When Christmas Meets LOTR

I’ve been sitting in my office for the past two hours alternating between numbness and tears over the most recent mass shooting in California (the most recent one today, I should say, because we are clearly no longer content with our current shooting-to-day ratio), and I am nearly desperate to not feel so broken and hopeless.  So, I’ve decided to post a little something I have been working on.

I enjoy rewriting songs a la Weird Al Yankovic.  I am not nearly as talented as that, but it amuses me so I do it.  One of the songs I’ve been listening to a lot lately due to the upcoming holidays is “Mary Did You Know?” by Pentatonix.

As I was making the 30 minute commute to work yesterday, I thought to myself, “Self, how wonderful would this be if it was about Lord of the Rings instead?”  To myself, I replied, “It would be pretty fucking wonderful.”  So, I made that happen.  I present to you…

Frodo Did You Know?

Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring had once belonged to Sauron?
Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would lead to mass destruction?
Did you know
that your uncle’s ring was searched for by Nazgul?
‘Cause Sauron wants a body and the ring will be his tool.
Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would lead you from the Shire?
Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would bring down Sauron’s ire?
Did you know
that your uncle’s ring would come with such great cost?
You must throw it into Mt. Doom before Middle Earth is lost.


Frodo, did you know… Ooo Ooo Ooo

The Orcs will come.
The Goblins march.
And Isengard betrays.
The Ents will rage.
The Horselords ride
And Samwise never strays.

Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would take you into Mordor?
Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would be the cause of this war?
Did you know
that your uncle’s ring has brought about this gloom?
The evil forged within it must die in Mt. Doom.

So there’s that.

The Importance of Planning

I have arrived at the first significant roadblock of my garden.  Of all the plants I had my heart set on, the vast majority of them are not hardy in my growing zone.  Because of course they’re not.  This is why I am spending so much time planning.  The plants I had chosen are not cheap, and while I could always just treat them like annuals, they are way too expensive to replace every year.  Also, I thought I could create some shade space so I could plant some gorgeous Japanese painted ferns.  Yeah, no.  No, that’s not going to work because of where my garden is situated.  So, I will have to come up with a new garden theme.  Thanks, Obama!

On the upside, I can still have some of the plants.  Tulips, hyacinths, and my vines will grow just fine here.  The trick is to find amazing plants to flower through the summer and fall.  To that end, I think I’m going to go with a dragon garden theme.  I’m not entirely sure what this is going to look like yet, but I won’t have to be so rigid in the plants I choose.  At least that’s the theory.

Depression and the Creative Mind

There are a lot of articles out there that discuss links between creativity and various forms of mental illness, such as depression, and they range from fluffy clickbait articles to peer reviewed scholarly publications.  It comes as little surprise, to me at least, that I have in the last few months been diagnosed with moderate to severe Major Depression.  Normally, the crickets chirping and the cobwebs in the corners are because I’m just so busy doing everything else that needs to be done that I neglect this space.  Nothing bad happens if I don’t post, but something bad does happen if I don’t turn in homework, don’t spend time with my kids, don’t show up for work, etc.  That isn’t an excuse right now.  I have lots of time that I could set aside for posting more regularly.  The problem is I have a hard time doing anything more complicated than taking a shower.

Don’t worry about me.  I’m doing what I can to take care of myself.  To that effect, I am planning a garden.  I have a very large yard and I am lucky enough to be able to plan out a private space for myself where I can go to read, to meditate and reflect, or to just be alone.  Until winter hits, I plan on posting pictures and writing about my gardening progress because 1) it’s going to be a gorgeous garden and 2) it forces me to write regularly which can only be a good thing.

The construction will go in stages.  Stage 1 will be getting all of the measurements, removing sod, installing the inner edging, and laying down rock.  The inner portion of the garden will have rock as a ground cover and a bistro set for seating.  The garden will surround this space so I can have some privacy.  I’m looking on Craigslist, Freecycle, and yard sales looking for pots and anything else I can find a use for.  In fact, I’m picking up a garden bench and three trellises today!  Depending on how much I spend on the rock and the furniture, I may go ahead and set up the gated arbor I have picked out for the entrance.  If possible, I want to pick up some shepherds’ hooks and some staked candle holders/solar powered lighting for the interior.  I’m hoping to find some end of the season sales.

Stage 2 will be deciding which plants I can put in before the snows hit and what will need to wait until spring.  I am planning a gothic garden, so all of the plants and flowers will have a dark, gothic feel to them.  I plan on using the trellises and ornamental grasses to give the garden some height.  The arbor will be covered in flowering vines.  What gets planted will depend on what I can get and where it needs to go.  I’ll also put in the outer edging.

Stage 3 will be next spring.  Once the snow melts, I can reassess the planting I did in the fall and start acquiring the rest of my plants.  The annuals will be planted in pots that I’ve painted with a stone textured spray paint.  If I have a lot of smaller pots, I might get some inexpensive small plant stands to vary the height on them.  I’m going to be planting herbs in hanging baskets and hanging them from the shepherds’ hooks.  I want to grow several varieties of mint, dill, cilantro, chives, parsley…you know, the good stuff.

