The Planner Pages: Changing course

March week three pages

The Experiment

This month is flying by and I have very few submissions to show for it. My main issue is trying to read enough of each journal to get a feel for it and then when I’ve spent so much time reading the journal, I decide I don’t have a story that fits.

I’ve been debating if I want to continue to list deadlines, or reading period openings and I have officially switched to openings. This week, I finally convinced myself to submit to a magazine only to find they had closed submissions early due to too many submissions. I’m seeing more and more that journals that use submittable will only take a certain number of submissions per month due to costs which makes their deadlines indecipherable. I am also finding that I procrastinate, so deadlines are not really helping me plan ahead. It makes more sense, for all these reasons, to start looking at journals by when their reading period opens. So, after this week, I’m changing course.

This means I will have to redo all of the pages from this quarter for next year, but it was all an experiment, so I’m glad I’ve come to this decision now instead of in the fall.

Reading Discoveries

Though I have hit a slump in my submitting, I have made some fun discoveries through continuing the experiment. After reading an interview with the editor of Hinnom Magazine, I picked up a copy of The Nameless Dark: A Collectionby T. E. Grau. The first story, “Tubby’s Big Swim” is thoroughly entertaining.

In Blackbird I enjoyed Miniature Man by Carrie Brown and was excited to read This Is The Age of Beautiful Death by John Dufresne. I have read and enjoyed John Dufresne‘s books on writing and recommend them often. It was fun to recognize an author I admire as I was reading through the magazines.

In Shenandoah, I enjoyed Tender by Shruti Swamy.

I hope you’ll make some time to treat yourself to these great stories.

The Pages

Here are this week’s daily planning pages with new writing prompts and magazine information: 2019 Planner March Week Three

I hope you are finding the daily planning pages helpful, informative, and motivational. What do you think of the writing prompts I’m making up? Have you tried any of them? How are your submissions going? Do you think you’ll reach 100 rejections this year?

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting!

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The Deadlines: Collecting and organizing

short story submission planningI made a breakthrough over the weekend. I entered the information I’ve been collecting about different literary magazines and their reading windows into a spreadsheet. Now I can easily sort all of the reading periods by deadlines and what month I want to include them in my planner. I also added spreadsheet pages for contests, paying poetry markets, anthologies and community events.

Sifting Through

I found some more submission sources. Along with Newpages, Poets and Writers and Submittable listings, I’m using:

The Review Review

CLMP Community of Literary Magazines and Presses

As there are thousands of literary magazines and I only intend to introduce 365 in my planner, I decided to begin my exploration with magazines that pay their writers. I noticed that many journals are now using Submittable and charging a submission fee. I feel like it won’t be worth my time if I’m losing money for my efforts,  so my focus is on journals with no fees that pay writers anything at all upon publication. I was happy to discover that there were more paying markets than I thought and separating my spreadsheets into fiction and poetry revealed even more opportunities if I can muster enough courage to submit my poetry.

Proof of concept

The first month of the year isn’t over and I’ve already missed a ton of deadlines for both reading periods and contests. My research has revealed that the journals that pay the most have tiny reading periods of only days per year. I was also shocked to see that the The Pushcart Prize XLIII: Best of the Small Presses 2019 Edition (The Pushcart Prize) is already at my local library. How is that even possible?

I began to get frustrated and overwhelmed, but I reminded myself that the purpose of this research experiment is to be prepared for next year. The missed deadlines this month and the beginning of next only support my theory that a successful submission is planned well in advance.

A new problem

Journals charging submission fees and contest entry fees aren’t the only monetary issue I see with my heightened submission plan. Each journal expects submitting writers to become familiar with past issues before submitting. Many journals provide some stories to read online, but most suggest that one purchase an issue or get a subscription.

I understand that the journals need to make money and it’s important to read what the journal prints. I want to read as many literary magazines as possible, but if I was to purchase 365 magazines at fifteen to thirty dollars an issue, I would have to spend between $5,500 and $11,000 only to read one issue which isn’t really enough to get a feel for a publication as a whole .

