Snowstorm


Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash

The woods rose up all around me, towers of dead trees and bare branches that grasped my clothing and hair as I ran. I took no notice of their thorns as they scratched through my sleeves and left strands of hair snagged on their limbs.

It was after me, and the dread that fueled my escape was like nothing I had ever felt. I dared not to look back, driven onward by the fear of being caught.

I followed no path yet instinctively darted around the trees, leaping over fallen logs and exposed roots. A half-moon was overhead, an impartial observer to this chase between predator and prey. It offered only a dim reflection of the snow, aiding not only my vision but also that of my pursuer.

The deathly silence of the forest was only broken by the sound of my boots striking the snow and of my own breath, frantic gasps that left trails of condensation in the cold winter night’s air.

The slope of the earth below me changed, and I was soon running downward into a section of trees that thinned out and were easier to see through. At the other end of this section of trees, I saw the house, a rectangular structure that was lit up from within. I ran the final paces, barely striking the ground like a rabbit leaping to its burrow, and upon reaching the porch, I knew I was finally safe.

I had reached sanctuary. I was now aware some boundary existed between this house and the woods, between me and it. It could no longer follow me; it would go no further than the woods.

I turned and faced the creature for the first time. It remained at the edge of the treeline, barely visible in the pale moonlight and forest shadows. I could see it was part human and part beast, bearing the head of a deer with fearsome antlers crowning its image. The upper torso and arms were that of a human, but the rest of it was the form of a deer with four cloven hooves.

We stared at one another, caught in a stalemate. It had lost the hunt tonight, but it was only one of many. That we both knew. The deer creature reared on its hind legs and thundered back into the woods, kicking up slivers of ice and snow behind it.

I opened the front door and walked inside the house, met with the warmth and welcoming light of the fireplace someone had left burning for me.

This passage was based on a dream I had last winter. It occurred during a major winter storm and has stuck in my mind as one of the more unsettling dreams I’ve had.

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Writing Exercise: A Pocket Watch, a Flea Market, and a Bit of Time Travel

Photo on Visual Hunt
Tentes

Can objects haunt us? I considered this question today when responding to a writing prompt. The answer I came up with turned into the beginning of a science fiction story, which you will find a little further below.

The prompt comes from the Shut Up and Write group, an international writing community that is (despite the harsh name) a friendly group that gets together to write for an hour or two. I joined a local chapter and have received e-mail prompts every day in January, including this one:

“You’ve heard rumors that a flea market in a nearby town is selling something that sounds suspiciously like a family heirloom that went missing years ago. As you carry the story forward, ask yourself:

  • What is this object? Why was it important to your family?
  • Do you (your character) find it?
  • Does the vendor explain how they got it?
  • Is it your family’s long lost heirloom? And do you get it back?”

The passage I wrote in response to this prompt is below.

It wasn’t a matter of luck or common coincidence that I saw the lost pocket watch in the newspaper advertisement for your Flea Market this morning, Sir. You might be inclined to think of it as such before knowing the family history, but as you are not a member of the family, I wouldn’t expect you to understand outright.

It’s like this. Of course a person hears tell of lost hounds finding their way home halfway across the country, their owners having lost sight of them while vacationing hundreds of miles from home. Or those birds that, in winter, leave their nests in the north to fly south on a month-long flight to Mexico. They return north the following spring, where they find their way back to those same exact nests that they left months prior.

I suppose our family pocket watch might equate to one of those lost hounds or migrating birds, despite the fact it has no wings to carry it home nor nose to sniff out a trail. Yes, come to think of it, that’s exactly how you might begin to understand the whole issue, it being such a curious matter and all.

You see, I was not in the least surprised to find the pocket watch in your advertisement because it wasn’t I who found it. Rather, it was the other way around: the pocket watch found me.

The pocket watch always finds us – my family, that is. We have tried to lose it countless times over the years. Generation after generation of Templetons has dropped it in rivers, hoping it will float far away downstream. My great-grandfather left it on a railroad track all the way out in Amarillo when he was there on business, praying a passing train would crush the watch into smithereens, and that would be the end of all the trouble.

