Writing Goals

Each year during The Week Between (i.e. the week between Christmas and New Year’s) I like to think about what I’ve accomplished in my writing life during the previous year and set my sights toward goals for the new year coming up. Sometimes these goals involve manuscripts, publications, things like that, but sometimes they’re administrative. Being an author is also being a small business/owner.

As such, going over my full list of yearly goals would probably not be riveting content for most of you, but I do like to mark this practice with a little reflection. In 2021, which was honestly kind of a not-fabulous year, I managed to remember that at the very least it was better than 2020, and still, even with a pandemic, it was better than approximately 2017-2019, on balance. So we’re headed in the right direction on enough things for me not to feel utter despair all the time at the state of the world. (Yes, I am fundamentally optimistic, but also realistic enough to know this magic carpet could be yanked out from under me at any time. Welcome to anxiety in the 21st Century. Gah.)

But I digress. I was going to reflect on my writing goals in 2021.

  • One of the best things I did this year for my writing was to relaunch my zine, Sonic Chihuahua, which has been quite successful and also personally fulfilling. So thank you for that!
  • I also finished editing one of my novels and started querying it.
  • I took a lot of writing workshops online for professional development.
  • And I finished the 2020 August Poetry Postcard Fest. (Yes, I was tardy on that. It happens.)
  • I also got my published books into more stores (yay!),
  • increased my blog subscribership (wheee!),
  • let go of some things that weren’t serving me well, like my Mailchimp newsletter (whew!),
  • and made progress on two new novels that I’m still drafting.
  • I also started a new collection of poetry.

Okay, when I lay it out like that, it seems like more than it felt like while I was doing it. Yeah, I’ve been keeping busy. Still, while I was going through it, I often felt like I wasn’t getting nearly enough done. On a day-to-day basis, I’m still sometimes having trouble making time for writing on school days. Last semester was a beast in terms of work load. But as it always does, the semester came to an end, and now we’re in a new term with a chance to do things over in a better way. As always. This is one reason I sometimes really appreciate the cyclical nature of teaching.

So what are my writing goals for 2022?

  • I want to keep working on my fiction and poetry and maybe finish drafting one of these books this year.
  • I’m going to continue producing Sonic Chihuahua, but with some improvements to my production schedule.
  • I’ve made a return to in-person author appearances and plan to do a few more this semester.
  • And I’d really like to get my blog readership up over 1,000 subscribers. (Feel free to share my blog posts using the buttons on this site that make it automatic when you’re inspired to do so, but as always, avoid plagiarizing my content. Thanks!)
  • There are some other administrative things going on behind-the-scenes. If any of them are outwardly noteworthy, you’ll hear about them here, of course.

So that’s where things are here in Authorland at the moment. How about you? Do you make new year’s resolutions or avoid them? Do you set goals for yourself at the turn of the year? What are you hoping to accomplish in 2022?

SONIC CHIHUAHUA at the Turn of the Year

As of today, the December issue of the SONIC CHIHUAHUA is ready to go out the door and to a mailbox (or eagerly awaiting open hand) near you!

So how are things going, eight issues in, with my little zine?

Well, frankly, WELL.

I will be the first to admit that restarting this zine after a twenty-nine-year hiatus was an impulsive lark. It was a decision that I made quickly, even if the seeds of that decision had been planted and quietly sprouting for a couple of years or so. And for the first couple of issues this spring, I was very much feeling my way (again) around the mechanics and logistics of putting a project like this together.

Every month. With paper and black pens and scissors and an adhesive roller.

The first issue ended up being almost twice as long as I’d intended, but it was a good length and is one I’ve stuck with. Figuring out the layout of the zine and the formatting of the content that was printed involved a fair bit of trial-and-error, but I got there. During our pandemically deprived social life, the Sonic Chihuahua became my new Friday night jam, and I loved it.

And even better was the reaction I enjoyed from nearly everyone I sent it to: excitement, enthusiasm, eager support, encouragement. Even, occasionally, someone giving me money for it! (Though financial contributions have always been optional.) There were even a couple of months when the income earned from the zine surpassed the royalties earned on my books!

And the zine grew. Oh wow, did it grow. The distribution, which wasn’t small to begin with, is half again larger than it was when it started, and now I have regular contributors sending me wonderful content to include. I’m loving that!

Without putting too fine a point on it, the Sonic Chihuahua has been, for me, exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. And I’ve heard from several readers that it has been what they needed, too, and this also makes me quite happy.

