I’m Bad at This…

Hello, my wonderful friends! 

Let me first start off saying that this level of consistency with my updates might just be the nature of our relationship. So as long as we all understand that, we can begin.

Updates from life: incredibly busy, especially when you take into account my beautiful daughter is now one year old! That went by fast! You will be happy to know reading is one of her favorite things, and two of her favorite books are Counting with Dracula and a book about The Little Prince.

Updates from writing

Poetry: Poetry night is going well; it’s small, but it is growing. Poetry, itself, is going alright. I haven’t written anything in a while, but I will say I will begin more poetry submissions here soon. That being said, back in September, I did have a poem published with the wonderful folks at The Burnt Pine Magazine. The link is under my works page. You should check them out, they are a new magazine that has already been fulfilling their commitment to publish top quality writing…not including my work.

Fiction: This is where things have been incredibly eventful. I have out my newest novel on hold in order to focus a little more on the craft, and what better way to do that than write short stories? I must say I have fallen love with this form. It really challenges you as a writer, but, oddly enough, it frees up a lot of creativity. I have already written two and, as of yesterday, they have officially been submitted into two literary journals. More submissions will follow, as will more stories. I can’t wait to share them with you. 

I believe that will cover everything for now, but hopefully I can post more tips and random literary thoughts soon and at a more frequent pace. But as of now, know I am well and am simply sending out a ping on your radar to let you know I am still out here and I am still very much alive and writing.

Godspeed, my dear friends.

Sincerely, 

Daniel I. Beilman

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Updates

Hello my friends! This is just a quick update on what’s going on with me and writing, and to let you know what’s coming your way.

First off, in celebration of National Poetry Month, I am kicking of a poetry reading night at a coffee shop in Royse City, Texas called The Well Coffee Lounge. It will launch on the 14th of April, and will go from 6:30pm till 8:00pm. After that, it will become a reoccurring night of poetry taking place every second Thursday of each month.

The goal of this night is to create an avenue, through which, local writers and poets can perform their works and develop a community of encouragement, creativity, and a mutual love for poetry and writing. Anyone High school age and above are invited to read their own pieces, but there will be books of poetry there in case no one has any personal works to share.

Anyway, if you are in the area around then, I strongly encourage you to attend and enjoy a wonderful evening of poetry and coffee.

As for other writing endeavors, conference season is upon us, and, while I won’t be attending any, I do have a handful of blog posts coming soon to help you prepare both physically and mentally. Stay tuned for a plethora of fun helpful bits, and not to mention a few lessons I learned the hard way.

Until then, my friends, good luck and Godspeed.

Daniel I. Beilman

An Open Letter to the Rejected

Rejection is never an easy thing. And, in either a good sense of humor or irony, writers have chosen a path wrought with rejection. It is filled to the brim with it, waiting around nearly every corner; yet, we stand back up each day and try to push forward.

It is also a very difficult thing to explain. A lot of times, other people put the rejection from an agent or editor in the same field as being rejected by one’s peers or that you just didn’t get picked this time. But to us in the middle of it, rejection hits us a little harder than all that.

So what is rejection to a writer?

I think one of the many definitions for it is the delay of sharing what is so dear to us. If you do any amount of research into the publishing industry, you will quickly learn that, more often than not, it can be a very slow moving process. So the rejection from an agent or editor is the disappointing “not today” that a person, who so desperately wants to share something meaningful, never wants to hear.

While I am sure there are many people who are simply born with a thick skin and can take on any rejection as a form of encouragement, adding fuel to the creative fire, there are others, like myself, that can let rejection eat away at their confidence.

It starts off as mere disappointment, but then slowly the whispers creep into our brains and lead to more dangerous things like doubt. We begin to doubt our work, our writing capabilities, and ourselves, which, when we take a look at our doubt, can lead to guilt and endless ruts.

In the process of submitting our work and receiving rejection, we can lose sight of what’s important. We become more concerned with the acceptability of our work than what is beautiful about it. We lose focus on belief, and worry about what we cannot change.

