Tag Archives: writing

Back to Blogging

One of the authors on a writing web site I follow noted that she doesn’t believe in writer’s block. She says, we block because we don’t know what we want to say next.

Come the end of November, it will be two years since we killed Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine, a monthly publication we produced for a decade.  When we ended the magazine, we were at the peak of our readership, reaching nearly 40,000 readers monthly with 18,000 print copies circulated around central West Virginia. We never could print enough copies.

Of course, I had a monthly column in the magazine, a continuing conversation I had with readers for ten years.

And when the magazine ended, I lost that audience and lost that conversation. For two years following, I did not know what to say. Who would I be talking to?

Perhaps I was reluctant to admit we failed the magazine. We could not rustle up enough advertising revenue to keep it alive. Perhaps I didn’t want to admit that I felt trapped by the business–its monthly deadlines, the routine of it, the box I had put around myself as a writer and career woman. I knew, for the last two years of the publication, that the magazine I had once dreamed of creating was something I didn’t want any more. The simple country Iife I had toted and promoted for ten years was feeling restrictive, limiting, and too much of a struggle.

I had hoped to create a publication that readers would love, and we did. That was the fun part. Keeping it financially viable with advertising income in an economically depressed region was a huge pain in the ass. That was no fun at all.

I did not realize until we discontinued the magazine, how much of a burden it was on us. Nor did I realize, until the deed was done, how much I would miss our readers. How much, as a writer, I needed that audience. I needed that conversation. (One-sided as it was.)

I was recently interviewed by an artist working on a project that she waited 30 years to start. We talked about how Two-Lane Livin’ started (an idea in a bubble bath) and how it ended (with phone calls to this day from readers who miss it).  We talked about my graduate school writing experiences, and then she asked me, “What do you want to do with your writing now?”

And the question that’s been percolating in the back of my mind for two years finally answered: I’d like to have an audience again. Not facebook followers, not sporadic literary journals, not a book (although that’s coming). I don’t want to deal with writing as a business right now, I don’t want to scour submission guidelines, subject my work to an editor, consider marketing tactics, web site SEO, cover photos, paper stock, sales tax.

I just want to write and be read. I want to start that conversation again, between me and the world out there, whoever cares to participate. For a writer, what other goal is there but to write – and to be read?

I have been blogging off and on, for 16 years. The archives on this site alone go back to 2006. Sixteen years. Good lord. That goes back to before I was a newspaper reporter, before I was a columnist, before I was a magazine publisher, graduate student, college professor, librarian. Who knows what is in those archives? I don’t. Who knows what new will be added? What’s this blog about? I don’t know that yet either. The photos I’ve put in the page give a review of some of the main points of my recent life — porch sitting, caregiving, library life, creative play, pictures of Daisy, our beagle. This is my space for expression — I cannot predict what is to come.

Blogs, they say, should have a niche. They should use photos, SEO, keywords, hashtags, make regular entries, include external links — there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.  I may or may not adhere to those guidelines.  I’m an Amazon Affiliate and have a Google Adsense account, so I might put those in play at some point, but the point here is to put the words out there, and hope folks read it.

Blogs should allow commenting…  Yeah, that’s not going to happen. I’m not going to moderate comments or take crappy criticism from strangers. (I’ll post links to these entries on my facebook page and profile. You can comment there if you’d like.)

Since it already has nearly 400 subscribers, I’m also reviving my email newsletter. It was originally intended to be monthly, but I think seasonal/sporadic is a more realistic description.  Highlights folks might have missed. Favorite entries, work published elsewhere. You can sign up in the form in the right-hand column–I’m preparing the fall issue to send out some time next week. You can also sign up here.

So, here we go again–writing via the blogosphere. I hope you’ll join the conversation (one-sided as it may be).

Mountain Ink 2016 Submission Period Now Closed

Our submission period for the inaugural issue of Mountain Ink is now closed. Thank-you so much for your submissions! We received over 75 works from current West Virginia residents, from ages 14 to 95.

Over the next month or so, our editors will read he submissions in their assigned genre, and select their favorites. We expect to announce our first place awards and notify those chosen to be included in the print edition. Look for the inaugural issue of Mountain Ink to be available for purchase early summer!

