What you see when you are traveling

Photo by Theresa Barker.

I’m staying for a few days in a nearby sea-front town, partly for a conference and partly to get some of my own writing done.  The conference ended yesterday, and because I had organized the conference and was the main administrator, when morning dawned today and the conference was over, I felt suddenly free to pursue other activities.  I nearly holed up in my hotel room to work on my writing, but then a little voice inside me said, “Come on, you should go out.  Find some adventure to participate in!  You can come back and write later.”

That was how I found myself waiting on the ferry dock for the next sailing.  The weather wasn’t great; it was overcast and in the low 30s (F).  In fact when we got to the other side there were tiny specks of snow fluttering in the air, though it never quite got as far as snowing properly.

Still, it was something to take a boat ride across a major waterway in our region, and as I stood on the deck of the boat watching the little town ahead, our destination, gradually growing larger, the town’s individual buildings becoming more distinguishable as we neared the ferry slip, I found myself suddenly imagining what the seafarers back in history might have felt like as their boats skimmed through the water, sea birds soaring overhead, waves making a “shush” sound as the boat cut through the water.

When I got back to my lodgings I realized that even though it was not a huge “adventure,” at the same time it felt good to be out and away from everyday tasks.  I hope you have a chance for a small adventure soon!

Aside:  a story for Dahlia

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonynetone/14499266029/in/photolist-o6fwDk-GhzkVA-GZbdUh-F8mVK-8gwvJv
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“The Farm” by Joan Miró | This Creative Commons image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

In the garden of good and evil there grew a tree.  It was one of Dahlia’s trees, but it did not know it.  The tree had a base in a black dirt circle and its leaves were flying green swans of composure.

If you spoke to this tree it might tell you a story.  “I am a madman,” it might say, thought nothing about this tree was at all human.  The curved-sluice bark matrix of its trunk, the twisted matrix of branches like spider fingers stretched upward, the jutted forks of its form, none of these were of a human nature. Nevertheless, “I am a madman,” the tree might say, and it would flutter its leaves violently as though buffeted by impossible winds.

And you, standing by this tree asking it a question, in the garden of good and evil, who are you?  Are you the woodcutter with an ax to chop it down leaving only a stubby gashed stump and the pain of a lost limb in its place?  Are you a gardener who seeks to nourish its growth with rich compost and tea fertilizer that makes the tree even stronger and more fertile?  Are you the scientist who comes to study its nature and to solve the many little puzzles that make a tree a tree, the engine of chlorophyll and sap-running?  Are you the folklorist who comes to uncover the buried story within the tree, the sage of a generation of generations of trees that has led to this one, this imperfect yet perfect tree that grows in the garden of good and evil?

Whichever you are, stay for awhile in the shadow of its branches.  Watch it change in the light of an ever-moving sun.  Listen to the brush of a breeze in its branches.  Feel the sense of nutrients being drawn up through its roots to make life bloom at the tips of its branches.  Then perhaps one day it will tell you its secrets.

My friend and fellow blogger Dahlia finds the most amazing trees to feature in her blog.  This week at the conference we were given an image of the painting by surrealist Joan Miró called “The Farm” (above), and asked to write for almost an hour using the image as a starting point.  When I saw the tree in this painting, I instantly thought of Dahlia and some of her very original and unique trees!

Thanks for visiting!

Do you ever feel like not writing?

Photo by Theresa Barker.

There are mornings when I’ve looked forward to having time open for writing, and then the morning comes and I feel . . . . blah.  I really can’t understand why it might feel so great to look forward to a block of time without other commitments, and then when the time comes, I shy away from writing.  What’s up with that?

Feeling that way this morning, I did some journalling to try to engage that reluctant part of me, and what came up was this:

  • “I’m afraid to start writing something that might not turn out the way I want.  I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed and I’ll think it wasn’t worth it, and I might as well just save myself the time and do something else.” OR
  • “What made me think I’m a writer at all?  I should just give up before I ruin something else I’m writing.”

