everything i do is so fucking amazing that sparks are going to shoot out of your eyes

Tag: writing

The 2014 Clarion UCSD Blog Post (of doom)

It’s that time of year again! This year, the Clarion UCSD Write-a-Thon runs from June 22 to August 2. Yesterday was the first day, and although I was generally distracted by BRIGHT SUNLIGHT, I completed 2 of my 150 hours of butt-in-chair time. I also completed my first SUPER SECRET blog post. 🙂

If you don’t know what the Write-a-Thon is, you can check out the main page here:

My profile is here:

Short version is that I’m doing the Write-a-Thon to raise money for the Clarion UCSD workshop, which I attended in 2008. The workshop is a nonprofit, and it depends on donations to keep costs down for the students (and it’s already PLENTY expensive). Clarion is a six-week, intense science fiction/fantasy short story workshop. I had a blast while I was there and learned a ton, so I’d like the workshop to continue so that more people can attend in the future.


If you tried to send a donation in the past week, check my profile. So far, the only confirmed money I have is from the people who are listed on that page. The Write-a-Thon emails me to tell me when I receive donations or sponsorships, but it doesn’t send me an email or any other identifying information. If you tried to donate and never got a paypal login page, then something went wrong and you might have to try again. I know, it’s a bummer! I’m not sure who’s in charge of the site design, but I think it’s generally a work in progress each year.

You can also drop me a line in email (kehrli at gmail dot com), comments on my website, or in my tumblr ask box.


The satisfaction of having donated to an awesome workshop! And you have encouraged me not to just give up now! Yay! Encouragement! I am AN ENCOURAGEMENT SPONGE.


If you go to my member profile and either donate or sponsor me for $10 or more, I will send you the SUPER SECRET password and url for my clarion website. The posts will contain what I’m working on, as well as my discussion afterward regarding what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and how I feel about what I’m writing. YES! You’ll get to read raw, unfinished fiction. O____O;

I will even answer process questions! Well, if you have them.

If $10 is a bit steep for a donation to a writing workshop, for $5, I’ll send you an ebook (hopefully I’ll be able to get it into mobi, epub, and pdf) containing several of my previously published stories, some of which are not currently available online.

If you have TONS of money to throw at good causes this month, and you drop $25 or more in my bucket (and are a writer), I will critique one of your short stories (up to 5000 words in length). I am a professionally published SF/F short story writer and I currently edit for Shimmer Magazine. I know things!

Obviously, this subdomain is already up (and I’ve just put up my post for Day 1), but the ebook is going to take a few more days to get put together. My critique turn around will be about a week after you send me the story, and you can wait to send me a story for critique until you’ve got one finished. 🙂


Finally, I know that the donation site is not completely intuitive. If you’re sponsoring, it should let you choose how much to sponsor me for (7 cents for each of the 150 hours will get you to about $10), and then it’ll just be done. If you’re not going to make an account and just want to donate, you should be able to choose to skip registration. After skipping registration and choosing an amount to donate, the website should automatically open PayPal or another payment window.

If it doesn’t open that up, you can either email the site or just try again. Otherwise, it’ll just show your donation as “unconfirmed” for a few days before it vanishes. Eep.

Also, although Clarion sends me an email from the treasurer to inform me that I’ve received sponsorships and donations, they do not share any of your information with me. Therefore, after donating, please drop me an email: kehrli at gmail dot com so I can send you the password / ebook / etc.


I’m using the Write-a-Thon this year to really get on track to write regularly. It’s taken several years to do this because it (embarrassingly) took until earlier this year for me to finally get treated for depression. It’s kind of a long story, but it’ll probably get mentioned in the posts when I discuss the problems I’m having jump-starting my writing productivity.

Back in 2008, I went to Clarion in San Diego, and it was definitely a life-changing experience. Prior to that, I hadn’t sold any short stories, so my acceptance into the workshop was the first time I got external validation regarding my fiction writing.

I have blogged occasionally about Clarion and what it meant to me. In order to read the posts that I wrote about Clarion while I was there (and a few I wrote afterward), check out the clarion and clarionucsd tags on my old LJ:

Anyway, thanks for visiting and/or donating! If you have any further questions, either pop them into the comment box here or drop me an email: kehrli at gmail dot com.

Even if you can’t/don’t feel like donating to Clarion or sponsoring me in the Write-a-Thon, please do share this with your friends, especially if any of them might be interested in reading my write-a-thon blog posts and/or getting a professional short story critique.

The most important thing anyone’s ever said to me about art

Another post of some writer talking about art in general is probably the last thing that the world needs, but that has never kept anyone from writing a blog post before, and it sure as fuck isn’t going to stop me now.

