Posted on 2013.05.19 at 11:18
Hearin': Come Home - The Baby Grand
On the cusp of summer vacation -- we administer our final exams to students next week and, after Memorial Day, are free until mid-August -- I can finally say with some confidence that THE END IS IN SIGHT with my long, unwanted break from writing. Because, for the most part, since about the time school started I've written little to nothing this year. For someone who has considered "writer" akin to her bloodline in terms of identity, this is a shock. Or, to put it another way, in the last 9 months I've written the least I have since I was 12 years old. Yep.
One aspect of cause was the crazy circus my life was from 2010-2012. Job loss due to a terrible economy, moving back in with Mom and Dad at the tender age of 31, falling in love, trying to search for a job, going back to school part-time to add another certification, etc. I mean, I had no consistent schedule, no routine, no place that was sacred to writing. So things fell apart over time.
Another cause was life since last summer. Moving 1300 miles. Starting a new job within two weeks of the move. (Teaching full-time is NOT for the lazy…believe me!) The adjustments that come with a new workplace, new state, a new category for the relationship. (We got engaged in November and will marry in little more than a month.)
A third cause, which only came to light in the last few weeks, was my health. I'm a generally healthy person; in spite of having no flu vaccine and working in close proxmity with teens, I only got sick once this school year -- a nasty cold that waited until Winter Break to attack. So when I was so exhausted these last few months, found it hard to think, found myself cold all the time, and other little aspects…I chalked it up to aging. Stress. Living at a high elevation of 7,100 feet. Living in a climate that is not as mild as the ones I previously resided in on the west coast. (Truly, the town where I live had quite a long winter…it snowed as late as May 1st!) It was only in a conversation with my mom several weeks ago, when she mentioned a family history with the women on my dad's side having problems with underactive thyroids, did I even think about going to the doctor. I requested a blood test, just to make sure everything was okay; what I found out, instead, was that things were NOT okay and I had hypothyroidism. (In laymens terms, my thyroid was underactive.) I was put on a daily thyroid medication to fix my levels and BOOM! Energy again! Clarity in thinking! No longer shivering all the time! Etc. Since the symptoms crept in gradually over time, particularly in the last year, it makes me wonder if that is connected to the writer's block. Because, truely, one reason I fell off the craft was a lack of energy and feeling like I couldn't think or focus. So that's been fixed.
Once I get my finals graded and the grades in and wrap the school year, I plan to turn a portion of my attention back to writing -- establishing a routine, an hour a day, where I go back with my characters. I figure by the time school resumes in mid-August I should have writing incorporated into some capacity once more.
I am also getting married in late June. While my last name will change in my "real life" and in my classroom, there will be no adjustment to it with my writing. My website's URL will remain the same. My e-mail address that I use for that will also remain the same. I always intended to preserve my maiden name as my pen name if it came to pass that I married. When PIT6 finally is published -- 2014? 2015? -- it will still be under Kristen Sheley.
Posted on 2013.02.10 at 10:46
Hearin': Jazz Classics - SKY.FM-msng-msng
Yet another long-overdue update.
Writer's block continues to have some kind of hold on me. It's hard for me to sit down and write…I've fallen out of the habit and have to reestablish it. So progress is s-l-o-w. I'm hoping that I can start to slip it into my life again in bits and pieces…but here I am on a perfectly peaceful Sunday morning blogging instead of writing fiction!!
In a sort of weird attempt to jumpstart things, I've picked up one of my favorite authors from back in the day (Christopher Pike) and read a few new things he's done. Reading old favorites (or new releases from old favorites) does something to me…it reminds me of why I started writing in the first place and it almost reenergizes the muse. So we'll see if my experiment provides some fodder.
