6 Reason Writers Need Writer Friends

The Sarcastic Muse

6 Reasons Writers Need Writer FriendsIf you had asked me “Why do you need writer friends?” five years ago, I would have looked at you funny. I didn’t actually know any fiction writers, and therefore couldn’t even begin to tell you what I was missing. All that changed a year and a half ago when I met my current writer friends, and subsequently, after having produced a shadow of an online presence, I have gotten to know some other amazing people in the meantime. Now I can’t imagine not having writer friends.

So what are the reasons for befriending other writers?

1.) They’ll challenge you to improve.

Nothing’s better than friendly competition. Why, just the other day, Chris challenged me to a flash fiction write-off (winner undecided). I’m not very good about finishing my work, but I did it, simply because I couldn’t bear the idea of letting him win.

Besides, if their work is…

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Monday Mayhem Agenda (25 August 2014)


25 August 2014 – 01 September 2014

Well I figured I’d try something new. Seeing as I’m quite bad about organizing my goals (read: organizational skills are non-existent), I figured I’d write my intended plan for the week on a public forum so that when I procrastinate my deadlines, I can look back here and feel (perhaps) bad about it. I don’t typically keep track of things this way, but hey, it never hurts to expand one’s area of procrastination.

So for this week my writing/editing/reading goals are:

  • Write reviews for both Jen’s short story and Robyn’s novel.
  • Write half of the short story for the Sarcastic Muse Sampler (about 5k words).
  • Should probably catch up on reviews for the books I’ve read recently (in the past 8 months), but that’s if time permits.
  • Need to read and translate one Betti Alver poem. Should also read at least two academic articles.
  • Write up the developmental edit of Robyn’s newest manuscript.
  • Interview questions.
  • Apply for editing job.
  • Prepare short story and poems for submission to lit mags.
  • Write up Friday blog post for Sarcastic Muse – topic undecided.
  • Finish piecing together the horror of my manuscript from Camp NaNoWriMo.

Not very interesting for you guys, I know. Sorry. Feel free to poke me if there’s something I’m supposed to be doing for you . . . Feel free to help me procrastinate, too.

Lastly, feel free to let me know how you stay on task, because I most certainly have trouble doing it.


What are your goals for the week?

Tell Me the Truth: Do You Read Poetry?

The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it. — Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

Back in May my thesis advisor devised a brilliant plan to get me to present at the Kevadkool convention he was hosting at his summer home. He said, “If you do this, you don’t have to take my exam.” (I was taking his course on poetics for fun.) And I said, “Done.” Bring on the public speaking embarrassment!

So there I was, the only American in the bunch and one of three non-Estonians, giving a presentation on an Estonian poet, using a ton of linguistic terminology that those literary people probably didn’t care about, trying to remember to circle things on the paper behind me. But as I continued, I felt more at home. Poetry was my game, I knew. Poetry is what I love. Poetry, whether I write it well or not, is the force behind my stay in Estonia. No complaints here.

I survived. I got an A. I even made a friend. All benefits.

However, in addition to giving my presentation, I met two visiting-from-America poets: John and Joan Digby. Mr. Digby (who is not originally American, by the way), upon meeting me and learning that I write poetry as well, said immediately (with the honesty so common in the old), “Poetry! Everyone writes poetry, but no one reads it!”

True that, I thought. But isn’t that why poetry sometimes feels like it’s the truest thing in the world? However I like to play devil’s advocate, so I said instead, “I read it.”

Photo Credit: Annika Markson 2014

John and Joan Digby; Photo Credit: Annika Markson 2014

And indeed, after Mr. and Mrs. Digby read some of their poems, talked about their writing life, gave us free copies of some of their poems, and then signed them, I promptly began to read his work. Because I was curious, because I love poetry — but mostly because I wanted to know what kind of poetry a man writes when he’s sure that no one reads it. (His work is truly imaginary and thought-inducing, by the way.)

We’re all poets of a sort, we wordsmiths. We lie about a lot of things when we create our stories, but writing often forces us to be honest with ourselves. That’s more difficult sometimes. And so perhaps it’s the thought that no one will read my poetry that enables me to write my thoughts so freely, the feelings I wouldn’t expose anywhere else. Perhaps, it’s as Margaret Atwood says: To write the truth, assume it will never be read.

But, on the flip side, how many people actually read poetry? Of all the thousands of amateur poets, how many actually buy it, take it home, read it? Are we wordsmiths really just writing out into a silent literary wasteland? Do people fear reading the truth so much that they buy into the commercial mountain range instead? Do we crave lies so we can disregard the truth entirely?

I’d like to think that’s not true: that there will always be the handful willing to face the truth, to write the truth, to ask the complex questions. I’d like to think that there are more than just a handful of people who still read poetry. Alas, those are my controversial questions of the week for you guys. Let me know:

What’s the truth of poetry for you?

Most evenings I climb my torso
In search of myself always slipping
Down into avenues of sunlight
— John Digby from “Out of My Head Stalks” from Sailing Away from Night

Camp NaNoWriMo Didn’t Kill Me

2014-Participant-Facebook-CoverI haven’t posted recently because, well, because I’m ridiculously lazy. And it’s been ridiculously hot here in Estonia, which only contributes to my laziness. Excuses, excuses. I always have a plethora of them waiting in the wings.

I mentioned on Twitter but never got around to updating here that I managed to “win” Camp NaNoWriMo in July. I had a late start. My parents didn’t leave until the 11th or so of July and since I was traveling so much, there wasn’t a whole lot of manageable writing time available to me. (See, more excuses!)

In June when Chris invited me to join a private cabin with a few other selected writers (who also won by the way, because they are amazing), I had a few reservations such as ‘Can I actually do this?’ and ‘Damn, I’m going to be so busy next month, too.’ Not to mention that I still hadn’t forgotten the failed attempt at Camp NaNoWriMo in April when I had an even smaller goal than the one I was aiming for in July. I think I managed all of 800 words and those were accidentally deleted, so I was technically going backwards, if that’s possible.

But I’m kind of extremely stubborn, and I actually work best when I’m pressured, and despite my innate ability to prolong and avoid writing what I’m supposed to be writing, I don’t actually like to lose. So when I accepted the invitation and set my goal for 30,000 words, I decided no matter what miraculous, terrible crap I managed to write for it, I would meet that goal. Perfectionist Michelle was appalled, but I was getting tired of her anyway.

I started writing toward the 16th or so. I didn’t post an updated word count until I had written about 8,000 words, and that wasn’t until the 20th-ish. Then I started writing about 3,000 words a day. The way I was going, I’d have gone way over my goal, actually. But then the usual happened: I got tired of the pacing, the forced effort I was making, and I took about four or five days off. On July 31, I still needed almost 9,000 words to reach my goal. So I did what any normal expert procrastinator does. I waited until about five hours before the end of Camp NaNoWriMo before I started to write, and after that, being well aware that the clock was ticking, I zoomed through those 9k words until I thought my fingers would fall off and my brain would explode and that the world might actually end from the utter nonsense I was typing into existence.

Needless to say, I made it . . . barely. And though my success was somewhat dubious and the words I wrote probably all need to be thrown into the incinerator, I still finished a task, a challenge, that had to do with writing. Though I think I’ve grown a lot as a writer this past year alone, that’s the first time I’ve done that in almost four years.

And, admittedly, it felt good.

Did you guys participate in Camp NaNoWriMo? How’d it go? Did you meet your goals?