Tuesday, November 20, 2012

First Day and Fancy Dinner

[Please, do not ask about how nanowrimo is going... Sigh.]

So, here's the truth about first days: without fail you will end with blisters. I don't know why, and it doesn't matter if you're sitting or running around most of the day - for some reason, your shoes (new or old) will turn on you and rub you in all the wrong places. Maybe it's anxiety swelling (I don't think that's real). Maybe it's awkward walking. Maybe it's wearing some nice shoes for the first time in a while. Okay, it's probably that last one.

Started at Henery Press today, and am super excited for everything that's to come and how much I'll be able to grow with this exciting new(ish) company. I'm getting to know the "voice" of the company, reading some of their published works and checking out a few submissions to see if they fit our publishing house. Most of my day was spent trying to learn about Henery's social media presence, and I know I've got to immerse myself in a community of writers and readers who are (fantastically) involved. Side note: therefore, I was forced to reacquaint myself with the old Twitter (follow me).

I have my own office for. the. first. time. ever. It made me feel like an adult. Okay, fine, it made me feel like I was pretending adult-ness. My mom says I should decorate and I wanted to laugh. I have no idea why. I mean, I think that's something normal people would do - but it's not like my name's on the door or anything. Well, we'll see. A few pictures might make their way onto my desk. Also, have I mentioned the super rad mug I got?

After work and a nap during a new British television show I was trying out (I have an obsession for BritTV, but I'll get to that one day), I had a fancy schmancy dinner to go to with my family and my brother's girlfriend and her mom. While I'll admit to loving to dress up and admiring what is usually awesome decor, here's a some of the issues I have with high-class eateries (which they wouldn't be pleased to be referred to, but that's kind of my point).

Most of these places are Italian which means almost 90% of their menu consists of pasta, some spices, tomatoes, and cheese (as well as some good breads if they're doing you right). And yet, it is $20 a plate. I guarantee you I can produce the same exact thing, times the amount by five, and it'll cost me maybe $10. Also, notice how when you go out with a group to a fancy place and at least two people hate what they've ordered because they don't like the taste. With prices this high, there should be a money-back guarantee, and you should have the guts to ask for it.

The other thing was I cannot tell you how closely I had to read the menu (I got out my phone at least twice to check the Italian-to-English translator) so that I wasn't ordering a plate full of meat. In the end (minus two of six soup/salads) there was ONE vegetarian dish. And it was called Somethinga-Italia-FUNGHAI. As in mushrooms - a whole lot of 'em. Maybe it's bad on me that I'm a vegetarian who dislikes slimy fungus, but no thank you. The point is, I'm already going to be forced to pay a price that includes a tip to their butcher, can I at least get one plain vegetarian option? Some pasta with a bit of cheese sprinkled over it, that's all I'm asking.

Okay, for those that missed that I'm a cat fanatic (I try to use that word lightly), you'll understand when I say I've got to end the post here because Veronica has decided she can sleep no where except for the left side of my keyboard. She's such a punk. Confession: The true catlady emerges when you realize this is one of hundreds (exaggeration) of pictures I have a cat I've had for about four months.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Things You Actually Want to Know for Successful Interviews

So, I don't know if it's because my mom was HR or what, but I typically am awesome at interviews. Which is weird for me, because I'm awkward and say "like" a lot if I'm not careful. Of course, there's the basics for having a great interview (dress up, bring a copy of your resume, etc), but here are some things I've learned over the course of interviews that I wished someone told me.

1. Wear Your Second Favorite Shirt (heels, pants, whatever it may be)
Going into an interview, I'm already a little nervous and unsure (about the people, the business) so I spend a long time deciding what to wear. I wear black, but try to add color (no sparkles, please) that way I can appear professional yet also not look like I'm going to a funeral. Being female, I debate for a long time over dress vs. skirt vs. pants. But overall, the best thing you can do when deciding what to wear is find something you love, because feeling good will make you more confident. I say "second fav" because if it does end up not going your way, you won't want your favorite item tarnished by a bad interview.Trust me.

What I choose for my interview today: (I went for flats because I wanted an "easy-going" look to balance my all dark bottom half.)

2. Start with a Shake, End with a Shake
(I'm not talking about dancing.) This one is actually hard for me, not because I forget, but because I have sweaty hand-syndrome. I have to make a conscious effort to keep my right hand open for more air flow so that it isn't wet by the time my interviewer shows up. During the interview, I also try to keep that hand open (thank God when there's a table between you and your interviewer) so that afterward I haven't suddenly gone slimy.