In November, Han and I went to Zine Fest Houston. I’d never attended before and was thrilled that Sonic Chihuahua got in. The event itself was excellent — it was a gorgeous day with perfect weather, the fest was in an open-air warehouse space that caters to arts events, the organizers were totally on the ball, and the crowds were big enough for Han and me to be busy all afternoon but not so thick that we felt unsafe. (And yes, we wore masks.) It was a delightfully good day, and we got to browse around and see dozens of other zinesters and their work. I learned a lot.

  1. For one thing, our little zine was well-received. That’s always nice.
  2. For another thing, there’s a whole bunch of incredible indie and self-publishing and artwork happening out there, and it’s well worth checking out.
  3. And finally, our production schedule is way aggressive! 

Putting an issue out there once a month, turns out, is rather more frequent than most zinesters are doing. (In fact, we encountered maybe none who were, besides us.) Add to that the increasing costs to produce the paper zine, and the fact that a few of my readers have told me they don’t always finish reading it before the next issue comes (there’s a LOT in each one, y0), and the other fact that I would really like to finish at least one of the novels I’m currently writing… 

You can see where this is going, can’t you? I’ve decided that in 2022, volume 3 of the Sonic Chihuahua will come out every other month instead of every month. I’ve also standardized subscription rates — for those who wish to pay for it — and even added a limited digital option (by subscription only). All of this feels like the right direction to go in, for various reasons which are boring but which I’m happy to expound upon if people want me to. (Leave your questions in the comments, if you have them.)

You’ll see the same awesome content as before. You’ll just have more time to enjoy it before the next issue comes out. Also look for more art in the zine, starting with December’s issue this week.

So on balance, I would say the zine has been a highly worthwhile project for me personally and highly appreciated by those who read it, and therefore I will keep making it. Woot! Thank you to everyone who has subscribed and/or read and/or shared photos of the zine on their social media. I appreciate all of this more than you know!

Do You Know What Doesn’t Suffer From Supply-Chain Problems?

Happy Small Business Saturday!

I hope you’ve had a lovely Thanksgiving (for those of you celebrating it) or else just a very nice week. Here in the US we have launched ourselves full-force into the holiday season, and the day after Black Friday is Small Business Saturday, a day designated to encourage and buy from small businesses in an effort to shop local and indie. And something useful to remember is that authoring is a business, and therefore every author is a small business owner. (That includes me!)

I have several items that might be of interest to you and yours:

  • My books include Finis. and Homecoming in the Animal Affinities series (urban fantasy), and The Sharp Edges of Water (poetry). I also currently have the international anthology The Milk of Female Kindness–An Anthology of Honest Motherhood available; I was one of the lead contributors on that project, which includes fiction, poetry, essays, interviews, and art.
FINIS. (Book 1) – $5.99
HOMECOMING (Book 2) – $5.99
THE SHARP EDGES OF WATER – $13.00
(not pictured: THE MILK OF FEMALE KINDNESS – $15.00)

 

  • I have my zine, Sonic Chihuahua, issues 1-7 in stock. (Click on this link to see what’s in each issue.) These are $3 each and include poetry, essays, fiction, art, recipes, interviews, and fun-and-games. Rejoice in the 90stalgia that is this fabulous and popular zine!
Click on the link above to see the Table of Contents for each issue!

 

  • Poetry art cards, which include my handmade designs and often my poetry on them, are blank on the inside and — with your thoughtful note written in — make lovely gifts in themselves, suitable for framing. Click here to see all 19 designs in more detail. Cards are $8 each.
Click on the link in the description to see the individual cards.

 

You can order all of these items from me directly. You can also see all of these, plus my handmade jewelry and decorated blank journals, at the Sawyer Yards Market on December 11th.

Although you can buy my books Finis., Homecoming, and The Sharp Edges of Water in bookstores — and I hope you will! — you can also buy them directly from me. Just leave a note in the comments about it, and I’ll be in touch with you, or else email me (forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com), and I’ll put your items in the mail to you right away. (I recommend you order from me before December 12th for the best chance of receiving your package in time for Christmas, if that’s what you’re aiming for.) Shipping costs will be as low as I can make them.

Of course you can also get my books from Amazon and Bookshop and other big online retailers. If you’d like to get them from local and indie bookstores — and I encourage you to do so! — I know they’re currently on the shelves at Blue Willow Bookshop (Houston) and The Twig Bookshop (San Antonio). And any bookstore can order it from Ingram if they don’t currently have any copies left in stock. (Interesting note about Amazon: they currently have Finis. and Homecoming on sale, though I don’t know how long that promotion will go for.)

