Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reverb 10, Writing Communities

December 7 – Community Prompt: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

While I spent much of this year deepening my relationships within existing communities, I did find two new communities this fall. One was in Nanowrimo, the National Novel Writing Month. Although I only went to one write-in, it was definitely a community of people participating. Online, on Twitter, in person, a diverse community focused on a single goal. It's something I plan to continue. I also was invited to join a small writing group. We've only met a few times, but that is a community I do plan to continue and connect with more deeply in 2011. It took me over a year, maybe two, to really find people to give me feedback on my writing, but now I do feel like I've been able to find those people to give me those invaluable critiques.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oh right, Nano is over.

So National Novel Writing Month is finished. I had a few other things on my mind at the time (more on that later), so its passing was quiet. Plus I reached my goal point with my novel.
I wonder what it will be like next year. I anticipate being under highly different circumstances (more on that later too), so I wonder if I'll be writing an entirely new book, or editing the memoir I've started. I'd like to start something entirely new. Still, I don't think I'm going to be entirely consumed by it. I like it, and I will do it again, but it didn't impact me the way I expected.
Part of me feels that I "cheated" and that's why Nanowrimo didn't consume me. "Cheated" because I edited my work, rather than writing from scratch. But on the other hand, I think there may be too much emphasis in our world on doing things a certain way, by the book. And if a person doesn't follow that path, s/he's a failure. I don't buy it. And so I'm not calling myself a Nano cheater.
I look forward to whatever challenge next year brings!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The heart of the Nano

I've edited everything I had written! Now I just have to write the conclusion... I have several more scenes to move through, and none of them are written. So I'm setting my Nano goals now - at least 1667 words per day! I also need to spend some time organizing my timeline and chapters, integrating individual storylines, and fleshing out the sketchier scenes. But I've made a ton of progress!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Moving through Nano

So, I have to confess: I'm not writing entirely new content for Nano. Instead, I'm using Nano to motivate me to edit my existing content into a coherent rough draft. As a result, I'm about to turn the 50K word mark, but I've still got significant editing to go. And I am writing new content - writing the scenes I hadn't written, filling out scenes that are too brief or need more development, etc.
Still, Nanowrimo has benefited me tremendously. For one thing, it's forced me to read through my novel quickly. I've been sitting down and reading through large chunks at a time, which helps me to start getting a better big picture view of my work. Another benefit is the fun of it. I am participating in an event with other writers and we all get to complain and rejoice together. What fun! As I continue to move through this month, I expect to see other benefits crop up.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two on Tuesday

I have 2 tasks this Tuesday: Work and Write. That is the Nano way...

Monday, November 1, 2010

And it begins

So I've started my first NaNoWriMo. Last night I met with a group of writers and at midnight we all began typing and writing. It was fun. I'm glad that I've gotten involved in the social aspect of NaNo. My word count is going well, but we'll see how long that continues!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


North Carolina Fall

Autumn in North Carolina
The leaves change slowly
mid-October and trees are still green.
Reality a secret:
The time is short

Fall slinks into view in North Carolina
Red and orange and yellow moving across the landscape slowly
Travelling along a fallopian tube
The movement of color along a path of water
The movement of life along a secret vessel

And then you see it
Flashes of red, tints of orange
Fatigue, ennui
Tree tips dazzle in the sunlight
Mood swings give no clue

And then it is November
All the leaves litter the ground
A brown carpet
And the egg that was in your womb
Is in your blood
Secret life, secret color
Gone for another season.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Story ideas

My husband was telling about this news story which recounts a love triangle that resulted in murder. Three people were in a skydiving club together, and two women were both having an affair with the same man. Allegedly, one of the women sabotaged the other woman's parachute, and she plunged to her death.
As a person, I find this story horrifying. It's such a tragedy. As a writer, I find this story fascinating. To kill a fellow skydiver by sabotaging her parachute seems like a particularly horrific breach of trust. It makes me wonder, is there a code, spoken or unspoken, in skydiving clubs about parachutes, and if so, did she break that code? Surely. The alleged killer jumped moments after the victim, so she watched her death. Did she have second thoughts? Did she angle down and try to catch her at the last minute? Or did she watch with secret glee?
I write fiction. But reality provides a rich soil for ideas.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Culinary Napalm

It was a sunny fall day, approaching Halloween, and my mom was making caramel candy, which meant there was a pot of boiling sugar on the stove. And this is how I know Rebecca knew what she was doing, because as soon as she came in the kitchen she crowed “Culinary napalm!” It’s what Alton Brown calls boiling sugar. Rebecca watches Food Network all the time. She still does, no doubt plotting my death. So my mom nodded and told Rebecca to stay on the other side of the island (she's only 8 years old). I was next to mom, helping her cook, like always. I mean, I may have been a beauty queen, but I wasn’t prissy or afraid to get my hands dirty.

