Wednesday, March 3, 2021

IWSG - Epiphany & Streeeeetching

 It's time for the March Insecure Writer's Support Group.


Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG exists for writers to get support and lend support. Anyone can join. Just click on Alex's name and sign up, then hope around and visit as many people as you can, including these great co-hosts:

Sarah - The Faux Fountain Pen Jacqui Murray, Chemist Ken, Victoria Marie Lees, Natalie Aguirre, and JQ Rose!

This month's optional question is: Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

I read pretty much anything. I'm not big on romance, but read some here and there. Historical would also be less read, as would science fiction. But if I hear of a story that sounds good, I'm going to read it, no matter the genre. Plus, I read friends' books, no matter the genre. I will say that I lean more toward horror, urban fantasy, and mystery/thriller. I also enjoy memoir, comedy, and some women's fiction. I should probably note that I do also write in other genres, so it's all a matter of the nature of story I think of and what I feel like writing. I just usually tend to want to write horror.

For this month, my insecurities stem from having recently had a bit of an epiphany that sprung from being hurt by something that occurred in the local horror community, though nothing was done to purposely set out to target me in any way. With Stoker Con coming up, and with it having been initially scheduled to occur in Denver (it's now online this year and in Denver next year, which I thought I would be really excited by), a souvenir book was put out by a publisher in Denver that's to be sent to everyone registered for the conference, featuring a smorgasbord of Colorado horror authors, as well as bigwig authors in other states. This was done by invite, not by a submission process.

I wasn't in the book.

Of additional note, I'm in the HWA (Horror Writers Association) with most of the other people published (and a bunch of people who I feel have also earned their place there, but didn't make it). Now, it wasn't meant to be a be-all, end-all of Colorado horror authors, but I feel it was certainly meant to be representative. Several of the people published in the book don't even really write horror. Some have dabbled, but really write in other genres. So on and so forth. Having said that, I'm sure it's a great collection of stories. They're all talented writers.

Short version of the story: it hurt deeply that I wasn't included. 

I was contacted by the publisher and they apologized for making me feel like I wasn't part of the local horror community. I want to put that part out there so people are aware that there is a good person behind this who didn't do anything to intentionally leave me or anyone else out. They said they knew other people who they also would have loved to include, but they had only so much latitude.

For me, it was just one more slight in a series of slights that, again, aren't necessarily personal, but that it's hard not to TAKE personally. You see, I don't live in Denver. So while I do get invited to speak at a couple cons in Denver, there are a lot of things I'm excluded from, because I'm not in the right city. Denver is *the big city,* and thus they control a lot of who is seen and who isn't. You'd think it would help knowing it's not about me, but about not living in the right city and therefore being out of sight, out of mind, but it doesn't. Because how do I fix it if it's not about my abilities?

I did try, by the way, to fix it. I finally joined the HWA after avoiding it because I saw the same group of people constantly representing them, and they were almost all from Denver. I didn't feel there would be a place for me. But I finally joined after some coaxing from a couple other members who live down here in Colorado Springs, and what I ended up dealing with was a man leading the group who had led it for decades, had no administration or other "board" members, and had never considered any sort of election to run the group. With the HWA being a national group (which due to another national group I'd been part of, was part of why I avoided the HWA to begin with), I would have thought there was a stricter way of running a satellite group. Then during the pandemic, things went a bit crazy. That crazy escalated into what appears to have been a full blown breakdown by the Denver HWA president that ended in a very ugly fashion and shattered the group. So I got to spend what was already a stressful few months dealing with this inevitable escalation that ended so badly.

Luckily, those people who had originally encouraged me to join started a satellite group in Colorado Springs, and when the Denver group exploded, most of the folks from the Denver group moved to the Springs one, and I was asked to be a founding member. 

And as a founding member, I was STILL left out of that book. Myself and one other founding member. The rest of that group are in it.