So that’s it! I hope you’ll support your local and indie shops and authors and makers, not just now at the holiday season but all year round. Happy holidays to you! And thank you for your support.

The SONIC CHIHUAHUA: Volume 2, Issues 1-7

Many of you know that after a 29-year hiatus, I restarted my zine, the SONIC CHIHUAHUA, this spring. It has been one of the best decisions I made this year! I’m pleased to report the zine is thriving and growing far beyond my expectations, and that it feeds a part of my creative spirit I wasn’t aware I needed to be fed. It will continue.

For those of you who are not yet subscribers, here is a preview (i.e. a look at the Table of Contents) for each of the issues that has come out this year.

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 1: * Why “SONIC CHIHUAHUA”? What Does That Even Mean??? * The Year of Living Pandemically * apple pie (seriously!) * convo with author Sarah Warburton * a Top 5 List not to be missed! * poetry and art

 

 

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 2:
* A Graduation Message: The Fundamental Lies of Our Culture
* Chocolate Disaster Cake (seriously!)
* convo with Jamie Portwood of Writespace (wide-ranging, and it gets DEEP, yo)
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry and art

 

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 3:
* Vacationing in Purgatory: The Spice Lady of Maine
* fiction and bingo
* rainbow trout (seriously!)
* convo with author Adam Holt
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry and art

 

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 4:
* The Twi-Moms’ Lament
* yet more fiction
* chocolate chip cookies (seriously!)
* convo with Vali Reinhardt (frontwoman of Black Market Tragedy)
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry and art

 

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 5:
* an essay about the day this country shifted
* kittens and fiction
* pasta sauce (seriously!)
* convo with Sean Fitzpatrick (executive director of The Jung Center)
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry and art

 

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 6:
* Embracing My Inner Goth (part 1)
* NeriSiren’s Coffee Grotto
* zeitunes (seriously!)
* convo with renaissance woman Christa Forster
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry and art

 

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 7:
* Embracing My Inner Goth (part 2)
* NeriSiren’s Coffee Grotto
* turkey (seriously!)
* convo with Aaron Herrick
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry, fiction, and art

Author Events Coming Up for This Fall and Winter

You know, after the last year and a half of pandemic, I really didn’t know when I’d ever be able to promote any author events on this blog again. I mean, I just didn’t know when it would be safe to have in-person fun again.

Well, things are hopeful. So a veritable bevy of fun events has landed on my desk, and I’m gobbling them up! Rest assured, I will have a bottle of hand sanitizer on my table at each one, and even though I’m vaccinated, I’ll still be masked up, because this pandemic isn’t over yet. But also, my professional life must go on as much as possible, so here we go.

***

November 7-9, 2021 — Kinkaid School Book Fair — Come find me at my author table on Sunday 5:00-7:00 p.m. and Monday 12:00-2:00 p.m. And a side note? This is always a super fun event because Book Fair is my favorite holiday and ours is one of the biggest of any school anywhere, but wow it’s the most awkward appearance I ever do, because my students are there and kind of look at me from across the room like I’m some kind of a cryptid, scared to come talk to me outside of the context of my classroom. But I promise, folks, you can bring your friendly and familiar faces over. It will all be okay, and I’ll be thrilled to see you!

November 13, 2021 — Zine Fest Houston — This is my first time at Zine Fest, and I’m super excited to introduce SONIC CHIHUAHUA to a larger audience! I will have all back issues available and hopefully even November’s issue as well! If you’re a regular subscriber/reader of SC you’ll be able to get your copy here without having to wait for the usual delivery methods. Find me (and Han) there from 12:00-4:30 p.m.; the location is The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art at 2334 Gulf Terminal Dr.; Houston, TX 77023. Learn more about the event here.

December 11, 2021 — Market at Sawyer Yards — Fellow author Adam Holt and I are headed back at the Sawyer Yards Arts Market! I’ll have books, zines, jewelry, journals, and handmade stationery. Come do some holiday shopping without the fear of supply chain or shipping delays! Come see us 11:00-5:00 that day. The location is 1502 Sawyer Street; Houston, TX 77007. Find more details here.

January 29, 2022 — BrazCon — Everyone’s favorite teen comics convention has returned! Join us in Freeport (very close to Houston) from 9:30-3:30 that Saturday for a family-friendly event loaded with panels, vendors, and special guest appearances. Even better — it’s free! This wonderful festival is put on by the Brazoria County Library System. I’ve been there numerous times and always have a wonderful experience. Click here for more details.

