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June 2016

Episode 52: Here of All Places

Copy of FLASH

“Ben Ailing” isn’t sure how he ended up where he did, but there was a reason he was supposed to be there. By Dave Barrett, from his collection Republic, USA. Copyright 2014, used with permission. Read Dave’s bio.

“A Sometimes Kind Wolf” by Korey Wallace, is a blast from the past. Copyright 2016, used with permission. Read Korey’s bio.

“Firewood” is the story of one man and one day job. By Frank Haberle, copyright 2015, used with permission. Read Frank’s bio.

Be sure to send us your summer camp flash fiction by July 5.

Happy listening,

Kris

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Meet Episode 52 Contributor Frank Haberle

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Frank Haberle’s short stories have won the 2011 Pen Parentis Award and the 2013 Sustainable Arts Foundation Award. They have appeared in magazines including the Stockholm Literary Review, Inwood Indiana, Necessary Fiction, the Adirondack Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Melic Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Cantaraville, and Hot Metal Press. A professional grantwriter with nonprofit organizations, Frank is also a volunteer workshop leader for the NY Writers Coalition. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children.

Happy listening,

Kris

Meet Episode 52 Contributor Korey Wallace

Korey divides his time between intense physical labor, reflection on the state of the world, writing, and losing himself in the wonder of being alive. He studied English and Creative Writing at Briar Cliff University. Has published primarily poetry off and on in obscure online journals. He is currently working on a collection of short fiction.

Happy listening,

Kris

I No Longer Understand My Outline: on Planning My Work-in-Progress

I realized this week that I make it sound like I write a lot. So I’m coming out of the closet on that one.

I haven’t been writing all that much.

This is an ongoing problem in my life as a writer. I tend to be all-in. I’m either in a phase of writing a lot or writing very little. It’s easy to make a ton of excuses, and I’m not going to because everybody has those. But it is not uncommon for me to find myself in a phase of life where I haven’t written in weeks…months, even.

And so it was that I tackled my work-in-progress this week.

I have put the podcast on a reduced schedule for the summer in large part to throw myself into more writing, and since that happened almost three weeks ago I have tackled a number of other projects but have been avoiding my novel-in-progress. I knew what was awaiting me, what is always awaiting me when I pick up a project that hasn’t been touched in awhile: rereading drafts and notes and the outline and hoping that I haven’t fallen out of love with the thing and left yet another brilliant beginning in my wake.

I am the queen of brilliant beginnings. I do them so well.

Writers often talk of “Plotters” vs. “Pantsers.” “Plotters” are the outliners among us, those who know where their novel is going because they have it carefully mapped out. The term “Pantsers” is of the “write by the seat of your” derivation. They use rough drafts to figure out where the story is going. They are in it for the ride.

I love planning. When tackling a new major project, my instinct is to immediately start sketching characters. Not in the literal sense (I don’t draw,) but mapping out who they are related to, what their motivations are, and what they like to eat for breakfast. I like creating characters. Plots are more work.

There’s a famous librarian named Nancy Pearl who makes her living recommending books and teaching librarians how to recommend books. She says what a reader likes is not about genre or author or theme, although certainly related authors and themes can work for the same reader. She says there are four doors through which readers approach literature and finding out which doors an individual prefers helps you make suggestions. The doors are: character, plot, setting, and language. It’s worth reading more on her theory, but I will simply say for this moment that I wonder sometimes if writers do the same thing. I approach my projects by character.

For much of my young writer life (I cringe even writing that phrase, thinking of so much time wasted,) I eschewed outlines. I didn’t like knowing where my story was going. I would blurb my own rough drafts before I even wrote them, leaving the endings deliberately vague. My “plans” often ended with a question.

That’s when I started to collect file drawers filled with story ideas and story beginnings. I still have them. More than I will complete in my lifetime, more than I could complete in nine lifetimes. And one day I decided I was a grown-up and needed an outline.

I’m not saying no one can be a Pantser. I’m saying I can’t be. Been there, done that, have nothing to show for it. The first project I did a real outline of was the first full-length project I ever completed, and that was a dozen or so years ago when I was already old enough to have accomplished more than that. And so Kris the Outliner was born.

From the start, Kris the Outliner had major flaws. I especially remember a Nanowrimo project a few years ago. The outline was gorgeous, but halfway through November I realized I didn’t like the story anymore. I finished it, but so what? (If it isn’t fun to write, it won’t be fun to read. Trust me.)

