Bored.

So I wrote a book.

Let me back up a little.


I’ve written several books. Six children’s books, two novels (well three technically, though that one is half finished) and I’m about to launch another in the next few days. Where are they? Oh, yea. Unpublished.

This year’s theme has been “Shine” for me for a reason. It’s been time to put my foot down, put my big girl pants on, and woman-up to getting my books out into the world. I’ve been hiding, in a way, but not for the reasons you think.

I’ve never been afraid of moving forward, except when it drew what I considered too much attention to myself. Dealing with permanent health issues that changed, sometimes drastically, how people would interact with me (Watch Shallow Hal and you’ll get the hint.) I became more comfortable leading from the shadows unless I was in a life-is-too-damn-short mood (in which case all bets are off and look out ‘cuz here I come). I started pushing past that fear a couple of years ago, emerging from the safe anonymity of being behind a computer and not face-to-face with onlookers. I took over the Kentucky Browncoats the week before we moved here, and I forced myself into public speaking in front of an audience, however brief and infrequent. It was, I felt, a necessary baby step in my own personal evolution.

So I got bored the other night and wrote a book. Quite literally.

This year I put my novel, Stalemate, into the critique process. I am still a few weeks off of getting advanced reader copies (ARCs) out to a small list of people, and have revisions to finish, but I’ve been anxious to start. So I didn’t decided one night, when I found myself with a little downtime, to write a book dummy.

Book dummies are paper book mockups, kind of like zines. I made up a few dummies last month in order to have some on-hand for projects. Restless one evening, I picked one up and literally wrote “What happens when I’m bored” on the cover and it just snowballed from there. When I was finished about 20 minutes later, I realized I had to make it. The message was one I’d been repeating to people for years. So I jumped on the iPad Pro, grabbed my Pencil, and opened a new project in Procreate. I wrote it all by hand, threw in a couple drawings, then headed to bed. The next morning I jumped on my desktop and compiled it all into a book template, uploaded it, created a cover, and viola! Book. Technically my second book – I’m revising the other one, so technically two more books in a few days – but it got me over the hump and out in the open again when I’d started to crawl back under my rock.

And that is what the book is about, just starting. Just doing one thing, one step to move forward, it doesn’t have to be a big one. But it just might be all it takes to bring down the wall and shine.

Setting the Tone

I’m working on Stalemate again. Val and I have been meeting with two close friends for a critique group every couple of weeks and we have been breaking it down, chapter by chapter. It has taken on a life of its own and I am very grateful for the feedback. It has also been a small thrill as a writer to see them interested and on the edge of their seats ever so slightly meeting after meeting.

One of the most emotional scenes in the book just came to life for me. I found the scene’s soundtrack and it transformed everything, as music often does. To say Ludovico Einaudi was one of my muses would not be an understatement…

I put the headset on my husband’s ears and asked him to read the scene. Part way through he put his hand over his mouth, moved, eyes tearing.

This is what I wanted. This is how I wanted the reader to feel. I’m happy.

Comfort Zones are Overrated

Spy. Classroom. Scalpel.

I got my round one writing assignment for NYCMidnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge at midnight Friday night and have been writing, rewriting, outlining, and generally banging my head on a pillow. We were given 48 hours so the deadline is midnight tonight.

I’m at 846 words out of the needed 1,000 for submission.

I’ve never written Spy genre before so it’s a real challenge. With this particular genre, you have to be concise with details and you focus your subplots. I dove in head first the moment I got the genre/location/object prompt, brainstorming for about 20 minutes till an idea hit. I wrote for about an hour then let it percolate overnight. I started writing again this morning a little before 8am and, four handwritten pages in, I decided I needed to revert to outlining and work on my summary.

I loved writing loglines and working on elevator pitches at Full Sail, so that’s where I’m starting. With what I know.

It’s going to be a long haul waiting till mid September to find out if I made it to round two. The best thing I can do is put it totally out of my head and mark a reminder on the date so I can make sure not to miss any emails. Till then, good luck me!

Starting Over

press-start-fa915ffe8a6fb32bb3eabf7f771620b44782 became 2517 about 5 minutes ago.  I’ve started over.

With a 1700 per day daily average, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful challenge if you want to make your writing a daily practice. If you beat it, you can look back on it and say you’ve written a book. It may not be a very good book, but that doesn’t matter, you can always edit later. You aren’t pulling the trigger yet, you’re just loading the gun.