I’m still not sure how Rebecca managed it. I just know she must have been planning it for a long time. She left the kitchen without us noticing – we were handling culinary napalm, after all, and then we heard her screaming outside. My mom ran out, commanding me to watch the sugar. The next thing I knew, Rebecca was inside the kitchen, screaming frantically about the squirrel that had attached itself to her, and she pushed me headfirst into the pot.

Yeah, my beauty queen days are over. Rebecca isn’t following in my footsteps either. She just keeps watching Food Network. But I’m not worried. I’m watching DIY network, and I’m getting pretty handy with a nail gun…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October is here, November approaches...

I've joined NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. And November approaches! I'm looking forward to this challenge, which will be a double challenge given that November is an extraordinarily busy month in the Bayless household. My husband and both nephews have birthdays, and there's Thanksgiving. This year we are traveling for my husband's birthday to DC. Then we usually go to Charlotte for my nephews' birthday parties (which my brother kindly schedules on the same day). And this year we'll be hosting Thanksgiving. So finding time to write EVERY SINGLE DAY will be a challenge, but one that I look forward to. After all, doing something for 30 days will surely help me develop the discipline for when November is over.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Praise of Friends

People are starting to read my short story collection and giving me feedback. And it's very good feedback. It's so encouraging! I'm hearing about how real my characters are, how my stories make people think, how well I use my words.
Initially I was apprehensive about people reading my work - it does expose me to a certain extent. But the overwhelmingly positive feedback is so sweet to hear and linger in. Truly, this is all the reward I want. Dale has always pushed me to define why I wanted to be published, and this is why: to know that my stories are touching people's lives. It's not about the money (although I'd love to make a profit - only need to sell about 100 more books). It's about writing stories that entertain but also touch hearts and minds. Thank all of you for reading and encouraging me!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Author copies

Just ordered some author copies of my book! This is exciting in large part because my husband generously gave me his personal money to use to purchase them! Did I marry a great man or what? It's going to be a tight month for us financially, plus he's facing a layoff at work, so I hadn't bought any marketing copies of my book yet. So I shared that with him tonight as a prayer request. After we prayed, he disappeared, then came back with $100 and told me to buy as many copies as I could with it! Love it when God answers prayers superfast.
So, 10 Minute Writer, your review copy is on the way. Anyone else interested in reviewing a cool book of short stories for FREE? Email me at ev3177@mindspring.com!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Like Reviewing Free Books?

I would love to get the word out about my short story collection, Birds, Bees, and Church Trailer Thieves.
SO, if you have a cool blog and like to read and review books, then I would love to give you a free copy of mine to review on your blog!
Please email me at ev3177@mindspring.com. The first 10 responses will get free books. (Hint - if I nominated you as an excellent blogger, you've got a really good shot at a free book!).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Forgiven, from Birds, Bees, & Church Trailer Thieves.

Kinetic Church in Concord, NC, ran a billboard campaign several years ago now. I wrote a story based on their campaign, the fourth story in my book. This is the story which gave me the phrase "church trailer thieves" for the title.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Third Story

This story is a short short that uses the life cycle of daffodils as its structuring metaphor.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Second Story

My second story in the collection Birds, Bees, and Church Trailer Thieves is titled Seagull. It is set in the future, on the Outer Banks of NC, after the total collapse of the ocean ecosystem. While it is entirely fictional, it is true that we are overfishing the ocean to great extremes and our trash piles are acidifying the ocean at a rate that is beyond the ocean's compensating mechanisms.
The story focuses on a young girl who is facing her future and must make a decision.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The book is coming out soon!

So I've submitted the final proofs of the book and should be receiving a copy for approval in a couple of weeks. This is very exciting news!
As we wait, I'll be posting some photos of summaries of my stories in this collection, Birds, Bees, and Church Trailer Thieves.

