Category Archives: Writing

A new arrangement for writing accountability

Does anyone hold you accountable to write? Do you meet with someone weekly or monthly with the expectation of sharing a new piece of writing?

I’ve been in and out of different writing accountability arrangements since I started writing in 2008. Most of the time I’m not participating in any sort of program. I am in a writers group, but our group meetings are loosely organized. The group seems to function well as a group of mutually encouraging friends, rather than as a critique or accountability group.

However, until the end of the year (and perhaps longer) I agreed to help a friend stay on top of his writing with the following arrangement:

-During the week we each keep a record of what we’ve written (no matter how small) and other writing-related things (like making submissions, or updating our blogs).

– On Friday nights we email each other our lists.

That’s it. It’s nice and simple. So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how this quiet little agreement has inspired me to write more. I’ve been in a season of good production lately. Now that someone is expecting to see a record of my writing each week I anticipate getting even more good work done (at least that’s the hope).

The journal pictured here is what I’m keeping my record in. Cool, eh?


Thoughts on the Sixth Jot Writers Conference

The sixth Jot Writers Conference has come and gone. It turned out to be another great event. Just over 30 writers filled the presentation space at Lowry’s Books and More. I met loads of new writers and enjoyed hearing about their different projects.

This was our first event at Lowry’s, which turned out to be a solid venue for writing-related events. It’s a sprawling used book store, (You could spend hours there. Trust me.) and the event space is part of their in-store cafe, which smelled of cupcakes. Used books and cupcakes. What’s not to love?

To make an already  fun night even better, the owner, Tom, sprung for free pizza and soda — for the whole conference. One of the goals of every Jot Conference is to get writers to meet each other. Most writers are typically shy and introverted, so it’s not always easy to make sure everyone has met someone new. But nothing gets people to loosen up and mingle a little bit like free pizza. (Okay, perhaps free drinks would do the same, but you get my point.)

My favorite part of the evening was an interview I conducted with Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma, one-time editor of Catapult Magazine, and editor of the new journal, Topology Magazine. Kirstin is one of the first editors who published something I had written (see the links to Catapult in the writing tab above). I’m grateful that she, her husband Rob, and the rest of the Catapult crew took a shot with me back then (circa ’08 and ’09). Every publication is an honor, but there’s something about the first couple that are especially meaningful. It was a thrill for me to interview her at a Jot Conference and express my gratitude.

One of these days we’re going to ask someone with an eye for photography to come to a Jot Conference and snap some photos. Until then we have my iPhone pics. The first is of Josh Mosey, who talked about character development through the lens of Norse mythology.

JOT VI_Mosey

Bob Evenhouse gave a talk on the basics of blogging. There were a good number of writers in attendance with questions about blogging, so I was glad we had this topic covered.

JOT VI_Evenhouse

Thomas McClurg spoke on self-editing, and more specifically, being willing to make cuts to your writing which empower readers’ imaginations to run wild. As is typical for Thomas, his presentation was thoughtful with a touch of understated humor. (I was in the back during his presentation, so, this image is the poorest of the three. We really, really, really need to get a real photographer to a Jot Conference some day…)

JOT VI_McClurg

(I didn’t get any pics of Matt Landrum presenting or of the interview with Kirstin, unfortunately.)

The next Jot will be held in Grand Rapids. We’re planning on holding it in March, though the where, the when, and the who are not set in stone yet. I’ll blog about it as things are finalized in the next few months. Hope to see you there!


Posts about previous Jot Conferences:

Reflections of the Fourth Jot Conference

Jot Writers Conference: The iPhone Pics Report (first conference)

Some Thoughts on Jot: the GR Writers Mini-Conference (first conference)

A reading event at the Breathe Conference

Last spring I attended a wonderful conference for undergraduate writers. It was Taylor University’s Making Literature Conference. I went to numerous workshops in which undergraduate writing students read original essays, fiction, and poetry. I enjoyed being back in a college classroom, among students, and around a generally academic atmosphere.

I attended two workshops during that conference that featured multiple writers. They read short pieces aloud which were thematically related (e.g. “Mixed Prose: The Body”). The sessions were typically 50 minutes long and featured three different writers. After all the pieces were read, the writers then participated in a Q and A session with the audience.

I found these sessions to be enormously meaningful. Watching another writer overcome their nerves and step out on a ledge (as it were) was inspiring. I found myself rooting for the students to read their work well. And the Q and A sessions afterward were encouraging and insightful. As an attendee I walked away charged up to go do my own writing and to feel more confident about sharing it with others. I imagine that the presenters felt their own confidence get boosted as well.

writers conferenceI liked these sessions so much that I pitched two of them to the Breathe Conference planning committee–and they said yes!

If you’re attending the 2015 Breathe Christian Writers Conference, and if you’d like to have an opportunity to share your writing publicly, please read this post on the Breathe Blog and submit your work. The full details are included here. I would love to see you at one of these sessions.

