Why publishing? Why now?

A few years ago, I watched an interview with Quentin Tarantino where he made this comment about how, when he was a kid, he loved the movies so much that he wanted to become a movie star. He said he wanted this because kids can only really see the actors onscreen at first. Then he learned about all the things that go on behind the camera, and he realized that’s where he wanted to be.

My pursuing publishing wasn’t too much different a jump. As a child, I saw that writers and illustrators were putting stories to paper, but never dreamed how many people had to come together to make these words and pictures into a coherent piece. So I decided that becoming a writer would be my ultimate fate.

After intensive summer writing camps and college classes, I realized that the fiction writing process was a painstaking, self-centered, solo journey. While I still loved storytelling and didn’t have a problem expressing myself when I needed to, I realized that my taking this journey usually left me feeling drained. I’d stare at my work, wondering if I’d done anything more than ruminate on those ugly corners of myself that writing dredged up (and workshop compatriots often wondered the same thing about me).

To make money, I took up tutoring and teaching, followed by copywriting and marketing. I wrote for alumni publications, did a stint at a newspaper, and took up blogging. The satisfaction of crafting someone’s broken sentence into something meaningful, through proofreading or cajoling, made me feel like there are some things in this world that can be repaired (or at least improved). All the while, I was trying over and over to write fiction, and over and over again wondering why I wasn’t deriving satisfaction from it.

The epiphany came when I realized there’s more to loving words than being a literary fiction writer, and that I wasn’t giving up. I was finding a more unique, more appropriate path for myself.

While I wasn’t so impressed with my own fictional stories, telling other people’s stories – or helping to promote or improve them – was definitely something I could see myself doing forever. And when I found Ooligan Press’ program online, I realized it was the perfect interdisciplinary combination of editing, design, marketing and – yes, still! – writing that I was looking for.

Naturally, letting people know what I’m doing has drawn some skeptical looks and flippant remarks about “dead” industries. Though time and time again I’ve had to bite back scorn, I’m usually able to convince naysayers that publishing is in one of its most intriguing phases. Omnivorous content consumption (paper AND electronic) creates myriad opportunities for fascinating work creating print books, e-books, and versatile ad campaigns for both.

People are taking in so many images, stories, jokes, think-pieces, paperbacks, classics, video, articles, short stories, poems, etc., that the barrier to entry for a writer has lowered. That can, of course, create a glut of crap-content, and that crap can bury quality work created by writers and researchers that are willing to take that dark, solo journey into focused creativity.

But even crap-content can serve a greater purpose. It can give people who are already reading crave more substantial stories and meaningful words and images that they can hold onto. And I want to be one of the people putting well-crafted, powerful works into the hands of these readers.

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The Extrovert’s Guide to Working from Home

Depression and anxiety can trick you into thinking that your dark side, or your disease, is your true personality. You begin to imagine that other humans are the enemy and that you’re better off hiding in your home and scraping out money with as much face-to-face contact as possible. Getting treated, whether that means with talk-therapy, art-therapy, cardio, or medication, can help reveal who really lives beneath that layer of self loathing.

For me, I recovered my energetic attitude toward others after I’d already started working from home. In the midst of transition, (ie., waiting for grad school to start), I’ve developed mechanisms to keep myself happy, energized, and sane.

Go Outside in the Morning

connor
Can we go now? Can we go now?

I’m fortunate that I have an enormous hound that needs to be taken out or he cries and cries like scalded milk in an espresso machine. First thing in the morning, even if it’s bad weather, let some vitamin D slip into your pores. Most neighborhoods at least have some sort of green landmark or destination to use as a turnaround point (unless you’re in California, then it’s probably yellow). With any luck, you’ll encounter some friendly faces out in the world, exchange some pleasantries, and hell, even meet the neighbors. If you do this, it also usually requires you to put on some clothes. Well, at least a bra and some shoes in addition to your yoga pants or whatever. Sometimes I even put on jeans. And this makes the inertia a lot less potent when opportunities to leave the house arise later in the day.

Queue up Your Favorite Podcasts

Nothing gets you pumped up in the morning like your favorite song. Starting out your day getting dressed and listening to a favorite jam or the familiar voices of podcasts you especially like. Personally, I like to wake myself with the Last Podcast on the Left or Sword and Scale. Those are more for the horror-inclined, however, and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Something with a little bit of humor, excitement, or inspiration is best, and if you follow a regular show, you develop a little bit of familiarity with the people on the other end of the microphone.