But, as it happens, just before the 6:05 morning train passed through Amarillo that day, a train-hopper looking to sneak a lift East was walking along those very tracks and picked the watch up. He put it in his pocket and carried it all the way back on the train ride to Charleston. He accidentally left the watch in the pocket of a coat he traded for a cigarette packet, offered by a fellow coming off the train as it stopped in South Carolina.

That cigarette trader happened to be my Uncle Clarence, who returned home that evening and pulled the watch from his new coat’s pocket as he was sitting at the dinner table. My great-grandfather, who had been home just two weeks by this point, was said to have shouted so loudly upon seeing the watch that the neighbors rushed over to see what the fuss was about.

Why go through all this trouble to rid ourselves of a pocket watch, you may ask, Sir? You won’t believe me when I tell you, but still, if I expect your assistance, I must try to explain.

This pocket watch is an instrument surely designed by the Devil himself. How else could it let my family members turn back the events of time and return to prior weeks, prior years even, allowing us to try to correct our past mistakes? You must be laughing now at such nonsense, but do try to understand.

Surely such power would be great; after all, how often does one wish for the chance to revisit the past? you might ask me if you were here before me, attempting to humor my perceived madness. Would this not be a delight for mankind, to amend the wrongs of history? you would ask me.

But you would be naive to think this. Our family has been driven to insanity with this temptation, incessantly using the pocket watch to return to the past and achieve different outcomes. We hope for different outcomes for our individual histories and even the world’s history, but never, never I stress, are we happy with the results. And yet, we are but human and still we continue to try.

And this is why, Sir, I beg you, please take this watch under your own supervision and guard it. Do not sell it to anyone at the Flea Market, as it will invariably return to our family’s hands. It seems to affect no one else, only us Templetons, and I implore you to let it not affect us any longer.

Book Review: “Translator, Trader” by Douglas Hofstadter


Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

I’ve just finished reading Translator, Trader: An Essay on the Pleasantly Pervasive Paradoxes of Translation by Douglas Hofstadter and am still trying to digest the big translation questions that the author raises in it. As you might discern from the title, this essay – which reaches 100 pages – is a playful description of a translator’s quest to faithfully translate a piece of work. What a quest it is!

Hofstadter takes us through his process of translating the French book La Chamade (by Françoise Sagan) into English. He states that the idea of his essay is to demonstrate “that high-quality conversion of a novel from Language A to Language B reflects the depths of the translator’s soul no less than Ella Fitzgerald singing Cole Porter reflects the depths of Ella’s soul.” In a nutshell, that translation is an art form involving endless translation choices, numerous “trades” between the languages, and carefully selected words which go beyond simple literal translation.

Regrettably, I am not bilingual, but I expect that speakers of multiple languages frequently encounter the conundrums he discusses. Even as a monolingual speaker I was able to get an understanding of the difficulties he faces with translations.

Hofstadter supports a non-literal translation style as opposed to a literal one, which he characterizes as typically dry and often rendering the finished translation as “wooden.” He humorously defends his choice to translate La Chamade with his own “translator” voice, even admitting when he may have pushed the line just a little when translating a word or phrase.

His essay introduces various struggles related to translation that readers might not typically know exist. For example, he discusses the original French text making use of the two forms of the French second-person singular: the familiar “tu” and the more formal “vous“. How should a translator express this difference in English, or should they even attempt to do so?

While a literal English translation of the text might do away with any such distinction and simply substitute the word “you” for both tu and vous, Hofstadter makes the argument that the original author, Sagan, made a deliberate choice to distinguish between the two forms. To solve this translation issue, Hofstadter chooses to capitalize “You” when referencing the “vous” form and uses the lowercase “you” when referencing the “tu” form.

If this sort of thing appeals to you, you are in luck as his essay is full of subtleties in this regard. What could have been a very technical book is a fascinating read. One strong point of his essay is how passionate Hofstadter obviously is about his work as a translator. It is apparent that he loves the original text and I got the idea while reading it that he lost a lot of sleep in his effort to represent the original text as best he could.

