Submissions mean rejections, sometimes

The last few weeks, I’ve gotten back into the habit of submitting my work for consideration. For two or three years now, I’ve only submitted a couple of stories or poems a year. Mostly, they sold, and I’m grateful for that, but instead of taking that forward momentum and going with it, I retreated back into the day-to-day stress of trying to make a living. Neglecting what I love for what I need to survive.

But what kind of life is that? All along, I’ve wanted to keep working. It took a long time to convince myself that I’m in a secure enough place in my life that I can write, some, and submit, some. Get out there. Take a chance. So, I’ve been putting effort into that. I’ve been going through old work, looking at it critically, and revising it. (I take real joy in seeing that I’ve improved as a writer from where I was two years ago – and I was pretty good then.) I’ve even been submitting it to places that scare me. Big markets, pro rate markets, markets with tiny acceptance rates.

And I’ve already gotten some rejections, because that’s what happens when you share your stories. Not everyone wants to buy them. Even when they like the writing, it’s not always marketable, or it’s not the right fit for them at this time. When you aren’t writing something already bought (like a novel your publisher’s already contracted you for), you are guessing when you send your work into the world. There’s no guarantees you’ll succeed. The more you send out, the more rejections you garner, and that adds up. If you let it, it eats away at you.

It doesn’t bother me anymore, for a couple of reasons. One, I know that I’m a good writer and also a marketable one: I have a higher acceptance rate than I do rejections. Most authors can’t say that. Two, I know it’s the cost of participating in the process. All writers get rejected at some point. Often, you get rejected dozens or hundreds of times.

Third, and most important: I don’t want to sell a bad story to a bad market. That doesn’t help me. My goal isn’t quantity, it’s quality. I would rather publish two or three pieces a year, in solid, respectable markets, and eventually garner a reputation for quality, memorable writing, than be that writer who’s got 100 or a 1000 sales to low-paying or reprint markets, churning out forgettable work so similar as to be meaningless. For me, the path I’m on as a writer means being receptive when editors tell me this piece or that one needs work, or isn’t right for their market. I listen when an editor tells me to try somewhere else. I listen when an editor or my readers tell me that this line or that section doesn’t work within a story, even if I loved it. I’ll read slush for Lakeside Circus and I’ll read great authors and I’ll read everything that interests me, because I learn from it all.

I can convince myself to put my ego aside and create the best possible fiction because I know how amazing it feels to get an acceptance for a story or poem I’m truly proud of, and that’s the feeling I want more of. So I’ll take that rejection, and those notes, and that revision (or three) and I’ll get better. And try again.

College is expensive, but you can help (Plus, Free Fiction!)

Late start classes began yesterday; I’m taking a 10 week Sociology class that just began, so this also means that my final installment payment for my Spring semester tuition/fees is due. For spring, I still owe $718.00. I’m also taking one class over the summer, to hurry my education along, and the cost for that will be another $600. Together, that’s $1318.00 still due on top of what I’ve already paid, plus what I pay to take care of rent and food and that child I’m so fond of. I’m doing well, financially, compared to the last couple of years: I’m working every freelance job that comes my way, I’m carefully watching my spending, and for the most part, we’re okay each month… which hadn’t been true for a while. It’s the cost of college that’s above and beyond what I can manage on my own.

If you’d like to help, you can do so by:

Contributing directly with a one-time donation through my PayPal account.

Subscribing to my Patreon (where you’ll get sneak peeks at my writing work in progress, and other treats each month)

Hiring me to edit your project, or taking my upcoming flash fiction workshop

I even have an Amazon page, if you’ve got some extra Amazon credit and want to help out with household supplies.

So far, I’m doing well in my classes. I’ve got a 4.0 GPA, going into midterms, and I’m hoping that with enough hard work, I can carry that through the semester. I’m applying for scholarships for the fall, and I’m learning a lot. I know it will help me find a profitable and stable dayjob when this is all over, so I can stop worrying so much about money, and start spending more energy writing.

Speaking of writing, if you haven’t already, please check out this sorted list of where to start with my writing. Everything with a link – which is nearly every story and poem – is free to read online. Plus, you can get the digital editions of my short collection, Women and Other Constructs, for FREE. Download a bundle of all 3 ebook formats, here, or individually: ePubMobi, or PDF. If you don’t have it, please take it, read it, or give it to a friend. Posting so much for free online is my way of saying thank you, for your continued support.

