Rejecting self-rejection

So… some good news. Not only am I eligible to receive the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, two of my stories are included in the reader anthology, Up and Coming: Stories from the 2016 Campbell-Eligible Writers.

But those stories would not have been included in the anthology if I’d been left to my own devices. More than that, I probably wouldn’t have been acknowledged as eligible if I not for a fortuitous push from my writing friends.

When I finish a story or an art project, I’m usually incredibly pleased it. I’m proud of the result.

… for like, 17 seconds.

After that, the narrative changes.

“I hate it.”

“It’s stupid.”

“The whole idea was kinda stupid to begin with.”

“Anyone who sees it will undoubtedly think that I’m stupid.”

“This new project I have in mind is way better, and I probably should have been working on it instead.”

I’m far more likely to trunk a story than I am to submit it for publication. And awards contention? That’s never even been on my radar. Awards are for the authors that I go out of my way to find and read.

So when the call went out for Campbell-eligible writers to submit their published works, I read the announcement and associated qualification criteria with a detachment that was too bland to be wistful. I thought, “Some day… some day.”

But according to the eligibility requirements, my clock was already ticking. ‘Some day’ had arrived.

A new writer is eligible for the Campbell for two years following her first qualifying sale in a professional market. That’s it. Then the window closes. And my first thought was, “I won’t submit. But maybe next year. Maybe. If I have some better stuff published.”

I took myself out of the running after barely even acknowledging my eligibility.

Luckily, a special guest sat in at my weekly writing group meeting. Mary Robinette Kowal is both a Campbell and multiple Hugo Award-winning writer. My writing group have all attended Mary’s seminar courses, and the Campbell anthology came up when she joined us for our online meeting.

As an aside, I’ve benefitted from several of Mary’s writing classes. If you’re quick enough with a computer to get in before they fill up, I highly recommend her as an instructor.

Go.

Go, now.

Find her online at maryrobinettekowal.com or @MaryRobinette on Twitter.

Aaaany who… I mentioned that I wasn’t going to submit for publication in the anthology and she slapped me around for being a dolt. The gist of the admonition being, “Don’t self-reject.”

Which seems obvious and true. I mean, if you never ask an editor to publish your work, the answer is by default a no. They don’t even get the choice if you’ve already drafted the rejection for them. The same is true for awards.

Submission, rejection and resubmission are elemental components of success as a writing professional. But I’m so good at giving myself reasons not to participate in final, commercial activities of a working artist.

Why is that?

For one thing, words on a page are a poor reflection of the iconic imaginings in a writer’s mind. I’ve found the same to be true of music, and perhaps this is something endemic to artist pursuits of all varieties.

I believe Guy Gavriel Kay had the right of it when he said, “I don‘t know a serious artist in any field who does not wrestle with the limitations of their own talent and energy, the space between the imagined work and what is produced.”

My own stories – irrespective of how well others appreciate them – always fall short of my expectations, even if only in some small measure. That they will always fall short is something I need to become better at accepting.

The harsh clarity of hindsight is another challenge.

I’m always learning some new piece of writing craft. It’s super easy to look back at completed works through the lens of whatever writing-nit I’m currently picking away at. The older the story, the more nits I have to pick.

Combine rear-view cynicism with a chronic excitement for each new, shiny idea and it’s easy to see how completed works struggle to compete against the vision of future accomplishments. I find it way too easy to write-off a good story as ‘just practice’ or ‘an interesting learning experience.’

But self-rejection is a miserable return for the investment of effort that the creative process demands. So rather than let my two-year window of Campbell Award eligibility swing shut, I’ve pulled aside the curtain and thrown the shutters wide.

Two of my stories appear in the Up and Coming anthology. I’m super excited to share those pages with friends I’ve made at writer conventions, classes and seminars.

Writers like Marin Cahill and Sunil Patel who attended the Writing Excuses Retreat with me in 2014. Jeanne Kramer-Smith who was in my first-ever writing class. Jamie Gilman Kress and Kim May who I met at my very first Worldcon in 2013.

I’m under no illusion that I’ll win the Campbell Award; that honor will be reserved for a writer better equipped to compress the gap between their imagined work and what manifests on the page.

But I’m part of a freshman class of blossoming science fiction and fantasy writers. I’m proud of that. And I’m very thankful that I didn’t pass on the opportunity to be included in the anthology or our debut works.

The Up and Coming anthology is free to download and available only for the month of March, 2016.

My short story The Doom of Sallee is a historical fiction about Barbary pirates and North African politics. It is set in Eric Flint’s 1632 universe and appeared in the November 2015 issue of the Grantville Gazette.