It is true that agents and editors are looking for what sells, but, ultimately, they are looking for what grips them and inspires them. And as much as we would love for our work to be inspiring for every one, the reality is that there will be people who won’t connect with that you have to say, and that is okay.

So when we are faced with rejection, always bear in mind that unless you pressed “send” the day you finished your first draft, that agent or editor may have passed because they knew your story needed someone who could share that passion, because, frankly, nothing is ever truly sold or done well without passion.

That is the true answer to rejection.

When you can feel the subtle crawling of doubt, take a good long look at your work and ask yourself what was it about this piece that made me have to write it? What was it that convinced me to dedicate hours, days, months, even years to writing it? And when that familiar feeling echoes in your mind, hone in on it, focus on it, remember it, and then amplify it, because that revelation is the recalling of the passion you had in the beginning, and we already know that nothing great happens without it.

Recently, I was prepping a query, and this particular agent asked for the first page of the manuscript, along with the query letter. As I opened up the document to copy the first page, I was immediately met with a reminder of why I wrote this book, why I believed in it. I have already faced a handful of rejections, and the last two were from agents I was convinced were perfect for my book. But, suddenly, as I stared at this story, none of that really mattered, anymore. I remembered why this story existed; I remembered why I dedicated years to it. It was then I remembered why I loved it. In the stressful process of submission, I had forgotten the fundamental thing that started this journey, but in that moment I remembered the passion that had made it, I knew it had a reason for being written.

The doubts I was faced with began to fall apart because I knew the truth: those words existed by their own right. They belonged because this story mattered to me.

When we think about passion, we should open our eyes to the fact that it belongs everywhere.

This is what I mean:

Are you writing a first draft? Great! Write every sentence as a reflection of why you love this piece. Are you editing? Then trim, cut, and rewrite the piece in hopes of making it even better. Make this a labor of love. Even if you are querying, look for agents or editors you want to share a passion with.

Far too often do we, writers, view agents and editors as gatekeepers, but the fact is they are not obstacles in our way, but rather they are allies and supporters. Besides, wouldn’t you rather be partners with someone who has a common goal and drive as you? This is when query becomes less of a road to publishing and more of a quest to find someone who loves and cares for your work almost as much as you do.

Therefore, in rejection, always come back to your first love because someday someone will see that passion, and that will pull at something within him or her, and they will feel compelled to join you on this crazy adventure.

It is true that a huge part of a writer’s career will be filled with rejection, and for some it is easy to deal with it, but for others, me included, rejection can become a pitfall. However, when we plant our feet firmly into the confidence and passion of our work, rejection will become less of a hard hitting blow and more of a small annoyance, because, if you strongly believe that what you have to say, whether it’s a story, poem, essay, or even a greeting card, is important and needs to be said, you will find yourself growing in stubborn defiance in the face of the negative feelings that come from rejection.

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it very well when he once wrote, “Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.”

That is what we all have to do. Every rejection should send us straight to the reasons why we love what we are doing. With every reflection, our confidence will grow, and as it grows there lies hope.

It will take practice, endurance, and, of course, a few stumbles, but you will soon learn to look at every rejection and say “Well, that’s a shame, but I guess that means there is something even better for me out there.” Let the lack of acceptance cultivate a fire within you to keep you going, which, in practical terms, can be achieved when you find the fire has already been lit and it dwells in your passion for your work.

Guard that flame, shield it from the wind, but most importantly, keep it growing.

So I will end this with a quote from German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who so poignantly said, “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.

Go on; get back to writing, editing, querying, and when rejection approaches remember that passion that makes your work “great”.

As always, my friends, good luck and Godspeed.

-Daniel

P.S. This topic is a rather broad one; so if you have thoughts on this, please, leave comments. I do love a good discussion.

