What I’m Writing: October 2015

I spent most of September sick and sleeping. The couple of months before had been so hectic, with such big life changes – leaving my day job, going back to college, DragonCon. When I came home from D*C exhausted, then realized I had a cold, and then watched it develop into bronchitis, I had to put aside everything but the bare minimum for survival. I spent a couple of weeks on my couch. I’m just now starting to feel better, though I’m certainly not caught up yet. (I shudder to think what my multiple inboxes look like.)

The one thing I was able to do consistently in September wasn’t sleeping, or working. It was thinking. I thought about me. I thought about writing. I have a million reasons for why I don’t write as often as I want to but they basically boil down to feeling selfish when I write. That time could be spent trying to earn money for my family. (Yes, writing pays, but my fiction takes six months to a year, or more, to see a return, and freelancing money helps with the bills I have now.) That time could be used washing dishes, folding laundry, cooking dinner, helping my son with his homework, doing my own homework, filling out forms, buying groceries… Writing time is stolen time, and I never quite believe I deserve to take it.

But writing is glorious, isn’t it? It’s a joy and a challenge. I feel a little empty, sometimes, when I’m not writing. I’m not wasting every day but I’m wasting a part of it, nearly every day that I don’t write, because I’m keeping myself from setting these stories loose. All I’m really doing is making myself sadder and isolating myself from the parts of me I like best. So… Fine. Okay. You win, little words. Fly.

Be free.

I am going to write now. I’m going to tell you about it. And if you catch me not writing for long periods of time again, you get to call me on it. Deal?

My current writing in progress:

FOOTSTEPS – the working title of my new novel. Status: Fully outlined. Researched. World built. Ready to write. 3000 words so far. Needs 97,000 more on the first draft. (2015)

The cookbook – a companion to the novel. Yes, it’s an actual cookbook. I’m not sure anyone will see it, but it’s where I’m collecting the recipes that I’m writing for the novel, info on foods, growing advice, etc.

“Last Bus” – short story. 1400 words. Written, needs to be revised/expanded. (2015)

“Lucky Old Sun” – short story. 3500 words. Written, needs to be revised. (2014)

“Space Squid” – short story. Okay, that’s not really the title, but it’s not finished yet. 800 words, needs first draft finished. (2014)

“Bug Jar” – short story, 1100 words, needs first draft finished. (2012)

“Dream of Houses” – short story, 650 words, needs first draft finished. (2011)

“Swamp Music” – short story, 800 words, needs first draft finished. (2011)

Some of those start dates are from years ago! (Yes, I know I’ve written, sold, and published other work since, but we’re talking about the unfinished stuff today.) I’ve got more, notes and ideas and stories started but stopped and then maybe reconsidered, once in a while, but these are the ones I’m most confident about being able to finish, if I put my mind to it.

I just need to convince myself that it’s okay to be selfish, a little bit, just for this. I can write and still find a way to pay my bills. (You can help with that, if you’d like.) If I can believe that I can write without ruining everything else I’m trying to accomplish, at least not the most important parts, then I can allow myself the time I need. Not much time. An hour a day, maybe? That’s more than I’ve let myself have in a long time.

Hello, October. Let’s see how well I do.

What’s so hard about my life, anyway?

It’s a fair question. Many people talk about how they would love a life where they spend most of their time at home with their child. Writers often talk about how they’d love to not have a day job, to spend hours a day with nothing to do but write. So what could I – a mom, a freelancer, a college student, without a day job – have to complain about?

The fantasy of staying home only works when you have support. You need a way to pay the bills, a way to get a break from the childcare (if that’s part of your life), a group of people to share and interact with. What if you didn’t have that?

I live with my son in a small college town, on the opposite coast from where I grew up. I have one person in this town. He’s a wonderful person, he’s everything that I could want him to be, but he’s the only one I’ve got to lean on. I have no friends close by. I have no family. My mother lives in California, and not only is she raising my nephew, she was in an accident a few years ago that left her with multiple pins and plates in her leg. After pt and more surgeries, she’s starting to be able to walk again, but hasn’t yet been able to fly out to visit.

My son’s father’s family isn’t in his life. His father decided that he didn’t want a child with a disability, that having to visit on time or pay child support were too much trouble, and so he disappeared about five years ago. His parents, my son’s paternal grandparents, have other grandchildren they’d rather spend their time on. Grandkids that talk.

My son doesn’t, much. He has Childhood Apraxia of Speech, also known as Verbal Dyspraxia. It’s a bit like dyslexia for words. He understands a lot of what you say to him; he’s smart enough that even without language, he can operate computers, phones, video games. He’s pretty certain he knows how to drive a car. (No, I don’t let him.) He’s in the right math class for his grade. He can get by, with help, in mainstream class, with typical kids. But he’s got what we call “a Doctor Suess vocabulary”. He can regularly get out about as many words as a typical toddler. But he’s almost a teenager, with all the thoughts and interests of any 12 year old. Worse, he’s known since he was a little child that he has a speech disorder. He has so much he wants to say, but he can’t get it out.

Imagine how frustrating that would be.

