Just a couple of writers on a road trip through life. Hop in, hold on, and don’t forget your rain boots.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reset, restart, don't give up... again

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Two days ago, my universe imploded. Thanks to one of my alpha readers, I realized that my manuscript is a complete ripoff. Well, okay, that's a bit dramatic. It's not a complete ripoff. But when I saw the similarities, that's how I felt. Like a fraud and a ripoff artist. This happened completely unconsciously, by the way. I would never intentional steal someone's intellectual property. And this wasn't plagiarism like copying directly from their story. No, it just crept in. There’s this author who I really love, and I consciously am aware of deep admiration and a little bit of style and genre mimicry. I’ve read all of her books, most of them several times. And now I realize my favorite book of hers was so closely incorporated into my own manuscript that it is impossible to ignore the similarities. There are more than one plot similarity, and a similarity of language that I probably picked up from reading so many of this author’s books. 

This is the reason for alpha readers. These people (in my case) are friends and family who volunteered to wade through my manuscript and tell me honestly what they think. And the reader who brought up this major flaw saved my life. Because not only do I not want to pitch a manuscript that is similar to another, I don’t want to plagiarize on intellectual property, even unintentionally. My characters are unique and I love them, and the story itself, despite some of the plot point similarities, is also unique. But I have to fix those details, and I could have walked into a very bad situation, especially if I’d been set on self-publishing. I could have even maybe been open for a law suit, though I don’t think my story is close enough to warrant that. 

Photo courtesy of Icanhascheezeburger.com
I could just say to hell with it and throw away the MS entirely. I could start over. I’m a writer. We do that. I’m not sure if I want to, though. This could have been the first in a potential series that I have already started planning out. This would have been the first book. Am I really done with this story? Can it be salvaged? I think so. But if I weren’t getting honest feedback, I may never have realized this oversight. And that is huge. 

I've read that when you're listening to your first readers, you have to be able to sort through and find the real essence of their critique. Everyone will find something they don't care for, but if more than three readers notice a flaw, it is incumbent upon the writer to fix that portion of the story if they can. Because if three people noticed it, many more probably will, and it is most likely indicative of a weak point in the story. Writers can't be all about the whims of the people, but we're storytellers, and we want the story to be good and make sense and speak to the reader in some way. Maybe even change them. It's a lofty goal but I don't want to reach for it by standing in another author's footprints and following their trail. I want to blaze my own path. So I go back to the drawing board once again, determined to eradicate derivation from my beloved manuscript. A lot of my friends chimed in and encouraged me, and that shored up my determination all the more. I'm actually looking forward to the next revision. Revision is usually my least favorite part of writing. But today, I feel good. Bring it on!

Julie Simmons-Wixom is becoming an expert at falling down and getting back up. COMMENT below on your own experiences, or email her for a more in depth discussion on the ontological necessity of man's existential dilemma. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Murphy's Law

Courtesy of www.cartoonstock.com

We have all heard it before. We've all conveyed its message to others. Really it is like magic, a spell, a superstition if you will. It is called Murphy’s Law. According to Wikipedia, Murphy’s Law is, “is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”’  You've been there, right? You get pulled over and ticketed the day you forgot your wallet at home. You bought a book and someone gives you the same book as a gift the next day. You swear you never get sick and then end up in the ER in isolation for a rare and potentially incurable disease. You run out of clean underwear they day you go to the gym. You wear flip flops the day you go into for your pap smear. Ugh! Those cold strip-ups! Whatever the case maybe, everything goes wrong.

It got me wondering, what is the opposite of Murphy’s Law? Anything that can go right will go right? Hmmm. Is that the whole illusive “power of positive thinking” mumbo-jumbo? They've repackaged it now and it is called The Secret. Some say it is a matter of putting out the right energy into the universe and getting the same kind back. Me? I call it trusting in God. Either way, I think the concept is the same. It is a fabulous counter to Murphy’s Law, but I think we need a different law. Yes! One that states, when you think something bad will happen, you get a surprise twist instead. Maybe it is a writer thing, but I love a good twist. Although, I am sure readers appreciate them too. This law could be called the Gotcha Law. It would be epic! You get pulled over on the day you left your wallet at home, but instead of a ticket, the cop only wants to show you his Gangnam Style Dance and get your input. You bought a book and the next day someone gives you the same one, but your friend accidentally left an embarrassing picture of him in women's stilletos and a clown hat inside the book that you can rib him about for the next ten years. You wear flip flops the day you have your pap smear, but instead the doctor gives you his socks and has to go through the rest of the day barefoot. You get the idea.

