This year, I won the Rainforest Writers Inspirational Award for session three. I was surprised and pleased.
“Writing is hard. A writer needs assistance, encouragement, and ideas to help them put words on the page. This award recognizes those who contribute to the success of other writers.”
From the certificate:
“Each year, the members of the Rainforest Writers community gather to spend a few days writing, kibitzing, and talking the talk. While the stated goal of the retreat is to get some much needed writing time, this retreat also serves as an opportunity for writers to bask in the community of other writers and creatives. This communal event provides writers with the fuel and fire to go forth and continue creating.
“In light of this, we wish to recognize individuals who are notable inspirations to the member of the Rainforest Writers community. Being amazing takes effort, and we know such effort is not always an easy choice to make, and we appreciate your wherewithal to excel at such effort.
“The Rainforest Writers Inspirational Award is to be awarded to an individual from each session of the retreat. Nominations for the award will be submitted by the attendees of each session, and the final decision will be overseen by Patrick Swenson, the retreat coordinator and spiritual guru.
“This award will manifest itself as an artfully designed and rendered trophy/plaque/wall hanging thingy as well as a cash stipend. Fellow attendees may have some ideas about how the money should be spent. The recipient of the Inspirational Award may creatively observe such ideas as they see fit.
“The Rainforest Writers Inspirational Award is sponsored by A Good Book Bookstore, located in Sumner, WA.”
I’m so chuffed to win this award. It was so unexpected. One of my goals is to help and inspire other writers. To be awarded this by my peers is icing on the cake. Also, the cash was nice, too. It’s even better that this year’s award includes a carving of the pacific northwest tree octopus.
Yesterday, I adulted like a boss. The Husband and I met with a new-to-us lawyer to update our Living Trust and the accompanying documents. It’s been 10 years and it was time. Boy, was it time. 10 years ago, the Husband and I had just gotten married. We didn’t have all the assets we own/manage. We certainly didn’t have the royalties coming in that I have now.
Beneficiaries also changed—one had died, another was traded out for someone closer for us, and some of the specific things we wanted to go to certain people were cut…while other things were added. The instructions for the cats had to change as well. Esme is dead. I have two more cats. One of the cats’ “Godparents” has a dog now and I don’t think that’s going to work out anymore. Thinking about how to pair off the four of them (if someone can’t take all four) makes my heart hurt.
Also, estate law has changed.
We had to get this new lawyer because the old one isn’t in business anymore. This new one is part of a firm. So if they leave or something, we’ll be able to continue working with the firm. I like the new lawyer. She’s smart, energetic, and thoughtful. She’s also tech savvy and has at least one tattoo that I saw. That is a plus in her favor from me.
Sometimes it’s hard to think about a future where we won’t be here… or, worse, only one of us isn’t here. It’s necessary. It’s important. Especially for things like executor, Power of Attorney, and Living Wills. I’m glad we’re doing it though. I feel better knowing everything is going to be refreshed, up-to-date with the new laws, and settled.
10 years is too long of a time to go between will updates. The lawyer recommends a review/refresh every 5 years, or after a major life event. One of the new things I have to figure out is my literary estate. The literary estate executor can be (often is) a different person than the Living Trust executor. This is going to take a little bit of research and thought. Note: if you’re an author, you need to be thinking about this, too.
Sometimes, being an adult sucks. But when it’s done, you feel accomplished.
I also needed a hug.
If you don’t have a Will / Living Trust / Power of Attorney drawn up, you need to. At least think about it.
Have a cat picture. Leeloo is cute.
As “Declutter Monday” is currently “Project Monday” and I don’t think “crocheted 1/3 of a baby blanket today” is all that interesting, I thought I’d talk about something I’ve noticed recently.
I’m part of the SFWA mentoring program. This is a program where SFWA pairs a mentor with a mentee based on a questionnaire from both sides. The official mentoring relationship lasts for six months. You “meet” and have contact every other week. From my point of view, the program matched me up with a very good mentee.
Through my work with them, I’ve discovered something: sometimes I need to hear exactly what I’m telling my mentee. I have to admit, this can be annoying. I’m not the one being mentored. I’m not the one who needs to learn the lessons I’m teaching. I’m the experienced knowledgeable one in this conversation. Right?