So I’ve discovered a compromise: the brief outline. I do the character sketches and the notes, all the stuff the planner in me loves, and then I do a bullet point outline. It has to go all the way to the end, it cannot end in a question, it works through the major plot points, but it is not incredibly detailed. This makes it modular…it can be cut and moved around as the progress of the rough draft dictates. I am never married to an outline.

Brief has its challenges, though. Like in the outline of my work-in-progress, the one I came back to this week. One of my bullet points just says “Melanie.”

I don’t know who Melanie is. If I’ve written a character sketch on her it must have been on a Starbucks napkin because it didn’t survive. I’m sure she is a secondary character of some kind and I know because of where she is listed in the outline approximately where she fit into the plot. But I have no idea what she was actually doing there. She is a casualty of procrastination. Maybe she is a lost gem that was going to win my my Pulitzer. More likely, she was supposed to redirect my storyline to something I’ll do in a different way.

The good news? I still like this project, so a dust off of the outline and I was right back into it.

Now I just have to keep on going.

From your Queen of the Brilliant Beginnings,

Kris

 

Meet Episode 52 Contributor Dave Barrett

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Dave Barrett lives and writes out of Missoula, Montana. The story featured in this episode is from Republic, U.S.A. A dozen other stories from the collection have been published: most recently in Midwestern Gothic, Toad Suck Review, The MacGuffin and The Lampeter Review (Wales). Also, a selection of three previously published excerpts from his novel Gone Alaska will be published as an adaptation in the Worker’s Write Chapbook Series (Overtime) in August of 2016 under the title of Wheel of the Western World. He teaches writing at the University of Montana and is at work on a new novel.

Happy listening,

Kris

What’s Your Job Title?

I hate it when people ask me what I do for a living.

The truth, the answer that they want on insurance forms, is Stay-at-Home-Mom.

I hate that title for a lot of reasons that I’m not going to go into here as this is not a mommy blog, but in truth I think of myself as a Work-From-Home-Mom. (These are actual terms, with acronyms. Did you know that?)

My child is two years old, and he is home with me. Which means from about 6:30 a.m., when he wakes up, to about 8 p.m., when he goes to bed, he is my primary vocation. We have play groups and appointments, we volunteer together once a week, and he is my buddy. As I write this, he’s telling me about what he’s doing right now while he eats his breakfast.

But I also have a weekly (okay, it’s summer, so twice monthly) fiction podcast that I am running, as well as a monthly baseball podcast plus I’m trying to develop myself as a writer which means working on short stories and a novel and this blog. And, of course, you can’t be a writer without being a reader, which means I need to figure out how to squeeze in reading time.

My hours? Really hard to quantify, but producing the podcasts (including scheduling, working with contributors, recording, editing, file conversions, writing notes, etc.) takes an average of six to eight hours a week to do, more if there are more complex or longer episodes, extra episodes and specials, or something goes wrong (nothing ever goes wrong with technology, right?) That time does not include marketing, social media, or what I would term if this was a real job “professional development” (networking, learning new skills, improving production and audio quality, etc.) It also doesn’t include time for my own writing, this blog, or reading. Add all of that together, and you are starting to see hours that resemble a regular part-time job.

I have a couple of friends who are Work-From-Home-Moms. One teaches in a ballet studio at her mom’s home (where she and her children also currently live.) One runs an online re-seller business mostly focusing on children’s books. Both do this while caring for one or two children under the age of three, and it’s really hard.

I’ve spoken before about how working parents and stay-at-home parents are jealous of each other…on the one side there is the luxury that is daycare and being able to sometimes leave your kiddo there for an extra hour or more to get something done, on the other side there is the idea of late mornings and not having to get everybody out the door and being able to focus all your energies on being home. For my work-from-home friends, they get the positives and negatives of both. They usually get some child care, some time away from their children, some interaction with the adult world, while also managing some play dates (another term I really hate) and activities for their children. They also suffer from extreme busy-ness and lack of personal time.

It’s tough. As the friend of mine who teaches ballet told me yesterday, she really doesn’t know how to define herself as she doesn’t fit entirely within one realm or the other. She has some things in common with her working mom friends and her stay-at-home-mom friends but doesn’t really fall into either category.

And I was jealous of her. Because I relate to everything she is saying but don’t feel like I can claim my work as work because at this moment it doesn’t make me any money.

The conversation on how, when, and if writers get paid is one I’ve had before in this space and not a new one for writers, so I’m not going to get into all of that here, but yeah, for me now is not a time in my career when I am making money as a writer or a podcaster. (In fact, podcasting actually costs me money, as media hosting is not free.) So here I am, a stay-at-home-mom with no income of my own spending part-time job hours and some of the money I don’t make doing something I love doing and will make time for, but when I’m asked what my job is I can’t really claim this because jobs make you money and this doesn’t.

