Metaphor Heavy

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I don’t know what to write I don’t know what to write I don’t know what to write.

Oh, I know, I’ll try my old trick of using a random word generator.

Okay here goes. *click*

The word is: carnival.

Ooh a juicy word. Yes. Okay. Great. Here we go.

Heeeere we go.

Ok…now.

Ugh.

My mind is like a carnival?

Nah. It’s like a carnival that’s left town. Quiet. Dead. Bits of trash floating around.

That was almost lyrical and then it wasn’t.

So goes the ongoing wrestling match with my demons. Well, not demons. That’s an unfair characterization. My Muse is not a demon and my demons are not Muses.

Both are an essential part of the creative process.

In seeking advice from my mentors for my utter Jornada del Muerto** of creativity, I was reminded of the old advice: Just start writing. Anything. Just write.

And so I am. Writing. Something and nothing. I know if I can keep writing something and nothing it soon becomes a something about something and the wind fills my sails and I glide along that literary ocean, making progress. (metaphor much?)

But until that happens, I am thirsty and hungry and yearn for pretty words and meaty thoughts and the satiation I can only feel after feasting on a good turn of phrase.

Until then I wander the Jornada del Muerto of my mind. Am I off the trail? Am I still headed west? Will there be water soon?

I make the journey to find the story that flows from the word carnival. I’ll carry it around in my virtual backpack until I figure out where it goes. Somehow. Somewhere.

My carnival awaits.





The copyright on this amazing photo belongs to Laurent Chehere who is a profoundly creative artist.



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**With a nod to fellow New Mexicans. For the non New Mexicans, the Jornada del Muerto is a really long stretch of fairly bleak desert in New Mexico that contains no sources of water. It was not such a nice place for Conquistadors and settlers back in the day. Many legendary tales are told of travelers suffering the journey.





A Long Time Coming

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It began with a photo of fish.

The photo was published in the online edition of the Albuquerque Journal. I often read the Albuquerque Journal so I don’t feel so far away from home.

A glance at the file information for the photograph gives a date of June 2002. I find that so hard to believe, and yet it’s true

The photo shows three fish that got stuck when their river home dried up. A rapid New Mexico drought took all the water.

I can’t recall which New Mexico river this happened to, I probably should have kept a screen shot of the newspaper article, but even as I know that New Mexico has struggled with drought for years (and today), I was amazed and shocked by this photo.

It is difficult to believe that water could evaporate that quickly.

Here is the photo:





The image didn’t leave my head, it rattled around in there and said so many things to me. My brain worked it over and a story began to form. The feeling of trying to draw a breath but only getting New Mexico mud.

The first draft of the story “Sangre del Toro” took shape in October 2002. Wow. Thirteen years ago.

Over the years I have submitted that story off and on to contests and literary magazines. I’d dig it up, edit and polish and try again with no luck.

I believed in the story, in the character, in the image, so I kept trying. And trying. And editing and trying and so on.

I did another edit and submitted it again for another round in the publishing meat grinder this last December. I have come to understand that publishing is as much about timing as it is about quality. And that’s why I kept trying.

On February 26, I finally got a yes from a literary journal named Jet Fuel Review.

It was almost surreal to finally hear a yes in response to this story and it’s even more surreal to announce that the Spring 2015 edition of Jet Fuel is live.

You can download the entire edition here: Full Edition

Or you can read just my story here: Sangre del Toro.

Woo! Whatta rush. Very excited about this one finally seeing the light of day. It was only by searching my hard drive to find that fish photo that I realized this published piece was thirteen years in the making.

Thirteen years of believing in a kind of sad story about a little girl caught out, just like the fish.

The editors of Jet Fuel told me they thought the metaphor was a little too obvious, which is probably true. I guess they still liked it enough to publish.

And so please give it a read and support Jet Fuel. They are a great group and I am forever indebted to them for taking a chance on little Adelida.










Where Good Memories Are Made

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This is where I ate my lunch yesterday:



Copyright ©2015 Karen Fayeth

A velvety red couch by the beautiful Douro River in Porto, Portugal.

Wednesday was a beautifully clear warm June day. I sat on the pleasantly comfortable couch with two other people who are counterparts from another company. Two people I genuinely like.