Brothers In Arms is a novella written for Star Citizen’s Jump Point Magazine. It is a tale of two ne’er-do-well brothers trying to go legit on the edges of colonized space. It was originally published in four parts starting May of 2015.

Best wishes to all the new writers out there, whatever your genre might be. And remember, don’t self-reject! I look forward to reading all of your work for many, many years to come!

 

Drive Write: Support Structures

Drive Write podcastDrive Write: Episode 15 – Support Structures

This week I’m talking about personal support structures. In particular, I’m expressing appreciation for everything my wife does to help me perform on my creative projects. I’ve been reminded of just how much having a teammate and partner means during this past holiday season. She was overseas for the past several weeks and it has been difficult to balance all my personal projects against family, parenting and the day job.

Let me know if you’ve had similar experience or challenges in the comments. And definitely let me know if you have any tips!

Merry Christmas 2013

2013 was full of family, friends, fun and firsts for us. There were many trips, visits and gatherings, each of them treasured and too many to mention here. Instead for this year’s Rogers family update, we’re going to call out some personal accomplishments.

In May, after many years of effort, study and all-nighters, Zuzi completed her post-professional doctorate in physical therapy from Texas Tech University. To fill her newly-regained free time, Zuzi has become a physical therapist for the Nordic US National Ski Team and will be traveling worldwide to keep everyone healthy and competitive on the road to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Andy finished the rough draft of his second novel and is neck deep in planning the third. He and the kids made up a bedtime story about stretchy, underground creatures called Droblar. The kids wanted to see the stories that they listened to each night and Andy started drawing again for the first time since high-school. The story is now unfolding online as a weekly webcomic.

Lucas (7 years old) spent the entire summer hiking Slovakia and Alaska and now continues exploring AK in his beloved Junior Nordic Program. This fall, he entered the Ignite enrichment learning program at school and is loving it!

Eva (4 years old) is riding her bike and learning how to read. She’s already mastered her online kindergarten math program and is starting in on the first grade lessons. Also, to make her mama proud, she is picking up skiing really fast – both nordic and alpine!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all from the Rogers family.

RogersChristmas2013

News post on Droblar.com

Panel six is up over at Droblar.com and we have our first good look at Dani running from the wolf. I hope everyone is enjoying the story so far.

I’m both surprised and intimidated by the traffic that Droblar is getting. I’m definitely motivated to hold fast to the schedule and to keep the quality of the artwork and writing the best I can make it. Each week feels like a scramble, especially with my commitments to novel and short story projects. That said, I’m still very much enjoying making Droblar.

I wrote a news post to accompany this week’s update. I’m reposting here so that readers of the blog will know that I’m writing text updates to go along with each new panel now. This first post is a little longer than what I think will be the norm. It covers the following:

  1. News updates
  2. Publication times
  3. Image resolution

News updates

As I mentioned, I’m including a short post (shorter than this one) to accompany each new panel. I think it will be a good way for me to keep everyone up to date with what’s going on with the project. It should also save some time answering everyone’s questions. Maybe someday we’ll get some Droblar forums set up. Until that works out, please keep the comments and emails coming. I am surprised and flattered by each and every one. My hope is that a little news-snippet with each update will help people follow along and allow new readers to get caught up. I’m certainly still learning as I go, so let me know what you think.

Publication times

So… my publication schedule is “every Tuesday”. To date, this has meant midnight on Monday. I’ve been excited to get each post up as quickly as possible. The pages take a ton of work to make and it’s pretty rewarding to see them go live.

However, I’m not convinced that midnight Alaska-time is the best time of day to publish. I’m going to play around with the timing on the updates and the announcements over the next couple months to see what gets the best response. I really don’t like to self-promote. I know that I need to, but it’s work to make myself do it. I’m also allergic to spamming Twitter and Facebook with update notifications. I need to wring the most coverage out of each notification.

If you notice the update time changing, that is why. I’ll still update each Tuesday, the exact time of day will vary a bit for the next dozen or so updates.

Just FYI.

Image resolution

Huge shout out to Dave Hamp ( @thedavidhamp ) for suggesting that I up the resolution of my original artwork.

The Surface is great. I love it. But I’ve missed the fine detail that I get when drawing by hand. I’ve been drawing the panels at 600×800 and 300dpi and then saving down to 150dpi JPEG.  It’ve been somewhat frustrated that everything has been coming out looking thick and blocky.

Dave suggested some changes and I’m super enamored with the results. This week’s panel was drawn at 300 dpi again, but I upped the image size to 1800×2400. It takes much more time to illustrate at this resolution and I think the result is totally worth it. I hope you all enjoy it as well.

Check out Droblar.com and let me know what you think in the comments! =)

Take that, Cancer!