Well, yes and no. Some lessons are easy and I just need to be reminded of them. Some lessons are hard and I need to have them beaten into me again and again.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
IE: steady and consistent writing, editing, PR, etc… will go a long way. Of course, I did have a very bad Nov 2018. I wrote a total of 762 words of fiction that month. I had a hard time putting words down. I was burnt out. Over all, I wasn’t worried. I got my work done, but it took longer than I wanted. The reminder helped.
“Take this time to just enjoy the convention. Give yourself permission to be a real person. Don’t go into it with an agenda.”
This lesson is harder to learn. Or re-learn as the case may be. This was something I told my mentee. Three days later, I was talking with the Husband about possibly cancelling a convention if I didn’t get in as a dealer. He asked me why and pointed out that he’d like to go to a convention with me where he wasn’t stuck behind a dealer’s table. For me, conventions are business. I’m working. When I told him I didn’t know how to do conventions without a dealer’s table anymore, he told me that I knew how to once and I should remember. Suddenly, I was on the other end of the lesson for a very different reason.
“You are allowed to consider quitting. You are allowed to quit. You are allowed to start again. No one is going to take away your writing card if you take a break.”
I once told my mentee that every writer considers giving it up. If they say they haven’t, either they’re lying or they’re too new to know better. I don’t know if it is true 100% of the time, but every author I’ve ever talked to about this has admitted they’ve thought about giving up the publishing game. Not necessarily giving up writing, just the professional publishing part of it.
Writers are an interesting lot. By the nature of the work, we’re used to rejection, of not writing the story the editor is looking for, of not being talented/experienced enough to write a certain story. It’s good to remember that writing is one of those skills that gets better as you use it, experiment with it, and absorb it through reading.
Back in December—while I was writing a contracted novella and waiting on publisher edits for the first novel of a contracted trilogy—I received a rejection from a publishing house I really, really want to get into. For a full day, I moped: “I suck. I’m a hack. No one likes my writing. I should give it up and just stick to editing. I’m good at that.”
The next day, after I finished my writing for the day, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, looked at the emails and the novel feedback again, and decided everything would be all right in a bit. This particular novel didn’t move the acquisitions editor, but I did get a clue as to what kind of novels did. Fortunately, one of my series-in-waiting is exactly that sort of series. So, when I get around to writing that (after the contracted stuff), I know who to send it to.
Writing is not an easy job. Sometimes you need a break. If you take it, nothing says you can’t start up again. That’s the beauty of the industry. Especially in this day and age.
Relearning these lessons is why I applied to be a mentor in the first place.
I knew this would happen. You learn while you teach. You learn what you don’t know. You learn what your mentee knows. Your shared experience builds on your foundations. Every acceptance, rejection, edit, and revision request builds, and rebuilds, the writing toolbox. You expand and grow. Every publishing conversation—professional or casual—imparts knowledge to all sides of the conversation.
I like to share my knowledge and experiences to make things easier for the ones who come after me. That way, they can make their own new mistakes…then pass that experience on to those they mentor as the cycle continues.
This is going to be the last Declutter Monday for about a month for a couple of reasons. As the Pacific Northwest is in the clutches of the Polar Vortex, we’ve received a significant amount of snow. Personally, we’ve had over 20 inches of snow fall on Bothell. Thus, the Husband was home to help deal with the family room and the coat closet.
The family room contains all the hardback books, anthologies, oversized books, and my random reference books of a supernatural, religious, psychological, or cultural bent. It also has all our DVDs, blu-rays, and videogames.
First thought: Apocalypse Rules are awesome! They were in effect: if there was an apocalypse and the only way we could watch movies/play videogames was DVDs/CDs, would we miss it? It’s an effective rule to use. We culled about half our DVDs and videogames.
Second thought: I will admit though, we kept all the duplicate blu-rays of favorites we had that were unopened. I’m not completely sure why other than “just in case.” I suppose because they are favorites. I’m decluttering. I never said I was a minimalist or perfect.
Third thought: I think my decluttering has rubbed off on the Husband. He already cleaned out the Apocalypse Closet so I don’t have to and he’s slowly shifting things around in his office as well as cleaning up his games. All his choice. I’ve offered to help but he’s declined and I accept that. It will happen if he wants it to and not before.