 

Incoming Signal…

 

I first want to apologize for the radio silence; things have taken a change of pace for me, recently, which I will tell you about in due process. But for those who enjoy my updates and blog posts, you’ll be happy to know I am planning on updating more frequently. And for those who are disappointed in this otherwise great news, you have my deepest condolences…eat some chocolate. You’ll feel better.

For those who are still reading, let’s start off with some personal updates.

Back in September, I found out that my wife and I will become parents this May, and as I would find out a few months later, to a beautiful littler girl. Now I have been dedicating plenty of time to building furniture, decorating (with my wife’s guidance, of course), and, obviously, slowly building my daughter’s collection of classic children’s books, sprinkled with a few amazing contemporary works.

That reminds me…

Do any of you have suggestions for books? I, of course, have some of my favorites, but I am curious to know what children’s books have influenced you, and which you would read to your children. Please comment with your favorite/suggestion. I would love to share those works with my daughter because no childhood is complete without friends found in books.

Needless to say, however, I am looking forward to meeting this little one and sharing so many adventures with her.

Speaking of literature, it’s on to our next set of updates!

I have been shopping around the manuscript for “Of Dreams and Legends” to several agents since the summer. Still no bites as of yet, but after recently reading an article about the rejection of several well known authors, such as J.K. Rowling, George Orwell, and even Dr. Seuss, I was reminded of the long, but rewarding road to publishing this journey can become. So I am looking to send out more queries in the coming months, with a renewed attitude and tenacity. Cross your fingers…prayers are welcomed too.

As for other writing endeavors, as I announced back in August, I participated in the Writer’s Digest 84th Annual Writing Competition, in which, I placed 8th in the non-rhyming poetry category. I have to say that was a lot of fun, and sparked many more submissions to other contests. I currently have three poems in one contest, and am prepping a poetry manuscript for a poetry book competition in February.

My goal for doing this is to help break even more into the poetry market, through exposure such as this, which will no doubt be followed by regular submissions to various journals. As always, my friends, you will be kept in the loop on this.

Speaking of poetry, I wanted to include you all in one of my 2016 goals. As much as I love writing novels, I have always felt that poetry was my first love. So this year, while I am still working on novels, I am also making a bigger push for my poetry, which will include submitting on regular, and even participating in several readings and open mic nights. Please, if you are interested, keep your eye on my events page for any updates.

And now I have saved one piece of information for last. I have officially started a new book, which is going to be the first out of a planned trilogy (possibly more), and so far it has been a challenging, yet rewarding process. While I will be keeping details close to my chest, I will say this book dives deeper into the fantasy genre, blending my love for poetic description and obsession with folklore and history.

Great! So what are you suppose to do with this information? Well, I don’t know. I’m not the boss of you, but I do suggest continue reading this page for my thoughts, words of advice, updates, and even a few cautionary tales (at my expense, of course).

Moving forward, I want this blog to be a source of not just information about me, my writing, and thoughts, but also an opportunity for you guys to see the kind of things I am processing as I make the adventure through writing towards publishing, and maybe, just maybe, you’re in a similar place. Maybe we can help each other out. Maybe we will reach the end, and know we shared the hike.

Because, frankly, writing is not a solitary endeavor; in some form or another, writers influence other writers, not just by advice, but also through experience.

Also, some things to look forward to on here: a post about my experience at a writer’s conference (especially with conference season around the corner), some thoughts on plot and character, and maybe even some enlightening conversations on the merits of literature. Who knows?

Thank you for reading, and, once again, don’t forget to comment with your favorite/suggestion, and I look forward to the next post.

As always, my friends, good luck and Godspeed.

-Daniel

The Finer Points of Obsession

After writing my last post about poetry and fiction, and after referencing The Triggering Town, I began to think about the things we writers use to fuel our endeavors.

Our obsessions, if you will.

For writers, we use all we can get. Take an honest and close look at us, and you will find we are a simple sort of people. Meaning that we do not require much to do what we love.