The Junk Maiden is a short story I have had rummaging around in my brain for a while now. I didn’t do any writing, not much anyway, the first couple of days, but busted out 4782 over the course of a couple late night oil sessions. My heart wasn’t in it though, she was calling. You know, that one character that just won’t leave you be. She had other plans you see and, a different story, so I decided to listen. After all, she wasn’t going to shut up until I did.

Beyond Sleep (working title) is up to bat now. The 2517 came from a session this afternoon and I already like where I’m heading with it. I’ll be working on a synopsis and log line, always seemingly the hardest part. It’s like writing an author bio. It is always easier to write one about someone else.

So 4782 became 2517 today and I’m looking to watching that number grow over the course of the month.

Finding Your Story’s Voice

Photo Credit: Etamar Laron via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Etamar Laron via Compfight cc

Have you ever written a story in one format, only to decide that it just didn’t sound like itself? As though it had a frog stuck in its throat, hidden behind an ornate mask at a masquerade ball, trying to act like something it’s not.

Birth

I graduated with my Creative Writing MFA in October of 2011. My thesis, a 124-page cross-genre script was the first really complete piece I’d done in a long time. When it was done, I had to see it in print to make it real. I remember how it felt holding it in my hands for the first time. That new baby sensation, as the piece that you’d poured your heart and soul into through sleepless nights and obsessive writing sessions had finally ceased to take over every waking thought, and you had given birth to this I-can’t-believe-I-did this piece of art. You were, of course, required to carve into it several times during the process, shucking away the chaff, leaving it bleeding and bare on the floor, but you were used to that part of the process. You had long come to grips with it and knew that, worst case, if there was anything you absolutely couldn’t bear to incinerate, there was a revision copy of it living somewhere, waiting to be reused or reinvented. Having that in your mind holds a kind of solace for you; that it won’t be forgotten and that the open wounds will be fertile ground for something new, something incredible.

Thrill aside, I knew even then that its journey wasn’t done. I was enthralled with my newfound skill at writing screenplays, the Final Draft software having been the bane of my existence the first few days as I learned to use it. It is old hat now to an extent, though, the software and I having simply reached an accord, as it were, and not quite intuitive level for me yet. The story still had another journey to make, though. I couldn’t put my finger on it – it was good, probably some of the best I’d written in a long time – but it didn’t feel right.

I’ve let it sit for the last few months, percolating in the back of my mind, and I now know where I want to take it: Novel. It’s not a script, or game as I’d once intended. The game can come later as a spin-off of the movie that will be optioned from it.

I can’t quite say that without laughing, it doesn’t even sound like me saying the words.

Fake It Till You Make It

It seems incredibly arrogant and very forced for me to think that way. I don’t. I look at it all, this completed script, as a growth process. This incarnation only being a stirring of the ground, making room for the real story to emerge from the roughed up dirt. But as a writer you have to adopt that kind of attitude, that forced positivity when it comes to your work. If you don’t have confidence in it, no one else will, and it will sit for months collecting dust only to become a trivet for a bedside water glass. So you put on your game face, you straighten your posture tits high, and you put it on the pedestal till you can take a few knockdowns, pick it up, and put it on the next.

Reinvention

Having begun the transformation from script to novel length fiction, I already knew how I was going to handle it:

  • Copy the entire script out of Final Draft and paste it without the formatting into MS Word.
  • Select all and convert it to grey-colored font.
  • Keep it single-spaced, for now, and set it in 12pt Times New Roman.
  • Save it as, in this case, “novel_AMSelvaggio_Stalemate_revision1”.
  • Rewrite in black, sectioning dialogue and narrative. Small bite, baby steps. Focus.
  • Save. Save. Save.
  • Revision 2: Delete anything in grey and read through what’s left to flush it all out so it flows.

Resaved in its new form, no blank lines without the formatting, the document was just under 29,000 words at 78 pages at letter-sized 8.5”x11”. Out of curiosity, I changed the page size to half-sheet. I learned this trick a long time ago, a kind of pep talk that I’d actually written more than it looked and that day-dreamy visualization of seeing it as a trade paperback.

At the smaller layout it was roughly 160 pages; just an approximation, but not too shabby. It’s a nice little mind trick to combat any crest falling and it keeps the internal monkey off your back for a bit. Especially knowing that once I start flushing it out it will be much longer.

