All posts in Write

Writing less, drawing more?

Napkin Sketch Workbook Don Moyer
Back of the Napkin Dan Roam
Unfolding the Napkin Dan Roam
Visual Meetings David Sibbet

The diarist, take II

Have you ever heard of the Holmes and Rahe stress scale? Go on, take the test. Although I’ve avoided the dreaded top 5 thus far, my score these days comes out well over 300. It’s coping mechanism time. So naturally, I turned to the timeless vice of paper junkies everywhere, and bought yet another blank journal.

Journal-keeping is a habit I ended at age 25, having struggled since that time to determine what is worth documenting about adult life. I know, that sounds a little dour. What I mean is, prior to the age of 25, I wrote in journals to (badly) contain a surplus of daily melodrama brought about by an itinerant, youth-y lifestyle of rotating rental homes, dead-end jobs, and boy trouble. Then suddenly I woke up one day with a full-time techwriting job and a fiancé, and Fiestaware dishes, and that kind of thing. In my case a merciful development; people with depression have no business being young. But what do you say in a journal about Fiestaware dishes, or cats, or commute times? Journals equal drama, it was the only equation I knew. So that was the end for journals and me, and the next (cough cough) years went undocumented, until now.

So I’ve got this little Ecosystem “lagoon” colored artist journal (that looks like this one) and a Mead-Scholastic pen case that does not strangely appear to be for sale anywhere on the interwebs (I bought mine at the great University of Washington bookstore). And I have, after an extended intermission, begun documenting my mental state on paper. I can’t promise it’s as entertaining as the daily antics of a train-wreck 20-something, but I find myself looking forward to that 5 minutes a day when I sit around drawing in the margins of a notebook page with Sharpies or woodcase pencils. You know, I’ve missed it, really. It’s good to be back.

Silent Type II: Your poem is here

Just a quick update, went to the P.O. box today and gathered up a bunch of Silent Type II submissions. Take a look at the spreadsheet, which should reflect the latest envelopes I have in hand, to make sure your submission arrived!

If you sent it out and it’s not here, let me know.

Here is a link to the original call for submissions if you have no idea what I’m talkin about. The deadline has passed (but if you contacted me that your submission is on the way, I will wait for it.).

Oh yeah, you ask. You’ve sent me your poem. What’s next? Well, in the next couple of weeks, I will read through all the poems and sort out questions about cover art, page order, layout, and all that sort of thing. If I have questions about your submission, I will contact you directly (so make sure I have your e-mail address). Once all of this is worked out, I will send out a tentative schedule for publication. I am thinking early summer. If your poem appears in ST2, you receive a free copy. If you want a copy and did not submit, this issue will have a cover price (this is not a for-profit endeavor, it is simply to recoup some shipping and material costs for the overall project).

As the author of a poem in ST2, you of course retain all rights to your own work, and are just giving me permission to publish it in ST2.

If you have any other questions, I can just add to this post with the answers. Looking forward to seeing this come together! Sorry it won’t happen faster, I have an insane amount of work, school, and family related commitments going on at the moment.

For your summer reading list: literary agent (and editor) blogs

Totally unrelated note: If you haven’t entered the First Official Strikethru Drawing For A Random Prize (FOSDFARP), it’s not too late! The winner will be announced Friday the 5th. And now back to our program…

If you don’t do any of your web wandering on literary agent (or editor) sites, it’s time to take a detour. Below I’ve listed a few of the ones I read– please suggest any others that you know.

Literary agent blogs provide a sound education on do’s and don’ts for queries and manuscript submissions, in addition to providing the latest news on developments in the publishing industry. Nathan Bransford has to be my favorite– he’s a young agent with a refreshingly positive attitude about writers and writing (if you hadn’t already guessed, agents tend to be a sarcastic bunch). In a recent post, he asks the question of how one’s chosen writing tool affects one’s writing, and the comments contain many observations on the virtues and drawbacks of typewriters. Might want to chime in with your thoughts.