Stage 4 will be ongoing.  It’s just buying extra things for the space as I find them or can afford them.  I want a pair of these dragons to guard my garden gate.  Maybe I’ll add more lighting.  With pots and planter boxes, I can add plants if I want.

I can’t wait until I start the actual work.  It’s going to be amazing.

New Release–Fractured by Erin R. Britt

That’s right, folks!  Fractured is finally available.  Right now, the only format up is Kindle, but it will become available for paperback in the next few days.


As I mentioned before, Fractured is a collection of poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction essays that explore the breakdown of relationships and the breakdown of self within different contexts.  I hope there will be something for everyone within its pages.

I wrote all of these pieces independent of each other, but when I decided to put together a collection, I noticed there was a common thread through all of them.  Some of the pieces I wrote a couple of years ago and some are only a few months old.  I put a lot of myself into everything I create, so if you read and enjoyed Celia, you will likely enjoy this also.

A New Collection is Coming Soon

I have finally finished something new!  In the next few weeks, I will be releasing Fractured.  This is a collection of poetry, creative nonfiction essays, and short stories all revolving around the idea of being…well, fractured.  Sometimes this is meant in the literal breaking of objects.  Sometimes it’s the breaking apart of relationships and of self.

I decided to put this collection together after my son had brain surgery.  I left my teaching position because he had so many appointments to go to and I was missing a lot of classes.  Friends suggested that I create a GoFundMe page (or a page like it) so that people could help me out financially because, let’s face it.  Gas isn’t cheap.  I take my son on a minimum of two appointments a week and I live 25 minutes away from him.  Because I am me, which often translates into more proud than smart, I didn’t want to do that.  I didn’t want people to give me money, regardless of how much I needed it, because I didn’t want to feel like a mooch.  So, I started thinking of what I could do to make myself feel less moochy.  That’s when I realized that I had enough material to form a collection and Fractured was born.

I will be self-publishing, but don’t let that scare you away from grabbing a copy.  You can be sure that several eyes have passed over this.  It will be a quality publication.

Variation on a Theme

I’m sure everyone is sick of me talking about Caitlyn Jenner, so I’m not going to do that today.  Instead, I’m going to talk about my book, Celia.

For those who haven’t read it, Celia is the story of a woman whose husband tells her he is going to transition from being a man into a woman.  That bit is a slight plot twist, but there are spoiler reviews out there so I might as well give it away at this point.  It’s told from the wife’s point of view and it follows her journey through the transition process.

(For the purpose of this post, I’m going to refer to the husband as Brian because he is Brian nearly through the entire book.  It’s going to get confusing if I do it any other way.)

Brian is the bad guy in the book.  Here’s the thing, though.  Brian isn’t the bad guy because he’s transgendered.  He’s the bad guy because he lies to his wife.  He’s secretive and hides things from her.  He excludes her, and he doesn’t care how she’s acclimating to all of these changes with him, with their marriage, or even with herself as she figures out how to navigate this new relationship dynamic.  This is something that’s very important.  Trans* people can be good people and they can be bad people because they are people.  You don’t lose your humanity because you are transgendered, so as many variations as there are in humanity, so can there be in any portion of humanity.  In short: Brian is an asshole and he’s transgendered.  He isn’t an asshole because he’s transgendered.

So, why did I write a book about a transgendered person from a spouse’s point of view?  Well, for starters, my former spouse began transitioning during our marriage, so it was the point of view I had experience with.  From there, it might be easy to think that I am bashing transgendered people because of the actions of one person.  Except, the book never undermines Brian’s decision to transition.  There is never that unseen entity pointing a finger and saying, “See what you’ve done?  You should never have done this.  This is all your fault.  You should have just stayed the way you are.”  The book does criticize the way Brian handles it, however.  We’re all dealt a hand of cards and what we get is what we get.  We don’t get to control that.  We do get to control what we do with them, though, and Brian doesn’t make the best choices.

So, why write the book at all?  I think most people think I wrote it for cisgendered people.  The fact is, I wrote it for transgendered people and for people who might be the parents of transgendered people.  Clearly, this is not representative of every transition experience, even those that occur within a marriage.  Not all marriages end in divorce because of a transition (though a fair amount do, including my own, for various reasons).  At first, Brian’s wife does the best she can in order to be supportive of his transition and to help whenever she could.  Many wives and husbands are supportive.  So, while this is not representative of transition experiences, it is a type of transition experience.  This is what can happen when someone is told they can’t be who they truly are.  This is what can happen when someone is beaten for questioning their gender identity.  That child or adolescent grows into an adult who might think that if they could just find the right partner, that partner could “fix” them and they would be normal.  Except, there’s nothing to fix because they’re not broken.  This sets up the transgendered person to be depressed, miserable, and possibly even desperate.  They might marry someone and even have children while they’re living their own personal lie.  This makes for an unhappy home life for everyone involved.