This unique essay is a must-read for anyone who reads translated texts. Even if you don’t agree with every point he makes, you will gain a much greater appreciation for the artistry of translation. I plan to read the accompanying copy of Hofstadter’s translation of La Chamade (That Mad Ache) in the near future. I have no doubt that my experience will be all the more richer having read his essay about the translation process beforehand.

Have you had your own experiences translating texts from one language to another? Or have you read a book that you felt was particularly well-translated? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Writing Inspiration from a Dream


Photo by Marc Marchal on Unsplash

The search for story ideas is a constant in most writers’ lives, and every once in a while, the ideas are the ones that search us out. Night before last, I had an odd dream that felt so realistic and detailed I decided to write a short passage about it after waking up.

In the dream, I was a servant in a royal household. I was working in the kitchen when the castle was raided by an opposing force. Hearing the commotion coming from the other rooms, I hid in a cellar. After waiting for a period of time, I could soon only hear the voices of the invaders. Eventually, I realized I was the only member of the royal household who had not been captured.

I decided to experiment with this idea, and the section below is what I came up with.

The darkness seemed to grow thicker as the moments passed. It was cold in the cellar, and my hands grew numb as I kept them pushed against the door, praying for the strength to fight off any of the intruders who ventured down here. Who were these enemies of the King? How many of them were up there now, infiltrating our castle which, until moments ago, had felt so secure, so impenetrable? Surely our own kingdom had enough men to drive them out, so why had we not received the signal that all was safe? I heard none of the ten bugle blasts that were supposed to alert us when we were once again at peace and protected from the swords and arrows of the enemy.

My mind raced over the infinite possibilities for the delay as I listened for familiar voices through the ceiling. All I could hear were the muffled words of the invaders shouting orders at one another. I could not discern any complete sentences through the thick dirt ceiling, only a few words here and there suggesting that they were making rounds of the entire premises.

My heart slowly returned to its normal rate as time passed. Had it been only seconds, minutes, or even hours that I had been waiting alone in the black void of the cellar? With no windows to detect the moon and not daring to re-light my candle, I had no concept of time passing.

I sank to my knees and carefully turned my back against the door to hold it closed, being as quiet as possible. I drew my skirts in around me, keeping them from rustling as I attempted to warm myself against the dampness of the floor.

Where was Cook? I wondered. If she had not sent me down to the cellar for the extra carrots, I would have been up there with the rest of the kitchen women when the intruders stormed in. I would not have been able to hide in this little cellar extension that even our own kitchen members often forgot was here. I would not have been sitting here safely while they faced the invaders alone. Filled with guilt, I prayed that Cook and the others had been able to flee in time.

Reflecting on my own current predicament, I prayed that I, too, would find a way to escape.

How Living in a Small Town Has Helped My Writing

I recently moved in with my boyfriend and relocated to a very small town. While I am not sure I could manage long term in a mega city like New York City or London, I am definitely more of a city person and have gravitated to them in my adult life. I understand the appeal of small towns for people. They often have beautiful landscapes, less traffic, and a lower cost of living, but I have always cherished the floods of people in a big city.

For me, cities symbolize a mixture of ideas and resources. I love being surprised by who I might run into while doing my errands or what new restaurant might open up down the block. I also find it easier to connect with people who have similar interests, mostly because there are simply so many more people to meet.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I had a strong writing group last year in my former city. We met regularly (multiple times a week) and consistently asked one another for advice on next steps in our work. I still keep in touch with them of course, but I am no longer able to see them as often as I would like.

When I first moved, I worried I would lose the writing momentum that I had spent so much of 2018 building. I thought, how can I possibly meet other writers while living in such a rural place? I stressed about being out of a heavily artistic environment and worried I would involuntarily let writing shift from the forefront of my mind.

However, in the three months I have lived here, I have been surprised that I have been even more productive than I was last year! Living in a small town has actually aided my writing in several ways.

If you are a city person like myself, you might be wondering, how is that possible with a smaller writing network?

