2017 Updates, and Looking Ahead to 2018

Wait, what, it’s almost 2018 already? Hold the freaking phone…

It has been nearly a solid six months since I’ve posted something – anything – on this blog, about writing, or even not writing. For that obscene lapse in communication, readers, I profusely apologize. But a lot has happened. Allow me to share…

In which the author finds herself gainfully employed once more.

I accepted a position in county government, smack dab in the middle of my degree field, so that is the good news! (MANDATORY DISCLAIMER: All thoughts, opinions, etc. I post on this blog are mine and in no way represent my employer, whose name I am intentionally neglecting to reveal. Must keep day job and dream job separate, people! SECONDARY DISCLAIMER: And no, I’m not a spy or anything. County government administration doesn’t really require a new employee to bring with them a spy’s skill set, anyway.)

However, the inevitable trade-off with gainful employment is, of course, fewer hours in my day/week to devote to my first love and ever-aspiring career accomplishment: publishing a book people want to read. This acknowledgement has been a devastating one, friends. But by acknowledging this new yet necessary obstacle, I have been afforded the opportunity to actually expand my creative leanings into the realm of time management. I’ve discovered there is joy in rising before the sun, brewing coffee, and diving into the world of Stormriders for an hour or so, before most of the rest of the world has any idea a new day has begun. And this is speaking as a human being who keeps a List of Top Five Activities Of Which To Glean the Greatest Sheer Delight, and includes the art of sleeping near the top of that list.

In which the author recommits herself to the completion of the book of her heart.

The Red Earth Sings Beneath Our Feet a memoir by Jen Lynn Anderson

Once upon a time, a girl visited a land far, far away. It was many years ago, but the colors and voices and sounds and tastes of that land have stayed with her, vibrant and strong. Throughout that visit, she kept a journal. From that journal, came a story. A true story, according to the girl, but what she didn’t realize was her truth didn’t necessarily align with the truths of others. And so the girl soon realized she was left with a hopelessly personal and biased story, from the perspective of an optimistic and idealistic Western white mind. It was a story that did not tell the entire truth of the land wherein the girl worked and played and explored and rested her head for a month of her life. And the girl’s heart broke as she began to understand how close she came to harming the people and places she has come to care about the most, by making the story hers instead of theirs.

The world does not need another story of a privileged girl learning from people who look and speak differently than she does. The world DOES need to hear those people’s stories, from their perspectives. And so, the book that began as the personal tale of a voluntourist has become a journalistic voyage into the villages and neighborhoods around Moshi, Tanzania, to bring to Western attention the efforts of local nonprofits and non-governmental organizations, run by people who grew up within those same neighborhoods, visionaries working tirelessly to improve the lives of their neighbors and communities.

The Red Earth Sings Beneath Our Feet was going to be released late this year. For obvious reasons, that has been pushed back indefinitely while I rework the structure of the book and conduct interviews. But I am excited and grateful and privileged to tell this story the way it needs to be told, the way it should have been told from the beginning.

In which the author resigns herself to yet another headlong foray onto the literary roller coaster that is National Novel Writing Month.

Like my fancy NaNo mug? Get it here.

Thirty days. 50,000 words. Fifty. Thousand. I do sometimes feel a bit repetitious this time of year. You’ve heard it before. The problem is, I’ve gotten close but never actually have won NaNoWriMo. Every October, I prep and plan and post words of inspiration and encouragement. “THIS IS MY YEAR,” I say. Only, it never is.

So this year, I’m going into it a little differently. I’m taking my newfound love of early morning candle-lit writing sessions and will commit to put as many words as I possibly can into that hour before dawn. I am going to ignore the daily word-count.

I’m going to remember, each and every single time I sit down in front of my computer, that I am continuing a journey with the characters I love and whom I miss when I’m away from my keyboard. I’m going to surround myself with music and images that inspire me and remind me of those characters and places I am trying to get out of my head and into the book. And what the result will be? I won’t know until I’m there. But whether it’s fifty or fifteen thousand words, my goal is to have a completed first draft of Stormriders in my possession by the end of November. “Winning” be damned.

In which the author signal-boosts a wonderful little group of fellow writers and dreamers.

I’m a big believer in sharing. But as a writer, sharing your work is often incredibly difficult to do. Sometimes it is flat-out painful. Criticism hurts, and even constructive criticism can sting. But critique is a vital component of any writer’s growth in their craft. So what better cure for the sting than finding others who are on the same growth journey as yourself?

Writers groups are an invaluable resource for any seasoned or aspiring author. They prevent you from writing in a vacuum. Whether you have a story you already know you absolutely must tell, or are still searching for your story, a writers group gives you a place to start. To sit down and talk about your ideas, to navigate the tricky twists and turns of the imagination only writers know about. To commiserate about the numbing void of writer’s block, and tap for feedback on the books of our hearts (yes, even when that feedback hurts).