I want to make money, not go into debt, so my submission goals are now limited to journals that have story samples available online, journals I can find through my library system and journals that have stories in collections that I can get from the library like The Pushcart Prize and The Best American Short Stories.

With all the time it takes to read enough short stories to familiarize oneself with literary journals, I don’t know when submitting writers find time to write. I’m hoping, through this experiment, it will all click by next year. I’ll be familiar with the journals, know the deadlines for the ones I want to submit to and have a year’s worth of stories to submit. Ah, I really am a dreamer.

Staying Flexible

Though I made some of my January goals, I changed my mind on others. I started writing the possession story for the Dark Regions contest, and I still like the idea, but I didn’t want to feel that dark right now, so I let that story go for the moment.

I read some of the winning stories from the Nelson Algren Short story contest in The Chicago Tribune archives, but I still want to read more of his work and write a story specifically toward that contest, so I put that off until next year. From learning about Nelson Algren, I’m also learning about Studs Terkel. I’ve noticed that there are literary magazines inspired by these gentlemen. I look forward to learning more about them.

Though Sixfold sounded interesting, with everything else I’m doing right now, I didn’t have time to read everyone’s entries, so I put that off for another time as well.

Through my deadline collection, I also found many February first deadlines that I will put on the January pages for next year, but not stress over for now. I want to have time to get familiar with each of the journals and not send stories out only because there are deadlines. Everything about this process is showing me that I’m on the right track. Submitting stories is for planners.

The Planner Pages

With February fast approaching, I’ve worked out some more rough draft pages. I want to start each quarter of the year with large goals for the three months. Then each month will have more specific goals and a list of specific deadlines for that month. Here’s what I’m going to try for the First Quarter and February:

first quarter planning page left                               first quarter planning page right

february plan page left                                             february plan page right

I hope you will download them and experiment along with me. I’ll be adding more deadlines to the February Deadlines page as they come up and will update accordingly. I look forward to your feedback about what you like and don’t like about the design and content as well as whether you find the format motivational.

If you know of any deadlines to add to February, please let me know in the comments.

The daily pages for the first week of February will be posted on Thursday.

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting!

Realistic Goal Setting vs. Creative Chaos

Rising in the West

The Chaos

Moments after I published my last post with realistic reading goals that I would put in my planner for January, I went to the library and checked out twenty-five books that were not on that list. I’m glad I did. There’s nothing wrong with my reading gluttony. I should not have imagined I could reign it in.

My approach to submissions is similar. Today, I saw a tweet about the guest editor at Smoke Long wanting story submissions, and from her interview, it sounded like she might like one of my stories, so I spent most of the day completely re-writing it and submitted it. Not in the plan, but I submitted and I think the story is much better today than it was yesterday, so mission accomplished.

As you can see, my ideas for my writer’s planner that I laid out in my last post were an interesting hypothesis for my experiment, but do not hold up to the creative chaos of how I actually work.

Realistic Goals

Deadlines

One aspect of the planner, however, the main one of knowing dates for deadlines in advance, has worked and I did submit to the first two deadlines on my list, on the very last day, but still. Stories submitted. I think the idea of having some specific deadline goals each month will definitely work for me and if I already had these dates in a planner and didn’t spend so much time finding them out in the first place would save me a lot of time for writing new work.  So this will be my main goal for the planner: finding deadlines for magazines and contests that will be predictable for next year.

Knowing all the options

The other aspect of the planner that I think will work is a daily overview of a literary magazine. Though literary magazines appear and disappear, often without warning, I’m still in shock that Tin House closed its doors, I think I can come up with 365 options for writers to think about with links to their websites, so the writer can learn more and submit if it looks like a good fit.

