[Note: living trees look more inviting.]
by Jean Roberta
The most recent topic of discussion on another writers’ blog, “Oh Get a Grip,” was “chaos.” Each contributor interpreted this term differently. Some discussed the chaos in the world which can be inspiring to a writer, some described the chaos in a writer’s mind which can lead to unexpected connections which form a plot, and some talked about the apparent randomness of a writer’s luck in getting published (or not).
I’ve been dealing with the physical chaos in the second-story bedroom that my spouse and I call “the library.” It used to be filled with books in bookcases made of particleboard that were buckling under the weight. When I got a new, shelf-lined office in the university where I teach, I moved our whole fiction section there, along with much of the non-fiction. The empty bookshelves at home were so decrepit that I took them apart and recycled them.
Taking three-quarters of the books out of the “library” should have created more space, but it simply cleared more room for more stuff. At this point, I can’t remember how I managed to keep all my stuff in an apartment.
The home library has become an unofficial storage unit for stuff that doesn’t clearly belong anywhere else: paid bills (which might be needed as proof), framed artwork (which we haven’t decided where to place), two sewing machines (one a treasured antique from 1916 which first belonged to my grandmother), thread, ribbons, pins and fabric, a filing cabinet for important legal/financial documents, musical instruments (spouse comes from a musical family), greeting cards, stationery, envelopes, etc. Every few years, I reorganize, yet my organization plans don’t last.
Lately, I started sorting out the stack of papers related to my writing. One of my filing cabinets in my office at school contains numerous containers for correspondence with various publishers. One of my shelves is labelled “Dead Publishers,” and it includes material I can’t bear to throw away.
In the home library, I have two envelopes for two publishers I’ve dealt with at home during my time away from the classroom. One of them is Excessica, the writers’ co-op run by Selena Kitt where I have several pieces for sale, and really should post more. I also keep a running list of calls-for-submissions with deadlines which I keep updating and reprinting. Under that, I keep a list of my fiction pieces (short and long stories) in alphabetical order with word-counts, listed by content (het erotica, lesbian erotica, bisexual and ménage erotica, gay-male erotica, realistic-contemporary, historical, fantasy). I keep two lists of submissions: fiction and non-fiction, with dates and the places where I’ve sent them. When/if one of my submissions gets accepted or posted, I circle it.
Atop all this, I had a large pile of blank sheets of paper on which I had scrawled useful information: email addresses of writers and publishers, buy links for books, event listings, promo information, research notes. In the last week, I’ve managed to turn most of this handwritten material into files in my “Documents” on the home computer.
I probably sound well-organized, but I still feel lost in a paper forest. Any serious writer needs to stay on top of the business of writing while also making time to write and revise material for publication. I’ve noticed that several of my stories have been rejected once and haven’t been sent out again. Clearly, that needs to change, but I need to decide whether to revise them, and if so, by how much.
The last three years’ worth of fiction submissions show me that several editor/publishers gave me vague promises that they wanted to hang onto my stuff for publication sometime in the future. How soon should I send another query, and when should I give up hope and send these pieces somewhere else?
Or should I put everything else aside to write stories that need to be submitted SOON because deadlines are speeding toward me? I don’t have much time left before I have to start teaching three classes and marking assignments.
The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas described writing as a “lonely craft,” and I’ve seen it visually represented by images of empty boats and boats with one person in each, surrounded by vast bodies of water. These visual metaphors are not encouraging.
However, writers’ groups such as Erotic Readers and Writers bring writers together to critique each others’ work, kvetch, inform, and compare notes. I’m curious to know how other writers organize writing-related material so that everything can be found when needed.