I wrote this book to say, “This is what you are setting yourself/your children (for parents of trans* youth) up for if you can’t be who you are/if you can’t let them be who they are.”  In my own case, there was a lot of pain, not just for me but for my children who I lost custody of.  I live in Indiana.  ‘Nuff said.  While writing this book, I kept thinking back on my former spouse as a child and thought about all the pain that could have been avoided if my in-laws had just allowed my former spouse to be authentic.  If I’m being honest, I blamed my former spouse to some extent, too, for not being strong enough or brave enough to be authentic in spite of it all.  That’s not fair, but we don’t always react fairly when we’re in pain.  I don’t have a high opinion of my former spouse and I probably never will, but it isn’t because of the transition.   I have always supported the decision to be authentic.  I don’t think highly of my former spouse because my former spouse is a selfish asshole who didn’t care about anyone else’s needs.  I don’t hate the cards.  I hate how they were played.

This is why I feel so strongly about Caitlyn Jenner being so high profile.  If it allows one parent to look at their trans* child and say, “You know what, maybe this isn’t such a horrible thing after all,” then she’s done something tremendous.  We are not islands.  We ripple, touching lives beyond our own.  I imagine my former spouse transitioning as a teen, being comfortable enough to say, “This is who I am” and finding someone who is comfortable enough to say, “I want to be with who you are.”  So many people wouldn’t have been wounded later on.  This is why I wrote the book.  It’s a warning, a preview of what can happen when you try to live as someone you’re not for the sake of other people.

More Thoughts on Caitlyn Jenner

Since I wrote my open letter yesterday, I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.  I’m very happy to see so many people being supportive and making the world just a little bit better by accepting the beings who live in it.  From this point, I see two more camps who I feel need addressing.  There is the camp who says that going public wasn’t intentional and it wasn’t intended to benefit the trangendered community, so we shouldn’t be quite so supportive of it.  There is also the camp who says that Caitlyn Jenner cannot be someone’s hero because she isn’t risking her life in order to help people.  I’m going to address this second camp first.

In my letter yesterday, I mentioned that trans* people encounter disproportionately high rates of suicide, assault, sexual violence, and murder. I want you to take a moment and look here.  Then I want you to look here.  And here.  Keep looking because there is more to see.  Caitlyn Jenner risks her life just to exist as her authentic self.  Her wealth and celebrity may protect her from the brunt of it, but being a celebrity doesn’t keep you from being killed.  There is no guarantee that her being in the public eye will serve some greater good, but I can guarantee you that it will help more than it will hurt.  If even one trans* youth sees her in the spotlight and decides not to commit suicide, then Caitlyn Jenner will have saved a life.  That makes her a hero.  We may never know if that happens or not.  We don’t necessarily need to.  The possibility is there and that’s good enough for me.

So, going back to the first camp, I am of the opinion that it doesn’t matter how or why Caitlyn Jenner went public.  What matters is that she did and what she does while she is there.  By virtue of being public she has raised awareness.  She has sparked conversations.  She has compelled transphobes to come out of the woodwork into the light of day and that has given the rest of us opportunities to combat that as we encounter it.  I have had so many people say, “I’ve been friends with this person for so long and I had no idea they felt this way.  I just can’t believe there is so much hatred.”  Even if that is the only thing she accomplishes, that’s huge.  It’s caused those of us who are allies to be even more visible.  More people are seeing our support and that increases the chances that we can be there for people who we might not have been able to be there for.  I cannot speak for all allies, but for myself, I more than willing to be an ally to anyone who needs me.  You now know where to find me if you need comfort, support, and someone to have your back.

An Open Letter to Caitlyn Jenner

Dear Caitlyn,

Since your Vanity Fair cover debuted, you have been the subject of many comments.  Some of them were welcoming, some were flattering, but some were fetishizing and objectifying, and still others were plain vitriolic.  I’ve spent the better part of the last 24 hours attempting to combat the vilest of these, but I’m sure you can imagine how effective I’ve been.  Instead, I have decided to address you personally and I hope that this somehow makes its way to you.  I want you to know where I stand on the things some people are saying.

“That is not a woman.”

You are absolutely a woman.  For better or worse, the good and the bad, you are one of us and I welcome you.  I will not relegate you to a sub-woman (or sub-human) status.  I will not exclude you from feminist spaces.  I will not presume to speak for you, but I will absolutely speak up for you.  I will be your ally the best way I am able.

How dare she call herself a mother?! That’s an insult to the sanctity of motherhood!”

I am a mother and I am a birth mother. You identifying yourself as a mother does not threaten me in the slightest.  And, really, why should it?  It’s not like we’re BFFs.  We don’t even know each other.  And even if we did, your parental identity does not impact my parenting ability in any way, shape, or form.  No, Caitlyn, I am not bothered by you calling yourself a mother.  You know who bothers me?  These mothers.  Some sanctity, huh?

“I’m so sick of hearing about this. All she wants is money and attention.”

