Why I Write

Yesterday afternoon, after a full day of house hunting, I registered to attend the Write Stuff conference in Allentown, PA next month.  Yes, I waited until the day before the early bird pricing ended before registering.  My procrastination knows no bounds.

Like the last couple of years, the registration form asked a particular question.  Why do you write?  So I typed in a short answer and moved on, wanting to get the process done with.

Blame it on the fact that I’m currently sitting, tired, in a hospital waiting room (don’t worry, just a side effect of having a spouse with a chronic illness that requires tests to check progress), but I find myself thinking of this question again, more than 12 hours after I answered it.

It’s a question that I’ve been asked from time to time as I’ve been growing up.  Why do I write?  What is it that makes me sit down and want to put a story on the page?  Why would I choose to spend four years of college studying writing, and why would I take a part-time job doing just that?

Why do I write?

The answer that I gave on the Write Stuff registration form was just a short and simple, “Writing helps me make sense of the world around me and the human experience.”

Which is, of course, true.  I wouldn’t have given that answer if it wasn’t true.  But it’s so much more of that.

Other times, when I’ve been asked this question, I’ve said that it’s because writing keeps me sane, keeps the characters in my head from getting out of control, lets me release that overactive imagination that makes me think someone’s breaking into our apartment at four in the morning.

Also true, yes.  All of these answers are completely true.

But why I write?  If I’m going to throw out brevity and not give a one-sentence answer, that’s when it gets a little more complicated.

I write to come to terms with the events and people around me.  When something happens in my life or in the world that I can’t fully process, or that I don’t want to fully process, I write about it.  When I read something online, or hear a news story, or see something in a history book…when I see tragedy, that’s when I have to write to understand why.

It’s probably why I don’t always write “nice” things, something that baffles my parents.  I can process butterflies and rainbows.  I get humor.  What I can’t process is why bad things happen.  What I don’t get is what makes people be horrible.  Not until I get inside my characters’ heads and write about it.

This is, I believe, what has drawn me to the Jonestown story — what is it that makes a thousand people follow a crazed man to their deaths?  What kind of world lets that happen?  I can read about it until I go cross-eyed, but I can’t fully understand until I experience it through my characters, as flawed as that may be.

Sometimes I write because a particular character comes into my head and doesn’t leave me along.  That’s what happened with my dystopian trilogy, which is in process.  The main character popped into my head one day and wouldn’t shut up until I wrote.  She had a story that needed to be told, and as I watch the world around me going to hell in a handbasket, I can now understand why.

That’s what writing is for me.  Yes, I have to shut up my characters.  Yes, I have to process the big events that happen around me or to me.  But it comes down to understanding.

I write to understand.

Greetings from Write Stuff! (Plus Music…)

I know, I know.  It’s been another while.  But my life has been one chaos after another for the last several weeks to the point where I just blinked and it’s almost April.  Between my grandfather passing away in mid-February (not really unexpectedly), constant business at the day job, my car having a rather large and dramatic temper tantrum (yay for breaking down on the highway while going to writers group), and St. Patrick’s Day (Irish dancer, ya know…), I kind of can’t believe we’re almost done with March already.  Where did time go?!

Now, while I could colorfully elaborate on some of the stuff mentioned above (most namely the car drama, which was the most frustrating thing of late), I’m not going to.  Why?  First of all, some of that stuff was weeks ago and that seems very belated to rant about it.  Second of all, it’s very late and I kind of just want to go to sleep.  But I also wanted to give you an update.

And some music.

Most important update, really–I’m writing this from a hotel room in Allentown, PA rather than from the floor of my bedroom in Dublin, OH.  I’m at the Write Stuff conference, for my second year, and I’ve been having a BLAST!  Today I actually went to a few of the pre-conference workshops, which was something I didn’t participate in last year.  (Remember last year?  That was the trip in which all the things went wrong with my flights.  Yeah.  Gooooood times, guys.  Good times.)  This year, my only flight drama was a bout of airsickness.  And while that’s not fun either, it’s incredibly less anxiety-inducing than finding out your flight was never supposed to exist in the first place.

I’m sure I’ll give you a full and beautiful run-down of the conference either tomorrow night, after it’s over, or Sunday, but for now just know I’m having a great time!

And now, before I go pass out in preparation for another full day of conferencing, have a song.  That’s the other update, really–I’ve started research (and written the opening) for a new project that tells the story of the Jonestown tragedy in 1978.  Yup, you know me and writing all the cheery things.  Anywho, this song below really struck me when I heard it, and it makes me think of that project.  I have no doubt that it’s already become my “theme song” for this currently-untitled WIP.  I hope you like it too (it’s very pretty)!