When he has a bad day, I’m who he has. When his school isn’t giving him what he needs, I’m his advocate. When he’s sick, I’m who stays home with him. When he can’t be in school, I can’t be at work. When he’s angry at himself, which is every day, I’m there to help him calm down, take a breath, find the words he’s struggling to get out. I replace his shirts when he’s chewed through them – a bad habit he can’t seem to break, since it’s how he deals with the constant pressure of facial muscles that won’t do exactly what he needs them to do. I try to figure out how to teach him all of the little things you usually pick up from conversations he’s not yet capable to having.

He doesn’t spend the night at a friend’s house. He doesn’t go to grandma’s for the weekend. If I go to a convention, I have to hire a babysitter. (When I went to DragonCon, I had to hire three, so there would be enough coverage for the whole weekend.) I run errands when he’s at school, or in the middle of the night when he’s sleeping. I worry, all the time, about what his life will be when he’s 16, 18, 20, 30…

To have a real dayjob, I need to be able to hire someone to be with my son when I can’t. The kind of jobs I’ve been able to get so far don’t pay enough for that. Going to college for a degree in business – a field with much greater job opportunities – is my chance to be employed with a salary that will pay for the help I need to make certain my son has his best chance at life. My best chance at life, too.

I have this dream that one day, I’ll have a day job that pays the bills. I’ll be able to stop spending all of my “free time” chasing clients, and instead I’ll be able to write as much as I want, instead of stealing hours from sleep and studying. I’ll be able to go on a date with my person, instead of spending every night at home with my son. (We love him! But leaving the house sounds really nice, too.) I will be able to take my son to the waterpark he asked to go to all summer, or buy him new clothes each time he gets taller.

I’ll have a life that isn’t juggling expenses to figure out which I can pay and which I can ignore, paying my rent three weeks late (like I did this month), and being afraid, all the time, that something will happen I can’t fix.

To get there, I need to get through this semester. To do that, I need your help. I don’t have family to turn to you. I just have all of you.

You can access my GoFundMe page here.

If you can, please consider helping me go back to college.

You can access my GoFundMe page here.

Hi, I’m Carrie Cuinn. I’m an author, editor, mom of a child with special needs, and now, a college student. Three months ago, I was laid off from a good job, probably the best job I’d ever had. After looking at my history of struggling to find work while supporting my son, I decided to go back to college.


I’d previously started just after my son was born, and juggled that while working and raising him. I graduated from Sacramento City, a community college, and was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania. (Not bad for a girl with ADHD who tested out of high school early, rather than risk not graduating at all.) I moved us out to the East Coast and went to university, all while working and caring for my child. Unfortunately, UPenn is an expensive school, and I burned through all my available student loans keeping us afloat. Just before my last semester, I ran out. I didn’t get to finish my Bachelors degree, and have been trying to make ends meet without it ever since.

I still have that student loan debt, though.

Being laid off this summer gave me an opportunity, in a way: I decided to go back to school, this time for Business (not my passion, but a much more marketable skill set).

School itself is paid for; I got two grants, so I’m covered for this year and potentially the next year. With my transfer credits, that will get me to a Bachelors degree in Business Administration with a focus on Public Administration, from a local state school. It covered classes so perfectly that I didn’t get anything back for living expenses. I can apply for scholarships for the spring and will, but that won’t help until January or February 2016. I’ll get a decent tax refund, since I didn’t make much, but again, February or so. That leaves me with living expenses for this month, and at least three more. I do have some income that I can count on, but realistically, I’m short about $800 a month, every month,

I don’t need much. I just need to pay my rent and heat, my $50 a month cellphone, internet, and food. I’ve gotten rid of every other expense, and worked out a deal with someone for the in-state convention I’ll be attending in November (my part of which I’d already paid for when I had a day job still). I can live without clothes or anything for myself for the rest of this year. But, I have to make certain I can keep my son fed and sheltered, because if I can’t do that while I’m in school, I’ll have to drop out of college again.

I appreciate any help you can give.

Open Thread: What YA do you love, and why?

For reasons, I am looking into YA novels in a new way. Reading them, reading essays about them, looking at trends and favorites and how YA is marketed. Everything, really.

Here’s your chance to tell me (and everyone viewing this) what to read. In the comments below, please tell me your favorite novels, authors, or essays about the craft. There’s only one rule! You must give me at least a hint as to why. If you simply list off titles, that’s nice, but I won’t know what those titles mean to you. I won’t know why I should give them a try. So, if you have work you want to share, please take an extra moment to explain a bit about how it appeals to you.

Thank you.


New site: visit me at Cuinn Edits (http://cuinnedits.com)

As of September 2015:

I have created a dedicated space for editing services, advice, writing and editing workshops, and more. You deserve an editor and teacher who will take their work seriously, and give your project the respect it deserves. By separating my editing services into their own site, ad-free and wholly owned by me, I’m creating a professional environment to better support both my work, and my clients.

I will be moving over all of the blog posts about the editing process that I’ve previously shared, as well as posting new samples and advice going forward. I will also be holding my upcoming workshops in my brand-new forum space, hosted by me, rather than a free site that wasn’t well supported. And, if you have “liked” my fan page on Facebook, you will get updates from this site as well as the new one, in one convenient place.

Please visit me at http://cuinnedits.com for all of your editing needs! I look forward to helping you find the story you always meant to write.

Thank you.

PS. You can also find me on Twitter at @CuinnEdits.