You know what?  We need you to get attention.  We need to have more trans* people visible in the media and in daily life.  So many people end up being erased, so if you being in the spotlight helps to prevent trans* erasure, I’m ok with that.  Use your spotlight wisely, though.  That’s all I ask of you.

“I have a friend like this and she doesn’t experience violence. That used to be a problem but not anymore.”

Yes, someone actually said this to me.  And in part, this is why it’s so important for you to be in the spotlight.  Trans* people experience much higher rates of assault, rape, and murder than the general public.  You are famous, and beautiful, and wealthy, so you may not experience this.  I sincerely hope you never, ever experience this.  Unfortunately, too many trans* people do.  When a group goes unseen, the violence done to them tends to go unremarked upon.  You have the opportunity to show your heart to the world, to show us who you are as a woman and as a human being.  Maybe if we can start seeing trans* people as human beings, we could finally start treating them like human beings.

“She isn’t brave! Our veterans are brave!”

Yes they are.  You know what?  So are you.  Bravery is knowing the path you need to take is filled with dangers and pain, but it’s what you need to do so you do it anyway.  You did that.  That makes you brave.

“I’d fuck her.”

The people actually saying this one think they’re paying you a compliment.  They are not, and as a woman, you will need to adjust to this reality.  Being a woman means constantly combating the idea that we become community property when we enter public spaces.  Men will catcall you.  Some may try to grope you.  Some may start to follow you if you don’t acknowledge their lewd comments.  Ok, being wealthy and famous might cut down on that a lot.  I wouldn’t know, as I am neither.  Still, these aren’t compliments.  In fact, reducing you down to whether or not you are an acceptable sexual partner is objectifying you and fetishizing you.  That’s not cool.  What makes this even worse is that I have seen women participating in this.  You’d think, seeing as how we deal with this kind of behavior fairly regularly, that women would know better and do better.  But no, some women don’t.  It reduces you to sub-woman status, and that isn’t cool either.

“She only looks good because she had surgery.  Otherwise, she’d just be playing dress up.”

You do look good, but let me be very clear.  You would be a woman whether you had surgery or not.  Whether you had hormone replacement therapy or not.  Wore women’s clothing or not.  We don’t have the right to dictate your femininity.  You will be the woman that you want to be, and it might look different than how other women want to be women.  That’s ok.  Whether you decide to wear evening gowns and red lipstick or sweatpants with a messy ponytail, you are the woman you want to be.  No one else gets to define that for you and no one else gets the right to validate your identity.  Fuck those people.

I am cisgendered, so I will never be able to know what your experience is like.  All I can do is offer my hand in sisterhood and welcome you to the fold.

Best wishes for a happy future,

Erin R. Britt

P.S. You don’t look gorgeous because you had surgeries or could afford expensive clothes.  You look gorgeous because you look so fucking happy and free.  Keep being happy.

Til Only Her Thesis Remained…

That’s right, folks!  As of this moment, the only thing standing between me and my M.A. in English degree is my thesis.  It has been a lot of hard work compounded by life.  In fact, this has been the hardest few months of my life.

My oldest son has been having a lot of health issues.  In March, we discovered he has a large cyst that was causing him a lot of problems and needed surgery.  In April, he had brain surgery.  There is nothing more terrifying than to learn your child has a potentially life-threatening condition.  Without surgery, the pressure from the cyst would most likely have killed him at some point.  With the surgery, he is limited from doing things he enjoys because a blow to the head could kill him.  There is a lot of adjustment going on.

His health issues (which included a week in Chicago and I do not live in Chicago) made school work more challenging than it should have been.  I didn’t have the time or the energy to devote to my work.  I initially wanted to be completely done by now, but something had to give so I chose to push back my thesis work.  I missed a lot of teaching because of being out of town or at various doctor appointments, so I asked that they replace me.  That helped in terms of my work load, but that stress was replaced by anxiety over money.  I am thrilled to say that his surgery went well and he is ok.  This is something he will need to monitor for the rest of his life, though.

I ended the semester with a 3.7 GPA.  Not too shabby considering the other stuff I was going through.

Now that school is over for the most part, it’s time to get back into the swing of things.  My poor blog has been mostly forgotten about.  I have some new projects in the works and some major changes coming up.  Hopefully, I’ll have a lot of good news to be sharing.  After the first of the year, I plan on getting back to my interviews, so if you’ve been missing Author Corner, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I might also spend time lamenting that Hollywood, not content with simply systematically destroying my childhood, is now working to destroy my life in its entirety with their horrible remake schedule.  I’m no screenwriter, but I’m reasonably certain that I could be doing a better job of things.

And, of course, I will be updating periodically on my thesis.  My goal is to have my proposal approved this summer so that I can start my revisions.

Have a happy weekend!