Remember you Have Clients and Colleagues

Call them. Make appointments to meet with them. Cold calling is terrifying, and I don’t really do it. I prefer an idea proposed (by a client no less!) of pursuing “warm leads”. These are people approached via this marvelous thing called THE INTERNET via LinkedIn, MeetUp, and Facebook Pages. That way, calls are not cold and terrifying, but rather just talking to a face on your computer that you’ve already seen.

Create Missions for Yourself

It can become challenging to sit (or stand, like me) for hours straight focused on one task, but breaking up your workday into chunks makes for the opportunity to go out and run errands. Or, if you’re on of those Turn-Life-Into-An-RPG types, “complete missions”. While having a 9-5 may make it so you need to do all your errands at once, the homebound extrovert may choose to break up these tasks into different days of the week in order to get regular doses of human interaction. If you are not stuck working at a desktop computer, take your laptop to one of the more work-friendly coffee shops in your area, too.

home gym

Join a Gym

My solitary fitness pursuit of running was something that really worked for me back when I was working with victims of sexual abuse. It gave me a place to expend energy and to release the pressure inside my head. Once I started working from home though, the open road became just another place of alienation. Joining a powerlifting gym back in Santa Barbara county gave me at least four hours a week of joking around and shit-talking with like-minded people. Now, my gym isn’t as specialized and includes a lot more cardio machines, but it’s small and friendly enough that I can count on at least a few friendly words, and maybe even some jokes.

If you must work from home, implement these techniques, you extroverts, and everyone will be much, much happier. You will be happier because you’ve gone out into the world, combining a productive day of work with some invigorating human contact. And your roommate or significant other will be happier because you won’t be an energy-sucking mess that latches onto them like a Yerk as soon as they walk in the door.
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The Waiting Room: Where Things are Almost Happening

In a culture where “tired” or “crazy busy” is the almost mandatory answer to “how are you?”, it’s heresy to admit that stretches of quiet transition exist. So I’ll be the first to step forward and say…”Hey. I’m actually not that busy right now.”

While my husband’s new job has begun and is challenging and stimulating his mind daily, I’m having to find ways to occupy myself without slipping into depression, anxiety, or excess.

So what to do with oneself in the meantime?

John Lennon has that annoying quote: “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” To me, it has become a reproach, but I’m trying to shrug it off and prepare accordingly for plans that are already in place. Here are five activities that have been filling the interim time.

ikea standing desk
The desk was one of the first things to be set up in my baby-blue office.

1) Part-Time Blogging, SEO, and Social Media Work

A little bit of part-time work has been a life saver on the mornings I wake up and feel like I’m contributing nothing to society or the planet. I even keep a Google spreadsheet with the hours I spend working, as a reminder and calming mechanism when I start beating myself up. It’s a technique I recommend to anyone bent toward self-badgering.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to maintain some of the web work in Santa Barbara county that I was doing, contracted by a developer/SEO friend (and if you have a website you need some help with, send me a message and I’ll hook you up with him). My jobs have included managing social media accounts, ghost-writing industry specific blogs, and doing assorted e-mail newsletter and WordPress tweaks.

2)Health Restoration

Despite the fact that I had good friends and family nearby, and the fact that I had that rare privilege of meeting and marrying someone who really understands me, I was not at my happiest in the place I lived for the past four years. As many people do when they’re unhappy, I allowed myself to engage in some pretty unhealthy eating and drinking habits, gaining about thirty pounds.

Now to be fair, I did stop running and took up powerlifting. I can deadlift over 250 lbs and squat over 200. But I also worked up to drinking a bottle of wine all by myself a couple of nights a week and ate more than my share of Panda Express orange chicken. And I’m pretty sure that’s bad for me.

So I’ve added running back into the repertoire, given up anything deep-fried, and I’ve quit drinking all together. Yes. You read that right. I haven’t had alcohol in almost two weeks. That’s kind of huge for me. Don’t worry, though, after a couple of months I’ll be back to giving you reviews of these fabulous Pacific Northwest brews…just gotta drop this fifty-year-old-man beergut I’ve got first.

The coolest part is, even though it’s a beer and wine mecca up here, every bar and restaurant has non-alcoholic options that don’t suck. The tap rooms serve microbrewed kombucha, for example. Where even am I?

murakami, connor, and iced coffee

3) Books, books, and more books

Audiobooks while dog-walking and planting shasta daisies in the front yard. Books to review for the Jack the Ripper site I contribute to. And books from the enormous library that’s a mile from my house. I’ve already finished three this week.

oregon coast hike

4) Taking the Networking Plunge

In the last few weeks, “Meetup.com” that has pretty much blown my mind, and has also added some much needed signposts to the landscapes of my weeks. JT and I joined a group of 12 strangers for a gorgeous hike on the Oregon Coast last weekend, I went to a meeting for women in small business that led to coffee with a very cool lady with her own marketing business, and next week I’m going to an SEO presentation and a writer’s group meeting.

