At the End of the Year

The three end-of-year holidays I remember from my youth—Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas—are upon us in the usual frenzied blur. But early writing deadlines have added a unique twist to this festive season. Finish my Halloween story by June? Are you kidding? How can anyone visualize a trick-or-treat mass-murder scene while spring flowers are in bloom? And then there’s Christmas, which comes in July for writers, only to reappear as a weird echo five months later.

Halloween stories intimidate me, perhaps because so many excellent tales already exist. Thanksgiving seems like untilled soil in comparison. Next year, maybe I’ll write the story of a time-traveling turkey who attempts to thwart the first Thanksgiving.

This year, I’ve got Christmas in the bag. You can already read my flash fiction story The Day After Christmas, and my critique group’s holiday-themed anthology is in the final phases of production. I’ll announce it here as soon as it’s available.

What a great time I had at the RMFW Gold conference! Read on for the scoop.

The Day After Christmas: Available Online

Magnets and Ladders logo

An enormous ice sheet covers the Arctic Ocean, which, as any child can tell you, is the North Pole home of Santa and Mrs. Claus. How might the jolly elf and his wife react when a warming planet threatens their winter wonderland? Find out in my flash fiction piece, The Day After Christmas, which appears in the Fall 2021 / Winter 2022 edition of Magnets and Ladders, an online magazine featuring the work of disabled writers.

Nuggets from RMFW Gold

I had barely stepped away from the registration desk at the 2021 RMFW Gold Writing Conference when Bonnie McCune, a 70-something woman I had known previously only via Zoom, handed me a condom.

“Come to my session,” she told me. A sticker on the condom wrapper trumpeted her writing workshop, The Passionate Feminist. Her marketing fu was strong. But, unsure what this session might require of its participants, I politely declined.

Still, a weekend of mingling with 230 fellow Colorado writers, immersing myself in the fiction publishing industry, and refining my skills in seminars devoted to character, plot, and subtext, left me educated and exhausted. I enjoyed every moment of this enriching event, from Andre Gonzales’s account of his experience at the Aurora theater shooting, to Cheryl Fallen’s Gold Rush contest victory in science fiction.

Top-notch sessions on writing craft filled my brain with torrents of PowerPoint. My writing has already improved thanks to the Grief Writing workshop by John DeDakis. Anne Randolph taught me to write from a stance of inner calm, and an excellent tutorial by Kelley Lindberg managed to pound some essentials of storytelling into my thick skull.

Back when my eyesight was better, I would boldly attend computer conferences 100 times as big. Now that I’m a lot more blind, I hired a professional assistant for RMFW Gold. , and she allowed me to focus on writing and forget about my blindness. What a relief!

The conference motivated me to write those short stories and novels! Just one thing keeps me up at night: What to do with Bonnie’s condom?

Filling the Wastebasket

The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.—Isaac Bashevis Singer

I’ve finally managed to create a paperless office. I print nothing. My early drafts fill storage space rather than landfills.

Multiple writers have advised me to never delete anything, and it’s easy to move half-baked manuscripts into archive folders. But I can’t think of one case where I revised, rewrote, or deleted something, only to regret it later. The wastebasket, or the archive folder, really is a writer’s best friend.

Mutations of the RUDL gene in rangifer tarandus, By Blitzen, et al.

This holiday-themed flash fiction piece, in which reindeer scientists identify the gene mutation responsible for red noses, (will appear in my critique group’s upcoming holiday-themed science fiction anthology. My story passed the editing process without the need for major rewrites. (Expect news about the anthology soon—it will make a great stocking stuffer!)

Life Without Landmarks

I’ve begun work on a longer piece, genetics-related, which straddles the boundary between memoir and sci fi. I’m just cranking out content at this point. Nothing in the wastebasket yet.

Another Joke

Yup, I wrote another joke and sent it to Reader’s Digest. I understand that out of half a million submissions last year, they selected about 250, so wish me luck.

(No, I still haven’t heard back on my previous joke.)

What I’m Reading

Here’s what I’ve read recently. It’s not my usual lengthy list, but that’s due to a busy late summer / early fall, not a lack of page-turnability.

  • First Person Singular: Stories by Haruki Murakami. A collection of charming stories by the Japanese magical realism master.
  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, the love story that brought Murakami widespread acclaim. No talking cats or unicorn skulls here, but a powerful story nonetheless. I think I’m going to end up reading everything this guy has ever written.
  • Semiosis by Sue Burke. In order to survive, space colonists must find their ecological niche amidst the highly evolved botany of a wild planet.
  • The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by Gordon Van Gelder. An amazing collection of, well, fantasy and science fiction, as previously published in the venerated magazine.

I can read and juggle at the same time. Here are the books I’m juggling at the moment.

  • As You Were by Tasha Christensen
  • Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
  • I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson. Yes, I’m rereading the 1984 classic that launched the cyberpunk genre—this time, in Braille.
  • The Writing of the Gods by Edward Dolnick

Books that are waiting to be read, always waiting.

  • Fast Track by John DeDakis
  • The Genome Defense: Inside the Epic Legal Battle to Determine Who Owns Your DNA,’ by Jorge L. Contreras
  • Slackjaw by Jim Knipfel

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