Fortunately, the Twin Cities, with its many celebrated arts communities, boasts dozens upon dozens of well-established writers groups. In any city or town around the TC metro, you can most certainly find a group of your fellow writer people who meet in a somewhat organized fashion at least once a month. Just in Carver County, we have juggernauts such as the Arts Consortium and the Chanhassen Authors Collective, for starters. For my part, I love the small but meaningful meetings of the Waconia Writers Group, where anywhere from four to a dozen or more writers of all ages and experience levels meet twice a month.

Writing can be a lonely experience. It’s easy sometimes to forget that we’re NOT alone. Writers groups help us remember that fact. So don’t be afraid! Find your people, find your story, and grow your writing.

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I Made a Book Trailer!

Today I discovered a magical little app called Adobe Spark.

I stayed there awhile, in the depths of Adobe Creative Cloud. At first I stayed on a whim, to learn, and then to play, and minutes turned to hours. At the end of it all, I came away with this:

Not bad for an amateur, hmmm?

I think book trailers are awesome, and let me explain why. Most of my followers who are also writers probably already know what a book trailer is… but for the folks who’d like that information, a book trailer is a simple way to bring your story (or even a mere snapshot of your story) to life, to have it jump off the page and delight the eyes of your audience through the use of a different medium.

Why make a book trailer, you ask? As a whole, in this Digital Age, we are more attracted to video and visual cues than ever before, as we are constantly bombarded by visual information whenever we hop on Google. As a marketer in this Digital Age, you cater to the needs of an increasingly visual audience; you gravitate toward bright and interesting photography and snappy video as effective means to market your product, because those media have higher consumption rates among audiences (compared to a page-long summary or written advertisement).

This concept very much applies to book marketing. Authors increasingly are relying on visual messaging to boost their work, and news of their work, to their readers. Many folks in all niches of the book community… authors, reviewers, publishers, etc. … have turned to vlogs (the video blog). It makes sense. If I, a reader, can click on links and see videos of my favorite authors talking about their upcoming projects, I get a sense of immediacy from seeing their faces and a greater connection to their words by hearing them spoken.

My Stormriders book trailer is really a teaser trailer, very much a snapshot. It’s a little rough (hey, I’m new at this!) but I’m excited to bring my heroine’s voice to you. My primary motivation for creating the trailer is because I haven’t yet given her voice a chance to be heard… she does not speak at all in the the first four chapters that are currently available to the public. Since Stormriders is quintessentially her story, I wanted to create something that hinted at the events to come, through her eyes.

Enjoy!

 

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Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 Status… Or, The Return of the Comeback Kid

It’s going to be a magical and courageous and inspirational comeback.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gonna keep on gaining ground with this project, and I hope to see you in a cabin for the next Camp NaNo event in June!

For more information, go to campnanowrimo.org

 

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Spring Cleaning (and Rediscovery)

– For the dreamers

A few weeks ago, while digging through my family’s storage unit, I found a plastic bin that belonged to me. One of those clear plastic tubs from Rubbermaid or Tupperware or whoever owns the assembly line that makes them and ships them to Target. I hadn’t seen that bin in several years, perhaps a decade; when I moved to Arizona for grad school, a lot of my baggage (so to speak) stayed behind, and my parents became (perhaps unwilling) custodians of the crap of my youth.

Now, nearly eight years since I moved to the Southwest, and nearly two years since I returned to Minnesota, I’ve forgotten a lot of what I’d left behind. I continued to neglect that dusty and deserted storage space that held the crumbling contents of my formative young adult years.

Now, I’m eternally grateful to my parents for holding onto what I left for them to deal with, when they just as easily could have tossed it all out.

I am thankful I found that one particular bin, because I could explore it with fresh eyes and recognize it for what it was (and is)… a treasure trove worth more than the combined caches of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Calico Jack, and the rest of the legends of the Golden Age of Piracy.

In that nondescript plastic bin, I found a pile of my old manuscripts. 

As a writer, I’d like to think I’ve matured and grown in my craft since I started capturing my imagination on paper, since I started on that ever-exciting-yet-ever-perilous journey to write and publish a novel. However, that growth has at times been quite painful, especially since I’d all but given it up when I left for Arizona, my master’s degree, and writing of a different kind. I had all but forgotten how much I loved to dream up stories that existed in their own universes, with wildly strange and sometimes frightening characters whom I still loved, and whose glints of humanity still shone through. Stories that took me places, that I longed to share with others but of which at the same time was terrified to let go.