Writers are Everywhere

Seriously, we are all over the place. If you strike up a conversation with any random stranger anywhere, there is a good chance that person has dabbled in some form of writing before. In my current town, I met a writer who lives just down the road from me. She is a teacher who is trying to make more time for writing and is interested in having an accountability partner.

Meetup groups are within easy reach as well. I might have to drive a little longer than I used to, but I am able to meet up with writers in the bigger cities around me, and there are plenty of groups to choose from. These groups have been a great way to build connections in the area, as I have written about in a previous post.

Less Options Mean Less Distractions

In a city, there are an infinite amount of excuses to not write. Maybe your favorite band is performing downtown that night or your friends are going out for dinner and trying that new fusion restaurant. Or maybe you are bored and just want to go window shop and pop into all the local stores.

If you have ever lived in a truly small town, you will know that it is not unusual for every business to close much earlier than their urban counterparts. If you have ever lived in a Southern small town, like I have, you will know that many businesses do not open at all on Sunday, often not Monday either.

So instead of finding excuses not to write, I have been less distracted and turning to my writing more often. More hours spent writing means more writing accomplished!

Establishing Connections Online

I have been talking about starting a blog for months but never got around to taking the time to make it happen. Now that I have had some downtime, I have been having a fantastic time working on Paper Crow Blog. Not only has this blog helped encourage me to write more often, but I have made connections with a lot of other writers (including my wonderful growing number of followers – thank you!).

Besides working on my own writing, I have also spent more time reading other people’s blogs and getting tips on improving my own. It is amazing how much writing information is out there, if only you have the time to sift through it all.

Coffee Shops – Homes Away from Home

There might be fewer coffee shop options in a less-populated town but most towns (even mine!) have at least one or two. When I need to get out of the house for a little bit, chances are, I head to a coffee shop to do some writing. What is nice about small town coffee shops is that there are less people in them, which means a quieter work environment and better access to outlets for charging your laptop.

Books are Less Expensive

Books, and most everything else, is less expensive in my town. I am able to buy more books, and consequently, read more books because they don’t cost as much as they would in a bigger city. Reading more helps keep me engaged with various forms of writing. With less distractions, I also have more time to read that pile of books, too. It is a win-win situation.

After spending more time in my new town, I have grown to appreciate the perks small towns have to offer. Sometimes, it almost feels like a writing retreat in itself since I am tucked away from the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan area.

How has your environment influenced your writing? Do you have any tips on building your writing community in a small town? If so, leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you!

Short Story Review: “The Red Room” by H.G. Wells

Isn’t the book jacket just awesome? The hardcover underneath has planets etched into the spine and front cover

Last night, I opened my copy of The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, also Selected Short Stories, a collection of works by H.G. Wells. I bought this delightfully vintage, 1963 edition hardback copy from a fun downtown bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina.

The bookstore itself is a two-story building with a coffee shop and champagne bar located within it, so if you’re ever visiting the area, I highly recommend stopping in. There are tons of good literary finds around the place, and when I saw this particular edition of my favorite science fiction author’s works, I had to buy it.

I’ve read both The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine in the past, and have them in mind for another reading in the near future (and hopefully, accompanying reviews!). Last night I was in the mood for a quick science fiction story before sleeping, so instead of going for the novels, I chose an unfamiliar work from the collection, the very short story The Red Room.

The Red Room turned out to be less of a science fiction story than a supernatural one, which is just fine by me. I hadn’t considered the idea before, but really, the genres are very closely related. Many of the typical science fiction tropes actually run parallel with horror themes. Unchecked technological “advances” turning society into hordes of misanthropic robots? Aliens from another planet destroying the earth with no regard for life? Science fiction yes, but still all fairly horrifying, in my humble opinion.

The Red Room opens with the narrator deflecting any idea that he is afraid of ghosts. At 28 years old, he makes it very clear this isn’t the sort of thing he believes in (unlike your faint-hearted blogger here). He is very adamant about spending the night in a room of Lorraine Castle, a place that three “old pensioners” (as he so kindly describes them) who live in the place believe to be haunted.