I also got lectured by some dude about how my business card was all wrong last week, but you take the bad with the good.

Moving to a new city as an adult without the immediate built-in network that school can provide is intimidating. Thank goodness for the internet, for libraries, for garden beds, and of course for my boys.

stretching with help from the hound

 

Do Millenials Really Have Nothing to Offer?

Millenials. We’re the scum of the earth.

It’s impossible to read a business site without seeing articles every couple of weeks about tolerating millenials, how millenials aren’t actually that good at social media after all, and other disparaging eye-roll-worthy comments and pieces on how entitled/untrainable/hard to work with/ignorant we are.

Meanwhile, I’ve watched several people close to me marginalized at work due to their being under thirty, no matter how well they perform. Instead of being seen as people with years and years of time to learn and train up to higher levels, we’re often treated like we’re still children.

I try not to let these blogs get to me. I chalk it up to business’ fear of the unknown, a scarcity mentality, or just a desire for clicks.

But last week, during a webinar, something got me good and angry.

standing desk

The webinar was with a site I consider to be one of the best websites about blogging and content marketing on the web. I’m always looking for ways to improve my work by reading their articles and listening to their podcasts. The webinar was about the mistakes people make when creating online products, and it had an hour of very useful content.

When the webinar was wrapping up, the question and answer session began regarding the course they were promoting. The course centered on creating teaching products for the web. My attention was in and out at that point. I knew it was very unlikely I’d be able to afford the course (especially since I’m heading to grad school in the fall). And was wondering whether I should just log off.

That’s when I heard:

“No. People in their twenties aren’t the target for this course. It tends to be more for people with something to offer…”

Aaaaaaand at that point I logged off.

I was much more enflamed than I would normally be by this. Maybe it was because I am such a huge fan of the site and felt betrayed, but I think a lot of it had to do with the distinct choice of words themselves. I tried to rationalize it…they were talking about creating web courses, which do require a bit of experience and knowledge to teach, right?

(Never mind that they had an entire segment on how it’s better to offer beginning courses, and that sometimes over-educated people struggle more with making an accessible product. Clearly that’s inapplicable.)

Maybe they were just joking around, or maybe in splitting my attention, I had missed some important context. For that reason, I won’t name the website. The fact remains, though, that I’ve gotten used to hearing and reading such digs (though many far less cutting) over the course of my fledgling career.

Ultimately I kept coming back with the line: “…people with something to offer…”

Do millennials really have nothing teachable to offer?

hot coffee and curlers

Now, I’ll admit, I have a hair-trigger when it comes to getting upset about this variety of poorly-chosen word. A lot of that has to do with my history of clinical depression and anxiety. One of my internal loops was (and unfortunately, often still is) literally, “You have nothing to offer.”

But the most effective way to address such a rude, off-hand comment is with evidence. And here are just a few counter-examples from flesh-and-blood people that I actually know:

  • More than one professional graphic designer and professional actor.
  • More than one person largely responsible for making award-winning, premium wine.
  • One teacher who single-handedly brought the AP Environmental Science class to the California high school where she works.
  • A trial lawyer for a firm that regularly wins huge sums from major corporations responsible for killing or maiming innocent people.
  • A professional Chinese-English translator.
  • A professional speech-therapy clinician.
  • Several devoted victim-advocates for survivors of sexual assault.
  • Several parents in the midst of parenting very awesome kids (nothing to learn from that, I’m sure).

And again: these are just friends and acquaintances. The list also doesn’t include my friends’ myriad un-remunerated interests and specialties: people who are well-traveled, intellectually curious about a broad range of subjects, and musically or artistically gifted.

And with that, I prefer to embrace facts instead of popular click-bait lines. The under-30 crowd DOES have a lot to teach and offer, and now is about the time we’re due to start dominating.

So get used to it, biz blogs.

 

A New, Northern Chapter for Craft Fear

We sold our brewing equipment. I know. It was terrible. I cried a little bit.

We boxed up my horror collection and stowed my shadow children away in a POD, tucked behind our sofa.

shadow children in hallway
But we wanted you to come play with us…forever…and ever…and ever…

We got on highway 5, hound wrapped in a thundershirt, and caravanned fifteen hours north, braving malevolent logging trucks and excruciating boredom. Reaching our destination, this haven of hops, this Bethlehem of brews, the years of waiting, months of stress, and two weeks of homelessness was all worth it.