You’d think that after spending most of my late teens and all of my adult life hanging around other artists and writers that I’d be about to launch into a moving tale about some time when I had a heart-to-heart with another creator. NOPE, NOPE, NOPE. Like so many things in my life, this learning experience was a result of me being a little shit.

I was in middle school, and probably about 12, and taking seventh-grade art. In that class, we would dutifully work on drawing and shading techniques, spend hours with rulers trying to get three point perspective right, and look at famous paintings. (Of course, I drew floating 3D text that said “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE” over the X-Files symbol, y halo thar late 90s.)

So, here’s where I admit that about 99% of all abstract art I looked at as a kid was completely lost on me. I was like IF THERE ARE NO PEOPLE IN IT THEN WHAT IS THE POINT??????????????

One day, I came home from school, pissy, as usual, and went off on a tearing rant about one piece of art or another that I thought was completely stupid. I was possibly talking about Jackson Pollock’s drip painting, but most likely I was reacting to Mark Rothko’s “Orange And Yellow” which our seventh grade art teacher had shown us while explaining that it had sold for millions and millions of dollars.

"Orange And Yellow" - Mark Rothko - 1956

“Orange And Yellow” – Mark Rothko – 1956

I ranted to my father about it. After all, I was smart and clearly knew what good art was, so obviously he would agree with my outrage. People pay millions of dollars for two squares!? TWO SQUARES!? Here I was, slaving away with a set of cheap pencils, getting graphite all over my fingers and hands trying to make a photorealistic drawing of my ragged old sneaker, and some dude paints a couple of rectangles!? And that painting is worth more money than I could ever imagine having, EVER? RIDICULOUS!

“I mean,” I said, “it’s not like that’s hard! ANYBODY could do that. Even I could do that!”

My father looked at me, and all he said was:

“Ah, but you didn’t.


So Duotrope is going to a paid model, which is not surprising as they’ve been telling people they would go to that model for years if “keep it free” didn’t pay the bills.

The Important Announcement!

So their roll out is just announcement that basically says “thanks for the donations, guys, but now it’s going to cost $5/month!”

Well, or $50/year.


So on a personal level, I’m not going to cough up that much money. Sorry guys, but just no. For various reasons I’ve just cut my subscriptions to things that cost money by a TON, so adding a new thing was really banking on it being in the $1-$2 a month range (I actually assumed it would be something like $20 a year with an option to pay more).

I think I know where the numbers came from. Previously they’d said that “if every user gave $5 a year” they’d make enough money. Since about 10% of users donated some money at some point, I guess the assumption is that those 10% will now remain users and give $50/year and everyone goes home happy. Or something.

Mostly this has resulted in a wild flurry of free-flung assumptions on Twitter, which is always fun. As usual, we end up in the swamps of doom and confusion and “my financial decisions are more pure than yours” or whatever, which is usually reserved for the conversation about whether or not an e-book should cost $15.

My personal, “What what what!?” response came from a) sticker shock, because $50/year is considerably more than their previously quoted yearly amount, b) because, sadly, the main value for the site for ME comes directly from the submission tracker being free, thus inducing writers to give up their data for free to be crunched and obsessed over, and c) because even assuming the data didn’t degrade in quality, I’m not sure the site subscription would be worth that to me.

Yes, I’m aware that in the dark ages, authors bought Writers Market for $20, and it wasn’t that great. Well, but I don’t think I’ve heard anyone suggest paying for market info in the past six or seven years because, uh, we have the internet. This isn’t 1993.

I’ve also seen both the coffee comparison and a cell phone comparison, neither of which make a ton of sense, and both of which primarily exist to shame the other party into feeling bad about what they have or haven’t chosen to spend money on. I mean, yeah, I spend considerably more than $5 a month on my cell phone. I have also indulged in overpriced coffee beverages, both of which give me more enjoyment than paying $5 to have a look at some market listings, most of which I can recite from memory at this point. But mostly, whatever. I don’t have to justify whether or not I have a $5 bill somewhere and whether or not I’d rather go blow it on pinball and hard cider down the street.

Likewise, I know some people for whom the site is worth it, in which case they’ve probably already set up their subscriptions. To whom I may say BUT THAT $5 COULD TOTALLY HAVE BEEN SPENT ON VEGETABLES.

I was being slightly facetious when I suggested on Twitter that a Duotrope Kickstarter (keep it free for one whole year!) would have probably funded and overfunded, at least for the first one. But… the thing is that’s probably true. What would have helped Duotrope would have been to be less terrible at fundraising, which has never been their strong point.

