Writing in 2017

Christmas decorations are slowly coming down. Very slowly. It could happen more quickly if I spent the day at home carting tubs up the stairs to fill then back down when they are fully packed. But I’m not doing that. I’m spending most of the day in my favorite place: the quiet room at the library. And it’s only Monday. Generally, Tuesday is my day to write at the library. On most Tuesdays, I spend two or three hours writing a Hump Day Short, formatting it to send to you, adding it to my blog, and linking it to my “Linda Malcolm – Writer” Facebook page. I’ve been sending the Hump Day Short to you for a few years now, and other than you and the readers on my mailing list, plus a few loyal readers on Facebook, not many people have read my work.

Late last winter, I felt winded from the want to write for a larger audience and the slowness that this process was taking. Actually, I felt that process was non-existent because the only writing energy I was putting out was just enough to send out a weekly Hump Day Short. My creepy perfectionist tendency was sneaking up on me: if I can’t get my writing in front of a bigger audience, why continue?

That was short-lived. Within days, I’d chopped that ugly saboteur off at the knees and re-spun the story. In March, I submitted two pieces of my writing to two different magazines. In short, I explained to the editors that for six years I have been ebbing and flowing between parent and writer, writing weekly Hump Day Shorts and sending them to my 200-plus subscribers; then dutifully posting those pieces in my on-line storage unit. I have it all in one spot: nearly 300 stories sitting out there on lindamalcolm.com. In an open vault waiting for the day something might happen with them.

Neither piece was published, but the rejection letters were friendly. One editor asked me to submit more of my writing. The particular pieces I submitted weren’t perfect for the publications, but the editors weren’t mean about the rejections. I took another swing at that saboteur. It wasn’t as painful as I had thought to receive a rejection letter.

In April, I joined a writers’ group in Boston. Once a month, we critique one another’s work. Each of us sends in about 15 pages of writing prior to the meeting. Then, sitting around the table, each author listens to critiques of their work without adding to the conversation. After the critiques from the five or six other authors, the author of the work joins the conversation. That first meeting was unnerving. I sat and listened then managed a meek “thank-you” when they finished. I don’t remember much of the feedback; I just know that they took my work seriously – as I did theirs. Now, nearly a year later, I crave those comments back from the writers sitting around the table. I know being in this group is the propellant I needed for the next stage of my writing: publishing.

When I first joined, I sent a smattering of stories to be critiqued. From the Laundry Maven and bras to cow manure and enduring pain, the scattered subject matter left the group scratching their heads at my goal of publishing a collection of stories. “You need a theme” was the consensus.

Now, with feedback from the group – and over the years, from my small dedicated tribe of readers -- I’ve decided to publish stories that pivot around Iowa. Whether comparisons of my kids’ life in the city to mine on the farm or reflections on butchering chickens or teaching Bill the aromatic difference between cow manure and pig shit, the touchstone of these stories is Iowa.

How goes it, you might ask? Now, I’m culling stories from my on-line storage unit and writing some new ones that have been only ideas simmering on the back burner. I’m working with a company that helps independent authors publish. To do these things means I need more time than the Hump Day Short allotment.

I’m pushing my days toward hours of writing, editing, and researching. Consequently, the Christmas decorations gathered in the dining room will take longer than a day to put away. Perhaps, there will be more eating out and taking out. Maybe I will distribute the reins of the house and encourage a more consolidated effort to keep the house functioning; spreading more of the power to the hands of everyone living under the roof as I see how capable Will and Liam are at 13 and 11 years old.

Can you hear me justifying more time with my fingers at the keyboard? Since 2010, I’ve spent concerted and sometimes painful energy on the smallest of steps. Early on, the words “I’m a writer” did not pass easily over my lips. The answer to “what do you write?” tripped right behind that first line.

Today, I sit at a table with writers where I’m still surprised to be included, where we identify ourselves as authors – complete with published books and working manuscripts. Perhaps that’s why when at the meeting the leader says, “Which author would like to go first?” I fling my arm into the air.