Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Truth About Editing and F Words

I am not a person who lacks vision but I am the kind of person who doubts that what I lay down will actually resonate with anyone beyond myself. This goes way back to weird childhood insecurities that don't deserve any bearing on the person I am today; and yet, there they are, sticking their tongue out at me and calling me sticks-and-stones names.

But they are only shadows; lingering fear-teeth that nibble away in moments of doubt—that I have no business feeling, by the way—BECAUSE the world is stepping up to the plate I laid out and taking beautiful swings that are leaving me breathless.

truth about being an editor

Submissions are coming in for the magazine I'm starting. {Remember? I told you all about it here.} They're not pouring in, but they're coming at a steady enough pace that I'm already plugging poetry into the fourth issue! And the biggest shocker is, they're coming in from complete strangers. I had this idea that it would be a major struggle to fill a whole magazine. I imagined myself begging people in my inner circle {like my fellow Writer's Jam members} to give me their work because I just knew I wasn't going to be able to spread the word fast enough to launch the premiere issue in September.


The universe is having a nice belly laugh at my low expectations.

Things I didn't expect:

  • I didn't expect to be receiving submission emails daily. I didn't realize correspondence could take up SO MUCH TIME, and I now understand why every other magazine in the world has a huge team behind it.
  • I didn't think I'd be bold enough to reject a submission. I expected to be so desperate for content that I would accept everything; but, because of the great response, I've been able to confidently {and graciously} pass on anything I didn't think was quite up to par—and while some of the pieces I have accepted aren't my own cup of tea, I'm excited to be able to offer a very diverse collection—hopefully one that speaks to a large audience.
  • I didn't expect Americans to care. I mean, why would they? BUT, the moment I opened up worldwide guest blogging opportunities, they came knocking and I am blown away by the whole-hearted buy-in and support they're giving me.
  • I didn't expect to be taken seriously. Because who am I? What do I know about any of this? But, the most common comment I'm seeing as people introduce themselves in their submission cover letters is that they're connecting with my vision and they love the heart behind it. That's amazing and empowering!
  • I didn't expect hate mail. But does anybody? And I don't want to talk about it anymore but you can read about it here.
  • I didn't expect to stop writing. Okay. This kind of breaks my heart but it's true. I haven't written one word in my own fiction projects since I announced the launch of the magazine. This is unacceptable and I'm working to figure it out. Because I need to write and I need to write more than blog posts. I have to figure out how to manage my time.
  • I didn't expect it to be a full-time job. This was probably naive of me and has a lot to do with my point before. At my best estimate, I've already invested a good 200 hours into this: between building and maintaining the website, reading and answering emails, managing guest blog submissions, plotting layout, being active on social media {though I really need to up my game here}, interviewing artists, and writing articles. At minimum wage I should have a nice $2,280 sitting in my coffers {which would go a long way to cover printing and [astronomical!] shipping costs} yet, in my estimates, I'm sitting at a pretty negative {when you factor in lost time with my family, loss of sleep, and the copious amounts of tea and coffee that keep me plugging away until midnight}.
  • I didn't expect to be using the F word in my email correspondence on such a regular basis. In my submission guidelines it very clearly states: no vulgarity. I suppose this is relative. What is a swear word in my home is not a swear word in another persons home; yet, when it comes to The F Word, aren't we all on the same page as far as vulgarity? Again, perhaps I'm just naive. The following is a direct quote from my response to a submission {with The Words blanked out, of course}: We too, agree that no topic should be off limits; however, we do need to take a stand against strong language. 'S**t' we can handle. 'F**k' or any of its derivatives is something we want to avoid. That's a sentence I never thought I'd write! Thankfully, the submitter was wonderful about it, took no offense, and is thrilled that I'm going to publish his edited poem in the premiere issue!
  • I didn't expect to be thinking about building a team of volunteers to help me with the work load BUT I am. I'm not sure what that will look like, but if I come knocking, I hope you'll consider joining me on this crazy adventure {in which you'll exchange a stupid amount of hours for caffeine jitters and my wonderful company!}

Thanks to everyone who's been such a positive support on this venture. If you want to help, share Blank Spaces across your social media channels, consider making a donation to my negative coffers {if 20 people make a $1 donation, I can afford to send a contributor a print copy of the magazine their work appears in!}, submit your great work, or just give a nice atta-girl in the comments!

And don't forget, you still have a chance to win a copy of my pretty little short story, Eve Undone. Click on over here and enter the draw at the end of the post. It's running for a few more days so don't miss your chance.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Happy Release Day for EVE UNDONE!

It has been a lifelong dream of mine to see my name in print and friends, I have done it! Eve Undone is a simple little short story project but that doesn't make it any less fun to hold it in my hands and revel in the fact that words I spilled out from my heart are now enshrined forever in a perfect-bound little volume. It may only weigh as much as a greeting card but its sentiment goes much deeper!