Yes, there are new writing softwares every year, books on writing, workshops to hone certain skills, but even if you strip all of that away, you will not strip us of our joy, our fuel, our obsessions.

The world is our toolbox, and if we took an honest and close look at ourselves we will find that we draw upon that more than any book or software. We draw upon the small things, the tiny details the common man overlooks or disregards. In objects, or pictures we find a passion that will not let go of us, thankfully. They continuously tug on our hears and imagination.

We draw from the people around us, as well. When we see people, we do not see another face, we see a story with feet. We see a history, a struggle, and, sometimes, we even see armor hidden beneath casual exterior. Sometimes we see heroes.

My point is that writers don’t have just ideas, we have obsessions, fire spurring us forward, changing the way we see the world.

I understand the connotation that obsessions tend to have, especially with those who will assign morality to anything and everything. But let me provide something to define what I mean and clear the air.

“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”–Rainer Maria Rilke

So in other words, obsessions are the reasons we write. They are the things we see when we close our minds. For some it could be distant lands, sometimes it’s a simple object that cultivates all sorts of creative thoughts. It sneaks into our writing any chance it gets.

Other writers are obsessed with topics. For example, I once attended a Q&A with poet, Edward Hirsch, where he explained that a great amount of his poetry stemmed from his struggle and obsession with insomnia. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. So through his obsessions, he yielded some amazing poems on the topic.

Obsession, however, can come and go. One year, or day, it could be one thing then it changes the next. But they never leave without leaving a mark. A lasting impression.

But enough of generalities. Enough of the abstract.

I will be plain and simple. Obsessions are essential to a writer. No matter what genre you write. It is a tool and fuel. It keeps the imagination running. It creates that special world where you understand nothing, but everything understands you. Obsessions, for a writer, is building a home. A safe haven. There, once the house is complete, you can yield your best work.

Going back to the quote above, obsession is the reason to write, and without a reason, you have nothing but empty sounds. Screeches without any articulation. Simply put, words without reason are static noises crowding up the airwaves.

We need reasons to write, even if they are absurd reasons like looking for a reason, or just because you have a love for language. When we invest ourselves in our reasons, our obsessions, we find that our writing has a purpose, and purpose gives wing to whatever you do. Reasons and meaning breeds passion, and, with passion, you can go the furthest.

Personally, I have wavered here and there in pursuing and holding on to my obsessions, which, in turn, has affected my passion for writing. But I have found that memory is a great tool in reminding yourself when you were on the right track and how to get back. Not all of the past is bad. So I have had to remind myself of my reasons for writing. Why did I lose my mind writing in the first place, and how can I continue doing that?

It is no hidden fact that you have to fight for the things you love, and it is no different with writing. We have to fight to keep that flame in our hearts lit. Between full-time jobs, maintaining relationships, dealing with life’s situation, and managing reality, we run the risk of losing touch with what we love, what gives our life some meaning and keeps us moving.

Another tendency we have, especially myself, is to bridle that obsession or passion. I tend to worry if it’s too much for people. I know that a lot of people fear the eyes and minds of others, especially when it comes to writing. We feel they will not understand it and love it the way we do, so they will inaccurately judge our work. However, I will argue that none of that matters in the end. Yes, if you go the traditional publishing route, your publishing career rests in hands of others, but they are smart creative people. Regardless, if you have your pen,  your obsessions and reasons, then you have all you need.

Allen Ginsberg once said, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” If you think about it, he is entirely correct in this statement. You need to write for your obsessions, your passions, your reasons, yourself. Only then will you find your voice, and what a strong voice it will be.

Stepping into the public eye shouldn’t change anything. You are the same writer, just in a different room.

With that being said, this is not an excuse to not accept criticism, because that is helpful. Only a fool rejects helpful advice.

I understand that is post is definitely gravitating towards stream of consciousness. So let me go ahead and boil it down.

Obsessions provide fuel for our writing.

Obsessions give us reasons, therefore purpose, which brings passion.

