Just in Time for Halloween – My Haunted Lamp

Our little lamp in its new home

In 2018, my husband J.P. and I bought a used lamp that turned out to have a rather macabre history. It entered our lives at a pivotal time, and for a while, I actually thought it might be haunted. Of course I had to write about it. And I did, using this experience as the subject for an essay I wrote for a Women on Writing class with the extraordinary teacher Naomi Kimbell in January 2021. Writers among you may find the story of my essay as interesting as that of the lamp. It is truly a story of how many a “no” will eventually turn into a “yes.”

Because this work was so unusual, I felt that it might be a contest piece. I like contests because they’re usually open to all themes and for the price of the submission fee you often get valuable feedback. Over the past year and a half, I entered an essay I called “The Perfect Lamp” into a number of contests, and while it didn’t win, it was named a finalist in two places, the Lit/South competition and the Barry Lopez Nonfiction Award. Along the way, I also received a tremendous amount of feedback, from contest judges as well as that of my classmates and my faithful Mem-Warriors, Ang and Marilyn (whom I first met in another WOW class). Additionally, other friends read it and contributed their advice.

And I continued to submit, submit, submit……from pitching it to commercial magazines (yes, even the BIG one) to literary publications. I had never thought about it as a podcast but when I saw a market listing for PenDust Radio, a project of Rivercliff Books and Media, I started to think of my essay in a different way — not just as words on a page, but as an experience in sound. Because of the many nuanced elements in the story, it occurred to me that a podcast might be an interesting approach. Lucky for me, Lisa Duff, Rivercliff’s talented editor and publisher, agreed. She also helped me tweak the title, and just in time for Halloween, “The Perfect Lamp” has been reborn as “My ‘Haunted’ Lamp: Murder, Mystery and Remodeling” and is now live as a podcast.

The lesson for us writers is one we know all too well but still bears repeating. Submit, submit, submit! The practice of thinking about our work in its published form opens the door for continuous tweaks and improvements that might never happen without the inevitable rejections and feedback. And the act of sending our revised work out into the world yet again brings powerful rewards all its own. To do so acknowledges that we writers are capable of growth and development, lessons that will bear fruit in the next (and the next and the next) piece that we write.

With the approach of Halloween, I wish my fellow writers all the best in the metamorphosis of their own work. After all, revising and submitting again is very similar to donning a new costume, isn’t it? As my experience proves, I have no doubt that you, two, will see a “yes,” even it leads you somewhere you never expected. Enjoy the ride!

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Of Momentum and Hope

It would be so easy to say that the life of a writer is made up of many ups and downs. Such as finishing a challenging piece of writing, seeing it rejected, possibly many times, before—if we’re lucky—having it accepted or winning a prize. But the truth is there are so many other little things in between.

Suppose, in the case of a good writing friend, you meet a huge deadline you set for yourself. Or maybe a famous writer that you just followed on Twitter follows you back! And then there’s the moment you finally settle on the perfect word for what you’re trying to say. “For your born writer,” says Catherine Drinker Bowen, “nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”

Small victories are important but so are the small roadblocks. Suppose you can’t find a book that you just know is in your library, but you stumble on another one you know you need to read. Then there’s having an essay you worked on for months get rejected. It’s crushing at first, but if it compels you to work a little harder on a troublesome paragraph, that decline can turn into a boon.

All of these little steps –good, bad, or serendipitous—are part of the same thing: momentum. And this is the life force of a writer. Momentum is also the energy of being alive. It starts with the decision to get out of bed in the morning. To keep that date with your writing desk. To go on a walk with your husband to see the blooms on the quince tree. And then finding a bird’s nest lodged in the branches.

Momentum is much more than forward movement. It is hope. And this is something we can all use a little more of right now.

Learn How to Move from the “Slush” Pile to the “Rush” Pile on February 23!

Technology makes submitting for publication easier than ever. At the same time, as more and more writers offer their work, competition for space has never been fiercer. But take heart. In this class, we’ll cover the art behind successful submissions and how to move from the “slush” pile to the pile editors rush to accept. We’ll discuss how to find the best fit for your writing, tips on putting your best foot forward, and a little secret to boost the number of marketable pieces in your portfolio. We’ll also discuss the nuts and bolts of submission: cover letters, biographies, tracking and more, such as how to stay motivated as you cast those precious pearls out into the world.

Interested? Join me on Tuesday, February 23 from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. for a special online 90-minute Zoom workshop hosted by our friends at Charlotte Lit.

Cost: $30 members ($25 early bird rate); $35 non-members

For more and to register, click here.

Scooting Through the World of Submission

Today I revised and bundled up three short humorous essays, took a deep breath, and submitted them for publication. Who knows what will happen, but it always feels so liberating to take the initiative. Submitting also helps keep hope alive. For this reason, I made a promise to myself long ago that whenever I hear back from a submission, good or bad, I immediately send something else out.

Rejections can sting, and many of you, I’m sure, like me, have had your heart broken before. You may also have A BIG REJECTION THAT STILL CANNOT BE DISCUSSED. But that’s just like life. C’est la vie. The good news is that for every rejection or two, there is bound to be an acceptance just around the corner. And you wouldn’t know it if you didn’t take a chance in the first place.

Wednesday was a nutty day for me, one that found me mired in muck while trying to plant grass, getting a humdinger of a spider bite, and accidentally tossing my smart phone into the burn barrel (thank goodness for Google’s Droid “My Device” locator). I sure needed some good news!

And wasn’t I thrilled to hear from Debra Simon, esteemed publisher and editor of Carolina Woman. She called to tell me that I won “1st Place” in their annual writing contest for my essay, A Tale of Two Tumbles. A prize that came not only with publication but a Razor E Prime premium electric scooter! Can you believe it? A scooter is not something I would have ever thought to ask for, but as serendipity goes, it turns out to be exactly what I needed! It was also thrilling to see (and read work) by my other writer friends, Jane Rockwell, Ruth Moose, Carol Phillips, Alice Osborn, and more who also placed in the contest. And many of these friends, I’m so proud to say, came from my long association with the Central Carolina Community College Creative Writing Program.

Carolina Woman has been connecting women like us for 27 years now–publishing articles of interest and other quality content on food, pets, fashion and more for women in the Triangle and beyond. And their Annual Writing Contest is a “must-enter” for any serious writer for both the prizes and the recognition. I have entered many contests in my life but this is one of the best! NO ENTRY FEE and REAL PRIZES. If you like Carolina Woman as much as I do, please, please “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. You’ll be glad you did!

As for me, I’ll be “scooting” back into my growing sea of works-in-progress. This little whoosh — like the childhood friend pushing you on the swing to get momentum — is even more incentive to jump back in. And it all starts with the courage it takes to get those words on paper. You can do it!

Wishing you all the best as you write and delight!

Share Your Writing with the World!

cup-3488805_1280Submission is an exciting step in a writer’s life, and for some of us, it can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be! If one of your writing resolutions for 2020 is to delve into the exciting waters of submission, why not get an early start? Join us on Saturday, January 4, 2020 from 9:30 – Noon at the Charlotte Center for Literary Arts, Inc., 1817 Central Avenue, #302, in Charlotte to learn how simple (and fun) writing for publication can be!

Bring a polished piece of original work (poetry, short fiction, or nonfiction) and leave with all the tools you need to submit your writing and become a published author. You may even win a prize along the way. We’ll tackle market research for journals, newspapers, magazines and contests, submission systems, cover letters and short biographies.

Register here: https://www.charlottelit.org/event/submissions-and-contests/

I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year! I look forward to seeing you soon.