeful that our vlog will finally launch this year, also. We had some delays in getting it going this fall since my family decided to move and all time for video editing was lost. (Sorry, Sarah!)
And as for my own writing, I’m hopeful that this spring the edits of my novel will be finished and can start moving forward on the path to publication. I’m also going to try and have one of those aforementioned poetry collections ready for you; either the vastly updated release of Gypsies or the new one, Playing House, published for the first time as a whole manuscript. (Quite a few of the poems in PH have been published separately already over the last few years.)
In other fiction news, I’m going to try and work on some short stories. I have a couple of literary fiction WIPs that I’d like to finish up this year. Not only that, the response to Finis. has been so wonderful that I’m actually considering the numerous requests from readers that I expand the story. Although I don’t, at this time, expect to grow Finis. into a novel (with apologies and immense gratitude to the eleven people who emailed me or posted on my social media the first week after it came out specifically to ask me to do this, and to all the people since then who’ve asked whether that’s in the works), I have flirted with the idea of turning it into a screenplay, and even if I don’t do that, I have begun work on another story set in that world, and what follows may turn out to be a collection. Because I have fallen in love with the novel form, not just as something I have preferred reading my whole life but also now as the form I most enjoy writing in, my attention to the short story form has been less focused, less intense. I think maybe this is the year I revisit that form, so radically different from a novel, and fall in love with it again.
I have also toyed with the idea, this week, of launching a new online magazine, because I love being able to share new writers’ voices and work with others. I’m quite sure this idea will be on the back burner for a while; I don’t anticipate doing anything with it until my novel gets the all-clear from my editor. But if it comes to something, you will know about it!
I have to admit, part of me is somewhat reluctant to publish this post. Making these goals public could set me up for failure if I can’t accomplish them. But you all have been, in the main, an extremely supportive readership so far, and I like the idea of having some external accountability. So onward and upward!
By now you now that this week, my newest publication, Finis., launched. I’ve tried not to overwhelm the Interwebz with announcements of it, but I admit that Tuesday, Launch Day, I was online most of the day just trying to keep up with the traffic and buzz about it and reactions to it. It was a great day, and I’m so grateful to those of you who’ve already bought the book, read it, and given me reviews. I’m glad you’re enjoying it so far! (Links to places where Finis. is currently on sale appear at the end of this post.)
This Sunday is our official launch party, and if you’re in Houston that day, please feel free to drop by! It will be at The Black Labrador from 4:00-6:00 p.m. in their Churchill Room.
Finis. is an ebook only at this time, due to its length, but there will be copies of an anthology I was recently published in, The Milk of Female Kindness — An Anthology of Honest Motherhood, for sale at the launch party. This wonderful international project brought together authors from all over the world; the book contains poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and artwork around the theme of motherhood and offers a wide variety of perspectives. (It also contains two of my essays and three of my poems.)
Here is a list of some of the reviews that have come in so far for The Milk of Female Kindness. (I wrote “some” because I know there are other reviews out there that I don’t have listed here.)
I was so grateful to be included in this anthology; it really is an excellent publication. Kudos to Kasia James, the contributing editor whose brainchild it was, and to all the other authors and artists in it!
As promised, here are links to buy Finis. More retailers will be coming available soon, and when they are, I’ll be sure to let you know!
Finis. is also available through Apple’s iBooks store, but be sure you get the title that has my name attached to it, or you might end up with some very different literature you weren’t necessarily looking for!
Yes, I know New Year’s was a while ago. As far as I’m concerned, all of January is New Year’s. I call it New Year’s Month, because that’s about how long it takes me to recover from the holidays, undecorate my house, get my family’s New Year’s cards out, and get back into the swing of things at school.
Happy New Year’s Month! 🙂
WordPress kindly sends out annual reports to their bloggers every December 31st with stats for the blog’s year-in-review, and I like to share a few of those things with you, delightful readers. (Here’s a peek at last year’s; this year’s will be different.)
Sappho’s Torque is being read in 75 countries now. That’s pretty cool.
Here are my most popular posts of 2013. The thing I find most interesting about this short list is that it encompasses really well the directions my blog took in 2013.
* May Rêveuses in Bloom: For thirteen months I conducted the Rêveurs Revelation Fashion Project in celebration of Erin Morgenstern’s novel The Night Circus — an excellent book and one which affected me deeply — and, although I’m not still doing it here on the blog, I’m delighted and astounded to have been told just a week ago that some of those who were participating in it around the country while it was a feature here on this blog still do so just for fun. So amazing!
