Casey Lynn Wright

writer of things

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2013 Writing Statistics

Just a snapshot - started using Submission Grinder this year.

Just a snapshot – started using Submission Grinder this year.

As you may recall, 2013 was the year that I got back into writing and submitting short fiction. According to my submission tracker, my last logged event was a rejection on December 12, 2008. My next logged event was April 9, 2013 – so four and a half years! Not that I was completely off the writing wagon for all of that time. I do have a few unfinished novels to show for it, I suppose…

Anyway, since I personally love seeing short fiction writers’ statistics about their output, I thought I would provide some insight into mine during this first year back. The first thing I did in April was look through all of my unpublished work and decide what was worth salvaging. I had a number of pieces that had been on submission rounds previously, and had come to a halt not because they weren’t good enough to be published, but because I just stopped submitting. I also had a number of completed-but-needing-revision pieces. Including some from Clarion. Yes, from 2006. Oops. I ended up with 10 pieces that were totally finished that I started submitting right away, and 4 that needed substantial revision. In the course of the year I managed to revise all 4 of them. In the year I only wrote a total of 1 new piece, for a total of 15 pieces on submission 2013: 6 science fiction short stories, 4 fantasy short stories, 2 flash (1 scifi, 1 fantasy), and 3 poems.

I received exactly 50 rejections and 1 acceptance (for the new poem I wrote, “Priority Shift”). This might seem as if it would be demoralizing, but honestly, it isn’t. Even though I haven’t managed to sell any of these older stories yet, I am confident that most of them will sell eventually. About a half dozen of those rejections were really-close-but-no-cigar, including from some markets that I hold in very, very high regard. The short fiction submission process is very slow, and it can often take years to find the right market for something.

2014 is also shaping up well so far: In January I finished my first completely NEW story in years and sent it out into the world. I also have another new one finished that is currently in revision. I’m doing the write-one-sub-one goal for 2014, having a least one story completed and one new submission logged every month. Another goal for myself? To not let manuscripts languish. If I get a rejection, send it somewhere new as soon as possible! At some point you have to just let it go and stop second-guessing yourself. Keep it rolling. 🙂


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My Clarion Journals (2006)

Something I’ve been wanting to do for some time: link to my Clarion blog posts so that anyone interested in applying has one perspective on the experience. (When I was thinking of applying, I read a LOT about it.)  The fact that this was almost eight years ago makes me want to cry a little. Where has the time gone? Seriously.

Some caveats: This was in 2006, so some time ago, and also this was the last year of Clarion EAST in the East, in Michigan. I imagine the weather in CA is immeasurably better.

You can find my journals here, in reverse chronological order. (I do not really use Livejournal anymore.)  I actually wrote a fair amount, because I was interested in documenting the experience.  Here’s a few highlights…

Day 5: Critique circle went for five hours today, and I have no idea how five hours goes so frickin’ fast. Still, note for tomorrow: bring a snack.

Day 10: As Livia put it best this morning, “if it wasn’t in a story, I don’t know about it.” This includes anything happening in current events, such as Korea and tornados and the fourth of July, of which I have heard vague mumblings. I even DREAM about writing.

Day 19:  An interesting point about conferences [with instructors]: It is definitely very cool to get multiple perspectives on individual stories, but it also means that for the things in your stories that don’t work… you get to hear just how much they don’t work multiple times. Nancy was pointing out the logic flaws in the hooker story from last week and I was thinking, oh no, there are three more people who are going to tell me the exact same thing…

Day 22: HALFWAY. And I’m really not sure whether it’s been going so slow that I feel I’ve been here my whole life, or so quickly that I feel I just arrived. Probably closer to the former, though that’s a good thing.

Day 30: If Nancy Kress is my Yoda, then Joe Haldeman is like the coach in those boxing movies–you know, the wise one who’s the real reason that the hero wins.

Day 32: It is a rare day when there isn’t a joke in critique circle involving A) bears discovering things, or B) Chekhov’s mantle (e.g. You know what Chekhov says… if there’s a cybernetic hand in Act 1, it’s got to be crushing someone’s head by Act 3).

Day 36: Okay, here it is, I’m having The Clarion Moment. Right now, this very minute. I think if I had to decide right this second, I would just throw in the towel and give up writing forever. I am tapped out, that’s it, I suck, I have nothing of value to offer to the world.

Day 37: I could have finished the zombie story and turned in something else that was funny that everyone would like and dislike the exact same way as they’ve liked and disliked my other stories. But I wouldn’t have learned anything from that. At least this way they’ll have entirely new ways to dislike it.

Day The Last: I know I was irritable at the beginning of the week because of stress, heat, etc. But I really do mean it when I say that this was one of the best experiences of my entire life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’LL MISS YOU, CLARION.

And now, a retrospective.  You might pop over to my bibliography and note that I’ve produced very little by the way of short fiction publications since Clarion.  Unfortunately, one week after I got back to Michigan, I started law school, and spent three years having every ounce of creativity sucked away.  (This is only a little bit of an exaggeration.)  Since then I’ve spent some time working on novels instead, and only in the past year or so have seriously gotten back into writing short fiction.