Using Scrivener for NonFiction (with links)

I got Scrivener as a birthday present last year, and up until this week I’d been using it to work on a couple of novels. The workflow suits my note-taking style: I jot things down wherever I can, whenever I’m thinking of it, and then have to assemble the pieces when I have a bigger chunk of time to do so. As I’ve gotten used to Scrivener, gotten into the habit of collecting my various bits of writing this way, I’ve expanded how I use it. First, I started putting together a new short story collection (though I’m still writing the stories in a separate text document and copying them over). Today, I started porting my notes over from a nonfiction project I’ve been kinda sorta working on the the last two years.

I mean that in the sense that I maybe worked on it a few days a month, but enough that over time I’ve got a good idea in my head of the book’s structure, contents, and style. I know this book. I know the point of it. I know how to write it. All that’s left is the research to back up what I’m saying. Well, and a lot of writing things down.

It turns out, there’s less of that to do than I thought. Once I got everything imported into Scrivener, I discovered my disparate notes actually make up a solid framework. If I can find the time to devote to more research, I think I can have a complete draft done in a few months.

What’s great about writing nonfiction in Scrivener? In addition to the ease of simply writing out of order, as you think of whatever you’re writing that day, I like:

  • Using the split screen, or a QuickReference panel, to keep a separate file open to compile a glossary as I write.
  • References! Citations! Keeping track of every title I used for research! It’s a bit complex to set up, but this is a great explanation.

I also found some links that might help you if you’re writing any flavor of nonfiction with Scrivener:

Want More Diverse Voices in Writing? Please Support the Lao Writers Summit 2016

One way to encourage a greater range of diversity in the writers we have access to is to support spaces where they can go to develop their skills. My friend Bryan Thao Worra is one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Lao Writers Summit, taking place May 27 and 28 in San Diego, CA. Bryan is a poet and genre author, as well as a leader in his community, constantly working to promote Lao American writers, genre fiction, and speculative poetry.

The focus of this year’s summit is:

finding an answer to the question of how do Lao Americans use writing to push art, creative works, and policy/grants using ingrained themes of Lao / Lao American Diaspora history to create visibility of community issues while crafting work that will be coined as Lao American for future years to come. Lao Americans are creating spaces for themselves to explore the possibilities through presentations, panels, and participatory workshops lead by emerging and established Lao American artists.

To do that, Sahtu Press is crowdfunding part of the expense, along with the Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, a Minneapolis-based non-profit refugee resettlement organization established since 1982.

Since 2010, LAWS has recognized and brought together over 250 writers of all genres including poets, playwrights, filmmakers, teachers and policymakers.

As of today, they’re 33% of the way toward their goal. Please take a moment to visit their fundraising page and contribute.

Thank you.

First reviews of my latest story, “That Lucky Old Sun”

In January, Apex Magazine published my short story, “That Lucky Old Sun”, to my great delight. You can read it online for free, here. (You can also buy the whole issue for Kindle here.) If you haven’t read it yet, be warned that there are minor spoilers below.

I was nervous before “That Lucky Old Sun” came out; it’s the longest short story I’ve published to date, and it plays with an old SF trope in a way that readers might either love, or hate, or not notice at all. You can never tell until a story ends up in the world and out of your hands. I was more nervous because this story is important to me. They all are, of course, though some of what I write is fun, some is dark, some is about projecting the future – I’m usually pushing at the edges of what I can do in a story, but the boundaries I’m pushing aren’t always the same.

In classic, golden age SF, we have these grand stories about building rockets, escaping doomed worlds, blasting off into space with limitless potential in front of us. I could write that again a hundred times, and who would question it? We know that tale. We’ve all read it. With this story, I wanted to talk about the people who get left behind. Not the rocket scientists or astronauts or the child looking out the porthole at a dwindling blue marble that used to be his home. Just regular, everyday people. Families. Neighbors. Small town folks, faced with things much bigger than themselves.

I am so happy with how it’s been received.

Amelia Crowly said:

This really gave me chills.
I love the way it *seems* to set the scene at once, only to become darker and more intriguing as the story progressed.

On Twitter, @robertired said:

It’s amazing. Subverting old school sci-fi is something that should be done more. Congratulations.