Movember 2013November is in the books and with it would normally go my accumulated months worth of face fuzz. This year? Not so much… and not so fast.

In case you don’t know and are wondering why the hell I’m talking about my month-long growth of facial hair, Movember is part of the worldwide war on cancer. Men are encouraged to grow out their mustaches and/or beards during the month of November. This is both a show of support and a campaign raising money to fund a variety of cancer battling programs.

The goal is to kick cancer’s ass so hard that its breath smells like boot leather. Men around the world are helping to swing that metaphorical boot one scraggly snot mop at a time.

So for the last few years, I’ve lent the support of my own greying cookie duster.

I don’t normally wear a beard. My wife’s not the biggest fan of being stabbed in the lips every time I sneak a kiss. Still, she’s insistent about my participation in Movember. We’ve both lost friends to cancer and know people who struggle daily against the disease.

When December rolls around, I usually take the beard off and rush into the holiday season with pale, bare cheeks. This year, I’m keeping the ‘stache around for a couple extra weeks.

A good friend is having an eleven-inch tumor removed from his kidney in a couple days. The beard is my show of support for him and his family through the surgery.

It’s my way to tell cancer to piss off. From Hell’s heart, I wave my mouth brow at thee! For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath through my soup strainer at thee!

Good luck in surgery and recovery, Phil. We’re sending our thoughts and prayers out to you and the family.

Drive Write: Droblar.com Launches

Drive Write podcast

Drive Write: Episode 12 – Droblar.com Launches

This week on Drive Write, I give a mid-month update on my NaNoWriMo progress. I also introduce (formally, and kinda/sorta for the first time) the Droblar webcomic. I talk about why I started drawing, how the story came to be, and some technical and scheduling challenges that I’m learning to navigate as I go.

The artist I mentioned who got my attention focused on #SundaySketch-ing is Jake Powning. Find Jake and examples of his incredible swordsmithing at his website.

Enjoy, please visit the comic site at droblar.com, and feel free to leave questions/concerns/critiques in the comments.

Drive Write: Worldcon Wrap-up

Drive Write: Episode 2 – Worldcon Wrap-up

Worldcon 2013 is over and in today’s podcast, I go over some of the highlights while everything is still fresh in my convention-pickled brain. If you don’t know, Texas is warmer than Alaska so I go over that little known fact. I also talk about meeting members of my online writing group, go over what the heck a kaffeeklatsch is, pimp the value of Barcon, and make plans to attend future conventions.

Listen. Enjoy. And feel free to leave suggestions/notes/etc in the comments.

 Subscribe to Drive Write

A Writer’s Apology

Dear Body,

I owe you an apology.

I know. I know… I do this a lot. But this time, as with every time, I really mean it.

I’ve figured a couple things out. I know that you’ve been trying to tell me these things years, but sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. I’d like to blame Facebook, the demands of an adult American life, or those jokers back in Washington, but we both know it’s just me. I’m ready to own up to that.

Regarding sleep…

For instance, I know that you need more than four hours of sleep. Preferably, like… in a row. You want twelve? Heh… I’ll tell you right now that twelve ain’t gonna happen.

Sleep’s a tough one for me to give ground on. I mean, if I had my way, we’d skip the whole sleep thing entirely. Just laying there, wasting time like a lump. Still, I’m not (usually… always?) an unreasonable guy. You want twelve. I want zero. I suggest a compromise. I think we can work something out.

Do me a favor? Let’s touch base about 10pm. If we do this daily for a couple weeks or so, I think we might be able to figure out a middleground that we both can live with.

Regarding exercise…

Also, I remember Ashtanga.

How many times have you told me, “I can’t imagine not starting every day like this.” You weren’t just talking about the good ol’ days of month after month of two-hour yoga practices every morning. Yeah, I know those were good times for you, but you said the same thing after three clumsy sun salutations on a random and bleary-eyed Tuesday last November.

“Every day,” you said.

Every.

That’s a pretty tall order. Let’s be honest here. We both know that sometimes the wife and I like to open a second bottle of wine. Right? Those nights when we collapse in a heap of parental-laundry-garden-volunteer-camping-career-vacuuming sludge on the couch?

Be reasonable. We aren’t going to be working on our handstands at 0 dark 30 after those nights. But, I think I can jigger things around on my end enough for you to at least touch your toes a couple times. Again. I’m sorry. We can work something out.

I remember Crossfit, too.

Ok, before you get excited, I’ve got to put my foot down on this one. The gym schedule? Yeah… not going to happen. I’ve got three other schedules to work around. More, actually, if we still like our friends and feel like we’re doing important work at the office. No pun intended, but WODs in the gym aren’t going to work out.