I really don’t want the Gotcha Law to be a made up thing. I want to see this happen! Let’s start a movement! Oh yeah! It’s going to be epic!

Stephanie D. Birch likes to start grassroots movements to get people to not take themselves too seriously. She enjoys public displays of humor and would willingly make herself the butt of a joke just to see others laugh. Want to laugh with her? No? Then laugh at her. She doesn't mind. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Planting an Apple Tree

Picture Courtesy of Library of Congress

I’m a nutty girl. I like quotes from famous people. I hang on their wisdom like it is a life raft in the middle of a stormy sea. I started thinking about how much I like quotes yesterday on MLK Day. He said one of my favorite quotes, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

You see, there are all sorts of craziness in the world. I think it speaks to our character that we choose to act in the same manner, even when everything else is falling apart. There is a Zen to this philosophy and it is a Zen I strive for everyday. Stay true to yourself. Don’t give into the fanatical thoughts and action of others, even of the world. In the end, those feelings and thoughts do nothing for us.

So I write for the sake of writing. I write because it is cathartic. I write because it is who I am and what I do. The world might think I am crazy. They might tell me to quit, but I won’t and I can’t. The world tells me that I should be concerned with politics and current events. The world tells me that I should focus on what kind of car I have, what kind of home I live in, what kind of clothes I wear. The world tells me this is important, even though it isn’t. That makes what is REALLY important at war with the world’s ideals. The world is raging and waging war with my ability to plant my apple tree.
Apple Tree Picture Courtesy of
David Luther Thomas

But besides my wars, there are other storms. Everyone goes through their own war every single day. The mother with the special needs child who stands up for their child in public, even though the world says, “just shut up and deal with your hand.”  The person with a chronic disease or illness that refuses to let it knock them down. They push through even though their body begs them not to. The man with a family to feed who lost his job in this lousy economy. He refuses to take no for an answer even though there are no job listings. The person reading as many self help books as they can in an effort to learn to forgive someone who wronged them in such a terrible way. The woman struggling with her weight and despite the fact that the pounds won’t shed, she continues to work out and eat right. The person diagnosed with a mental illness trying to find emotional balance even though their family continues to tell them it is simply “an attitude problem.” I could keep going because there are so many brave people in the world.  These people are my heroes. These people are staying true to their character while striving to be better people. These are their wars and they battle them bravely.

 MLK would be proud. These heroes are planting their apple tree while the world is falling apart, while the world is telling them not to. I would go one further. They are not only planting their apple tree, but they are also fertilizing it and well. And that tree? Well, it’s going to grow into a beautiful tree, dripping with fruit for other people to savor. And you know what? These are the people that will leave us with quotes of wisdom for us, for our children, for our future. These everyday heroes will leave a legacy. It is this part of humanity that I connect with. My heart is tender toward them. I am honored to know them. I believe in them. They are my hope and provide me with an example to live by.

I hope that I can stay the course. I hope I can ignore the cataclysmic events in my life and in the world. I hope I can find my tree, plant it and learn to give it the nutrients it needs as time goes by.

Thank you to all of you who plant their apple trees, even when the world is fighting against you. I want you to know that whether I know you or not, I love you.

Stephanie D. Birch finds inspiration in the battles of the ordinary and not-so-ordinary. Even if it isn't successful by your standards, she begs to you accept that maybe it was all along. Your wars and lives are a beautiful mystery. She is honored to know so many amazing and inspiring people. To contact her, visit www.stephaniedbirch.com or email her at birchwordnerd@ymail.com

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Ant-y Diaries

I don't like to be negative or badmouth-y. I believe in karma. But I am done being Miss Nicely Nicely*. I mean it. I'm coming out. No, not like that-- just out as a hater. I have to get this off my chest. So here it is. Ants are jerks. Little tiny six-legged jackwagon-y poop-faced fiends. I know it sounds harsh, but it's true. Anyone who says different has been brainwashed. Probably by the government. 

