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No Extra Words

the flash fiction podcast

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July 2016

Mini-Blog #2: NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo wraps up today. I’m not participating this year, but Camp NaNoWriMo is the origin story for this podcast.

For the uninitiated among you, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands of writers from around the world take on the challenge of trying to write the rough draft of a novel (50,000 words or more) in the 30-day month of November.

It’s a crazy challenge. I’m not doing it this year due to a travel schedule, but I’ve attempted it three times and succeeded (in hitting 50,000 words, anyway, let’s not talk about what they were) twice. As someone who has struggled with churning out consistent content, I can’t recommend it enough as a jump-start, but there’s more to NaNoWriMo than November. In April and July they offer Camps, where you set your own goal, to write or revise or push yourself forward in whatever project you like. Last April I signed up for Camp with low expectations…the new mom I was in November 2014 had burned out badly doing NaNoWriMo. Camp let me fit writing into my life and without feeling strong enough to handle a big project, I started scribbling short stories and here we are.

NaNoWriMo is a community. Access to online forums and in-person regional write-ins add to the fun. Published writers I’ve talked to have loved doing it, stepping out of their usual process to try something totally new. And for a friend who has done it and won once, she tells me whatever happens to her project and her writing future, she wrote a novel. That’s saying quite a lot.

So give it a try!  You don’t have to wait until November to jumpstart your writing…give yourself a challenge right now, or seek out your local NaNoWriMo region and look at what prep events they have for this fall. Of course, if a month is too long for you, there’s always the 3-Day Novel Writing Challenge. I’ve not been crazy enough to attempt that one…yet.

Happy writing,

Kris

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What’s the Priority?

As you’re reading this, I’m on vacation with my family. Due to the time warp of the Internet, as I’m writing this, I’m getting ready for that vacation, by trying to get the laundry wrapped up, the shopping done, the party that we are having two days before we leave (!) planned, and, of course, doing blog and podcast maintenance so that this train stays on the tracks while I am gone.

It’s no secret that it’s hard to find writing time. What I’m dealing with now, though, is once I clear out that ever so valuable time, how do I organize it? Assuming that there are multiple projects going on, maybe at different stages, what gets tackled first?

I don’t have answers for you, but I’m going to let you into my process as I’m wrestling with this. Setting aside for the moment my family obligations and the other things I actually have to do, here is my Kris the Writer list for before I go:

  • Final edits and publish an episode of my other podcast.
  • Prep and schedule contributor bios, emails, and other podcast administrative stuff to work while I’m gone.
  • Write up show notes and schedule the episode that will release while I’m gone (the one you’ve already heard.)
  • Write one blog post and one mini-blog post and schedule them.
  • Finish the rough draft of my work-in-progress which is supposed to come with me on vacation for some reflection before starting a second draft.

That’s a really big list for ten days.

At first glance, that seems like a pretty good order. It prioritizes the things that have people, like listeners or a co-host, depending on them. It meets the goal of keeping the train on its tracks. The things on the bottom are the expendable ones, the ones that will keep if they have to be put off a few weeks, or whatever.

But did you notice what’s on the bottom?

There will always be a list of things ahead of that work-in-progress, the novel you want to send out into the world. There will always be other deadlines, other projects, other collaborators. It’s like making time for yourself. If you don’t do, it doesn’t happen.

As I write this, I don’t know what this blog or podcast will look like while I’m gone. There’s a plan and I hope it will be realized. But I won’t do it at the expense of my writing. I have to make that time for me, too. I am forever grateful that I came to podcasting and launched this whole thing. But I am a one-woman band and I have to keep my center at the center. I said in exasperation to my husband the other night that I didn’t think there was a chance I’d make my own deadline on my work-in-progress. “Not with that attitude,” he told me. Thank goodness for accountability partners.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go write. Join me, won’t you?

Kris

Episode 54: The Tremor That May Become the Earthquake

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“Shingle Spit Road” is where what you think you know and what you actually know collide. By Meaghan Hackinen, copyright 2015, used with permission. Read Meaghan’s bio.

Sometimes life doesn’t crack open all at once. Sometimes there’s “The Opening.” By Edith Gallagher Boyd, copyright 2015, used with permission. Read Edith’s bio.

“Not Dog People” is a 90-word short story that asks what if. By Jen McConnell, copyright 2015, used with permission. Visit Jen’s website.

Three-time No Extra Words contributor Sally Stevens finishes off today’s episode with “Jasper,” about the ways we experience the world. Copyright 2014, used with permission. Read Sally’s bio.

Happy listening,

Kris

Meet Episode 54 Contributor Sally Stevens

Sally is the first No Extra Words contributor to appear on the show three times. She previously shared short stories on Episode 50 and Episode 40. Sally’s stories always bring unique perspectives to the show.

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Sally Stevens has worked as a singer/lyricist/ choral director in film and TV in Hollywood for a number of decades. Her song “Who Comes This Night” (Music, Dave Grusin) was recorded by James Taylor in his first Christmas CD (2004) and her song “There Is Time” (Music, Burt Bacharach) was recorded by Burt in his album WOMAN, with the Houston Symphony. Her poems and short fiction have been included in No Extra Words, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal and Mockingheart Review.

Happy listening,

Kris

Meet Episode 54 Contributor Jen McConnell

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Jen McConnell’s debut short story collection, Welcome, Anybody, was published in 2012 by Press 53. More recently, her fiction and poetry have been published in Luna Luna Magazine, Blue Lotus Review, The Oddville Press, Olentangy Review, Mused and Welter. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Originally from California, she currently makes her home in the Midwest. Her website is http://www.jenmcconnell.com.

