A brief update and miscellany

Hello, lovely people.

It has been a while, hasn’t it? I can tell you the last few months have been spectacularly busy at best, and tumultuous at… less than best. Between day job issues, exciting ongoing writing projects, personal health issues, and of course the juggernaut that is National Novel Writing Month, my blog has been (accidentally) abandoned to the dark corner of the internet where neglected blogs are tossed to collect dust.

Forgive me?

And because things show no signs of slowing down in the near future, I just wanted to reach out and answer a few questions.

  • 1. Yes, I’m alive and relatively healthy, the people I love are healthy, and things are more or less okay.
  • B. My major book-publishing projects are moving forward, behind the scenes, even though they’ve been out of the limelight for a little while… both my travel memoir and my YA novel Stormriders are in their respective editing phases (to clarify, Stormriders is in the Gonna-Pull-My-Hair-Out-This-Is-Horrid part of the editing phase).
  • And thirdly, I have some exciting updates to share with you!

Updates:

I started a new project last month, for this year’s National Novel Writing Month, and on this side of November I have a 45,000-word draft for a story I’m sorta in love with. Think high fantasy meets stranger-in-a-strange-land, throwing in a few dragons and featuring a version of the feisty heroine who always finds her way into my stories somehow, and here we go again! Stay tuned.

The local writers group in Waconia is producing an anthology of our work, hopefully in early 2019! I’ve signed on as primary editor and formatting/layout designer, and the book will feature a wide range of beautiful work from our group members. More information can be found at waconiawriters.wordpress.com.

My 4-part blog series is still in progress! I began writing the third entry in The Big Magical Process of Making Words Happen series a few months ago, and hope to finish the darn thing and post it live within the next few days.

Anything else?

Yes.

A note on overcoming adversity, and finding success in your writing, even when you (temporarily) physically cannot write.

Over the past week, I’ve been sidelined from all of my writing projects, due to a pinched nerve in my neck. Sidelined, meaning I’ve been forced to intermittently lie flat on my back on the floor, with an electric heating pad between my shoulder blades. For awhile, merely sitting upright was painful. Working on my laptop was excruciating. 

This has been my primary view for the past seven days straight. (Yes, that is A Christmas Prince, the finest Netflix Xmas movie ever made. Fight me.)

But in spite of my inability to use my computer, I’ve still been writing. How, you might ask? I used the time staring at my ceiling. I used every single one of those horizontal minutes to brainstorm, to think through some plot problems, and I even solved some plot holes that were previously and up to that point driving me bonkers.

My injury forced me to stop, to avoid the tempting social media distractions that are present every time I open my Chromebook, and think. I spent the better part of the past two months constantly on the go. Not saying a nerve injury is a boon, but it did present an opportunity. I had to press pause on most of my hectic daily life. Alone with my thoughts and the strange patterns on my popcorn ceiling, I had nothing to do but untangle and sift through those thoughts, prioritize the ideas I wanted to, and focus.

After a few days, I was pretty good at think-writing. I could visualize pieces of my story that I struggled to see through the blue glow of the computer screen. Fleeting ideas and concepts became tangible plot points. Characters developed true human flaws and traits; I got to spend some time with them and get to know them better. Even though I didn’t physically hold a pen or crack open my laptop, I was writing. I was creating. And those exercises were really the only things keeping me from going out of my mind.

Moral of the story: you can create, you can make progress and move forward in unconventional ways, even when life (and nerve pain) tries to blow up your process.

Fin.

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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.

A Story in Installments: Using Serialization to Publish a Novel

In late April, I was approached by the founder of Channillo, a new(ish) digital publishing platform that hosts work by authors from all backgrounds: established and new/upcoming, using traditional and/or indie publishing avenues.

At the time I was extremely unfamiliar with the serialized fiction format; releasing a story in online installments was a brand new concept for me. As it stood, I was not keen on attempting to release The Bearers in a serial format, as I had already started the novel and was not writing chapters chronologically. I WAS intrigued by the idea of attempting a serial release with the post-apocalyptic pirate story concept I had been developing. I uploaded the prologue for Stormriders to my Channillo series page in early May, where it will grow every month and hopefully gain subscribers. Ah yes, I forgot to mention the site is subscription-based, which I feel is a good thing, for reasons I’ll touch on below.

As I mentioned, I was intrigued to try writing a series in real-time, both as a way to get some work in front of a potential audience relatively quickly, and also to keep myself on a disciplined writing schedule… nothing beats a deadline for getting a draft done. So far, Channillo has been a wonderful way to accomplish both goals.

So how does online serial publishing work, you might ask?

The Channillo platform itself is an open book to the authors who are accepted as contributors. The application process allows you to pitch your series concept and nail down parameters (how often you’ll post new chapters, etc.) Follow this link for more info on how to participate as a contributing writer. Poetry, short story anthologies, essays, nonfiction book chapters, fiction book chapters… all are accepted genres. As a contributing writer, you also have the opportunity to subscribe to other contributing writers’ series… more on that in a second.

Once your series has been accepted, you are able to create a customized series page with description blurb, cover art, and link to your author profile. You can start publishing whenever you have content to publish. I’m opting for the start-from-scratch method, where I spend a month writing the next chapter, editing, and reviewing the plot arc for continuity… then I post. I would guess that some writers are publishing preexisting work; the caveat with this is, said work cannot be available for free elsewhere on the Interwebs (on a blog, on a free platform like Scriggler, etc.). Authors DO retain all rights to the work they choose to publish on Channillo.

Some folks may be wondering: why go the subscription-based route, when there are dozens of free digital publishing platforms out there?