I'm also getting married this summer. Whoa! So clearly planning a wedding and negotiating the maze of all that is a definite sidetrack to the attention. I decided a long time ago, though, that my pen name would forever and always be Kristen Sheley, no matter what life changes would happen. So though I'll be changing my name in every other aspect after late June, I will always publish under Kristen Sheley and nothing will change in terms of my website's address, e-mail addresses, etc. (I actually like this; now I can have anonymity if I wish. A double life! Ooooo!)
Posted on 2012.10.14 at 14:55
Hearin': April in Paris - Michel Legrand & His Orchastra
Oh my my my, it's been a while since I updated!
Since my last entry in July, I embarked on a 1350 mile move, away from the west coast which has been my home forever to a small town in Colorado. There, I settled down with a full-time teaching job in a high school, which has kept me quite busy. Among the classes I teach is creative writing, which is pretty neat.
Amid all the chaos -- which, admittedly, is settling down now into a consistent routine -- I've neglected my writing TERRIBLY! My significant other keeps encouraging me to write; we even struck up a deal, whereas he gets up before 9 A.M. on days he doesn't have to work and I write a paragraph. Both of us have been lousy at keeping up our ends of the bargain.
The urge to write is there; I'm feeling stuff shifting inside, which I know will be good for the writing thing. I have writ a bit, too; it's not like it's been a barren desert of nothingness. It's just extremely slow going and I have to almost sit there and meditate for a few minutes to get back there.
The urge to write is there. I still need it in my life. But I'm still negotiating as to how it will fit in with the "new normal" that is my life now.
I still have a goal of finishing PIT6. I'd like to have Draft 1 done before 2013. That may be farfetched. But if I can actually create and STICK TO a system of writing routinely, it can certainly happen.
Hopefully I'll have more progressive news to report next time I post!
Posted on 2012.07.10 at 20:06
Hearin': A dishwasher working away
Last month, in mid-June, life got interesting again when -- after two years of struggling to find another full-time teaching job -- I was finally offered a perfect job in a wonderful school for the 2012-13 school year! In Colorado. This was all good, for I had spent more than a year plotting and praying and planning for this to happen. Although I will soon be uprooted a distance of 1300 miles, and leave the west coast for the first time in, well, my whole life, I will be settling a stone's throw from my brother, his wife, and their adorable daughter. Additionally, my boyfriend is also coming along, as he is also an educator in the same subject area and age group as me. And, sadly, there are no jobs for educators in Oregon right now, especially for high school English language arts teachers!
Thus, life has kicked into high gear as of late. Fortunately, there were about 6 weeks to prepare for this epic shift. Moving plans have been going forward. A long distance housing search was made and a wonderful place has been secured. And through it all, I've continued to work my current job, which is 20 hours/week. I will actually be working up until 3 days before I leave for CO. So writing time has been hard to come by.
However, as much as I feel disconnected and sad and angst and anxious about this writer's block, there are signs of hope and life. On the plane to and from Colorado Springs last month, when I flew out for Father's Day weekend for an informal interview that led to the job, I was able to churn out a couple pages. Without Internet, cell phones (text messaging), and television, there was really nothing stopping me from getting stuff done. I was able to sink into the story, into the characters, without much of a problem. I was stressing out more about the anticipation of writing, but "letting go" let me get there.
And while this was about 3 weeks ago, I was able to get writing done today. I was feeling kind of spacy and disconnected most of the day, which is better than my brain going a million miles a minute in trying to make lists and worry about move-related things. So I was able to slip into things quite quickly and without much effort this afternoon and get a page made.
I still keep feeling this story might be gutted when it gets to a second incarnation. But if I can finish this first incarnation this calendar year, I'd be really happy!