February 5, 2022 — The Twig Bookshop — I’m ecstatic to be doing my first author event in San Antonio, Texas! Come see me at The Twig Bookshop downtown in the Pearl Brewery complex during their weekend open-air market — which, by the way, has the best beignets I’ve ever eaten in my life, even better than Café du Monde (don’t @ me, just try them). I’ll be there Saturday 11:00-1:00 and so excited to see you! The Twig is located at 306 Pearl Parkway, Suite 106; San Antonio, Texas 78215. Click here to see their website.

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Wow, those are a lot of events! I really hope to see you at some or all of them. Have a great November!

October’s SONIC CHIHUAHUA

Folks, this past month at school has been BUSY to the point of migraines, but we’re on the happy downswing now, and I’m pleased to announce that this month’s issue of Sonic Chihuahua is finally ready to go! Yay!

Also, marvelous news: my work has been accepted into Zine Fest Houston’s next event in November! I hope you’ll come out and see me and my work in person. It’s my first time to this event and it will be fun to meet other zinesters and see their work! Click the link to get all the details.

I’ve decided to make a challenge, too: if we get to 100 paying subscribers a month, I’ll start publishing brand-new fiction in the zine just for its readers. (As Dr. Stone says, “Get excited!”)

Finally, if you want a copy of the October issue of SC, do let me know in the comments. (Subscribers, yours is going in the mail to you this week.)

24 Hours Left…

Hey there! If you were on the fence about taking my Gothic Story Elements class this Saturday afternoon, please note that you have about 24 hours left to sign up for it. (That *might* be flexible, but seriously do it before tomorrow evening.) The course will be conducted over Zoom — and you don’t need your own Zoom account, since you’ll get a link to join at registration — so you can take it from anywhere online.

Writespace sometimes offers discounts on classes at the last minute, and it looks like they’re doing that with mine, woot! If you want that discount code, let me know ASAP.

You can register for the course here.

Here’s the course description, too, in case you missed it before…

GOTHIC STORY ELEMENTS

photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash

What do a darkly beautiful aesthetic, #WitchyGirlAutumn, and a tantalizing sense of foreboding all have in common? They can be part of the rich pageant of Gothic story elements that make so many “classic” — or “forbidden” — literary pleasures so deep. In this three-hour generative workshop, we will dip our feet into the chilling waters of Gothic literature to find out what that genre entails. Expect a multi-faceted exploration as we discuss a range of examples in visual art, film, music, and mentor texts. Our writing time will include the opportunity to use these Gothic  elements to begin a story or enhance one you’ve already started. Students will have the option of sharing what they’ve written during the workshop. Come with your favorite writing utensils (a laptop, a legal pad and sharpened pencils, a leather-bound journal and a fancy feather quill—whatever works for you). Let’s kick off the Gothic season in writing style!

All levels of writing experience welcome.

Dipping into the Gothic and Magical Waters

Here in the northern hemisphere, the autumn equinox fast approaches. Earlier this week, as my family was driving to my parents’ house to have dinner with them and my brother who was in town, we saw our first house of the season decorated for Hallowe’en. I saw two more this weekend, including one in our own neighborhood. We’re slated to get our first real cool front of the season in a few days. (I CANNOT WAIT. I’ve already got a sweater picked out to wear the minute one becomes even a little bit necessary, and I’m drinking pumpkin spice chai tea even now as I write this blog post.)

Partly in celebration of the season and partly because it’s going to be really fun, I’m teaching two new workshops at Writespace next month. The first is Gothic Story Elements, a three-hour generative writing class happening on Saturday, October 2nd. The second is a two-day workshop focused on Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, happening during the afternoons of two Sundays, October 3rd and 10th. You can click this link to learn more about and register for all the October and November workshops Writespace is putting on (including mine), but I’m also including the descriptions of both classes below.

I’d like to mention also a note about the formats of these classes, which are, as I said, generative. This means you will not be listening to me lecture for three hours. Far from it! I will teach you some interesting things, sure, but you will also be doing your own writing and idea work — generating, as it were. The Gothic Story Elements class will help you with writing stories in the Gothic genre, and the class about The Night Circus will include some focused literary analysis as a means to writing well. (And yes, you will be writing.) I’m SO excited about them both!

I sincerely hope you’ll join me for one or both classes. Since they’re being conducted on Zoom, there are no covid-related safety concerns, and you can join us from anywhere in the world where you have an internet connection. (My previous Writespace classes this year have included students from a variety of states in the US and even other countries. That has been awesome.) And while Writespace classes are typically an incredible bargain, the organization also offers scholarships with glee, so never feel embarrassed to ask for one.