I don’t expect to ever make a full-time living as a writer. There, I said it. If it happens, fantastic, I’m all for it, but I do not anticipate or plan for that reality. It would be great to get to the point where it makes me some money and I think that is doable, but it is a process and I’m not there yet. But even if I never make money, I won’t stop writing. I could not stop writing. I know people who have music or sports in their blood and must pursue those regardless of what other people think. Writing has been that for me since the age of six. Not making a living at writing is not going to get me to stop doing it, and whether I am working full-time or chasing a toddler around, I will always fit it into my life. Whether I am a “writer” on insurance company forms or not.

I get that staying home with my child is a luxury. (It’s also a luxury borne of the fact that going back to the job I had before he came would essentially mean working full-time to pay for the cost of full-time child care, which is a separate story.) While I don’t like the term Stay-at-Home-Mom, I do like the work (most weeks) and I won’t complain. I just wish I knew how to explain to others, even to other moms, about that 10-15+hour a week job I work in addition to what I am doing as a mom. What you do for a living is a big part of your identity in this culture, and mine is somewhat closeted. I also feel guilty every single time I am distracted from the job of raising my child to focus for a few minutes on the job of writing and podcasting.  Because you can’t do it all, but you can certainly try.

How about you? This isn’t just an issue moms face. Most writers are “writer and something else” and even when you get to the coveted place of writing for a living most writers face the “write what I want to” vs. “write what is paying me” question. Is writing a job title to you? Does your family love when you talk about your fun writing hobby? Is a vocation more than how you pay the bills?

However you are fitting it into your life today, happy writing!

Kris

Episode 51: Curmudgeons and Incorrigibles

Copy of FLASH

Those who won’t change and the rest of us who get to deal.

Witness the creative destruction of “A New Heart.” By Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois, copyright 2015, used with permission. Read his bio.

Grocery clerks are always the ones who hear your rants in “Blu-Ray/DVD.” By Daniel Maluka, copyright 2016, used with permission. Read his bio.

At what point do you get to call out the ridiculous? “Dean’s Dilemma” is by Paul Beckman, copyright 2015, used with permission. Visit his website.

Did you ever wonder who is reading your submissions? After “The Party,” will you wonder if it had remained a mystery. Written and produced by Adam Kluger, copyright 2016, used with permission. Featuring the voice work of Aesha Waks. Read Adam’s bio.

Don’t miss your chance to be part of our 2016 Summer Camp Special!

Happy listening,

Kris

Writing Prompt: Need Your Camp Stories!

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UPDATE: Summer schedule is busier than expected and so this special episode is on hold indefinitely, but do look for our regularly scheduled episodes.

Got an email a couple of weeks ago from someone asking if we were going to do a 2016 edition of the Summer Camp Episode. Hadn’t honestly thought about it, but what’s summer without camp?

This is me in my happy place…the Girl Scout camp where I have spent many spring and summer afternoons. A favorite camp song includes the line: “People in cities don’t understand falling in love with the land,” which sums it up pretty well. There’s a lot of us out there for whom a place like this figures into our summer memories. So, back by popular demand, a summer camp episode for 2016!

Last year the rules on this were very specific: what summer camp means to you in 25 words or less. Those are fantastic and I would love to read some, but this summer we are throwing out the rules! (The few times in my life when I have said that out loud at camp have either gone fantastically well or horribly wrong, there is no middle ground.)

So send us your camp memory, your campfire story, your original camp song, anything and everything summer camp related as long as it is under 500 words. That means it can be 10 words or 499, but no more. We must receive these no later than July 5. The turnaround is tight, but I know you can do it!

Email these to noextrawords@gmail.com with “camp story” in the subject line, or use the Contact Us page to leave us a voice mail or find us on social media. As with all our special calls for submissions, this episode is only as good as what you send us. We look forward to reading your stories!

Happy camping,

Kris

 

Meet Episode 51 Contributor Paul Beckman

I told you this was a four story episode, right? Once again, honored to have Paul Beckman on the show.

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Paul Beckman was one of the winners in the Queen’s Ferry 2016 Best of the Small Fictions. His stories have been published in thee following magazines, amongst others: Connecticut Review, Raleigh Review, Litro, Playboy, Pank, Blue Fifth Review, Flash Frontier, Matter Press, Metazen, Boston Literary Magazine, Thrice Fiction, and Literary Orphans. His latest collection, Peek, weighed in at 65 stories and 120 pages. His website is www.paulbeckmanstories.com

Happy listening,

Kris

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