Against their judgment, the narrator decides to spend the night in the room to disprove the stories of it being haunted. I won’t reveal the ending, but the narrator’s final conclusion of the events that take place leave for some interesting interpretation into the beliefs of humans.

I suggest this story if paranormal events are your thing. If you’re a fan of H.G. Wells, you’ll recognize his style of not naming the narrator and offering little backstory to the characters. This habit is actually one that I like about his writing. I don’t get bogged down by all the past baggage in his characters’ lives. He typically takes us straight into the story, immediately putting us in the character’s current frame of mind. The Red Room is a great option if you want a short, gothic read just before bedtime, but its theme will definitely have you questioning your own beliefs about the supernatural long after that.

Do you have any thoughts on the blending of science fiction and the supernatural? Or are you also a fan of H.G. Wells? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for visiting Paper Crow Blog!

Book Review: “On Trails: An Exploration” by Robert Moor

A few months ago, I purchased “On Trails: An Exploration” after reading the back cover in a bookstore during a trip to Greenville, South Carolina. Hiking, in addition to reading and writing, is another one of my hobbies, and so I decided to give this book a try. Plus, I have to admit, I think the simple cover art is beautiful, with its gold print and silver, minimalist landscape contrasting with a solid black background.

I really enjoyed this book and considering it was a New York Times bestseller, it appears many other people did as well. Within the book, Moor talks about (spoiler alert!) trails. He covers pretty much everything about trails, from detailing the world’s oldest known fossil trails made by ancient organisms to hiking the Appalachian Trail in modern times.

The book as a whole is informative and for most of the chapters, an easy read for relaxing evenings. A few parts of the book (such as the epilogue) were a bit long-winded for my attention span, but that is just my preference. I know plenty of people whose reading preferences lean towards the more technical side of things, so I think the book offers a lot for both types of readers.

Moor heavily emphasizes the correlation between landscape and people, describing how both influence the production of trails. He discusses why some trails are designed for shortest travel time while other trails may take meandering routes (for purposes of preventing erosion, for example).

One fascinating topic he describes is the concept of “wilderness” and the changing perception towards wilderness in some cultures (i.e., wilderness was formerly a thing to be feared and to avoid but is now considered a pristine refuge away from industrialization).

I was particularly interested in his depictions of the Appalachian Trail, as the trail goes through my home state. Moor even participated in a trail-building session with the Konnarock Trail Crew, the same one I volunteered with a few years ago through the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (and you can, too, no matter which state you live in! For free and with gear provided! Just check out the link for information).

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book if you are a hiking fan. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for both human and animal trails and now have several hiking destinations to add to my travel list!

Have you also read this book or ones similar? Feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you. Thanks for visiting, and happy reading!

Goodbyes and Hellos: 2019

My partially resurrected plant, in all its glory

Had a funeral for a plant today. Things always get peculiar during periods of unemployment.

It was a great plant, you would have agreed. At one time, it had been a luscious, chlorophyll laden beauty, a pink polka dot plant. A hypoestes phyllostachya, if you will.

It was a Lazarus of a specimen, surviving my periods of moodiness when I first moved across the country to the mountains, sometimes forgetting to water it, then, feeling guilty, overwatering it like some Weekend Parent trying to compensate for their absence with wealth. The plant, too, lived through the great Winter of 2018 with its aptly named “bomb cyclone” furiously rushing in, dumping snow and ice along the Eastern Seaboard, knocking out electricity and blocking roads. It died that week but eventually rose from the dead with four thin, spindly legs pushing out of the soil, a fawn of the Plant World.

It survived yet another move, including a ritualistic re-potting from its small container to a much larger and more spacious pot, which, of course, symbolized my own move onto bigger and better things. A move that included learning and practicing healthy coping mechanisms, developing a lovely relationship, and feeling dreams slowly return in a fairy tale-like kind of way.

My polka dot plant was a wonderful blessing that only died when I didn’t need it anymore, when the sun shone, and I could breathe again. And for that, I said a few words for my plant in the backyard, before I went to work on the tulips.