So honestly, I'm likely skipping this year's conference, and I'm not positive I'll attend next year. Mixed in with the above, there was also a LOT of drama concerning the conference, and I went from being asked to help out as a volunteer to suddenly being completely in the dark, because the Denver president made a decision about the conference that got planning and such removed completely from the Colorado satellite's hands. I'm also not delighted with the way national handled ANY of what went down, both when it was just conference stuff and during the breakdown.



What's funny about all this is that I'd quit a volunteer position in a different writer's group back in September, because I wanted to have a writing community for which I wasn't doing a huge chunk of the work and where I didn't have to be involved in drama and politics of any sort. In short, I wanted to be just enough of an outsider that I no longer knew what all was happening behind the scenes, who was and wasn't doing the work to keep the organization running, etc. I just wanted to be a member, to have a community, and to be able to do things without having to run those things. It's been a long, long time since that was the case. In fact, I didn't even get to be that person for more than a couple months when I first joined that first group, because I got sucked into taking first one then another volunteer position pretty quickly when they saw someone eager to help.

I'd been desperate all this time to have a community specifically about horror, because horror, like romance, is often on the outskirts and people have a very particular view of it and the people who write it. There is also often a significant lack of understanding and even a feeling of being uncomfortable with the topics a horror writer discusses.

What I got was a crap ton more drama.

So that was awful long, more than I intended, and it doesn't actually cover half of it. It's a pretty vague summary, actually, and probably doesn't truly convey the issues. But it was this combination of things, paired with the fact that I haven't sold a short story since about September, I think it was, that sent me into a full blown spiral of depression and self-doubt. 

But it also led to an epiphany. 

It's past time for me to change things up. To diversify. I've been focusing on primarily horror short stories for a while, and those stories have been kind to me. I was stunned when I was accepted as a REAL writer, despite not being a novelist. And the thing is, I WAS accepted and included in the larger writing community, and that should have been enough. But it's time for me to re-evaluate what I do. It's time to focus on the novels and craft books that have been rotating like a patient twister in the background, constantly on my mind, but overshadowed as I tried to produce, produce, produce the horror short stories, because those were what I was selling. And I didn't know HOW to slow down, how to not be constantly going for that next acceptance. I've mentioned before that the process of submitting short stories is addictive. Each sale you make drives you to sell more, more, more, to get into that publication you haven't been in yet. 

It's time to slow down on that (I'm not leaving it completely behind). It's time to switch things up, to push myself, to stretch myself, and to try my hand at the things I've only really been thinking of up until now.

I also think it's time to stop shopping my novel, to give it one more polish, and to start self-publishing my contemporary fantasy monster hunter books. Waiting for that agent "yes," and more recently that self-publisher "yes," made it so I didn't get a book published before my dad died. I can't stress to you how significant a goal that was for me. I wanted him to see that I could do it, and he never will. He'll also never see me get the degree I'm currently working on, and it was so important to him that I get a degree. He always had full faith that I'd succeed in whatever I did, yet he never got to see that realized. I'm done waiting. I'm done with the molasses-slow process of traditional publishing. At least for that book. It doesn't mean I won't try with future books or series, but I want this baby out in the world, and I want something I love to be seen.



So a hurt that wasn't intentional (and, frankly, it was very kind of the publisher to reach out to me when I lamented on Facebook that I'd been left out once again--I'm not proud of that post, but I was hurt deeply enough that my husband found me shaking and sobbing over it, and I'm not a cryer), along with a series of, as I called them elsewhere, flesh wounds involving the publishing world and writing community, made me realize I'd gotten way too comfortable. While I saw myself as stretching because I tried to write short stories in different genres or even stories that were types of horror I didn't usually write, or responding to calls that were outside my wheelhouse, or just to write in a different style, I wasn't. They were baby stretches. I was stretching, but still within a portion of my comfort zone. 

While school is still going to take precedence right now, know that in the next year there are going to be exciting announcements. I'd like to think of this stage as my chrysalis. From that chrysalis, I intend to come out as a new person with new goodies to offer. By this time next year, I intend to have a business degree and to have metamorphosed my writing career.


