The Inaugural Emerging Writers Festival in Old Town Alexandria!!

The last two weeks or so have been really rough, so I was really excited to attend my first writers festival in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia this past weekend!

It was the inaugural festival and was hosted by Old Town Books, which opened last year and is run by a bunch of really wonderful people with great ambitions and thoughts for the reading and writing communities! (I wrote a while ago about attending my first book club meeting there; the next one is in September and features the book “Coastalegre,” which is loosely based on Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter. As an art lover, I deeply appreciate this.)

This is a photo gallery, so you can click through and look at more than just like, my face and this one panel pic. I actually was so absorbed in all the speakers that I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I thought, but I got a good amount anyway. :)

I had so much fun and I learned a ton! I attended numerous classes and panels and volunteered at two of them. Honestly, I did WAY more than I even realized, once I started writing all these things down. I also met just a ton of wonderful writers at different points in their careers, which was so wonderfully inspiring.

  • Keynote Conversation with Catherine Chung, author of The Tenth Muse

  • Fiction Craft Intensive with Catherine Chung

  • Against the Algorithm Panel with Lupita Aquino, Amanda Nelson, and Kendra Winchester (all bookternet reviewers and leaders)

  • Polish your Pitch with Jennifer Baker (publishing professional of 16 years, host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, contributing editor to Electric Literature, essayist)

  • Publishing Masterclass with Jane Friedman (20 years of experience in publishing industry, author of The Business of Being a Writer and The Authors Guild Guide to E-Publishing)- I had to leave this early to go volunteer at the merch table, but the first hour was AMAZING and so useful.

  • Talk and signing with Tope Folarin (author of the novel A Particular Kind of Black Man, short story author)

  • Apply Yourself Panel - with Hannah Bae, Jennifer Baker, and Caits Meissner (PEN America’s Prison and Justice Writing Program director, author), Kris Zory-King moderating

  • Writing the Personal Essay with Hannah Bae, journalist and essayist

  • The Path to the Debut Novel with Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek

I was honestly going to write a whole blog post about ALL the things I learned in ALL the classes, but I just…do not have time fo rthat today. So i think I’m going to spread it out in more bite sized pieces, one or two classes a past for a while. I honestly gained so much useful knowledge

How I Got Back Into Writing Seriously

The Lifelong Dream

Honestly, I cannot remember a time when I have not wanted to write and be an author. Some of my earliest dreams and goals as a child involved writing as a career. My family LOVES books; literally every room in my parents’ house except the bathrooms have bookshelves and books in them. It was a wonderful place for a child to grow up. I eagerly read as many books as I could; they fascinated me and brought me to a whole other world. I wanted to make those worlds myself.

And in elementary school I did. I was always writing stories or poetry or songs or whatever. My output turned into mostly just poetry over time, as I discovered journalism and imposter syndrome. For a long time, I felt that nonfiction journalistic writing was the only thing I could do. Fiction seemed too hard. I tried doing National Novel Writing Month several times and never managed to finish; this made me feel like a failure. I had lots and lots of ideas written down in various places, but none of them ever came to fruition. I’d start and stop and get distracted and frustrated. For a while I had resigned myself to not really being a writer. I did do some writing and research on marital surnames, and had an inkling to turn it into a nonfiction book, but I wasn’t following through on any of it.

I usually write at the kitchen table these days, surrounded by books and journals.

I usually write at the kitchen table these days, surrounded by books and journals.

The Turning Point

So fast forward to my 30th year of life, when I finally got on a combination of treatments that actually treated my depression successfully. This really changed my life in so many ways. I had a focus and a determination that I hadn’t had previously; my depression was no longer a barrier dropping in front of me, but a curtain pulled to the side. I could see it and respect it and treat it carefully, but I could walk through it without a problem.

When my beloved Shakespeare troupe Britches and Hose announced that they were holding a New Works Festival and needed submissions of original one acts, I decided that it was time to take one of my favorite ideas and turn it into a play. That’s how “Most Horrible,” a one-act prequel to Hamlet set in Purgatory began. I was so excited and motivated by this success that I continued on - and turned the play into a project for National Novel Writing Month in November. I finished up the novel by the end of January (I have, of course, decided to add in a whole new historical context and many more subplots, so I have major edits and revising coming up, but that’s another issue).

Since NaNoWriMo had worked so well for non-depressed Me, I decided to set monthly goals for myself. January’s was finishing the novel, February’s was working on my nonfiction book proposal. I didn’t really have any plans to write short stories until I came across a fascinating writing prompt on the Internet - calling for short stories about Grumpy Old Gods, gods that in some way were shirking their duty. I was so excited about this concept that I outlined and wrote “Purr Like an Egyptian” fairly quickly, in only a week or two! And it felt so good to have a project wrapped up and submitted so quickly, that I decided I’d dedicate March to writing more short stories and poetry to submit to various magazines and publications. That’s how I also wrote “Big Dave’s Goliath” and “The Caterer.”

Currently

So here we are now. “Purr Like an Egyptian” was just accepted for publication in Grumpy Old Gods Vol. 2 and will be coming out later this month. “Big Dave’s Goliath” was published recently in Gypsum Sound Tales’ Colp: Big. I’ve also had a few literary nonfiction pieces published as well - on Talking Soup and The Drabble.

I also tend to write with my own personal demigod in my lap. (I’m writing a lot about ancient Egyptians lately- cats WERE their demigods)

I also tend to write with my own personal demigod in my lap. (I’m writing a lot about ancient Egyptians lately- cats WERE their demigods)

“The Caterer” was rejected, but I invested a lot of time into revamping and revising it to make it better, and then published it myself on Kindle Direct Publishing as an experiment. I’ve enjoyed the writing and promoting process for my own ebook so much that I am now writing another story in the series, with plans for more! Once I finish and publish my second volume (“The Vanguard”), I plan to get back to “Most Horrible” and revise it to add in the Danish reformation (no biggie, right?).

It’s a lot of work, as of course I have a full time job as a trademark examining attorney at the USPTO, participate in Shakespeare plays with my friends, and occasionally like to have some downtime to spend with my husband, but it’s been so worth it. I don’t know if I’ll ever make much money from it or if it will ever be my full-time career, but writing brings me so much joy on a regular basis that I don’t know if I even care anymore. I love coming up with titles for my stories. I love outlining a plot. I love all the research - from Egyptian goddesses to drones, to Ancient Persia and the Tower of London.

I just love writing. And I won’t let myself forget that again.