Writing Prompt: Poets and Writers Magazine


Photo by Jon Eric Marababol on Unsplash

Prompt

“In her New York Times essay “The Ghost Story Persists in American Literature. Why?,” Parul Sehgal writes about how ghost stories throughout American literature have functioned as social critique, manifestations of protest and redress that reveal “cultural fears and fantasies,” and which understand “how strenuously we run from the past, but always expect it to catch up with us.” Write a story that uses a dark or troubling part of history as the impetus for an appearance of a ghostly presence. How does the ghost serve “as a vessel for collective terror and guilt, for the unspeakable” in your story?”

My passage below is based on the Poets & Writers prompt (above). I found this prompt on their weekly “The Time is Now” section. It was apparently posted on Halloween, but I happen to love ghosts any time of the year and decided to try out the prompt today. I am hoping to turn this passage into a short story. Feel free to leave any feedback or suggestions in the comments section!

She was tired that morning. God, was she tired. She felt it in her back and left shoulder as she sprayed the cleaning solution in the bathtub. The start of the new year last week weighed on her. This year marked nearly fifteen years which she’d spent cleaning houses from top to bottom: sweeping, mopping, dusting, vacuuming, sanitizing, scrubbing, all of it for clients with their endless trinkets and other testimonies of wealth, materialized in rolls of white carpet spread out in spare rooms never even used by their owners.

Early in her cleaning days, Iris had suspected many of the rooms were just for show for most of her clients (how could one childless couple possibly put six bedrooms to use?), and this suspicion was confirmed each week when she saw her own vacuum marks on the rug undisturbed, not a single footprint having tread over them since her last cleaning.

This morning the temptation to take the day off and rest had hit her harder than normal, but she was glad she had gone in after all, as she’d forgotten Mrs. Kerry was going out of town for a church trip for the next four weeks. She felt obligated to look after the house in her absence, as Mrs. Kerry was one of the few clients she really cared for. Mrs. Kerry was an elderly woman, one who had never once accused Iris of stealing a misplaced ring, nor demanded she clean the baseboards a second time, or readjust a slightly crooked painting on the wall.

While some of Iris’s clients left the house while she worked, Mrs. Kerry, being somewhat frail, typically stayed politely upstairs and out of the way, even going so far as to suggest Iris have free reign of the tea cupboard and pantry while she worked.

For clients like Mrs. Kerry, the ones who reminded her of her own grandmother, Iris didn’t mind the work so much. As nice as the old woman was though, she was somewhat glad she would be gone all the next month, as Iris preferred working alone in the quiet solitude of the house, undisturbed.

The bathtub she was working on had accumulated a surprisingly thick layer of dust since the week prior, and she had to take more time than normal to clean it. She sprayed the cleanser a few times before realizing the bottle was empty.

“Of course,” she muttered and slowly stood up to refill the bottle with the gallon jug stored under the sink, her knees cracking painfully as she rose. She bent under the sink, rummaging around until she found the bottle of bleach. Raising her head, she caught her reflection in the full-length mirror hanging on the back of the bathroom door.

Something was not right, and she felt her breath catch in her chest as she realized what it was. It took her a few seconds to place the source of the strangeness: she was looking at two separate reflections of herself. Her normal reflection appeared before her, holding the bleach bottle just as she expected, but a second reflection stared back at her, from behind where she stood.

It was her: her image, her form, but yet it was not her entirely. “It” – that was all she could think to call the creature in the mirror – had her same tired face with the matching undereye circles of exhaustion. The same wispy brown ponytail, flecked with gray and falling over one shoulder, and dressed in the same faded blue cleaning uniform. Yet “it” stood, empty-handed, straight and tall, in the center of the bathtub behind her, wearing a small and unwavering smile, pleased with itself.

Her lungs, frozen with fear, demanded oxygen and she now breathed in a huge gulp of air, blinking involuntarily as she did so. The apparition vanished with the blink, and only Iris’s usual reflection remained in front of her, staring in disbelief. She sat on the bathtub’s porcelain edge, trying to collect her bearings.

