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Friday, June 1, 2018

How to write a Eulogy


I wrote my first eulogy recently. My father passed away, and I felt obligated as the family writer to write one for him. That's him pictured with me in the late 1970s at my grandparents' house. I'm not sure I'm really over it yet, as I've found it very hard to do any writing since he passed almost two weeks ago. His eulogy was the last thing I wrote until this blog post.

I feel I did really well on the eulogy and received several positive comments, so I thought I would post today about how I went about writing it.

First off, I approached the eulogy as a college essay, with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. I even included a thesis statement. Basically, mine was that my father had a rough upbringing but fought to become a very good person in the end. There was a lot more to it than that, but for the purposes of a how to blog post, I think that suffices.

Then I went through the various stages of his life. His upbringing, how his father built their house (and my father and his brother continued working on it until it finally sold in the early 2000s). Something about his time in the army, and then of course how he met my mother. A little something about when my sister was born and then when I was born, and finally the end concluded that portion.

But to ensure things do not become too sappy or depressing, it is good to put in a few humorous stories. I had one that everyone commented on afterward. It was about how my father used to teach me things, such as when he would play board games with me when I was a child, he would never let me win. When I asked if he could let me win, he would tell me that's not how life works, you have to work for everything. Later, when I married and we had a child, my daughter would play board games with my father (her grandfather), and he would ALWAYS let her win.

I finished up with a positive note, which I think is also important in writing a eulogy. I talked about how my dad didn't like to look back but forward to the future. To keep growing, and advancing, and moving forward. So here's to you dad, I finally put down a few words since your eulogy. Here's hoping I get down a lot more.

Friday, April 27, 2018

I Joined Another Professional Organization

Part of the purpose of this blog, like many other blogs out there, to share information, right? So when I figure something out I should share it with the world, or least with the few people who click on my blog (and yes, I do watch you guys, and appreciate the traffic). So not too long ago, I was sharing my Curriculum Vitae with a colleague at one of the schools I work at and she suggested I join the National Council of Teachers of English, another professional organization for English teachers, including those teaching at the college level.

I've often hesitated joining these types of organizations, partially because I don't make much money. But also because at times I ask myself if this is really "pay for play." I really try to avoid such things, even the ones that are legitimate. I don't want to give them a bad name here, especially because I just joined some. And perhaps this apprehension was just me being green about the topic.

So I have changed my tune, as I now belong to not one but two professional organizations, the Horror Writers Association, and now this, the NCTE. These organizations do provide access to needed resources, such as places to submit work for publication. They show you are a serious writer, researcher, or educator. They also provide access to other professional development resources, such as conventions, symposiums, and calls for submissions.

So it looks like this is the next step in my journey of writing and publishing. Meanwhile, it's almost the end of the semester and I'm trying to get through grading stacks of papers and exams that look like this:

Friday, April 20, 2018

Researching the Research

It's been a while since I posted here, partially because it's getting to be the end of the semester, and I'm up to my elbows in papers to grade. This will continue until the end of the semester when all grades have to be turned in on May 8. Therefore, my posts here may be a little sparse until then.

Anyway, since it looks like I need to try and bulk up my nonfiction credits to get into a terminal degree program (which I sometimes refer to lovingly as a terminal illness), I've decided to start looking over a few items I wrote during my previous two master's programs (yes, I have two master's degrees). I'm updating a few items, including links, as some of them are now dead. Even some of the citation styles have changed slightly since then.

In other words, I've been researching the research. I have several items I feel may be good enough to publish, if I can find the right market for them. It takes a bit of a brain shift to move from fiction to nonfiction writing, especially nonfiction writing that requires research. I've also been making lists of new articles I want to write this summer. As adjunct faculty, I have a lighter schedule over the summer, so I will have more time to write.

The hard part was coming to the conclusion that to get into a PhD program you have to have already published research, even though avenues to publish are fewer and farther between when not in a graduate program. It's that age-old question, how do you research outside of a PhD program, and how do you get into a PhD program without having conducted research.