Dear Pen Pal – I’m “On Break”

Dear Pen Pal,

I turned in my final portfolio for this semester yesterday – I’m sure you remember what that was like.  I sent if off around noon, and spent the rest of the day wondering What do I do with myself now?

Of course, the answers are obvious – everything I didn’t do while I was doing my homework.

So, yesterday afternoon I cleaned off the porches, and cleaned up the herb and flower beds. I’d like to mow one more time, but it’s not really necessary.

If you recall, I was freezing whole tomatoes from the garden as the season passed to process later – and later has come. They are thawing on the counter and I have jars in the sink water, the squeezo set up on the counter.

I also straightened the pantry, taking inventory of jars there. Looks like I’ll be making spaghetti sauce and/or chili sauce. There’s plenty of soup, salsa, sloppy joe sauce, juice, V8, pizza sauce.

I have an abundance of strawberry and watermelon preserves, rosemary and chocolate mint jellies. I keep thinking one winter I’ll teach myself to make tarts. If I don’t find some use for them, I’ll have them until the lids start rusting.

I’ve also gotten in my mind to sew me a new book bag for my next residency in January. The one you saw was measured to carry my lap top, which I did not carry so much after all. I’ve also realized there is a need for a pocket just to hold scarf, gloves, hat, etc when the temperatures drop to 4 below. Hopefully it will not be quite so cold again this year.

Canning, cleaning, sewing. All things that allow your mind to wander. I would be happy to not pick up a book at all for the next few weeks. I’ve heard again and again that writers should write every day. I try to be creative every day, but it may not always be through writing.

Of course, writing and publishing work still continues. We’re working on the December issue, our 100th issue and the Christmas issue. Magazine layout is like a big puzzle, and there are more pieces in the Christmas issue puzzle than normal. Also, more pieces and parts come in at the last minute, so there’s more pressure.

Planning work continues for the writing and creativity workshops we’re planning to launch next year. I hope to have a minimum of two next year, expanding to perhaps four different themes a year, depending on the response. I think I told you I have a poet friend working with me now – I value her input.

The garden may be finished, but our shiitake logs are producing well right now. They are so yummy when sauteed in sunflower oil and butter. We had intentions of selling the mushrooms, but like so many of the things we’ve learned to grow and produce, they’re so good we’re reluctant to part with any.

My teaching continues, as does yours I am sure. I cannot imagine carrying the load you currently are and I would not dare complain about mine knowing you are carrying three times as much. Won’t be long before Thanksgiving break, then finals.

I have not received a letter from you recently, but do hope to hear from you soon. I enjoy finding them in the mailbox, love the fact we’re keeping a lost tradition, letter writing, alive. Don’t worry, these online messages will never replace my snail-mail letters.

I was just thinking of you today, knowing you would understand this done with the semester burst of energy.

But now I’m off to deal with those thawed tomatoes, and to thread the needle on the sewing machine. And the sun has come out. I may mow the yard after all.

Real Writing Jobs! Click Here!

Mountain Ink Call for Submissions

Mountain Ink

Stumptown Publishing, LLC currently seeks poems, stories and essays for Mountain Ink, a new print literary journal featuring West Virginia Writers. Submissions will be evaluated for literary quality, cultural and universal significance and emotional power.

The current submission period runs through March 1, 2016. A $50 first place reward will be given for each genre—poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. All authors published will receive payment in copies.

This call is open to current West Virginia residents with a submission fee of $5 per piece. Submissions should be mailed with a brief cover letter that includes a short biography and author’s current West Virginia address. Author’s name should NOT appear anywhere on the submission itself. Identify genre in top right corner.

Poems should be no longer than 30 lines; fiction & essays should be double spaced, no more than 2,000 words.

2016 EDITORS

The Creative Nonfiction editor is Dr. Marjorie Stewart, Assistant Professor of English at Glenville State College. Dr. Stewart got her Doctorate of Composition and TESOL at Indiana University of Pennsylvania; M.F.A. in English/Fiction Writing at University of Pittsburgh; B.A. in English from Duquesne University. She received the The Ninacs Innovative Researcher in Composition Award and is a reader for Creative Nonfiction Magazine.