@ScottMBeggs said:

Beautiful short story from (via ). Uses the familiar to deliver the unexpected.

@MariaHaskins called it:

Wonderful, creeping-up-on-you #scifi

And @LaurenLykke said:

Just read and LOVED your story in !! Got me all teary-eyed!

Over at Tangent Online, Kevin P. Halett said:

Carrie’s “end of the world” science fiction story is time and world ambiguous, telling this often-told story from a new perspective. The protagonist is a small girl, innocuously spending what could be her last day with her loving mother, who knows what’s coming. The author touchingly portrays the mother’s loving patience and the girl’s innocence in this easy to read tale.

Telling the story from the little girl’s perspective made it darker and more compelling. I found the writing engaging from the very beginning and it continued to hold me even though I could guess where it might end; a pleasing new variation on an old theme.

Lastly, and with the most spoilers… At Quick Sip Reviews, Charles Payseur said:

………….okay then. Yeah, this story is a bit dark, a bit…well, a bit very dark, about a child, Melanie, and her mother as they sort-of wait for the end of the world. The setting is vaguely futuristic and also rather dystopian, a place where people are judged based on their skin but not exactly the way that they are now. Here it’s not exactly race it seems but something in the blood that changes the skin’s color and might do other things to it. Whatever the case, it means that there are vast systems in place to try and “contain” it, mostly by reporting on neighbors and living in a police state and it’s an all around not-good scene. And yet the “problem” persists and so the government decided to just bomb everything. Bomb it all and then return to reclaim the wiped slate. And that the story follows a mother and her daughter on this day is bleak as fuck, but also I rather enjoyed it. There is something to be said about this, that this is where fascism leads, that this is where intolerance and bigotry lead. That there are “understanding” people who are just part of the problem and that everything is built on hate without reason, hate because that’s all it is, and in the end it tears everything apart, tears families apart and lets the central lie of the story fester and burn like the fires of the bombs being dropped. Because a large part of the story is the absence of the father, who is “pure” and who has the chance to survive. It’s a wrenching story and a sad one, very much worth reading but maybe prepare some cat videos for the aftermath. Indeed.

A Month of Letters

2016-badge

I’ve signed up to do A Month of Letters, beginning today. This is a simple and straightforward challenge to correspond more with other members of our community. Send one thing through the mail each day, excepting Sundays, and reply to anyone who writes to you. That’s it. As an introvert with a busy schedule and a lot of stress, I don’t reach out nearly as often as I want to. I think about it, and then something else bustles into view and I have to focus on that instead. By setting a specific start and end date, I can more comfortably devote the time and energy, like when I sent holiday cards in December.

More than that – for me it’s a tiny way to connect in a tangible way to people I mostly interact with online. As Mary Robinette Kowal said in this year’s introduction post:

It’s really not about getting letters, it’s about reaching out.

I mailed 28 holiday cards this last year, mainly to people I hadn’t spent time with in person, and heard back from folks who were truly touched. I know what it’s like to only get bills in the mail, and I’m looking forward to being able to offer a little friendliness in the mailbox instead.

Want to join me? You can add me as a friend, here: http://lettermo.com/members/carriecuinn/

A little help, please.

I was certain I could finish out 2015 without having to ask for any more help from anyone, but I’ve been hit with a large and unexpected expense:

IMG_2ddu5r

$671 my financial aid isn’t covering – due in two weeks.

I’ll be honest – I am so tired of this. I feel like I need a vacation from email/work/everything is overdue, bills I can’t pay, the constant stress of poverty. (I don’t need to leave home tho. I like my home. I like my people, very much.) Just no matter what I do, there’s something else looming over me, and I can’t afford to let anything drop.

It’s not even the demands. It’s the roller coaster. It’s feeling buried under it all, then seeing the light, fighting to get out of it, feeling like I’m making headway: deadlines met, problems solved, bill paid, I can do this! Barely scraping by, but doing it. Then, I wake up in the morning to find another pile of stuff dropped on me out of the blue. More bills. More stress. More despair. I’m never really escaping. I suddenly feel that all my success was a trick.

Start over, try again. It’s all I can do.

If you can throw a few dollars my way, thank you.

https://www.paypal.me/CarrieCuinn

Who wants a holiday card?