But, hey. Hey! Don’t just throw your hands up and walk away from everything. Let’s figure this out.

Look. We still have the gymnastic rings that you wanted in the living room. We both know that you don’t hit your head when you do box jumps in the kid’s playroom. I also happen to know for a fact that the pullup bar is languishing on the floor in the Man Cave.

Don’t be so all or nothing on this. That’s no good for either of us. It’s going to be a few years, but we’ll get back there. And when we do, I promise that we’ll give all those twenty-somethings a run for their money. But until then, I’ll try not to hog all of the awake time.

Regarding food…

This is good. I like this. We should do it more often. I know you’re willing, but I’m stubborn and I get distracted. There’s one more thing that I want to talk about, though.

Fuel.

I know what you need. Actually, these days you make it pretty darned clear what you like and don’t like. I shouldn’t go shoving just any old crap down your throat. Please understand that I do feel guilty about it afterward. I know that’s no excuse, but if you’ll try not to embarrass me after the occasional indulgence, I promise not to poison you slowly.

The silver lining on food is that we do pretty good as long as I’m not screwing up the whole sleep thing. Can we agree to focus on sleep first? If the food part doesn’t sort itself out, we can always take more drastic measures later. Deal? We good?

Ok.

So, yeah. I’m sorry.

Really I am. And, even though it’s probably not the last time you’ll hear me say this, I’m going to do better.

The Strangest Places

I was still in my office when the janitor came in last night after my writing class. I was busy. He was humming a tune… each of us could easily have ignored the other as if they didn’t even exist. But that’s not what happened.

My office is somewhat odd. I don’t have a desk, just a tall table. I haven’t had an office chair since 2003. I keep a guitar close at hand, you know… just in case. Also, Vera makes a bit of an impression.

Vera

The janitor – I know now that his name is Alberto – grabbed the trash and shook it out into a bag and then turned to leave my room. But he stopped short, back-peddled a step and complimented me on keeping music involved in my work life.

To be fair, weeks can go by where I don’t lay a finger on Vera and I don’t much care for my office guitar. Also, I was headed to a friend’s birthday party and rushing to get some work stuff wrapped up so that I could leave. However, I’ve found that it is worth taking the time to get to know the people who live and work around you. Rather than thanking him and getting back to what I was doing, I stepped away from my computer and asked him about his interest in music.

An hour and forty-five minutes later, Alberto and I had discussed family, philosophy, medical school, currency exchange, retirement, game design, the Federal Reserve System and America’s move away from the gold standard, small business ownership and the cultural value of art.

Alberto left me with several pieces of advice, but one in particular stuck with me. Actually, quite a few are sticking with me because he insisted on writing them down. This one, however, I want to share. It’s a simple little equation and it is just the exact thing that I needed to hear last night. It goes like this:

Passion + Action = Results

It’s a simple and perfectly commonsensical bit of math, but powerful. It doesn’t need explaining. All you need to do is recognize it and start iterating.

Awesome!

I live a charmed life… and encouragement and motivation find me in the strangest places.

Arctic Fire 2013 – Artifacts from the Present

Arctic Fire 2013 is nearly upon us. For those of you unfamiliar with the Arctic Fire invitational, check out my post on last year’s gathering and the Arctic Fire website for more information.

Before I go any further, you should really take a moment to check out this year’s video trailer by Arctic Fire producer, Van Clifton.

For those of you who do remember last year’s hammer-in invitational, many of the world’s best bladesmiths are returning for another go at the forges and anvils of the frozen north. Familiar faces for 2013 include; Peter Johnsson, J. Arthur Loose, Michael Pikula, Jake Powning, and host Dave Stephens.

Joining the Arctic Fire ranks this year are Owen Bush from London and Czech smith, Petr Florianek.

I can’t wait to see friends from last year, and I’m completely stoked to meet Owen and Petr. Owen is pretty much the guru of modern day bloomery (smelting iron). Plus, I’ll be meeting Petr after a month spent with family in Slovakia. That should provide an interesting context in which to meet the master smith and carver. I’ll have to get my inlaws to help me out with some new Czech phrases.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to crew for this year’s live webcasts. If you watched the 2012 event or purchased the DVDs, then you saw my camera work. I was the annoying guy shoving an HD camera into everyone’s faces to get the close-up and detail shots. This year’s four-day webcast is awkwardly timed for my work and travel schedule. Thankfully, I’ll be able to hang out in the evenings, but I can’t commit to running a camera for the entire event.

Even still, I’m really looking forward to the event and if you have any interest whatsoever in swords, carving, smelting, and pattern-welded steel, then you have to tune in. The schedule is available online and feel free to leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below.