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October 18 – April 7

Wow it’s been awhile since I blogged – it feels like both a lot and a little have happened since I last checked in.

On the job front, work has definitely ramped up. I got the option in October to switch my focus within the team and man did that change my world. The amount of impact I was able to have on the new team was leaps and bounds above what I was able to do on my first team, but with this change in scope came a pretty significant change in responsibility. Months later I am still trying to figure out how to deliver on the impact I know I can have while not sacrificing my entire life to do it. Honestly, I’m still struggling with this one – as my work performance has trended up, my writing and health have definitely trended down. I’ve spent the last few months brainstorming how to permanently fix this problem in a long-term way. I am pretty sure I’ve landed on the answer, but won’t share more until the moves have been made ๐Ÿ™‚ Stay tuned.

Travel-wise, the last few months have been packed! I headed to Cartagena in Colombia for Briggs’ 30th bday, back to Orlando for Alyssmas, Park City with the gang for New Years, and a bunch of places in Asia for work-related travel (can you figure out where based on the pics?).

 

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Ryan and I have also continued our adventures in cake-baking. The latest was a black forest cake for Stef’s bday (pro tip: whipped creme does NOT travel well – cake almost didn’t make the drive from San Mateo to SF)

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On the writing front, I actually have an exciting update. This past week, I sold a story to Apex Magazineย ! Apex is a pro-market (meaning it is SFWA-recognized and pays at least $0.06 / word for accepted stories). Apex has also published several short stories that have won the Hugo Award in the last few years (including this past year). Making this sale is a pretty big deal for me for a couple reasons:

  1. I can now apply to be an Associate Member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). I’ve wanted to be a member of SFWA since I first started writing – the networking opportunities are enormous! If I sell 2 more stories to pro-markets, I can apply for Active Member status which would be even better, but Associate Members still get a lot of great perks. If you’re interested in the nitty gritty, check out this link.
  2. Once my Associate membership application goes through, I can say I am a member of SFWA on all future story submissions and novel queries – this plus noting my sale to Apex should help boost my work in slush piles. Readers will give my stories more consideration and a better chance to woo them. I’ll have a sense shortly of how much this does or does not matter.
  3. Apex is a really hard magazine to make a sale to. This is probably the first time ever I’ve felt like a real writer. ๐Ÿ˜€

I’ll share more about the story itself when it’s closer to its actual publication date (TBD) – and of course links to the magazine and links to the story once it’s made free online.

Story Recs

I’ve continued to read a lot, but honestly, not too many stories have been standouts for me lately ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Here are the few notables since my last post:

+ The Consuming Fire (The Interdependency, #2) by John Scalzi. Scalzi continues to impress with his new trilogy about a collapsing space empire. The second book stood up well against the first (even though my favorite character from book #1 was noticeably absent in this second go-around). Book #3 is supposed to come out in the next year (man Scalzi writes fast!)

+ Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. I picked up this book for a failed book club at work. It isn’t speculative at all and very much outside of my wheelhouse, but it was great. The stories about the different families struggling in a Mumbai slum were incredibly heart-wrenching and the twist at the end of the book bumped this one up to a 5/5 for me. Definitely recommend this one (and it’s a pretty fast read).

Again, no new video games that have really grabbed me. Though Ryan and I did buy a subscription to Nintendo Classic on his Switch and playing Super Mario Bros 3 has been nostalgically fun. Let me know if you are reading or playing anything good I should pick up ๐Ÿ™‚

September 12 – October 17

The last month has been a blur as I’ve ramped up at Facebook. I’m really enjoying my team and what I’m working on, though I still think it will take some time for me to have the impact I want to have. Learning and growing is the name of the game ๐Ÿ™‚

Outside of work, Ryan and I have been baking up a storm. We actually kind of need to stop as baking a three-tier cake and, between the two of us, finishing it in under a week cannot be healthy. C’est la vie.

Other than finding my footing at work, there haven’t been a ton of big life updates.

Writing Update

Okay, so actually I do have one semi-big update. I got my first story acceptance this month ๐Ÿ™‚ My short story “The Shopkeeper’s Daughter” will be published in Stupefying Stories sometime over the next few months. Ironically, that is my only fantasy story (I mostly stick to scifi), but it is a story I really love. I’ll be sure to share the Amazon link to the issue with my story when it goes live. Hopefully, I can keep the momentum going. On the novel front, things have been slower. Beta-reading and slush-reading for friends is taking up too much free time. I’ll need to drop the ball on something, but still haven’t decided what yet.

Story Recs

I’ve been reading (aka listening to Audible) quite a bit in the last month. There have been a few standout stories for me:

+ The Poppy War by RF Kuang. This is a fantasy novel the closely follows Japan’s invasion of China in WWII. The story is about a young woman who grows up in times of war. It is graphic, but so so good. This is the first in a trilogy, so don’t jump in if you don’t like cliffhangers.