I also find it interesting that the ability to write is still there -- it never left, though I've worried and fretted and feared it has a lot in the last couple years. My life has changed so much in so many ways in that time, though, that it is really unsurprising that my approach and my techniques to getting to "the zone" also will have to be modified. Unfortunately, I'm still trying to find the right method. It does seem that shutting myself down in terms of external distractions *cough* the Internet and Facebook *cough* do help to a great degree. So does feeling antisocial. :-)
My relationship with writing has also changed, which I've waxed on about in my personal blog. Namely, it used to be my escape hatch from reality, the method in which I coped with loneliness, isolation, and other negative aspects of life. Now, however, my life is much richer and I am not feeling a lot of that, so I have to approach the craft in a slightly different way and incorporate it into my life from another angle. (Or, as I said before, "What do you do when you're happy and satisfied with life? What do you write about then?" So many of my stories do have elements of unrequited love/affection to them because that was all I knew for so long. That is no longer true.)
Fingers still crossed that 2013 will mark the completion of PIT6.
Posted on 2012.05.06 at 13:29
Hearin': Nature Boy - Nat King Cole
Well, the good news is that I'm starting to feel more creative and inspired and urge-y to write. This has resulted in having PIT dreams, which is pretty rare for me. As in a once-a-year kind of rarity. When I sit down and actually put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, I slip into things in the way I am used to and don't feel so much strain or anxiety.
The bad news is that I'm currently working two jobs M-F while also conducting an incredibly vigorous job search in another state. This results in feeling absolutely exhausted when it comes to the point of the day when I actually have time to write. So I'm still making glacial progress on PIT6. (I think I've been on the same scene and chapter for two months. At least.) I drop back to just one job after mid-June, when Job #2 (part-time and temporary) ends. And since Job #1 is also part-time, one imagines this will grant me more time and energy to channel into storytelling. Because, baby, I've missed it so!
So no ETA when it comes to PIT6 wrapping a first draft, let alone being published! 2013 is still possible, though.
Posted on 2012.02.24 at 15:02
Hearin': Go - Blink 182
I recently read the following book by a favorite musician of mine: Drinking WIth Strangers by Butch Walker. I'm not someone with an interest or even an iota of talent in music -- at all. I think I'm tone deaf, I sing off key, etc. My maternal grandmother was a professional singer in the 1930 and 40's, did big bands, vaudeville, had demo records, the whole bit. (She was pushed into performing, though, so the second she married my grandfather she left that business and never ever looked back.) But that gene, that talent, neatly skipped over both my mom and myself.
But I really enjoyed Butch Walker's music, including songs he wrote or produced for others, and he seemed like an interesting and intellectual individual based on his Twitter feed and blog. So I checked the book out from the library and devoured it in a few days. The stories were great, and I could strongly relate to Walker's attitude with the music industry. For I feel that the publishing industry is the same way.
For years, I've felt that self-publishing -- which people also call "vanity publishing" -- has had a shitty rap.
True confession: PIT is self-published (SP). It always has been. I tell people that I write "print on demand" or use a "small independent publisher." These facts are technically true. But because SP has such a bad mainstream rap, I hesitate to use the term and call it like it is. I can almost see the thought process of people.
Before Knowing I'm SP: OMG, you're published! That's so awesome!
After Knowing I'm SP: Oh…you are a talentless hack who can only publish by paying a lot of money.
I'm generalizing, but I know that I had these same thoughts when I'd meet Real Authors…and then my opinion of them and their work would change 100% once I found out that they got their stories out in this way. It made them seem kind of…sad and talentless.
Why did I do it, then? After college, I did the whole "query letter" thing, only to get form letter after form letter. This went on for a year. Networking has never ever been my strong point; in fact, I pretty much suck at it. One day, while at a Barnes & Noble, I saw a flyer about the publisher (iUniverse) and checked it out. I had a little bit of money I could use to invest in publishing. I discussed it with friends and family. I decided to do it because I felt the one thing holding me back wasn't that I was a talentless hack. (I've written stories for fun since I was 9, and pretty much been told since then by scores of people -- including other writers -- that I have what it takes. Either everyone has lied to me or I do have genuine talent.) No, I felt that I would put my money where my mouth is; I thought it was good, I thought it would speak to others and entertain them, so I would invest my own money as a demonstration of my confidence.
