How to be a NaNoWriMo Rebel

nano_poster_2014November marks the beginning of another National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). This is my fourth year taking up the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days along with thousands of other writers around the world. But this year, I’m doing something a little different.

I’m being a NaNo rebel.

A NaNo rebel is someone who doesn’t follow the NaNoWriMo guidelines in some way. Whether it’s continuing a work in progress instead of starting something new or writing a work that isn’t a novel, there are many ways to be a rebel. This year, I’m attempting to write 50,000 words worth of personal essays instead of a novel. It’s kind of a crazy undertaking, but I’m giving it a shot. So far, I’ve already written six new essays that I plan to edit and submit in December.

One of the things I love about NaNoWriMo is that you can be part of the fun without being locked into doing any particular thing. I’m using NaNo in the way that best suits my writerly needs right now. Some people use it to get a kickstart on an old project. Others only participate for part of the month. Many are writing memoirs, short story collections, or graphic novels. NaNoWriMo can be anything you want it to be.

For me, NaNo has always been about the motivation and, most importantly, the community. Going to write-ins, meeting like-minded creative types, and working toward a crazy shared goal is very encouraging and helps break up the solitary writer life I lead at least 30 days out of the year.

So, if you’ve heard rumblings about NaNoWriMo, or you’ve checked it out but got frightened away by the specifics or the word count, I still highly recommend being part of it. It’s not to late to join in. You can participate online and/or find local meetups in your area. No one will judge you for being a rebel—there’s even a whole forum on the website devoted to us.

To all of those participating in NaNoWriMo this year, best of luck hitting your 50K! I also want to extend a special thank you to the region of Los Angeles and our fantastic Municipal Liaisons who put together all of our events and many of the write-ins.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what are you writing?

Some Kind of Moment: A Short Story eBook

SKoM final paperback (layers)Today marks the release of my new short story ebook, “Some Kind of Moment.” Here’s the synopsis:

Friendship can be confusing. 20-year-old Izzy Desmond likes killing time with Luke, an endearingly eccentric slacker, and feels herself drifting apart from Mandy, the Beverly Hills party girl she befriended freshman year. When the three mismatched friends spend a day together at the Santa Monica Pier, Izzy tries to figure out what Luke and Mandy really mean to her, and whether the connections she has with them can last.

To get your free copy, enter your email address in the box below. After you confirm the subscription, you’ll automatically receive links to the PDF, ePub, and MOBI files. There’s also an option to read the story right in your browser.

With the subscription, you’ll also be getting my newsletter with blog posts, occasional updates, and any future exclusive content. I promise I won’t spam you or sell your information. My newsletter helps me stay in touch with all of you, my readers. I’m going to have some exciting projects coming up.


Get Your Free Copy of “Some Kind of Moment”


I really hope you enjoy the story! A special thank you to Pj Kneisel for designing my beautiful cover and helping me edit the book. I couldn’t have done this without you.


Lessons Learned from Starless Skies

photoA few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I took a trip to Sedona, AZ. We’d both heard about the infamous vortexes and New Age culture, but we’re not into that scene. Our decision to go was based on cheap hotel availability, drivability, beautiful landscapes, and the ability to see the stars at night.

That last one was probably the biggest draw for us. We share a love of all things space. Since we’re both long-time residents of Los Angeles, our opportunities to see more than a handful of stars in the night sky have been few and far between. Because of Sedona’s isolation and elevation, we were promised an amazingly clear view.

Before we left, my mother excitedly informed me that we’d enjoy a full moon while we were there. When I shared this with my boyfriend, he said, “Oh…that’s not good.” Amateur stargazers, such as myself, might not know that a full moon emits so much light that the stars get drowned out. To our great disappointment, this was true. The moon looked lovely, but the sky was too bright to see stars.

Even though we both love the moon, those nights in Sedona, we found ourselves cursing it. I tried not to get too discouraged. We did research and tried to see if there was a gap between the sunset and moonrise we could try to catch.

IMG_3114In the meantime, we enjoyed what Sedona had to offer. We climbed to the top of a tall red rock and looked out at the city. We took a day trip to the Grand Canyon. We visited a vortex and didn’t feel anything funny. Then we got into a long debate about vortexes and whether places or people have special energy.

But we didn’t see many stars. The last night of the trip was the one night we had a big enough gap to possibly see some between the sunset and moonrise. We went outside after a dinner of burgers and rattlesnake bites to see if it was finally our chance to glimpse what we’d come for.

The sky was completely black, all the stars hidden behind an impenetrable haze. We both started laughing, finally surrendering to the fact that we were out of luck. We still drove to a lookout point and located a couple of stars peeking out between the clouds. We shared a nice, quiet moment beneath the dark sky.

I told my boyfriend I was sorry we didn’t get to see the thing we most wanted to see. He assured me that it was okay. We had a lovely time, and being together was what really mattered.

A week later, a spectacular meteor shower was scheduled to take place. I lamented our bad timing. We could have had front row seats to something incredible. We tried to see the shower in Los Angeles, but were once again met by a hazy, dim sky. This time, I didn’t laugh. It just seemed unfair. But it turned out that the shower wasn’t as spectacular as promised, so even if we’d been somewhere with a better view, there wouldn’t have been much to see. There was also a wildfire in Sedona, which we would have encountered if we’d been there a week later.

So, everything balanced out. We wanted to see the stars, but had to settle for a fun trip. I got upset about timing, but later discovered that it actually could have been a disaster to go later.

Sometimes I think things happen for a reason, but usually think it’s completely random. The thing I still struggle with is wishing I made different decisions when things don’t work out. But we’ll have other chances to see a bright, clear sky. I could even assure myself that it will happen when it’s meant to, or that there’s a reason things worked out the way they did.