We sat together companionably and talked and laughed and told stories. We couldn’t believe our good fortune that the couch seating was open on such a gorgeous day.

Inevitably, time passed and it was time to go back inside the Alfândega Congress Centre, a historic former customs house, and go back to work.

Deep in very businessy conversations inside the cool stone structure, I couldn’t stop my mind from wandering back to that place. That seat. That sun. That perfect moment. A delicious lunch with good and decent people on an oddly but fortuitously placed couch by the Douro river. In Portugal.

On the next break I wandered downstairs and back outside. After taking a photo of that now empty red couch by the river, I went down a few granite stairs and sat closer to the water. Small wakes from passing boats gently lapped the bottom step.

Then I started thinking. Lovely thoughts on a lovely day. A workday, no less! What a lovely city in a lovely country. Just that easy. Just that difficult.

And that, my friends, is how a good memory is made.




From The Department Of Not Sly

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On Saturday the sun shone down so brightly on the Bay Area that it was too hard to stay inside. Roaming and marauding were the order of the day.

Yes, I know as a Californian I am supposed to feel Very Guilty about these sunny winter days we are having. I get it.

But instead of guilt, The Good Man and I went outside and basked in the sun. We decided to wander not our own neighborhood but the one just one city over.

It’s a really fun and funky block of shops and restaurants.

They day started with some chilaquilas that were rated as acceptable to me. You see, I grade Mexican food on a very tight scale. Sadly, most Californian Mexican food fails.

Once we were full to overfilled with good eats, we moved on to a really awesome bookstore that I had never been to before.

I do love bookstores. Especially local bookstores with both new and used books on the shelves. You really get a feel for a town by what is stocked on those used shelves.

As I often do in a bookstore, I wandered over to the art section. I am looking for a used copy of a particular Henri Toulouse-Lautrec book. Hope springs eternal.

This particular art book section was more eclectic than I usually find, which was great. A lot of things I hadn’t seen before.

While perusing, I found one very small section of books under the heading of “Wild, Wacky and Wonderful.”

Boy, this small collection lived up to the billing.

There were just five titles. I can’t quite remember them all. One was Toilets of the World. I recall that. Quite an interesting tome, may I add. One was the Pipe Handbook. One was the Diary of a Sword Swallower or something like that. I can’t seem to recall the other two.

As I browsed I kept walking back to that section and laughing. It was *too* perfect. Just too.

So then I decided to take an iPhone photo so I could remember what five titles were there. But how to snap a photo without incurring the wrath of the storeowners? They are sick, I’m sure, of people finding something in their store then buying it on Amazon. Snap click is a means to that end.

My intentions were good but I didn’t want to be a pain in that charming store.

Then I remembered, oh yes, that you can use the volume buttons on the iPhone to fire the shutter. I decided that I could hold the camera at about waist level and take a surreptitious snap.

I went over to the side of an aisle and thought, “Ok, I better give this a try to make sure I know how it works.”

I pushed the button and then loudly echoing through the store was the shutter sound that iPhone so helpfully adds to camera app.

You see, I always, always, always have the sound off on my phone. Always. I mean seriously, always.

Except on Friday afternoon when I was expecting (and didn’t want to miss) a call from my boss. After the call I then forgot to switch sound back off.

The shutter sound caused three people around me to snap their heads up and give me “grrrr” eyes.

Busted. Flat busted.

So there you go. I have no photo of the crazy fun titles, only my hazy memory.

And this piece of photographic art of the wrong shelves. *sigh*

Enjoy.





Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth






Photo Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons License in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5, the onboard camera app, and not a lot of guile.




The Art and Science of Rejection

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As longtime readers know, I have been trying for a few years to get my little ol’ words and stories published out into the big, cold literary world.

To that end, I have been using a really lovely submission service to assist. For a fee, these kind folks proofread my work, do market research and help me get submissions out there.

Which means that every three months I go out to somewhere between 25 and 30 magazines and journals, asking them nicely if they will publish my stuff.

What this also means is that I receive piles and piles of rejections. When magazines were still mostly paper submissions (not that long ago, actually), my mailbox would fill up with my self-addressed stamped envelopes returning home with a form letter tucked inside.