We have to fight for our obsession and our writing.

Obsessions should never be bridled.

We have to write for ourselves and not concern ourselves with writing for others.

It is easy to lose our way and forget what made us turn to writing in the first place. And I guess the simple answer in turning us back to how we felt in the beginning is to find that original love, that beginning spark.

Find the things you love, those tiny details, those obsessions no one else understands. Once they see how much love and passion is in your writing, trust me, they learn to love it as well…just nowhere near as much as you, but that’s okay.

I will leave you with a quote that impacted me greatly when thinking about this.

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”–Franz Kafka

What are some of your obsessions, or your thoughts on the role obsessions? Or even your experience in rediscovering your love for writing? I am sucker for discussions.

Thank you for reading, my friends, and, as always, good luck and godspeed.

-Daniel

 

How to Write Standing Up and Why You Should Do It

Here is a great post on how to continue writing without compromising your health. Such great practical advice!

boy with a hat

Ernest Hemingway Writing Standing Up Ernest Hemingway Writing Standing Up

Did you know that sitting for more than four hours every day increases your risk of suffering from a chronic disease and reduces your life expectancy*? Now that’s alarming considering how glued we are to our desks and computers, to restaurants, cafes, and pubs, to cars and buses and couches. Writers are especially at risk of sitting too much. Whether we type or handwrite, we usually work at a desk or table, and whether we create or revise, we can lose the notion of time for hours on end. I certainly do. Now, getting up every once in a while and doing some stretching, some bouncing, or at least some moving about the house does help, but what is even more healthy and effective is writing standing up, if not every day, then at least several times a week.

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Poetry in Fiction

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” –Anton Chekhov

 

For the past year I have edited and revised my novel manuscript in order to prepare for a writer’s conference, and in doing so, I have come face to face with many issues and obstacles that confront a majority of writers.

One of these nasty little problems is what many call “Showing vs. Telling”.

Essentially, the writer should always aim to demonstrate a point, create a scene, or paint an image. Give your readers the tools necessary in imagining what is happening.

Simply put: don’t tell them, show them.

However, this is an issue I never thought I would really have to worry about. I had spent time in several classes during college exploring writing and makes good writing. I am no stranger to showing vs. telling.

So imagine my surprise when I noticed (thanks to the critiques of an amazing writer friend) that I had several cases when I should be showing instead of telling. It goes without saying that it was a humbling gut check. I had spent many hours studying writing, I had been working on this book for years, and just when I thought I had things right where I wanted them, reality proved to me otherwise. Doubt definitely crept in at that point.

As I contemplated drowning myself in pity and cookie dough ice cream, I was suddenly reminded of what inspired me to write in the first place. My first writing love, if you will; poetry.

Often we think of fiction and poetry as completely different animals, which for the most part is true. However, we fail to realize their relationship can be a symbiotic one. If understood properly, these seemingly opposite forces begin to draw from another, and perpetuate each other.

In my case, poetry saved me from days of wallowing (and, most likely, a sugar coma), and gave me the perfect tools to fix my problem. My fiction began drawing from my poetry tool belt, and I was able to strip away simplistic, unimaginative, and downright lazy sentences, and replace them with imagination-fueling, beautifully complicated, and thought-provoking sentences that not only presented feelings in a tangible way, but also created a more atmospheric feeling to my writing.

I know that many people believe poetry is the stage and arena where writers can bring out all of their abstract thoughts, emotional baggage, and obscure sentences. While there are some reputable poets who can do the following with class and elegance, that is not solely what poetry is about.

Poetry focuses on language and images. It is not only concerned with the technicalities of writing, but intrinsically centered around the feelings and emotions that images and language provokes. Unfortunately, many young poets do not realize the respect they must pay to the core elements of poetry, thus resulting in the misrepresentation of poetry and its function.

However, this is not a rant or lecture on poetry.