I don’t necessarily want to, though. I’d rather be okay with accepting and waiting.

On (Not) Being a Failure: My Post-College Journey

When I graduated college in 2009, I had a plan. I would move back home and live with my mom until I found an entry-level job as a writer or editor. Then I would get an apartment, maybe move in with my college boyfriend, and begin my “adult” life. I anticipated that all of this would take about six months, max.

Things didn’t exactly work out that way. Turns out, there weren’t really any entry-level jobs in my field because of the recession. There weren’t any jobs, period. I spent over a year applying to dozens of positions, anything I was even remotely qualified for. The result of my search was some sporadic editing gigs, a very-part-time job teaching computer lessons to old people, and an ill-fated administrative assistant position for a company that almost immediately asked me to compose college admission essays for non-English-speaking students. I left that one more deflated than ever.

I didn’t know back then that I wasn’t alone in my aspiring adult struggles. Despite the fact that some of my friends were able to find jobs and be independent, many of these fell through, or were exaggerated. Personally, I tried to avoid telling anyone that I lived at home and only worked part-part time doing freelance editing gigs. I was embarrassed. I still am embarrassed. Because, going on five years later, that part of the equation hasn’t changed.

Yep, folks. I still live at home.

Sometimes it feels like I’ve been stuck in the same place all these years. But that’s not really true. Because I couldn’t find a full-time job, I decided to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. I’ve been able to spend a lot of time writing, taking classes, and working on this site. My college relationship ended shortly after I graduated, but after a few years of dating disasters and discouragements, I found an awesome boyfriend who is always there for me and is my number one fan.

\It’s because of said boyfriend that I felt inspired to write this post. I’ve been so discouraged lately, feeling like nothing has changed, that I’ll never be truly successful or independent. As I wrap up my graduate degree, edit my two ongoing manuscripts for publication, and begin to contemplate re-entering the job market, all those fears about being behind, being unsuccessful, and being a failure have returned, full force.

I want to be an “adult” so badly. I know my boyfriend is right when he tells me that no one is where they thought they’d be. There are others out there going through what I’m going through, especially those pursuing creative endeavors. I really just want to be a writer who makes enough as a freelance editor and writing teacher to support that dream. It’s still not clear whether that will be possible or enough. Right now, it isn’t.

I don’t necessarily have anything motivational to end on. I just wanted to be honest about my new adult journey because I don’t want to hide anymore. As twenty-somethings, we’ve been led to believe that adulthood works a certain way, and that it has a timeframe that must be followed. If you’re not able to follow that timeframe, you’re a failure.

Even though I feel like a failure at times, I’m really just trying to find my way in a world that’s changing and uncertain. I’m lucky to have a mother who supports me and my dream of being a writer. I’m also very lucky that I have a few good friends and a wonderful boyfriend who helps me feel accomplished and talented whenever I feel down and hopeless. There are a few parts of the equation I’ve gotten right, but none showed up the way I expected them to. I can only hope that’s true for everything else, that the pieces will fall into place when they’re ready to, and when I’m ready for them to.

Are you still trying to figure out this whole adulthood thing? Or are you someone who went through this already and came out on the other side? 

How To Keep Rejection From Eating Your Soul

If there’s one thing that all writers can agree upon, it’s that getting rejected sucks.

As someone who tends to spend years tolling away on long-form works like novels and memoirs, I haven’t played the literary magazine submission game too often. Now and then, I feel compelled to send out a few pieces, and most don’t get accepted. I didn’t mind as much in the past because I stuck to poems and short stories. However, this time I did a submission blast specifically for essays and excerpts from my memoir.

Sending out such personal and sensitive work for the first time was difficult. While I don’t have much of a problem with others reading about my life (even the embarrassing, weird, and awkward parts of it), having that same work rejected from the get-go was a much more frightening prospect.

gummi-bearAnd I did get rejections. So far, I’m 0 for 5 with 2 submissions pending. When the negative responses started to trickle in, I did lose heart. Those moments you receive rejections are the ones you most question being a writer…well, not including the ones when you get so frustrated while trying to write something that you put your face in your hands, groan repeatedly, give up for the day and eat a bunch of gummy bears while watching Gilmore Girls reruns.

Actually, I might be the only one who does this. But I’m sure you have a similarly strange frustration coping process. (Tell me in the comments!)

I’m not going to pretend that this process didn’t shake my confidence. It did. However, as I’ve been posting about this endeavor on Facebook and Twitter, I’ve received many comments from people who have also struggled with rejections. Everyone has assured me that not only is it perfectly normal, but that in many ways rejection makes you stronger as a person and a writer.

This response from talented memoirist and craft book author Sue William Silverman was my favorite: “I received a gazillion rejections before I received my first acceptance…and I still receive rejections. It’s just part of this being an artist thing we signed up for. Just remember how subjective it is. The important thing is to never, ever give up!”

That’s really the key thing to remember when submitting work anywhere, be it a literary magazine, agent, or publisher – it’s subjective. A lot of the time, a publication is overwhelmed with submissions. Sometimes, your writing doesn’t match the reader’s personal preference. Rejections don’t mean you’re a bad writer. They just mean you haven’t found the right home for your work yet. The right home for your work might even be indie or self-publishing. You have the power to accept your own work and allow readers to decide for themselves whether they like it.

My take-away from this submission/rejection process is to:

1. Keep working on your craft. The writing itself is ultimately what matters most.

2. Keep submitting. Eventually, you will find a home and audience for your work if it’s well-written and meaningful.

3. Share your journey with others. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed by rejections. Getting those words of encouragement from my friends, fellow writers, and well-published authors is what saved me from spiraling into a pit of self-pity and defeat. Take advantage of this thing we call social media and reach out. It’s a much more effective coping strategy than eating gummy bears (and way less fattening).