If I Were Moon 

Separating night from day isn’t dusk or dawn
it’s a glint, a shimmer in the air,
the hues of a changing world,
the quality of light.
Cold shadows. Sunny brightness. And everything in-between.
It’s a competition of sorts
and Moon always loses.

All praise Sun,
higher, hotter, too bright to bear.
Her radiant smile comes in many colours.
Tangerine. Gold. Eclipsing white.
Her guys can’t help but show off.
Enter: fiery quadriga, blazing headpiece, 
and some wicked lyre sound.

But Moon, my sweet, cold orb
is too modest
for such a flashy spectacle.
Nightingales carry her tune
shrouded in the grasping
mists of silver and grey and blue
—the serene triad of the dark hours.

Moon tries, time and again,
peeks out from behind her concealing shadow
a furtive glance
growing bolder, perkier, ever stronger
as she waxes and then
takes heart at last, exposing her full face,
for us, for a night. 

All she illuminates is an unaware crowd
fast asleep but for a few restless souls,
searching, stumbling, lost.
Gutted, she turns away,
throws her veil back on,
pulling it ever tighter.

If I were Moon, I’d wane one last time,
then hide from us sun-dazzled creatures,
become a shadowy enigma,
a blind spot on an inky firmament,
and send out bitter dreams to the oblivious
in revenge for their neglect.

Would anyone miss the moonshadows?
Know the difference between
a star-dotted darkness and a cerulean ocean trench,
filled to the brim with the lures
of a billion deep-sea anglerfishes,
Would anyone know if they are gazing up
or falling down?

A few, a score, perhaps a thousand
would search for a glimpse of Moon’s hidden face,
eyes raking the dark velvet in vain,
finding only emptiness
staring back into their hearts.

To them, I’d sing a chilling song,
a whispered confession,
a plea for forgiveness
that fades away
leaving nothing but glazed eyes,
lunar-pale lips, and noses filled
with the smell of cold shadows.

Everyone yearns for Moon
when the time is right
when another year, another life,
another love flits past. 
Everyone falls into the moonlight at one point.

I Made the Cut for Challenge 3! #FFC

Well, actually, I WON the 2nd challenge, and I am FIRST in my group! I am so SO happy. And proud. And, of course, now stressed about Round2 and the 3rd challenge this weekend.

FIRST PLACE!
(15 points)

I still can’t quite believe it! I made it and get to write in the next challenge.

But now, I’m AGAIN super worried I will get a weird genre this time. I’ve been lucky so far – while I had not written mystery before the 1st challenge – fantasy is quite my genre. Perhaps the one easiest for me.
(I mean, apparently so… 😉 )

I wonder if I’ll get lucky again.

A recap for those of you who don’t know what I am talking about:
In May 2022 I signed up for NYCMidnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge (see post)- a writing competition where participants get to write 1000 word flash fiction pieces on a prompt (genre, location and object). The first round, consisting of 2 challenges, is open to all participating writers. The best 15 stories in each group get awarded points. The cumulative points of both challenges determine if a participant will move on to the next round – the top 5 in each group get to advance to round 2.

And that now includes me. Because I came in second in my group in the 1st challenge – 14 points. And now, I WON! 15 points, baby! That brings me to a total of 29 (of a maximum possible 30) points – the best result in my group!

What happens next? Well, all the writers who placed in the top 5 – that’s 600 out of the original 4200+ participants in all the 120 groups of round 1 – will be assigned new groups. At 11:59PM EDT on Friday 7th Oct the new prompts will drop and everyone still in the game will scramble to get something worthwhile to paper in the 48h given to us.

The time translates to 6am for me. And once again, I’m, not at home, but on the road with my dear husband. That’s somewhat lucky, though. I’ll have a hotel room all for myself b/c he’ll be working.

So… fingers crossed I’ll wake up to a good prompt in about 2 days’ time! I’ll keep you all posted.

Done, and done. #FFC

It’s a bliss to work on a flash fiction story while on holiday in Sweden. We’re staying at Thankfully, the LTE availability is superb even in remote areas. Right now, we’re at a camping ground in Glaskogen Nature Reserve. It’s beautiful, peaceful, relaxing – just right for a challenge with a tight deadline. This time, it wasn’t even necessary to write through the night! I submitted on Sunday, 14th of August, 11:30pm – with 6,5h deadline left… and got the confirmation email a few days later.

