All posts in Personal

16 Jun

The Problem With “Good” Media

In Gaming,Personal,Publishing,Reading by MK England / June 16, 2017 / 0 Comments

Hi folks. I’ve gotta rant for a minute so I can get this out of my brain and focus on drafting today.


I actively put my money toward things I want to support. Books by authors of color, movies directed by women, video games with queer characters, and so on. And yet, when I dare say that I want to see a movie or buy a book because I want to financially support it, I often get this line: “I don’t care about any of that. I just want a good story.”

There’s a problem with this thinking.

It seems fine on the surface, right? Why shouldn’t we just support GOOD media, no matter who makes it? At the end of the day, we all want a good story. Of course we do.

The problem is that it assumes all creators are on equal footing from the start. It assumes all good stories receive the funding, industry support, advertising, and so on that they need to succeed, that good stories don’t get buried in flooded markets and go unnoticed because of who made them or who’s in them. It requires us to live in a society where there’s no racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, etc. influencing the decisions made by industry gatekeepers: producers, casting directors, professional reviewers, literary agents, editors, and ultimately the audience.

An author of color submits a book to a white agent, then gets a rejection letter that says they just couldn’t connect to the story. Sometimes it’s the fault of the story. We’ve all gotten that rejection before. But sometimes it’s that the white agent couldn’t connect to an experience outside their own, thus silencing that voice. A reviewer can’t connect to a movie completely dominated by women, with minimal male characters. Sometimes the story is weak. Sometimes it’s that a male reviewer can’t connect with being in the position women find themselves in every day. (Note, though, that many folks have no problem connecting to elves, wizards, trolls, and animated lions. A Black character in present-day America, though? Suddenly that’s difficult.)


This is not news to any marginalized person who works in a creative field. It’s not (or shouldn’t be, at this point) news to anyone in the YA and children’s publishing world, where the last four years have seen a huge push for better representation, and representation by #ownvoices authors (people with lived experience of whatever they’re representing). And some change can and should come from within, as is slowly happening in publishing. The structure of power within these media industries needs to shift.

Audiences need to change too, though. We vote with our dollars. That’s what we can do to change the industry from the outside.

So yes, if I have a limited pool of cash to spend, I’m going to spend it in a way that gives support to marginalized creators. Because their stories are good, and because they deserve the support that the industry denies them. That might mean I don’t see the latest awesome, critically-acclaimed movie written, directed, and starred in by straight cisgender white dudes. And I feel fine about that. They don’t need my support. I’ll see it on Netflix.

But you’re damn right that I’ve seen Wonder Woman twice, that I pre-ordered The Hate U Give and The Gauntlet, that I played Gone Home and Dragon Age: Inquisition. With the dollars I spend, I tell the industry, “Hey, this thing you did here? I like it, and I’m willing to pay money for it. Please give me some more.”

After all, broader perspectives and more diverse creative teams lead to new ideas and—dare I say it?—good media.

So, if you want good stories, consider being more deliberate with where you place your limited funds. Yes, this may help me in some ways and hurt me in others. If you buy my books because I’m gay*, genderqueer, or mentally ill, awesome. If you don’t buy my books because I’m white and you want to buy something by an author of color instead, also awesome. Either way, you’re shaping the future. High five, you.

And in the meantime, we can dream of a world where everyone’s works are on equal footing in the battle for the title of Good Story.

16 Dec

Charitable Giving for the Holidays

In Personal by MK England / December 16, 2016 / 0 Comments

Hey, folks, long time no post! 2016 has been kicking me in the face repeatedly for the past few months, and I’m hard at work on revisions for THE DISASTERS.

kiiick

The holidays make demands on our time as well, including the increasingly difficult task of buying gifts for friends and family. This year, partially inspired by the outcome of the US election, I’ve decided to almost exclusively give charitable donations as gifts. Donations are a fantastic gift for anyone with a cause close to their heart, or anyone who is hard to buy for/already has everything. I’m the youngest person in my family at age 30, so most of my family members have no need for the kinds of gifts I can afford. They also make great gifts for business associates or people who get tons of random STUFF every year (i.e. your agent or editor!).