Bullhorn. This short short is a description of a man who takes time out of his regular routine to be a street preacher. Inspired by the Nooma video by Rob Bell, it is an attempt to understand the desperation of the nameless man.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Versatile Bloggers!

My online friend Katharine Grubb, of 10-Minute Writer fame, nominated me for a Most Versatile Blogger award. THANK YOU!! I'm very honored. Since I just posted to my personal blog (thebaylesses.blogspot.com), I'll post my thanks on this blog.
Next step: List 7 things about myself, and then nominate up to 15 more bloggers for the award and notify them. Sounds like fun!
1. I'm eagerly awaiting my first published book, a self-published short story collection titled Birds, Bees, and Church Trailer Thieves.
2. I'm currently working on my first novel, a book that focuses on the efforts of a mother and daughter to deal with the world as it collapses around them: specifically, the dystopian forces at work are the elimination of all family planning methods (birth control, etc.), the collapse of the ocean ecosphere, and a total corn crop failure. But at its core, it's a work of hope.
3. I just returned from a week long spiritual retreat at a Conyers, GA Monastery. It was wonderful. And a requirement of my job (I have the best job ever). Speaking of jobs, I am employed as a "pastor-of-all-work" at my church, Evergreen Community Church.
4. If it wouldn't cause me major health problems, I would only eat bread, chocolate, tea, and Coke.
5. I have quite an obsession with the TV show Fringe. Some consider it unhealthy. I think it's a great show, with great acting, and a wonderfully creative plot line. I love sci-fi in general, although I stick to the classics: Star Wars, X-Files, Star Trek (all of it), the Dune book series. Sci-fi and fantasy are great vehicles for dealing with universal themes in unique ways. Yet I don't write sci-fi. The closest I've come is dystopian futures.
6. I love to garden, but my thumb is not very green. It's slowly turning green, just not as fast as I would like. I garden flowers, not food. Part of my problem is the voles in my backyard. I'm too soft-hearted to kill them, but I really need to find a way to keep them away from my plants!!
7. While voles earn my mercy, I hate and fear spiders and will kill any that are unfortunate enough to cross my path. In the fall, when orb-weavers are spinning their huge and gorgeous webs, I walk around the house with a stick in front of me to avoid any close encounters. (shudder).

OK, now, up to 15 awesome versatile bloggers:
1. Beth Parent at Onward Hoe
2. Kerry Smith at Donde estan mis pantalones
3. K.M. Weiland at Wordplay
4. Erin Brown at Oh Fortuna
5. Nadine at Wormhole Riders, for excellent in-depth Fringe reports!
6. Joel Hoffman at God Didn't Say That, especially if you like in-depth discussions about Bible translations
7. Ben Stroup & Robert Benson at The Long Pew
8. Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like
9. Meredith at Stranded Science
10. Sue at Confessions of a Tired Supergirl

Friday, June 11, 2010


I was chatting with a friend of mine from church yesterday about my upcoming short story collection. She was thrilled with the title (Birds, Bees, & Church Trailer Thieves) and very excited to read it. Which is encouraging. However, there's quite a mix of stories in the book. Many of them are PG-13. I use some crude language. I deal with some darkness.
For those who know me well, this will not be a surprise. But for those who are not as close to me, this will be a surprise, I suspect. It makes me a little nervous to think that I'm opening up a whole side of me to the public. And not just to the public, but to my local community! I know people will form opinions of me based on my writing. It will affect opinions of people who just peripherally know me. Quite possibly some people will think that some of the stories are autobiographical, although none of them are.
Other writers: do you get nervous when people in your local community are about to read your book?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Get Thee to a Writing Group!

I've given at least three talented writers input via the Internet. And I enjoy doing it, although it can be tricky to give constructive criticism without seeing the author's face. I hate the thought that I might hurt someone's feelings. This is why I love my writing group. We meet every other Tuesday, usually 7 - 10 people, and we read our work. Then each person gives his/her feedback. It's a wonderful forum because we can see each other and gauge reactions. Also, it's great to get feedback from multiple points of view. For example, if everyone hates your phrase "her eyes twinkled like cat litter," then you know it probably needs revision. But if only 3 or 4 people hate it, while the others think it perfectly captures the odd beauty of cat litter, then you can make your own mind up. In addition, writer's groups help you understand what is clear and what isn't. You know, as an author, all the secret ins and outs and motivations of your characters and your plot. And when you read your own story, it's all perfectly clear. Yet a group can clue you in to when they were confused. This is a great advantage, especially in editing and rewriting.