The Journey

I am enjoying the process quite a bit, revisiting old friends and devising new ways to essentially torture them, throwing them into newly freshened devices.

I had toyed with the idea of making the entire story into a tablet game. Something akin to the likes of the MYST legacy that devoured me whole years ago, or Syberia and its sequel, with the tablet-driven sensibilities of Drawn or my newest love, The Guardians of Imagination, and it’s storyline driven interaction. It is more than that, though I will use the game as a device to tell the collection’s stories.

A collection, says you? Wait for the book, says I.

 

Let the wordiness begin!

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter,
so I wrote a long one instead.”
– Mark Twain

Well, it’s that time of year again. No, it’s after Halloween and Christmas, thankfully, is still a few weeks away. Nope, it’s write-till-you-drop month. That’s right, it’s November – National Novel Writing Month AND National Blog Post Month.

But I Already Have Too Much To Do

Any serious writer knows that you have to make writing a daily practice. Daily. I cannot stress that enough. Writing requires effort, and good writing even more so.

I write all the time. Cheap, quad notebooks and my black, fine point .5mm gel pens are always with me. I make lists, doodle, jot down notes for story ideas, and sometimes pen a few serious pages of plot. But even I get caught up in the day-to-day and have to remind myself to get a word down at times.

Day One is my eight-ball in the corner pocket. I schedule it to pop up around lunchtime and make myself write a few words, even if it is crap, just to make it a habit. I don’t allow myself to skip or dismiss it, which takes discipline, even as simple as that sounds.

Connect With Me

http://nanowrimo.org/en/participants/renmeleon

Also, if you are a Full Sail University student, drop me a note as I am looking into setting up a virtual classroom writers group if there is enough interest.

 

Squirrel

The Three Dollar Squirrel, a monthly zine by writers for writers on the act, art, and process of writing will be getting a facelift and relaunching August 2012. Posing one question per month, the Squirrel will be offering participants the chance to tell the story of their own process as insight and encouragement to other writers. Participants get exposure and the opportunity to network with their readers. All participants receive a free PDF copy of the issue they are in.

JOIN THE ANNOUNCEMENT LIST

You can also follow Diggory, our mascot, on Twitter here.

DEADLINES

Each issue of the Three Dollar Squirrel is available for viewing online through Issuu, an e-zine publishing platform. Due to the economy and printing expenses, the zine will not be available for print though a yearly book is under consideration.

Deadlines are the same every month:
The question for the month is posted on the 1st.
Reminders are sent out on the 10th and 15th.
Submissions are due by the 25th.
The zine publishes on the 1st of the month.

HOW TO USE THE ANNOUNCEMENT LIST

Join the list to receive the monthly topic as well as automated reminders. You will email your response to the publisher by the deadline. (instructions below) This is an announcement list only.

GUIDELINES | EMAILING SUBMISSIONS

All answers to monthly questions should be emailed to ria.selvaggio at gmail dot com. By submitting your replies, you grant Three Dollar Squirrel the right to publish your submission in the monthly zine as well as any promotional uses and books.

When emailing your submissions, you will need to include your full name or the name you want to appear in the zine (pseudonyms are acceptable), as well as up to three links for publication under your submission.

Links can be your personal site, your blog, social network (Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, etc) and/or a site where your writing is. We prefer not to censor so please avoid using profanity.

The word count is 60 – 800 words.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Pen in hand,
Ria :)

“Unrecumbent”

From every length
In spite of gravity
I myself am
Transformed.
Designed,
Step-by-step,
A preposterous verdue
Beneath coarser grass.
Conspicuous.
Unrecumbent.
Patient from broad, keen storms.
Cheerful.
From morn now creeps ivory.

_________
(c) 2011 Ana Maria Selvaggio

2011, the year of FABULOUS

It has been a while since I have posted, life tends to scoop me up and carry me along with it most times. I jump off the carousel and run back to the beginning to start all over, picking up new things along the way that I may have passed by.

The year started out with the death of my external hard drive. I was using for it as a supplement for my main drive and, well, it led a good life having tolerated me for three years of hard, daily use. It is, on a bad note however, holding 168GB of my life hostage…writing, art, all my music, my client work, everything. So, I am learning to adapt.

This year is about renewal for me, a renewal of self and the things that drive me. About breaking old habits, forming new ones, and being thankful for the time in between. Instead of waiting for a better situation to come along, I am making one.