Fourth thought: I’m officially done with this round of physical decluttering. The dining room got done when we got the new furniture. The part of the family room that is all games is not mine to go through. The coat closet was super easy and quick. There is no other discreet area for me to declutter. The snow has also limited the garbage pick-up, recycle center runs, and charity shop donations. We’re out of storing room.
Fifth thought: While I feel like I’m in Declutter Interruptus, I realize that I have an entire computer full of excess digital crap that needs going through. But, I don’t think I’m ready to tackle that yet. So, round two of decluttering isn’t going to begin until Mid-March at the earliest.
Sixth thought: Declutter Monday is a designated “don’t be on the computer” day. That means I need to figure out something else to do on Mondays for a bit. It’s probably going to turn into “Project Monday” and I’ll focus on finishing craft projects I’ve started (like that baby blanket for one of my nieces who is six(?) months old now. That should keep me busy for a little bit.
Final thought: I’ve really enjoyed this first round of decluttering. There’s a certain pleasure in opening drawers and closets and cabinets and being able to see everything and know where everything is. There’s a greater pleasure in knowing there isn’t a huge mess lurking behind closed doors, just waiting to leap out at the most in convenient time. As the decluttering gets done, I can see things I want to improve in my home/home office. Somehow, I have more confidence in getting it all done.
Recently, the Husband and I discussed the future possibility of owning an organizing, decluttering, and downsizing service. We work well together. Our strengths and flaws complement each other and we like the end result. This wouldn’t happen until our next life. For now, it’s up there as a possibility.
Next week: work on the baby blanket for my niece.
Too much snow.
I get this question a lot. Usually about something based in the publishing arena. In DMs, IMs, and emails. As a professional author and editor, I suppose it’s because they believe I’m the person in the know; the expert. Or, at least, the person the asker thinks would know. About 30% of the time, I have some inkling of the legitimacy of the contest/work/publisher/etc… base on experience. Most of the time I don’t.
Here’s what I do to find out.
I google Them. Multiple ways.
I google “Is X a scam?” and I read through the answers. Most times, this will immediately pop up any problems. This often leads you to articles on Preditors and Editors or to the Better Business Bureau. Here, you will see complaints and other bad experiences.
Second. You can skip the general question and search on [“Preditors and Editors” + X]. Or [BBB + X]. Those will hone in on specific types of responses—business and personal experiences. Is this particularly interesting in the publishing arena.
The third way is to google something like “Company X reviews” and see what people who have used their services think. However, beware, not all reviews are created the same. If there’s nothing but a couple of five star glowing reviews but P&E has information that says otherwise, probably not legit reviews. One thing I have learned in the publishing industry is that you will not please everyone. Book preference is subjective. The reviews will reflect this.
Also, when it comes to reviews, beware of groups with an ax to grind reviewing a new book/service. If a book/service comes out and immediately has 100 1-star reviews with very little in the way of actual critique of the book or a bunch of personal attacks on the person providing the service, you can bet someone kicked over a reddit nest of some stripe. That it’s a concerted effort to tank the book, service, person and not a legitimate review of X.
Finally, I look to the professional writing organizations who might know something about the thing in question. SFWA, HWA, IAMTW, MWA, RWA… etc. Search those websites for information.
If you google X, Y, or Z and find nothing, or almost nothing about them, that is as much a red flag as bad reviews. You want to know who sponsors the thing, who owns the company, what the chain of ownership is. If a publisher or contest company is owned by a person or company known to be bad news, it’s a good bet that “X” is a scam. If the chain of ownership is hidden, it’s a clue.
Over all, it’s best if you do your own research before you go to your expert friend to ask “Is X a scam?” That way, you can expand on the question. Present conflicting information. To ask for clarification. 90% of the time, you’ll find the answer for yourself. Then you can decide if you want to confirm your answer with your expert friend or not.
It was a snow day today. 7+ inches of snow on the ground. The Husband took the day off because his tiny smart car wasn’t going to make it through any snow and the internet was too spotty for him to VPN into work. I had an appointment in Everette that got cancelled. Thus, the Husband helped me tackle the kitchen. This was the best possible thing to happen. He does most of the cooking and is more sentimental than me. Having him here helping me saved a lot of worry and wondering.