If you are introverted the way many writers tend to be, it will be a challenge. However, I can assure you, it’s one worth taking. And don’t worry. You’ll be among friends.

Short story published on Daily Science Fiction – “Buried in Sand”

I have the honor of being published today on I’m thrilled that they accepted my short story, “Buried in Sand.” You can read it here. 

167px-Small_flash_symbolThe editors at DSF asked for author notes about the story. You can read those at the bottom of the post. I thought this was a lot of fun to include and was grateful for the opportunity to share a few thoughts. I hope you enjoy them as well. (The Flash symbol will make sense if you read them.  :-)

Read on! Write on!



Perseverance in Writing

Perseverance is a restless state. At least for me it is.

Some writers write best when they are in their favorite chair with a steaming cup of coffee or tea nearby. They might also like to wear a comfy old sweatshirt or have an overlarge tabby purring in their lap. Their perseverance is fortified by the warmth and safety of home.

Others persevere at their desk, with a clear view out the window and a small lamp on. Their perseverance is more habitual, colder perhaps, but solid as poured concrete.

Still others persevere at noisy cafes. They need their laptop, earbuds, and the milling activity of strangers around them in order to write best. Their perseverance is fueled by a little controlled chaos.

Perseverance. Every writer needs it and can’t, in fact, succeed without it.

A saying popular at writers’ conferences goes like this, “You don’t find time to write, you make time to write.” Another writerly saying I’ve heard more than once is, “AIC: Ass in chair.”

Perseverance, for me, is a restless state of being. I mean this in two ways.

1) I’m always struggling with perseverance. Some days I’m on fire to write. Some days I’m not. Sometimes five pages come easily. At other times I can hardly write five sentences. Sometimes I’m emotionless, writing gray, egg carton words. Other days I’m livid or delirious or silly and end up writing junk food that leaves you hungry for something worthwhile.

Sticking with writing through these times – the doldrums of creatively dead writing sessions . . . the angry bursts of bitter, unusable paragraphs – that is perseverance. And I’m always taking it off and putting it on again like it’s a shirt I’m not sure I want to wear. But it should be my skin; always with me, always growing, bleeding and painful when cut.

2) Perseverance is also a restless sate for me because I have no special chair which draws out my best writing. I don’t have a routine, a dedicated space, or a certain way I write best. I often write standing up at my kitchen counter, until my feet hurt and I move to the sofa. There I loom over my laptop perched on an ottoman. After a while I get up, grab a drink, and head into the bedroom. I can’t write slouching against the headboard, so I sit with a straight back on the edge of the bed, writing until I feel burning in my shoulders. Then I head back to the kitchen.

Between paragraphs I change the laundry, start the dishes, fold the throw blankets, and perform any other random tasks while my ideas are forming. This may sound distracting, even unproductive, but this is how I almost always end up writing. This is what perseverance looks like for me. It’s a restless state.

What does perseverance look like for you? 

blank paper on desk


Sidekick, lost and found

Today I found an old Moleskine journal. It’s one of the little brown ones, with the cardboard cover. I used to buy these because they were easy to carry in your pocket; the covers are soft and bend with your leg. I liked to have one nearby so I could jot down ideas and funny or interesting things I encountered during the day.

Based on the notes inside, the journal I found was one I carried in 2010 or 2011. Among other things, the contents included the outline for a story about a superhero’s sidekick, a Robin-like character who has to deal with the reality of going to college classes while fighting crime late into the night. At the time, I had thoughts about writing a series of stories based on the superhero sidekick trope.

The outline is terrible (which may explain why I never tried to flesh out the story) but I’m glad I still have it. When I read through it I could still visualize the story completely, even though I’ve not thought about this character for a few years. I still don’t feel like I can write this story well enough to bother with it yet, but the images are there, still bopping around my imagination.

I’ve heard other writers warn (sometimes emphatically), “Don’t throw anything away! Keep everything you ever write. You never know when you’ll need it.”

I admit, I’ve ignored this advice. So much of what I write is junk. It either gets crumpled and tossed, or digitally deleted. But today at least, I was glad I still had this crummy outline. It brought my sidekick character to mind. Maybe I’ll write something about him after all . . .

old moleskine journal

Have you ever found an old journal, or old notes? What did you find?

Do you save everything you write? Or do you throw stuff away?

Getting Started in Genre Fiction – A list of links

I prepared the following list of links for my presentation at the 2014 Breathe Conference today. If you’re interested in finding a few publishers to send your genre fiction to, check out these links. -AR

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine —

Clarkesworld Magazine– —, their list of the Top 10 Science Fiction Magazines —

Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine —

Lightspeed Magazine: Science Fiction and Fantasy —

Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show — —


Mystery / Crime

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine —

New Mystery —

Writer Online, list of top 10 mystery market —



The Midnight Diner —

Nightmare Magazine —

Psuedopod —

Shroud Magazine —

Tales to Terrify —

Horror Factor, a list of different markets for horror fiction —



Write Michigan Short Story Contest —