Around the holidays, people invariably start throwing around baseless claims about this charity or that. “This charity’s CEO is a volunteer, they don’t get paid!” or “This charity spends 100% of donations on programs, no administrative costs!”. Both of these statements are almost always false, and as a librarian dedicated to information literacy, the spread of misinformation really bugs me A LOT. If you choose to open your heart and wallet this holiday season, I beg you to thoroughly research the organizations you choose to give to. What do their financials look like (if you can even find them)? What work do they REALLY do? What is the ideology behind their work? Study their website. Check Charity Navigator if they’re a large enough organization. Read, evaluate, confirm with additional sources where possible.

The best charitable gifts will speak to the heart of the person for whom the donation will be made. Are they a veteran or active duty military? Do they love animals? Are they concerned with the refugee crisis? Are they involved in a tech field? Here are a few that are close to my heart that are getting my money this year, both from me and in the name of my friends and family. Do you have any favorites? Add them in the comments below!

The Brain and Behavior Research Center, providing grants to scientists researching mental illness. They really DO put 100% of donations toward grants because their operating costs are completely covered by two family foundations. (bbrfoundation.org)

We Need Diverse Books, providing grants to interns of color breaking into the publishing industry and authors of color developing their careers. (weneeddiversebooks.org)

Islamic Relief USA, providing humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and orphan care throughout the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and the USA. Your donation is highly customizable in that you can choose a specific country or project to donate to, or donate to a general fund. (irusa.org)

First Book, providing free books to low-income children. I’ve worked in a library where we distributed First Books to the community and we were grateful for their contributions. (firstbook.org)

The It Gets Better Project and The Trevor Project, providing resources and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth. Both are very social media savvy and reach teens where they’re at. I’ve witnessed the good these two organizations do first hand. (thetrevorproject.org , itgetsbetter.org)

Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code, providing summer computer science immersion programs and working to close the gender gap in tech fields. BGC especially is a young organization working to grow and expand their efforts. (girlswhocode.com, blackgirlscode.com)

The Malala Fund, working toward a world where every girl gets 12 years of safe, quality education. (malala.org)

Happy holidays to you all, and may 2017 be significantly less terrible!

(Also, basically don’t talk to me for the next 6 weeks if you don’t want to hear about BBC Sherlock. You’ve been warned.)

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16 Jun

MK’s Top 25 Books

In Personal,Questions Answered,Reading,Recs,Short Stories by MK England / June 16, 2015 / 0 Comments

So, someone over on my fandom blog decided to take me up on my offer of personalized book recommendations for the summer. Except they are an omnivorous reader, so they just wanted my top five favorite books.

First of all, you should probably never ask that question of a librarian unless you have lots of time on your hands.

gif-belle-books

But here’s the problem with asking me specifically for my Top X Books of All Time: I either adore what I read, or I put it down. There’s rarely an in-between. There are SOME books that I forced myself through for the sake of school, and some that I enjoyed in the way you enjoy cotton candy dissolving into nothing. But the books that stick with me are the ones that really engage me intellectually or emotionally, or inspire the writer part of me stylistically. I do have some favorites that I enjoyed purely for a fun story, interesting world, and great characters, but that’s a separate list. This is the list of favorite books that affected me in some way. Most links will take you to Amazon, except in the cases where the book or story is available for free online somewhere. In no order whatsoever:

  1. Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA, realistic, Native American)
  2. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (adult, sci-fi, literary)
  3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA, realistic, rape culture)
  4. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (adult, sci-fi classic, stylistic influence)
  5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (YA, LGBTQ+, romance, realistic)
  6. The Raven Cycle by maggie-stiefvater(YA, fantasy, realistic, stylistic influence, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  7. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (YA, sci-fi, LGBTQ+, screwed up/filthy/awesome)
  8. Little Brother by mostlysignssomeportents​/Cory Doctorow (read it for free on the author’s website! YA, tech, hacking, cyberpunk)
  9. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (adult, sci-fi, weird, graphic novel, parenthood, nsfw)
  10. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (YA, feminist, realistic, humor)
  11. Channel Zero by Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan (gritty, dystopian, tech, awesome art)
  12. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (adult, military sci-fi, hilarious)
  13. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (YA, fantasy, feminist)
  14. His Majestey’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (one of the founders of the OTW!, adult, fantasy, alternate history, LGBTQ+ subtext)
  15. Local by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly (adulting, travel, setting as character, 20-somethings)
  16. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman (adult, literary, quick read)
  17. The Scorpio Races by maggie-stiefvater(YA, celtic mythology, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  18. Sold by Patricia McCormick (YA, human trafficking, novel in verse, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  19. Young Avengers (2013-2014) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie (YA, Marvel universe, LGBTQ+, just…so good)
  20. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan & various artists (YA, Marvel universe, LGBTQ+)
  21. X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole (adult, sci-fi, Star Wars, fighter pilots)
  22. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona (YA, Marvel universe, Muslim hero)
  23. The Knife of Never Letting Go by patricknessbooks(YA, dystopia, hard to explain, just read it, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  24. The P.L.A.I.N. Janes by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg (YA, art, social change, nonviolent protest)
  25. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (J/YA, wizards, y’all know this one)

BONUS short stories:

Yet More Bonus Selections under the cut. Seriously, just stop me. What books have affected or inspired you? Tell me in the comments!

Read more →

27 May

Save Often and Loudly

In Editing,Personal,Writing Process by MK England / May 27, 2015 / 0 Comments

broken-laptop

Every writer’s worst nightmare is a dead computer.

Okay, maybe not every writer.
Every writer who writes on a computer.
Every writer who isn’t quite as diligent about backing up their work as they should be.
Every writer who has a slowly-declining laptop and knows the day is coming, but still doesn’t buy a new one because reasons.

Not gonna lie, y’all: I got lucky. When my laptop died last week, it had been about six weeks since I last backed up my writing. I could have lost six weeks’ worth of editing progress. Fortunately, I’m one of those people who builds her own computers and knows her way around the inside of the case. The problem didn’t affect the hard drive, so I removed it from the laptop, turned it into an external hard drive, hooked it up to the man creature’s computer, and held my breath.

Everything was there. Nothing at all was lost. I am one lucky writer.

I’ve since ordered a new laptop—a custom build from a website that specializes in gaming PCs, complete with gaudy LED backlighting on the keyboard and case that teenage MK would have drooled over and adult MK will be slightly embarrassed to be seen with. I’ve also been reconsidering my current backup method, which is basically to dump everything onto a flash drive once per week. Not ideal.

When I was an undergrad in college, my major was Digital Arts: Music, and our unofficial department motto was Save Often and Loudly. We would actually shout “save!” in the middle of the DA Lab every time we saved our work, which would prompt others to save as well. It instilled in me an almost manic need to save every few minutes, and save multiple versions along the way. I’d like to modify that now, though:

Save x3, Often and Loudly

Common wisdom these days is that you should back up your important documents in three different places. There are three primary ways to back up files:

  • External physical media: Flash drives, external hard drives, burned CD/DVDs, etc. If you use two external methods, keep them stored in different locations (home and work).
  • Cloud storage: Dropbox, Google Drive, one of the endless number of online automatic backup services.
  • Physical copies: Printed out on acid-free archival quality paper.

I’m willing to bet very few people go the physical copy route. I certainly don’t. It’s an option, though, and you may want to consider it for your most important documents. I plan to keep up with my flash drive backup, but I’ll also be adding two cloud-based backups to my routine. I already use Google Drive for working on things when I can’t be at my usual computer, so I’ll use that for backing up my writing-related documents on a weekly basis. To give myself total protection for my whole computer (not just my writing) I’ll likely add an online backup service. The benefit is that I won’t have to remember; services like these automatically back up your data on a schedule you designate. Something like that would have saved me in the event that my hard drive had not still been functional after my laptop’s death. I haven’t decided on a particular service yet, but several friends have given me recommendations.

So, the moral of the story is DON’T BE ME. Don’t put off developing a backup plan. Don’t be lazy about your backups; or, if you want to be lazy, sign up for an automated service. Back up your data in multiple ways.

Save x3, Often and Loudly

So, my dear creatures, are you smarter than me? Do you have a backup system you swear by? Tell me in the comments!


Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks — I’m a HUGE Audible addict. It’s the reason the memory on my phone is always full. Give it a try!

08 May

A Place for Fandom, pt. 1

In Editing,Fanfiction,Personal by MK England / May 8, 2015 / 0 Comments

fanfiction-time-oFull disclosure: I have been a gigantic nerd for my entire life. My family introduced me to Star Wars at a very young age, and I immediately fell into reading all the extended universe novels, buying the toys, playing X-Wings on my bike, and otherwise revelling in my obsession. It wasn’t until my family got our first computer in 1998 that I discovered what it was to be a member of a fandom, though.

I adored the Sci-Fi channel (now SyFy for some terrible reason), and in 1999 I particularly loved a little show called Farscape. Looking back, the show had a lot wrong with it, but at the time it was my world. I lived on the Sci-fi bboards and joined a smaller fansite called the Friends and Defenders of Pilot, devoted to the show’s most awesome and underappreciated character. I also discovered fanfiction for the first time. My world changed.

I could talk for ages about how valuable and empowering I think fanfiction is for women, queer people, teenagers, young writers, and other marginalized people. I probably will, one day, because it’s a topic I’m incredibly passionate about. The media loves to paint fanfiction and fans in a particular light (a light heavily tinted with misogyny and privilege), but the reality is that most of the fanfic I read is of publishable quality, and most of the fans I interact with are smart, mature, kind people with brilliant things to say. Above all, fandom is a welcoming place where people can go to not be judged over their passion for fictional people and worlds or their taste in reading material. (Fandom has its exceptions to this, of course, but that’s for another discussion.)

So from that you can deduce that I’ve been reading fanfiction for over fifteen years. And I’m a writer. This is a website about my original writing. You’d probably guess that I’ve written a lot of fanfic over the years, right?

Wrong.

Somehow, writing and sharing fanfic has always seemed far more terrifying than sharing my original work. There’s existing material to draw from, and it’s possible to get it wrong. And in fandom, you’re in direct and constant contact with your readers and their feedback. And that feedback is IMMEDIATE. It’s either instant gratification or instant gutting, unless your work gets completely ignored, which is always a possibility. No wonder I preferred quietly plugging away at my novels and sharing them only with a few select critique partners.

But recently, I’ve been having trouble making appreciable progress on my final round of edits for Space Academy Rejects. It took a while for me to process the feedback I got from my crit partners, even though it’s really only resulting in minor changes. Anything character-related takes me a bit to mull over, so I can have time to spin out all the implications and get deep in their heads. I was getting really down on myself for a while about my progress (which was fine, but not up to my high standards) and could feel myself spiraling into a bad place. I needed something positive. I needed to write something I could feel good about. Fandom has always meant solace for me. Emotional, cathartic fiction and pure fannish excitement—my happy place.

So I wrote my first fanfic. And the experience has been wonderful.

I’ve made friends with other writers who review my fandom writing, I’ve gotten a flood of hits and kudos on the three short stories I’ve posted so far, and I’ve gotten lots of wonderful reader comments. The instant gratification is definitely addicting in a way I need to be wary of, but it’s done wonders for my mental state and confidence in my writing. It’s brought me back to a place where I feel I can work on my novel again without sliding into a negative headspace. I want to make sure I don’t become some kind of compliment leech who needs the praise of others to function as a writer, but it’s certainly a great thing for rallying the troops when morale is low. It’s such a fundamentally different experience from constantly participating in twitter contests, revising queries, managing this website, networking, researching agents, and so on. I enjoy that process, love it, actually, but it can be exhausting sometime.

As far as the writing itself goes, though? That experience isn’t so different. I feel like I have important stories to tell in both, and the process is identical. I put just as much brain and heart into both. There are differences, but I feel like I should climb down off my soapbox for the day and leave that discussion for next week.

Until then, creatures, answer me this: Have you ever read or written fanfiction? Are you curious to try it, but don’t know where to start? Need some fic recommendations? Let me know in the comments. I’m here for you.