And now, AGAIN, waiting for the results! Isn’t that just the worst part of it all?

NYCMidnight – Flash Fiction Challenge

Results Round #1, Challenge #1

Progress on the WIP had been somewhat non-existent lately, while all the nice little side projects ate up all my writing time. A rather unsustainable situation for someone who really, desperately wants to finish_the_damn_1stdraft. So I had to make a decision about the continued participation in the NYC Flash Fiction Challenge (NYCM-FFC).

Do I just stop after the 1st round’s 1st challenge? Do I go on if I got points? If so, how many to still have a shot at round 2?

For clarification: about 4200 writers from all over the world participate in the NYCM-FFC. That’s 120 groups of about 35 each. Each group writes a 1000 word flash fiction using their unique prompt (genre, location, object). The best 15 stories earn points – 15 points for placing first, 14 for second place, 13 for third – you get the idea. After round 1 (consisting of two challenges; max 30 points possible), the best 5 in each group advance to round 2 and get to write on.

I got lucky with the prompt in my first challenge. You can read about it here. I wrote through the Sunday night and submitted around 5am. (Time zone shift of 6h compared to NCY)
And then, the waiting began.

The results came in late. Exactly 24h before the 2nd round’s prompt was due, actually. And I, on family holiday in Sweden as of now, had discussed the “prioritize your WIP!”-issue with Husband over the last few days. Decision: if I scored more than 5 points, I’ll be ready to write the 2nd challenge – provided the genre is somewhat manageable for me.

Well. Tomorrow I’ll be at least looking at the prompt. Because I came ion 2nd in my group. SECOND! 14 points, baby!

Will you look at this?!?!?

I have to say, I am somewhat proud right now. Let’s see what tomorrow’s prompt is.

Writing Challenges

From time to time, writing turns into a really frustrating experience. Nothing seems to happen. The ideas won’t come – or too many of them, and then I end up chasing all the plot bunnies and short fiction ideas while my WIP sits in a corner, sad and lonely. It’s hard to avoid this from happening – at least I have not yet found a strategy against it yet – so naturally, I embrace it!

Enter: all the challenges and competitions.

No, not ALL of them, but here and there, if I come across an interesting opportunity, I just give myself some slack and just roll with it. See where it gets me.

This time: the NYC Midnight Challenges. Yeah, plural. You read that right.

Check out the website here. I can’t remember when and where this came to my attention, probably Twitter or maybe Insta. The Short Story Challenge was under way at the time (still miffed I missed this!) but there was a Flash Fiction Challenge coming up – just what I needed! Something that will get my creativity flowing but won’t bog me down for weeks. Something with a tight deadline, a clear task, a limited amount of hours involved. There was going to be feedback! Terrific!

So, I signed up in late May, got my registration confirmation, and had to wait for the first of at least 2 challenges to start.

The assignment dropped – as specified – on 11:59 EDT, 6:00 in the morning for me. On a weekend I was visiting my sister whom I had promised to help sort through kid’s clothing, clear the overgrown garden and turn the compost. Perfect timing.

Not.

Anyway, I had been so afraid I’d get Romance or Political Satire as a genre, but I got lucky. I got this:

My prompt for Challenge #1 in Round 1 – Flash Fiction Challenge

It was a ride! I ended up writing through the night and submitted with only an hour left. Forking 5am in the morning. It was nice to hear the birds coming to life and all that. And honestly, I suffered the consequences for a couple of day. I’m just not used to pulling all-nighters anymore. But, it’s over and done. I got the confirmation a couple of days later. Now we wait for the results.

Morning pages, journaling, habits.

I admit it: I sometimes struggle to prioritize my writing. There’s the house and the chores and the kids and the husband and the cats and the taxes and the business and… AND the writing. Too often I find myself tired at the end of a long day and not once did I pick up a pen or type something up. And I am furious about it.

So here’s an idea: I need to work on forming the habit of writing more regularly. Urgently! I know I can do it. Heck, there was a time when I got up at 4:45 just so I was ready to write at 5am – proud member of the #5amwritersclub on Twitter. But honest: I’ve not managed that kind of enthusiasm (and masochism) for a long while.

In Autumn 2019 I attended the SCBWI-BI (British Isles) conference in Winchester. I wrote about it here. And at this conference, I listened to Piers Torday‘s “Creating Characters to Care About” presentation. During this talk, Piers mentioned something called Morning Pages and his way of basically employing the well-known journaling method to pump out some prose. Not just in terms of writing something, but also in terms of learning to write no matter the mood of the day.
Of course, I had heard of journaling. Bullet journaling for chore and task tracking, journaling for working through tough times,…but I had never considered to just write unrelated pieces of prose, unconnected prose, a type of association game.

