Let’s Get Social

It’s a busy week at my day job, and most of my writing over the past week has been pieces that will eventually become a story. That’s always the goal, but I prefer writing more about them on the blog when they’ve settled into a proper groove. Right now they’re in the Sporadic Paragraph Stage, hanging out in random Word docs or the notebook I keep in my purse.

I may not be writing enough to post story updates on the blog today, but I am writing in a few other places. I wanted to take some time to invite you to join me there.

My Twitter page (also linked to in this site’s banner) is quite active. While I do talk about writing, it’s also a space where I talk hockey (Go Caps), television+movies (expect short versions of this post when I’m watching something), beer (drinking and writing about it), politics (no rants but plenty of thoughts), and work grievances. Work grievances are especially fun and loaded with GIFs – and some of my thoughts on boring meetings provided the blueprint for passages in the book. If any or all of these sound up your alley, or even if you just want to connect on Twitter, give me a follow – I’d love to hear from you.

I also blog semi-regularly for Stouts and Stilettos, a women’s beer blog. Most of my posts are beer reviews, conference/event reviews, and beercation guides (beercations are totally a thing). You can find my articles here, but I encourage you to visit the whole blog – there are some excellent pieces there from many talented women.

Those are my main non-writing blog residencies. Related to the blog, I wanted to remind you all that The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales has a page on Facebook. If you’re interested in getting more updates down the road – especially as it gets closer to publication – then please like and follow the collection’s page.

See you all across the Internet!

Cover: The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales

I’ve been putting together The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales. All four stories have been edited, and I’ve sent them and other pieces — acknowledgments, etc. — to be formatted and prepped for publishing on Kindle. I plan to publish the collection on September 5, 2017, just ahead of the Fall/Halloween season.

One of the pieces that’s done, though, is the cover. Check it out:

the crow's gift and other tales by sonora taylor
Art by Doug Puller

The cover was illustrated by Doug Puller, who is an excellent graphic designer and artist. I love the cover, particularly the look of the crow, and the colors of dusk behind the trees. He completed this work as I was finishing up my revisions, and seeing the cover made the collection feel real to me in a way that writing and reading the text alone did not.

I’ve also created a page on Facebook for the collection. Feel free to like, follow, and share the page if you wish. While I will continue to post updates here, the Facebook page will strictly focus on the collection, including when it’s published, and when a story from the collection will be available for download ahead of publication.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to sharing the full collection soon!

When She Was Sloppy

All pieces start with a first draft, and with rare exception, all first drafts are bad. Aspiring writers — myself included — often forget that all great pieces came from bad first drafts, because we only get to see these pieces after they’ve gone through revisions, professional edits, and other polishes to make them less sloppy. I always appreciate it when my favorite authors share their early drafts to prove this point (though I say early, and not first, because I’m convinced that most first drafts will never see the light of day if their authors have anything to say about it).

I’ve discovered that the forgotten first draft experience can happen with my own writing. Over the past few months, I’ve engaged the most with second and third (and ninth and tenth) drafts of my pieces. The earliest drafts of Please Give ceased around New Year’s, with the first pages written getting heavily revised or completely rewritten; and any following pages being buoyed by those revisions. The new pages weren’t perfect by any means, but they were better than first drafts because I was more familiar with the story and where it was going.

Between chapters of Please Give, I worked on revising the short stories set to appear in The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales — reading them, getting feedback from readers, incorporating edits from Evelyn, and reading through them again. The first drafts of these stories were even more buried than the first words of Please Give, going back to the spring and summer of 2016.

Despite writing every day in 2017, new writing — brand new stories, with no drafts whatsoever to guide them and no revisions to shape them — didn’t happen at all until May, when the full draft of Please Give was done. At last, I had the time and mental space to start the new projects that were simply ideas. I cracked my knuckles, opened a brand new Word document, and let the words flow from my fingers.

Words that, as they I typed them, landed rather sloppily on the page.

I found myself looking curiously at these drafts. Why are these sentences so clunky? Why can’t I come up with a good transition from this scene to the next? Why did I use three adverbs in one sentence? Why am I using so many parentheses, and writing asides and exclamations instead of narration?

It’s because I’m writing a first draft — and even after writing several pieces to satisfactory completion, I still felt daunted by that, stuck on the fact that the ideal sentence wasn’t what was currently on paper. No matter how much I write, and no matter how pleased I am with the final versions of my stories, I still have to contend with sloppy first drafts. There’s simply no avoiding them.

They also shouldn’t be avoided. First drafts are where all stories begin, after all. And even with some clunky stumbles on the way, practice does make better. I find myself able to write more in one sitting, and making less of the mistakes (both style and technical) that I made almost by default not one year ago. A first draft is a first draft, though; and even with all the practice in the world, first drafts will always be rough.

Still, I appreciate reminders of when I was sloppy, and I’d rather get those reminders through writing sloppy first drafts than simply remembering them (or rereading them, though that can be fun when looking for a reminder of how far a piece has come). Remembering them means I’m not writing them. And like many writers say, writing a bad first draft — which everyone does — is better than writing nothing at all.

A Few More Crows

I’ve talked a lot about my novel in my past several posts, because that’s what I’ve been working on every day. My short story collection, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, has not been forgotten. I’ve revised all of the stories which will appear in the collection, and once my novel is with my editor, I’m going to focus my attention on getting the collection formatted and published. This will likely happen over the summer, and while I’m happily swimming in Please Give, I look forward to diving back into The Crow’s Gift.