20 Jan

Things I Loved in 2014

In Gaming,Personal,Recs by MK England / January 20, 2015 / 0 Comments

I’m terrible at making ranked lists of any kind. Really, truly terrible. I will agonize over list position, over whether my list really captures ALL THE THINGS, over every tiny decision. So, I’ve decided to save myself the agony and simply make a list of seven things that made my brain and soul happy in 2014.

This list is in no particular order, nor is it all-encompassing.

Grasshopper Jungle
by Andrew Smith | Feb. 11th, 2014 from Dutton
In the style of Kurt Vonnegut, with a front row seat inside a teenage boy’s brain (and all that entails). This book is filthy and demented and I loved every second of it. It is not for the faint of heart.

Dragon Age Inquisition
November 18th, 2014 from Bioware/Electronic Arts
Though this game made me rage over its buggy brokenness and I had a few issues with quest bloat, it was still a completely fantastic experience that I loved to pieces. I’ve adored this franchise from the start and I was much happier with this offering than the lukewarm-yet-enjoyable Dragon Age 2.

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition
August 19th, 2014 from Wizards of the Coast
I wasn’t a 4th edition hater like so many. It had it’s appeal, and was great for certain types of players. Fifth edition, though, is a return to an older style of play that I find very satisfying. Combat feels dangerous again, and though I’m having a hard time switching my brain back to that level of caution (and old spell mechanics), my favorite thing about the new edition is the character building section: ideals, flaws, and backgrounds all make for a more in-depth character creation experience, which I love to use to brainstorm characters for my own original writing, too!

Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (the Successful Kind)
by Holly Black | Short story in Lightspeed Magazine, September 2014
Holly Black is a well-known writer of middle grade and YA fiction, and while her stuff has never been my particular taste, I know she’s a super-cool lady and I respect her a whole lot. This story is a departure from her usual work, though; it’s a fun YA space opera written in the second person voice. Odd, but interesting for this particular story. As with most Holly Black stories, this one takes a turn for the dark at one point, but stick with it for a really cool ending.

Starfall
by Saundra Mitchell | Short story from Lightspeed Magazine, September 2014
Can you tell I love Lightspeed Magazine for short fiction? I don’t have much to say about this story other than ‘read it’. This one has a bit more literary tone, and the atmospheric feel ended up inspiring a short story of my own. It all starts with a supernova.

Young Avengers
By Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie | 2013-2014 from Marvel Comics
The most recent run of Young Avengers began in 2013 and wrapped up earlier this year, and I just. I. Look, the Young Avengers are my favorite superhero team, and this run was SO FULL OF GOODNESS. Fun adventures, lots of snark, gratuitous punching of things by Miss America Chavez – can you ask for more? This is a great one for those looking to add more diverse graphic novels to their to-read list. The team is overwhelmingly queer (which is obviously a huge driving force behind my love for them) and quite racially diverse. I won’t give spoilers, but you’ll have to read for details.

Ms. Marvel
By G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona | October 28th, 2014 from Marvel Comics
Kamala Khan is a 16-year-old Pakistani-American Muslim girl living in Jersey City who idolizes Carol Danvers, the former Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel). This series is groundbreaking for a whole lot of reasons, but it’s close to my heart because I work at a library in New Jersey with a lot of South Asian Muslim girls, and I love that I can put this book in their hands. And it’s GOOD, too. G. Willow Wilson is a fantastic writer, and Alphona’s art is perfect for the tone of the series. Issue one hit in February 2014 and the series is ongoing.

Guardians of the Galaxy (movie)
August 1st, 2014 from Marvel Studios/Walt Disney
I went into this movie with no expectations on a day when I really needed a laugh, and I came out of the theater an obsessed fangirl. Yeah, it had its problems, but it’s exactly the sort of over-the-top sci-fi camp that I love. I’m working my way through many years of Guardians of the Galaxy comics now, too. Very different, but an interesting part of the Marvel Universe that I’ve not read much of before. In the meantime, this is my new sick-day-feel-better movie.

What do you think, creatures – did any of these scratch your itch in 2014? Anything not listed here that you adored? 2014 may be over, but it’s never too late to enjoy the spoils of the year. Let me know your thoughts and recs in the comments.