Good night!

LIFE UPDATE: Write Stuff, ABNA 2013, and Revisions

I know.  It’s been forever and a day since I posted here.  On the bright side…I’ve been journaling more since the New Year (and by “more” I mean…more or less once a week…but coming from someone who hasn’t kept a journal in probably a good decade, that’s pretty impressive), so I haven’t been completely idle.

It’s been a rather busy start to the New Year, which is why I haven’t gotten around to writing an update post on this blog until now.  In my non-writing life, it’s been a blur of my day job, family stuff, friend stuff, HPA stuff, hanging out with the boyfriend, Irish dancing, stupid weather, and meetings meetings meetings.  Or that’s what it feels like.  I’ve been on the move practically the entire start of this year, so I’m having a lot of trouble processing the fact that it’s already mid-February.  Time flies.

In my writing life, however, I kind of highlighted the big three things going on in the title, so how about I highlight them down in the actual post as well?  Sound good?  Yes?  Awesome.

Write Stuff

I’m going back to the Write Stuff conference again in March.  This will be my second year attending and I’ll be doing some of the pre-conference stuff this year, so I’m pretty excited about that.  Granted, I haven’t actually gone yet, seeing as how it’s not for another month, so really all the time it’s taken up thus far has to do with me picking out what I wanted to do and then registering…and then booking flights and hotel.  Always an adventure.  If I can just avoid last year’s travel nightmare, I’ll be a happy camper!

ABNA 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m entered in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest for the second year.  In the weekend before entries opened, I was scrambling to clean up my novel more (meaning I reread and did minor tweaks on it for literally six hours the Sunday before entries opened).  However, now we’re in that wonderful stage of waiting.  We’re in limbo.  And all of us are just commiserating with each other over on the ABNA forums and counting down.  The cuts for Round 2 are announced on Wednesday of this week, so the panic has set in pretty effectively by now.  I should probably make sure I have some antacids at home.


I’ve been a crazy person and trying to revise multiple projects at a time.  Which might account for the fact that little has gotten done on any of them.  I think of these revisions I should be doing and my brain seizes up and I quickly get distracted by shiny objects.  It’s an entertaining, if highly unproductive, process.  I should probably just focus on one project to revise right now, but they’re all so wonderful.  I can’t choose between my babies.  In any case, the procrastination monkey is mostly what’s been going on on the revisions side of things (and pretty much every other side of things writing-wise too…I’m surrounded by procrastination monkeys).  However, I have novel documents open on my computer at home…so…step in the right direction, yes?

There’s your update for now.  I’ll hopefully update again in the next few days.  But tonight?  Tonight I’m going to a Harry and the Potters concert and will be nerding it out hardcore with my fellow Potterheads.  All is right in the world for tonight.

Stay awesome!

My Travel Horror Story

This weekend marked my first-ever writers conference, at Write Stuff in Allentown, PA. It also marked the first time that I ever booked a flight and flew by myself. You know the phrase “baptism by fire”? That’s kind of how my first flying-alone experience was on Friday.

I contemplated posting this fun little story on Friday or Saturday, but…I felt like I needed time to calm myself down. You cannot fully understand how completely tightly wound I was during this whole…debacle. I needed distance from the experience so I wouldn’t drop F-bombs and other inappropriate ranting-type words all over by blog. (Yes, I was actually that annoyed.)

It all started on Friday morning. I had my alarm clock set to wake me up at 6:30am, in time for me to get ready before heading to the airport at about 8:00am. Luckily, the general nerves of attending my first conference resulted in me actually waking up at 6:30, rather than hitting the snooze button for 45 minutes, like I usually do. So I pull myself out of bed, get on my laptop, and figure I’ll check my email…like I do every morning.

This, my friends, was a fortunate decision. Because the first thing I see when I open my inbox is a lovely email from Expedia whose subject line reads “CALL IMMEDIATELY IN REGARDS TO CHANGES TO YOUR TRAVEL ITINERARY.”

I’m pretty sure the whole neighborhood could hear my heart drop into my stomach.

I stumbled over to my cell phone and…well…called immediately. I’m near tears at this point, because I’ve been in varying levels of panic for the last 24 hours (first, because my computer crashed the night before…then, of course, the obvious of the nerves surrounding my first conference). The lady on the phone told me that there’s “probably nothing wrong”, that United and some other airline recently merged, and it has been causing a lot of weird confusion in flights and such. She checks the itinerary and…

EL (Expedia Lady): Well, that’s strange. You’re flight has been cancelled. They’ve changed you to fly to Allentown on the 18th and fly home on the 18th.
Me: Um…could we fix that?