Happy Birthday to Me

It is that time, once again, where I celebrate the glorious occasion of my birth.  It is also the first day of the spring semester and I am teaching today as well as taking a class.  It stands to reason, then, that I haven’t been able to sleep and the birthday butterscotch creme brulee has killed my insides.  For those who don’t remember/are new, I’m allergic to eggs and that’s basically what creme brulee is: baked eggs with crunchy sugar on top.  I realize I shouldn’t have eaten it, but we were at a nice restaurant and our server brought me a complimentary dessert and that was what she brought.  It was delicious, but I am paying dearly for it now.

I am 38 today.  Some things really make that hit home.  My oldest son is already angling for his first car and he won’t even be 16 until August.  My high school class is planning our 20th reunion.  Whenever I think about the things I used to enjoy in my 20s, I instantly feel the need to take a nap.  Oh, and there’s my stockpile of hair color.

Last year, for my birthday, I was deathly ill with flu and I had lost a dear friend of mine to a lengthy respiratory illness.  It was shaping up to be another sad birthday for me when weather prevented me from seeing my youngest son this weekend.  But, you know?  It hasn’t been that bad at.  It’s actually been pretty good.

I spent the weekend with my oldest son, just the two of us.  We went to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies yesterday and it was great.  When I got home, I had a present waiting for me.



A friend wanted to make my day suck less.  It worked.  My guy took me to a really nice restaurant where I had fettuccine with shrimp and lobster in a spicy diavolo sauce and my butterscotch death brulee.  Came home and watched a few episodes of Game of Thrones.  Yes, I’m behind, but I’m in the 4th season now so cut me some slack.  After that, I came into my office to do some work but saw a contest and decided to enter a chapbook of poetry instead.  If all of this wasn’t quite enough, I’ve had birthday wishes coming in from Facebook and in my email, and I’ll be meeting up with friends after class tonight to eat noms, drink beverages, and spend time together.

It’s cold.  The roads tend to be awful.  I didn’t get to see my small man.  Nothing is perfect, though, and so I’ll spend my day being grateful for all the wonderful people I have in my life.  I fully expect lots of birthday hugs and lots of laughs.  Here’s to another trip around the sun.

Car Shopping Makes Me Sad on the Inside

For the last two months or so, I have been without a vehicle.  With the start of a new semester fast approaching, this won’t work out well for me, so I’ve been combing the interwebs for a new car.  To say the experience has been soul crushing is putting a positive spin on things.  Everything is either almost as old as I am (and I have a birthday soon :/), over 150,000 miles, or gets horrendous gas mileage.  I drive over 1200 miles per month, so that’s just not going to work for me.  Side note: if you are wondering why I’m not writing, chances are I’m driving somewhere.  It feels like I live in my car sometimes.  Except I have no car.

My goal is to have something to drive by this time next weekend.  The hunt continues!

Happy New Year

Hopefully, everyone had a great night last night and no one is too hung over today.  My own evening was spent deep cleaning and getting pinned under the deep freezer.  We were moving it out of the basement and into the front garage, but moving it around the landing and up the stairs was somewhat…problematic.  I was at the top of the stairs and I ended up pinned underneath the thing.  It went something like:

Him: Go up the stairs.

Me: I’m pinned.

Him: You have to get up the stairs.

Me: I can’t.  I’m pinned.

Him: You’ve got to move!

Me: What part of “pinned” was unclear?!

Needless to say, I became unpinned once he rolled the freezer over the top of me.  My leg is still a little sore from where it rolled, but there’s no bruising so I don’t think there’s any major damage.

If you saw my year end post the other day, you will know about the wonderful writing spreadsheet my lovely guest Jamie Raintree created and shared.  I had last year’s spreadsheet and that was pretty cool.  The changes she made to this year’s spreadsheet are amazing.  Now, you can track more projects and there’s a new section for tracking your editing progress.  I spent some time setting up my projects and I’m excited to get tracking.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t feel like you do any writing at all if it’s not on your primary project.  The fact is, we’re constantly writing things.  My goal for this year (I refuse to call it a resolution) is to track all of the different forms of writing I do every day and see what I’m actually producing.  With the extra project space, I can do that more thoroughly.  Of course, one of the very first projects is for Enraptured, and I’ve actually been working on it today so I may finish it at some point.  You know you have something special when you go back over your manuscript to see what you’ve done and you impress yourself:

“Church shouldn’t be comfortable.  You’re here to work, and work should be hot and sweaty.”

“But shouldn’t the Church also provide comfort?”

“The people of the Church provide comfort.  The building does not.”

–Enraptured, Chapter 2

I have a project set up to track blog postings, so that should help keep things a bit more regular around here.  I’m in my final semester (!) of graduate school, which means another writing workshop and my fiction thesis project.  This time, it’s creative nonfiction.  This isn’t my favorite thing to write, but “Fruits of Labor” was published last summer and “Don’t Be Sorry” was included in a collection of grad student essays, so there’s that.  My thesis project is already written, so I get to play with the edit tracking feature.  I do need to add 2-7 pages through editing but that isn’t a problem.  I’m having more of a problem writing the damn thesis proposal (which I will do!).  I added a project to track my poetry writing and then a final one to track whatever writing exercises I do.  I have a couple more spaces left, so I have room to work on something else if I want to, but I really think this is enough for now.