To me, SP was no different than an artist funding his own gallery show. No different than a filmmaker charging up credit cards to make her independent movie. No different than a musician paying for studio time to cut his own CD. Those are all incredibly respected ways to spread and share talent and art; why is SP looked down upon?
How is publishing your own book so different from that?
The pros of SP are 100% creative control over your product. For me, a writer who is very hands-on, this was the ideal. I could choose what went in the book and was out. I helped determine the back text, the appearance. I paid -- out of my own pocket -- for the cover art, which I had commissioned by professional artists (who were also old friends…yay for networking!). Few people know that I didn't have to do that with my cover art; the publisher covers that part from artists in their company without my needing to spend a dime. But I didn't want my "vision" and my baby to be anything less than what I wanted. Not if I was investing my own money.
Deadlines, too, are very flexible. (Considering my writer's block as of late, this is a blessing!) I could take as much or as little time to write the stuff. The turnaround from submission to printed product was also rapid; 8 weeks at the outside, as opposed to, oh, a year or two for other books.
The cons of SP? The attitude people have about it. (Although that is shifting…more on that in a bit.) The fact you pay to get your work out there and you often make very little money back on it. The issue of having to do all the promotion yourself. And if you are a shy person who hates networking (like me) then it can be stressful. Sure, the publisher can pull out all the stops…if you pay them. And I frankly cannot afford it.
Although it may surprise some people, even after I SP in 2002 with PIT1, I still tried to pitch the series to conventional publishers (CP). This became even more frequent after early 2004, when I had gained the interest of a film producer who liked the idea and premise and wanted to pitch it as a TV movie/series. After doing my research and making sure the guy was legit, I queried a lot of writing agents about getting representation. I mean, here I was, an unrepresented writer who had Hollywood interest without even trying…and yet I still got form letters or "no thanks" from the ivory tower. It was frustrating. I was in an odd little niche, too, writing young adult (YA). Now, the market is REALLY popular and populated. It makes up a large part of children's publishing. In 2004, not so much.
My friends, my family, and even my fans have never treated me like less of a person or writer for being SP. It's been more in my head my embarrassed and shameful attitude about it.
Like the music industry that Butch Walker wrote about, the publishing industry is now undergoing some serious shifts due to digital media. E-books -- which seemed so strange and weird to me when I first heard about them -- are now catching on in a huge way. (At least half of my friends received Kindles last Christmas.) SP can now be done by anyone who has some savvy Internet experience; many stories are in fact sold just electronically, without a paper printed option. Clearly, this is impacting bookstores and book sellers. (In my hometown of Beaverton, we have only two real bookstore "chains" left that have physical stores, and one of them is a local chain.) I'm sure that it will trickle down or up to the publishing industry as a whole and completely rewrite the rules…just like digital music did for the record industry.
This change has also made me feel better about my own published work. I feel less shameful, more proud and like I got in on the ground floor of something big. One thing that I find comforting is that the publisher I use is still around and seems to be doing quite well for themselves. So obviously I'm not the only person doing this. Most importantly, people enjoy the stories and characters; I've heard from people around the world! That fulfills me more than anything!
I hope that maybe in ten more years, writing and publishing like this can just have more respect in the writing industry. Right now, many writing groups (like the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, which I'm part of) bar SP writers from joining as published authors. I think this is wrong. Why do those distinctions have to be made? Why can't we look at the content and storytelling prowess of writers instead of which shiny New York publisher or agent got them out there?
In the end, I can sleep well at night knowing that the stories I write are put out there as my vision. "I did it my way," as Frank Sinatra once sang. But would I love to have an agent and have my books be conventionally published and thus reach a wider readership? Duh.
Posted on 2011.12.20 at 19:34
Hearin': So very much coffee shop chatter!