Photo courtesy of cozypad.com
They think they can just come on in whenever they want and make themselves comfy. Who even knows what they're doing?  They march in these crazy lines and run into each other and I stared at them for like a half an hour and you know what? I didn't see them carrying a freaking thing. Supposedly they are so super strong that they could get together and lift up a whole house if they wanted to, with their tiny disgusting ant arms, but they just go back and forth and even with my 300 mm (super big camera lens) I can't tell what they're doing. I feel like they are just trying to tick me off. They're like hey, let's make a line and march around like jackwagons, and not even eat any food, just to annoy the crap out of whoever lives here.  My house is pretty clean, but we have kids so you’ll find the occasional crumb or stray pea or Cheerio or Hot Pocket lying around. Ants are supposed to go bat crap crazy for crumbs. These ones don’t. They’re in the sink, on the counter, marching, marching, forever marching, but not swarming around anything in particular or carrying around crumbs. 

So I did some research and tried some stuff to get rid of them. Now I’m not saying this is true, but I have a suspicion that some internet savvy dude is sitting in his mom’s basement, eating Cheetos and laughing his ginormous butt off as I spray vinegar all over my house until it smells like pickles, and then sprinkle cinnamon in the corners like a complete nut job. I believe stuff people write on the internet. Maybe I am gullible, but I expect people not to lie all over the place and then put it in a website where God and everyone can just go read it whenever they want. I’m trying to kill the ants or at least convince them to find some place else to do their marching and mouthing off.  I feel like all I've really done here is season them and make them more delicious to whatever thing eats ants. I hope it's not spiders. I hate ants, but I don't think I would invite spiders over to take care of the problem, like the old lady that swallowed the fly. That is a freaking nutso song by the way. The Little One has a book with the song in it, and it's pretty disturbing and morbid. I feel weird telling my 19-month old kid about this crazy old lady who swallows a variety of animals and insects and stuff until she finally dies. So I changed it-- I just say "da dum da dum" instead of "perhaps she'll die" and then at the end, when she eats the horse and it goes "she's dead, of course" I just say she's full. Because she is. Full of animals. It's a cracked out song. But anyway I know that when one thing that comes in to kill another, which seems like a good natural food-chain kind of extermination,  it's a bad thing. That happened in Guam and now there are no native birds there. For realsies.

Anyway, back to the ants.  I researched further with my super awesome internet research skills. I'm really good at internet research, in case you don't know me personally. I do it all the time. One time, I had this friend who had something really weird happen to her, and I offered to investigate for her. The person thought she had been irradiated by nuclear waste or green gamma Hulk rays or something, but then I found this blog for her. Oh yeah, it's funny. Anyway, turns out if you eat a lot of black licorice, you have very green irradiated looking doodies. So my friend felt way better and vowed never again to eat anything with Blue #5 in it or whatever, because #5 affects your number twos. 

Anyway-- ant research.  I discovered that there are some sick maniac housewives running around on the internets as well. They comment back and forth to each other over the various ways to feed stuff to ants that make the ants explode and die painfully from being turned inside out by some chemical reaction that happens in their stomachs. And they are LOL-ing and ha ha-ing all over the place at the thought of exploding zombie ants. As I said, I hate ants too, I think they are jackwagons who just want to crawl around in my cereal and sneak into my bed at night so I can have nightmares about things crawling all over me or getting inside my ear and living in my brain. But I don’t want to see them turn into zombie death ants or explode or anything. That’s just cruel, and kind of sick.

 If I could I would just scoop them all up and take them to a nice field in the country somewhere, or maybe a farm where they could live out their days making friends with wise cracking owls or little pig ingĂ©nues a la Charlotte's Web. These are city ants, though, so they might not make it in the country. They might end up like the Donner Party, freezing and having to eat each other to stay alive, in which case my magnanimous act of charity would be a total waste because they would be dead anyway. The exploding deaths would be less trouble and use less gas money, frankly, if they're going to die anyway. But in the end I decided that I just want them to find another place to live, out in the yard and not in the house. So I put vinegar and lemon juice and cinnamon and chili powder on baseboards, which are supposed to encourage them to go somewhere else. The house is starting to smell like salad dressing and the ants are still far from gone and the internet-savvy computer geek is now wiping his greasy, Cheeto-powder-covered hands and settling in to add more tips to the already hilarious website o’lies he’s created and I’ve fallen victim to. 