Cuz we’re in Portland now. And it’s about to get real.

mason jar beer taster in Portland
A tasting from Imperial Bottle Shop and Taproom

During this transition from the slow-paced, drought-stricken-but-beautiful California Central Coast to the bustling cloud-cover of Portland, this blog has fallen by the wayside a bit. For that I apologize. But I also come bearing news that things are going to go through a bit of a change-up here in the Craft Fear-o-verse…news that I think is pretty exciting.

I’ve been accepted to a graduate program here for publishing that is quite interactive, and simultaneously have picked up some more writing work. While still making beer and horror focuses of this site, I’m going to transition into a more open-ended format and explore literature and life as well. Exploration of the “craft” of writing, book-making, and living well will possibly overshadow the “fear” aspect in many cases.

(By the way, if you want to see some of the writing I’ve been doing lately, you can check out Whitechapel Jack where I do some scrawling about Jack the Ripper. Yeah…I’m one of those people.)

While re-acquiring homebrewing equipment, acquainting myself with new local favorites, and catching up on my reading, I hope to reconnect with friends through this site, and in the process meet some new ones.

Skoal, and see you soon.

 

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“No Daddy, Princess Mariah doesn’t like that shade of pink!!”

Samson wasn’t sure where his daughter had picked up the royal “we” but he was sure he didn’t much care for it. But he sure as hell didn’t have the energy to fight with her about it and stand up on this ladder painting her bedroom.

“Well, she sure liked it a lot when we were in Home Depot this afternoon. Maybe give her a few minutes and she’ll like it again,” he didn’t look down at her, but continued the percussive roll of the paint onto drywall.

“No!” Sharp as a rimshot, another new thing she’d picked up–probably at that preschool. God he was letting his own child succumb to the entitled Disney Princess culture. And enabling it by painting her walls pink.

Danielle would have gotten her into something like dragonflies or done up the place with the solar system or a jungle theme. She had been great at that kind of thing.

“Well, Princess Mariah, I’m the one up here painting the walls of your castle,” he waved the roller in front of his face.

“Palace,” she crossed her arms, drawing out the “s” with an extra saliva spurt.

“Aw Christ,” he muttered, putting a paint-flecked hand to his forehead.

“Daddy! You cussed!!” She started jumping up and down at the base of the ladder and a cold burst of adrenaline washed from his shoulders to finger tips as he gripped the top of it. The roller bounced in his sweaty grip and landed on the floor, splashing pink paint onto the cuffs of his daughter’s jeans.

“HAHAHA!” With the too-big roar of a victorious cavalry officer, she snatched the paint-soaked roller from the ground, scurried out of the room and pounded down the stairs.

Lord, in a neighborhood like this if she made it half a block with that thing some soccer mom would be calling child services in no time. He tried not to imagine the ladder toppling as he hurried to the tarp-covered floor.

“MARIAH, GET YOUR BUTT BACK HERE WITH THAT THING OR YOU WILL NEVER EAT ICE CREAM AGAIN SO HELP ME GOD!!!” He was only met with another roar of her laughter.

Behind him he heard the door down to the basement slam, and he followed the trail of pink paint. Well, at least she hadn’t taken her shit-show on the road.

“Mariah–get up here NOW!!”

As he opened the door, he heard her roar turn to a snicker. He imagined her crouched down, holding a roller full of wet paint that she was more than likely going to smudge all over herself and into his beard once he caught up with her.

“Mariah–don’t make me come down there!!”

No voice this time, but only the rustle of cloth. So. She thought that she’d tricked him.

Well, at least maybe she wasn’t such a girly girl after all.

Since they’d moved in, he hadn’t spent much time in the basement. He’d kept most of the boxes upstairs, not wanting to deal with the hassle of changing his mind and having to carry things back up again, but there had been a few old pieces of furniture camped out there when they moved in and they blocked the stream of light coming from the kitchen. He went to switch on the light but his hand didn’t come into contact with a switch as he groped at the wall.

He waved his hand above his head, looking for some kind of pull-string to work with. Nothing there either.

Another giggle from the far end of the basement.

“Mariah–it’s not funny!” He was halfway down the steps. “Now I’m going to count to three, and if you don’t come out by the time I’m done, you’re not going to be allowed to play with the Wii all weekend–got it?”

He took another step down the croaking wooden steps. “One…”

Complete silence.

“Two…” He was almost to the bottom of the stairs now. He was going to have to follow through on his threat and he was NOT looking forward to what came next.

“Daddy?” A voice said from behind him. Samson whirled around, to see his daughter standing at the top of the stairs, holding the dripping paint-roller.

Just before the door slammed shut and he heard a voice next to his ear whisper, “three.”

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