Blogs to check out:

Nathan Bransford
Colleen Lindsay
Bookends LLC
Janet Reid
Angela James
Maria Schneider
Kristin Nelson
Rachelle Gardner
Chip MacGregor

Independent presses, Seattle Post-Intelligencer RIP, retrotech journal submissions needed

In thinking over this literary journal idea (which, by the way, has taken the latest form: a sort of best-of-retrotech collection, where YOU write/photograph a page or two, 8×11, with your typewriter/fountain pen/vintage camera, on the subject of retrotech. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, whatever, which we will then collect and figure out a respectable way to bind. This is a call for you to begin your submission, by the way. This is quite an aside, isn’t it?), I’ve been rummaging around in the world of independent presses. And I’ve discovered something.

For years, I’ve had trouble really being compelled by much that I’ve seen in the fiction section of local bookstores (but that aside, run, don’t walk, to your nearest independent bookstore, as they are disappearing as we speak). A lot of it seems kind of Oprah-y or conventional or just dull somehow. I can’t put a finger on it. The thing is, I like really contemporary stuff. Stuff written about now. Stuff written about cities. Stuff that is kind of weird and energetic, written by new authors. Just a personal preference. Well, as it happens, independent presses publish whole messes of this stuff. (Slaps self on head.)

So, I am going to start poking around in the independent press world for books to buy, starting with Featherproof books. Why? Well, they’re doing some interesting things with digital publishing, like free printable mini-books, to interest you in their longer works. Now, I like this. It’s innovative, which is exactly what publishers are going to need to be to make it. I am printing one of these suckers out, and then I’m going to buy a book.

Oh, wait. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Yes, it was my morning paper, and it died yesterday. The last paper arrived in the driveway yesterday morning with a sad note from the publisher affixed, and I realized my lifetime habit of reading a paper in the morning was now officially being retired against my will. I will profoundly miss criticizing the comics page each day (thank god for the Comics Curmudgeon, who has to be one of the funniest writers ever), and have to say that unsurprisingly, the whole thing just really sends me into a sulk, this careless massacre of our lifetime offline reading habits. Ugh. Ugh, I say! Which is why a print retrotech edition is all the more justified in these screen-based times. So, get cracking on your submission.

The six-month second draft: a challenge

Queryfail, nanoedmo, writing group, brainstorm. In that order.

Today is #queryfail day on Twitter. If you haven’t been following this, essentially, literary agents make fun of lame query letters. I was going to paraphrase but I can’t do it justice.

Searching #queryfail on Twitter will provide hours of authorial schadenfreude and I highly recommend it.

Speaking of manuscripts agents might laugh at, I have taken on the Nanoedmo challenge this year. Wait, you say. Speaking of fail, didn’t I, Strikethru, fail to produce a Nanowrimo manuscript this year? That is correct. However, I have three of them from the early 2000’s, languishing electronically somewhere in a poorly named folder on my laptop. And this year, my friends, I am rewriting one of them. I’ve already been at it for several days now, and I am learning some hard lessons about the perils of the second draft.

My question about virtual writing groups originates from this effort. I’m hoping to track down a few people who want to virtually trade and discuss Nano manuscripts after a round of Nanoedmo is complete. I’m looking in particular for literary fiction writers, and/or, genre fiction writers with a literary style. Who’s with me?!

Still thinking over this matter of the typewriter journal. Everyone’s comments on this idea have been intriguing, as to whether, and in what format, such a journal is worth creating. J. B. Rabin has called for a brainstorm– so I plan to head back to that post and keep rambling about the project, if anyone wants to keep that discussion going.

Nanoedmo, people, Join me. Finishing a novel, lousy or no, is one of those things I need to do before I perish. I sense you might feel the same.

A writing group quiz

Please use a #2 pencil for the following quiz. When you have completed all the questions, close your workbook and raise your hand. This is a closed book test. You may not use supplemental material to answer the questions.

You may begin. Your answers will be timed.