First thought: A workload shared makes for an easier job. We started from the bottom of the kitchen up. This meant that the Husband sat on the floor and pulled stuff out of the cabinets. I ran them around, putting them in the correct place or trashing them. It was good for both of us. Also, I learned how to change the filter on the refrigerator. Yay me!
Second thought: Drawers are a magnet for dust, dirt, crumbs, and other crap. We had to vacuum and clean out each one. We also considered each tool and put it in the “most used” or “least used” drawer. We’ll see how this organization works out. As I put the dishes away, at least they will stay this way for a little bit.
Third thought: Check your spices! Check your due dates. We had 10+ year old expired spices. The one that was the oldest expired in Feb 2008—just after I moved into this house.
Fourth thought: When you’re on a roll, you might as well push through. We were going to save the bar area and the cubbies beneath for me to declutter next week. But we finished before 1pm and decided to press on. Now, the entire kitchen is clean, decluttered, and reorganized. There’s so much more space than before.
Fifth thought: We played a lot of “Do we ever use this?” and “Can this be used for something else?” and “Use This, Not That.” For example, we got rid of the crockpot and the rice cooker in lieu of the instapot since it will do all the things. Also, we donated one of our huge pans because the Husband hasn’t reached for it in over a year.
Sixth thought: I’m really glad the Husband was there to help and to talk things through. Decluttering around other people means compromise. He’s attached to things I’m no longer attached to. We kept the tea and coffee service; keeping out a couple of the coffee mugs that he really likes, and storing the rest. It works. Of course, I wasn’t willing to get rid of my Mother of Pearl caviar spoons—that I haven’t used in years—and he couldn’t have cared less about them. So, there’s that.
Final thought: Once we were done decluttering and cleaning, the Husband took on the one “fix me” chore in the kitchen that had been lingering for years. There was no longer anything in his way to make it hard. Getting things cleaned and organized highlights what’s left to do in a big way.
It was a good day. We have to wait to take the donations to the charity shop because of the snow. The kitchen didn’t have any emotional landmines and the only thing the Husband really wanted to keep that I wasn’t thrilled with was the coffee/tea service. Who knows, maybe I’ll get excited about it again someday in the future.
Next week, the coat closet and another round in the dining room.
It’s been a month since I started decluttering, cleaning, and organizing my house in earnest. I’ve completed round one of the upstairs. I’m keeping a weekly blog post for the good, the bad, and the emotional. Just so I can remember it all. I know there will be a round two. I’m just not exactly sure when. I think decluttering the downstairs is going to go slower because it’s not just my stuff. I’m going to need more of the Husband’s input.
One of the things I didn’t expect was how much the decluttering would be so emotional and so full of mental landmines. A lot of pictures (and duplicates of pictures) that brought back unhappy memories. I spent a lot of my late 20s and early 30s very lonely and depressed and hiding it (successfully) from everyone—even from myself—a lot of the time. The increased joy in my late 30s and all my 40s is a stark contrast to the unhappy memories I feel when I look at these pictures.
Then were the baby writer mistakes unearthed—scams I fell for, the terrible contracts I signed, the even worse manuscripts I wrote. So many mistakes that happened in my early writing career. I don’t mind the agent rejection slips. They showed I was actually trying. I do mind the books I got from the poetry.com scams. I do mind the books forced on me “for my own good” that weren’t worth the paper they were printed on by people who “mentored” me.
Then there the fantasy accoutrement I collected for my vivid fantasy life that wasn’t just in the online gaming or LARPing. I spent hours dreaming up wish-fulfillment stories. On the good side things, these daydreams were the seeds of some of the stories I’ve written and sold—in a very different form. It hurt to see and remember. It was nostalgic, too. Part of me misses that innocent age. It’s easier to dream up a fantasy life than to work hard to realize my dreams.
It isn’t all bad. All of this mental rediscovery has shown me just how much better my life is now. I’m not lonely. I still have depression and anxiety, but it’s managed. I have a career I’m happy with—even though it is hard work. I keep getting better. Decluttering shows me what I’ve been hiding. Like writing, if I write to get the demons out, my mind feels clear. As I declutter, I have the serenity of knowing that I’ve already dug up the mental and emotional traps of my past and I can be secure in knowing that I’m not going to run into one of them unexpectedly.