The primary difference, in my mind, is writer compensation. Free platforms potentially have a wider reach, in terms of audience, but because they are free there is no compensation for contributing authors. What a subscription-based platform like Channillo does is offer a membership program with a pricing tier that offers subscribers (the online reading public) a certain number of series to which they can subscribe based on what they pay monthly. Authors are then compensated proportionally (based on the number of subscribers they have for their series) from the monthly subscription pool. While it certainly will take a specific, special type of reader willing to make monthly payments for access to only indie-published material, it doesn’t mean those readers aren’t out there.

I should note: EARNING ALL THE DOLLARS IS NOT MY PRIMARY MOTIVATION HERE. Nor is it for many of the contributing writers on Channillo, I would assume. A lot of the writers are subscribers themselves, as a way to network with other authors, which I believe has a lot of merit. Of course, building an audience while getting a little compensation for your time and effort spent marketing is not a bad thing.

And now, we write. And write. And write some more.

I am having a ball writing Stormriders in a serial format. It gives me the opportunity to to truly reinvest in my characters each month. While I have a general plot hammered out and did a monstrous amount of world-building and character development prior to starting, each month is a fresh opportunity to explore this world I have created, and to genuinely discover how my characters will interact and work through their story arcs within it. Every month will hold a surprise or two for me, right along with my readers, which is a unique phenomenon with this format.

As I’m sitting here, editing Chapter One to upload on Channillo this week, I have no idea how this story is going to end and couldn’t be more excited about it. The sheer giddy excitement is sparking inspiration. And the swiftly growing potential of the unknown is the tinder.

UPDATE 4/6/17. Please please PLEASE Google “first publication rights” before posting on any digital/serial self-publishing platform, especially if you think you may want to try the traditional publishing route with your book someday!!!

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In Which I Finally Publish a Book, and Other News…

File_000 (1)Blogging about being a writer is much, much easier than actually doing the WRITING part of being a writer.

At least, it has been in my experience. As a digital marketing specialist for my day job, I have this social media thing down pretty well. Facebook, Twitter, blog, rinse, repeat. I’m a decent socializer (I know that’s an awkward word, but I tried to correct it, and almost typed the word “socialist” and proceeded to have a good laugh for a few seconds, and then went with socializer. I loathe the phrase “social butterfly.” I massively digress.)…

So I’m a decent socializer. I’ve made some great connections on Twitter. I participate in online writers’ forums. I’ve had a grand old time creating concept cover art for various projects I’m working on. I’ve gotten my website looking pretty much the way I’d envisioned it.

What I haven’t done is finish writing a damn book.

Jen Book Cover2I’m happy to report that, by the end of April, the above statement should no longer be accurate. I’m almost done with a rewrite of my lonnnnnnng-overdue memoir of Tanzania, which has morphed into a commentary on a few topics I think are truly important, above all the inspirational social change happening in Tanzania, fostered by Tanzanians. Below is an excerpt of the book description on my Kickstarter page:

In July 2010, I spent 28 days in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. I arrived in the country thinking (somewhat naively) that I was there to facilitate positive social change and help to change a community for the better. Little did I know that I would be the one whose worldview was fundamentally changed. More specifically, what changed over the course of those 28 days were my preconceived views on international volunteering, culture sharing, and what the concepts of “home” and “community” mean to people the world over. And more than anything, what I came away with was a fierce respect for the people of Tanzania – and was left with a deep desire, when I came back to the States, to share what I had learned from Tanzanians themselves, those on the front lines who had been working for decades to grow and foster social change within their own communities.

To view more, you can visit the Kickstarter page, where all donations are going toward the physical printing and distribution costs associated with publishing this book. Or you can check out the book description page on my website by clicking here. This project is a labor of love and has been in progress for six years. I am thrilled that the day is finally here.


In other news:

I continue work on my NaNoWriMo 2015 novel project, The Bearers. I’m about 1/3 done with a first draft since November, but as I’ve mentioned before, when you fall in love with a story you’ll find a way to finish it. As of right now, I’m not sure if it’s going to end up an adult or YA novel… I’m trying to listen to the voices of my characters and see where the plot goes. It started very YA, but has since taken on some darker themes (although a lot of the YA dystopian fiction I’ve read can get pretty dark). It may come down to too many F-bombs… my heroine doesn’t mince her words. I hope the actual genre-selection process is not that trivial. I know a lot of writers advise finding and deciding on the genre before you get into the nitty-gritty writing of the book, but I’m decidedly having trouble with that, with this story. Check out the description page by following the link above and take a look at the synopsis and excerpt… I would welcome any feedback.

Since I can’t ever seem to finish a project before I dream up ideas for the next one, I have two new stories in the works. One is a retelling of a classic opera, reset in another planet’s post-apocalyptic dystopia. The other is set in a post-apocalyptic future-Earth, and has pirates. I don’t know… I think perhaps I am defining a genre niche for myself. I don’t have much online yet, but I will post synopses soon. Please feel free to visit my In the Works page for updates, if you’re interested.

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The poetry chapbook is ready for publication!

Off the Page (a story in poems) I’ve finally finished the formatting and editing of my poetry chapbook, off the page!

Next steps? Sending it to the printer for a proof, one last review, and then boom! Unfortunately, one minor hiccup is that my intended release date falls in
between pay days. And my darling baby girl Layla has a date with the veterinarian and some “snip snip” action, if you know what I mean. Man, I could try to find a less vulgar way to say that. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t want my puppy to have puppies, and thus I’m a bit short on funds at the moment, and printing multiple copies of ANYTHING longer than 25 pages can get expensive (in fact, if you’re interested, here’s one way you can help me with that).

So, the new release date will be October 6th*. Until that time, check out the free preview I posted on the chapbook page!

And feel free to email me at jenandersonwritesabook@gmail.com to pre-order a copy!

*Yet another revision to the release date.  It couldn’t be helped. Puppies are EXPENSIVE, man.

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