Now that most submissions are online, my email inbox gets loaded up with rejections by the dozen. They always seem to find their way to me when I’m having a bad or cranky day and that rejection is like a little sparkly topper on my crap cupcake.

Last time I had a check-in session with my support team at the submission service, they quoted some stats for me. As of a month ago, I had sent out something like 400 submissions, which had resulted in five acceptances. (one of my essays was actually accepted to three places)

What I’m getting at here is that I get a lot of rejections. A lot. And over the course of something like 400 submissions, I have become fairly immune to them. Another day, another no.

I am quite sanguine with rejections and don’t take them much to heart anymore. It’s all a numbers game. My submission service says their long and vast history shows that the average is about one acceptance for every 100 submissions. Average. Which means some people go less than that, and some people go more. But over the course of many quality writers, it takes 100 nos to get to one yes.

Those aren’t great odds.

Early in this past calendar year, I ran across this really funky short story contest. It was being put on by a well-known luxury brand and was open to everyone on the entire globe for stories written in any language.

They offered a prize worth €5,000 (~$7,000USD) and worldwide publication in a new literary collection that would coincide with their new product line. The collection would be sold online and in retail stores around the world.

I was really intimidated by this contest but couldn’t get it out of my head. I hemmed and hawed and finally read all the rules and restrictions. I even searched for and downloaded the special font they wanted submissions to use.

I twisted and agonized and worried over this contest. Then I made a deal with myself. I had to enter. I made myself promise to simply submit a story, even if I knew it was crap. Just…I had to simply write SOMETHING and submit it.

What happened next was just short of magical. I wrote a story that wasn’t crap at all. It was one of those “in the flow” moments where the words poured out of me like clean fresh water and splashed beautifully onto the page.

I sincerely believe it is the best thing I have ever written. I often worry that it is my pinnacle and I may never do better. Then I get mad at myself and proclaim I can probably do better but I will have to work really hard at it.

At about an hour before the deadline (in June), I sent my beautiful little work of art off to the good people in Europe and I walked away.

After 400 submissions and counting, I have learned to send it and forget it.

But I couldn’t forget it. This contest and this story haunted me. I had dreams about it and would catch myself thinking about it with some frequency.

And I knew this was Not Good. Overthinking never comes to a good end for me.

In August when I was on a trip to a family reunion, and I was in the car with The Good Man and my beloved cousin, I brought up the topic. These are two safe and supportive people and I knew I could be completely vulnerable with them.

They heard me out, gave me many comforting words and sagely suggested that I do my best to simply forget it before I made myself certifiably nutty. They had both read the story and knew what I was worked up about, but they also knew I had to let it go. Just let it breathe.

Their words were soothing and I did my best to heed them. I pretty much let go of thoughts of this damn contest and would only think of it now and again when something would remind me.

Well, long way around the barn, last week I got notice from those folks at the lux European brand. I didn’t make it.

Of course I didn’t win. I knew I wouldn’t win. I think somehow I found myself a little too in love with my own story and that blinded me. And hopeful. I was too hopeful.

So yes, I didn’t win and I took it very, very hard. You would think after 395 rejections that one more wouldn’t matter. For reasons I can’t quite articulate, this one really got under my skin.

My callus is not quite strong enough yet, because this one story that makes me actually believe I am a genuine writer (and not a dilettante) can still work a blister on my tender psyche.

I think my cousin (who is also a writer) calls the submission process a meat grinder. Or maybe that’s what I call it? No matter. It is. A meat grinder.

What’s next from here?

December brings the next cycle of submissions through the service I use. I will pull out one of the many stories and essays I have built up and I will edit and sculpt it and I will submit it. Then I will receive another thirty or so rejections.

In 90 days I will submit something else and I will get more rejections and the cycle will continue on, as it should.

And this one really sore spot, the unexpected blister, it will harden with time. It will add another layer to the callus. It will make me that much more resilient the next time around.

To any who might wish to give me the well known platitudes like “Each rejection brings you one step closer!” can hang on to them. 395 rejections and five acceptances mean that I’m well past platitudes. I’m not a newbie. I know what I’m up against.

And I know I wrote one hell of a story. Perhaps one day I will give it another chance to weather the mean old world on its own. But for now I’ll hold it close and hide it away until the owies stop.

It’s an exquisite pain, really. One I have earned.









Image found here.