Where do these feelings come from?  I have written things I love and that feel beautiful and creative and wonderfully artistic.  But at a moment’s notice that nasty little critic inside my head jumps out, or simply lags back, and whispers crummy little things in my brain.  “What made you think you were a writer?”  and that awful one, “Why even try?”

This struggle has been with me a long time.  Last week I decided to try a nonverbal approach, just for a change.  I sketched the little thing in my brain that was keeping me away from writing.  And this is what I came up with:

Sketch by Theresa Barker.

What are these?
1) The first one is a cloud, or a miasma, that sticks to the back of my brain predicting failure.  It says, “Oh, don’t even start, you’ll just be disappointed, even if you think of a story that is promising, it’ll never work out that way, you know how it goes…just do something else instead.”

2)  The second one is a beast, which roars at the inside of my brain after I’ve been writing, “See?  It is a failure!  You ruined it!  No one’s going to want to read this.  Why did you even try?”

Auuhhh!  Harsh!  With these two entities inside my head, no wonder I shy away from writing!  Who in their right mind would go up against these two naysaying voices?  You’d want to save yourself from this kind of abuse, right?

But.

When I’m feeling really hesitant, I try to nudge myself to talk to the voices, usually through journalling.  I try to say something like, “I know you’re afraid we won’t be successful and creative enough.  You’re trying to protect me, and that’s okay.  But I really really want to try to make some new art, I want to try to be creative and bring something brand-new into this world.  How about if we give it a try and gently see what happens?”

Sounds strange, huh?  But if I step back and ask myself, do I want to write?  Maybe I should just quit and do something else permanently?  – I always come back to YES, I do want to write, I love the feeling of newness and spark that comes out of it, and even the “bad” stuff isn’t the end of the world.  It only seems like it before I start.

Do you find yourself hesitating before you write?  Do you wish you could just write without fear?  Or, are you always ready to write without a feeling of reluctance?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for visiting!

Do monsters live in graffiti walls? – two microfiction stories out

An aside about publishing

https://www.flickr.com/photos/teagrrl/2258758595/in/photolist-4rAJeH-qKZTj-3RyZbo-reedB6-i4W5Bg-86q6ci-75DCQq-esNpPd-nf2KWz-aacd6W-fc4S5A-comSiN-nAPiG-bhqN56-hmnoT-6RPgM-K4eXcB-qcm7SX-azketV-8EFp9P-nJ8ovR-7rnmaB-T9v4f-a8Y7gL-GUgqp-hPnjfR-a5yBm1-a8VgXk-fhBJL3-cZ4Z1-fjnDRf-4spr5j-dppjw6-GUftC-8wDwDn-99zQuw-wVUhs-rvVJFN-5vGnw3-f2hKNi-TUXHUU-i4VmHi-QdGfFj-bfN23x-8FZ2qo-au5VUF-eMc2sv-6ssDAm-5Dyo5f-U6gr47
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One of the hardest parts of being a writer is finding an audience.  You want to feel that your work is being heard, that you have found readers who value and appreciate the words you have put down on paper or typed onto the computer screen.  Writing is a solitary task, yes, which can feel rewarding in itself.  But it can also feel more complete when your writing has connected with someone who enjoyed reading it.  That is one of the lovely things about blogs!  The blogging community, especially here at WordPress.com, is welcoming and universally encouraging.  We read each other’s work and share our own thoughts and observations, and it is particularly joyful when someone tells you your writing made a difference in their life or in their thinking.  THANK YOU to everyone who has read my work and encouraged me over the past few years here on WordPress.com.  And I am glad I’ve been able to return the favor – I have been touched, delighted, and changed by reading your work over the years.