My friends have not forgotten The Crow’s Gift either. Over the past few weeks, I’ve received a couple more asides on crows, which I wanted to share with you all. One aside was too cute to not share:

My friend sent me the adorable tweet above with the following: “Gonna send you all the crow things now. #sorrynotsorry.” Never be sorry, and please send me all the crow things.

Another friend of mine said she thought of my story when she had her own gift exchange with a crow:

[I] thought of your crow story the other day when I went to check the mail and there was a crow on top of my mailbox with something and when I got closer, he flew to a tree close by and I saw it was red blow pop he was working on, so got my mail and left it there for him and it was gone when I looked later. I kept imagining a very happy crow flying off with this red lollipop clutched in his claws or beak. My mailbox is weird, it’s a big square rock thing with a stone top and the actual box is bolted on the side, so he had a table top up there to enjoy his treat and I’m thinking about leaving some little treats up there to see if they take them. I’ll let you know if they do. 🙂

I hope she will. I also wonder if leaving gifts for her crow will have the same results Tabitha finds when she leaves gifts for Timothy.

The final aside isn’t quite an aside. It’s from my friend, artist and illustrator Doug Puller:

timothy-cropped

It’s a beautiful portrait of a crow. But not just a crow – it’s a portrait of Timothy. One he drew when I asked him to draw the cover for The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales.

Stay tuned for more.

Progress Report: Novel + Stories

Good morning! It’s been a busy past couple of weeks, both in real life and the fictional ones I get to escape to through writing. Here are some quick updates on each project I’m working on, both for your information and to hold me accountable to finish them amidst the hubbub of everything else.

The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales: all of the stories I wish to include are back from my editor. I’ve gone through and made revisions on most of them. I plan to start piecing the collection together and prepare it for publishing once the novel is with my editor, as the novel takes up a great deal of head space right now. I’m keeping the short stories in mind, though, by submitting some to literary contests and journals as I find them. It’s good practice in terms of putting my stuff out there, getting used to feedback, getting used to receiving rejection, and conceptualizing them for other audiences. Plus, on the chance they win or get accepted, it would be a great experience.

Please Give: my master draft now has less words, but is more complete. I’ve found that the best way to write the pieces I have left is to remove or change the pieces that aren’t working as-is, putting me in an odd overlap of both writing and revision. It’s an odd feeling, but a satisfying one, especially since the changes and additions help me see the story from beginning to end as a cohesive whole – more than I have yet, and seemingly more each day. It’s exciting, and I look forward to replacing my [bracket] notes with actual pieces.

In between those two projects, I’m also writing down lines and ideas for my next pieces. I can’t help but write, and it’s an awesome feeling. It’s a feeling, though, that now needs to reverberate through the stories themselves. TTFN!

 

Upcoming Project: The Campus Coffee Shop

I’ve been out of school for several years, but I still enjoy visiting campus coffee shops. It’s always fun to walk into a substitute study hall filled with espresso machines and scones, the sound of typing interspersed with the hiss of steaming milk and laughing voices. Whenever I’m near my old campus, I try to visit one of the coffee shops for a quick drink.

I visited one of my favorite school haunts, Saxby’s, over Halloween last year. As usual, I was surrounded by students 8-12 years my junior, and while I’m not their mother, there’s still quite a generational divide, especially where pop culture is concerned. So, I was pleasantly surprised to hear pop songs on the stereo from 2008 — 2010, my specific tenure at Georgetown. Not just one or two songs, but several. While the station was likely a ’00s pop selection on Pandora, I chuckled to myself and wondered if I’d perhaps traveled back in time.

I finished my coffee, met my husband at the Exorcist Stairs, then met our friends at The Tombs for burgers and beer. We went home, where we shared one final pumpkin beer, and I started a load of laundry.

Through all of that, I couldn’t shake the idea of someone visiting their favorite campus coffee shop, and having it become the place it was in their past. Between loads of laundry, I typed a story of a woman making a visit like my own, and hearing music like I heard — yet couldn’t be explained away by Pandora. That story is now called The Campus Coffee Shop, and is the fifth story — and final one profiled on this blog — within The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales.

The story begins as I describe above, though her return to the past isn’t nearly as pleasant. The narrator did not find school to be a happy place, and the campus coffee shop was her escape from its stressors — even after graduation, when she should’ve left them all behind. Perhaps she didn’t because she couldn’t — and neither could the others.

I look forward to sharing all five stories with you once they are edited, collected, and published.

The Crow’s Gift: Table of Contents

Today is a busy day, both with writing and my day job. It’s been a busy several days, but with the writing at least, it’s the sort of busy that brings me joy.

The weekend was especially productive. I got All the Pieces Coming Together from my editor, and spent most of Sunday revising it based on her notes. On that note, if you are a newer writer like me, I must emphasize how important it is to have an editor — a professional one, not simply someone who proofreads or beta-reads. I’ve had two stories edited thus far, and both have been improved by that step — not just in grammar and style, but in bringing to the surface deeper meanings and themes that I couldn’t find on my own. Even though we write in solitude, at the end of the day, it’s a team effort between writer and reader.

Because of those busy hours, I have less to share today than on Tuesdays past. In lieu of a longer post, I’d like to share the current table of contents for The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales. Three of the stories will go to my editor this week, including I Never Knew Your Name, so it may look quite different once it appears in the collection. I’m excited to see where it goes, and the same goes for the other pieces waiting to make the journey from my own computer. I will keep all of you posted on the progress of the collection over the coming weeks — including its cover.

The Crow’s Gift, and Other Tales

  1. The Crow’s Gift
  2. I Love Your Work
  3. The Campus Coffee Shop
  4. All the Pieces Coming Together
  5. I Never Knew Your Name