And, finally, instead of feeling insecure and struggling as I have been for months and months (some of which I've expressed on here and on Facebook during major bouts of depression), I feel excited again. And any trepidation I have is simply about pursuing the unknown in new adventures. I can't wait to get done with school so I can fully dive in, but until then I'll do what I can.

As for where I stand with writing communities, the jury's still out. I've started thinking that the only way to get everything I've been wanting is to completely withdraw from the communities around here. I can still be friends with those I've become friends with, but I don't need to strive to be part of something more than that.

Aside from that, there have been other life stresses, some of which I've posted about on here, some of which I haven't. Bear with me while I go through these changes, please. 

Submission stats for February:

9 submissions

2 "rejections" due to magazines shutting down :(

11 rejections other than those 2

0 acceptances

10 submissions currently on submission (I've got 7 rejections I haven't turned back around yet)

What are your insecurities? What genres do you read? Have you ever been part of a national writing group? What were your experiences like? Have you ever made a large career change? Have you ever changed direction in your writing?

May you find your Muse.

*Butterfly clipart, OCAL, clker.com

*Gymnastic clipart, OCAl, clker.com

*People Group clipart, OCAL, clker.com

42 comments:

  1. I'm really sorry you were left out. And that there has been so much drama this past year. I'd reevaluate why I'm doing specifically why I'm doing it as well.
    Know that you are a key component of the IWSG though!

    ReplyDelete
  2. That must have hurt to not be included. And all that drama in the group you were in doesn't sound good. It's good you're reevaluating and changing things up to follow your dream.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Shannon - that sounds awful and very unfair ... sadly that's life, rather more often than one wants. Good luck with working things out and establishing an easier and happier environment for you and for your future - all the very best - Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, an easier and happier environment would be such a relief!

      Delete
  4. I used to keep reading more of the same kind of thing I'd enjoyed in the past, but am now making more effort to read in other genres.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I try to do the same. One of my favorite things is staff picks at bookstores. I try to buy something from the staff picks shelf each time I go to a bookstore that has one.

      Delete
  5. What a mess. So sorry you experienced such drama. My mom didn't get to see any of my published books either, but I honor her in every story I write with a line she wrote on the flyleaf of the book The Artist's Way which she gave to me. "Follow the way."

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, that all sucks :(

    I like your "chrysalis" view of things and your determination to carve out a new and exciting path forward.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. We all find times we have to change some things.

      Delete
  7. Yikes. I'm too much of an introvert to be a joiner and my heart was seriously racing as I read through your post. So much hurt and sorrow.
    I didn't query my Bloo Moose books at all - in part because of the aching slowness of the trad pub industry and the angst involved. I'm all a bit of a control freak :)
    I think your dad would be pretty damn proud of you and what you've done. He for sure knew his daughter was talented, determined, and resilient!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get the control freak thing, too! And thank you.

      Delete
  8. It's hard not to take things like that personal. No matter how many times you tell yourself it isn't, the hurt lingers because we are emotional creatures and our emotions often speak louder than our logic. Maybe this post will help you release that hurt so it doesn't fester inside you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's definitely hard not to take things personally sometimes, even though I feel silly being so hurt by it.

      Delete
  9. Being a volunteer with any organization has pitfalls. Some are more like crevasses. Your outlook on the future is great. I'm looking forward to seeing where you land next spring! May your milkweed be plentiful when you break out of your chrysalis.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I think I'm good and done with volunteering for at least a while. Good has come from it all, too, but that's something I need to be in the mood to look at.

      Delete
  10. I'm sorry you were excluded. Even if no direct ill intent was meant, it still hurts :(.

    ReplyDelete
  11. All the work you do - that was quite the slight not to include you. You've had so much published. It probably wasn't personal but it's really hard not to take it that way. There's a writing group in our state that is very exclusive to the city it's in and I can see them doing something like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does make me wonder how much capital cities or bigger cities in states influence how much people get out there, especially in speculative fiction communities, which tend to be especially insular.