3. Don't Get Stuck Nodding
A lot of times, most of the interview will be less you answering their questions and more them telling you about their business. (P.S. You should already know most of what they're telling you. Before an interview I spend maybe an hour all over their website as well as googling any extra info I can find.) I never know what my face looks like during these shpeals, but I try to keep a small smile on my face, as well as nod every know and then. When you feel like they think you might be dazing off or your smile might be getting maniacal, I like to let them know I'm right on track with them. I tend to say, "Right" and always, always give a small chuckle as if I lived their same life (the one as to say "Oh, gosh, I know what you mean") when appropriate.

4. When You're Interested, Let Them Know
You have to be careful not to interrupt, but a lot of time there's moments when you're supposed to jump in. If something in particular interests you, don't let them pass over the topic. If you expand or contribute (even ask questions), it shows them you're interested not only in whatever it is you're talking about, but you're interested in the business. It also helps if you can somehow bring something from your experience that's relevant to why/how you're interested in the current topic. (For instance: "Oh, yes, I agree. While working at ___, I really wanted to do more ___, and I'm glad to see I'll get the opportunity here." Also, do not memorize this quote because you might sound too robotic and you should be flexible to the tone of the interview.)

5. Get Them to Laugh
This might be my secret weapon. First, it is dire that you know I'm not talking about a practiced joke (or pun). Please, don't do it. I'm talking about finding a place in the conversation where you can bond over common (whatever) and share a casual laugh. Don't go in with a stand-up routine, just gradually get a feel for the interviewer and when you see a smile, go for the laugh. It's hard to explain, but this works for me. I like figuring out people's sense of humor, and it not only makes for a good connection, but it helps me relax a whole lot more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Getting On Track

Well, today's election day! I'm not huge into politics and I especially hate arguing about them, but I thought I'd mention it because it was the first time I could legally vote! I early voted last Friday and cracked a lot of jokes while avoiding stranger's eyes. Something about politics makes people morose. Go figure.

As I mentioned in October, my first short story was published in the Dallas Writers Journal. The second half of it is set to be published in the November issue. Then I got an email letting me know that the DWJ is moving its magazine to strictly internet. While this is a bit discouraging because I was hoping for a (completed) short story in print to feel accomplished, it's not the worst news I could've received. That might be somewhere along the lines like receiving hate mail after the October portion had hit the streets.

You can read the November issue (as well as all previous issues) here.

Today, I finally cracked open my Writer's Market. It. Is. Amazing.

I'm mad at myself that I didn't do this early. I remember back in 2009 when I read Stephen King's On Writing and he mentioned this was the way to survive as a writer. I kicked myself today when I didn't go out immediately buy it then. Then I kicked myself harder when I realized this has been on my shelf since July. I went through it cover to cover today with some post-its and highlighters. I'd never been so excited to "study".

I now have an organized submission document, and a simplified catalog of agents and contests/awards I'm interested in. I plan to buy a calender and write down submission deadlines for the following year so I can send out some of my fiction. Once I organize a list of the agents I want to contact with my novel in the order I like them, I plan to spend one month where I query an agent a day. Depending on how well nanowrimo goes, I'll know if that month is December or January.

Speaking of nanowrimo, I have finally hit the line where I am "supposed" to be if I plan on finishing by Dec 1st. Which I do.

My productive day also included some time to cook (not sure where I fit it in). I made chocolate chip pancakes: just threw some chips into the box quickmix, which normally I would be against, but my brother asked me to "help" and it ended up my mission to feed him an his girlfriend so I wasn't entirely motivated.

Then I made hummus (recipe-ish here) from scratch. I was apparently supposed to have something called tahini in my pantry. Surprise, I did not. So I threw in some peanut butter instead. It's still delicious - dare I say even more delicious? Then again, that might be because I have a slight PB obsession.

Finally, I cleaned out my blender of the hummus and made pesto sauce. (Both of these would've been way easier with a food processor, but I work with what I've got.) The pesto (recipe-ish here) was supposed to have more basil in it, but I rarely read recipes before I start (which should be evident by now) so I made do somehow. Also, now I have a ton of pesto, enough to eat for a while, so I might look at what else I can throw pesto on. Tonight, I made the family pasta with some awesome garlic bread (which I really could've just eaten the bread but that would not be good).