What goals have you set for yourselves this year?



The Dawn of a New Year

Last year, I had the pleasure of hosting Jamie Raintree here on the blog.  When it came time to do another year end post, I knew I’d love to have her back.  She shared a wonderful writing tracking worksheet for 2014, and she’s back now with tips on being a professional writer as well as an updated tracking worksheet for 2015!


6 Ways to Be a Professional Writer Right Now

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They say the most important job of an aspiring published author is to write, and it’s true for obvious reasons. You can’t publish a work that isn’t complete, and the only way to become a better writer is to do it consistently, to study the craft, and to keep your nose the the grindstone. But often times, as the years pass and there seems to be little tangible evidence to show for all your blood, sweat, and tears, it can be difficult to remember what all the hard work is for. When it feels like there’s no one in the world but you who cares whether you complete your book or not, it’s easy to skip a day or a few months or to stop trying altogether. After all, it’s just a “hobby” right?

But you and I both know it’s a not a hobby, or a flighty dream. In fact, it’s often the most real thing in our lives–the part of ourselves that makes us feel like the people we’re meant to be. It’s what gives our lives purpose and keeps us going when we feel lost.

So then why does our writing life often feel like a dirty secret we fit in between all our other responsibilities? Why do we talk about it sheepishly with the people in our lives, if we talk about it at all?

As someone who does a lot of reading on personal growth and who spends a lot of time around entrepreneurs, the phrase “act as if” is one I’ve heard a thousand times. Then idea is that when you act as if the person you want to be, you will make choices like that person, and draw opportunities to you like that person, and eventually, you will become that person. This mindset has worked magic in my life many, many times and that’s what I’m sharing with you today–six ways to “act as if” you are a published author in order to get yourself in the right mindset to become one.

 1. Create a Consistent Message and Active Routine on Social Media.

We already know marketing is a big part of being a writer today and while you may not have a product to promote yet, it’s never too early to start creating a fan base for yourself. What’s better for a writer than having fans? Who are your fans before you have a novel to share? The people who understand your struggle to make your dreams come true and who want to be a part of your journey. There are more of them out there than you might think.

 2. Create a Blogging Schedule and Stick to It.

One of the hardest parts about writing books is that you complete projects so infrequently. I’m lucky if I finish a book a year. Other writers can finish one every few months, while others still take several years. No matter how long it takes you, it never seems to be fast enough, and it’s hard to stay motivated without having regular accomplishments under your belt. A blog is a great way to hold yourself accountable, to put your writing out in the world consistently, and to chalk up regular writing accomplishments.

3. Create a Website.

Writers are notorious for writing in our pajamas, curled up on the couch, our hair pinned up into a bird’s nest, a cup of coffee within reach, and Hershey Kisses wrappers littered around us in every direction. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still have a professional presence. Creating a simple WordPress website and blog is easy, it’s free, and it’s your professional face to the world. Once you have one, visit it every day to remind yourself that no matter what you are currently wearing, you look like a pro.

4. Join a Critique Group.

Or create one. Either way, talking regularly with people about the industry, asking questions, getting feedback on your work, and creating accountability can make it feel like you have colleagues around you working toward a shared goal. They are the ones waiting to read your next work when the publishing industry hasn’t quite caught up yet.

5. Join and Volunteer for Writing Organizations.

Being a part of writing organizations gives you the opportunity to attend events wearing your author hat–not your parent hat, or your day job hat, or your laundry-folder hat. It gives you the chance to look like and feel like the writer you know you are. Even better, volunteering is so appreciated by the people who run these organizations and it’s a fun way to be a part of the industry before you’re a part of the industry. There are lots of opportunities to meet and make connections with people who are further along the path than you and who are more than happy to share their expertise.

6. Submit Short Stories and Articles to Magazines.

What makes you feel more like a writer than submitting your work, and potentially getting paid for it? Even if you typically only write novels, there are many opportunities out there to get your work published now. It also gets you used to writing to a deadline and getting feedback from industry professionals. Plus, it’s a great way to build your portfolio for when it’s time to start querying or to publish your book.

Yes, it can take many years of practice to get good enough at writing to catch the attention of the industry, but it also takes years of practice to be a professional. Just like you put in the words each day, it helps to train your mind on a daily basis to live like the success that you already are and that you strive to be. As they say, dress for the job you want, not the job you have.


I want to send a big thank you to Erin R. Britt for having me on her blog today. Thank you, Erin! Also, as we start the new year, be sure to check out my 2015 Writing Progress Spreadsheet to help you track your writing and revisions progress each day, week, month, and for the year. I wish you all a very productive and successful new year!

Jamie Raintree


Jamie Raintree writes women’s fiction about women searching for truth in life and love. She is currently working on revisions of her first novel in preparation for submission to publishers. In the meantime, she blogs about her journey toward a well-balanced life and a career in publishing–her struggles and successes along the way. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and two young daughters and is a Workshop Coordinator for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Subscribe to her newsletter for more blogs, book news, and writer tools and other free downloads for dreamers. To find out more, visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or subscribe to her newsletter.