2008-2011, I gave them $10-$20 a year in donations* to keep it free, because they said they wanted $5 and I was like “well, this is for me and 1-3 other people.” The thing is, I have no idea how much that helped. At no point in their years of “if you don’t donate, we’ll have to make this subscription!” have they ever said “you know, it costs us $X a month to run this site.” So that might have been a good start? You know? Instead of “give us some unspecified large amount of money or we’ll never stop nagging you.”

Here’s a cache of the Keep it Free page from about a week ago.**

As far as making most of the site subscription only… Why not do it in a way that isn’t stupid? Like … here’s the subscription tracker, but for free you can only look back at your last month or two months of submissions history — if you subscribe, you can see the full history. Or here’s the submissions tracker, but if you want to see the response times, that costs money.

Since I wrote the majority of this post last night, Duotrope has responded to concerns: I know some of you want specifics on our numbers, our decision process, etc. While we understand your desire to know the inner workings of Duotrope, we are a private company, and our internal data is not public domain.

Oh, okay. They couldn’t tell us how much money they needed us to donate because they’re a private company. That’s cute. It’s a secret as to how much money they needed us to give them to remain free, but we were supposed to just come up with it passively. Now they want to charge us twice as much as the average yearly contribution to donate our data to their super secret company. I guess it’s good to know that they’ve always been coy about how much they actually need in donations on purpose and not just because they’re substandard fundraisers.

But anyway. Duotrope can charge whatever they want for their service, and I’m free to point out that I’m perfectly capable of tracking my submissions in a searchable excel file for free. I’m sad to be losing access to their searchable index, but it’s not worth $50/year to me as I rarely go spelunking for markets and when I do the majority of the new ones I find there are non-paying or token. There are others for whom it may be, and who aren’t annoyed by the company communications. It’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out.

*I didn’t donate this year because I haven’t had stories out anywhere I didn’t know about and barely visited the site compared to years previously. However, some of the people who did donate (including last month) are annoyed that there’s no acknowledgement of that, no subscription discount for people who just dropped $20+ on them, nothing. Good job. Because the last thing you’d want to do is warm up to the people who have given you money in the past.

**Also, based on a highly informal poll that is biased as all fuck, most people assumed the subscription rate for Duotrope would have been in the $10-$20, which tracks well with the data from the cache of the Keep it Free page, where they give the mean and median average donations as $19 and $10, respectively.

And now I’ve officially spent way too much time talking about this.

NaNoWriMo: Still not destroying publishing as we know it

This year, the NaNoWriMo haterade has been more delightful than the past few years, much to my overall joy. I’d thought we’d all moved on to “Kindle will ruin the publishing industry, so don’t even bother submitting to agents/editors, kid!” It’s good to see that the classics still exist.  (But, to take a quick break from kicking my feet and giggle-snorting)…

Here’s a link to my blog post from five years ago, (old, old post) which was brought on by various amateur (at the time, some may have successfully sold novels and/or short stories since their days of bitterness, in which case hooray for them!) writers talking about their terror that NaNoWriMo was going to produce too much competition for them, thus preventing them from being published.

(Some parts of that post make me cringe a little, but hey.)

As of last year, the number of participants was about 250,000 and the number of “winning” novels was about 36,000. But 36k is really only the the number of files that had 50,000 words in them that got uploaded to the website, irrespective of quality or actual novel contents. Yeah, that’s a big number, but judging from the people who show up every year, it still consists of a lot of people who heard about this and thought it might be fun, many of whom are teenagers. Most of the people I talk to don’t actually have any publication goals, and are just doing it for the hell of it.

There are two dueling misconceptions at play, I think. The first is the idea that everyone has a novel in them — which N did not start by a long-shot. The second is the idea that putting your time in as a “writer” means anything.

As to the first, long before N was anywhere near as large a thing as it is this year (or last year, or the year before, or five years ago when I wrote that post), I heard people saying that they would write a novel if they only had time. I find ten people who are typing up novels that sound terrible far preferable to one person droning on about what they would write.

As to the second, yes! Working hard for years is how you build up any skills, especially the skills necessary to later create art. But it doesn’t entitle you to anything. If I read two books and I like one more than the other, the amount of time that the two authors spent on their books is meaningless. There will always be someone who shows up with far less experience and does better.

I mean, I have a long and storied history of failing at novels, but I sold the first serious attempt I ever made at a short story to Talebones. I’m certain that there were people who sent stories to Talebones throughout its run and never managed to sell to Patrick. I’m certain that there were people who had been writing short stories since before I’d even learned how to type who hadn’t been able to sell to Patrick. It didn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter. When I read slush at Shimmer and I get the occasional cover letter that says, “I’ve been writing short stories since 1987” or whatever, my response is never “Oh! This person is DUE, I better buy this story.”

