notes on imposter syndrome

I started writing this as a note to my writer friend and critique partner, but decided to make it a blog post instead, because maybe it might help another writer, too.

Something kind of big is coming up for me (of which I will make an announcement when everything is off and running) and this something involved me writing an essay of what this upcoming thing means to me. When I sat down to write the essay, the words just poured out of me in that rare, magical way they do sometimes. When I finished the first draft, I was so excited by what I’d created, just a feeling of pure joy that those words existed in the world now. I was proud of what I wrote.

Then, I stepped away, I did some chores and cooked a meal, and noticed I was developing more of an edge towards that essay. Rather than acting on it, I left it alone, went to bed, and came back to the document in the morning.

By then I was horrified by what I’d written. I sounded like I thought I was a real writer, someone who’d worked hard and accomplished things and expected people to treat them as such. I knew this creeping, gutsick feeling, because I get it whenever I try to market myself. The difference, this time, seemed to be that I was pushing back. If I didn’t believe in myself, I definitely believed in that essay and I was too proud of it to just discard the draft and start over. I wouldn’t be able to rewrite anything equal to it.

Instead, I pulled up my writer’s journal and started writing about the feelings I was having, hoping I’d be able to pin them down and understand them better. Here’s what I wrote:

I keep thinking I should really tone this down, I’m not a real writer, I don’t deserve this accolade and here I’ve leaned into it like it’s important, everybody’s going to know! They’ll roll their eyes and laugh and kick out me out of {redacted}. Which does, now that I’ve written it out, seem a bit silly. But also probable? Yikes, this is brutal.

Wait. This… is imposter syndrome?

I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t recognize the feeling as imposter syndrome until I wrote it down. I simply didn’t. Not at all. I might have if it was a friend coming to me with these feelings, but I didn’t recognize it in myself. And seeing them there, on the page, got my attention. I mean, I have two books in the world, twenty-five short story publications, and a handful of writing accolades, nothing fancy or huge, but still things that I’ve earned and have a right to be proud of. It shouldn’t feel like a falsehood to consider myself a “real writer” just because I still have goals I have yet to meet (and don’t get me started on shifting goalposts).

Which leads me to why I thought I’d write up this blog post. The next time you’re feeling uncomfortable about promoting your work, marketing your work, preparing a speech, or writing an essay, take a moment to write down what’s running through your mind so you can see it for what it is. Read it like you’d read a message from a friend, because sometimes things look different when they’re on the page.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

If you want more resources on imposter syndrome and working past it, I recommend the book Fearless Writing by William Kenower. I picked it up a few months back after hearing an interview with Kenower on The Creative Penn podcast and it helped me fix a few mental blocks that were holding me back (linking that episode here). I keep it close to my writing desk because I expect I’ll fall back into old habits and need to reread it from time to time.

this post has baby birds in it

This summer is shaping itself into a natural wonder! We’re getting daily visits from Groundhog Jones, the local groundhog, which glues my kids to the window like some kind of magic tablet. A slate junco (it’s a little grey bird) made a nest in our shed and we’ve been on tenterhooks waiting for the eggs to hatch – which they finally have! I’m not sure who’s more excited at this point, their mom, my daughters, or me.

there will definitely be baby birds in a short story soon…

There’s also been a few adventures with snakes. Not everyone likes snakes so I hesitate to post pictures, but let’s just say, 15 km into a drive is not the time you expect a garter snake to pop their head up from the little wiper well on the far side of the windshield. The wee snake looked at me like “Are we there yet?” Did I teach the girls a naughty word when that happened? Yes. Yes, I did. Fortunately we were on a lonely road, so I was able to stop and usher the snake into a more snake-appropriate situation.

This, on top of biking, gardening, swimming and generally making the best of summer before my youngest starts kindergarten, should be killing my wordcount, but somehow I’ve been managing to get up a few hours before the kids to get some writing in. I’m fairly useless until the coffee kicks in so I’m not as efficient with that quiet time as I’d like, but I’ve been consistently writing over a thousand words a day. Most of that has been short fiction for various anthologies opening this summer (including this one and that one), but this past week I’ve been plotting a cozy fantasy trilogy (gulp!).