While at the library (checking out all the books) I found The Pushcart Prize XLI: Best of the Small Presses 2017 Edition (2017 Edition) (The Pushcart Prize). This was a great find for this part of the project. In the back of the book it lists all of the small presses, with their addresses, that submitted pieces for consideration. For fun, I went through the list and picked out every listing for Washington State. I was surprised how many there are and how different each small press and magazine is from another. I have already submitted to one of the magazines from that list. The great thing about the Pushcart Prize collection is I can read the stories and see which magazines think which stories represent them the best and which magazines publish the most award-winning stories and poems.

The Design

For the experiment, I wanted to create the planner pages in open office so all of you can play around with it with me. I like the idea of being able to fill in the planner on my computer and/or print it out and have a physical copy.

My initial attempt to create the daily layout was frustrating, so I headed to Youtube and found a couple of videos that clicked with me and got me started.

Jenuine Life

Mariana’s study corner 

The trick was to use shapes and text boxes. Though it was very time consuming, I came up with an initial draft of my idea.

feb one left                                           feb one right

So now the experiment can move into data collection. I hope you will join me. What do you think of this initial idea? How’s the layout? Does it include everything for a motivational daily planner? What types of physical properties would you change: shapes, colors, backgrounds, fonts, etc.?

My next step is to create all of the pages for February and start using them, re-evaluating and incorporating feedback each week.

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting Your Work!

New Book: America’s Emerging Writers Anthology

 

Hi all and happy holiday season. I apologize for disappearing for a bit, but the transition from my time in New Orleans to home in the midst of NaNoWriMo kicked by butt. It was all I could do to get my 50,000 word win, YAY. I still haven’t gotten back into the swing of things.

However, in all the craziness, I received an exciting email from Z Publishing House stating that out of more than 2,000 stories, they selected my story Almost Paradise to be part of their National Anthology.

I am so glad they were able to fix my typo that my friend, and awesome drummer for The Rubber Maids, Xiomara, caught in the Washington’s Emerging Writers anthology (floatilla, with an a, instead of flotilla had slipped past so many sets of eyes). Now the perfected version will see the light of day in America’s Emerging Writers Volume 2.

The cover of America's Emerging Writers Volume Two

Treat yourself to a wonderful collection of enthralling quick reads by talented authors from all across the USA.

I’m honored that my work was selected for placement amid such exciting work.

If you enjoy enthralling quick reads, I highly recommend treating yourself and the readers on your gift list to a copy.

Here’s the description of the anthology from Z Publishing House:

In America’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction, 127 of our favorite up-and-coming writers (representing all 50 states) join together to share their words. Covering a wide array of genres ranging from satire, mystery, comedy, literary fiction and more, these young talents will amaze you.

I hope you’ll treat yourself and/or someone you love to a copy today.

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

It’s Writober! Time for some creepy flash fiction and poetry

across the street sI had pretty much spaced #Writober3 until this morning. Because I’m in New Orleans and my schedule is out of my hands, I won’t be as on top of my daily writing as I have been the last couple of years, but I’m going to try to do the daily poems for OctPoWriMo and I started adding pictures to a #Writober3 Pinterest board to inspire Halloween themed flash fiction.

The first pins I added are pictures I took from my immediate surroundings and a crow claw that I had on my camera from late July.  I decided not to number the images this year. Just choose the image on the day it speaks to you. I am going to start with this one:

painting of a girl s

The theme for this year’s Halloween party  is “Strange Brood” and this little lady definitely came from one. I think writing her story will  set the tone for a great #Writober.

The OctPoWriMo theme for today is Surrender. Here’s the poem I came up with:

Callistemon

Callistemon, the bottle brush tree
releases her red tassels
as I surrender to the moment
From elation as the light shines
through the erect, lush hibiscus
to the frustration of a burning throat
and muddy head of acclimation
I focus on the detailed lines of a glistening dragonfly’s wing
She extends
tail to the sun
on the tip of a twig
fully splayed

Like a kite escaping its tether
on a fitful wind, I surrender
to each fleeting change
Revelations bombard by the hour
The days pass too quickly
Each stuffed full of muti-days of meaning
I swirl in the dance of confusing splendor,
facing my first regret of ever catching your eye while I recognize the truth of my bliss
The white flag
wavers
I yield
to whatever comes

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington’s Emerging Writers Anthology now available!

