"There's no point in spending your life in the pursuit of something that's easy." - Alice Kuipers

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Little Something to Make You Feel Better

Every once in a while, it can get a little grating to hear about the illustrious careers of successful writers. Especially if you've just had a particularly upsetting rejection. At those points, the last thing you want to hear about is how such and such a writer won tens of dozens of literary awards and graduated with a Masters Degree at the top of their class. Your own well of self doubt seems to triple and overflow as you read about how another author was recognized as brilliant with only a first draft, how they seemed to be a born natural with a gift for storytelling. It's not to say that you aren't happy for them, or that you don't want to follow in their footsteps. But it can put your own writing career in pretty stark contrast and make you feel, well, pretty small. So, to brighten your day and fill you with hope, I present this merry gathering of interesting facts about some of history's favourite writers. Enjoy!

Writers Who Didn't Go to College/University
Mark Twain (dropped out of school at age 12)
Charles Dickens (dropped out of school at age 12)
Ray Bradbury
George Orwell
H.G. Wells

Writers Who Weren't Appreciated Until They Were Dead
Edgar Allan Poe
Emily Dickinson

Rejection Hall of Famers
C.S. Lewis had over 800 rejections before he sold a single thing.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was rejected by 25 publishers.
Gertrude Stein submitted her poetry for 22 years before one was accepted.
Rudyard Kipling was told in one of his rejection letters that he didn't know how to use the English language.
A Wrinkle in Time by Margaret Engle (which won the Newbery Medal) was rejected 26 times before it was accepted.
27 different publishers rejected Dr. Seuss' first book.
E.E. Cummings' first book The Enormous Room was rejected by 15 publishers. He eventually self published and it went on to be considered a masterpiece of modern poetry. He dedicated it to the 15 publishers who rejected him.

Are we feeling a little better? Just remember, the only one who really needs to believe in you is you. If you believe you have something special, don't give up. It might be the next masterpiece.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Budgets and Dreams

Becoming a writer is hard work, but it can also be pretty expensive. I know what you're thinking, "pen, paper, done. What more do you need?" But anyone who's tried seriously pursuing a career in writing can tell you it cost them more than a few late fees on their library card. Allow me to explain.

MFA in Writing
The natural course for a lot of writers is to pursue their Masters of Fine Arts in Writing. Unfortunately, unless you're already a successful writer (and don't really need it) you won't be able to get in without a bachelor's degree. Paying for the MFA courses can be expensive enough, but they also want you to devote four years of your time and money into getting what I affectionately refer to as a 'garbage degree' first. Sorry, I have a full time job, a house and a husband. I can't afford the expense to my wallet or my time.

Workshops and Conferences
Workshops and conferences are a great way to take in classes, market your manuscript and make connections with the writing and publishing community. However, you're probably going to have to travel for most of them, meaning that besides the cost of the conference or workshop, you'll also have travel fees as well as be taking time off work. It's a worthwhile investment if you can afford it, but it can be pretty costly.

Classes, especially online classes, can be pretty expensive. An eight week course with mediabistro is generally around $550. A one day webinar with Writer's Digest is generally about $90. That might not sound like a lot, but it's literally a single class. One. That's all you get. For a writer on a budget, it forces them to ask themselves some pretty tough questions. Such as, "do I really need to eat this week?"

Books and Magazines
There are a lot of really fabulous books and magazines on writing out there that can offer a lot of guidance, and although the expense is often a small one (especially if you have a well stocked library), it can still add up. A couple of subscriptions and a Writer's Market and my entertainment budget is blown for the month.

Is It Worth It?
I'm not trying to say that any of the above aren't worth it. Nor am I trying to say that you shouldn't think about a career in writing. What I'm trying to do is prepare you (and your wallet) for the reality of professional development. I'm not saying you have to give any of the above options a try either, there are a lot of free options that you can turn to. Look into your local Writer in Residence and public library. They often have free programs to help emerging writers find their voice. Maybe you could start a critique group with other writers where you give each other feedback. Just remember that all dreams come with a cost, whether it be to our time, our fortitude, our wallets or all of the above. Ask yourself what you are able (and willing) to give. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Ringing

Welcome one and all to another glorious Friday! And what better way to celebrate than with Five Sentence Fiction? This week's prompt is ringing. If you'd like to learn more, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. Enjoy!

Moira shuddered every time she heard the sound of the bell ringing in the distance. She knew what it meant. They'd taken someone else. She and all the other townspeople would have been furious with Mr. Rivers for what he'd done, probably killed him to be honest, if he hadn't been the first to be taken. Now there was nothing they could do, he'd insulted them somehow and they wouldn't stop until they'd had their revenge.