I’ve also set a deadline of the end of September to get a newsletter off the ground. That will give me a few weeks of quiet time to figure out the technical mechanics, pin down how I want it to be, and polish my reader magnet, which IS written… the only thing keeping me from feeling completely in over my head with this project.

I think a newsletter is a terrifying beast for introverts like me – listen, I will talk to you about anything except myself. Take this blog, which was a showcase for short fiction openings for the longest time. But a friend pointed out that I can also talk about the things in my life which inspire me – like weird photography, nature (see the start of this post), and the amazing things I’ve been reading (speaking of which, I loved this short story in Lightspeed – you should absolutely check it out). I also highly recommend Jarod K Anderson’s second book of poetry, Love Notes From the Hollow Tree.

my writing box

My eldest kiddo used some gift cards to get herself an art kit that came inside a wooden box. Inspired, she decorated the outside of the box with washable marker, was unhappy with the result, went to wash it off and it… didn’t.

“Mom, if you can do anything with this box, you can have it,” she told me.

I noticed that my favourite Blueline notebooks fit into the box perfectly and wondered if I could turn it into a little writing box to carry my writing around while I’m watching the kids play outside. Then I poked around the internet for a while, looking at other writer’s toolkits to figure out which features I would like best. And then I got a little creative.

I “upholstered” the wood with spray glue and wool felt. Some leftover mask elastic stretched from side to side and stapled in gave me a place to stuff in some quotes, notes, and little inspirations. A few stitches and some folded felt made holders for two of my favourite Lamy fountain pens. It wasn’t quite crammed full of magic yet for my taste so I sewed another little pocket to store my post-its, some paper clips, and a skeleton key (because a childhood filled with Nancy Drew taught me that you never know when you might need one).

The butterfly is from an art kit years lost and the TVA Loki sticker is from this shop on Etsy. The picture in the top left corner is something I pulled out of Backpacker magazine circa 1999 that reads “Plant a flag, climb a mountain, be that mythic earth hero you always said you would be.” The handwritten quote in green ink is from Maria Dhavana Headley’s Beowulf: A New Translation (which you should absolutely read, btw).

One day, when the kids are older, I dream of having a table at a convention filled with books I’ve written and I think bringing something like this along might be more inviting to passersby than seeing me clickety-clacking away at my laptop. Or maybe I just want to show it off a little?? Time will tell.

Sea Stories and Stormslayer

Engen Books announced that my feral mermaid story, Stormslayer, will be appearing in their upcoming anthology Sea Stories from the Rock which means I don’t have to keep it a secret anymore. Huzzah! I got attached to my feral mermaid protagonist (also named Stormslayer) as I was writing her story so I’m glad she’s found a home in a collection of fourteen other sea tales. Hmm… I wonder if that makes them a school of stories.

behold, ye cover!

The collection is now available to pre-order for kindle or paperback. Click here to head over to the usual place. If you’re in Canada, like me, you can order directly from the publisher’s website here.

I hope spring (or fall if you’re on the other side of world) has found you well. Things are greening up here and it’s so wonderful to feast on colour instead of winter’s endless white. “No Mow May” has exploded in dandelions and wild strawberry blossoms to accompany the elderberry and cherry blossoms on the trees here at home. I’ve picked out three specific bee species and even got to see a hummingbird moth (my first!) in the dandelions earlier this week. Of course the nice weather also brought out the black flies and the harder garden labours, but it all evens out.

I’ll leave you with this little phoenix of spent tulip petals I wanted to capture before they turned to ash. Till next time!

hey there, would you like to hear my voice?

It is a matter of some oddity that while you may have read my words before, you probably haven’t heard me say any. Thanks to the power of uh, telephones, and the illustrious interwebs, you can now listen to an interview with me over at writer Andrew Marc Rowe’s podcast Holy Flamingo Poop. We talk about forests, mythology, magic, and what three books I’d take with me to Mars. While you’re there, be sure to check out Andrew’s books and see if there’s something you like.