Meanwhile, back at the farm, ants are now invading even my computer. I imagine these are very smart ninja computer programming ants. They seem to be trying to get inside the computer mechanism and actually rewire my computer. As it took me about three hours to fix the television from the split screen picture-in-picture thing after Little One got to the "momote" control, I doubt I could undo any tiny ant rewiring, and I simply refuse to buy them a new computer. 

I don't know if I will be able to make myself  try some of the sick and inhumane exploding techniques next. Maybe I can just do it to a couple of them just to scare them in hopes that they may just realize I am serious and give up. But what if the ants are smarter than people, and rather than doing the entire Jonestown reenactment, they will see a few of their jackwagon ninja ant comrades explode and stop eating the Kool-Aid and just pack up their tiny pants and go live on a farm of their own free will? 

*Note: Nicely Nicely is a reference to Guys and Dolls. I didn't spell anything wrong, I swear. I meant to do that.

Julie Simmons-Wixom is working on becoming an expert in ant relocation. If you are interested in talking to her about ant cruelty, email her here. Oh, and leave a comment below, just for funsies. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thief in the Night by Stephanie D. Birch

To all our Writer Freaks loyal readers,

I don’t typically write nonfiction, but there was this thing that happened to yours truly not too long ago that I had to write down and share with you. I tried submitting it to a literary rag, but they rejected it. Par for the course. Besides, I don’t think it was really the kind of subject-matter they were looking for. So, I thought I would share it with you. Let me know what you think. ;-)

Thief in the Night – A Nonfiction Short Story

by Stephanie D. Birch

Courtesy Luiz Adriana Villa A., Noche de Lune llena

It was a cold evening and typically I would have spent such an evening cuddling by a roaring fire. Instead, I spent the evening cuddled up against my husband on the couch with my two adorable, yet fiercely protective Weimaraners watching crime dramas on the television. It was some sort of crime drama marathon and it sucked me right in. I was enthralled in these fictitious crimes, cheering the FBI onto catching every sociopathic suspect in a hoodie with dark sunglasses. Why did they always wear hoodies? The only picture I could remember of a suspect sketch in real life was the Unabomber and I suppose he fit the description. But the criminals in these crime dramas were ALWAYS sinister looking. It made me think of a news story I once watched. Kids were asked what a stranger looked like and they described these grotesque individuals, not ordinary people. Apparently Hollywood hadn’t received them memo on that issue yet; not all criminals looked shifty. But the portrayal of shifty, sinister criminals made for better television, that’s for sure. The characters were intense, as was the plot. I found that I had stopped blinking I was so riveted.

With every episode, I grew more jumpy. Adding to my jumpiness was a paranoia, of which I squarely place the blame on the crime drama and the episode's content. A car would pass by our house shinning their headlights into the kitchen window. My fear would rise, bubbling up at the illumination of the room. It casted shadows everywhere and shadows made me think of ominous what-if scenarios. Could it be someone with a flashlight ready to break into my home? I tried my best to compose myself and I thought I had done a pretty good job at it. Soon, we switched off the television and made a dash for the bedroom. The week had been hard on us both and it was late. Those crime dramas had sucked us in so much that it was now well after midnight.

I mindlessly went about my evening routine. I fluttered around the house locking all of the doors and windows even double checking them. I knew I was being ridiculously paranoid, but I just needed a little assurance that we would be safe for the night at least. I changed into my pajamas, and turned down the bed. Utterly exhausted and ready to drop, Jake and I brushed our teeth, staring at each other bleary-eyed in the mirror. My electric toothbrush hummed loudly in my head. It was kind of like white noise and had started to lull me into my dreamland dissent, albeit prematurely. I realized I was falling asleep standing up, so I snapped my eyes open and saw Jake now finished brushing his teeth and on his way into bed. One dog slept snugly in her crate and the other hopped up on the bed and peacefully coiled around Jake’s feet. I slid between the covers and, with a thud, plopped my head against the cool soothing surface of my pillow. I love the very first sensation of slipping between the sheets, and this night was no exception. I flipped off the lights and stared at the ceiling for just a moment before I began to drift. Soon, enough I could hear my husband’s rhythmic snoring and feel my dog’s dreamland twitches vibrating against my consciousness. Breathing deeply, I turned on my side and snuggled my head into the crook of his shoulder, my happy place. I drifted in and out of sleep for the next hour, fluttering my eyes open from time to time. In my brief lapses into slumber, I dreamt vividly of our crazy, inhospitable neighbors. The dreams were a mix of that crime drama from earlier and my real-life crazy neighbors. They were looking shifty and sinister, just like in those shows. Then, in the space between my dreams, I suddenly saw it.