The journey to a complete, self-published product is not easy. It's riddled with blood, sweat, and tears. Well, maybe not tears. I'm not sure I actually cried at any point during this particular undertaking...BUT, it was a lot of work. Three separate proof reprints, two different companies, tough choices to make between cost and quality, the agonizing wait between online proof approval and physical proof approval UNTIL FINALLY, the trumpets sounded and I said, "ENOUGH! APPROVED! IT IS FINISHED!" and she's out in the world like a shiny new baby.

Before you congratulate me on getting a book published, I want to be very clear: this is a short story. It is one little tale. It is the retelling of the story of Creation in four darling wee chapters. It looks like a book. It smells like a book. But can a book be called a book if it only contains 24 pages...?

Let's say YES and call it a day!

To celebrate, I'm giving away two of my proof copies! Sign up below for your chance to hold this pretty little thing in your hand! I'll even sign them—like a real author! Unfortunately, shipping prices and my current existence as a starving artist, limit this giveaway to Canadians BUT I can't bear the thought of leaving anyone out so I'm also going to give away two ebook copies and that can go anywhere in the world as long as you have email!

If you can't wait for a giveaway and just have to get your hands on a copy now {p.s. I love you!} you can order from Amazon or CreateSpace or, if you're local, order through me {this takes longer but gives me the biggest royalty - it's also cheaper unless you have enough other things to order on Amazon to qualify for free shipping} All purchasing options are available here, on the Eve Undone page.

And remember, whether you purchase or borrow or get it for free, please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads as well as sharing it across your social media channels {#EveUndone} It helps me build my platform and puts my name out there!  

Get a FREE signed proof copy of Eve Undone! (The proof copy is exactly like a 'real' copy except it has PROOF stamped across the back page.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway Good luck!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Buck Up, Princess ~ You're In The Big Leagues Now

A sparrow died. Its tiny heart sputtered, a wing trembled like the first stirrings of an unborn child, and then it was all over. Its stillness became absolute and a minute hole opened in the fabric of the world, the gel of life pulsing to mend it back, stitching up that chasm before one more creature could slip away.

I watched it like a film reel. I felt it in the vibrations of the earth and in my strange anger that this little life wasn't even worthy of brake lights.

I'd been following that old farm Dodge all the way from Tim Horton's and I saw the sparrow swoop down from the right in some glorious smooth motion—like watching a paintbrush build upon a mountainscape. My heart heard the impact. I saw its little body arc up high as the truck roared beneath its rainbow. I watched it linger at the top; like God put his finger beneath it for just a second...even the least of these...before it fell—limp, ended, but still pretty; like the memory of the wind still lingered on its wing.

When the truck hit me, I was just a sparrow too. I flew, oblivious and naive, straight into the grill of a bitter Mack Truck.

Have I lost you?

Let me start again.

I did watch that poor little sparrow die as I drove to work on Wednesday. It made me sad.

On Thursday I opened a hateful email from a stranger, calling me ugly names, telling me to do ugly things, working hard to break my spirit and crush my dreams with vulgarity. That was my Mack Truck.

It made me think of the sparrow.

I've stepped out in bravery on this new CRAZY adventure of starting a magazine. I'm really excited about it and submissions have been coming in which makes it real and means people are believing in it {at least that's what I tell myself}.

But one angry email {out of so many nice ones!} whacked me hard, flinging me straight out of my positive trajectory into a tailspin of flushed face and nervous heart.

I had two choices.
  1. I could believe the email.
  2. I could trash the email.

There was a third choice, one I quickly rejected but oh, how sweet it tasted when I lingered there a moment...

TO: <senders email>
SUBJECT: Thank you for your powerful submission

BODY: Dear ********, 

Thank you for submitting to Blank Spaces. Your bold language and strong phrasing moves us. We are excited to tell you that we're accepting your 'poem' to be featured in our premiere issue. Kindly send us a 100 word bio and a print ready head shot, along with your full mailing address. We would be thrilled to send you a copy of your words in print when it is published in September.

Looking forward to working with you.

Alanna Rusnak
Editor in Chief, Blank Spaces  

Of course, I could never do this. I wouldn't dream of hurting any of your eyes with the words that I saw spilled across my screen BUT yeah... {and how cool is it that I get to sign emails 'Editor in Chief'??!!??!!}

That poor sparrow didn't have a comeback for the Dodge that took its life; instead, it faced its punishment with a grace we only find in nature.

I needed to do the same.

I blocked the email address and deleted the email. I recorded the senders name in a file called BANNED. I dumped my heart on Facebook so my community of positive advocates could rally around me and tell me yes, I could get up off the pavement. Yes, I can shake my fist at the truck but then I can forget about it because he has nothing to do with me or what I'm doing.