      Delete
  12. I'm sorry for all that drama in your writing life, but it led you to a positive decision, so there is something good coming out of all that pain and anguish. Moving forward is the only way, and I applaud you for that.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Shannon, I am so sorry to read that. At the same time, I am so inspired by the extent to which you keep going anyway. Thank you for sharing both parts of the story.

    Anne from annehiga.com

    ReplyDelete
  14. I could really feel your hurt through your post. I'd feel the same way. I'm glad the pub reached out to you. Doesn't make up for the exclusion. I'm glad you've found a safe place to express your feelings about the slight. IWSG needs your input. Just reading your post I hurt for you. Hang in there. And keep writing.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Sorry you went through all of that. Sounds like certain Horror writers have a mean streak.

    I hope you get some ACCEPTED results to your submissions soon.

    I love reading a wide variety of genres. I posted for IWSG day today. My post includes a new book by a friend, a note about a free book next week, a tweet about a query contest (LGBTQ romance this round), and a quick message about April Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

    J Lenni Dorner~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I truly think I'm just out of sight, out of mind, not that there's anything malicious involved. I don't know how to be any more noticeable than I already am, though.

      Delete
  16. If only being a writer wasn't 90% rejection. Le sigh.
    I write noir mystery novels and my horror shorts inspired by H.P. Lovecraft (who's isn't?) are extremely dark. If you looked through my search history you'd probably think I was a serial killer.

    I have a podcast with some other artists called, Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun. It's available on all podcatchers. Think you might be interested in being a guest co-host? Happy IWSG Day!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh, man, those things really do hurt. I've been kicking myself because I've not joined any writers groups (well, aside from the IWSG!), but you make me wonder if I really want to!

    My deep sympathy on the loss of your father. I don't know what I really believe, but it helps to think that the lost person can still see and know what and how we are doing, and be proud of our successes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My recommendation is to try a writing group that's not genre specific first. From what I've seen, it's diving into more genre specific ones that can be problematic. I've also made some great friends from involvement with writing groups, so there's more good than bad!

      Delete
  18. Hey Warrior Muse, don't let those people get you down. I've discovered when in a group, 90% of the work is done by 10% of the members. Sounds like you were part of the 10%. People get burned out being volunteers because once someone volunteers, then the group will wear you out with more responsibilities. But you are a warrior and I could read that in your post. You have come through a difficult time in your life, and that has made you stronger and more determined to reach higher. You can do it, Ms Warrior. I am sorry your dad passed before he could celebrate your special times with you, but I know for sure he's watching from heaven and doing a happy dance with every one of your accomplishments. Believe it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've definitely both seen the burnout in others and experienced it myself. I know I did it to myself, so I really can't blame the groups for that, but we live and learn!

      Delete
  19. I'm sorry that happened, Shannon. You deserve to feel sad. It's understandable. We hurt because we're human. Anyone who says that sort of thing wouldn't upset them is not being completely honest. I'm glad you had your hubby there to hold you. If I was there, I'd give you a big hug, but then I'd be in trouble because of Covid-19. Take care, eh.

    ReplyDelete
  20. You have had a lot to process. First, any organization has the few who actually step up and do anything. So, when they find someone willing to take a job, they capitalize on that. You're a person who steps up. Now, you can step back and focus on your craft. It stinks that you were left out of the pub. And, as for you dad. He's watching from above. His belief in you was planted long ago. In his mind, you were already a success. Take care.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yes, it's time to step back and jump into my own career.

      Delete
  21. There are always ups and downs when you volunteer. Sometimes I regret saying, "I'll do it." But then there are others when I'm acknowledged for doing a good job and I feel as if I've made a contribution to my community. These "good" times make the "bad" ones bearable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely! I've gotten a lot from volunteering, as well.

      Delete