As for the job update, I have maybe applied as a part-time librarian. I say maybe because the job posting disappeared the next day. I also realize it is ironic that I have applied for a position at the library I was at the day before, concerned about the welfare of children's' reading habits. I have not gotten manuscripts to vet for Tate in a long time, so I applied to intern at Henery Press (in Frisco) so I can gain more publishing/editing experience. I heard back today and have an interview set up Thurday with them, so hopefully that goes well.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

From Scratch and Seuss

After almost five hours spent outside Saturday morning conducting a yard sale, I was pretty much ready to throw everything to the curb. Me and my dad had been urging the family to have a yard sale after there was something shoved into a corner of every room that no one needed (nor really wanted), but we finally made it happen. It was odd to spend 30 minutes setting up and clearing out the house only to discover maybe we really didn't have that much to get rid of. Our lawn looked sparse.

Also, our junk was at one time fairly expensive and so we struggled all morning not to undersell all the while battling the notion of having to bring it back inside. More discouraging was when my mom relieved us for half-time and made only a little less than we'd made in about thirty minutes total. Still, after forcing myself to somewhat interact with strangers and deal with nature (okay, okay, just freshly mowed grass and sidewalk) we were able to come away with about $130 and a heck of a lot more room. Then that money went to rent and I wondered where my Saturday went.

I got a bit of writing done late last night. To update, I'm done taking inspiration from my short story, so from here on out I'm a little bit more unsure and I'm afraid it'll take me much longer to get a consistent word count (nanowrimo is saying I need to hit somewhere around 1,600 to hit my goal for the month). But then I lost today too by baking.

For almost a year now, I've refused to bake something unless it was "from scratch". (I didn't even buy those holiday sugar cookies with the cute images that everybody loves.) Of course, not having a "real" job, I've gotten more bored and started making more baked goods for other people. That meant that this year when my mom wanted pumpkin (bread, pie, whatever) I was not allowing her to buy the canned pumpkin puree.

Instead, I bought a pumpkin and spent two hours making it myself. I had freshly cooked pumpkin and it was pretty good. I don't like pumpkin baked goods, but I discovered just the vegetable is actually really good. I also roasted the pumpkin seeds (apparently you have to) and after that waste of time discovered no, I still don't like pumpkin seeds. And no, nobody I know does either. Someone out there please tell me the appeal -- it was like chewing peanut shells.

Anyways, today I used the last of the pumpkin puree to make a pumpkin pie. It's a commonly known fact if you've met me that I hate pie. This piece of information somehow comes up a lot because it is unfathomable to everyone else in the world that there is not a single kind I like. So, back to the baking. It was a bit hard to make all of mom's pumpkin foods for the past month because I didn't really want to taste how things were going along the way. Also, I need to mention how much one small-medium pumpkin made; I guess most recipes don't need that much actual pumpkin because they mostly rely on cinnamon/nutmeg combos to take care of the flavor. (The list of goods: pumpkin bread, pumpkin oatmeal cookies, pumpkin espresso muffins, and now pumpkin pie.)

It turned out well, minus the very top edge of crust because I didn't make quite enough dough, so the filling got on it a the thin layer left behind meant it burnt in the oven. So, while I failed on presentation, the taste is apparently awesome. More awesome (at least for me) was the smell that occurred. It officially felt like Thanksgiving time.

Besides that, I also made cornbread (which is too good and is that because I'm more "southern" than I think?) and tomato basil soup (which is also too good and that is because I only have it to compare to a terrible can of Campbell's I tried and failed to cook once). While the oven was working, I spent too much time watching stand up comedian specials on Netflix.

To make up for the disappointing results of my weekend word count, I went to the library because there is certain "research" I'm doing for my book. It was odd to need a book from each of the three floors mainly because I still haven't found the stairs (this has been the library I've "lived" at for more than half my life) and the attendant on floor 3 (non-fiction) is surprised at someone else's existence and the attendant on floor 2 is surprised when you head toward the books and not the computers (which are almost entirely at full capacity).

Also, there was something I needed to look into from one of my favorite books as a kid (I mean thirteen) and it was extremely weird to go into the "teen" area now because it felt like a Roswell cafe. The lights were "funky" and things were hanging low and too many things were painted crudely silver. Checking out the kids area across the room was like a weird Seussical dreamscape, with odd Dali clocks and too many colors. Is this the kind of decor required nowadays to attract the audience away from their electronics? It made me kinda sick, even before getting dizzy by the pattern on the carpet.

Still, with this daylight savings present and research material, I might get some writing in tonight.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Undertaking a Plan

Well, I can't tell you how much fun I've had giving life (outlines, character pictures, questions to obsess over, etc) to the idea I have for my novel. I had a composition book lying around which I was going to use to organize personality types as a sort of "character database", but instead I have transformed it into my quick notes for what is tentatively titled "Almost absolution" for the moment.