Someone who has been writing for fewer years, who spent less time on their project, and who may have even participated in NaNoWriMo could write a book that gets chosen over yours for any number of reasons, none of which have anything to do with how many years they did or didn’t spend writing it.

Tough shit.

Also, who the hell has time to police who does or doesn’t try to write a novel?

On the Occasion of My 10th NaNoVersary

I don’t have much time, but want to blog ON THE DAY damn it, instead of several weeks later when I remember, buried in a post in which I’m trying to do four things at once but fail because I should have been blogging regularly but wasn’t.


I may have actually heard about NaNoWriMo in 2001, but was working on My Grand And Epic Science Fiction Novel That I Had Started At Age 16 In Response To The Fountainhead Being Bullshit. Plus, I thought NaNo sounded stupid, so I didn’t bother.

Regardless, on November 8, 2002, I opened a forum account on the NaNoWriMo forums because some of my friends were doing it (from back in the Elfwood/IRC days, oh my). I wasn’t too excited about it. Actually, I thought it was a terrible idea, and I didn’t want to start anything new anyway, so whatever. I probably TOLD everybody in IRC that NaNoWriMo was the stupidest idea I’d ever heard WHILE I was filling out the account info. I was 18, and it was my freshman year of college, and I was kind of a shit.

(There are people who met me in my late teens/early 20’s and I have no idea why they still acknowledge my existence. Waiting for schadenfreude?)

It’s been ten fucking years, now.

I mean, it’s just this thing that happens one month a year. It’s an event, sure, sometimes little more than a social event. I’ve showed up to meet other people doing NaNo in Bellingham, Helsinki, and Seattle. This year when I stopped at Powell’s during Orycon, I ended up in the middle of a Portland write-in. Every year, I churn out about 50,000 words of shit, usually finishing right at the very last minute so I can get that pixel star or whatever next to my name.

Yeah, none of those books are published. We can argue about whether or not they were ever finished.

I’ve got some short stories, though. And the novel I’m almost-just-so-close-to-done-with now. The thing is, besides being 18 and a disgruntled college student, I was also a procrastinator, and I had no idea how to finish anything.

That novel I mentioned up at the beginning? That I’d started when I was 16? It persisted for a while (even post NaNo, and after I’d started other projects in November). By the time I gave it up, I did have about 40,000-50,000 words of manuscript! Awesome! And I was pretty sure the plot was just… about… to… start. Yeah, so it was kind of a soap opera that was supposed to be science fiction about an active rebellion, but really it was just a lot of people running around and being dramatic at each other. Yet, somehow I had a small fanbase for it even though I would currently title the project, “The Author Desperately Tries To Come Out of the Closet To Himself But Is Persistently Clueless.”

(Actually, that probably explains WHY people sent me folders of fanart…)

In 2003, Cory Skerry and Liz Coleman were doing NaNoWriMo in Bellingham, and they attempted to make contact, but that was during the one time I tried to date someone, and he was pretty much all of my social contact until he dumped me because he found my reluctant blow job unsatisfactory (and I beat him at Risk). Also, I was still working on the terrible novel rather than starting something new, so I still wasn’t too into the whole NaNo culture yet.

But in 2004, I responded to their NaNoLy summons and did something I had not done much at all during my previous two years… I DESCENDED FROM THE CAMPUS ON THE HILL.

The thing is, until I wandered through downtown Bellingham in search of this mythical place named, “The Black Drop,” I was totally and entirely one of those amateurs who is going to finish a story Someday. There was just other shit I needed to do first. Somewhere, there’s an alternate universe in which I’m working a perfectly ordinary job, and getting slowly more and more bitter about how disappointed I am in myself. I mean, more than I am anyway. Like the way I am now, but a thousand times worse. Alternate universe me probably gets paid more, though. Thankfully I was sucked into the weirdo artsy coffeeshop crowd in Bellingham before I turned into someone respectable.

I participate in NaNoWriMo every year and it’s part of my life, but it wasn’t until I sat down and thought about it this morning that I realized just how much it meant to me. Without the relationships I formed through NaNo, I suspect I may never have written short stories, found out I could finish things, had a webcomic, transitioned, gone to Norwescon for the first time, or found out about Clarion. I’d be one of those sad fuckers with a 9 to 5 I hate, a chip on my shoulder, and a sagging pile of overworked mush that I was still calling a novel “in progress” after 12 years.

I see new people show up at write-ins now, people who always wanted to write, but weren’t sure if they could, who aren’t too sure about what this whole nonsense is about and just want something to do in November. Most of them will just have fun and put everything aside for the rest of the year, sure. And there are always plenty of people writing their fanfiction opuses for themselves and their friends.

Still, when I see people joining for the first time, I wonder if what they’re about to start is a novel or something much more profound.

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