‘Yard Sharks’ Now in Corvus Review

Henry_Sargent_-_Watson_and_the_Shark_(Boston)

I’m excited to announce my horror/bizarro short story “Yard Sharks” is now available online in the latest issue of Corvus Review.

You can read it here for free.

This story was previously only available in print.

I’d like to thank the editors and staff of Corvus Review for selecting my piece to publish in their magazine along with a slew of other great, weird, short stories.

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Why Are We Too Busy to Write?

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Credit: Guardian.com

I’ve been reflecting on being “busy” lately. It seems whenever I catch up with friends and family and ask how they are, most reply “busy” almost automatically.

Many of them also marvel at how I “find the time” to write in between all of life’s other obligations, and I tell them it’s not a big mystery. It is just a matter of simplifying and prioritizing what matters most to you. I also had – what I believed – to be a kinda sorta conspiracy theory that we’re being constantly told we’re busy by marketing companies.

Ever notice how many ads tell you that you’re too busy to clean or make dinner? Once you focus on it, you can’t un-hear it.

Anyway, in the spirit of NanoWriMo, I wanted to share this great little article by Oliver Burkeman over on The Guardian about “shadow work”, which gives a name to this constant state of “busy” we all seem to be in.

SPOILER ALERT: it seems the promise of technology and automation backfired a bit.

What do you think? Do you always feel busy, and struggle to carve out time for writing or other creative endeavors? Let me know down in the comments.

Have a great weekend!

 

Writing and Other Hobbies

instax

credit: instax.co.uk

I consider writing a very serious hobby.

Call it a “passion” or any number of other descriptors, but it’s something I spend a lot of time doing and thinking about.

While I’ve always written, if you asked me 10 years ago what my main hobby was, I would have said “music”. Everything took a back-seat to my being in a band and writing original songs.

Until that band broke up…

Since I got rid of my smartphone and have more creative free-time, my long dormant photography itch has returned, and I purchased a Fujifilm Instax camera.

This got me thinking about friends and fellow creative people who have “too many hobbies”. There are only so many hours in a day, and as creative types get older, “adulting” often assails our best efforts at output with jobs, families, and other un-creative nonsense.

So what can you do? My choice has been to limit my hobbies. If you buy into the idea of the Renaissance Soul then you’re probably shaking your head right now. In my opinion, that whole concept is just a feel good exercise for people who cannot commit to something. During the ACTUAL Renaissance people were discovering new things, these days I’d wager the majority are just intrigued about emulating those they follow on Instagram. I blame the internet, and MTV.

But I digress.

I feel like two hobbies is the right number for those who want to really excel at their passion. Why two? Because you need a secondary hobby to maintain creativity when you’re burnt out on your primary one.

Everyone gets burnt out by their passion on occasion. It’s just a part of the process. We happen to call it “writer’s block”. When burn out happens, you can always refuel your tank by relaxing and enjoying different media. But if you’re the kind of person who recharges their batteries by doing something creative, then a second hobby can do the trick.

instant photograph

credit: 500px blog

Photography can get expensive (just like writing), but it doesn’t have to (just like writing). Learning to use a decent point & shoot digital camera in Manual mode, along with an instant film cam force me to re-learn fundamentals like composition, lighting, and the “exposure triangle”. It can also be a fairly quick hobby, snapping some photos and slowly improving my editing. Taking a few days off from writing to explore another hobby that requires different creative muscles makes me feel refreshed when I sit back down at the old manuscript.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this post, other than saying it’s good for writers to have additional creative outlets, but not so many that you’re distracted and unable to put the time needed into your writing.

Do you have other hobbies besides writing? Do they help when you’re blocked? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

On Writing, Smartphones, and “Waking Up”

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Something happened last month that has profoundly affected my creativity.

My smartphone broke.

Yellow jackets get pretty ornery around late summer (they sense their collective impending doom), and as luck would have it, I got stung in the hand while scrolling Twitter. My phone hit the sidewalk and even a fancy $3 case and screen protector couldn’t save it.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything, as it would turn out.

Enter the flip phone.

I’ve contemplated how much I relied on my smartphone for a while now. I used it too much, and research is showing the negative effects of technology overload, especially on creativity. I decided to switch back to a flip phone as an experiment, and the results were almost immediate.

This is what I found:

  • I’m perfectly OK without a smartphone. I have other computers/devices (GPS, laptop, etc) to access maps and information when I need it. It’s freeing to not feel “connected” at all times.
  • I AM BORED AGAIN. I realized just how long it had been since I felt boredom. I was literally programmed to grab my phone to “fill in the spaces”. Now that the flip phone only serves very intentional functions (calls, texts, email) my body and brain are literally retraining themselves to accept true downtime again. Walking around, standing in lines, all those things that prompted smartphone use are filled with contemplative thought and observations.
  • I realize how pervasive smartphones are. I’ve joked that I’m “awake” now, but being more present has allowed me to see just how often other people are on their devices. It is nearly constant. Kind of scary, but this experiment is about me, not about what others are doing.
  • My attention span is slowly returning. Deliberate, focused consumption of books, movies, and television (even a newspaper!) without the risk of distraction has made me realize the strange cognitive dissonance that “two screening” had caused. For the first few days I felt randomly distracted and jittery sitting through an entire movie. That is slowly fading, and I find myself contemplating what I give my attention to more deeply.
  • I have gotten so many more story ideas in these bored moments. Creativity appears to be expanding to fill those gaps.
  • I have more time to write. Those little (and not so little) pockets of free time are spent writing instead of mindlessly scrolling on a screen.

This endeavor is still burgeoning, but so far I’ve seen mostly positives for the trade offs in convenience. Will I ever get a smartphone again? I’m not sure. But for now I’m enjoying a newfound well of creativity, and only paying $20 a month for something that won’t break if it bounces off a sidewalk.

The Benefits of Reprints

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I recently received an acceptance note (hooray!) that one of my short stories was accepted by a literary journal as a reprint. I haven’t seen much discussion of reprinted works on here or social media, so I figured I’d post for the benefit of other authors who might not have given them much thought.

Expand Your Audience

Reprints are an excellent way to get your existing work in front of new readers. My short story “Yard Sharks” was originally published in a print-only lit mag. That means it had a relatively narrow audience. The literary journal that picked it up as a reprint is online, so it will now exist in a whole different medium; with the power to share it more easily. Reprints can breathe new life into an old story, and you never know who might read it.

Keep Up Author Momentum

We can’t always write new stuff. Life happens, and even the best of us get occasional writer’s block or just need time to recharge our creative batteries. Submitting existing work for reprint is a great way to keep your “author momentum” going, and “make your writing work for you” as a friend of mine said. It gives you a positive goal and something to talk to your readers about in those extended periods of downtime when you are either struggling with an idea or perhaps deep in the throes of revising a novel.

Validate Your Work

What’s better than having a publication accept your work? Having two publications accept it. Or three. Or five.

Publishing is a numbers game, and a networking game. There’s clout to be had when editors or outlets look at a piece that has been picked up multiple times. It implies quality, which might mean the difference between them giving you an opportunity versus a rejection.

Seeking Reprints

There are fewer literary journals and anthologies that accept reprints than don’t. Most places want previously unpublished works. That said, there are still a number across all genres that are willing to give good stories another home. Just be sure, as always, that you read submission guidelines carefully and that all your republication rights have effectively returned to you before you seek new pathways to reprint your work.