Resources for Beginning Writers

As a beginning writer (“beginning” in terms of starting to prioritize my writing and learning to practice self-discipline), I have accumulated a pool of resources which have helped – and continue to help – me at various stages of my writing process.

This list is a conglomeration of online resources as well as tangible resources, both of which I find incredibly useful to keep focused and build my writing habit.

1. Gotham Writers’ Workshop: Writing Fiction

This book provides an invaluable introduction to the process of writing fiction. Each chapter is written by a different author and focuses on various elements of the craft of writing fiction such as plot, character, point-of-view, and dialogue.

An interesting addition to the book is the inclusion of Raymond Chandler’s short story “The Cathedral.” This story is referenced throughout the book and provides a framework for citing specific examples of each chapter’s focus. In addition to “The Cathedral,” the authors reference many, many other famous works to explain strategies for taking your writing to the next level.

2. Submittable.com

If you read my previous post about Submittable, you already know I am a huge fan of this submissions management platform. For writers who submit their work to various online magazines and literary journals (publications which may also appear in print), Submittable is an easy way to keep track of all of their submissions. In fact, many online publications require writers to submit their work solely through the system, as it allows them to keep track of submission pools with ease.

The “Discover” feature allows writers to view publications currently accepting submissions and clearly lists any associated submission fees and deadlines. Finding publications with an open submission window and which also accept your type of writing used to take hours, but Submittable lets you filter publications and find the right ones quickly.

3. Planners

Yes, writers are creative, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be organized. I faithfully use my planner to establish daily/weekly/monthly writing goals and record my progress towards meeting those goals. The link above is for the exact planner I use, although I picked mine up at Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago.

Of course, you will want to choose a planner that works for your lifestyle. I recommend the above planner because it has weekly and monthly views (each month is tabbed separately), and there is also a nice little bonus in the back which includes space for project planning and keeping lists of books to read.

If using a planner isn’t your typical style, don’t be put off by the idea if it sounds too intense. Goal-setting via a planner can be as simple as making a list in the morning of all the things you wish to accomplish on a certain day (ex. writing a blog post, finishing editing a story, writing for twenty minutes, etc.) and then reviewing the list that evening to see what actually got done. When I started doing this, I was shocked to see how many tasks I let fall to the wayside, which invariably snowballed into me failing at my ultimate goal, to write more. But now, I am able to hold myself accountable for completing the majority of my daily tasks.

4. Yoga

No, you haven’t accidentally crossed over into a fitness blog. Yoga with Adriene is a popular YouTube channel that lets you choose a specific lesson for that day. Yoga has, oddly, helped me focus on my writing by teaching me to relax my mind and body so that I am in a clear headspace to be creative. Something I bring up frequently when talking about my writing is how anxiety interferes with my creative writing process, and that is something that took me years to realize.

Taking an online yoga lesson like the one above is great for stretching your limbs after several hours of sitting. It also gives your mind a break from your work in progress while stilling those nagging worries that creep up as you’re trying to finish a story. I also enjoy going to an in-person yoga class in my town. If you’re new to yoga, keep in mind that often, these classes are only ten dollars or so and it isn’t unusual for several other yoga beginners to be there as well, so it is definitely work checking out.

5. Meetup.com

If you are looking to network with local writers in your area, Meetup is a fantastic way to do so. Other writers can serve as accountability partners or even writing resources themselves. It is free to create an account, and you can search for writing groups in your area. Many groups are free to join whereas some may have a small fee (about five dollars a month) to cover membership costs. Even the small town I live in has several Meetup groups nearby.

Most groups I’ve participated in have met at coffee shops and other lowkey places. You’ll want to choose a writing group that is your style, whether you’re looking solely for company while all working on your own projects or if you are looking for groups which critique one another’s work and offer suggestions in a more formal style.

These resources have all helped kickstart my writing this past year. I hope you find some of them useful in your own writing journey, too. Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to leave a comment below to share your own resources that have guided your writing!