Poem 8–We Have Met Our End At Last

The other day, while browsing my Facebook news feed, I saw a link posted by two of my friends.  It was for this:


Yes, this is really a thing.

One person posted this ironically and the other posted this in earnest.  Let’s look at the most obvious problem with this shirt.

When you state something, you imply that the opposite is also true.  For example, if you say, “Drunk drivers kill people,” you are also saying, “Sober drivers do not kill people.”  So, when a shirt says, “Breathe easy. Don’t break the law,” it is also saying, “If you break the law, then you deserve to have difficulty breathing (or to not breathe at all).”  What constitutes breaking the law, then?  Well, lots of things, as it happens.  Jaywalking.  Turning on red when it’s posted you can’t do that.  Failing to use your turn signal.  Performing oral sex.  No, I’m not making that last one up.  In Indiana, oral sex is illegal, regardless of whether you are married to your partner or not.

Are any of these things worthy of capital punishment?  Please tell me you’re all saying, “No, don’t be ridiculous” right now.  And yet, according to this shirt, these people are not obeying the law and so they deserve to have lethal force used against them.

“But Erin,” you might be saying, “let’s get real here.  It’s only talking about ‘big’ crimes, like killing people or resisting arrest.”  Fair enough.  Let’s look at that.

James Eagan Holmes was arrested outside of a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado after he went inside and killed 12 people and injured 70 more people.  He was arrested.  He wasn’t shot to death.  He wasn’t choked to death in a prohibited maneuver.  He. was. arrested.

Eric Garner was accused of selling loose cigarettes.  Seriously, that’s what they thought he was doing.  That’s not a capital offense.  Even if Garner had resisted to the point where an officer felt his safety was threatened, are there not better ways to resolve that situation?  The short answer is, “Of course there are,” and that’s why people are so upset and why #Icantbreathe is even a thing.  Side note: when you become a police officer, you accept that public safety becomes more important than your own and that your job entails added risks because of this.  If you don’t want to be in danger, don’t become a police officer.  I don’t want to be in danger.  This is why I’m not a cop.  Seriously.  Lethal force should be your final option, not your first response.

When looking for inspiration for this last poem, I decided to try doing an erasure poem from a news story.  The news story I chose had to do with Michael Brown and Eric Garner.


When The Wild West Was Yesterday

Who is telling the truth?

Have faith in military zones

riot gear,

tear gas,

rubber bullets—

that they can tell

the difference.


Jack up the conflict—

armored cars,

gas masks,

SWAT gear,


Don’t release the name

arrest the journalists.


Respond with solidarity

explain the resonance

add another hashmark

to the genre

of Black Death.

“I can’t breathe.”




Poem 7–When There Was Nothing Left

So, a few weeks ago, I posted about the absolute clusterfuck that was my life.  Of course, whilst I was dealing with all of that, I also had a poem due for workshop.  That was one of the most difficult poems I’ve had to write because Life had sucked everything out of me through a bendy straw.  I had nothing left to give, so this is what I wrote.



here in this space

punctuation is an exercise


in futility


and getting out of bed

becomes an act of




Poem 6–Hold On To Your Butts

This next poem is something I have never even considered attempting before.  I wrote a sestina.  I may not ever do this again.  I’m not even going to lie about it.  The assignment was to write a sonnet or a sestina, and since I’ve written sonnets in the past, I went with the sestina.  You might want to grab a beverage for this one.


The Order Includes Both Extant and Extinct Species

She held the baby turtle in her hand,

leaving fingerprints over the shell’s braille.

The turtle, in response to the  potential conflict,

pulled in its limbs and prayed for water.

She held it close, knowing that her power

was false—it could have chosen to struggle


even as she could have chosen to struggle

against the insignificance of her own hand.

Life was the mouse that escaped the cat’s power

only to find itself tripping over the braille

of the mousetrap, pinned and begging for water.

In the place where death and life conflict,


what was the point, if not conflict

resolution, of a satisfactory end to the struggle?

The cacti will always plead for water,

spines held aloft like supplicating hands

that rise above the desert braille

with nothing to grasp against the flood’s flashing power.


But interference was outside her power

even as she orchestrated the conflict

of razor blade against skin, scribing braille

apologies to no one who could read them. Her struggle–

to not write more lines with a shaky hand

while watching the sink pool with blood soaked water.


She wondered if a drop of holy water

could infuse in her some divine power.

She held the droplet in her hand,

indistinguishable from tap, a conflict

she had no stake in, so felt no need to struggle

against her senses or the rosary beads raised like braille,


or gooseflesh raised like a braille

scripture, not from divinity but from rain water

laced with laudanum.  The haze is one less struggle

for the turtle to hide from.  It exercised its power

of avoidance until it couldn’t evade the conflict

anymore and shrank itself inside her hand.