Apologies for quite the gap in posts. Life has been fairly busy over the last several months. A great deal of that blame can be laid down on my taking classes to earn a Library Media Specialist endorsement to my teaching credential. (Essentially being able to be a librarian in a school.) Although it's intended as a part-time program (so that teachers can do it while they are working full time), the last phase of it that I did for 10 weeks was essentially student teaching. From early October to…well, last week, I had little social life and less of a writing life. Life was all about lesson plans and work samples and portfolios and learning new skills.
Happily, I am now done with the program and next month can add a new endorsement to my teaching credential in hopes of getting a job. With the wrapping of a year of school and homework, I should now have more time to write.
PIT6 is moving again, albeit slowly. I'm trying to build the habit of writing 1 hour/day, which is challenging when it slipped by the wayside. Fortunately, for the story, things are no longer as stagnant as they once were. Even so, I keep sensing that PIT6 may be a shorter-than-usual story. Who knows, though? New goal is to have Draft 1 done by the summer. That gives me 6 months.
In related news: web designer Davian Aw
decided to give my website a makeover and the results are awesome! All aspects of my website, including the PIT area, has been made over. (The content remains the same.) Check it out here
. I hope to add some new content eventually. In the meantime, KristenSheley.com now looks more 21st century.
I hope for a PIT6 release in 2013 at this point. But we'll see what the future brings!
Posted on 2011.08.25 at 17:35
Hearin': She's Got a Boyfriend Now - Bowling For Soup
In spite of the erattic moodiness of my Muse, I am still writing.
But there's just NO WAY PIT6 will be ready to come out by Fall 2012. Unless there's a miraculous occurance. This is for a few reasons.
1) The story is still in a first draft. Still not-quite-sixty pages in. Still not at the climax yet. Etc. I'm going to guess it will be another six month (MINIMUM) to finish Draft 1. Then you add in the time it takes to get the first round of Beta feedback. And then the revisions…. It really is a year-long process.
2) My monies, or lack thereof. At this point, I still pay out of pocket for PIT's publication, including the cost of hiring a freelancing cover artist. It is NOT cheap; I've known for years I'll never go "in the black" with the costs I've fronted (unless the books are picked up by a mainstream publisher or something). I've been okay with this being a rather expensive "hobby." But considering I'm still unemployed after a year -- as a high school teacher in Oregon, I'm one of many -- there's just no way I'd have the funds to front the publication.
But the good news? I'm writing more consistently right now. This week. If I have this year "off" again from working, then I intend to really push myself to get more writing done. But having a new paperback out by Fall 2012? Eh. You may have to wait until 2013.
Posted on 2011.07.13 at 20:25
Hearin': Moonstruck coffee shop music
Yes, I live!
I just wrapped up three intense week of classes in the vein of pursuing my library media specialist endorsement. Literally, I was in classes from 8:15 - 4 P.M. M - F. I had just enough down time to do homework, eat meals, and maybe spend a little time with my family or boyfriend before going to bed to do it all over again. It was pretty gruelling -- six grad credit hours -- but I survived with my grades intact. (I think.)
Progress on PIT6, natch, fell to a trickle. I'm still on the same #$%^& scene I've been writing for the last 2 months. Not a huge exaggeration there. But today I got some stuff done, and in fact I'm at a coffee shop now to get more stuff done. This week's been fairly cluttered with Errands That I Have To Do And Could Not For Three Weeks. (Doc appointments, vet appointments, oil change appointments.) But next week is wiiiide open with free time!
I also rediscovered my brain! Strange but true. A prolonged period of unemployment that I've had -- having last worked in late May 2010 -- has made me feel that my brain is sort of running at half the power as normal. Schooling always helps rev things up, and when that happens my creativity and muse also get revved up. This resulted in not one but three outlines for three very different stories. One is a second-to-last fanfic segment that, eventually, I will sit down and write. (It's all outlined; I just need some time. Probably when PIT6 is being Betaed, which is still months away.) One is a PIT story that will likely be PIT9, the seed of which was planted by my boyfriend during a discussion on a car ride where we were waxing over time travel and the PITtyverse. And the third was a 100% stand alone original story idea. (Not PIT related. Or time travel. GASP!)