12 Jan

Guilty Pleasures, Minus the Guilt

In Gaming,Personal,Reading by MK England / January 12, 2015 / 0 Comments

I recently came across the following blog prompt: What are your 5 guilty pleasures? And I immediately had Opinions, because I have no guilty pleasures. Why should I feel guilty about the things that make me happy, so long as they cause no harm? Instead, I will share with you five completely un-guilty pleasures. I love these things, and you can judge me all you want. Because while you’re over there being all negative and judgy about Taylor Swift, I’ll be rocking out to “Shake it Off” and having a blast.

In no particular order:

1. Video Games. Society yells at me for this all the time. Girls aren’t supposed to love video games. Adults who play video games are unproductive losers. FALSE. Video games are active engagement. They are a storytelling medium. They are puzzles. They are – WAIT I don’t have to justify anything. They are awesome and I love them in all their many forms. The end. Game over.

2. Tabletop RPGs (i.e. Dungeons & Dragons). Same as above. How am I a mouthbreathing loser for playing a game that involves storytelling, critical thinking, social interaction, and tons of FUN? You’re just jealous of my dice collection.

3. Fanfiction. Why should I be ashamed of READING? Who cares if the characters are from a TV show or book? If it’s well-written and engaging, I’ll read it, no matter what it is. So long as the author isn’t making any money from their transformative works, I see no issue with fanfiction. And I’ve loved it since my family got their first computer when I was in seventh grade, so I’m not about to stop 15+ years later. It’s no longer a hobby, it’s a habit. I’ve never been brave enough to write any, but I have immense respect for the Big Name Fans who gift their talents to fandom.

4. Young Adult Books. I can’t even stop rage-screaming long enough to say something pithy and scathing here. If you want to know what drivel people say about YA fiction, just google the name of any major newspaper and “young adult literature”. When you’re done clawing your eyes out, I’ll be here.

5. Comics and Graphic Novels. See item three. My mom recently bought me this shirt as a gift, which might tell you something about my Feelings. And you won’t see me being judgy about which graphic novels and comics count, because I read some of everything. Edgy, literary, indy graphic novels are no more inherently valuable or important than a well-written superhero comic.

*deep, calming breath*

So the lesson here, boys, girls, and non-binary folks, is that no one should make you feel ashamed of loving the things you love. Enjoy your hobbies. Don’t let the judgy opinions of others tarnish your love for ketchup on ice cream, sasquatch erotica, or sparkly vampires. If it makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else, more power to you.

And now I have a horrible mental image of a sparkly vampiric sasquatch who drinks ketchup instead of blood.

I regret this post already.

27 Dec

A Year of Writing and Gratitude

In Personal,Writing Process by MK England / December 27, 2014 / 0 Comments

2014 was a big year for me. As of January 1, 2014, I had written zero books. As of December 27th, 2014, I’ve written two. I’ve done immense amounts of editing. I’ve started querying my first book and participating in twitter pitch parties. I’ve made amazing writing friends, connected with supportive groups, and made tons of progress. I’ve started to see myself as a WRITER and find joy in the grind, the hard work and blank pages. I’ve finally figured out how to give the commitment to writing a permanent place in my life. And I have a lot of people to thank.

First, the long-suffering Man-Creature who endured endless plot brainstorming sessions, weeks of black moods brought on by self-doubt, and long stretches where he wondered if we were still married or if I’d left him for my laptop. Thank you.

Next, my writing communities: I met so many lovely people through the YA Buccaneers and found lots of encouragement and discipline through their bootcamps. I met new friends through NaNoWriMo and ended up finding a new local writing group because of it. Twitter has been amazing. No, really, I had no idea that twitter was where the entire publishing industry was hiding. So many agents, editors, and fellow writers throwing out 140 character wisdom for my ravenous consumption. Thank you.

Finally, though, I have to thank myself. I find it hard to explain just how difficult this year was on my mental health. I’ve suffered from anxiety and moderate depression on and off for my entire adult life, and the process of chasing my ultimate dream, writing a book, was fraught with intense fear, self-loathing, and a whole host of other unhealthy emotions. I finally typed “the end” on March 1st, 2014, and hoped that would be the end of it – fears conquered! On the path! Achieving my dream! Unfortunately, the process of rewriting, editing, and sharing my work with beta readers proved to be even more terrifying. Then starting to query. Each new step in the process brought new fears, fresh insecurities. But then NaNoWriMo happened, and I wrote a second book. And it was easier to master the fear. And querying is easier now, too. I’ve made progress. It’s still hard work, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve learned so much, met so many people doing the same things. I’ve come out the other side with two books under my belt and months of querying and editing ahead of me.