Now without further ado, here are the course descriptions:

GOTHIC STORY ELEMENTS

photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash

What do a darkly beautiful aesthetic, #WitchyGirlAutumn, and a tantalizing sense of foreboding all have in common? They can be part of the rich pageant of Gothic story elements that make so many “classic” — or “forbidden” — literary pleasures so deep. In this three-hour generative workshop, we will dip our feet into the chilling waters of Gothic literature to find out what that genre entails. Expect a multi-faceted exploration as we discuss a range of examples in visual art, film, music, and mentor texts. Our writing time will include the opportunity to use these Gothic  elements to begin a story or enhance one you’ve already started. Students will have the option of sharing what they’ve written during the workshop. Come with your favorite writing utensils (a laptop, a legal pad and sharpened pencils, a leather-bound journal and a fancy feather quill—whatever works for you). Let’s kick off the Gothic season in writing style!

All levels of writing experience welcome.

READING YOUR WAY TO WRITING WELL: THE NIGHT CIRCUS BY ERIN MORGENSTERN

In this series of workshops, Writespace instructors select a work of literature and guide participants in a deep dive into craft, style, technique, and device. In these six-hour workshops, the instructor will lead an analysis of the work, and participants will practice using the techniques and devices discussed, leading to generating ideas and techniques for their own writing. Participants will need to read the selection in advance and come prepared to discuss it. 
 
Erin Morgenstern’s highly acclaimed debut The Night Circus rocked the literary world with its lush writing, clever structure, magnetic characters, and gripping story. In this two-day course, we will explore some of the reasons why Morgenstern’s novel is so well written and use it as a mentor text to generate some innovative writing of our own. Expect to discuss various elements of the text and to write original creative work, using Morgenstern’s techniques for inspiration. Attendees will have the opportunity to share their writing in class both days. Homework involves reading The Night Circus in its entirety before the first class begins and one or two writing exercises between class sessions.

This course is open to all levels of writing and literary analysis. Reading the text before the class begins is necessary.

***

If you’ve been wanting to take a workshop from me but haven’t found the time yet, please note that these might be the last classes I offer before the new year. Jump on this bandwagon — you won’t be disappointed! You can find these classes listed under Writespace Houston’s offerings at Eventbrite, or just click on this link to register. Thank you!

Sonic Chihuahua Issue #5!

Coming out next week! Sonic Chihuahua volume 2 issue 5. Let me know if you want one.

In other news, my popular little zine is now going to be carried by my brother’s shop, Ella’s Apothecary, at their pop-up locations.

I’m also actively looking for zine fests and other venues where it might be well received. The response to the reboot of my zine this year has been…well, AMAZING. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who is reading and subscribing and reviewing it online and contributing and generally squealing with joy when I show up to hand it over. THIS MAKES MY DAY!

I also have enough subscribers now to actually pay contributors. Yes, it’s still a token payment because the zine isn’t actually profitable yet. But also? It’s a project I love doing, and I’ve got the contents slate for the next five issues already mapped out (rough drafts, so it’s flexible).

Thank you again! And if you’d like to get in on this fantastic zine action, do let me know. Drop me a note in the comments (with a way to reach you if I don’t already know where to find you), and we’ll get that taken care of.

OH! And there have been multiple requests this last month for ways people can pay for the zine. I’m currently taking subscription payments via PayPal and Venmo (but cash works well, too, if I’m delivering it to you in person). Drop me a note to find out more.

Thank you again!

And…one last bit…I’m still working out the schedule for next month’s Witchy Weekends series, so if you want to cast a vote in the poll about what the series will include this year, go here. I appreciate your feedback!

September Poll Plans For October

Hello! Welcome to September. I don’t know about you, but I’m desperately happy it’s not August, The Official Worst Month Of The Year In Texas. This September is admittedly not ideal, but we’re going to press on forward, onward and upward, and fake it till we make it around here.

One of the things I really love about September is its proximity to October, which actually is my favorite month! (Or one of them. Or probably my actual favorite. I mean, October is just grand.)

And October on the blog means the triumphant return of Witchy Weekends, one of the seasonal celebrations we do around here. This series has taken on a variety of forms over the years, and this time I’m in a bit of a quandary deciding what to feature. There are just so many options!

So I thought I’d pose the question to you, dear readers: what would you enjoy seeing here on the blog this October? Please let me know in this totally informal and unscientific poll, and feel free to expound upon your opinions in the comments section. I will take your preferences into account.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!