+ Circe by Madeline Miller. This book follows the life of Circe, famous Greek goddess and witch. She is probably best remembered as the woman who turned Odysseus’s men into pigs in the Odyssey. But her story offers so much more than that. It is about a woman finding her place among the gods and among men.

+ Dandelion by Elly Bangs. This short story appearing in Clarkesworld Magazine spans three generations of women scientists who discover and study an alien probe crash-landed on Earth. This was a poignant, thoughtful read – and it’s a quick one if you have 15 minutes to spare.

No amazing video game recs for now. I’ve been playing a few PC games, but nothing to phone home about. I am always looking for both story and game recs, so feel free to send some my way ๐Ÿ™‚

February 6 – March 6

Not that much has happened in the last month. I visited Ryan – we celebrated our 3-year (O_O) anniversary and massively destroyed Overcooked. Chiberia continued to be freezing cold. My MMM capstone project (chili!) has taken over my life (one more week and I’m free). I managed to get almost none of the classes I wanted for my last quarter at school. And, though I’ve been writing a ton, getting out high-quality finished shorts has been a little more slow-going than I would like.

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Currently, I’m waiting to hear back from Clarion and Clarion West. I should know in the next 2 weeks, and I am about dying from all the stress. I want to go to Clarion or CW so so badly, but both are very difficult to get into (I’m trying to be real about that). SO I’ve decided as a consolation prize, I’ll use what I would have spent on tuition to go on some big trip should I be rejected – more on that hopefully never haha.

I am also pretty excited for spring break. Ryan and I are heading to Orlando to do wedding stuff with my family and his parents (who are joining us). I am also hoping I’ll get a lot of uninterrupted writing and reading time! Lately, I’ve been sprinting through the Nebula nom list, and I am excited to keep on pushing ๐Ÿ™‚

January 5 โ€“ February 5

This past month has been very wedding and writing centric for me.

Wedding: Who knew planning weddings would be stressful? Oh wait – everyone who has ever planned one. I wish Ry and I had gone to city hall, but now it’s too late and we are definitely wedding-ing. Admittedly, I am looking forward to the celebrations (and hoping all my friends can attend), but I am not looking forward to the stress between now and then. I am so grateful for my mom and sister who are helping a ton. And (shockingly) the wedding diet is on track (I miss fried chicken).

Writing: I busted out one totally new short story in Jan (that I don’t actually hate – wahoo!) and I’ve finished the outline for a new novel (gasp). I also attended a conference in Michigan: ConFusion, where I got to pal around with some of my favorite VP friends (<3 Bex and Denise below; miss the rest of our family dearly). Bex has honestly been a godsend these last few months. They live near me and we’ve been writing in coffee shops 1-2x a week – it’s been insanely helpful for productivity. What am I going to do when I graduate ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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While my Kellogg friends probably don’t appreciate how unsocial I’ve become, I’m really excited to push forward with my writing. One other big milestone I reached this past month was getting my apps in for Clarion and Clarion West. This won’t be the first time I’ve applied, but I hope I get good news and am able to attend one of these workshops this summer. I’ll know by the end of March!

November 27 โ€“ January 4

This holiday season was filled with travel travel travel (and unfortunately not as much productivity on the writing front as I would have hoped).

First up: Back to Orlando for my birthday (28!) and more wedding planning (sarcastic yay). Turns out planning weddings are stressful – surprise! I consider myself pretty low maintenance, and I’ve already had at least 2 wedding meltdowns. For my single friends: I recommend town hall and a nice honeymoon. You’re welcome. Anyway, we officially have the date, venues, dress, invitations, photographer, videographer, invite lists, and are about to confirm menus. My latest project is the wedding website which apparently needs to be finished before we can send out the save-the-dates (gulp). Unsolicited advice for grooms (or the less ‘involved’ of any same-sex pairing): you are not doing your partner any favors by deferring all decisions to them – that just means they now have to do more work. Heaping more stress on someone is not a gift >_<

Venue spoiler:

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After that ‘fun’-filled week, I headed off to Telluride, CO for Kellogg ski-trip. Unfortunately, there was very little snow and not a whole lot else to do if binge-drinking isn’t your thing.

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I ended up bagging on the trip early to go spend some time with Ryan in San Jose before heading to Tokyo (but really I just wanted to see star wars). While hanging with him, I did get some good news on the writing front to wrap up the year: a story I wrote made it to a final round at Clarkesworld (something like 30-40 stories out of 1200 each month make it this far) – that felt like a pretty big win (though I’m still waiting to hear back on if it actually sold). Unfortunately, after sharing the story with Ryan post-this good news, we’ve discovered a few typos in the prose – whoops. Too late now. I also heard back from Odyssey Online (a writing organization that has online workshops in the winter). I was waitlisted for the class I applied to – which bummed me out for half a day, but I now consider a pretty big honor. I’m getting closer! The waitlist notification also included a couple book recommendations that I’ve started – so far these have been helpful!