I struggled for months to find good feedback. Then I went to Meetup.com and searched for writer's groups. I found over 50 in the Triangle area. If you are a writer and you don't have at least 1 reliable critic, preferably 2, then get thee to a writer's group!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Power of a Good Title

Dale and I visited the NC Museum of Art this weekend. They just finished building a new "wing" - really a whole new building - and so we visited, looking at some familiar art in a new setting, as well as new acquisitions. One thing in particular I noticed were the titles of the artworks. As an author, I struggle with titles. I rarely can think of a truly interesting or attention getting title. I think I've come up with a pretty good title for my short story collection, although it's not as representational of the work as I might like. But I just have difficulty thinking of titles for my stories.
Artists, I've noticed, have it easy by comparison. There were several works of art that were simply "Untitled". Sometimes they were untitled with numbers attached. There was one work of art titled "Pigeon." It was an elaborate 3-D work that looked like a woman, and the history of the piece described how the artist arrived at the end result. It also mentioned, casually, that the work was titled "Pigeon" because a pigeon roosted in the artist's loft during the work. Wait a minute, really? Does that mean I can title my short story "Squirrels Eating my House" because that's what I hear while in my office, writing? Because wow, my titles just got a lot more interesting! And what about the Untitled's? Can I just go with that? "Untitled," a collection of un-named short stories by Elaine.
I'm not criticizing artists. Their medium is visual - the title is not integral to the work the way it is for a written piece of art. Still, I must admit I'm a little jealous, especially given my lack of ability in this area...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Disclaimers and other Legalese

So my POD publisher, Booklocker, has given me a standard fiction disclaimer to put in my book. The only problem is that one of my stories is not completely fiction. It's about 93% fiction, but it does involve a real incident at a church in Concord NC. (Kinetic Church and their billboard campaign). So I've gotten in touch with the church to get their approval on the story, but I still will have to modify the disclaimer. I've written my contact at Booklocker, hoping she will have a standard disclaimer for stories which are only 93% fiction.
But in the future, I think I'll be modifying events enough to make them 100% fiction. Less sticky...

Monday, May 10, 2010

the fluff

I have to pick an author photo for my book. I also have to make a title. Titles are hard for me - not a strength. So far my leading contender is "Birds, Bees, and Church Trailer Thieves." Opinions?
And an even more fluffy request for opinions: which photo is the best "author" photo for the back of the book?

Friday, May 7, 2010

I did it!

I signed a contract with Booklocker to self-publish a book of short stories. This is a big step for me in terms of confidence. I'm still planning to go through traditional channels once my full length book is finished, but I think my short stories have a better chance of circulation as a POD or eBook than in traditional magazines. I'm also going to explore what it would take to get my book in the public library as a local author. Guess I'd better start making friends with librarians!
I'll keep everyone updated on my progress. And of course, as soon as the book is out, there will be a link here to buy it!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The "Craft" of Writing

I hear a lot about honing one's craft by writing and editing. I also hear about learning the basics, making sure one is competent with the elements of writing, etc. I have never taken a formal writing class. I've been told (by a paid critic), that my dialogue is good and I understand how to use it. I've been published in an online blog, and I'm gathering a nice collection of rejection letters to add to my writing credentials.
So does being an avid bookworm serve as adequate training for the craft of writing? Does writing lots and lots of research papers for grad school count? How important is formal training? What are the "elements" of writing? I'd love to hear from you all about your opinion about this sort of thing? Can natural talent and being well-read serve as well as an MFA?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What do Kathleen Norris and Elizabeth Gilbert have in common?