I hope you enjoyed this week's edition of Five Sentence Fiction! If you did, please feel free to check out the links below and read past week's editions. As always, I welcome your comments below in the comments section. Have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Forgotten
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Inspire
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Midnight
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Ending

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Sting of Rejection

"Love and marriage, love and marriage,
They go together like a horse and carriage."

There's something else that goes together like a horse and carriage, and I'm not talking about peanut butter and jelly. I'm talking about writers and rejection. It's a lesson every writer must learn before they start sending their work out into the world and if you think you can avoid it, think again. It's a rite of passage we all must go through.

I was very lucky. When I first started showing my work to a Writer in Residence, she was very supportive and helpful, but she was also very realistic. She told me right from the start not to send my work out if rejection was something I couldn't handle. And if I had any illusions over how much rejection there would be, she squashed them when she told me that for every 100 submissions I made, I could expect 99 rejections. With such a blunt and abrupt truth welded to my brain, I began sending out my work. And you know what? With that bit of knowledge already crystal clear in my mind, I found the rejections didn't hurt nearly as much as I thought they would.

Sure, rejection is still disappointing. I would like nothing more than to find a good home for my work, to be able to share it with the world and get paid for it. But being realistic has kept me from feeling too down on myself. I know the odds are against me, and it makes me appreciate every kind word, every small bit of praise. I've learned to appreciate the personalized rejections, the ones that say "this was great, but..." or "we really enjoyed your piece. Unfortunately..." I seize upon those words "enjoyed" and "great". I read them over and over again, smiling because my piece was good enough to warrant a personal touch. I'm improving, I whisper to myself with excitement.

There are some that hurt more than others. There are programs I've applied for and haven't made the cut. I wasn't good enough, I realize. There were far too many that were better than me. And that is always a lonely feeling. There are publications that I thought a piece of writing was absolutely perfect for, and I couldn't help but feel that this was going to be my one out of a hundred. But they weren't. They still sent a polite, impersonal rejection. And a little voice whispered, no one will ever read this. 

The important thing is to keep moving forward. Perhaps no one will read it now, but they might later. Each new project gives me hope. Each reworked and edited piece of writing could be the draft that makes it. Rejection stings, but you can't win if you don't play. And one day, I want to be able to think about a particularly painful rejection and say to myself, I bet they feel stupid now.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Baby Shower

Yesterday was my sister's baby shower. My other sister and I threw it for her, as we have a strong need to throw showers for everyone we know. I'm not sure where it comes from, but it started many years ago and now we can't let an engagement or birth go by without demanding the right to throw a shower. For our own sister we wanted to do something extra special, and after much debate we settled on our theme: children's books.

As with most things, the idea started with Pinterest and we took it and ran. The house was decorated with scenes from famous story books. There was Winnie the Pooh above the fireplace, Curious George in the corner, Robert Munch by the front door, Dr. Seuss in the dining room, The Hungry Caterpillar in the living room. Of course, the menu was themed as well, with a Hop on Popcorn bar, 'If You Give a Mouse a Cookie' cookies, a long, long hungry caterpillar made of cupcakes, 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' meatballs, and etc. We also asked the guests to bring their own favourite childhood stories for the baby, so our nephew went home with a fully stocked library. (What writer doesn't want the children in their lives to be avid readers?)

Overall, everyone had a great time and my sister loved it. We had a really great time planning it as well, so it was funny to hear people ask us how much work went it to it. Because honestly, can you call it work when you loved doing it?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Five Sentence Friday - Forgotten

Welcome to Friday! This week's prompt, forgotten, is especially accurate because I almost forgot to do it. We'll blame that on my winter brain. If you'd like to learn more about Five Sentence Fiction, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. Enjoy!

We live in perpetual darkness, huddled together, waiting to be discovered. We are your lost keys, your favourite toys, that beautiful pink shell you found on the beach on your honeymoon. We are the lost things, the forgotten things. We live in the dark corners of your mind, waiting for a bright ray of memory to bring us back into focus. We never lose hope; we might have been forgotten but we're not gone, not completely.

There you have it! If you enjoyed this little story, I hope you'll read the rest. Just follow the links below. If you really liked it then I hope you'll follow this blog and come find me on twitter, @MelanieKCole. Have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Inspire
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Midnight
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Ending
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Vision

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Winter Prison

I know in some parts of the world, indeed even in this very country, spring is just around the corner. Not here. We have at least three full months left, and if I'm going to be totally honest, probably more. You really can't count on spring until May when you live in Saskatchewan. And as we move further into winter and its cold embrace, I'm feeling the need to hibernate more and more. No amount of sleep seems to be good enough. No matter what time I go to bed, I'm always wishing for a couple more hours when I get up. And afternoon naps are becoming a necessity.