So the question is, was Clarion good/useful/helpful to me in my writing career?  Considering how little writing I did immediately after, I think that unfortunately a great deal of the helpful momentum was lost. However, one thing that I value very, very much was the experience, which stays with me, and the people that I met there.  I count Steve Berman among my best friends, and every time I see my Clarion classmates enjoying writing success I get all warm and fuzzy. Like, you guys, I’m just so proud! Go check out Will Ludwigsen, Bradley Beaulieu, and Rahul Kanakia, just to name a few.

In summary: I think that Clarion gave me a solid foundation at a very early stage in my writing life, and so though I doubt at this point I would directly attribute future success to it, it was certainly a contributing factor to who I am overall as a writer.

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My Favorite Books of 2013

This is basically how I did a lot of my reading this year.

This is basically how I did a lot of my reading this year.

This is not a post about writing. It is a post about reading. Which, of course, is something that all good writers do. 🙂

Due to a car accident and a resulting badly broken leg (Did you see me at Dragon*Con? I was the one in the wheelchair…), I was pretty much laid up for over three months, and so despite a slow start for the reading year I made up for some lost time. According to goodreads, I read 53 books in 2013.

There were three books in particular that I read this year that I raved to everyone I know about (and that I subsequently know I convinced a number of people to read) – S. by Doug Dorst & J.J. Abrams (read this if you like experimental narrative and printed books and stories-within-stories), Vicious by Victoria Schwab (read this if you like the idea of “science bros if they were evil” or sympathetic villains or you know, amazing writing/characters), and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (read this if like me you were wondering where all the cyberpunk YA is, or if You Love The Eighties). Both S. and Vicious I binge-read in about two days, and Ready Player One I was listening to on audio and I deep-cleaned my bathroom one day for an excuse to keep listening to it.

Award for best series discovered in 2013 goes, hands down, to Tim Pratt for Marla Mason. I was so obsessed with these books while I was reading them that I started to feel like I was fangirling him in an embarrassing way even though it was mostly in my head. He was already one of my favorite short fiction writers (I recced one of his stories once here), which is why I picked up Blood Engines finally in the first place, but I was also impressed/fascinated by the fact that he continued publishing the series on his own even after the publisher dropped it. I’ve read a lot of urban fantasy, and I feel as if there is something very new/fresh/different in this series, which is hard to do in that genre these days. TL;DR: Best urban fantasy I’ve read since Dresden Files, so you should read it.

I also read a lot of YA this year, of course (have to keep on top of things for the Dragon*Con track!). And I, like everyone else, fell in love with Rainbow Rowell. Eleanor & Park reminded me what it was like to be in love at 15, and Fangirl reminded me what it was like to be in love at 20. Not to mention that Fangirl is a love letter to fandom, something that was long, long overdue. I even figured out how to make a pumpkin mocha breve.

Other YA novels I loved this year: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (one of my Clarion instructors, love her), Sara Rees Brennan’s Unspoken and the sequel Untold (which wrecked me), E.C. Myers’ Fair Coin (met him at con, he’s lovely), and The Archived by Victoria Schwab (whom I’ve already mentioned, and let’s just say I might have fangirled her A LITTLE BIT because her writing is amazing and also she sat on a panel I moderated while dressed as a shadowhunter).

I’ve heard some writers say that reading amazing books discourages them because they think they can never be that good – on the contrary, reading amazing books always gives me a little writing power-up. So I’d like to thank each and every one of these writers I’ve mentioned for adding something to my life this year, and helping me with my own writing as well.

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POWER UP! When writing inspiration strikes

There are a few things that inevitably kick my writing butt into gear. One is talking to awesome writers. Another is reading a book I think is amazing. (Also, occasionally, reading a book I think is horrible.) For this reason, I try to go to book signings whenever I can! However, once a year I get the power up boost from attending Dragon*Con and working with the Young Adult Literature track. This year there was a wealth of riches in terms of writers I know and love: Beth Revis, E.C. Meyers, Diana Peterfreund, Susan Dennard + Sarah Maas (because yes, they are best when combined), Michelle Hodkin, Jana Oliver, Victoria Schwab, Lev Grossman. (Also John Barrowman, but let’s face it, the reasons I know and love him have nothing to do with writing – his sister Carole is pretty awesome, though.) I also had the opportunity to moderate a panel about YA short fiction, and Eugie Foster (who is one of my longtime short fiction heroes, though I did not get to tell her this!) among others shared their thoughts on short form as well.