The entire room lit up with bluish light glowing for only moments and faded into the recesses of the backyard just outside our bedroom window. Perhaps, I thought, I imagined it. I began to shut my eyes when the room lit up again. This time I sat straight up in bed. My heart raced, beating in my ears and giving away my position just like the intense music in those crime dramas. I waited, sheets pulled up to just under my nose, to see if I could see it once more. Then, again! There it was! Light flooded the room. It looked like someone was in our backyard with a flashlight. My dogs weren’t moving. They always heard every little thing. If someone was in our backyard, surely they would have heard it by now? Why didn’t they bark? Unsure of what to do, I shook Jake by the shoulder with such force as to wake him up as quickly as possible.

“Jake! Wake up!” I loudly whispered. “I think there’s someone in our backyard!”

In a complete daze and barely seeing anything, Jake slipped on his glasses and stared at me in confusion. “What are you talking about?” The room lit up again and this time you could plainly see it originated from the backyard.

“Look! Did you see that? Oh my god! Someone is in our backyard!”

“Okay. I saw it that time.” The light flooded our room again, and at this point I was utterly terrified. Jake, still half asleep, acted on my next absurd suggestion out of a knee-jerk reaction to being so startled out of sleep.

“Go get the gun!” I demanded, my voice dripping with fear. I took my position near the window, just behind the backdoor.

I peeked out the window from the very edge of the frame, half hiding behind the backdoor. The dogs were still asleep and soundly at that. I was growing increasingly irritated by the fact they weren’t protecting the house like they were suppose to. Jake was in the closet unlocking the shot gun. I could hear two unmistakable clicks as the shells snapped into the barrel. He cautiously navigated down the hallway and to the living room when he started to laugh while I screamed, “There is it again!” Confused and frustrated that he wasn’t taking this seriously, I demanded to know why he was laughing, “What’s so funny?” I hissed and his laughter filled the house, trickling down the hallway and into the bedroom as he walked back toward me.

“I saw it too! And this time it was in the front yard. Unless we are on some sort of FBI watch list and they are taking our house in raid, nobody is in our backyard.” He laughed louder as he saw it again. I was thoroughly confused and still peeved at not being taken seriously, plus I was still terrified. Jake marched back into the bedroom and reached for the handle to the backdoor just behind my back. “Don’t open it. You don’t know what is going on out there!” I protested, half scowling at his laughter.

Ignoring my pleas, Jake swung the backdoor open all the way. The back yard was vacant. I couldn’t see anyone in it at all. My eyes darted back and forth trying to find any hint of movement. There was nothing, nobody. Even the hen house in our backyard was motionless, the chickens all fast asleep inside. But suddenly, I saw it. The night sky lit up with a brilliant electric blue and in the distance there was a low rumbling building. At this point I felt like a complete idiot, but I recovered quickly by following my husband’s lead, laughing hysterically at our backyard invader. Leaning over and kissing me on the forehead Jake asked, “What did you want me to do? Battle Zeus with a 12 gauge?”

Me and my over active imagination.

Stephanie D. Birch is a Name-that-Greek-God Champion. Her hobbies include crafting her own lightning bolts, then hiding behind bushes and jumping out at people to "zap" them wearing nothing but a gold plated leaf tiara and a toga. To hear more of her incredible stories, real or not, visit www.stephaniedbirch.com or email her at birchwordnerd@yahoo.com

© 2012-2013 by Stephanie D. Birch. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephanie D. Birch.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Starving Artist Paradox

How I feel when I write....

Writers like to say stuff like, “I write because I have to, for the sake of writing and because it is my art form. I am not interested in monetary approval.” Which is partly true and partly crap. Yeah, I’m gonna write forever, even if a million people go on my blog and on Facebook and tell me I suck and I should quit and take up knitting and underwater basket weaving and forget about being a writer. Even if they lock me away and take away my writing implements, I will do like Geoffrey Rush playing the Marquis de Sade in the movie Quills, and write with whatever I can. If you get that reference, you are saying to yourself ew, gross, please don’t write in your own doodies. That is crossing a line. Maybe so, but I won’t stop writing. Ever. No can do. I tried other stuff a lot, and let me tell you—there is nothing worse than having a job you hate and saying to yourself nope, not worth it, hate this crap job, never wanted to be a (fill in the blank), don’t know why I’m here, because it’s the middle of the night and the middle of my 12 hour shift and instead of napping like a sane adult, I’m in the break room writing fiction on the back of old call sheets that happened to be handy. 

