Beth Burnett

Storyteller

fashion art coffee macbook pro

Photo by OVAN on Pexels.com

Writing is hard work. It’s solitary, it’s sometimes nerve-wracking. It can be exhilarating and it can be devastating.

There are times when I think I’m on the cusp of landing something huge and there are times I feel I should just go ahead and quit now.

Somehow, those moments of wanting to quit are always ameliorated by the support of other writers. I’m lucky to have a network of supportive writer friends who reach out at just the right time. I’m blessed to be married to a writer who understands the exhilaration and devastation that comes from the acceptances and rejections. I’ve been the recipient of gift cards for groceries from other writers during tough times. I’ve had writers read my works and give me constructive feedback. I know writers who send just the right humorous meme at just the writer time. There are people who share my blog posts and those who retweet me on Twitter.

I’ve been so lucky to have the support of so many amazing people in my life. One of those incredible people is author Kris Bryant. She has simply shown up for me on several occasions in different ways.

Kris is one of those people who understands that success is not a pie and supporting other authors is not going to take away from her chance to thrive as a writer. She does a lot for a lot of people. She is a talented writer. And more importantly, she is a good person with a great heart.

Writing is hard, y’all. Having a good support system is vital. If you don’t yet have that support system, consider the ways you can support others. It doesn’t have to be financial. You can request a library carry someone’s book. You can share their promo posts on social media. You can read their work, write reviews, mention their name when people ask for book recommendations. You can gather a good support system by *being* a good support system. The rest will follow naturally.


You can find out more about Kris Bryant and her work here.  (You can also pre-order this delightful story there, as well)

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It’s been a month of ups and downs with NaNoWriMo – yesterday, for the first time since November 6th, I actually hit the target of where the NaNo site said I should be in order to finish this project.

 

I’ve gone days without writing and I’ve had days where I’ve busted out 5,000 words. The last time I won NaNo, in 2017, I ended up with an award-winning novel, Coyote Ate the Stars.

This time, I’m feeling pretty good about what I’ve produced over the month of November. It will need some revision, but it isn’t awful. It isn’t just a jumble of furiously pounded out words.

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The picture of inconsistency

Last year, I started my NaNo novel without outlining it. I still haven’t finished that work. In 2017, I had an solid, basic outline. This year, I also started with a good outline. I didn’t always stick exactly to it, but in general, I knew where I was going to start and I knew where I was going to end.

Some people do better writing as a pantser – I never want to get myself painted into a corner that I can’t get out of. And as long as I have the outline, I’m relatively safe from those inescapable corners.

It’s getting close to the end of the month – I still have a little over eight thousand words to write. I don’t know if the novel itself will be finished, but I’m relatively sure I will make the fifty-thousand words.

In some ways, winning NaNoWriMo is a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, I set a lofty goal and I accomplished it. On the other hand, there’s a part of me who’s screaming, “Why don’t you work like this EVERY month?”

As I’ve said before, November is a month of introspection. It’s also the month of a hell of a lot of hard work. Let’s see how these last few days go.

 

Happy birthday to all November folks! Today is my 49th birthday. I’m excited because I’ve looked forward to turning 50 since I turned 40. Before that, I was in desperate physical health and believed I wouldn’t make it to 50.

Women in their fifties are something special. They’ve reached that “I don’t give a fuck” age. They’re starting to come into their true power. I’ve long said that the world should be ruled by women in their fifties and I still believe it. Of course, from this age, nine years past that milestone fortieth birthday, I believe women in their sixties and seventies and beyond are also powerful and capable.

I’m looking forward to my 49th year. This year, I hope to publish my book Revenge Prose. I hope to publish “My One Gay Novel” the book I’ve almost completed for NaNoWriMo. I’d like to start and finish writing my next book. I’d really love to find an agent or a publisher for these books and that means I’d like to get better about actually submitting them to publishers or agents. I’d like to self-publish Coyote 2, the sequel to Coyote Ate the Stars. I would like to finish and publish the short story collection I’ve been working on with my friend, author Karen Richard.

I’d like to grow my Patreon to 150 followers. It takes a lot of time and I’d like to make it worth that time.

I’d like to go into menopause this year. I feel I’ve done enough time having my period and I’m ready for it to be over.

I’d like to keep this handle I’ve had on my depression for the past year. I’d like to keep practicing the self-care I need to prevent a downward slide. I’d like to continue to manage my anxiety as well, if not better, than I have been this year.

I’m entering a doctoral program in January, so I’ll also say that I’d like to thrive in that program and not crash and burn in a puddle of tears, regret, and impostor syndrome.

I’d like to get a full-time professor job. I love my classes and my students, but adjuncting is an insecure job. It affords me time to work on my writing and run the writing academy. But it doesn’t afford me the pay to actually pay all the bills.

I’d like to do P90X at least once. I did it twice, about six years ago. I want to do it again. I keep putting it off. But that’s my goal for this year.

I’d like to continue taking my senior dog for twice daily walks as long as he is able to do them.

I’d like to get a story of mine into at least one anthology this year.

It’s my 49th year. It feels momentous, like big things are coming. It’s the countdown to my magic 50. It’s a time for great changes. I just have to make room for them to happen.