Anything worth doing probably comes with some kind of opposition. Perhaps that means I'm onto something here. People with aspirations frighten people without them. I won't let that be my problem. I'm about doing and chasing and spreading the joy. I'm happy where I'm at. This wasn't about me. It probably wasn't even about what I'm doing.

It's behind me now.

How sad that one person wastes time trying to make another feel small. The internet makes cruel souls brave. I can't do anything about that. I can only control my own response and I'm going to fly away from this. There's a great tailwind tonight and I just received the prettiest submission of photography...

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Visiting The Scene Of The {Fictional} Crime

I've been quiet about my book. It's hard to speak about something that seems stuck in one place. It's hard to have a finished product just sitting there, leering at me with its wildwood eyes...and oh what pretty eyes she has...

The Church In The Wildwood is currently in the hands of several different literary agents and I'm dying a slow death as I wait for their response.

And though I don't talk about it, it is seldom far from my mind—anything birthed from your heart rarely is, especially when you're waiting for affirmation from complete strangers.

The Church in the WildwoodLast week I found myself turning my car down a forgotten road in an attempt to reconnect myself with the story that owned two years of my life. Setting is an invaluable asset. It sets the tone, it invokes feelings, it grounds the story into a tangible reality, and every setting I describe within my pages is somehow connected to a setting I know in real life.

Harridan Bluffs is entirely fictional. It is an abandoned ski resort, overtaken by The Prophet, a frightfully charming three-piece-suit who manipulates his followers into unspeakable behaviour.

abandoned ski resort
Years ago, I remember adventuring with my husband and a friend down a wasted lane to a foreclosed ski resort. I remember the sense of abandonment that lingered, the trash littering the ground, the sadness that seemed wrapped around the whole mountain.

That is the memory that built Harridan Bluffs and last week I revisited it.

The access to the main lodge is blocked by a heavy gate now but a pitted dirt path leading up the mountain remains unencumbered so I coaxed the station wagon up the grueling incline.

Trees hung over the 'road', casting eerie shadows, threatening to swallow me into their creepy maws. I drove slowly, a knot of nerves in my belly as I recalled the scene when Reverend Greene went to investigate the place that scarred his lover.

As I reached the top, the trees opened up to reveal a gravel plain lined with cement stoppers. A red and white sign hung from one but I deliberately looked away. Plausible deniability and all that...

broken chair lift

I picked my way along the edge of the treeline and then out to the skeleton of the chairlift, feeling the weight of the place I created with the memory of the place in which I stood. It was strangely powerful—as if, somehow, I had written truth.

I lingered there {after texting my sister my location in case John Peter Roth, the prophet of Harridan Bluffs appeared from behind the trees to drag me into his complex}. The view was incredible. The day was bright. The sun was warm. And I was moved, sitting in the untended grass, gazing on the place at the base of the chairlift where Roth buried the body of the woman who tried to escape him...

   “Oh, Iris, you must stop this. He cares for us in his own way.”
   Iris stopped in her tracks. “Does he, Mother?” She pulled her skirt high enough to show the fresh, raw cuts on her inner thigh. “Does he love me, Mother? Do you even care what he made me do last night?”
   Her mother rushed back and wrapped her arms around her. “I have nothing to give you, Iris. I would give you the world if I could. I would fly you away to the moon just like your father’s song. This is what we have been dealt. We make the best of it we can. Do your duty.” She pulled back and tucked a strand of hair behind Iris’ ear. “You’re strange and precious, darling, just like the iris for which you’re named. Be strong.”
   Iris buried her face in her mother’s shoulder. “You should have protected me from this,” she said around the lump in her throat. Her eyes smarted with hot tears.
   Her mother held her for a moment, petting her hair and hushing her with tender sounds that reminded Iris she was still just a child, though she was expected to behave as a woman.
   “I don’t know how,” her mother finally admitted. Iris heard tears in her voice.
   “I will never have a daughter,” Iris promised. “I will never bring another girl into this life.”
   Her mother remained silent, still smoothing her hair.
   “Has anyone ever left?” Iris mumbled into her dress.
   “Only one that I know of,” her mother said, unwinding herself from Iris’ arms, taking her hand and leading her to the opposite side of the building near the skeleton of an old ski lift. A small mound of dirt was visible through the weeds and a red cross had been painted on one of the old wooden crossbeams. “They ran her down with the pickup,” she said.
   “Are you trying to scare me?”
   “You should know the truth. Accept it. Make the best of it. This is our life.”
   “I will leave here someday,” Iris told her.
   “Then I will lay flowers on your grave,” her mother said sadly, putting her arm around her and pulling her close to her side before guiding her back up the path.

I all but lay my own flowers there. Now I wish I did. It would have been right...
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