One Sticky Note at a Time

So, compiling and editing a textbook soaks up a lot of time (#dayjob). So does finishing the middle novel in a trilogy (#Solynsbody). So does assembling one’s tenure binder (#keepingonesdayjob).

As some of you know, I teach English at a community college, and this year, I am “up” for tenure, meaning that I have to present my institution with evidence of my involvement over the last five years. This evidence takes the form of a four inch binder of certificates of attendance, copies of agendas, tons of emails, and lots of letters. Because I work in a community college, I am able to use my fiction writing as a contribution to the profession (something I wouldn’t be able to do at a research university–only my literary works would count there). This means that I’ve spent the last few months gathering up all of the fiction I’ve written since 2013.

And it’s a lot. Like,  really a lot.

I mean, I’m no Emily Dickinson with hundreds of poems or F. Scott Fitzgerald who whipped out a short story in a drunken afternoon, but I’ve been pretty busy for someone with a full-time job, a child, a husband, and many other constraints on my time. I try not to let it happen, but often writing falls to the bottom of the pile of Things To Be Done in a given day. I know what Stephen King says of course–writers write–but he also had lots of drugs to help him out in between double shifts at the laundry and teaching all day while he finished Carrie.

But that’s just excuses–and I’m not here to justify my lack of magnitude. I could have done more, sure, but I’m happy with what I did.

Well, what have I done? It doesn’t seem like much when in the thick of it–a story here, a story there, but taken all at once…it’s solid. I didn’t realize it until I starting working on my binder. To organize my information, I made little sticky notes for each story and put them on the sleeves I would fill with the copies of title pages. As I copied each page and put the evidence of my professional contribution in the proper sleeve, I removed the sticky note. When I was done, it was an impressive little stack of stickies sitting on my desk. Each sticky represented a story, an idea, a thought that I had turned into something concrete, something tangible, and finished, and available online for people to read.

So, to celebrate both my application for tenure and my accomplishments over the last five years, here it is–a list of my works all in one place:

“Sending Sally Home.” Into the Abyss. Witching Hour Publishing, 2013.

“Incompetence.” “True Love.” The Death of Jimmy. Witching Hour Publishing, 2014.

“Emergency Exit.” Behind the Veil. Witching Hour Publishing, 2014.

“Blood Journal.” On the Verge. Witching Hour Publishing, 2014.

Klauden’s Ring. Witching Hour Publishing, 2015.

“The River.” Bent Horizons. Witching Hour Publishing, 2015.

“Memory Game.” Serenity Rising. Witching Hour Publishing, 2016.

“Sunny Nights.” The Purge of Jimmy. Witching Hour Publishing, 2017.

“Of Goats and Witches,” “Marks,” The Red Glow,” “The Short Story,” and “Parachute Pants.” Stories My Friends Started. Witching Hour Publishing, 2017.

“Keepin’ it Cool.” Super Useless. Witching Hour Publishing, 2017.

“Old Friends and New Business.” Veiled Affection. Witching Hour Publishing, 2017.

Solyn’s Body. Witching Hour Publishing, 2017.

So while it may not seem like you’re getting anywhere when you’re in the moment, take a step back every now and again to see the Big Picture. Ferris Bueller was onto something there.

As Anne Lamott said, “Bird by bird.” Writing happens word by word. Sentence by sentence. Paragraph by paragraph. It all adds up.

(read a review of Lamott’s book here).

Happy Holidays!





That’s French, eh?


I’ve been on vacation this week with my husband’s Canadian relatives, and I’ve heard a lot of French. My in-laws switch from English to French and back again mid-sentence. It’s been an interesting experience to hear a language that I definitely do not speak, and I’ve enjoyed sitting back in the crowded room, trying to follow conversations with half words and body language. I don’t mean to say that I’ve been ignored in any way–when they speak to me, they always use English, but I enjoy listening to the pockets of discussion amid family members: the exclamations of frustrated children, the questions from other rooms as someone hunts for something, the names of friends and relatives that I could understand if I saw them in print, but cannot hear except for a slurry of vowels and cadence.

The English major in me knows that English has a lot of French words, make that a ton of French words, that it absorbed after the Norman Invasion. I even know how French influence changed both pronunciation and spelling, and I explain the transition from Old English (Beowulf!) to Middle English (Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales!) to my students each semester. But knowing the history of a language and being able to sit in a room full of people who speak it are very different things, and I’ve found my vocabulary straining this week as I try to parse the French sounds from the words I know on paper and then connect them to the French inspired English words. After all, the French gave English something close to 10,000 words (because English did what it does best between 1066 and the 13th century–absorbed words); in fact, some scholars say that the average English speaker already knows some 15,000 French words already. I find myself trying to remember that this week. It’s not that I don’t recognize the words, I think; it’s that I don’t hear the sounds and translate what I’m hearing (which is a lot of musical ups and downs with lots of “j” and “v” to my untrained ears) into something I recognize. I keep asking my husband to spell things for me so I can remember them that way (apparently, I retain more information this way–who knew?)

So, I’m having a lovely time with my extended family, but I’m also enjoying the practical lessons in language acquisition. And since my characters often find themselves in places where they do not speak the local language, I want to remember this feeling of curious intrigue–wanting to know more, but wanting to figure it out for myself.