I was able to recall the years of study, and reapply those lessons learned in the late hours in a classroom. I immediately looked back on some of the sentences my friend had indicated were more telling than showing, and rewrote them using a poetic perspective. It’s important as writer to identify a goal; a direction, and mine was to not simply say something. I had to show it, I had to make the reader do more than read; they had to feel.

In their book, Self-editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne and Dave King dedicated an entire chapter on exploring showing and telling, and when each one should be used. On the point of emotions, this quote stood out to me: “To write exposition at length…is to engage your readers’ intellects. What you want to do is to engage their emotions.”

With that goal in mind, I focused on the details that seemed unimportant, then I rewrote them with words that painted a picture and had a built-in connotation. Readers come to a book with built-in emotions, we just have to tap into it.

The opening quote is an excellent example of this. A reader shouldn’t simply know the moon is shining, they have to see it and it is our job, as writers, to make that happen.

Poetry provides the tools and knowledge to do this more seamlessly, and I honestly would suggest any writer to practice writing poetry. It doesn’t need to be complicated, necessarily, or even the best poem the world has ever seen, but you should always aim to paint an image.

My creative writing professor drove a single concept into our heads throughout the entire year studying under him: “Give me a scene.”

Browne and King also stressed the importance of a scene, “Since engagement is exactly what a fiction writer wants to accomplish, you’re well advised to rely heavily on immediate scenes to put your story across. You want to draw your readers into the world you’ve created, make them feel a part of it, make them forget where they are. And you can’t do this effectively if you tell your readers about your world secondhand. You have to take them there.”

Fiction has a clear goal that poetry has the tools to meet because the goal is a common one. An image. A scene.

So fellow writers, as you struggle the common struggle of showing vs. telling, look for help from an unlikely ally and learn the basics of poetry. It could be your secret weapon in a fight that keeps many writers from accomplishing their goals.

A book that was influential in my writing of poetry is The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo. In this book, he does an extraordinary job in explaining the power of images and where inspiration can come from. I believe Hugo hits the point I am trying to make rather well. “I suspect that the true or valid triggering subject is one in which physical characteristics or details correspond to attitudes the poet has toward the world and himself.”

I hope that this is helpful and I highly recommend reading both books. Let me know what your thoughts are on the showing vs. telling struggle, or even your thoughts on the role of poetry in fiction in the comment section below.

Thank you for reading, my friends, and, as always, good luck and godspeed.

-Daniel

 

Disclaimer: the links provided are not affiliate links. I was not paid to write this post, the opinions are mine and mine alone. 

Expectations vs. Opportunities

Pardon my absence.

I want to go ahead and give an update as to my writing whereabouts.

Lately, I have been submitting poetry to various writing competitions, and I have been working on editing and revising my novel manuscript, getting it in pristine condition for a writer’s conference in July. I am excited for this opportunity because not only will I be able to meet many other writers (hopefully some of you reading this post), but also I will be pitching my novel to an agent, who so happens to be one of the top agents on my list. This conference is something I have been looking forward to all year and it bears the potential for many great outcomes.

Let’s camp on this point just a little longer. With the opportunity to pitch a novel (something that I have never done before), there can come a heavy temptation to have fear or an extremely unhealthy expectation. I could either fear not having the agent request any pages and therefore feel rejected, or I could expect the agent to be overcome with joy at the revelation that at last they finally have found the perfect book, and obviously offer me representation on the spot without even looking at the manuscript…yeah, that’s not going to happen.

I need to find a middle ground, some place where I can manage my fears and expectations.

Here is when I need to focus on a key word: opportunity. Getting my pages requested is a potential, but it should not be the sole reason for going. Opportunity to meet other writers and professionals, and playing my role in establishing a writing community should be.

You see there’s a difference between potential and opportunity; potential is up to fate, opportunity is up to me.

This has been something I have had to work on, and I imagine other writers may not know what to expect with a conference, just like me. So when I have something that is seemingly daunting before me, I try to find small goals that I can focus on, which will make the event much more manageable. You can’t predict how things will turn out, but you can most certainly prepare and make a plan to make the best out of what ever happens.