 

 

 

I love this whole journey into Katherine Phillips – this is one of my favorites in the series so far. I can feel the author’s breathlessness and wonder at this amazing discover at the National Library of Wales.

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National Library of Wales

Ian Capper/National Library of Wales/CC BY-SA 2.0

Aber is home to the National Library of Wales, a super, super, super cool library. I know from the photo that it looks like a prison, but in person it is profoundly beautiful. In addition, finally reaching it after climbing a really, really big hill with 40 pounds of research materials on your back three days in a row is profoundly beautiful, too.

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I joined a contest at the end of last month. We were given a genre, a prompt, and a word and we had to write a 250-word (or less) flash fiction in 24 hours.

My genre was Sci-Fi, my action was assembling furniture, and my word was “invent.” We were told we could use a variation of the word as long as it contained the whole word in it’s entirety

This is the story I came up with. I’ll find out later in the week if I get to advance to the new round. Whether I do or not, I truly enjoyed the experience and I’m happy with the story that came out of the challenge.

Martin’s War

Martin swore as a screw fell between the arm of the chair and the wall. He groped for it with one hand. The piece of wood in his other hand threatened to disengage from the rest of the unit. It was usually easy. Slot A into slot B. Piece C to piece D.

A ship had landed earlier. He’d heard it while working on the previous chair. His fingers closed on the screw and he held it against his chest for a moment, eyes closed. There would be people in that ship. They might want chairs.

A woman approached him. “It’s time to go, son.”

“I just need to finish assembling…”

She touched his shoulder. “You’re needed.”

Martin looked up. “I need to finish putting this chair together. People need chairs.”

The woman’s face was kind; she was smiling. “You’ve been alone for a long time. If you come with me, I can get you help.”

“My father…”

“Your father,” she said, stressing the word father, “has been dead for eighty-three years.”

A memory, his father yelling at him. I didn’t create a robot to assemble furniture, Martin. I built you to win this war.

“I won the war,” he whispered.

The woman put her arm around his shoulders and helped him stand. “Now we need your help with our war.”

Martin looked out over the rows and rows of empty chairs. “I was invented to win.”

 

 

 

In my head, I’m dapper. I wear crisp dress shirts with sweater vests and colorful bow ties. I have nicely-fitted dress slacks that I wear with loafers and socks that often match my ties. When it’s cold, I put on a nice thick cardigan, perhaps with patches on the elbow. Sometimes, the me in my head wears crew neck sweaters over a collared shirt with a necktie.

I even have a name for this person, this dapper gender-neutral person in my head. They’re named Finnian, a name I’ve been trying on lately with a select few close friends.

This person dresses the way I want to dress. They dress the way I feel most comfortable. They look on the outside the way I feel on the inside.

But big men’s clothing is not designed for fat female bodies like mine. If I manage to find pants I like, they’re tight in the waist, tighter across the stomach and absolutely huge in the thighs and calves. Dress shirts that fit my breasts and stomach have necks so gigantic it feels as if my own neck is a toothpick in the grand canyon. Altering these clothes is a must, but that’s super expensive.

Being fat, being dapper, and being poor do not go hand in hand.

Of course, well-meaning people (and therapists) offer sound advice. “How you dress doesn’t define you.” I know that. Logically, I know that. But in my heart, I know how I feel comfortable moving through the world and I’m not presenting it.

Others offer fashion advice. “Just get two good pairs of pants, two good dress shirts, 3 vests, and one jacket. You can interchange them all.” That’s amazing advice for people who have a thousand bucks to drop on a wardrobe and another couple hundred for alterations.

And of course, people suggest haunting the thrift stores. As a super-size person, thrift store finds are few and far between. Is it because I’m the biggest person ever? Is it because big men hang on to their clothes because the clothes are so expensive? Is it because there are so few options, they are snatched up the moment they become available?

Clothes do not make the identity. I know that. We all know that. But fat bodies often don’t get the opportunity to dress the way that feels right for them because the options just aren’t available. And when they are available, they are often prohibitively expensive.

Things are changing. Brands are appearing with the intent of clothing all bodies. Tomboy X offers underwear up to size 4X. Internet shopping for big bodies is busting out all over. Fat influencers of every gender and fashion style flood Instagram.

And still, here I am. Sometimes a 4X, sometimes a 5. I have a closet full of clothes from the Kingsize catalog that hang on me like a sack that I could go get altered if I knew someone who could do it in this small rural town without… I don’t know… looking at me funny.

In the long run, I just find it easier most days to put on leggings and a long t-shirt and call it good. And ultimately, it isn’t doing me any harm. But in my head, that dapper person still longs to be free.

Maybe someday.

 

Coffee and a book

I’m subjecting my poor students to Dorian Gray this semester, so it’s time for a reread. It’s a beautifully blustery morning and I’ve already been up and out with the dog. I finished my own writing and I’m caught up on grading papers. Now I’m bundled into a blanket and downing coffee to prepare myself to dive into my book. It’s so very male and so very British. But I still love it. That said, I did write to my department head last week to ask if I can drop it from the syllabus next semester and bring in some women writers instead. I could use some estrogen after a dose of Oscar Wilde.