In other news, I’m still venturing ever forward on my Enchanted Newsletter Side Quest. I bought a cover for my reader magnet, so there’s commitment involved, it’s happening. The reader magnet is going to be short story about a side character in the cozy fantasy novel I’m hoping to publish late this year. She’s an unusual witch that was inspired by this beautiful book dress designed by Sylvie Facon. I’d love to paste a picture here so you can share in my excitement, but for copyright reasons, you’ll have to click that link to check them out. Sorry!

I don’t want to leave you without anything to look at, so here’s a photo of what’s probably a bit of old man’s beard moss sitting atop a rotting log and definitely not some sort of lichen-beast crawling home to its forest lair.

moss, words, and a raven

Hey, did you know it’s spring? We have rainy day, wee green things popping up from the ground, and the promise of leafs taking form on trees. It feels good to step outside in the early morning and be greeted with birdsong again.

a small moss-scape for your viewing pleasure

My biggest news for this month is to tell you my first ever poem, Mother/Murder is going to published in the fall issue of Augur. Poetry has always been there for me, even through terrible bouts of writer’s block, and earlier this year I decided to send a few pieces out for the first time to see if there was any merit to my poetic scribblings. Needless to say, I’m very pleased that a dream market like Augur picked one up!

I’m also excited that the 99 Tiny Terrors anthology is now available in the usual places after a few issues with the ‘zon. I have a tiny story in this horror flash collection and I’d love it if you nabbed a copy to read it, but there are some well-known authors (Seanan McGuire, Cat Rambo, Meg Elison) in this one that are likely to get your attention more. Check it out here.

Some of you know that this spring I’m supposed to be launching my newsletter. That’s been pushed back a bit due to me being incapable of launching a newsletter while plotting a book. I know myself well enough to know I have to chase the plot while I can and I’m giving myself some grace about this. Yes, I am jealous of you beautiful pantsers. The good news is that I should end up with a newsletter AND a book to write and that will make for a happy me.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with this raven I’ve been stitching. I did his head first and he’s been screaming at me to finish him ever since. Is there a writing equivalent to this? Because, dang, his screams are motivating.

I’m stitching this, with permission, based on a photograph of a cross stitch by Tomkatsumi on reddit

emerging from my cocoon

It’s been a while, dear old blog and sorely neglected readers. My pandemic anxiety sent me into survival mode for a long stretch of blocks, walls, and other things toxic to writers like myself. Ironically, now that things are worse in Canada than ever before, I’m feeling the spark come back. I promise I wrote stories last year and even submitted them! But it felt like a Herculean effort and the rejections shattered me. So far this year I’ve finished a story, started plotting a new book, received four rejections that did not trigger any sort of depression, and made three fresh submissions.

In that bleak stretch, I did take up poetry again. I’d forgotten how poetry somehow ends up on the page when I’m struggling to write. In keeping with that, I’ve started submitting poems as well as fiction. I’m not sure what will come of this, but there’s something inside me that is very happy about this.

Photo by Ena Marinkovic on Pexels.com

I’m also planning things! It’s been a while since planning felt like a safe thing to do without angering the pandemic gods. My youngest will be starting kindergarten in the fall which may offer me a few hours of uninterrupted writing time (gasp!) for the first time in a decade. I’m almost afraid to write that for fear those precious hours might evaporate. I’d like to use that time to write books. Publishing companies haven’t fared well the past few years and I’m seeing more and more of my favourite writers self-publishing to great success. I’d still like to leave behind a few shelves of books when I’m gone and if I wait for publishing to recover I might never get started. That said, the marketing aspect is daunting.

My good friend and Beta-buddy/crit partner Peter Foote has given me six months to set up a newsletter. That was three weeks ago, mind. I’ve been resistant to starting a newsletter, but it’s time. Over the past year I’ve been receiving newsletters I truly look forward to, such as Amal El-Mohtar’s musings that leave me feeling lovely and peaceful; Christopher Brown’s Field Notes that give this rural nature-loving lady a glimpse in the urban nature of Austin, TX. Plus, heron rookeries! My heart. Another newsletter I enjoy is my aforementioned friend Peter’s, wherein there’s an advice column from a prickly gargoyle named Grump. In short, I enjoy newsletters that are more than just an ad in my inbox: I want an experience.