For example, if the pitch session doesn’t go as well as I would have hoped, I have the choice to either slink back in self-pity, or I can use the remaining time and ask questions which could benefit any future pitches I will make, and my understanding of the publishing world as a whole. Another example is that I can have my heart so fixed upon that pitch session that I will fail to see the chance to cultivate relationships with other writers and professionals, which are equally important as getting an agent.

So for those who are attending conferences this summer or in the future, here are some practical tips to avoid fear or unhealthy expectations:

  • Make a list of opportunities or goals. For example, making at least three new writing connections is a great goal. Also, attending workshops are great opportunities that make going to a conference well worth it.
  • Think about a few worst case scenarios, then make a plan to make the best of them (like my pitching example above).
  • Reevaluate why you’re going in the first place. Make sure your head and heart are in the right place.
  • Lastly, relax. Your pitch sessions will not go well if you are tense and anxious. Agents know how to pick up on attitudes, especially if your nervousness and fear is affecting the passion you have for your book. Also, meeting new people will be exponentially harder if your focus is so inward that you can’t concentrate on those in front of you. Just take a deep breath and know that everyone is just like you; they are all people. If you look for the commonalities you have with others, you’ll find yourself more relaxed.

I am excited for the opportunities ahead of me, and I wish you the best with yours. Let me know in the comment section about your conference plans and some tips that help you prepare. If you don’t have plans to attend one yet, feel free to provide your thoughts anyway.

Thank you for reading, my friends. Good luck, and godspeed.

-Daniel

 

Something to Learn from Gertrude Stein

I often like to imagine what it would be like to walk through those wooden doors, hearing two voices debating the uses of certain words, perhaps pronouns or verbs, or maybe not words at all. Perhaps it’s two voices sharing a dialogue over colors and subject, either way, one of the voices is always a woman’s; Gertrude Stein’s. She was not only a wonderful writer (my favorite is Tender Buttons) but also a facilitator for the budding creativity of others. She opened her door in Paris, France to many creative minds, including Picasso, Hemingway, Pound, Matisse, and Fitzgerald, who all opened themselves to her critiques and suggestions.

The reason why I am going on and on about her is the fact that she, and all others involved, modeled an important element, or better yet, a necessity for all creative fields–community. It is true that writers need their time alone to retreat from the busy world and spend time creating the stories and scenes they have vowed to create by calling themselves writers, but there is another side that not many take into consideration: a need to be around other writers. If you think about it you can understand why. One does not tend to become exceptional at anything when left to their own devices, especially those involved in the arts. Yes, practice makes perfect but only if you’re practicing the right things and that is why having fellow writers and even beta readers at your side will make you the best writer you can be. An athlete doesn’t train by himself with a couple of good ideas of what kind of athlete he wants to be, he finds a coach and other athletes to spur him onward, to give him advice, and to pick him up when he can’t pick himself up. A writer, though not all of them will admit it, needs the same kind of support. That is why I am writing this. The need for others was a lesson I learned after my two semester long workshop back in college, which pulled my writing from the ditch and made it into something I never thought it could be.

Recently, I have been researching several articles and books on literary agents and writer conferences, and I can’t tell you how many times I have read suggestions on building up relationships with other writers. For example, in the 2014 Guide to Literary Agents (Writer’s Digest Books), Ricki Schultz, a young adult fiction writer and the coordinator for the online writing community, The Write-brained Network, wrote an exceptional article on conferences and all of the major benefits of attending them. One point that stuck out to me was when she was discussing networking as an important reason to attend a writers’ conference, “Although you might start out on a roll, you can also lose your flow in an instant. It’s during those times that writers most need the advice, ideas, and companionship of other writers…and critique partners are invaluable.” She strikes hard and true at an issue that, unfortunately, plagues a lot of new writers. We often become either protective over our ideas or self-conscious at the thought of receiving opinions on our work. Either way, if we indulge in such feelings we strip ourselves and the stories we have of any hope to flourish in the reading and writing world. We cannot afford to do that to ourselves.

