21 November 2014

5 Tips for Surviving a Public Reading

After not having read my work in public for almost a year, I'm doing a reading tomorrow. Some friends and I organized this event when we learned that Tuna got bumped from his slot in the Rain or Shine reading series - which he'd been looking forward to for over a year - for an improv comedy troupe. Lame. "We don't need them," I said. "Let's put our own reading together." So we booked a room at TaborSpace, created a Facebook event, and invited just about everyone we know.

I have to admit, though, I wasn't super excited at first about reading again. For the last few months I've been having a crisis of confidence regarding my work, and I'd lost touch with my sense of playfulness. But the process of putting together my set list for this reading helped me reconnect with it, and I ended up writing a couple new silly pieces that I really like. They won't win any awards, but they'll be fun to share on Saturday. (It helps, too, that people have asked me to read certain pieces again. Nothing like taking requests to boost one's confidence.)

"Are you nervous?" people are asking now when I tell them about the reading. Not yet, but I know I will be when the time comes. Which is why I've put together this list of five strategies I've used to help me get through a public reading (when I'm doing the reading, not just attending one). It's always good to have a reminder.

5 Tips for Surviving a Public Reading

19 November 2014

It's time once again for me to check back in on my writing goals and report progress/challenges. It's been an eventful week: I had two float sessions and, as a result, wrote two more pieces for Float On; as a result of floating and/or preparing for my upcoming reading and/or what I've been reading and/or all the fun I've been having lately, I managed to reconnect with my creative playfulness, which feels awesome and has resulted in some new poems; and last but not least, I remembered how inspiring it is to read certain writers/types of writing.

All this is reflected in this week's ROW80 Update.
  "A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life."

Show up to writing 2-3 hours/day. Although I haven't necessarily been putting in a solid 2-3 hours every day, I continue to show up regularly, and I've felt particularly inspired the last few days, which makes me excited about my writing (and excited to do this reading on Saturday). This past week I've written the two aforementioned pieces for the Float On Writers' Program, a couple of new poems, the description of the upcoming reading, and a new travel blog post in addition to my posts for this blog.

14 November 2014

How author Kiersi Burkhart defines success as a writer

It's been a big year for my friend Kiersi Burkhart (aka the Prolific Novelista), co-author of the middle-grade series Second Chance Ranch. Not only did the series, which she co-writes with her friend Amber J. Keyser, get picked up by publishers in both the U.S. and Europe, but she also signed on with agent Fiona Kenshole at Transatlantic Agency. To many an aspiring author, this sounds like the Holy Grail of writerly success. Does Kiersi consider it won and done? Read on to find out!

How do you define success for yourself as a writer? How do you know when you're successful?
For me, success is writing for a living—subsidizing my life with my work and being able to write (and do all my blogging, social media, promo, etc.) full time. At least, that's what it looks like from this vantage point; I think what counts as "success" tends to change according to where you are in the process. A while ago, "success" was having a book contract. I imagine in a few years, my idea of what makes success will change again. I'm excited for that.

Is it something achieved and done with, or does it have to be maintained?
I think success is always evolving. In my version, it needs to be maintained, because one needs an ongoing income in order to survive; so just one book deal isn't going to cut it long term, unless your book somehow magically sells gangbusters forever. (I am prepared for this should it happen!) 

12 November 2014

Going with the flow

In a conversation last week, a friend told me about how she once spent several months in a foreign country not writing her dissertation. No longer even sure she wanted to finish her degree, she experienced a kind of mental paralysis where she spent hours staring off into space.

"I'll bet that at least to some extent you were so focused on what you thought you should be doing that you weren't open to what you could be doing."

She agreed.

I lost the motivation to work on my WIP1 back in August. For a while I wrote nothing except journal entries and the occasional blog entry. When I got back to Portland in September, I'd expected myself to jump back into the WIP, editing work and marketing ASAP and instead found that I couldn't concentrate on anything. I experienced a kind of mental paralysis and found myself staring off into space for hours.

05 November 2014

Confronting terror

by Cara Christine Hubbell
Every so often I'll come across an idea that fills me with irrational terror. I felt that way about the idea of reading a particular nonfiction piece in front of a roomful of strangers, knowing that I was incapable of reading the piece aloud without crying. It's not the terror associated with any real danger; it's associated with the illusion of a lack of safety, usually emotional/psychological. I'd been mocked and ridiculed for my tendency to blush or cry at the drop of a hat when I was younger. I'd learned not to show my feelings, not to be vulnerable to my peers. Kids can be real assholes.

But as an adult, I didn't need to hold onto that fear anymore. So I chose to confront it. I read my piece, I cried pretty much the entire time, and if anyone thought less of me for it, they had the decency not to say so. As a result I felt freer and stronger. After confronting that terror and anxiety leading up to that reading, the normal nervousness associated with getting up in front of strangers or doing something new paled by comparison.

A couple weeks ago, someone told me about the Writers' Program at Float On, a facility in Portland that has sensory deprivation float tanks, and I felt that irrational terror once again. Which is why I decided to do it. Contrary to my imagination, it was a very pleasant, very non-scary experience. I'm looking forward to floating again next week and seeing what comes up.

ROW80 Update