Except for the sentimental drawer. I’m not sure when I’m going to be ready for that.
I decided to start decluttering on Saturday with my bathroom. That continued on into the hall closet. I didn’t expect the hall closet to take that much time. Except for the CDs. I’m one of those people who has held onto their CDs “just in case.” I’m part of the generation that grew up without the internet until my twenties. Some habits are hard to let go.
First thought: It’s amazing how much crap you stash away when you’re “just cleaning.” I remember doing a deep clean on the bathroom a few months ago, but I still found many tubes of expired makeup, hand cream, and sunscreen.
Second thought: CDs. Oh lord. Those included unexpected emotional bombs. Like hypnotherapy for weight loss and self-esteem. I kept about 160 CDs. This included my maybe pile. Donated 180+ CDs. I culled it by asking myself, “Would I miss this CD if the end of the world came and I only had a CD player to listen to music on?” If the answer was “No.” into the donate pile it went. I guess this apocalyptic question-and-answer was my version of whether or not something “sparks joy.” Now, three huge boxes have been condensed into a single wallet storage organizer I can get to easily.
Third thought: Me and the Husband are learning all about different recycling systems and services. Jewel cases are simple plastic recycle as long as they are empty. Also, locally, there is a company that does fabric recycling for fabric things that cannot be donated.
Fourth thought: Some areas are harder to declutter than others. I realized that I didn’t want to actually declutter my office. I kept thinking about leaving it until last, even though I said that I was going to finish the upstairs before I tackled the downstairs because so much of that needed the Husband’s input. (Husband unexpectedly home to help doesn’t count.) Thus, I decided I would take my time with the office. Partly why I started the declutter over the weekend, I guess.
Fifth thought: The large bookcase in my office was painful. Physically and mentally. I lost another gel nail. The same finger (left pointer) as last time, but this time, a full week early. Too busy to go get it fixed. Mentally…so many bad writing mistakes hiding in the back and bottom of the bookcase: Scams I was taken in by. Bad contracts. Really terrible manuscripts that I never want to see the light of day. I feel like I need a drink…and a hug. Not necessarily in that order.
Final thought: It is still a pleasure to shred. More tax / house documents 10+ years old. I hoarded that stuff like I was sure I would be audited. Though, my shredder is starting to make distressed noises. I need to be careful with it. It’s 15+ years old after all.
Next week, I start downstairs officially. The Kitchen. I don’t know how bad it will be. We did one round of decluttering about six months back. Part of me wants to redo the entire upstairs because I feel like I’ve missed stuff, but I think distance and time is the better bet. To hone my decision making skills and make sure my ruthlessness is used on the right thing. Do the downstairs. Then come back upstairs and start again.
As it turned out to be a vacation day for the Husband, he agreed to help me tackle an area that would need a lot of his help/opinions. So, instead of me tackling an upstairs room, we tackled the Library/Reading nook/China hutch. This area was easier than I thought it would be. It helped to have the Husband right there to agree/disagree with me and sort through his books.
First thought: The Library purge wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. As it turns out, I still have my favorites, my duplicates (“but that’s the first version of that book I bought” or “my mom gave that one to me”), and my to-be-read books. I donated all of the books I haven’t read that no longer sounded interesting, the books I wouldn’t read again, and books I liked enough to keep but not in duplicate form.
Second thought: The china hutch isn’t one anymore. Ninety percent of what we used to store in there is gone. There was an amazing set of random glassware we never used along with the specialty serving ware we got as wedding presents. We used it for the first five years of our marriage on special occasions because it was beautiful. However, it was not dishwasher safe. In fact, the dishwasher destroyed a couple pieces. After a while, we stopped using it—even for special occasions. Mostly because it was all handwash. Who has time for that?
Instead, the bottom part is for all of the serving ware we do use (also wedding presents) that are dishwasher safe—pretty, white, simple boats, plates, and bowls. The top part is now home to my antique occult literature book collection. It’s so much easier for me to get to it now. I do have to fiddle with the sorting of the books, but they all fit.