She stroked the turtle’s braille and found the power

to place it near the water, end its conflict,

the futile struggle against her hand.


So, what do you think?  Should I attempt more sestinas in the future?

Poem 5–A Trip

For this poem, we were supposed to root it in truth but then make up some of the details.  One of my favorite trips I took as a child was to Whitefish Point in Michigan.  There is a shipwreck museum there and it was the coolest place ever.  One day, I plan to take my boys there so they can experience it, too.

Edmund Fitzgerald Could Have Been My Father

November 10, 1975


We went that summer to pay respect

to the sunken ships of the superior lake


A lighthouse was their headstone—

the ships, themselves, rested in paupers’ graves


Names—on wood, on steel—legible only to fish

in schools that can’t read


The living wanted to study the portraits of the dead

read plaques covered in ridiculously small script


Squinting      squinting      as if the reshaping of their lids

would force some meaning


I much preferred to study the waves—

a deepness that hugged cargo


close to her bottom

I looked past ripples into nothingness


in the nothing I saw myself

This was information best not shared


My brother joined me, asked what I was staring at

I considered all the things I could tell him


metaphors and words that end with –istic

except I was only 12 and I didn’t know


that kindredness had words

He was only 10—the words I didn’t know


held no meaning for him anyway

He asked again–



It is the most honest conversation

we will have.

Poem 4

For this assignment, we were told to channel Noelle Kocot.  However, I was also reading Joe Bolton at the same time, so the end result is a combination of the two, though my professor thinks it’s more Bolton influenced.  Actually, I’m ok with that.  If you haven’t read either of these poets, I would recommend them both.  Kocot is just so weird.  I love it.  Bolton gives me all the feels.  All. The. Feels.  If you can only read one of his poems, please read “The Distance.”  That piece brings me to the brink of tears every time I read it.  It’s my favorite Joe Bolton poem and one of my top ten favorite poems of all time.  Anyway, so at time time I wrote this, I was obsessed with the concept of the starlight we see being from something that ceased to exist billions of years ago.  I mean, if you really stop to think about that, it’s mind blowing.  The voice is a pretty big departure from my usual voice and that was really fun to play with.




They went to the countryside—

attempting to hide from the glaring skyline

Because she wanted to see the stars.

“We didn’t need to come here.”

He saw the stars in her eyes but not

the way her face scrunched at his

Attempted romantics.

“We’re all just clichés—clichés with feet,” she said,

Her way of absolving him.

“Is it a cliché if it’s true?”

She hesitated, a conscious act to spare him, then said,


She looked back to the stars

their cold, dead light a remembrance

Of something long extinguished

their names forgotten.

He looked to her instead of the sky

as though he were Galileo.

She never asked to be heliocentric,

couldn’t shake his orbit.

His racing heart and fevered blood

would be the death of him.

She wanted to care, or at least to feel guilty

for being his source of condemnation.

It would have to be good enough.

She watched the sky and he watched her,

Memorizing her constellations,

basking in her heat,

Never once considering that

her life was starlight.



Poem 3

For this assignment, we were supposed to write about something erotic.  For reasons too numerous to go into here, I’m not really good at that sort of thing.  I was stuck.  So, I went to a friend, explained my problem, and she said, “So why not write about how you can’t write about it?”  Did I mention that this friend is pretty smart?



I tried to write about your lips

overripe like strawberries


But all I could see is lipstick smeared

like cabernet slashes across your face


Your hands drew pictographs

in champagne condensation


Translucent screams for eyes

that look at everything but see nothing


silken ties bound tightly as burlap

–prettiness still chafes —


And the gilded bed is a lie you told yourself

to keep from drowning


The matchstick flared, scratching echoes

in otherwise stillness


The sulfur fucking ozone

thunderclouds behind your eyes


Blind you with lightning flashes in the

rearview mirror as you choke on


Chemicals masquerading as

Sandalwood air freshener


The only connection to actual

wood was the tree shape it assumed.


Your lips are parts of my face

–together we scream


This isn’t hyperbole

This is memoir

Poem 2

Continuing on with my poetry portfolio, this was the second poem I wrote.



He asks if he can go fishing. I imagine him to be Salvador Dali

but there are no tuna here and he has no mustache.

He, who would eat his net gains if I let him.

He, who would throw them back if only I’d help him. But I can’t.

I want to help him as much as he wants to do it himself, but we both fear

those spiny stabbing, dorsal daggers.

The river slaps the dock, a half-hearted sadist

and the only tears are his while

the Bluegill struggles to breathe water

full of salt. It fails. As do we.

The worm is gone and I hope it’s

deep in the belly for the fish’s sake. No one

ever gives a fuck about the worm.

I am no different. A boat comes by and the boy

waves for their attention. They smile, wave back

when what he wanted was their assistance.

I figure out how to free the fish soon after.

It jumps off the dock…I would have thrown it back.

By that, I mean I would have used my foot.

All is well until tomorrow when he asks if he can fish.