Beyond blogging, however, I decided last year for the first time in NNN years (hah!) to try to submit my work to publication markets.  It’s something you’re “supposed” to do, send your work out, get it rejected, send it out again, get rejected again, etc., etc..  The world is full of stories of repeatedly rejected works that “finally” found a publisher (e.g., Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Catcher in the Rye, and others).  Still, even though the mythology is that you have to take rejection without feeling defeated, that you must persevere despite repeated turn-downs, it still feels painful and frustrating to have one of  your own stories sent back, returned and rejected.  “I shouldn’t take this personally,” you tell yourself.  But, hey, it IS personal, isn’t it?  The story is your own creation, something you painstakingly edited and changed and rewrote to make it the very best you can, and then – WHAM! – “no, thanks”, or even worse, “we can’t take the time to tell you why we’re rejecting it,” or worse yet, S I L E N C E.  You bring back your bedraggled, footsore story and put it on the shelf, debating whether you should have the courage to send it out again, or whether you’re just feeling too beat down to try again.

Last year when I started sending out my work again I told myself not to expect success.  I was hoping to find some acceptance, but I knew the odds were against it.  The short story market is hugely competitive these days, with everyone having a computer and an idea and a conviction that their story is the perfect one to be published.  And likely most of these stories have merit, but the numbers of journal subscribers and the numbers of writer-submitters don’t quite balance each other . . . and so, it’s increasingly harder to place a story in this shrinking short-story market.

So, I was fortunate last April to receive a story acceptance in email, and not only that, but that the publisher said, “I’ve never read a story like this before.”  And not only that again, but it was a paying market.  Those are rare.  So I persevered; I made 44 submissions last year, to 20 publications, of 19 different stories. A couple of stories I have retired, several have been significantly rewritten and still they continue to be rejected.  I always ask myself, “Do I still like this story, do I still believe in it?”  And if so, I continue to keep the story active and search for a match in a publication market.

Is it worth it?  I’m not sure I could say one way or the other; it’s a personal decision for each writer.  It depends on how you feel in the face of rejection, and to be very honest, if rejection from publications makes you consider STOPPING writing, then I’d say, no, it isn’t worth the price.  I like to think of Emily Dickinson, who only published a handful of her poems during her lifetime.  Yet today she is one of our most revered poetic voices.  The important thing, I’m convinced, is to build a body of work.  Keep writing, keep creating, keep finding your own voice.  The external approbation isn’t going to come easily (in the usual case), but a lack of publication recognition does not say one thing about the quality of your work.  You are the only person who can determine whether your stories or your writing is valuable, whether it is worth continuing.  That said, the positive response of fellow bloggers and writers has made a huge difference in my acceptance of myself as a writer.  Again, thank you!

I think you’ll enjoy these two “microfiction” (fewer than 500 words long) stories that appeared in publication late last month, about monsters who live in graffiti walls.  I hope you’ll see the whimsy that I was striving for!

“soul mate, soul meet”

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gareth1953/3920249663/in/photolist-6YqiDr-gwmAC2-7daYo7-aY8o6K-i1FgZN-em5zBr-xxuhkF-6Kfncw-4EPtQW-dxe6jX-vYZJTQ-oa6XQm-hVhdi-4s4MNd-gwmN7H-94RxUU-6M3EME-dAYwHz-e7JueS-nev3ch-Eqq9Bc-aNwAPP-dxFXKd-bnWFb2-ddZrcz-6YukVj-orALn2-5EebUE-nDnpNu-niuC7g-aqt3xd-e9um9x-eiwixk-9EnYfd-cGwrk1-DzdvPd-4kW9sR-pGFVsu-7Qvq7c-a6g4V8-PktRF-nPconR-hPnLdS-6AXEFi-8kZZG-5kpbc-o8sd2D-gEwwF-3Y3bG-nPbFWH
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Inspired by the Flickr Creative Commons image here, I wrote this little microfiction story (220 words!) last year.  I loved it, but it got turned down by a lot of publishers.  Until I sent it to Charles Christian of the UK’s Grievous Angel last fall.  He loved it too!

You meet the monster who lives in the graffiti wall on a Thursday evening, just when you were planning to go slalom skating on the pier with the group from work. . . .