Working for my Self.

One of the decisions that I have made is that I am no longer accepting new clients*. I have had far too many of my own projects go undone, sitting in journals, waiting for me to pick them up and bring them to life. I can work on someone else’s projects, or I can invest that time into my self and my family and work toward getting paid. Family and self won out.

*I have some current clients that are fabulous, and will continue my work with them, but I am at a comfortable, manageable work load right now so I will not be taking on anything new.

Art for Cures

Art for Cures is resurrecting this month from the ashes after a three year pile up. Yup, three years. (Thankfully I am not alone, as I have run into others who have been breathing through straws under their own avalanches for longer than I have.) The guilt piles up as much as the work does, but I am finally out from under after sneaking time in between work, college, homeschooling, and daily life. I have a plethora of updates coming in the next week and will be posting a few things to both our Etsy and my eBay account.

Art for Cures is also, God willing, going to become a non-profit this year. We are going through the planning preparations now and I will have more updates on the AFC site in the coming weeks.

More thank yous than I can count to the friends and members I have been blessed with who have stuck by me, I could not be doing any of it without you guys. MWAH Your support and love have been the one thing that has kept me moving forward.

Pen in Hand

My writing, other than running Word Whimsy, has been on the back-burner so long my characters have all started pelting me with rocks and small, sharp, projectile implements. Odonatia, Coffee Cartel, Making Art from Non_Cents, and Clementine’s Garden are all on the goal list for this year though I am planning on doing the “book happy dance” with my friend Pam Carriker with at least one caffeinated book soon. Congratulations Pam! HUGS You can pick up her new book on Etsy or on Amazon.

Full sailing ahead.

One of the biggest dilemmas for me recently has been which school to pursue once I have graduated in March. I am graduating with my BFA in Visual Communications, Digital Design (basically the degree for what I have been doing for 24 years) and have already started the enrollment process with Full Sail in Winter Park, Florida.

I grew up around and loved the Winter Park area. It is commercially overrun now, like most places, a lot of the quaint independent shops that were unique to the area having had to make way for larger corporate shops they, sadly, couldn’t compete with. I still have a huge poster-sized menu from the old East India Ice Cream Company (any of you remember that place?) that we used to frequent. The park is still there, and my tree with its sitting branch best for train watching that my grandmother and I used to frequent, as well as a few old busking spots. The Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival is what really drove me to become an artist full-time and, while I don’t attend the show anymore, or at least not near as frequently, it still holds fond memories. We have a similar show, FAFO, that we enjoy and attend every year here locally.

I will be starting my MFA in Creative Writing the first week of May then plan to move on to their Game Art program. The reason the decision was so difficult is because of accreditation, or lack thereof. I have my own goals and projects, though, and I look forward to having both degrees under my belt.

I also used to work for a rubber stamp store in Winter Park and there is nothing better than getting paid to play and create, well maybe…

Art grows on trees.

After a great deal of thinking, I have decided to postpone Gumtree’s launch until June of this year. We need the extra time to build stock as well as get all of our paperwork in order. I feel it was a necessary decision though as, with my external drive in possible permanent limbo, there is more that can be done so that our launch is as smooth and seamless as it can be. I know that when we do launch it will be an incredible experience and one I have been looking forward to for years.

Gallery exhibit July 2011, Winter Park Florida

All paths seem to lead to Winter Park lately! The Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project will be exhibiting at Full Sail’s gallery in July and I am proud to have one of my original journals in it. I am mailing it out on Friday and will be posting a video walk-through of it on my YouTube channel this weekend.

We don’t need no stickin’ genre.

Dragonfly Press Publishing, formerly a venue for zines and other small press publications, launched itself as a small, private publishing company last year with its first title, Freemasonry through the Jaundiced Eye of a West Virginia Hillbilly.

Ophir E. Vellenoweth, also the band leader for Buddy O & the Dancemasters has been a delight to work with and I am currently typesetting another book for him, a work of fiction entitled Tales of the Colstops. I am looking forward to presenting it to you soon. He is currently working on a sequel to Colstops and another book within the Freemasonry genre. Freemasonry through the Jaundiced Eye of a West Virginia Hillbilly is now available in digital download format or hardcover.

Dragonfly Press Publishing will be releasing at least one zine this year, possibly Kraft Paper Muse which has been reorganizing with support in the background.