Information about Almost Paradise, a short story by Maria L. Berg that is in the Washington's Emerging Writers Anthology

Click on the image to get your copy today!

The Leviathan In The Fog

This week, I had fun with Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge over at terribleminds.com blog. He offered a list of ten titles and challenged writers to choose one and write its story. I tried out a few different titles and story ideas, but “The Leviathan In The Fog” triggered a memory of a personal encounter, so I felt the most connection to this story. And with no further ado . . .

 

The Leviathan in the Fog

by Maria L. Berg

Moments past dawn and it is already hot. Dew, settled on the long blades of grass during the chill of night, sizzles to steam, creating a thick fog that hovers near the earth. The orchestra of invisible locusts plays a deafening song. The leviathan stirs, alert to an invisible invasion.

Fumes of diesel and rubber, hours old, still linger. A pungent deterrent, narrowing possible paths. The leviathan slowly stretches along the cracks and pebbles, finding every sensation an irritant. Gone are the days of wandering in mindless solitude, tentacles swaying fearlessly in the breeze. With the humans encroaching and the new fad of rampant hermaphroditic reproduction, the once vast world feels confining. Recently, the bumbling masses started eating each others’ shells. Eating each other! That’s what their uncontrolled orgies have gotten them. Terrestrial gastropods have no self-control.

Contracting, toward a leaf, the leviathan smells distinct clues of foreign intrusion: an unfamiliar sweet, rotting fruit; soil of a course mineral make-up; the bark of an unknown tree. Curiosity becomes alarm. The invasion is happening, but where are the invaders? The locusts continue their two-note serenade without pause. No breach could escape their scrutiny. Hunger prevails over alarm, but the leaf is all wrong: rubbery and stringy; each vein leaks a gluey, bitter puss.

Dissatisfied, the leviathan stretches further through the fog and discovers, retracting in horror, a capacious piece of broken shell. The deep mahogany and umber swirls are slashed with jagged white edges where violent pressure transposed it from home to waste. Only two other small pieces remain, the rest are crumbled and trampled to tiny specks and flakes. While tasting one of the smaller pieces of shell, the leviathan worries that the pebble irritants, glided over earlier, are pieces of a trail of snails.

The recognition of self in the smell is difficult to process. A perceptual dilemma like sucking on one’s own eye stalk. The leviathan feels ill and wants to recoil, but the calcium is difficult to come by these days.

The sun rises behind the trees. The fog will soon burn off and the leviathan will need to dig into the soft dirt under the tall grass to hide from predators and the blistering heat, but the second small piece of shell is too tempting. Enraptured in gluttony, the leviathan doesn’t hear the lack of locusts’ song, or the generators’ rising hum as lights are flicked on. Vibrations growing underfoot like a stampede gaining momentum do, finally, reach into the gorge. The click and scrape of heavy doors is the final warning.

The sole of a shoe. An earth shattering crunch.

In the throws of death, the leviathan hears, “Ew. What is that? There’s like slime up to my ankle. Is that a snail? A snail? We must be in hell because a snail that big will eternally haunt my dreams.”

Then a scream of shattering revelation.

“They’re everywhere. Oh, Lord help me, they’re everywhere.”

Final Days of 2017 Day 23: Yeti Paws

This has been hanging on the inside doorknob of my bedroom door ever since I received it from my Swedish “sister”. God Jul means Merry Christmas in Swedish. I am not sure what the fur is, but I’m going to go ahead and say it was made from Yeti paws.

