Recently, I got my proof copy for my story that’s coming out in the Spring issue of Santa Monica review. The printing is forthcoming. I’m supposed to turn in a mailing list probably some time this week, so if you’d like to be on it, send me your address (barringon99 at gmail dot com).
If you aren’t familiar with literary journals, but you like reading, they are fun — a curated collection of stories, essays and poems, occasionally a there’ll be a picture or a comic as well. You used to be able to find them in bookstores on the magazine racks, not so much anymore.
Lit journals sometime pay their authors in money, but often not. They usually send you a couple of contributor’s copies, but not always. Santa Monica Review doesn’t pay money, but they do offer unlimited contributors copies, and also offer to mail to anyone, near or far. I’m fairly certain the postage will exceed the amount I usually get paid, but they seem happy to do it — I think they like the journal to get exposure in places it wouldn’t normally travel. So take advantage if it’s of interest.
From my #300daysofcontent experiment, here’s a glimpse of my editing process for the story:
It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday in April and this blog is officially neglected. The problem with neglecting something — like your student loans or cleaning the kitchen junk drawer— is that the longer you leave it, the more daunting it feels to come back to it, which makes it take even longer – so when you do, the loan interest has grown into a house-sized demon and inside the kitchen drawer all the ketchup packets have become tinged brown and stuck together with leaking soy sauce.
(Fun fact: Due to the pandemic there is a nationwide shortage of ketchup packets. Heinz has promised to increase production to make up for the 12-billion packet shortfall. Little do they know they could have just asked us for the contents of our kitchen drawer.)
So it is with maintaining a record of one’s life on a blog — there’s too much to catch up on. But I’m gonna try to hit some highlights:
Getting Vaccinated! Just the first shot so far. It’s Moderna. I went to a drive-thru site at Dodger Stadium. I get my second one in a couple more weeks! Here is a rather boring one-minute video of that:
2) Learning to use TikTok. I could have simply embedded a video above, but I wanted to give you an example of item #2, which is that I’m learning how to use TikTok. It’s for my own curiosity, and also research for a screenplay that I’ve started where social media plays a large role. I have mixed feelings about TikTok-ing, as it is interesting to me in theory, but I only have about a six minute scroll tolerance before I feel like my brain is going to bleed! I’ve learned that TikToks can be as long as 60 seconds, and also that 60 seconds feels MUCH longer that it sounds. For instance, the above video is 58 seconds, and it basically feels like eternity. I need to add “editing” to my repertoire.
3)Starting a new screenplay. I’ve been delaying for a long time — I’ve been working on other things — like work for clients, short stories, polishing older work — all good causes, but it was still getting to the point where I was beginning to worry if I could still write a feature from scratch. To put and keep this project at the top of my priority list, I joined not one, but TWO writing groups where I have to turn in pages, and it’s feeling good to push through it.
4) Winning a contest. My short story, “Shell,” which I’ve noted in previous posts was a semi-finalist and a finalist, did go on to win the Grand Prize in the Screencraft Cinematic Short Story Writing Competition. I won some money, and the folks at Screencraft have been really nice, talking to me about my career goals and even introducing me to a showrunner who was one of their judges. (For anyone reading this in the future, you can this story, as well as 29 other horror stories by women writers in The One That Got Away: Women of Horror Volume 3.
(Fun Fact: The One That Got Away was ordered for an English class at Butler University, and so seems like it will be discussed by students in a college class, which I find exciting! Also, Butler is located in Indianapolis, very close to my home town, and my sister and several friends attended back in the day.)
5) Meeting with my first showrunner! In all my years of trying to get established as a writer, I have been fortunate to meet with a number of executives at companies, but never with a showrunner, which has been a source of some frustration. Executives are awesome in that they offer to develop a pitch or a project with you — however that development, though fun and exciting, is seldom paid. Executives generally can’t hire you to work on an established TV show. The person who can do that is a showrunner. I have dreamed of working on a show — but my chances of that are slim without ever meeting someone who might potentially, hire me on one! So, even though this particular showrunner isn’t currently running a show, it was still a momentous benchmark, and he was super complimentary of my story, which was edifying.
6) Celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary. Worthy of note, though it was a very normal day. At this point in time, I think most of us cherish normal days! As usual, Paul and I both worked from home at opposite sides of the apartment. I bought him (i.e. “us”) some new cutting boards and a cake carrier, and he gave me permission to use him as my TikTok test subject — he’s definitely hoping that would never come to pass, but I vow it’s going to! In the evening, we finished Season One of Ted Lasso, which is just as freaking heartwarming as everybody annoyingly kept saying it was. Maybe even up there with Schitt’s Creek. If you haven’t seen it, go ahead and get the one-week free trial of Apple+ and binge it, then come back and thank me.
7) Adding yoga back into my life. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been pretty faithful about going for daily walks, but largely gave up the diligent yoga practice I had maintained for over a a decade. I’ve known it was a loss, but just hadn’t figured out how to work it back in to my routine until my friend, Gina, sent me a link to this Morning Yoga Challenge: 10 min of Morning Yoga for 30 DAYS. For me, it was perfect — bite-sized morsels that didn’t seem too time consuming or painful. Each episode also has an affirmation to carry through the day.