Another source of writing power-ups for me are my aspiring writer friends, since we can commiserate and cheerlead and brainstorm with each other. My friend Alexa is my YA novel writing buddy (though she has a serious leg up on me since she’s actually finished her first novel!) and Steve Berman is a great short story critique partner. Critiquing other people’s work has actually been super helpful for me as a writer, and one of the reasons that I’m feeling more confident about long form now, I think. Spending a ton of time with Alexa at Dragon*Con was a big boost to me as well, since we spent ages discussing novels and worldbuilding.

starsSo basically, I’m like when Mario grabs one of those flashy stars and is like ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM! At some point I had a lightbulb moment that solved some of the worldbuilding problems I was having with the YA novel-in-progress, pushing me past a six-month slump. As a result, I scrapped most of what I had and started over. In a week and a half I’ve written almost 10,000 words (with some recycled from the previous version, to be fair), which is some serious ZOOM for me. Will it last? Hard to say. I’m also working on a couple of different short stories, so at least I can put my attention elsewhere for bits at a time. In any case, it just feels good to be productive again.

And, courtesy of Victoria Schwab (who is one of the most adorable human beings I’ve met lately), STARS ON A CALENDAR are an excellent writing tool.

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Story Notes: “Priority Shift”

angelsThe first thing I’ve written under the new pseudonym is this silly little poem in a themed zine called After the Fall, Angels are Kind of Dicks.  I really can’t remember how I found the call for submissions – honestly might have just been me putting around Tumblr. Usually I don’t submit to markets that only pay in contributor’s copies, but THAT THEME.

Only my Clarion classmates would know this, but I wrote an angel story a million years ago. One of my favorite things I’ve ever written, actually, and I set it aside for years and then came back to it and revised it and now it’s making the rounds again and is currently sitting on a shortlist somewhere that I won’t name so as not to jinx it.  The title is “No One Remembers Your Coffee Order During End Times.” Which I’m pretty sure is an accurate statement.

Anyway, when I saw this call for submissions I thought about what might happen after the end of that story, and that is the poem that I wrote. Because seriously, imagine like that middle-aged guy who just goes around talking about his glory days and how he used to be in a rock band – an angel-turned-human has got to be the worst.

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Return of the writer

So here is, in bullet points, the history so far of my writing career:

– first, a precocious writer who won lots of awards as a kid, but it was obviously terrible by adult standards

– then, some very bad fan fiction

– then, some much better fan fiction

– two really really bad nanowrimo novels

– 8 years ago: serious writing began, having discovered the wonderful world of short speculative fiction. First submissions were in March 2005.  (Also first acceptance, as I sold a poem immediately.)

– Serious writing continues, culminating in being accepted to and attending Clarion in summer 2006.  I thought this was a great experience, in large part because of the people I met there, but it didn’t have as much positive impact as it could have, because…

– … immediately after, law school for three years, all creative energy effectively drained away.

– Then, evidenced by the old blog posts you see here, brief re-emergence into writing in 2008/2009 but then more life changes – oh right, I’m getting a PhD.

– Decided maybe I should be spending my writing time tackling a novel instead.

– Three unfinished novels later, I’m back to short fiction.

The end.  I mean, not the end.  But there you are.  The fact that, despite moving through fields and careers and cities and life changes and etc., I am unable to escape from writing suggests that it is indeed something I should be doing.  As they say, why do writers write?  Because they have to.  And even if no one ever reads it, you still have to.

Stupidly, one of the reasons I lagged for so long on writing short fiction was that I realized I shouldn’t be writing under my real name due to the amount of academic writing I do.  Hence an executive decision to pick a pen name and stick to it, and start writing and submitting things again until I have a reason to actually be using it.

As far as this website/blog goes, I imagine that there will be bursts of time in which I write a lot, and long stretches where I don’t write at all.  But anyway, this is the story of where I’ve been, at least.  Still writing, just a little quieter about it. 🙂  TIME TO GET LOUD?

… also I am still working on the novel, when inspiration strikes.  But man, there’s a reason I always thought my attention span was better suited to short form.

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Book Review: Lev Grossman’s The Magicians

the-magiciansFor the past few years, the novels I have read have been largely of similar genres (notably, YA and urban fantasy). I ascribe this to two things: (1) being in law school, and therefore not having the time to read as much as I normally would; and (2) getting serious about my own writing (post-Clarion) and feeling compelled to stay abreast of what is out there in the genre I’ve been writing in myself. A side effect of this is that it has been quite a while since I have read something new where the writing style has stood out to me in a significant way. Which really is a shame, because I’ll tell anyone who will listen that Margaret Atwood has been an amazing literary inspiration to me ever since I read Cat’s Eye when I was fifteen, and this is as much because of the way she writes as what she writes. (As a side note, I will say that though I agree that it is very, very difficult to write well in first person – and have seen it done exceedingly badly – that when it is done right, it can be breathtaking.)

But I digress. My point is that I finally finished The Magicians, thanks to my dear friend (and maven) putting it into my hands and poking me incessantly until I put some serious time into it, because she desperately wanted to discuss it. Which, in point of fact, is a pretty fantastic endorsement of a book (and by the way, I put Turn Coat into her hands for the same reason). Anyway, now I have finished it, and as you have probably deduced by now, pretty much adored it, and this was (again) as much because of the way it was written as what was written.

So though I rarely write full-fledged book reviews here, I feel compelled. I will try to be light on spoilers (for those of you who may be considering picking it up), but still, the remainder of this discussion after the jump…
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