Meanwhile, I've also been researching not only other PhD programs, so I don't make the same mistake of only applying to one, and being screwed if I don't get in, but I'm also researching MFA programs. It was my original plan when I graduated with my bachelor's and moved out of my parents' house to get a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. Like a PhD, it is also considered a terminal illness, er, I mean terminal degree. I settled on a regular master's degree in English instead. I'd like to say I should have gone for the MFA all along, but looking back, I'm not so sure I would have gotten in then anyway.

Wish me luck on publishing and getting back into school, and I'll wish you luck in all you do too. Meanwhile, here's shot of me presenting my (in)famous Ed Wood paper I wrote in my master's program at last year's Monster Fest.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Good News and Bad News

It's been a few weeks, and I have good news a bad news. I also have a LOT of personal strife going on which I will not get into here.

Anyway, the good news is that one of my stories was published recently. This was "An Unlucky Day" and I'll post the link in a minute. I first wrote the story in a Creative Writing class as an undergraduate in the 1990s. I always liked the story, and it was one of the first items I ever sent to a literary journal. Although it was rejected, even in its first submission, I was given encouragement to the send the publication more of my work. I sent it out about another half dozen times to various publications, and never heard a peep until it sold in February.

I also changed the ending about five hundred times. Ok, it was probably more like 5, but it felt like a lot more. The trouble was part of the assignment was NOT to write an ending, something I was unsure of at first, but the professor explained that it was because students often concentrate too much on the endings of their stories. It did help me concentrate more on developing the characters and the story itself, which is why I believe he wanted us to do it that way. But then I graduated, and if that story was ever going to be published, it needed an ending. I was trying to come up with a more literary ending, but it was a bit of a dark comedy. Finally, I decided to just give it the ending people would expect out of it, and finally it sold.

So without further ado, here's "An Unlucky Day" at Page and Spine.

Then there's the bad news: I did not get into the graduate school PhD in English program I wanted. :-(

Such is life I suppose. I'm not exactly sure why I was not accepted because I only received a form letter. I have two theories though. One is because I don't have any research credits (although I do have a few fiction credits). But then the question becomes, how do you get research credits outside of a PhD program, and how do you get into a PhD program without research credits. My other theory is that academia is beginning to think I'm too old. I hope it was the former and not the latter. Tata for now.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Publishing and Grad School

It's been an up and down week for me. It started off great as I sold another short story this week (Yippie!). Two short stories in two weeks is nothing even close to anything I ever experienced before. Both were stories I wrote in a creative writing class I took as an undergrad. I will again provide more details about where and when my work can be found as the time grows closer (should be some time toward the end of March).

I also received a rejection e-mail (my knee-jerk reaction is to still call them "letters") for one of the stories I sold, and another one earlier this week for several poems I submitted. Then I woke up this morning to an e-mail informing me one of the publications where my work will be published will be presented (although my specific work will not be presented) at a conference in April.

Meanwhile, I had been playing telephone tag with a head of the English Ph.D. program where I had applied. This was not specifically to inform her of these two recent publications, but I figured as long as I have her one the line, I might try to mention this fact. I finally caught this lady on the phone today. We had a decent talk and I asked a few of my other questions I had about touring the campus and discussing the program with others there. I mentioned the two publishing successes I recently received (which were not included in my curriculum vitae because they occurred after it was submitted), and she was quite unimpressed. She kept saying she didn't want to read them, even though I made no indication I wanted her to read them, just to acknowledge I two new publications not present on CV. The only thing I thought she might be interested in seeing were the acceptance e-mails to prove I was telling the truth.

I've had a similar experience when I joined the Horror Writers Association in reverse. In this case, I was trying to show that I have experience with research and teaching in writing and was wondering if I could qualify under the scholarly membership.

My question is why is there such as growing gap between the production of research and creative fiction? If one can produce literary fiction, one would think that in itself would count (even tenuously) as research in the field. If I can research horror one would think that would (again, perhaps tenuously) count as some of production in the genre.

Anyway, this was not intended as a rant or a vent or even a criticism of either field, just trying get someone out there to think about things. Anyway, in the meantime, here's a jack-o-lantern I made this past Halloween.


