The State of the Barb: Priorities, Y’all

So, this blogging thing? Kind of hasn’t happened a whole lot recently. But usually, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Usually, it’s the result of keeping my priorities in order. If I have precious little spare time and it comes down to a choice between writing a blog post or getting in more fiction writing time, the fiction is going to win. Usually.

Unfortunately, the last two months have not been usual. My priorities got out of whack, and writing time was reduced to pathetic little spurts. I have the super fancy word tracking spreadsheet to serve as a visual reminder of said patheticness.

groot tracker
The light blue-ish lines = my yearly word count goal. The darker blue-ish lines = me and my quickly stalled out progress toward said goal. But, hey, shiny spreadsheet tool courtesy of!

I started out 2017 on the productive side of the Force, writing several thousand words each month. Two new short stories! More progress on my steampunk novel! Multiple writing retreats where I got to do nothing but write all day and chat with awesome people!

But as you can see in the above image, things stalled out after April. I wrote for only 4 days in May, 227 words total. In June I got whopping 6 days of writing in, 439 words total—and over half of those words were today, the last day of the month. And because of the reality distortion field that is Facebook, there were sales and publications that made it look I was being all writerly and productive when I really wasn’t.

The lack of productivity wasn’t because of some major life shakeup. It was because (a) I have a long history of being terrible at saying “no” to things, (b) for every thing I do actually say “no” to, I tend to say “yes” to two other things, like some sort of overcommitted hydra, and (c) out of an overdeveloped sense of responsibility/loyalty, I was sticking with things that stressed me out or that I was no longer enjoying. And all that shit adds up after a while.

In other words, writing wasn’t getting done because of priorities that really shouldn’t be priorities, or at least shouldn’t be bigger priorities than being a writer. You know, the thing I’ve wanted to be since the second grade.

Self-reflection is great and all, but ultimately pointless if you don’t do anything about what you see. So recently, I’ve cut back on some things that were stressing me out. Yes, there are new things (like finally taking the dive into contributing to the Speculative Chic blog, which you all should check out), but new things are good if they’re things you’re excited about and have been wanting to do but couldn’t because of the stress-inducing things. New things keep life interesting.

But most importantly, I successfully applied butt to chair this morning and wrote fiction. And even though it’s been three weeks since I last did that, it wasn’t painful. I enjoyed it. I’ve missed it. It’s a priority again, damn it.

Okay, so you could ask: given all that, why the hell are you sitting there writing a blog post instead of getting more fiction done? That’s easy:

  1. Accountability. If a writer self-reflects in the woods and no one sees, did she really self-reflect?
  2. I got some fiction writing in today. It felt good. I’m therefore allowed to unwind before bed. This post is very unwindy for me. More fiction will happen tomorrow.
  3. This blog is among the things I’ve neglected because of questionable priorities. It’s time I gave it some love.
  4. Did I mention that accountability thing? Keep me honest, y’all.

2016 Philcon Schedule

I’m going to be at Philcon next weekend (Nov. 18-20), and there’s a shiny programming schedule posted on their site now to prove it!

Stepping Over the Bechdel Test
Sat 3:00 PM in Plaza III (Three)
Barbara A. Barnett (mod), Victoria Janssen, L Hunter Cassells, Anthony Dobranski, Sally Wiener Grotta

“Two women who talk to each other about something besides a man” was intended to be literally the lowest bar you could set for decent female representation in a story, and yet many authors seem to have taken this metric as the sole requirement for being considered feminist. Let’s talk about the myriad of ways we can do a better job of writing female individuals and female groups.

Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Readings
Sat 4:00 PM in Executive Suite 623
April Grey (mod), Elizabeth Crowens, Elektra Hammond, Roberta Rogow, Barbara A. Barnett, D.L. Carter

A group reading by members of Broad Universe, an international organization with the primary goal of promoting science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women.

Giving and Receiving Criticism
Sun 11:00 AM in Plaza II (Two)
Oz Drummond (mod), James Chambers, Andi O’Connor, Barbara A. Barnett, Ken Altabef, Brian Koscienski

What’s the difference between constructive and destructive criticism? What should a new writer listen to and learn from, either in a workshop critique, or in an editorial rejection? What kind of advice is actually helpful, and how does the framing of feedback impact what an author takes away from it?

Philcon Schedule

Hot on the heels of a shenanigans-filled weekend at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, I now have me a schedule for this year’s Philcon. I’m particularly excited to get both a solo reading and a chance to geek out about Muppets.

Sat 10:00 AM in Plaza II (1 hour)
[Panelists: Suzanne Rosin (mod), Michael McAfee, Christine Norris, Barbara A. Barnett, Alyce Wilson, Matt Black]

Created in 1955, these characters have been in our lives on various TV shows and movies. Now they are back in a new “sitcom”. Chat with panelists about your favorite muppets, and their shows. Was it Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Rigel in Farscape, Dinosaurs, The Muppet Show, the movies, the YouTube videos? Bring your coffee, wear your pjs, and have a good time.

Sat 1:00 PM in Executive Suite 623 (1 hour)
Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Barbara A. Barnett, April Grey, Sally Wiener Grotta, Elektra Hammond, Anne E. Johnson, Gail Z. Martin, Christie Meierz, Roberta Rogow

A group reading by members of Broad Universe, an international organization with the primary goal of promoting science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women.

Sat 5:30 PM in Executive Suite 623 (½ hour)

At which I will read…something. Maybe a short story, maybe an excerpt from my current novel-in-progress. I’ll make up my mind eventually!

Sun 1:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)
[Panelists: Hildy Silverman (mod), Alex Shvartsman, Barbara A. Barnett, Neil Clarke, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Robert E. Waters]

So you have finally finished a story. What are the main markets? Who do you want to avoid?

Sun 2:00 PM in Plaza V (1 hour)
[Panelists: Diane Weinstein (mod), Anne E. Johnson, Barbara A. Barnett]

A panel discussing the value of scary stories and how reading about fighting monsters can prepare young minds for facing conflicts in the real world.

Fiction Writing Workshop

For anyone in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area who might be interested (or know someone interested), I’m excited to announce that I’ll be leading a four-part fiction writing workshop on Monday evenings this October. Here are the details:

Where: Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill, NJ, Hillside Building, Lower Level
Dates: October 5, 12, 19, & 26, 2015
Time: 7 to 9 p.m.
Cost: Free!

Have no clue how to turn that novel idea in your head into actual words? Have a bunch of unfinished stories wasting away in a drawer? Or do you just want to learn more about the nuts and bolts of writing fiction?

This workshop is for anyone interested in writing short stories and novels, regardless of genre. Through examples, discussion, and writing exercises, we’ll explore core fiction elements like character, dialogue, setting, description, and plot.

Registration isn’t required, but if you’re planning to attend, please let me know so I can have a rough head count. You can reach  me by clicking on the email icon in the right sidebar or via the contact form linked to in the main menu above.

And bring something to write with! Pen and paper, laptop—whatever you’re most comfortable with! Granted, if you’re most comfortable with an inkwell full of blood and parchment made from the skin of your slain enemies, you’ll probably get some weird looks. Just saying.