#vss very short story

Hannah thought the furry Christmas decoration looked like a fluffy bone, so she put it around her dog’s neck. She loved how it bounced as he frolicked in the fresh snow-drifts. She heard a yelp and her little Prince didn’t emerge. She tromped through the thick snow, her heavy steps crunching on the top layer and then quickly sinking up past her knee. It was exhausting work to walk the few steps to see behind the hillock. She gasped. Her eyes traveled up the white fur to the blood dripping from the Yeti’s mouth. The strand of string still holding the fluffy bone was stuck around a huge, sharp tooth. Hannah screamed.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Today’s prompt is a tough one:

Write your own memoir in 10 lines. No more, no less.

A Creative Life

Abject antecedent agonizes an allimentation allowance
Circumspect creature charily content
Rapacious reader reaching recalcitrant
Timely travel tunes tenacious talent
Educated egocentric eagerly endeavors
Antiestablishmentarian acts autarkically
Tumbling terrifically toward the twilight
Impossible issues invert imagined ills
Voracious verbiage vanquishes vile visions
Erasing exasperation eases endangered existence

 

#FlashFicHive

ff23

I really like Ask the 8 Ball prompts. This one was fun. I asked the question as written and got:

replay hazy

So I tried a different question. I asked: Should I start my story with an onomatopoeia?

outlook good

Don’t Forget To Read!

To fit with today’s theme, I thought I would find some books about the Snow Beast.

Yeti – The Ecology of a Mystery by Daniel C. Taylor

My Quest for Yeti: Confronting the Himalayas’ Deepest Mystery by Reinhold Messner

The Abominable Snowman (Choose Your Own Adventure 1) by R. A. Montgomery

GAMAGO Yeti Journal I have this journal. I really like it. I bought it at the Seattle MoPop when it was the EMP (Experience Music Project). I write my ideas for kids stories in it.

Yeti Rescue Kit

And there are many kids books that look cute:

Yeti, Turn Out the Light! by Greg Long, Chris Edmundson and Wednesday Kirwan

No Yeti Yet by Mary Ann Fraser

Yeti and the Bird by Nadia Shireen

Happy Reading and Writing!

Final Days Of 2017 Day 20: Fight For Your Right To Party!

Santa in a box

This glittery Santa ornament still lives in its box. I thought about taking it out for the picture, but then he reminded me of The Prospector from Toy Story 2, so I left him in his box.

#vss very short story

Tears pushed at the corners of the collector’s eyes as he lifted Formalwear Santa to his place of honor on the center of the clear latex boxes that lined the wall. One specifically crafted staging area for each of the Waterforce ornaments.

He stepped back and admired his work, his life’s work, now completed. Overwhelmed with conflicting emotions, he let the tears flow down his cheeks, no longer able to fight them back. He dropped to his knees.

At first he thought his legs had given under the weight of his accomplishment, but then the ornaments began to jump and dance along the wall. Dust fell from the ceiling in larger and larger pieces. The floor shifted beneath his knees. The wall cracked and splintered behind his display. A roar like a freight train filled his head and the last thing he saw was Formalwear Santa shattering in his box as the room collapsed.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Prompt: Write a poem about an action or event you were directly involved in that makes you proud. Consider writing this poem in quatrains, rhymed or unrhymed, but as many four-lined stanzas as you’d like.

The Royal Bear

As we moved my belongings to my new abode
We passed a club on the side of the road called the Royal Bear
Now that’s a great dive, I thought to myself
If I find a band here, I want a show there.

So far from the city, it was hard to find gigs
I tried to fit with heavy metal, but who was I trying to kid
I gave up for a while and poured my all into work
But I missed the music and decided to renew my search

An announcement on Craigslist made my heart skip a beat
A group needed a bassist and practiced right down the street
I had promised myself college was the end of playing covers
But location was key and I had no luck with the others.

I had a huge list of songs to learn in a hurry,
A gig in two weeks at a motorcycle rally
Learning not only bass lines but an alternative world
Of chapters and rides, rodeos and leathers.