For short stories, I tend to have 2-4 pages of crazy notes complete with a somewhat cohesive outline, but I've never had a clear plan for a novel. Even now, I'm not so sure about the entire second half, but the basics (and especially having a clear outlook for the beginning) really help me sort my creativity into something that isn't complete gibberish. Of course, the story doesn't always (or the characters themselves for that matter) head in the direction you thought it would, so it's a lot of reworking.

My main task has been trying to tackle the mystery aspect (which keeps overtaking the horror). I've never written anything like this before, and trying to keep things from the audience has been a tricky journey. I'm still not sure who the murderer is (at the beginning there were two, somewhere in the middle the murders had more to do with the main character - Erin - than I'd originally thought, and now I'm at a loss so that's... that?).

Not to mention, but there's a plethora of junk I don't know about the law or the accessibility a twenty-one year old has to an ongoing murder investigation (I'm guessing it's next to nothing). Long story short, I've made it extremely hard for Erin to even begin to solve the case, therefore making it a bit difficult for me to create a realistic journey she's going to take. Still, it's been fun.

I also learned that unlike smaller written works, there's possibly a point where too much planning/thought can be a bit counter-productive. At around page seven in my comp book, I began to become a bit overwhelmed with the whole project. I was honestly at a point where I wondered if I shouldn't just revive it into a story reserved for camp fires to tell by word-of-mouth. The plot makes me excited as an idea (as it should if your writing it) but I got panicky about how well I was going to transition it onto paper.

That's when I put down the notes and started to write. Especially for chapter one, I find that you have to tell yourself that it doesn't matter at what state that first writing is at - because if your audience is lucky, it'll never come to light. Before finding your story, you've got to make some mistakes (no one makes a souffle in one go). But just having something to work with and get your hands messy is the foundation for the completed product.

Anyways, over at nanowrimo.org, I've decided my word count update will occur at 5 pm everyday.

On a side note, I cannot elaborate on how much of my time I spent at 2 am this morning "casting" my story. For (at least) the main characters, I like to have an idea of who I'm working with. Finding Erin was fun because I always start with my celeb girl crushes (people who I'd totally wanna be best friends with, if the world was perfect) and the secondary character, Henry, I had a good time looking at eyecandy (spent too long looking at Ed Westwick, even though I pretty much knew he wasn't Henry, but that's a different matter).

Overall, I feel slightly crazy in regards to this writing (both my novel and this blog post). But hey, this is what I do; I obsess.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My "work"

Today starts the month of novel writing (nanowrimo.org). I'm going to push aside half-hearted chapters and previous drafts where the inspiration is gone and start on an idea that's been going around and around in my head for almost a year now. It started with a short story for my fiction writing class, but I'm going to change a few things around and adapt it into a novel. I've got the basics of the plot worked down, as well as a pretty intriguing back story for the main character, but it's pretty unclear as a whole right now.

Mostly I'm going to start by re-reading that story and see what pieces (ideas) I like and want for the novel. Then, I'm going to try to get an outline going. Currently, it's seeming like something to fit into the mystery genre, but I really want to add strong elements of horror. Because of this, I'm still on the fence as to whether there's something paranormal about it. In the short story, it's entirely up to interpretation (leaning more towards reality after feedback from students in my class where "fantasy" was prohibited). I guess it might be time to make a decision, because it's the first scene that is questionable and that will affect the later outcomes.

Sorry if I'm sounding vague, but generally in this tinker stage, I don't really like to talk about my work. Before I have a completed draft of writing, I never talk about details, but this situation is a little different because I'm working from a short story quite a few people have read and I'm trying to keep myself motivated for the month ahead (where I guess I'll be in a "community" of other novel writers trying to stay on track).

I have to say I enjoy this stage of writing a lot. My favorite thing in life is potential, so during the tinker/drafting stage, I have a lot of fun. That might be why I find it so weird that it's so hard for me to talk about "my work". I feel pretentious explaining the details or decisions made during my writing and I feel even more like an idiot when their completely missed by the audience. I also feel like I still haven't read enough books. There's so many classics and contemporary literature that I feel I should know everything about before I can even begin to be presumptuous enough to add my own work to the mix. Is that insecurity or insanity?

Anyways, I'm pretty excited to get started so that's what I'm going to do. Side note: I also have found another Press within the vicinity that is looking for (unpaid) interns so I'm hoping they contact me before the weekend. Also, I'm afraid Nordstrom (where I've worked on my college breaks in the past) thinks I'm only available in December so I'm still out of a reliable paying job for the moment. I'm just about at desperation stage so I might be heading to Target to apply within the next few days (which I guess is not as desperate as needing to go to Walmart ((that might be offensive)) but, oh well).

I'll keep everyone updated!