Thinking of an MFA? Pros and cons of low-res

I wrote a thing for the SFWA blog about the pros and cons of going low-residency for an MFA in Creative Writing. Check it out here.

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Art & Words 2017

I’m thrilled to announce that all the Art & Words participants for 2017 have been chosen! We received a huge number of submissions, most of them great, most of them (surprisingly) poetry (which is fine with me!). In the end, guest Editor Isabel Crespo and I whittled it down to 12, with a significant focus on local writers.

The Art & Words Show will be on Saturday, October 7, 2017 at Art on the Boulevard in Fort Worth, Texas. I hope to see you there.

For updates on the show and other projects, please subscribe to my monthly email StuffleLetter here: http://eepurl.com/bjbsLj.

2017 Participants

Writers
Courtney Marie
Logen Cure
Layla Al-Bedawi
Gayle Reaves-King
William Ledbetter
Michelle Muenzler
Cassandra Rose Clarke
Nyri Bakkalian
Holly Lyn Walrath
Jean Roelke
T.D. Walker
Jose Trejo Maya

Artists

Kimmie Hamm--nameless re take
Kimmie HammNameless Re-take
Laura Hunt--Birds On A Wet Lawn
Laura HuntBirds on a Wet Lawn
Tompkins_Sculpture_Mixed_Media_Architeuthis8feetX3FeetX6inches
Stacy TompkinsArchiteuthis
Etienne Illy--Separation Anxiety
Etienne Illy–Separation Anxiety
Emilee Koehler--Desolate
Emilee KoehlerDesolate
James Rosin--Paradise Lost
James RosinParadise Lost
Jackson Zorn--April Got No Light
Jackson ZornApril Got No Light
Paul Wolff--Debitum Naturae
Paul WolffDebitum Naturae (Nature’s Debt)
TheMagician(smaller)
Allester VinteersThe Magician
Alex Stock--Realms of the Fourth Eye Deer
Alex StockRealms of the Fourth Eye
Gabe Hales--Looking In
Gabe HalesLooking In

The following artist’s work will be included in the show; we are still awaiting permission to post photos of their pieces:

Megan Najera

Articles, Everywhere

Today’s been a happy day; I’ve been in the Dallas Morning News and Art & Seek for my Nebula nomination (along with my fellow DFW-area friend William Ledbetter).

Also, Layla Al-Bedawi wrote a lovely article about Art & Words for ArtHouston that was recently posted online. Submissions open tomorrow, and I am thrilled to see this write-up.

Two Big Bits of News

It’s been a busy couple of weeks! Last week, on my birthday, I found out that my novelette “The Orangery” was nominated for a Nebula Award! I’m psyched to be on a ballot with so many friends and great writers and very much looking forward to celebrating in Pittsburgh. The full list of nominees is here.

And more news! As of today, I’ve signed with agent Connor Goldsmith at Fuse Literary. I’m very much looking forward to working with him.

4 Motivational Tools for Writers

One of the most difficult parts of writing is establishing a routine. One piece of advice I heard as a beginning writer was that I should write every day, no matter what. That advice is repeated as gospel in workshops, on convention panels, in writing advice books. I don’t believe that writing every day is the path for every writer–it doesn’t take into account writers with families and day jobs and can create a lot of anxiety and guilt for writers who struggle with mental health and may not always have the energy–but a routine that allows you to get in as much writing as you possibly, personally can is a great tool.

But let’s face it: sometimes internal motivation just isn’t enough. (Like that week when watching every Harry Potter movie in a week seemed like a better idea than writing, for example.) For those times I take to using external motivational tools.

Different motivational techniques will work for different writers. For me, a technique will work for a brief period, at which point I find I need to switch to a new system, or to take a break from systems altogether. Because of this, I’ve tried a lot of different methods. Here’s a few to sample for yourself.

1. Beads in a Jar

My friend Katie Crumpton first told me about this one. I like it because it offers rewards at various intervals, which helped me immensely with the long slog of novel-writing (since writing novels doesn’t offer as much immediate reward as, say, short stories, where you finish and feel that sense of accomplishment sooner).

To take advantage of this technique, first get a bag of beads from a craft store. Then paint a series of five or so lines up a jar. Assign a different reward to each line. Every time you accomplish a writing task–writing so many words in a day, submitting a story, updating your website, attending a conference, etc.–drop a bead in the jar. When the beads reach the first line, reward yourself with the first reward. When they reach the second, reward yourself with the second reward. Continue until you reach the top, then dump out the beads and begin again.

img_3829
My levels from bottom to top: bubble tea, watch a movie, order dinner out, get a massage, free day off

2. The Check-In

When I started working on my first novel, I entered into an agreement with a friend of mine, Karen Bovenmyer, that every Monday we would email each other our goals for the coming week and would give a rundown of our accomplishments for the week previous. This helped me immensely with that initial motivation. Now, two years later, we’re still emailing nearly every Monday, and even if I no longer need external motivation, I love hearing what she’s up to.

3. Marking a Calendar

This technique works best for me to track how productive I’m being in a particular period of time. This one may also be the simplest: get a yearly calendar and mark every day that you write.  I also mark any days on the calendar where I know I won’t be able to write with an X. This helps me when I’m trying to finish a particular piece, writing so many words every day; knowing which days I won’t be able to write helps me calculate how many words I need to write those other days.

calendar
I used a free calendar and penguin stickers to mark days when I wrote

4. The Magic Spreadsheet

I haven’t personally used this one for any length of time, but I have heard from many writers that it helped them immensely. The Magic Spreadsheet was created by my friend Tony Pisculli and exists in a series of massive Google Spreadsheets. To check it out, join the Google + group here or the Facebook group here, where they release a new sheet for each month.

Serving to gamify writing routine, the Magic Spreadsheet allows you to track the number of words that you write each day. You must write at least 300 in a day to earn any points. If you write more, you get more points. You level up as you earn points.

There are no external rewards in place here, but if you’re a competitive person, the points alone may do it for you. I’ve also heard of some people who reward themselves when they level up.

Mur Lafferty talked about the Magic Spreadsheet on her podcast I Should Be Writing in 2013.