We played The Royal Bear on a semi-regular basis
I recall one show of which I’m particularly proud
My whole family came and had drinks together
My mother didn’t even complain it was loud.

Then came the moment when my life was complete
My mother and father got up from their seats
Joining their kids on the dance floor, they danced
As I played Fight For Your Right To Party!

Editing Focus

Today, I’ll expand the Story Grid spreadsheet.  According to The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyle, the next step is to evaluate each scene for Value Shift, Polarity Shift and Turning Point.

Value Shift – Human experiences that can shift in quality from positive to negative or negative to positive. (e.g. happy/sad, love/hate, innocence/experience). Every scene must turn a story value.

Polarity Shift – Is the visual representation of  the value change in the scene: +/- or -/+. There may be some scenes that move from good to great or bed to worse, +/++ or -/–.

Turning Point – The precise moment/beat in the scene when the value shifts. Turning points either occur through action or revelation. It is important to track your turning points to make sure there is variation.

#FlashFicHive

fff20

graphic by Anjela Curtis

Oblique Strategy:

Look at a very small object, look at its center.

I like this idea. For today’s story, I’ll practice starting in a universal perspective and then quickly diving in to tighter and tighter view until I get to the center of a small object. Oh, I think I have an idea! Following today’s theme, I’ll use this technique at a party.

Don’t Forget To Read!

Don’t forget to read Christmas gift books: I don’t always have the time, but I like to try to read the books I give as gifts, so I can discuss them with the people I give them to. I especially like to read the books I give to my nieces and nephews to make sure they’re appropriate.

For the next few days, I’ll be evaluating–

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw

Five-Carat Soul by James McBride

The Best of Talebones edited by Patrick Swenson

–as possible Christmas gifts.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Christmas In Japan: Final Days of 2017 Day 19

kimono ornament

I still haven’t been to Japan. I hope to visit some day. This pretty, colorful kimono seemed like an odd addition to the tree, so I thought I’d spend the day exploring Christmas traditions in Japan.

You can read about Christmas traditions in Japan at All Things Christmas, The Culture Trip and Why Christmas?

#vss very short story

Hoteiosho wanted to bring all of the presents this year, so he challenged Santa to a sumo match. Santa wasn’t willing to take off his Santa-suit, so he had to forfeit. He got home early from deliveries and took a nice long nap.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Today’s theme is Clouds
clouds
light and                                                     mean and
fluffy white                            foreboding dark warning
pareidolia for                      of a storm approaching, blocking
grass-layers in spring                          the sun’s warmth and light
moving              swiftly            swirling      and               roiling overhead
drifting

Editing Focus

I made some progress yesterday. Through meticulously filling in  The Story Grid: What Good Editors Knowspreadsheet, I noticed stronger places to start the story and places where point of view would be stronger from another character.

Today, I will continue the process of finding the Story Event of each scene.

#FlashFicHive

ff19

graphic by Anjela Curtis

Looks like this is a story and poetry prompt.

To keep with today’s theme, I looked for a Japanese Christmas song and found some Christmas songs in Japanese matched with anime images:

Then I found this gem:

A cover of Christmas Eve by Chemistry. Definitely what I was looking for.

Here’s a translation of the lyrics. I cannot attest to the accuracy.

Christmas Eve

All alone I watch the quiet rain
Wonder if it’s gonna snow again
Silent night holy night

I was praying
You’d be here with me
What it used to be
Silent night holy night
For Christmas

Somewhere far away
The sleigh bells ring
I remember
When we used to sing
Silent night holy night

I keep you inside me
Oh the truth is unspoken
So my heart won’t be broken
On Christmas

They lit the trees
Along the avenue
Twinkling silver with a touch of blue
Silent night holy night

Don’t Forget To Read!

To go with today’s theme, I found a couple of books about Christmas in Japan:

Tree of Cranes by Allen Say
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (light novel) (The Haruhi Suzumiya Series) by Nagaru Tanigawa

Happy Reading and Writing!