And I’m excited to tackle it all.

So thank you, self. Thank you for sticking with it. For not giving up. For proving you can do it, and that you can keep doing it. Thank you for reaching out for help when you needed it. Thank you for becoming a writer.

I share this with the hope that someone else who is struggling might glean a little courage to keep fighting for the dream. It’s possible. Keep going. Every word counts, even the ones you know are awful. Rip off the band-aid, take the time you need to look after your mental and physical help, and put in the work. You can make it happen.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and productive 2015.

What 2014 accomplishment are you proud of, creatures? What do you deserve to thank yourself for? Share in the comments and receive high fives.

20 Oct

Questions for Unpublished Writers

In Personal,Questions Answered,Writing Process by MK England / October 20, 2014 / 1 Comment

I came across these questions for not-yet-published authors on this blog and thought I’d share my answers over here because they got way too long for a comment. Fun to think about!

1. Did you always know you wanted to be an author, or did the idea of writing occur to you later on? Describe the circumstances which led to that choice.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since elementary school, but I took a major break from that dream. I got picked to represent my class in the school-wide Young Author’s Conference in some really young grade, but didn’t get one of the final picks for my grade level to actually participate, which crushed my tiny 8-year-old heart. I stopped writing stories until I discovered fanfiction in seventh grade, but then I was too scared to share my work with anyone. I started roleplaying a bit in high school, and had an English teacher who was wonderfully supportive, but all creative writing classes conflicted with band. I didn’t write again for a long time. I had ideas, and I used to fill bits of scrap paper with endless notes, bits of dialogue, and story beginnings while working my retail jobs.

The early idea for Firestarter came during that time period, somewhere around 2006. I didn’t start really writing fiction again until 2009 or 2010, when I decided to finally start Firestarter. I got 10k words in and quit. Did the same thing the next year, and the year after that. It took me until 2013 to really get serious about it, but I still only hit 20k words. Finally, on February 1st of 2014 I said NO MORE EXCUSES. I sat in the chair every morning and built upon those 20k words until the book was finished, 28 days later. Now, I pursue writing relentlessly and professionally. I’m querying my first novel and drafting my second. Writing is a major part of my life, and I hope I never let it go again.

2. What are the things that inspire your work as a writer? Music, art, people, travel, life in general?

I’m mostly inspired by other works of fiction, whether they be books, movies, video games, or roleplaying games. “What if I took this character type, but threw them into this completely different setting and situation…” etc. Eventually the character and plot I end up with bear zero resemblance to what originally inspired them, but the spark was there to set it off. I read widely and game widely, and those two things inspire my writing more than anything else.

3. What types of books are you drawn to reading? What types of books are you drawn to write?

I’m finding it really hard to pin down what exactly draws me to a book. I know I DON’T like characters who are weak-willed or passive. I like my books like I like my food: bold and spicy. I like strong, tough girls, and yes that includes the physically-strong sword-wielding types. I know it’s not the only way to be a strong female character, but it’s the type of character that has appealed to me since childhood. I wanted to BE a lady knight and a starfighter pilot. Still do. I like tough girls who have big dreams and big ideals, or girls who struggle with issues of gender expression and traditional femininity because they reflect my own struggles.

I don’t do sad/deep/issue books much. It has to be really outstanding for me to put myself through that. I love a book with a great setting and subtle, awesome worldbuilding, but it has to have a great plot too (and here I’m thinking of the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix). I like to write the same kind of stuff I like to read, unsurprisingly. Snarky humor, big attitudes, lots of personality, and an interesting setting. If it’s real world, it has to be described so that it almost feels alien, like in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle.

I think I learned a few things about myself and my tastes after free-writing those answers. Thanks for the inspiration, S.M.!

Anyone want to offer up their own answers?