I watched this great video of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love," and I loved it. I recommend you watch it - if you don't have time, watch the video and skip this post! She talks about creativity as connection with the divine other, not purely self-generated. And what does this have to do with Kathleen Norris? In her book, "Acedia and me," she describes falling into "a trap that ensnares many novice poets, writing only when I was depressed" (51). Our life's work, our calling to write, to create, is not a death sentence.
We all know writing is, in huge part, discipline. But there is another element, one Gilbert identifies as genius or daemon, and Norris identifies as faith in God. The divine spark that we must harness and work in harmony with.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meditating on Moses, 3

Today at church we had a time where people shared their fears. It was a very emotional time of sharing. People were sharing their deepest fears - their deepest pains.
I have had my share of fear and pain, but I am not in that place right now. But I was reminded of what God told Moses when He first called him: God had heard the Israelites crying out. Today I heard my church crying out, and I was convicted that my refusal to move forward with my calling is rebellion.
I know that my books will not solve people's problems. But I know that they will bring hope to some who need it. And to continue to withhold that because writing is so much work or because I listen to the voices of criticism or for any reason is to shirk my calling. So I'm going to keep writing and stop wringing my hands. God gave Moses a tongue to speak, and God has given me a brain and hands to write.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Activism and Writing

Art is subversive. That's why oppressive regimes censor free speech and artists of all kinds. I'm taking this as axiomatic, without going ahead and citing references.
But there is a line between art and activism. The real question is where that line exists. Has Michael Moore crossed that line - are his documentaries too closely associated with his clear activist goals? Hollywood actors often have clear political convictions they like to speak on. Bono, from the band U2, uses his fame to promote his own social justice agenda. I'm not criticizing any of these people. But as artists, I think we need to consider the line.
As a writer, I have something I want to say. I happen to want to say it using fiction, in a variety of ways. I find myself drifting towards extreme topics - dystopia, tragedy, personal dysfunction. But these are the situations where my message finds itself. But I flatter myself that I am keeping my personal activism out of my writing - the story is dominant and the message is defined by the story. My characters do things I wouldn't agree with. Not to mention, there are many areas where I am passionate, and I just can't cover them all in one story.
To quote Anne Lamott from Bird by Bird again, we should write about something. We don't want to write flabby stories where nothing happens, where there is no point. But we also need to be aware of the line between art and activism.
I just finished reading Little Women, and let me tell you, Louisa May Alcott had a point and she didn't hesitate to make it, over and over! Little Women is chock full of morals and life lessons, to the point of being didactic. Yet that doesn't take away from its literary value, because it was written within a certain historical context. We can't afford to be that didactic today. Yet I don't think we should compromise our message either.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Uncovering the story beneath

Last night I read the first half of a short story to my writer's group. In this story, there is a relationship that has been destroyed, but the reason for that destruction isn't revealed until the second half of the story. So my listeners had to theorize and make comments without knowing the whole plot. However, they made some very interesting comments about a deeper theme. What made their comments so interesting is that I know what I have already edited out, and much of that material ties into the deeper theme they observed. I now realize that they were able to help me see a deeper story beneath my story, and I do plan to explore that and reveal it.
This is fascinating to me because many writers talk about listening to their characters and allowing their characters to act. I don't really understand how that works yet (do any writers understand it?), but I believe that's what's happening with this story. My readers heard the subtext in that relationship, a subtext I was dimly aware of but edited out for space reasons (I was trying to shorten the story). The best part is that this subtext makes the story much more powerful and coherent.
Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird recommends writer's groups and I heartily second that. Not only has it been a huge boost to my confidence, but I'm discovering hidden treasures thanks to their insights!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Keeping My Focus

At church this week our pastor challenged us to consider the obstacles blocking our way and to deliberately choose faith and hope instead of the obstacles. It was a good wake-up call for me. I have spent a lot of time thinking up reasons why my writing will not be publishable. That's a waste of time for 2 reasons: It distracts me from the work of writing. And there are plenty of people, in the form of editors and agents, who will figure those reasons out for me.
So the sermon reminded me to keep my focus: what is my reason for writing? Why this book, why now? Why should my book be given a chance to live and breathe outside the confines of my computer and home? My book needs a champion: me. Anne Lamott beautifully calls it like it is: Don't listen to radio KFKD, she says (in Bird by Bird), and she's right. I'm turning the station off and focusing on the work.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Finding an Agent

I am now officially looking for an agent. I am working on a book, and for the last year and a half I have had a lot of excuses to avoid trying to publish it. But my pastor challenged us last week to plant a seed of faith, and this is mine: to look for an agent who might see what I see in my little book: a glimmer of hope in a broken world. This writing venture has transformed from a hobby to a scary dream with this latest new goal.
Fortunately, I have the cats to keep my grounded. As I write this post I have a 17 pound gray and white cat (Pipsqueak) laying on my arms purring.