All this to say that I’ve come to the conclusion that my newsletter-to-be needs to be an experience too. And, um, that’s all I’ve got so far. I still have five months and one week to go, after all!

Photo by Victor on Pexels.com

Are there any newsletters you love? Should I be reading yours? Drop me a link in the comments!

an anniversary and a prize pack

Today is Recognize Fascism’s one year bookiversary and our publisher, World Weaver Press, is offering this sweet prize pack to, well, you:

That’s one copy of Recognize Fascism, another of Resist Fascism, a handful of stickers and a fancy wooden bookmark, all of which feature Geneva Bower’s dazzling artwork and use of colour.

If you want to enter, follow this link to rafflecopter and I wish you good luck! —> https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b30e992817/

This contest will be open until Monday, October 25th, 2021.

Please hug the robot

My latest publication, Free Hugs, is now available to read or listen to at Metaphorosis magazine. I wrote this story in early days of this never-ending pandemic and it began as a response to several of my elder family members lamenting not being able to hug their grandkids. It was such a small, human lament, that I wound up writing a draft about an engineering grandson who designed a special robot to go give his Gram a hug on her birthday. He padded the bot’s chest and neck so that if she closed her eyes, it would feel like a real hug. Then, the idea kind of took on a life of its own, caught up in capitalism, the hugbots got sensors to measure happiness hormones, and suddenly they were EVERYWHERE.

And, you know, that story just never quite grabbed me. It seemed like something everyone would be writing during lockdown, so I put it away and went back to my pandemic depression. It wasn’t until I started wondering what would happen to all of those robots after the pandemic was over that I found the story I wanted to write. Free Hugs is that story. I hope you like it, I hope you’re well, and I hope you stay that way.

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

I, Voiceless

Today is June 1st, a day I’ve dreaded and anticipated in equal amounts, because today marks the release of Luna Station Quarterly #046 and inside this issue is my story, The Voiceless of Shalott.

This is the first story I’ve ever written about myself. Obviously, it’s highly stylized and a retelling of Tennyson’s The Lady of the Shalott, but at it’s core, there’s me, waving hello. Or probably hiding her face, if I’m honest, because this is a little terrifying. There’s certain things that, if you tell people about yourself, can overwhelm everything they know about you. Things that change how they see you. I stopped telling people that I was raised in a cult pretty quick when I started seeing that change. People on the outside call this ‘reserved’ and people on this inside call this ‘survival.’ I needed this to stop being the defining element of my life so I could learn how to live my life.

Then the apocalypse of 2020 happened. The upheaval of the pandemic churned up a great deal of cult mentalities and signals. If you’ve been inside and get out, your survival instincts hone in on these elements and set off mental alarms to turn and walk in the opposite direction RIGHT NOW. Except this time… I stayed. Heck, it’s the end of the world, I decided I might as well as engage and try and use my experiences to see if they can help someone. So I picked up my pen, started writing, and after twenty years of keeping this stuff inside, the anger and frustration that poured onto the page startled me. Spun inside my creativity, my fears and anger turned into something else all it’s own. I know that some people are going to be angry with me for writing this story, and there were others who wanted me to force this story into a more acceptable narrative framework, but that’s the thing, I was voiceless then and I’m not voiceless anymore. This is my story.

I hope you like it.

I also hope there’s no pitchforks in my future. I have this vivid memory from grade 5 or so, going into someone else’s classroom and spying a verse of poetry on the blackboard. We weren’t learning poetry in my class, so I stood there as long as I could, memorizing this one line: “I spread my dreams under your feet, tread softy…” (Yeats).

You can read the issue 046 online at lunastationquarterly.com, get the full e-issue for your device, or even a paperback from Amazon.