So that was nice. Very very nice. I also organized my PIT series arc in terms of the stories. I think I'll ultimately have 16 books. Either 16 or 20. I know my stopping point, have known it for a while.
I also suspect more inspiration to come. My boyfriend and I have fallen in a habit of watching TV series on DVD that the other -- usually me -- has never seen. The first season of Glee. The only seasons of Firefly and Undeclared. The three seasons of Arrested Development. Etc. Next up in the pipeline is The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., a quirky western that aired on Fox in 1992. It was one of my favorite shows back in the day. I suspect the quirky western stuff will toggle my inspiration for PIT6, which takes place in about the same time period.
Inspiration leads to writing. And when I do sit down, I write. So that's good. I'm feeling less disconnected with this part of my life for the first time in months.
Posted on 2011.06.09 at 12:07
Hearin': Everything - Fefe Dobson
Since the age of 13, I've written more or less every day, swept away by my imagination and possessing the ability to tune out the world at large in seconds.
Now, almost 20 years later, I find myself seized and at the mercy of something I've never encountered before: writer's block.
I always thought that writer's block was something that meant you couldn't write. Like, words wouldn't come out. It's not...quite like that for me, at least now. When I sit down and put the laptop before me and try to shut out distractions, I can write. (I wrote a page the other day.) I have a blueprint for my current project (PIT6) and I'm following it.
What is lacking, however, is that fabulous sense I once experienced where reality and fantasy swapped places. Where what was around me was less real than what was in my head. Additionally, I feel flat, uninspired, completely without any ideas. It's also hard to write; I mean, I do practically have to handcuff myself to a chair to do it.
The perpetrator for the deadly Writer's Block...I can't quite put my finger on it. Without delving too deep into my personal life, the last year has been crazy. In the past 12 months I lost my job (and have so far been unable to obtain a new one), moved back to my Oregon hometown and in with my parents, and fell in reciprocated love for the first time, which led to a relationship that is still flourishing. Taken separately, these are fairly earthshaking. Combined, it's a wonder I didn't have a nervous breakdown. (All right, the love part was a good thing!)
My relationship with writing, since I can remember, has always been one of Escape. When I'd be in school or at work, I'd write to get out of the boredom those places induced in me. When I was upset, I would turn to pen and paper to sooth. When I was lonely -- a fact I have been for most of my life -- I would spend time with my transparent non-existent characters over flesh and blood people.
Now, I'm grappling with a situation of not wanting to escape my life. When one has oodles of free time, as I do since I've been unable to land a teaching job and am on unemployment until at least January 2012, it's hard to really "escape." I mean, you're not forced to be somewhere you're not. When I'm happy -- as I have been tremendously being back with my family, old friends, and my boyfriend -- then I also feel less inclined to blur the lines of reality. I'm no longer lonely and flesh people have replaced the friends I once had only in my head.
I feel like I'm having to reestablish a relationship with writing.
I also don't know what I can do to shake this block. Part of me feels that once I'm working again, the ideas will begin to flow once more. I'm very much a person of routine, and when one's routine varies each day, it's hard to get into any kind of consistent pattern with anything. Also, the pressure on my writing (from outsiders, who are like, "Hey, now you can write full time and spend time selling your books!") to be some kind of breadwinner should also cease which, oddly, helps me write.
That all being said, PIT6 will likely not be out until 2013. I hope I can meet that deadline. I just don't know at this point. I'm eager to be rid of this writer's block; believe me when I say that writing has and does help me cope with life, and not being able to do it has made me feel emotionally constipated and anxious. The precious times I can break through and reach that writer's groove work better for me than any tea or medication.
I'll keep you posted on this journey of sorts when I can.