Come Christmas, Ryan and I headed off to Tokyo. Needless to say, the food was wonderful and Japan remains one of my favorite countries to visit.

For New Years, we headed to Seoul to meet up with a few friends and explore the city. I was very impressed with the people of Seoul and enjoyed learning about South Korea’s history and culture. I definitely recommend a visit (particularly to the War Memorial Museum), but maybe schedule your trip for warmer months (at least Seoul prepared me for my return to Chicago!)

After such a long time away, I was excited to get back to the US and (finally!) work on some writing – so of course I got super sick and now am pretty down for the count. Still, I’ve thought up a new book idea I am pretty excited about and hope to get more subs out the door before starting back at Northwestern next week.

Hope everyone had a great New Years! Looking forward to 2018!

October 29 โ€“ November 26

Big news this month is Ryan finally proposed! With some help from Kiki and Alyssa, he popped the big question at a romantic and private lunch. “Will you marry me?” was written on custom plates (made by Kiki!) and revealed once we finished our meal. I love Ryan so much and am so excited to be marrying him! Labor Day Weekend 2018. Now for wedding planning….

Other than Thanksgiving and the big engagement, this past month has been filled with revisions revisions revisions. After VP and a weekend workshop with Mary Robinette Kowal, I’ve been revising 6ish stories and preparing for more submissions. In January, I’ll be applying to both Clarions (Clarion and Clarion West), so will need to pick my 2 submission stories for each (I have 3 stories in mind, but one is in serious need of revision). I am very anxious about these two workshops – going to one would be a dream come true: 6 weeks of focused writing instruction, critiquing, and drafting. But, as is the case with any “best of,” these two workshops are really freaking competitive to get into. I’ll know officially in March how I did!

Other than that, I’ve decided to switch my focus to a new novel post-applying-to-Clarions. I’ve had a few friends secure agents recently (nearly all of whom haven’t published a short story in a pro-market). As crazy as it sounds, I keep hearing that getting an agent for a novel is actually slightly easier than publishing a short story in a SFWA-qualifying magazine or webzine. Now all I have to do is think of a novel idea lol.

The next month is filled with tons of travel: 11/26 – 12/1 Chicago, 12/1 – 12/8 Orlando, 12/8 – 12/15 Telluride, 12/15 – 12/17 Bay Area, 12/17 – 12/28 Tokyo, 12/28 – 1/3 Seoul. Hopefully a lot of writing and reading will happen in there.

Here is Ryan and my sister’s new puppy, Gator:

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October 2 – October 28

Just got back from Viable Paradise Writersโ€™ Workshop โ€“ and man was it incredible!

VP is a writing workshop for early career writers who are just at the brink of publication. Alumni include NK Jemisin, Fran Wilde, and Mur Lafferty (to name a few). To apply, writers have to submit either two short stories or the first few chapters + a synopsis of their novel. Applicants are selected based on the quality of their writing samples. While Iโ€™ve received a few nice, personalized rejection letters from the literary magazines Iโ€™ve submitted my short fiction to, I had never actually received a writing-related acceptance until that wonderful day in June when I was admitted to this yearโ€™s VP workshop.

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This yearโ€™s workshop was taught be an incredible set of faculty: Elizabeth Bear, Erin Black, Max Gladstone, Steven Gould, Daryl Gregory, Laura Mixon (also writes under MJ Locke), Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Sherwood Smith, Scott Lynch, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. And the staff โ€“ the staff! was incredible. But my favorite people at the workshop were the amazing 23 other writers I met, wrote with, learned from, and graduated alongside โ€“ this cohort is sharp, talented, and incredibly generous. I feel lucky to have such a great new group of friends and colleagues.

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So what actually happens at VP? The week is filled with long days of lectures, critiquing, one-on-ones with instructors, writing new stories, and (sometimes very late at night) drunken music, laughter, and grilled cheese. There are a few secrets shared with only those who actually attend the workshop (the HORROR that is Thursday, luminescent jellyfish, the truth of publishing a novel โ€“ in picture-book-form, and much much more).

My greatest takeaway from VP was that I (and all my fellow VP21 grads) are writers. Prioritizing writing, putting your work out there, getting rejected โ€“ these things are hard, very hard. And many of us (if not most or all of us) faced even these things during our time at VP. But what makes us writers is deciding to push through, to continue, to keep struggling and trying. VPโ€™s greatest strength is its community and support โ€“ showing each of us that, while the struggle is real, none of us are alone (at least not anymore).

 

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I am really proud of what each of us has accomplished and look forward to what I know each of us has yet to accomplish. My week at Viable Paradise was one of the best of my life (if not the best), and I am so grateful to have had a chance to experience a sliver of the islandโ€™s magic.