Third thought: There is an amazing amount of crap that can be stuffed behind a couch. Everything from empty packing tubs to rolls of crushed wrapping paper to many lost cat toys to mailing boxes. It was good to purge all that stuff and now know there is nothing behind the couch that shouldn’t be.
Fourth thought: The “warranties and manuals” side table was in definite need of help. We had stuff in there from appliances we no longer own and services we no longer have. It was paperwork that needed going through. As I said last time…it is a pleasure to shred.
Fifth thought: Random keys no longer bother me. If we haven’t used or needed a key in the 5-10 years they have been in the side table, we don’t need them at all. If we do, I know people with lockpicks. Failing that, I know how to use a screwdriver and a hammer. Bonus: we found an extra key to our mailbox.
Final thought: I am still weak (and that's okay). There are some things I could not part with. A couple of duplicate books because each one had its own story. Also, there was a beautiful, black, empty notebook I kept because it just felt so good in my hands. It might become a new journal. It might become a story I tell myself. I don’t know. I just know I wasn’t willing to let it go.
It was good to have the Husband helping me today. We got everything done that we wanted to get done and that makes us both happy. Next week, back to working on the upstairs… the hall closet and my bathroom.
This Declutter Monday was dedicated to the Cat Room AKA the Bonus / Exercise / AIP Book storage Room. This “catch all” room has been the eyesore of the house since I moved in. It got all the extra stuff—LARP, travel, storage, whatever. It is also where we lock the cats up when they need to be locked up. Thus “the Cat Room.” (Notice how hard I'm working to not say "junk room"?)
This room was hard to start. Most of the stuff outside the closet needed organization rather than strictly decluttering. Especially the Apocalypse Ink Productions shelves used for the AIP office, travel, storage, and records. We moved the sturdy cabinet from downstairs to upstairs and shifted all the AIP stuff onto it.
Also, full disclosure, the declutter of the Cat Room started on Sunday with the Husband helping because some of the stuff outside the closet was all him or needed his opinion/muscles. This help included a much-needed dump run.
Still, decluttering, cleaning, and organizing the Cat room was rough. It even took a sacrifice in the form of ripping one of my gel nails off. I didn’t feel it. I found it on the floor. Good thing I had a nail appointment scheduled for Monday.
First thought: It is a pleasure to shred…. I overheated my shredder on twelve-year-old house / tax documents. I’ve never done that before. I couldn’t just toss/recycle most of the documents due to the sensitive nature of them. Also, I don’t mind using the shredder. Though, it may have a few choice words for me after today.
Second thought: I ran into more—surprise!—pictures and a sentimental collage book from college (I think). I’m shocked at how many pictures I have stashed all over the house. I know I didn’t put together the scrapbook. I don’t know for sure who did. I think it might have been my mom. It, along with the photos, are now in my sentimental drawer. I hope by the time I get to it, I’ll have a decent handle on how to declutter sentimental things. To be fair, I’ll probably put a lot of it in a “treasure box” and limit the sentimental stuff that way.
Third thought: This was a hard room to declutter/organize. There was too much stuff that needed the husband’s opinion/help. I felt guilty needing it. He didn’t sign up for that part. He signed up for moving the trash bags to the trash, taking the donate piles to the charity shops, and when (IF) I get the eBay store up and running, he’ll help me mail everything. I appreciated all the help he gave me and he did understand why I needed it. Sometimes decluttering means you’re going to need help.
Fourth thought: If you didn’t know me or the Husband and you decluttered the Cat Room, you might come away with a very odd impression of us. A lot of old LARPing and Dance costumes, accessories, and tools got downsized. A bunch of it was odd. Even to me. The weirdest thing I found: a bag filled with a wig head, wigs, a wig brush, and wig de-tangler. All of it unopened. That was next to two empty rifle cases and a couple of walkie-talkies. Hmmm, I say. Hmmm.
Final thought: Even though this was harder than I thought it would be and it was a LONG day—we finished at 7:20pm—it was so worth it. We can open the closet to get to our suitcases without something falling on us. The AIP shelves are clean and organized. We even labeled some of the boxes to help keep it that way. There’s a floor in the room! The cats have sprawled all over it. There’s enough room that I can do my stretches in there instead of the hallway. For the first time in over a decade, the Cat Room is actually clean.
Next week… the upstairs hall closet and my bathroom.