Friday, February 16, 2018

I FINALLY Sold a Short Story!

Yay! It has been a long time since I sold anything, seven years to be exact. But now the drought has ended. I should also point out that I have not been submitting very many short stories or poems during much of that seven years (although I have submitted a few items). Much of that time has been spent submitting my current novel, The Sorcerer, rewriting it, sending it out some more, and working on two other rough drafts of novels.

Then I finally got a hair up my ass. I looked at my spreadsheet of all the things I've ever submitted for publication, my novel, short stories, and poems. I decided to try a tactic that I'd used before to get my work published, and sent everything I have out to one publication or another. Everything! When I stopped and looked at everything I had, I remembered a few pieced I had retired a few years ago. I realized that one piece had only been sent out once since I rewrote it. So I thought, what the hell, let's go ahead and send that one out, too.

I never really liked that rewrite. It was originally a story I wrote 20 years ago for my Creative Writing class for my undergraduate degree. The assignment was to include a song I really liked. After I graduated, I tried getting some of my works published, but I already knew what the problem would be with this one piece. It included a song that was copywritten material. No one would ever publish it due to the legalities. So I eventually got around to rewriting it and taking out the copywritten song and replaced it with a generic "Irish drinking song," as I describe it in the short story.

But I thought it would never work. The piece was so much better with the copywritten song. So I only sent it out once in that form, and it was quickly rejected. I left it alone and forgot about it. Life got in the way and when I had time to write I concentrated on writing other things. Then as noted above, I decided to send out everything I have, and sometimes to multiple publications, and finally, this past Wednesday, I received an e-mail accepting my short story for publication. When I receive more information I will reveal the publication and issue the piece will appear.

I've often heard that the artist is often unaware of what their best work is, but I'd never experienced it myself. I guess this is my first time with that story to add to my repertoire. For now, here's a picture of a Shamrock Shake, which should be returning soon, because my story included an Irish drinking song, and for a little more luck.


Friday, February 2, 2018

Please, Reject Me.

It seems like an odd thing to ask for rejection, but that's exactly what I'm about to do. Like anything else, the writing and publishing world is changing. One of the ways that it is changing is that many publications now allow simultaneous submissions. That means I can now submit my story to more than one publication at a time, and that is a good thing. I can cover more ground in much quicker time. However, the reason this rule changed for many (but still not nearly all) publications, is because very few writers were actually listening to this rule request in the first place. So many of the publications simply gave up trying, figuring most (although likely not all) writers were simply not listening to it (although I always did).

So now we are allowed to submit our work to as many publications as allow simultaneous submissions. But in the olden times we writers also received rejection letters. We were supposed to submit to one publication at a time, and after a few weeks or months we received a rejection letter in the mail (provided we remembered to include a self addressed stamped envelope). Very often, they were simply form rejection letters, but it was still some notification that your work was not wanted. But as time went on, fewer and fewer publications were sending out rejection letters, to a point where it seemed like almost no one was sending them out anymore. So allowing simultaneous submissions became virtually essential to anyone who wished to be published. How am I supposed to know my work was free to send to another publication if no one ever bothered to send me a rejection letter?

Now there are still a few publications left that request an exclusive look at your work. "No simultaneous submissions" it will read somewhere on their submission guidelines. Fair enough. But here is my point of writing this blog on this subject this week. If you request an exclusive look at my work, you had damn well better send me a rejection letter letting me you are not interested in it, so I know when it is time to peddle my wares elsewhere.

Recently, when I checked a website where I submitted my work, and this particular website requested no simultaneous submissions, the website stated they made all of their editorial decisions and already chose the work they wanted. And I never received anything one way or the other. Yes, publishers, there really are some writers who listen to your requests, and follow them to the letter. If you allow simultaneous submissions and don't send out rejection letters, I have no beef with you. But, if you request an exclusive look at someone's work, you should at least have the courtesy of sending out rejection letters to people who didn't make the cut. This doesn't strike me as an unreasonable request. Rant over.