Not only am I incessantly tired, but I can't seem to get warm enough either. Every day at work, there comes a point where my boss will suddenly announce that it's far too hot in our office and proceeds to turn the heat way down. I personally think she's crazy and would prefer that she turn the heat way up, but I'm alone in that regard. Everyone seems comfortable and warm, and I sit at my desk, bundled in my many layers and shiver. I've even started bringing a blanket with me to wrap up in, but it just makes me want to nap even more. It's a vicious cycle.

It doesn't help that the cold has prevented regular walks for our dog, who is prone to cabin fever. Leaving the house is a lengthy operation when you're living with a destructive Great Dane. Believe me when I say no where is high enough.

What is my point in all this? Well, there isn't one. It is just a cathartic rant to help keep the winter madness at bay. At least the continual presence of winter keeps me locked up and wrapped in blankets where I can write. I've been making good use of the time, too. I've been visiting the Writer in Residence, and with the Christmas rush behind me I'm back to editing my book, which feels pretty good. So, I guess there's a positive side to winter. I'm going to have to keep reminding myself of that if I'm going to make it through the next three months. And those of you out there already experiencing the first harbingers of Spring? Just keep it to yourself.

Monday, January 14, 2013


This is my three hundredth post. I feel like I need to do something momentous to mark the occasion, but when I thought about writing a piece of flash fiction to celebrate, all that came to mind was the movie 300. Do you remember when it first came out and everyone was talking about how visually stunning it was? Now, if you watched it, the only thing you'd notice is how epically corny it is. Okay, I shouldn't speak for everyone. There are probably people out there who still like it. Where was I going with this? Right, three hundred. This is post number three hundred and I couldn't be happier. I have 31 followers and hopefully by the time I reach my thousandth post I'll have a hundred. (Although to be frank, I'd much prefer to have a thousand followers. Insert shameless plug here: follow my blog!) So, I was left with my conundrum. How to properly celebrate reaching the big three hundred? I agonized and agonized and finally just decided to do a piece of flash fiction anyway. So, I guess the moral of the story is: the answer to your question is usually the first thing that springs to mind. You can try chasing down a better one, but you'll probably just end up going in circles. Enjoy!


She sat back in her chair, closed her eyes and let her head fall back against the wall behind her. The lights overhead caused stars to burst beneath her eyelids like fireworks. She massaged her temples and took slow, deep breaths. With a sigh, she opened her eyes and sat forward, shuffling the sheets of wrinkled paper in front of her into order. 
She leafed through them slowly, her cramped, erratic handwriting filling each page and spilling out into the margins. She'd numbered them as she went; the only sign of order on the crowded pages. She caught snippets as she skimmed along but didn't stop to read her reasons. She knew them all by heart. 
She turned to the last page and ran her finger over the number at the bottom. 300. 300 reasons. She waited, let the quiet press in on her. It was right there in her own handwriting. 300 reasons why she should leave. 300 reasons why this would never work. 300 reasons to get up, take the suitcase waiting by the door and take herself away. She could start somewhere new. This could all by a faded memory. 
She traced the number one more time, felt the impression it made on the paper. 
"Don't be a fool," she whispered. 
She stood up, went to the door and picked up the suitcase. Outside, she pulled the door shut behind her and fit her key into the lock. She stopped. Her suitcase sat quietly on the step beside her, adding nothing. She stood, the sun warm on her back, hand on the key. She couldn't turn it. She couldn't lock the door. 
She pulled the key from the lock slowly and slid it back into her pocket. She picked up her suitcase and went back inside, down the hallway and into the bedroom to unpack her things. She may have had 300 reasons to leave him, but she only needed one to stay. She loved him.

There you have it! I hope you liked it, because it was either this or a list of three hundred reasons why I'm awesome. So, I think I clearly made the right choice. Hopefully, this has inspired you to follow my blog as well as perhaps come find me on twitter, @MelanieKCole. Either way, I appreciate you taking the time to read my scribbles and I always welcome your comments. Thank you for celebrating my three hundredth post with me, may it bring good luck to you all day long.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Inspire

Welcome to Friday! It's time for a little Five Sentence Fiction, and this week's prompt is inspire. If you'd like to learn more about it, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. Enjoy!

She knew before she entered the room, before she even finished turning the door knob. It didn't stop the searing pain of her heart tearing in two at the sight of the limp form on the floor, nor did it silence the wail of anguish as she threw herself on top of it and sobbed. Her hands were bloody, her face wet with tears, when she heard his voice.
"Tell me," he said, stepping out of the shadows, "have I managed to inspire you?"
With a scream she grabbed the knife, still wet with blood from the floor and lunged at his smiling face.

I hope you enjoyed this week's edition of Five Sentence Fiction. Usually when I look at the word inspire, I automatically think of cheesy posters and bad quotes, so when I saw this week's prompt I immediately decided to go in the opposite direction. If you liked this week's story and you'd like to read past editions, just follow the links below. As always, I welcome and appreciate your comments. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Midnight
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Ending
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Vision
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Devotion

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why Don't You Smell Like Bananas?