1) Who among you out there is currently (or has recently been) in a writing group (or has facilitated one)?
2) How did the group form? (University or other affiliation, friends, internet, etc.)
3) Were all the persons in your writing group writing in the same genre? If not, how did that work?
4) What was the primary challenge of the group? (Lousy writer(s), attendance, unhelpful feedback, other)
5) Did you obtain any goals as a result of the group that you would otherwise have not attained?
6) If you have experience with a virtual writing group (that is, without in-person meetings), is this a format you (dis)recommend, and why?
7) In what genre(s) do you write? Who is a known writer that most resembles the kind of writing you want to create?
8) Do you feel that the experience increased the quality of your work, or was it merely randomizing?

Curious, antisocial writers considering joining or creating a writing group want to know. Ahem.

Keitai shosetsu showdown: Quillpill vs. Textnovel

What am I talking about? Cell phone novels, fad du jour. I’m 1,5011 words into my first attempt at writing one, having chosen one of two text novel applications I know of: Quillpill and Textnovel.

I’ve gone with Quillpill for one specific reason, although the latter appears to have far more features. Before I continue, let me disclaim that I possibly a) have missed or misinterpreted a feature here and there and/or b) either of these applications could add or change features at any time, as both appear to be in beta form. Feel free to learn me in the comments if either is the case. (Also, if there are other competing apps I’ve missed.) Both applications deserve a comprehensive review, which this is not.

That said, onward.

First, Textnovel. It seems to have a whole mess of features: reader rankings, the ability to assign a genre to your piece and create and title chapters, a coherent catalog from which to browse stories, a $1,000 contest and editor’s picks list, reviews, hell. There’s tons more. (Don’t ask me about the cell-specific features, since I am accessing both of these apps from a browser on a regular old computer, owing to the fact that I have a prehistoric cell phone that pretty much works only as a phone). I intend to give this site a try, for sure. There is only one reason I chose Quillpill instead, for my first cell novel attempt, and we’ll get to why in a minute.

Quillpill. Quillpill restricts each entry to 140 characters. Like a Tweet. In Textnovel, you can blather on per usual, without any character limit per chapter that I can discern. Quillpill has none of Textnovel’s features I’ve mentioned above (in its current incarnation, anyway) which is rather frustrating in a number of ways. However, it is easy on the eyes (lovely design) and, owing to the 140 character restriction, actually makes you restructure your writing for mobile consumption, which is excellent practice for any writer who isn’t in denial about the immediate future of fiction. What do I mean by that? Well, I wager that future fiction will prize brevity above florid language, owing to the micro-format in which it will be consumed. Writing a novel phrase by phrase makes you choose your words with care. It allows you to imagine a reader stopping and starting at any point, as (particularly mobile) readers do, and not just by arbitrary chapters the book form has imposed. If you’re long-winded and prone to run-on sentences that flout the laws of syntax (cough cough), this form will shape you up quick. It’s like running with hand weights (not that I would know anything about either running or hand weights, to be clear).

This structure actually got me writing, which is something I haven’t done since 2005. A blank page has just seemed too Wild West for me, I guess. I don’t have time to settle the prairie, I tell myself. But writing 140 words at a time? That I can do.

I’ll close with the words of E. L. Doctorow: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” (As it stands, I am pretty sure this particular car is as likely to end up in a gully with a blown tire as it is to reach any sort of literary destination, but you get the point.)

The Great American Cell Phone Novel

I previously blogged of cell phone novels, a huge micro-fiction trend in Japan, in which novels are thumbed into being 140 characters at a time, from subway cars and other waystations of once-wasted time.

There are two Web sites in the United States I’m aware of that have attempted to export the trend: textnovel and quillpill. Cell phone novels seems like a counterintuitive topic for a site about typewriters, ephemera, and paper-based pursuits, but it’s all part of the overall evolution of the act of writing. In this spirit, I am going to give writing one a shot. I don’t expect anyone to necessarily join me in this act of thumbscribery (Nanothumbmo, anyone?), but if you do, please give me the details.


In a prior post, I was strongly advised against mentioning my interest in a certain anachronistic writing machine in an admissions essay for graduate school. I would like to hereby formally announce that doing so will not necessarily impede your acceptance. So, do not be afraid to litter future resumes, CV’s, and loan applications with ample unhinged screeds about the joy of typing on your Smith-Corona Clipper. It worked for me.