Yes, I must needs write, but also if one writes a book on one’s computer and nobody reads it, does it make a sound? Probably not, but then unless it is a children’s book that makes noise, like the potty time book we have for the little one that makes a flush sound every time you turn the page, books don’t make a lot of noise. So that old riddle or Confucius-y thing doesn’t really apply, but you get what I mean. I’m a writer, and I’m not going to pretend like I don’t want to be published. And I’m a researcher—I love the internets and their vast sources of information. I’m stellar at self-diagnosis that goes all the way to Harvard School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic. None of that Web-MD stuff for me. I’ve successfully (mis)diagnosed more than a few crazy illnesses. But after my bout with monkey pox I researched enough on publishing to realize that writers need readers these days even before becoming a published author, which means an author platform, which means a successful blog. The theory is that publishers look at your blog numbers and go holy cow, people already hang on this chick’s every brilliant word for free. Let’s make ‘em pay for it. And it would be awesome if I were the kind of very pure un-materialistic person who didn’t care about having a successful writing career, but I’m not. I’m not actually super concerned about the amount of money I make—I don’t really want to be crazy rich, because chances are I’d end up getting one of those big houses like in the movie Scream, and those are just beacons for serial killers to come hide in closets and stab me in the neck with an ice pick. And I’ve survived way too long to go out that way. I really want to get something published someday. I think I’m a good writer. Not Shakespeare or anything, but I can put some words in a sentence and I think people get the idea. 

  I’m really just trying to get someone with a big snooty nose in the air and a monocle to read my story and be like hey, I want to print that out and sew the pages together and take a super cool picture of something esoteric for the front of it, and give it to people in exchange for money. Blogging and Facebook aren’t my career, but writing is. And I am getting nowhere. Wait, scratch that. I am getting somewhere—I am getting a big pile of no thank you letters. And those are so not as fun as thank you letters. It’s crazy because even though my online persona or whatever—the stuff I share online and my blog—is about me, the stories I write are fiction. I’m not a memoirist—Augusten Burroughs can have it. I’m James Frey when it comes to writing about my own stuff if it’s meant to be published—the truth just isn’t that fascinating, so I would just end up embellishing, making it more interesting, and if you call that a memoir it’s actually a big old fat lie in the literary world. I want real live publishers to take me seriously. The “blog to book” concept works, I’ve done the research. But still, it’s awkward to self-promote.

 I’ve read a lot of books by writers about writing and publishing. There are the legendary stories of rejection, from Sylvia Plath to Ernest HemingwayStephen King was writing for a long time before he published anything, and it was way before the internets. "Getting published" for writers is akin to winning the lottery or being drafted into the NBA, neither of which I’m delusional enough to think would happen to me. I mean, I have insane amounts of ninja basketball skills, but I’m only five eight on a good day. If I wear my kicky boots I can be almost six feet tall. Which is awesome good fun because I feel like a giant and I do my queen wave, looking down on all the tiny people from the great heights of my giant-ness, but they wouldn't work for playing basketball.

Terra Nova-- in case you wondered, this show was awesome
The dilemma I'm having right now is a crisis of faith in the blog-to-book idea and also the idea of getting a publisher interested in my fiction writing based on this blog. I want people to publish my manuscript and make it a book, but my manuscript has nothing to do with Writer Freaks. So every now and then I wonder if I'm doing the right thing.  I want to be an author. Authors write stories and get paid for them and they are unapologetic about it. Stephen King isn’t sitting around going man, it sucks that people read and enjoy my stories, and make them into movies so all the crazy stuff that I dreamed up is right there on a giant screen to scare the ever living pee out of people. He’s not like wow, wish I’d kept that stuff to myself and just continued working night shifts at a laundry factory (he used to work at a place where they did mass amounts of laundry for like hotels and hospitals and stuff, and he lived in a trailer). (Side note: I have a teeny crush on Stephen King. In case you didn't notice.) So if he’s not ashamed of being successful and published, why should I feel bad because I want the same thing? And yeah, it may make me a jack wagon to say this, but I want to get paid for it. Not for Facebook or for the blog, but for my fiction stories. I actually work really hard coming up with stories and characters and plot lines and stuff. It is a lot of work. I think that’s why I hate reality television with such a vengeance. Because it’s just people acting like their real jack wagon selves and getting paid for it, while other people actually write and act and build sets and point cameras and stuff, and put a lot of work and effort and special effects into making a creative, interesting show, and people are still glued to The Apprentice like hypnotized orangutans. I mean they cancel great shows like Terra Nova and Stargate Universe and freaking Firefly (I'm still pretty super bitter about these) in favor of these stupid reality shows. Grrr.  

