Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Things That Matter Most

by Jewel Leann Williams

I think Heavenly Father is trying to help me do some decluttering in my life. I've had a couple of experiences that have been.....enlightening, to say the least, and have helped to remind me about the things that matter most in my life.

I saw some pictures on Facebook of friends who were having a great time doing something all together, which was like the umpteenth time I'd seem some sort of picture/post like this on Facebook. You know, the one where all these different people who are your friends, are all hanging out doing something fun, and you weren't invited... do you ever see those? Well, this time my internal voice, the one that sometimes sounds like those middle-school boys who were nasty to me, and sometimes sounds likes a sibling when we would fight growing up, and a LOT of the time just sounds like my own voice, well that internal voice reminded me that I am not fun, and not good company, and why on Earth would anyone want to invite me to go do fun things when I am not even pleasant to be around? I'm not one of the cool kids, I never was and never will be.  My internal voice is nasty and knows exactly how to push all my little self-esteem buttons. I subconsciously decided that these people I thought were my friends, were really just tolerating me, and didn't really even like me, or else they would've included me in The Neat Thing They Just Posted On Facebook. I found myself feeling alternately sorry for them to have to put up with a schlub like me, and angry at them for not including me in the Fun Thing. This downward spiral makes my tummy hurt and sort of ruins my day/days until it fades back in the back of my mind and then I forget about all the terrible terribleness.

I was in the middle of one of these cycles, sitting in church wallowing just a little when my son snuck himself into a position where he could lay across my lap and have me tickle his back. He turned up his adorable little face to me, smiled dreamily, and said "I love you so much Mommy."  My heart did the little squeeze it always does when I hear those words and see those smiles.  I also had another thought. I can't necessarily say it was the Spirit because it sounded a little too rebellious and snarky, but the other voice in my head said, "Who cares about any of those people? This little boy loves me with everything he has inside him." I thought how I have five other kids and a husband that I can say the same for.

They are the thing that matters most.

This week, I was bemoaning the annoying state of my Facebook feed with my sister-in-law.  I was complaining about how I had all of these things on my feed, from Facebook friends who were leftover from my days in ANWA, but for the most part were people I didn't even know in person and would never meet. I was getting caught up in their opinions and stories and posts about things that sometimes infuriated me, and these were all people I had no actual relationship with. WHY was I investing energy in any of this?  She suggested I unfollow them. There was this fleeting moment where I thought, "But I'm going to miss out on..." and then nothing.  I couldn't think about what I would miss out on. So I unfollowed every person in my feed who was not someone I knew in real life. No more time wasted on pretend relationships.

At the same time, thanks to Facebook, a couple of weeks ago I got back in touch after 20 years with a beloved family from my mission, who I will get to visit with tomorrow all the way from Mexico. I can't wait to meet the 4 kids of the girl I knew as an amazing and smart teenager so long ago, and to give a hug to one of the sisters who showed me so much love.

These are the things that matter most.

I am grateful for these little opportunities to declutter and to get back to basics.  I know that I have some really solid friends, the ones whose regard for me I never have to doubt, and with whom I never feel less than. I have an amazing husband and kids, and people from my entire life who I am blessed to be in touch with thanks to technology. I know that I am exceedingly blessed, and that sharpening my focus to those people makes me a much happier person than when I worry about  superfluous pseudo-relationships.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tips for Finding Short Story Markets

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

A couple weeks ago I attended Balticon, a sci fi and fantasy convention in Baltimore. It was interesting and fun, with some useful tips for some work I’m doing and also some great accessories (like these horns!). But the part I want to talk about here is the short story resources that I learned about.

Up to now, I have mostly just been randomly coming across places to submit short stories, kind of hit and miss and pretty scarce. But since I’m working on short fiction more these days, I was excited to learn about these resources, listed below. These are all about finding markets for your stories, and believe me—if you are interested in writing short fiction, there are lots of markets.

Facebook open call groups. Search on Facebook for groups called “open call” and then the genre that you write. For example, I have joined an open call group for sci fi and fantasy. When people hear about anthologies or other markets that are seeking stories in the genre, they post. This has been AMAZING for generating huge lists of places I could submit stories to. Now I just have to write them! :) This site is for mostly speculative fiction, and it is vast. Does the market exist? It’s probably listed. This one is a paid service. It was recommended, but honestly, since looking at the other options and how much content they have, I won’t be doing this. 

Submission Grinder. Searchable info on markets, including statistics on rejections and acceptances and other exciting stuff. Data! We loves it, my precious! (I’m married to a data scientist type, so we really really like numbers and graphs and spreadsheets.)

Short fiction is obviously a different world from novels, but it is an interesting and exciting one too, and these resources can help you find markets for your short pieces, including even flash fiction (who knew that some people pay for flash?).

Now for a couple more pieces of advice: 

1. Keep your stories off the web. I have made a rookie mistake a number of times and am paying for it now. Don’t publish your short fiction on your blog just for fun. This pretty much rules it out for a lot of markets who will then consider your story a reprint—which many markets don’t want. Sure, it’s fun to share your work, but make sure you’re never going to want to try to sell it. 

2. Dream big. There are different payment brackets for short fiction—pro (generally $0.06/word), semipro (around $0.03/word), token (less; sometimes a flat rate), nonpaying, etc. And there are markets that may excite you personally more than others (there are a couple of fairy tale magazines that I dream of being published in because that’s my cup of tea). Why not start with your dream markets? The worst that will happen is that they say no and you move on down the line to the next market you’re interested in. But what if they say yes instead? 

3. Try something different, something you’re not good enough to write yet. I’d love to say more about this in the future, but for now let me just start with this—short fiction is an awesome place to try out something you don’t know how to write. I’ve never written science fiction, always thought it was kind of out of my depth, but I’ve recently found a market for middle grade sci fi that I’m kind of dying to write a piece for. It may be awful, it may be great—who knows? But it’s worth trying something new, and no matter how awful or great it is, I took the chance to stretch and grow. Which means it’s awesome no matter what.

Now go write some short fiction!


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