The other day I was driving with my sister to meet a friend for coffee and she was telling me how her husband was finally letting her keep bananas in the house. That might sound kind of odd, but her husband experienced some pretty awful food poisoning from a banana when he was younger and ever since hasn't been able to handle the smell of them. Which got me to thinking, why do I never see any banana scented products anywhere?

Think about it. Have you ever seen a banana flavoured shower gel or body spray? What about a room spray or candle? I'm pretty sure I had a strawberry banana lip smackers when I was young, but they never smelled like bananas, only strawberries.

So, what's the deal? I've seen some pretty weird flavours for scented candles, so you can't tell me that the scent of banana would be too far out there. And bananas have a very pleasant smell, maybe not to my brother in law, but to a lot of people. Is it just too hard to manufacture? Is no one working on this? They've never let inaccuracy stop them before. I've never found that any ocean scented product actually smelled like the ocean. Instead they just smelled like perfume, or what I always imagined the color blue would smell like. Where are the banana scented products? Why does no one smell like bananas?

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. It's possible I've just uncovered a giant banana flavoured conspiracy or it could be that I'm just bored. But now that you know the truth, can you really tell me you won't be thinking about this? That at some point today or tomorrow you won't stop and think: "why are there no banana scented products?" The truth is out there, people. The truth is out there.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Roger the Date Octopus

Recently I came up with a concept that I think will revolutionize dating life. And no, I don't think it matters that I've been married for years and started dating my husband in high school, so don't bother pointing it out. It's called Roger the Date Octopus and it's about to make meeting Mr or Mrs Right a whole lot easier.

It started at coffee with the girls, where my sister was crocheting a stuffed octopus for a friend to give as a baby gift. It was adorable and I couldn't stop playing with it, slowly having it emerge from under the table and swim across the table at people. Which got me thinking, what a fabulous conversational ice breaker! You know that moment on every first date, where the conversation stutters and fails and you're both left floundering in awkward silence? That's where Roger the Date Octopus comes in.

It's the perfect test for compatibility. When the awkward moment hits, just subtly pull Roger the Date Octopus from your bag and have him emerge from under the table. Keeping a straight face, make him swim across the table to the other person. If they laugh at your adorable eccentricity and marvel at your flair for breaking awkward silence, then you know that they're worth a second date. If they're weirded out, or respond with haughty condescension, they're out like a bag of wet garbage. Voila! Roger the Date Octopus has saved the day.

If you want to get a little more creative with it, before going out you could also pin a note card with a conversation starter to each of his tentacles. Although I think Roger the Date Octopus already provides plenty by way of an ice breaker.

So, I think it's clear that I've revolutionized dating. It's only a matter of time before I get my own book deal and end up on Oprah. This is your opportunity to get in on the ground floor my friends, before everyone else is doing it. It's time to introduce the world to Roger the Date Octopus!

The picture is a little blurry, but you get the idea. Want one for yourself? Just visit my sister's Etsy site, send her a message and custom order one. Here is the link: Crochet by Megs. Remember, Mr/Mrs Right is just a Roger the Date Octopus away.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Midnight

It's that time again. Welcome to Friday and this week's edition of Five Sentence Fiction. This week's prompt is midnight. If you'd like to learn more about Five Sentence Fiction, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. Enjoy!

It was after midnight. What I should have been thinking was how tired I'd be at work tomorrow, but I wasn't. Instead I was standing in the backyard, looking up at the glowing green light in the sky and I wasn't the only one; crowds of neighbours were doing the same in their own yards.
It looked like that question had finally been answered. We weren't alone after all.

Cue the X-Files music, am I right? Well, I hope you enjoyed this latest edition. If you'd like to keep reading, just follow the links below to past editions of Five Sentence Fiction or just explore the blog for a bit. As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Ending
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Vision
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Devotion
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Time

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Work and Writing

Today, I'm back at work. I can't say as I'm really happy about it, every day of my time off was pure bliss, nor can I say I'm really unhappy about it either. I like my job, and a return to it is also a return to structure. Which probably doesn't sound that great, but it is.

While I was on vacation, I was very relaxed about my schedule. As long as the dog and the rabbits were fed on time, I didn't really care about anything else. I cleaned when I felt like it, read when I felt like it, took naps when I was tired. I stayed up as long as I liked and slept in every morning. It felt great, but I wasn't especially productive, particularly where it concerned my writing. Work puts me back on a regular schedule. I have to be up at a certain time, to bed on a certain time. I know how much free time I have each evening and how much of it I can dedicate to writing.

It's the beginning of a new year and I have goals I want to get a head start on. Work gives me self discipline I just don't have when I'm on vacation. So, it is with hopeful optimism that I return to work and my writing goals.