So I went through my stack of unused notebooks and picked just the right one for the job. LARGE! (It’s a DIN A4 size; does anyone outside of Germany even use the DIN norms?) Hard-over. Bound in black fabric. 500 pages. Hahaha. Optimism FTW. I had already written on the first few pages at some other point, but figured 480 pages will be good enough too. Here it is:

I vary the methods from day to day. At some days, I pick up where I left the day before. That’s usually when I draft a short story and am immersed in the plot/story. Other days, I start with a random line – from a book (a bit like the Literary Taxidermy idea, or from my list of ‘this could be a good beginning/first sentence’. Some days I pick a random word. Or an idea/event/titbit I heard on the news and just let my imagination run free: what if…?

So far, I’m not disappointed. 🙂

Bye 2018, hello 2019!

I firmly believe looking back at the old year is the best way to start the new year. What to keep up, where to improve routines, what to avoid. I have to admit, I didn’t achieve all I had set out for in 2018, but it hasn’t been a complete failure either.
Here’s the list I drew up in my post at the beginning of 2018:

1) Finish the first draft of my current WIP — nope
2) Read and write more poetry — done
3) Read more in general, especially non-“on-the-craft” books — done
4) Put work into the blog: take-away-points from webinars, blog posts on story structure and character arcs  — partly done
5) submitting non-novel works – poems and possibly short stories – done
6) Use my time effectively and minimise social media procrastination — partly done

Recapping 2018, I realised I did a lot of poetry. That took up a considerable time that I eventually didn’t spend with my WIP. But I enjoyed writing poems. Some are on the blog, others I submitted to a number of magazines, journals and contests. Nothing ever came off it but I did enjoy the work with words. It helped improve my vocabulary and the sense for the English language.
I did read more in 2018, too and exceeded the 25 books Goodreads challenge by two. (27 books seems few? pls keep in mind that I’m a working mom with 2 kids and a household).
I didn’t finish my WIP, though. The focus on poetry took up a lot of time. But I’m aaaaalmost there. Another month and it should be finished.
In terms of social media, I did well with scaling down on Facebook and Instagram. I didn’t do as well with Twitter, though, partly because of the mess world politics is in right now, partly because many people of the writer community are there. I don’t want to quit Twitter, but working on an adequate time spent there is definitely on the list for the new year.
There’s one thing I didn’t note as a to-do for 2018 but am glad I did: I wrote a 5-Year-Plan to map out How to get to where I see myself in 5 years time. Breaking down large goals into achievable bits has helped me a lot.

Here’s what I’m challenging myself to achieve in 2019

1) Finish the first draft of the current WIP (Déjà-vu again) AND get it in shape for submission in 2020. I’m close to finishing the first draft anyway so the emphasis is more on the second part of this goal. Revisions will take time and since I’ve never done it, this will involve reading a few craft-books on this particular topic.
2) Do Goodreads Reading Challenge again. I read 27 books in 2018. Why not aim high? I’ll set the goal to 30 books in 2019.
3) I want to keep up the good work with the blog, but put up less poetry and more story structure posts.
4) In addition to the work on the WIP, I want to write and revise one short story.
5) In the 2nd half of the year, when I have to set aside the revised WIP, I want to outline a new novel (preferably pre-November) and write the first draft of it during NaNoWriMo.
6) And last but not least, the never-ending story of time management and reduce social media procrastination. I want to join the #5amwritersclub again more often, for a start, and use the time I got more wisely.

Now it’s your turn. What’re your goals for the new year? Anything to add? Write to me in the comments.

 

Bullet Journal – a writers approach

During 2017, I got increasingly frustrated with the progress of my WIP despite my regular attendance at #5amwritersclub. I had trouble getting my daily workload organized in a reasonable way and still get some writing done – all day every day something came up and interfered. So, I was searching for a remedy, something new worth trying. In came my first Bullet Journal.

That was in August 2017 and now, almost half a year later, I’m still using it. I’ve written a guest post for the SCBWI Germany/Austria chapter’s blog. Head over there if you want to know how I personalized my Bullet Journal and organize (not only) my writing.