* 100 Days of School: Sometimes I share stories about my family, and this post about my son’s kindergarten homework remains one of the most giggle-inducing and cheer-you-up posts ever.
* Fashion Friday 8/9/13: Another blog project I had going on for a while was my Fashion Friday series, which was a wonderful way to merge one of my hobbies (fashion, especially the quirky kind) with an opportunity to host guest bloggers. I’m not still doing this weekly, but I am still taking queries for Fashion Friday guest posts and even working on a couple myself. This particular post (from 8/9/13) was written by Sarah Warburton about the Tardis socks she knitted.
Life here is busy. I have many writing projects on the proverbial stove, and some are nearly done cooking. I continue to strive for work-life balance — something I’m not entirely convinced even exists — and have resolved this year not to make any big resolutions, but rather to make one smart decision at a time. Sometimes this even works out.
Thank you all, so much, for being here. I wouldn’t bother blogging without an audience, and I’m glad you’re here, because despite my initial reservations about getting into this practice, I’ve been enjoying it immensely.
So now that the US government is back open for business, the Government Shutdown Haiku Contest is officially closed. We had so many great entries! Thank you to everyone who participated. And in the comments this contest elicited from across my various social media, the general consensus from many, regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof, could be summed up in this non-competing poem:
in the eleventh hour.”
Nice work, pudknockers.
Later this weekend, I’ll be posting all the entries for the contest and giving you, the readers, an opportunity to vote on your favorites. Majority wins in this poll, and the winner will receive a copy of TimeSlice. Look for more details and the actual voting in my next blog post.
You might have noticed there was no Fashion Friday post yesterday. I thought about doing one on lariats, which are a fun and versatile jewelry accessory, but I couldn’t get a decent picture of the one I’d made. I thought about doing one on the trauma of haircuts — yes, really — but it felt too indulgent even for me. I thought about featuring a hat, but the cool weather we had at the start of the week dissipated again. In short, nothing was really coming together in time for yesterday’s scheduled post. So I let it go. Maybe I’ll revisit those ideas again later.
In my realm, Fashion Friday is a “blog project,” something (much like the Rêveurs Revelation Fashion Project) that I find entertaining and fun and which gets me posting on a regular basis even when I don’t have something more literary to share. And periodically I evaluate how those blog projects are doing. The inciting incident for Fashion Friday was that I wanted to bring hats back into fashion, and then it just expanded into other accessories. It’s been a way for me to indulge a hobby of mine while also, sometimes, writing about more meaningful things (such as body image or beauty or self-confidence), and it’s been a fun way to get other writers involved in my site as guest contributors.
Now that autumn is here and hats are back on the horizon, we will see more of those, because I do still want to see them make a bigger comeback even in places where it doesn’t get snowy and cold for several months out of the year. And I’m still very much open to having guest bloggers contribute to this series. I will still, from time to time, write pieces about those issues I mentioned. But I’m not going to go nuts trying to post something every week for the sake of posting something every week. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with weekly posts — that is, ultimately, my goal in general — but these other things are just taking up more of my time than I have right now.
The reason for this is actually a good thing: I have a bunch of pots on the writing stove, as it were. Look for news about a magic realism novelette coming out in the not-too-distant future. I may also be re-releasing one of my books of poetry that’s gone out of print. I’m continuing work on the fantasy series I’m in the middle of — the first novel of which is currently being shopped around and which is sitting on about half a dozen agents’ desks at the moment. The book review assignments are piling up around me. I’m also itching to start a new novel, a stand-alone, and the NaNoWriMo‘s siren song has already begun its perilous waft to my ears.
So yeah, there’s a lot going on. But it’s good stuff, and as much as I love my hobby, I want to devote more time to the literary stuff.
I am intensely grateful for all the new readers who have joined the Sappho’s Torque community since the inception of Fashion Fridays. All of you, please feel free to query me if you’d like to do a guest post! I hope you continue to enjoy the other treats on the blog between future Fashion Friday posts.
I’m considering some other changes around here, too. You might have noticed a few little tweaks to its appearance over the last couple of months. (Maybe not, though, as they’ve been subtle.) I’m looking to spruce things up even more in the near future.
Exciting developments are afoot in the world of Angélique. Stay tuned.
And watch over the next couple of days for the Government Shutdown Haiku Contest voting opportunity. Thanks again to everyone who entered!