She calls United to figure out what happened. Turns out the flight I’d booked was…ya know…NEVER SUPPOSED TO EXIST. With the merger, it got closed. And through some miscommunication, no one realized this until four hours before I’m supposed to have my butt on the plane. Thank you, United and Expedia. Thank you so very much.

Through a series of back-and-forth between the United representative and a disgruntled me, the Expedia agent figures out that there are two flights going to Allentown earlier in the day (originally, she’d wanted to put me on the United flight that would get me to Allentown at 11pm, which just wasn’t going to work) through different airlines. One leaving at 11:17am and getting me to Allentown at 2pm. Another leaving at 9:30am and getting me to Allentown…at 2pm.

Me: So…for the 9:30 flight…wouldn’t I have to be at the airport…like…now?
EL: Um…yes, you would have to leave quickly.

Upon this information, I sprint across the hall to my roommate Tracy’s room. She was supposed to drive me to the airport. As soon as I get her awake, I ask if…say, hypothetically, I have to leave for the airport in…ten minutes. Would that be possible? Bless her, she jumps out of bed and gets dressed.

Now you’re probably wondering why I didn’t originally conceive taking the 11:17am flight to give myself more time. Simple: I swear the Expedia lady told me that there was only a 2 minute layover for that flight in Philly. Which, like, I didn’t want to do.

Also fun in this conversation was that switching to a new airline would up my round trip ticket cost by a few hundred dollars. Which, to be honest, was ANNOYING, but not a huge problem. At first. Until the next part of the conversation.

EL: There are still a couple of spots open on the 9:30am flight. *gives me all the flight info* It takes your price up to $900, though.
Me: *jaw drops* NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS? Is there some way that I could…you know…not pay so much more to get to Allentown? Considering that…like…THIS WASN’T MY FAULT?
EL: Well, I’ll talk to the United rep. Please hold.
Me: Can you possibly HOLD the ticket, though? So I don’t lose it?
EL: We can’t do that. Please hold.

I’m very disgruntled by this time and very nearing a panic attack. Through a series of more back-and-forth that I can’t fully remember because it was just that kind of morning, comes to be that United will cover the extra cost for their epic fail that is currently causing me to pace anxiously around my house and stress out my roommate. Well, that’s SO kind of them, offering to cover the FIVE HUNDRED EXTRA DOLLARS that it will cost me to get my rear to Allentown sometime decent on Friday.

Me: So can I book the 9:30 flight?
EL: Well…

I hate it when they do that. Turns out, even though they’d TOLD ME about the 9:30am flight…even though I’d gotten my roommate out of bed to speed my butt to the airport…they can’t “actually” book me on that flight. Because there are so few seats. And it could take 2 hours for the ticket to process. So they don’t want me to get to the airport and have there be…not a ticket.

Me: Fine. 11:17. Put me on that flight. PLEASE.

So I get to the airport in plenty of time. Get my boarding passes and get through security like a champ. Buy some water, a snack, and a People Magazine with Hunger Games on the cover. Get to the gate and settle down to fight with the wifi and do revisions and basically kill an hour and a half, because I totally overestimated the time. And then…

There’s a delay.

The weather in Philly is so crappy that we can’t take off until an hour after our original time. Guess what this means?

I’m going to miss my connection.

So they put me on a new flight. The only other US Airlines flight going to Allentown from Philly on Friday is at…5:45. Which is a good four hours after my original connection.

Fine. Whatever. Weather can’t be helped.

I get to Philly and get to the gate for my new flight to hang out. Because it’s so much later, the information isn’t up on the Arrivals/Departures board yet. I find food and play on my computer and get some reading done. When I decide to get up to go to the bathroom, I check the board.

Oh, hey. My flight has been moved from Gate F4 to Gate F22.

I’m lucky I found this out so quickly. That I had more than enough time to haul ass to the complete other side of the airport. Because I found out later that they NEVER announced the gate change. There were a few people who had to run to catch the plane.

Thank you, airport staff, for being so helpful.

Anyway, by the time I finally got to Allentown, it was nearly five hours later than I was originally supposed to be there. I had just enough time to check in at the hotel, get my conference registration packet, and breathe for a few seconds in my room before I went down for the conference opening reception.

On the bright side…on the way home to Columbus on Sunday…everything was running earlier than planned. So that was a nice change.