Happy listening,

Kris

On Being a Dinosaur

Things like this pop up on my social media feeds all the time. Libraries, I am told are an endangered species.

For family reasons, I have not worked in a library in over two years, but I am a certified librarian considering going back to it. Here’s me saying goodbye to the school library that was my home away from home from 2010 to 2014.

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What do I like about being a librarian? I actually really like research. I like teaching it, and I like tracking down little information tidbits for others (librarians still spend a huge percentage of their time on research and reference, even in the post-Google era, which surprises people.) I like the connections, making the recommendations, the teaching, and the storytimes. And I really like the books.

See what I did there? Librarians have to emphasize all of what they do. You can’t just talk about reference. You can’t just talk about books. First of all, it would diminish everything the job is, but it is also a marketing strategy. If you’re “just” a roomful of books, or “just” someone who looks up stuff when “everything is on the Internet” (a university librarian friend of mine tells me she tells freshmen who insist they don’t need her that she’ll see them soon and she generally does,) then you are expendable because no one needs that.

I spent a lot of my library career working in small towns, including 2 years on an island, so I can relate to the article. All communities need libraries, but rural communities need them perhaps even more, and are more likely to lose them. In an unincoporated island community without a community center or city hall, that’s what we were. Schools used library space to display student work after art and literature contests. When the inevitable storms knocked the power out, people would gather in the library for the news and to check up on everyone. We did slam poetry, summer reading, book groups, meeting spaces. We did it all.

I’m currently reading Wendy Welch‘s The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, a delightful memoir about the realities of running an independent small-town bookstore. Because who hasn’t wanted to do that? I’ve written before about my local used bookstore owner, currently running the only bookstore in my town. Yes, we have a really wonderful indie bookstore two towns over, but I want my own little bookshop that could, downtown by my favorite breakfast place, to make it. Most of the time, when I’m in there, it’s just the owner and me. She and I chat books while my toddler finds his favorite cushion and reads her anemic board book selection and she knits hats to sell on Etsy to keep the lights on. He doesn’t care that her board book section is anemic. He’s two and wants the same book over and over again anyway. But it’s tough for her. Every time I am in there, I wonder how long she will be around so I can stop by and see her. And buy books.

This was all in my mind as I got in my car and took a road trip to Portland.

Here’s what you have to know about Portland: all those pretty bridges make getting lost remarkably easy, downtown is actually pretty little, skip the Voodoo Donuts line and get a mini Burnside cream from the mini donut food truck one block up (you’re welcome,) and go to the bookstore.

Whenever we’re in Portland, we eat, we walk, and we go to the bookstore. Why do anything else? Powell’s books in Portland is the stuff of legends. It’s actually not a bookstore but a local chain with branches at the airport and around the area and, to the delight of my software engineer husband, an entirely separate store for technical and math books. The flagship store is an entire city block of books: rooms and rooms of new and used books happily sharing shelf space together. Their online store is also amazing and a great alternative to, well, you know. Also, it’s based out of Portland, so no sales tax.

We had this debate yesterday: I’m not sure if Powell’s is my favorite bookstore, but I can tell you there is no bookstore I would claim to love more. Every bookstore has its own character and I can think of far too many “favorite” places to list here, but Powell’s is a mecca for booklovers.

And on the Sunday afternoon in July when we were there the place was PACKED. Long lines, people streaming in and out of the doors, families reading, adults excitedly waving coloring books they found…it was a zoo.

It’s the image I will come back the next time someone tells me no one reads anymore.

So if the librarian in me is a dinosaur, I am among dino friends. We’re out there, fighting the good fight for booklovers (and for real actual research, which is a topic for another time.) I’ve actually thought about leaving the librarian profession because fighting for your existence is exhausting. I was told on my first day at my last job that having a librarian was “a nice luxury.” Not exactly job security.

Some writers, I am told, (although fortunately I don’t know any personally,) find used bookstores and libraries a threat. If people can get your book for free (or buy it used, for which the writer gets nothing,) then they aren’t buying it new and that hurts a writer’s bottom line.

I get that. I do. Real support of writers means buying new books, and I make an effort to buy a new book (from a local bookseller whenever possible,) at least once a month. But if you want to live in the kind of literary culture where people go to your readings, celebrate your releases, discover new authors and genres, and pass the love of reading on to their children, you need libraries and used bookstores. So we’re just going to keep plodding along like the dinosaurs we are. And if you haven’t been in for awhile, you really should stop by. You never know what you’ll find.

Happy reading,

Kris

Meet Episode 54 Contributor Edith Gallagher Boyd

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Edith Gallagher Boyd is a graduate of Temple University, a former French teacher, and an avid sports fan. Her short fiction has been published in Potluck Magazine and The Furious Gazelle. Her work will be appearing in Thought Notebook Collection and Phoenix Photo & Fiction. She lives in Jupiter, Florida.

Happy listening,

Kris

Meet Episode 54 Contributor Meaghan Hackinen

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Meaghan Hackinen is a Vancouver-born bicycle enthusiast, roller skater, and scuba diver. Currently enrolled in the MFA in Writing program at the University of Saskatchewan, Meaghan’s prose explores relationships, experiences on the road, and encounters with wild places. Her recent work has appeared in Compose: A Journal of Simply Good Writing, The Fieldstone Review, One Throne, and untethered.

Happy writing,

Kris

Episode 53: So High School

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Being yourself is a constant struggle in “What Does Anyone Remember About High School, Anyway?” By Arden Wren Sawyer, copyright 2015, used with permission. Read Arden’s bio.

Annabelle is about to have one “Last Night.” By Mike Chin, copyright 2016, used with permission. Visit Mike’s website.

Happy listening,

Kris

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