Got a journal yourself? Any ideas how I could improve my journaling? Write me in the comments – I’d love to hear about it!

Webinar – Three interesting talks @ Agent Day

Last Saturday, on 27th of January, the SCBWI-WI team held a half-day webinar featuring advice from three agents, namely Lauren Spieller, Taylor Martindale Kean and Natalie Lakosil.

Unfortunately, I could not attend the webinar at the time it was streamed but the SCBWI WI crew provided a recording of the talks just 24h later and I watched it the following week. Here’s a quick overview of all three sessions.

Lauren Spieller – How to write a decent query letter.

Author herself and an agent with Triada US Literacy agency, Lauren talked about the art of writing a killer query and get agents and editors to request a full manuscript. To do so, she broke down the structure of a query letter and explained basic information that should be given.

The most important thing is: a query letter is a business letter, therefore you should treat it as such. I knew many of the key points Lauren spoke about but here are a few crucial points to keep in mind: the agent wants to be intrigued, don’t tell the ending, don’t include smash-hits as a comp titles even if you think what you wrote is, of course, the next Harry Potter; and double check the triple checked spelling of the agent’s name!

Taylor Martindale Kean – Voice in MG and YA Fiction

Taylor Martindale Kean is with Full Circle Literacy agency and she gave a talk about voice in middle grade and young adult fiction.

What’s voice anyway? It is, in short, what’s gripping about a novel – a certainly intangible concept – and therefore one of the most sought-after achievements in the craft. Yet, no foolproof method for developing said voice exists. As it seems, it’s a matter of practice and, as Taylor put it, a combination of tone, style, and personality that is unique to the author. But there’s hope. At least there are a few approaches one might try and Taylor went ahead and gave her audience an idea where to start looking for one’s very own voice.

My main takeaway from her talk is to strive for a more tangible prose that fits the character’s origin. And of course, reader bonding by keeping the author intrusion at a minimum.

Natalie Lakosil – Tips and Tricks for Quick Revision

In her talk about how to revise a manuscript, Natalie (of Bradford Lit Agency) first pointed out how she likes to broaden the word revision to re-envision. A valid approach, since we often are stuck with the ideas we conceived first. It’s not easy to pinpoint the shortcomings of a manuscript (MS) if you are still deep within its grasp. So, unsurprisingly the first thing to do is to ignore the whole thing a for a while so you can come back with fresh eyes. I read that so often and still think it’s going to be very hard to do it.

What to do during this time, then? Natalie recommends extensive reading in the genre and researching characteristics the MS should meet. Think word count, for example. But looking up comp titles is vital, too. These help to discern what published books have or don’t have and compare it to your own work.

After the resting period, it’s time to revise at last. I can’t possibly list all the advice Natalie gave. The idea that stuck with me most was the Plot Dot Test – I am definitely going to try that one. Other than that I got some good info on improving the tangibility of the prose and working in motifs and symbols.

Natalie’s best advice, however, was to keep in mind your own idea of your story when you judge feedback by peers, beta readers, and even agents. It’s your story after all and impossible to make it perfect for everybody – so you might as well keep a firm grasp on your own idea and focus.

So. This is it–another webinar done and blogged about. I hope it was a good read and held at least a few new insights. Thanks again the SCBWI Wisconsin chapter for all the work in setting up the webinar.

 

 

 

First SCBWI Meeting of 2018

It had been too long, really! I missed out on the meetings of SCBWIAustriaGermany chapter for the last two times (NaNoWriMo and December-holiday-season did not allow me much time), Yesterday, finally, I was headed to Stuttgart to see my fellow writers and, as always, it was a great success.

We met at our usual spot in Stuttgart library, eight ladies in all, and discussed our work. There’s nothing as inspiring as talking to likeminded people about new ideas and see how far others have come, how well their work is progressing and getting feedback on your own project.

During the day I read a number of PB manuscripts that I’ve seen as mere ideas, read at various stages along the road, and that are nearly perfected now. I’ve read a promising idea of a dystopian story and can’t wait to see it grow into a full-fledged manuscript.

Special shout-out to one of our members for a promising honorary mention in SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices Competition. Even if the manuscript did not make it to the finalist this time, I’m absolutely sure it’s bound to happen soon. Fingers crossed!

And to all SCBWI members here in the Austria/Germany chapter as well as all SCBWI folks around the globe: I am proud to be part of your open and friendly community, happy to give feedback and grateful to receive comments on my own work.

Until next month, ladies!