“Arterial Bloom injects the ‘literary’ piece into the horror genre with works that excel in well-crafted surprises, powerful senses of place and character, and works that stand out from the crowd. Contributors to this anthology are diverse in their approaches, plot development, and themes, and so under the general ‘horror’ umbrella there is no unifying purpose other than to gather works that are truly exceptional.”
My housemate and I were recently talking about jiu jitsu and goals. I say recently, but really we talk about these things every other day.
Essentially, we were talking about having hard and soft goals.
With jiu jitsu, for example, I aim to get to AT LEAST 1 class per week – this is my HARD goal. A goal that I pinky-promise CANNOT break.
But *ideally* I’d love to get to 3 or even BONUS ROUND 4 – this is my SOFT goal. A goal that would be cool to get but if I don’t no big deal. Life happens.
It helps my mental state because if I hit 1 class then I’ve done my job for the week. I’m never going to compete in ADCC or a huge international IBJJF tournament. Nor am I looking to transition to the world of MMA. So training SUPER HARD isn’t really very important to me.
I do jiu jitsu because it’s exciting, invigorating, and is really different from most of my other hobbies which are largely spent sitting about on my bum.
“Write every day” will kill you
Well maybe not you per se, but quite possibly your will to create and isn’t that the same thing?
It seems reasonable on the surface but there are a rake of reasons why this might not work for you. And as you miss days you’re going to feel shittier and shittier about yourself and your writing.
Writing every day is the Soft goal.
Livia Llewellyn only writes on the weekends and she’s amazing so, take that as your model, if you want.
Six steps to obscurity
So now you’re on board, what else can you do to add to the HARD/SOFT game?
My new addition is “actually submitting stories.”
I’ve been writing in a serious capacity for about 6 years now. But I have practically zero publications.
Why’s that? I hear you half-heartedly ask, worried I’ll continue on.
Well, I’ll tell you, eager reader, in the form of a list.
Below I give you Jonathan Cosgrove’s 6 Step Guide to Never Getting Published:
Spend an inordinate amount of time writing a story
Show it to one or two people
(Optional Step: Submit to one magazine)
Throw in digital-drawer
Forget about story
If I were to show you my Submission Grinder it would be hella embarrassing. I just don’t set aside the time to submit and I genuinely wonder why I’m not getting published.
But this year/decade/I’m changing all that. I’ve added Submitting to my goal setting. It’s equally as important as the writing, I think. Especially if you’re looking to actually get anywhere with the aul writing.
So my goal is now 1 day to submit a week. 1 story – 1 magazine.
At the moment I have three stories out so I’m well above average but likely some of them will be rejected.
Hopefully when the rejections come in I’ll hop back on Submission Grinder and submit that shit right away!
So, my story Mouths Filled with Seawater will be published at the start of next month (not, as I thought, next week) and since it’s my first big publication I thought I’d write something about it.
I reread the first draft just now and I honestly didn’t hate it. This is not to say that it’s perfect (can they ever be?) or that I had things down as they should be. But structurally there’s something solid about it.
In my memory the story came together quickly, written in the local library here in Dundalk, free-associating like a disgraced actor in a detective’s office – (question: is this how all stories are formed, consciously or not?) – from things that were in my immediate psychological and physical vicinity.
The setting is a shimmery, out-of-focus version of my hometown. The psychologist-type figure was named for my friend Aidan studying beside me for his course in Queens. And the confused and obsessive narrator is as much me as all characters are their authors – more or less.
“Mouths…” in its first incarnation was written during Richard Thomas’ Contemporary Dark Fiction class in late 2017.
At the time I’d returned to Ireland after four years of living in a small town in Japan. It was a jarring experience in some ways and in other ways it felt natural and inevitable.
It was abroad that I’d started writing. I’d always wanted to write, had written stories before, but in Toyama all my friends were creative in many jealousy-inducing ways. The good writers though spurred me to keep working harder. (Shout out to Tom & Lily <3)
Joining the class in 2017 almost felt full circle ‘cause my first writing class had been with Richard over on Litreactor in early 2014. It was encouraging comments like below that made me feel like I could actually write something half-decent to begin with.
Now, back in Dundalk, I was without my peers but still writing and dealing with reverse culture shock. Being a fish out of water, in my own home. Having spent so long surrounded by Americans and New Zealanders and Canadians and, of course, Japanese my language had changed. The way I interpreted things was off.
Not wrong, but different.
In Japan, I’d done away with Irish/Dundalk slang to avoid confusion. Japanese phrases were sprinkled throughout my vernacular. And I spoke purposefully slower for my high school students or my English-speaking Japanese friends. Now, at home, I was surrounded by my fast-talking, quick-witted, slang-obsessive friends. And it was exhausting.
Sometimes I’d go home to my parents’ house after a few hours with friends just ‘cause I was so tired from trying to keep up with a regular conversation.
Darina, my narrator, feels uncomfortable, too. She’s confused. She’s alone. She doesn’t speak the language of her peers, emotional or otherwise. And she’s trying to find some way to belong. She doesn’t handle anything well. Old relationships don’t work, if they ever had. And she retreats into a world of dreams and half-truths.
In a way I was writing out my own worst fears about my relationships and my life.
Though I wasn’t obsessively stalking anyone, I went to all the same places she did. I saw a cool art exhibition so into the story it went. I’d gone to the swimming pool and had a strained conversation with a staff member while I struggled to interpret social cues. I didn’t have a therapist but every Tuesday night at an ungodly hour I logged onto Skype and talked to strangers halfway across the world about stories.
It’s only writing it all out now that I realise how much that story actually means to me, and how glad I am now that it’s my introduction to the publishing world. It’s strange to think all those parts of me were buried there, waiting to be found or not.
Not much has changed from the original first draft. Not the intent or the feeling. Ray Bradbury suggests stories should be written quickly, to provide them with a good skin.
But it’s a different sort of skin than I’d have imagined. It functions almost like a cloak. An ill-fitting one. It obscures aspects of itself and there are raw, exposed parts I hope no one ever notices.
It’s 2 and a half years later and Ireland is home for me, properly, once more. But I hope I can write more stories like that and that they continue to surprise me years later. I hope I’ll always find meaning in those buried places, and I hope they give meaning to other people, too.
Mouths Filled with Seawater will be published on April 3rd in ARTERIAL BLOOM from Crystal Lake Publishing.