This little story was near and dear to my heart, and I’m delighted that Charles liked it too.   Link to the publication of both stories here. 

“they are in search of a lonelier planet …”

https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnragai/6835601554/in/photolist-bq3fcd-oYumyK-oFT8tw-rjQRm5-paHof2-oTtGfn-7tduRo-9n2aTS-mGxL-iZ7Ngy-ecLNvP-7FHVmq-dkXnB9-xcvxX-dvjVtD-saN9EE-aoZ6dV-hWdZ-oYumdK-4zEHoq-2Y2xpZ-bDEjr-9YbQqG-54XGM8-jBMGuu-h6CnPV-7PMiUz-8Z4yEe-DiWA4-qGTuRP-fp9xDv-ijAnJ3-8kSfmj-cFkqp-5bESUt-34uSaL-eE78q-dSryYh-h6AJXG-iZ7Tpu-eE78p-iJbM3b-8vEXkh-nTEWyT-4iK78d-ihrscR-ag4UnL-oHj97K-9xvHbC-9h6ugZ
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After writing the story about the blue monster above, I wrote a little companion piece about monsters hanging out in a different place, the graffiti wall near the shopping mall. Here’s the opening:

The homeless who are monsters hang out in the graffiti wall by the mall. There is plenty of scrap food for them to munch on. The street musicians like to set up in front of the wall and play for tips from passing shoppers. Monsters in the wall sometimes hum along.. . .

I love that these two stories are keeping each other company on the Grievous Angel  publication website.

Thanks for visiting!  Do you have any thoughts about writing or about submitting and publication?  Have a wonderful week!

January 2018

Hello all, as part of the “re-do” on my author website, theresabarker.com, I am experimenting with a periodic newsletter that touches on current projects, any publication announcements, and includes a writing tip. This week I wrote up the next version of the newsletter. If you’re interested, take a look below! Thanks for visiting!

Theresa J. Barker

Into the Sky Sketch by Theresa Barker.

I’m sitting at my dining room table this Thursday morning.  I sometimes like to write here, away from my desk where I can spread out, and not only that, but the view out the window is onto our lovely side yard with native plants, rhododendrons, sword ferns and Oregon Grape, a Japanese blood maple tree and Rose of Sharon tree (both bare this time of year).  The weather has been chilly, for us, in the low 40s most days.  Brr!  Even with these cool temperatures, the Japanese flowering cherry trees are starting to put out their pale pink blooms, unbelievably.  A whisper that spring is on its way already.

The other day I read a brief lament by the month of January, saying how it is a month that is misunderstood and underestimated, that “everyone loves April” in all those poems written about that month…

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Announcing “Cinderella Reimagined”

Announcing! Cinderella Reimagined, an anthology of fifteen re-told versions of the Cinderella fairy tale.

This anthology was a co-creation with me and collaborator Anne Jailene Aguilar, a South African blogger and writer.  We asked bloggers and writers from all over the globe to submit new tales drawn on the Cinderella fairy tale.  We selected the best stories, edited and designed the collection, and published it on Amazon Books last month.  Now available on Amazon Books! – Take a look:

I think, I say, I do

We did it! We actually released our anthology this month. We missed our in-time-for-Christmas target but it is out. CINDERELLA REIMAGINED: An Anthology of Cinderella Retellings is available on Amazon, USA, UK and Europe.

Do you sometimes feel you are living a Cinderella life? Maybe there is a little Cinderella in all of us. Even your favorite guy best friend may have his happily ever after, Cinderella style. 

Don’t take your shoe shopping routine for granted. You never know who might be there to help you try on your new perfect pair, a pair that may not be just ordinary shoes. A glass slipper could be magical or perhaps one left behind in need of a little TLC. Remember, magic dwells in the most unexpected places.

And do let some step-sisters surprise you. They are not all ugly. After all, Cinderella is one, too.

Most importantly, don’t let Cinderella fool…

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