Way better than this show...
 Maybe the way I’m describing writing as a career sounds like a vain and empty pursuit, because my end goal does involve money. It's the Starving Artist Paradox. I'm not looking to get paid become famous for some blog I write. The avenues to reaching that big cherry end goal of publication these days involve a lot of self-promotion.  I read this one blog that I really like, Insane in the Mom Brain, and the woman who writes it seems brilliant and funny and a total gem of a human being. She just wrote a blog about how she doesn’t want to be popular or promote herself or get money for her blog. I admire her. I agree with her about not wanting to be fake internet famous. But when she writes a book, I’m sure people will be knocking down her door to publish it  and give her bunches of money, which she will probably give away because she is one of those pure people that good things just seem to happen to. She talks a lot about how everyone is all up in her grill to find out how her blog got so damn popular. It seems like she got popular with zero effort, and the rest of us poor slobs are just wandering around in cyber space like blind hippopotamuses, occasionally stepping on someone else and crushing them and then saying oopsie, my bad. I think we all wish it were that easy, and that's why people are constantly bugging her about the secret of her success-- to avoid the hippo tromping the rest of us are doing in an effort to build an “author platform” which does indeed require that nauseating self promotion.

I hate to measure success. Actually I hate measuring stuff, because math was invented by some sadistic torture dude to make me crazy. But my dilemma is this: I write because I love to write, I'm passionate about it, and because I can't NOT write. I like to think I'm pursuing a higher form of writing-- the kind that isn't about publication or monetary gain. The Starving Artist Paradox. We're not supposed to want to get paid. But really, no one reads books and says, "Good book, but I wish this person had never published it. I feel sickened at the idea that this author had to promote themselves and submit their manuscript and jump through all kinds of hoops so their book could be available to the public." 

 It bugs me because when I write something that I love, that I think is good, that I'm interested in, I want other people to read it. But then if I'm being honest, I also want to be able to earn some money from people reading it, too. Back to Stephen King, who once he got an offer of publication on a story, didn't say, "No, I just wrote that for the people. I want no sullied rewards. I am a pure artist who needs nothing; no food, no shelter, no grand things like clothes and health insurance. I scoff at your offers of cash for my stories. I will not be tarnished by monetary gain."

Do I write for money? No. I do not write blogs with key words in mind, or so that they'll go viral, or so a million people will read them and I'll be internet famous or something. I don't write fiction stories with the thought that I have to make them "marketable". I'm writing a story that I love, that's interesting and unique and makes people think. Telling the story is the goal—telling a story in a way that affects people, and makes them think, and dream, and stays in their head for weeks after. I want to create characters that people are interested in, that they want to read more about. I want them to be sad when they’ve finished the book because they are sorry it’s over and because they want more. I want them to relate and feel better because they’re not alone in the world—someone else, even a pretend someone else, has felt the exact same way.  Maybe I do want to help people a little—to be entertained, to feel a part of something bigger, to realize that the world isn’t such a lonely place. I want to connect with the readers. I want them to have a sense of who the characters are, as if they are real people that the reader feels like he knows and understands. I want every word to be the perfect word.  That’s why I want to be published.  And I feel okay getting paid for it, because writers need to live too. And pretending that we don’t need money, that this whole pursuit of art and writing is just for our own benefit—that’s not the whole truth. The Starving Artist Paradox sums it all up-- we none of us really wants to starve, after all. That's why it's a paradox, right?

Julie Simmons-Wixom isn't currently starving, but she is looking for publishers. Anyone? Anyone? Contact her here if you want more information. But for the rest of you Starving Artist types, leave a comment below if you have anything to say on the Paradox or if you just want to voice your very strong opinion that they never should have cancelled Firefly.