I placed my writing away, into the shadows, as I was required to make room for new pursuits that monopolized my time and energy. Career objectives for which I signed up to achieve. Skills and qualifications I purchased, which I was told I would need to “take me places” in practice, in actuality.

I left my writing behind as I stepped forward into a different identity, fell in and out of love in real life, and lost and remade pieces of myself in the process.

I left my writing behind as, healing from a broken relationship and not quite trusting myself, I entered into a circle of truly wonderful, supportive and creative people, enveloped by music and adventures that were rejuvenating and entertaining and diverting in the best possible way. I miss them every day, and my heart dances in anticipation of the next time we’re all together.

In the process of witnessing them pursue their own creative truths, they helped me understand that as a person who creates, it was time to start listening to my own voice again.

I began to listen. 

I found my way back to my writing when I found my way back to Minnesota. Through the continuing parade of trials and uncertainties and insecurities, through my attempts to find my footing on the next steps. My burgeoning career path abruptly coming apart from underneath me, and with the heavy burden of my educational pursuits forcing me to return to a state of pre-independence beneath my parents’ roof. Picking up the pieces once again, education and experience and career goals; pieces that don’t quite all fit together, and maybe never will.

And then I found that dusty Rubbermaid tub, full of the dusty dreams of Seventh Grade Me, and I cried. In those pages, yellowed with time and neglect, I read the soul of a girl who knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up, who absolutely knew what she was supposed to do with her life. I cried for a long time, mourning all of that time lost. I mourned that young girl who held such lofty aspirations, who understood the truth of herself… and who had been sitting so still, waiting, for so long.

And then I dusted myself off, and began to dream again.

In the Philosophy class I took my senior year in high school, we read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and one particular theme resonated with me and lingered to this day. The idea of personal legends: that we all have true destinies that reflect our true selves, and we recognize them in ourselves when we are young, but as time progresses and the burdens of life begin to weigh us down, we forget. We leave them behind.

When (or rather, if) we manage to clear away the distractions and remember what our personal legends were to be, we are then ultimately faced with the choice of whether to pursue them, or let them go for good.

In this springtime of my own personal legend… with these tattered manuscripts in hand, and with bright and shiny new ideas at my fingertips… I’ve decided to follow it, wherever it goes.

 

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Breakthroughs.

I’ve got some fantastic news from the world of Stormriders! Recently I completed a full chapter-by-chapter plot synopsis, to fill in any plot holes, etc. … and ended up with several new fully-developed characters AND a plot that works! 

Hooray!

Disclaimer: Please don’t worry… I headed into the writing process absolutely determined to make the plot work, and had a general idea of where I wanted my characters to go and why. However, “best-laid plans” etc. … whatever the expression is. It was a little thought, in the back of my mind, in that dark corner that all writers know about, where the doubt hides. The little thought nagging me every time I finished a chapter: “Are you CERTAIN you know where this is going?”

This was the first time I’d actually written everything down. And I mean EVERYTHING. Timelines for every single character. Travel times for distances that haven’t been used before (my folks use tall ships to get from point A to point B, crossing a huge ocean where the Midwest used to be). Motivations for why people end up where they do, and why they do the lovely or the terrible things they do. And friends, IT WORKS. It all works.

OH YEAH I ALMOST FORGOT THERE IS SOMETHING ELSE.

Conceptual cover art © Copyright 2017 by Jen Lynn Anderson. All rights reserved.

The plot worked so well for Stormriders that it morphed and evolved into this 3-book trilogy monster! Not my intention, but upon reaching the end of the synopsis I realized the fates of my MCs were left hanging. There is much more of their story to tell. And tell it, I shall!

This month is National Novel Writing Month’s “Camp NaNoWriMo” event (for those of you familiar with NaNo and recognize it in November, the founders host a spring event as well!) and I’m aiming for 2,000 words per day during the month of April. I want this story in your hands ASAP. I’m ready for it to be out there, and I can’t wait for you to read it! This chapter synopsis reaffirmed that fact.

I’m also working on a dialect manual (the Tiders speak in a creole dialect of Appalachian English, Scots English, Gaelic and pirate… oof!) because my heroine has to start speaking soon and I need to understand her if you’re going to be able to do the same. 😂 I’ll be including an annotated version of this in an appendix at the back of the book once we’re at the point of publication. I have a ton of rich material from my world-building exercises, so let me know if you’d be interested in learning more about Tider culture, and I can maybe make something happen!

For those of you who have generously donated to my Patreon: thank you so so much! Your first tangible reward, a short story set in the world of Stormriders, is currently in the editing process, and I hope to have that out to you by mid-May.

More updates to come!

If you’d like to check out my Patreon and donate to the Stormriders Publication Fund, click here.

 

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