8) Reading some great books. One of these was Kindred, by Octavia Butler. A continuation of my informal Octavia Butler project that began in December of 2019 when I read Parable of the Sower. In the last month or so I’ve also read (listened to) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, and The Fact of a Body, by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. The book that really blew me away though, was Assata: An Autobiography, by Assata Shakur. If you know only a little about her, it might be how she was chained to her bed in the hospital after being accused of killing a police officer on a New Jersey turnpike in the 70s, and it might seem like dark reading. It was not — this woman is full of light and gratitude and wisdom. Honest about her own blindspots and awakening, educational about the great numbers of sneaky and unjust things that happen in our country and elsewhere. At the same time, she manages to be flat out entertaining. The chapters alternate between her time after she was arrested and imprisoned and her life up to that point, beginning in early childhood.
I’m sure there are a couple things I’m missing — but eight is a good number. Hope everyone is enjoying their spring!
A couple of 2020 bright spots as we round out the year.
I think it’s okay to mention, as rumors of Season 3 have been public since June. Paul and I got to do this:
We wrote in the fall and have heard that the shoot actually happened in December in Atlanta, making this our first-ever produced writing for TV! It’s not for Season 2, which is currently on the air, but for the hoped-for (knock wood) Season 3. I’ll post when they announce any dates!
The folks at Kandisha Press are aiming to publish in early spring. I’m starting to hear about fun stuff like Q & A articles and author round-tables, so I’ll share any details I get about those in future posts!
EPISODE 06: “Superman Falling” To save his marriage, a New York advertising exec reluctantly accompanies his wife to the Midwest.
Superman Falling lives near to my heart, first because it came from an emotional place, and second, because it I learned so much working on it.
The emotional origin was years ago. I was recovering from a major abdominal surgery – the removal of a cancerous tumor that had been discovered as during tests as I was trying to get pregnant – and I had a dream.
In the dream, I was standing near a window on a high floor of a building, holding a baby. The baby slipped from my hands and fell out a window. After he fell, I started running as fast as I could down a stairwell, desperately hoping… for what? That all wasn’t lost – or that I would make it to the ground first and somehow catch him? But as I ran and ran, the realization sank in that there was no saving this. The sorrow and guilt was overwhelming.
When I woke, I felt compelled to write the dream, which I did, making up some of the circumstances that weren’t clear in the dream, but leaving its core – the child falling and a parent running down flight after flight of stairs, hoping desperately for a miracle — while at the same time knowing what waits at the bottom.
A couple years later, I took a version of the pages I’d written to one of my first writing classes, where I learned something important:
Just because youfeel certain emotions when you’re writing, doesn’t mean readers will feel those emotions when they read what you’ve written.
The folks in my writing workshop didn’t feel what I felt. Instead, they were confused. They floated different theories as to why the story “wasn’t working yet,” and offered advice on how to possibly fix it. But the killing blow was the instructor’s note. He said, “The moment you’ve written about isn’t the real story, the real story is what happens after this moment.”
Notes that are versions of “go write something completely different,” are tough to swallow. I’m sad to say that I have entire projects sitting on aging hard drives after getting similar notes. So kudos to my past self — determined and energetic and a little bit dumb — because she went off and actually wrote the “after this moment” story.
Which still didn’t work.
My instructor read it, and gave me a new note: You want to have two stories, not just one.There’s a present-tense story, then there’s a chronic tension born of the past that puts pressure on what’s happening in the present.
These weren’t words I was ready to I understand completely, but something about them resonated. And when I went back to the page and bludgeoned my way through another draft, I began to experience a slow-motion epiphany: The past shapes the present and adds meaning to it—and there are different ways of weaving the past into a narrative. Later, when I studied screenwriting, I recognized this more clearly. Even today, when I’m watching or reading, I find myself observing whether a narrative is a “two-story” story.
In the final version of Superman Falling, the plot is entirely fictional, the protagonist is not me—his guilt has different roots, the situation is different – my own experience mostly replaced. But somehow the act of replacing almost everything, and transplanting my sense of grief and guilt – made the story “work” more effectively—not perfectly at all, but the best I was capable of then!
And the process of crafting the story was part of a transformation in my life. Those flashes of understanding and fleeting moments of control I’d felt whetted my appetite for learning more about storytelling… and that hunger is something that has given my life purpose and meaning for more than a decade.
“Superman Falling” was first published in Colorado Review.
EPISODE 05: “How to Write Your Own Biography” When her best friend is diagnosed with cancer an empty-nester takes a road trip, leaving her husband at home.
This past Thursday, I came home to the treat of this copy of Chariton Review in my mailbox. (Lest you be misled by the 2018 date on the cover, it is actually the most recent volume, arriving in 2019. Apparently they got a little bit behind.)
The characters and events of this story are entirely fictional, but the layout of the home where Jean and her husband Bradley live is based on the home I grew up in. I can see them moving around each other in that house of my memory.
As always, thanks to Greg Gordon Smith, who composes and sound designs this and every episode, and Ted Giffin, who designed the cover art!