2015 has been a year of contrasts where my writing life is concerned, with some great accomplishments and excitement alongside a lot of reflection and re-thinking. Here are some of the highlights:
Here’s the excitement and accomplishments. In November, my chapbook, The Face of Baseball, from WhiskeyPaper Press came out. Leading up to the release date, I wasn’t sure how to feel. I’m the kind of person who’s afraid of getting too excited about anything for fear of being disappointed. I kept saying to myself (and sometimes my husband), “It’s just a chapbook.”
But then a box full of the chappies came in the mail. I opened it up and held one in my hand. A whole little book full of my stories. It felt pretty great.
Chapbook reading and launch
Then I had a reading and launch at our local indie bookstore, Village Lights, and that was even better than great. There was beer and peanuts and crackerjacks to fit the baseball theme. Friends and neighbors trickled in and out. I read my words. I told stories. I saw people’s faces. It was intimate and lovely and perfect.
Starting in June, I took a sabbatical from sending stories out to journals or magazines. It’s the end of December, now, and the sabbatical hasn’t ended yet. I can’t say when I’ll start sending things out again. There’s an excitement to submitting stories. But I find myself thinking more about how it all fits into the larger picture of my writing life. I’ve been thinking a lot, specifically, about who I’m writing for…
Finding an audience
I always knew that I wanted to write about small town life. My chapbook and the reading made me realize that I also want to write to small town life. I want to write for those people, my friends and neighbors. I want to write stories that people in Madison might enjoy. I want them to be able to see themselves in the characters and the settings. I want them to laugh and smile. I don’t want to just write about my community. I want to write for my community. I think there’s a big difference there that takes some figuring out.
For a long time, I thought what I wanted most from writing was to have a novel published. To get an agent and sign a book deal with a major publisher. That was the end game.
Here’s what I realized this year. I could maybe stop writing right now. Stop sending out stories. Stop flirting with a short story collection. Give up on that whole novel thing. Never query another agent again.
What I have already might just be enough. Writing the stories in my chapbook and reading them to folks. Being able to talk about my writing with people in my town. Having writers who I admire read and enjoy my work. That all feels pretty good. I could be done and that’s a very nice thing to feel. I am savoring the hell out of this moment for once.
Will I stop writing? Probably not. I keep reading new things that make me want to get better. I think I would miss the challenge that is writing–figuring out how to use words in such a magical way. I’d also miss being part of a community of fellow writers.
But what I hope for from the new year is to start writing from a different sort of place. I envision writing from a place of contentment, rather than yearning, even though I’m not sure if that’s possible. Still, it seems worth a try.
- The title story from my chapbook, “The Face of Major League Baseball,” will be published in CALYX Journal, along with other great stories and art, including six images from Nona Faustine’s photo series, “White Shoes”. You can buy a copy here.
- My best books of 2015 review article will be coming out in The Ryder magazine, online and in print, at the first of the year.
- My essay, “How to Preserve Food for the Winter,” will be available in the print edition of Little Fiction/Big Truth’s Nomfiction food anthology in April of 2016. You can still pre-order copies here.
- My story, “How to Identify Birds in the Wild,” will appear in the Among Animals anthology from Ashland Creek Press in 2016. More details to come.