I mentioned in my first post that in the writing life there exists a tension between solitude and community, a tension very much like the strings of an instrument. Music only comes from fine tuned instruments; harmonies expelled from tension. Every writer wishes to make music with their words, every writer needs that tension.

So where does one begin? First, you can try to look up different writer groups in your area, which can be very helpful. Also, think of people you already know who have shared with you an interest in writing. Talk to them more about it, read the same books, challenge each other, critique each other the best you can. Believe it or not, any support like that goes a long way. I have several people I email back and forth with, critiquing and discussing each other’s works, and we are better for it. I not only see a difference in my own writing, but also in theirs. Thirdly, look into going to a writers’ conference. There, you will find a plethora of writers in need of the same things as you. I feel like Schultz said it best, “If you’ve ever been rereading your manuscript and wished you had a friend who could give a critique, consider attending a conference because that is where you can meet such people…” I understand that a lot of this is easier said than done, it took me a long time to develop the connections I have now but it is achievable and that’s what counts.

It is important to note that writers are humans, and humans need each other to spur one another onward to better things and bigger accomplishments. If you think you’re better off as a lone wolf, then it is also worth noting that those wolves do not fare well in the wild. So I strongly encourage you to develop that community, not just for your sake but for others’ as well.

Gertrude Stein made it her passion to help these writers and artists in becoming the best they could be. A good deal of their skill could be credited to those nights they spent sitting in her parlor, discussing their latest work, and critiquing each other, shaping each other like metal upon metal. You also will come to learn that creativity begets creativity. You will benefit, for sure, but never forget in community, giving goes hand in hand with receiving.

I still long to one day have my own place  filled with different writers and artists, all of us being common pilgrims thrown onto the current, yet, in our own respective boats, shouting out direction or gently calling out correction,”Row faster, row harder, stay true.” Then, maybe by the end, we will be better for it.

 

If you feel like I have left out any important aspects of this extremely broad topic, or have other tangible suggestions for community feel free to share it in the comments section. Remember, community happens online every day so don’t be shy. Share your thoughts, connect with others, and spur each other on.

 

A Changing Leaf, a Turning of the Page

Okay,  so the title is pretty cliché but I thought it painted a nice and fitting picture of the situation I am in. So breathe in, accept it, admire it even, then, get over it. Got that out of the way? Good.

The situation is a lovely one, as I am now endeavoring to connect to the world with which I belong––the world of writers. This atmosphere that I wish to be a part of is a paradoxical one with a push and pull between community and isolation. Writers need agents, editors, publishers, readers, and even each other but they also need the opportunity to retreat to a place of solitude to do what they love––write! That is what I want.

More than all that, I wish to show, lay out, and present to the world the stories and ideas that come barging into my mind without announcing themselves (an intrusion I have learned to look forward to). I want to tell you these stories not because I think I am an awesome story teller or that I want people to know my name (which may be true and may happen) but because a story is mean’t to be told. It’s mean’t for others to hear it, to read it, to witness it because in every story, in every book, there is a piece of you in it. Yes, you.

Who are you, anyway? You’re a reader, a thinker, but most importantly, you are human. We each have an array of things that make us tick, preferences we’ve developed, scars with stories, and moments that define us. Any true writer will tell you that the important part of a good story is the exploration of what it means to be human. In college, I took a two-semester long creative writing class and I cannot tell you how often and how passionately my professor stressed this theme in writing. He explained that writing is less of telling people a story and more of telling your readers about themselves.

That is what I want, that is what I so wish to achieve, and that is what I will do.

Now enough of this sentimental blabbering, just watch my blog and read my work, and I will show you what I mean. I will show you who I am.

I am Daniel Beilman. Welcome.