From Venice to Memphis: Headed in the right direction?

Venice Caroline

Text from Caroline: “Took a photo of my short story in Venice. Didn’t work on it once!” Hey, at least she TOOK her short story to Italy.

Like most other people, both Caroline and I have work to do, places to be–a dozen reasons every day not to write and submit. The past week was a good test for both of us.  Caroline had enrolled in a photography class and was headed to Venice (Italy) for the week.

Here’s Caroline on confession cam while living it up in Venice:

Dyers Memphis

Jenny conducting important research on the “ageless grease” of Dyer’s in Memphis.

Meanwhile, I was teaching a public speaking class in Memphis (Tennessee) and eating as much as possible, adding up to two long days of training plus two long days of snow-socked travel (and several very good meals).

How did we do despite the distractions?  Better than we expected.

Caroline got a crash course in using Instagram as a storytelling medium with one of the most successful “grammas” out there–and she took her short story along for the trip. (You can see some of Caroline’s great photos here.)

I continued to develop a character for a new story through a comics writing and drawing class I’m taking, and I used my travel time to re-read and edit both a play and a humorous book I’d written a couple of years ago.

Leading to this week:

  • Caroline is getting feedback today at 1:00 on her novel, from an editor she’s been working with off and on for the last year. More on that to come.
  • I’ve sent my play to an actor/director for reading and input. I’m editing the book today and doing research to submit it to some agents/publishers in the next week.

Proving, at least to ourselves, that it’s possible to keep moving toward our goal for the year, no matter how deliciously greasy the distractions might be.

manuscript at Drip

Taken at our status update meeting, Jan 28, at Drip Coffee in Columbia, SC. (Appears someone wears that slouchy sweater far too often. Meanwhile, someone else was wearing an adorable sweater from Venice. Where’s the pic of that?)


Getting started to get finished

That feels like an appropriately Southern headline, with a dash of Yogi Berra thrown in. All we need is a “fixin.”  At any rate, Caroline and I got together today at my house to see what it would take to move things along.

We put all our projects on my dining room table. I’m sure the main reason we chose my house is because I have so many more piles of stuff.


Jenny’s stuff: Two laptops, stacks of files, printed manuscripts and a bit of a comic on index cards to the left

What we assembled is a fair depiction of how we approach work. I bubble over with ideas, starting one, then starting the next, and always have four or seventy things going at once.  Caroline is disciplined and deliberate, working to make one or two things absolutely right before beginning something new.

Three lessons for me:

  1. I tend to be hard on myself for not working enough.  Putting all my work on one table showed me just how much work I’ve done–a lot. I can stop calling myself lazy. I’ve even finished quite a few things.
  2. It helps to step through my projects with another person to get fresh perspectives, especially someone like Caroline who is calm and reasonable. I was able to make some decisions about what I could do to move things along.
  3. By putting all the work out there and examining it, I see how I can use the same process to submit it that I use for my “professional” work. I now have a list of actions I can put on this week’s calendar. That seems so obvious, but it wasn’t. I always push aside my “creative” work to make room for paying work, saving the things I really want to write for spare time I struggle to find. No wonder I don’t finish these things and get them out the door!

Here’s what Caroline had to say about her goals for the Year of Submission:

And here you can see why I’m Oscar Madison to Caroline’s Felix Unger:


The start of a new year

At the end of 2015, we met for coffee and chatted, as we often do, about our works in progress.

Despite our hours of toil and the encouragement we’ve received to get our fiction out into the world, neither of us has finished our projects or submitted them. Why? We weren’t sure.

But we did wonder if shifting our attitudes from perfecting to submitting might change the way we approached our work.

So here we go. 2016 has begun. The year of submission. We’re determined to use submission as a prod to do the work and get it out there.  And at the same time, we’re going to document the questions we have and the things we learn along the way.

Week 1, 2016: Jenny printed a copy of this article and brought it with her when we met for coffee–leading to a discussion about perfection and whether male and female writers have differing perspectives on when their work is ready.