The Fiction editor is West Virginia author and musician Mack Samples. Mack currently has eight books on the market including Dust on the Fiddle, 23 Shots, Hippies & Holiness and Sasebo. His first novel, Doodle Bug Doodle Bug Your House is on Fire, was just republished by Quarrier Press. Mack is active in traditional music with the Samples Brothers Band.

Poetry editor is writer and musician Virginia Rachel. Virginia received her MFA in Creative Writing from West Virginia Wesleyan and is currently an adjunct writing and English professor in several southern WV colleges. Virginia is a recipient of the Blanche Davis Sampson Prize for Poetry and the International Library of Poetry Editor’s Choice Award and is a member of WV Writers and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. She is the author of And The Trees Hug Each Other, a poetry anthology.

Mail submissions and make fee payments to:
Stumptown Publishing * 2287 Rosedale Rd * Stumptown WV 25267
For more information email info@twolanelivin.com.

Taking Control of Social Media

control

I want to be done with facebook. It’s a necessary evil in this secluded writer’s world, but my addiction has too long affected my life. I’ve considered deleting my account, but I refuse to give up that link to far away family and friends. I need facebook. But I need to keep this evil in check.

I’ve spent over seven years at my work desk in the corner of our upstairs room. Seven years designing, developing, promoting and maintaining our magazine. Yes, in summer the garden pulled me away for an hour or two here and there, but the computer was always on. Always on. And facebook was just a click away.

I can tell you: I’m sick of sitting at that desk.

So, I began turning the work computer off. Off for the evenings. Off for the weekends. And it was a good thing.

But I had my tablet. My beloved Toshiba Thrive, where I can sign out free ebooks from the library without leaving the house, where I can check the weather and play Words with Friends. And…. Access facebook.

And then the opportunity came for me to start my Master’s, and I got a laptop, and we set up a writing desk for me in a different corner.

And I was at a desk again all day.

But there is no phone at this desk, no invoices or calculators or tax papers or receipts. There are no phone messages, no client contact information scribbled on post it notes. Only my school books, by hot tea coaster, printer, lap top and writing pads.

But there’s facebook.

I cannot count the heated discussions Frank and I have had about facebook. What to post, what not to post; what they track, what information they collect; who they give the information to and how they manipulate it. And time. We’ve had many, many arguments about time spent and times chosen to spend it.

But I’m a writer, and for some reason, I had this concept that posting on facebook was “micro-blogging.” Posting on facebook was writing. And yet most of my posts are shares… With few of my words ever added.

There was a time, most of my life actually, when poems formed in my head out of the blue. I’d be mowing the yard, washing dishes, ruminating on some topic or cause, and a poem would come of it. Not necessarily good poems, but fun poems, cute poems, poems like trinket gifts from below my surface.

Now, I think up facebook posts.

It’s a travesty. It’s a path I must turn away from.

So, day before yesterday, I added Nanny for Chrome to my browser. It’s an extension that allows you to limit your time on facebook to so many minutes a day, AND allows you to set time frames when you cannot access it at all. I’ve allowed myself no more than 60 minutes a day, and no access at all from 10 am to 5 pm.

Yesterday, I painted the bathroom door, ran the sweeper, and wrote a long piece about survival not being enough and washed dishes. I read a book. But more than once, I found myself sitting at my laptop “just to check in.” Everyone on facebook knows: checking in can suck away at least 30 minutes, right off the bat. But with my access blocked, I was back on my other tasks.

I can’t give up social media entirely. Writers these days are expected to have facebook and twitter and pinterest accounts. I do. My twitter posts are automated, fed from facebook and this blog. My pinterest account may have been deleted for inactivity, I don’t know. And this blog is automatically fed to two facebook pages. But I haven’t made any entries here since September last year.

But I know, I can reach my facebook friends from here. I know, when I hit “publish” that the magical add ons and code of the social media world will post this to facebook for me. And if facebook gives these posts algorithmal blessings, my facebook followers (at least the usual 25 of them) will see me, hear from me, still. Maybe. We shall see.

This is my facebook post for today. An entire essay, not just a half-wit sentence or two.

I think for both readers and writer, this is the better deal.