This is the first year since I moved to NY that I’ve felt on top of my to do list enough to try sending out a bunch of holiday* cards. I’ve been reaching out to people I know well, and I realized that this is an opportunity not just to celebrate the friendships I have, but to expand the friendships I’m starting to build. So… who wants a holiday card?

If you would like to receive mail from me, please click on the link below and fill out the form. Your answers will not be visible to anyone else.

Sign me up!

Thank you for enlarging my world.

* Whatever this means to you. Choose from a variety of holidays, non-denominational writing inspiration, recipes, or simply an acknowledgement that winter hasn’t killed you yet. Because that’s worth celebrating too!

The thing I never talk about: Thanksgiving, and eating disorders

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and for a lot of people, it’s a day of stress, struggle, fear, and self-hate that has nothing to do with our relatives. For people struggling with an eating disorder, the holidays – from now through Christmas – is the hardest part of the year.

You’re not alone.

I have had an eating disorder for more than twenty years. I don’t know exactly when it started, when I went from uninformed choices to bad habits to an actual disorder, but I realized I was doing unhealthy things, sometimes things I couldn’t control, when I was around 20 years old.

I’ve been thinking about this blog post for months. A couple of years ago, I decided to seek help for abnormal and unhealthy eating habits. I’ve had issues with food, beginning with not having learned what healthy eating was in the first place, all of my life. When did recovery start? When I wanted to change? When I got help? When I started making changes? I’m not certain I know.

I do know that I’m not recovered yet. Maybe, like alcoholics and other addicts, I will never be “cured”, only managed. As long as I’m healthy, that would be okay with me.

I am getting there, though. Gaining weight this year is actually, oddly, proof that I’m recovering. I’ve stopped doing all the things I did to lose weight, most importantly I’ve stopped thinking that not eating is the best way to lose weight. Most people think of extreme calorie restriction and anorexia as something you can easily identify: those girls who weigh 80 pounds and hide food in dresser drawers so their parents won’t know. That’s a face of it, certainly, but in adults it’s often unnoticed. We don’t have to hide food because no one is monitoring us. We can simply not eat.

Restricting is about control. Mix it with binge eating, which is usually about satisfaction, literally filling an emotional void with food, and you get what most people will write off as yo-yo dieting. It must be that I was trying to healthy (when I lost weight) and then stopped trying (when I gained it. Even thin, I wasn’t being good to myself. I’m healthier now, at my highest weight ever, than I was during the rest of my adult life.

I can say all of this now because I’m over the harder part. I’ve learnt to stop restricting, stop binging, stop weighing myself constantly, stop hating myself, stop hiding all of it. It took years. It took help, and support from someone who loves me no matter what.

The next step for me is taking the hearty, healthy food I eat now, and find the portion sizes that are right for my body. I overeat now, not too much, but enough that if I carried on the way I am, I wouldn’t lose much fat. As I get older, I worry about my knees, my heart – I worry that my fat is keeping me from activities I want to do, and of course I know it makes other people judge me. I want a career that isn’t marred by employers who equate overweight with lazy or unmotivated.

I’m ready to try but I’m nervous, too. Restricting my food at all makes me tempted to restrict it a lot more. It’s tempting to “just lose the weight fast, then worry about keeping it off”. It’s tempting to ditch the rich, flavorful meals we eat now for diet foods which don’t have calories, or nutrients, or the feeling of satisfaction that tells your brain it’s actually full. Or skip meals entirely. Make a game of it, a challenge, see how long you can go without eating, how little food you can eat, how fast you can force down the dial of the scale… Count every calorie, every step, every time you thought about food. And after a week of that, after dropping several pounds, isn’t it nice to “take the night off” and eat pizza, soda, snacks, anything and everything you’ve been craving? You can go back on the diet again tomorrow…

I’d rather be overweight than go back to that life.

I’ve told myself that a million times but for once, I know that I mean it.

Tomorrow, we’re cooking a big Thanksgiving dinner. It’s just the three of us, like it had been the last couple of years, and we’re making only the things we love best. I can’t promise that I won’t question my choices or feel regret that I indulged. I can promise that I’m going to focus on eating what I think I’ll actually enjoy, in a healthy portion, without restricting or binging. I’ll get some exercise. I’ll take it one day, one meal at a time.