Posts Tagged ‘writing’

As part of our DigiLit class, we were tasked with a 30 day endeavor involving the Internet-lauded Daily Create challenges. We were also (rather helpfully) given the qualifier that we didn’t necessarily have to do the ones posted that particular day, we could choose whichever ones we liked, we just had to do a month’s worth of them.

I may or may not have procrastinated on these. So, they’ll be arriving in 3 groups totaling 30 at the end. Each Daily Create will also have the link to the page from whence it came. This first one will feature the categories Writing and Photography.


Fast Fiction:

It was her favorite.

It was a small, black, lacey sort of top with three stone buttons. I mean, it wasn’t really a top, it only covered her bust, but I’m not fashion-savvy enough to know what else to call it. She would wear it over a tanktop, usually. Red or black, sometimes silver. It was her favorite. Or at least, I think it was. Maybe it was actually mine. I picked it out whenever she asked me to choose an outfit.

The closet is really offset now, without all of her stuff. It’s just my small, lonely corner with a few suit jackets and a pair of dress pants. There are no shoes lining the floor. No scarves tossed about like confetti. It’s empty.

I bring it up to my nose and breathe in deep. Her scent is long gone from it – it’s been washed too many times, and she hadn’t worn it again before the accident. Still, I can pretend. Try to squeeze some of her out of it. Her voicemail inbox is already full of blank messages from me. I keep calling just so I can hear her voice again. All I have to hold on to are these little scraps: a top, a voicemail greeting, a stray hairtie or bobby pin. Maybe if I find enough of them, I can piece her back together somehow. Have her here with me.

But I know that isn’t how this works. They say time heals all wounds, but they don’t account for all the empty space in between. The time spent dicking around, talking about nothing – the time spent picking out outfits and laying together.

5 in 1 Story (Grab 5 books, make a story out of certain sentences from each): 

In The Shadow of the Mountain

On July 16, 1923, I moved into Exham Priory after the last workman had finished his labors. I mopped it up with napkins from the dispenser and tried not to cry. Henderson stood up with his spade in his hand. In the night a storm broke in the mountains above them and came cannonading downcountry cracking and booming and the stark gray world appeared again and again out of the night in the shrouded flare of the lightning. Through this he passed with his rose.

[Rats in the Walls by H.P. Lovecraft]

[Jumper by Steven Gould]

[War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells]

[The Road by Cormac McCarthy]

[The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers]

Virgin Haiku (for first-timers to The Daily Create):

Wait, you’re telling me

They expect me to draw stuff?

No fucking way, man

Creepy Two-Sentence Story:

Well, that’s strange. I could have sworn I shut this window…

Life in 7 Words:

I have no idea what I’m doing.

TV Guide Remix (re-write the synopsis for a movie to make it sound like something totally different): 

A man and a woman lead a witch hunt for a monster who has plunged their village into an eternal winter.


Urban Landscape:


Horrid Selfie:


Eye Selfie:


Awkwardly Placed Object:


Joy in a Photograph:


Inspirational Poster:




It’s rare, but occasionally, even on the Internet, I stumble upon something that seems almost beyond description.

In the beginning of our digitally literate journey, we had to do some digging and discover what exactly it meant to be digitally literate. If we had to dig deeper and find something, like an online class, that perfectly embodied putting what digital literacy is into practice, it would be ds106.

digistorytellin Photo CC-by digistorytelln

Digital Whosawhatnow?

Digital storytelling. In a nutshell, without Wikipedia’s help, digital storytelling is the usage of all mediums of technology both audial and visual: written, filmed, recorded, drawn, photographed, read, etc. for the sake of telling one’s life story and sharing one’s life experiences. Each and every one of us is on a journey, and no two are ever the same. We feel a basic need as human beings to connect with one another – how better than to swap stories, even if by non-conventional methods?

ds106 is an open source, open-enrollment online course, originally offered at the University of Mary Washington and now available as a drop-in, drop-out, all resources available online course. No enrollment fee, no grading, all it takes is some participation, and a hell of a lot of creativity.

Something in me is inherently leery about something this open. Where’s the catch? All these resources, all these testimonials at my fingertips. I’ve been here before. “Hear our glowing customer testimonials!” “See what others think!” Page after page of falsified reviews and bogus claims give the Internet and I a love-hate relationship.

The thing is, I see no reason to disbelieve. All over the place there are videos offering reviews / advice to oncoming students about the class. Everywhere you look: Twitter, Gravitar, YouTube, WordPress, you see the real work of real people as they try to flex their creative muscles and learn a thing or two about technology in the process. As an educational tool, this is the real deal.

opensourcedotcom Photo CC-by

Talk Techy to Me

I’ve made the analogy several times already that creativity is a muscle, but it’s something I truly believe. Use it or lose it – great ideas are good, but they benefit no one trapped inside your head!

Scam or no scam, cult or no cult, aliens or no, ds106 wins in my book for two reasons.

  1.  Promoting Digital Literacy
    1. A huge part of ds106 is learning how to tangle with the Internet’s different beasts: Twiter, YouTube, Gravitar, WordPress, Facebook, Internet Radio, Flickr, video manipulation software, photo editing software, etc. all are part of the many various creative assignments offered by ds106. In order to participate, you’ve got to be ready to tackle some serious tech. This is a great way to introduce those unfamiliar or leery of some of the many services offered online: I was the type of person to scoff at both blogs and Twitter feeds until I was forced to maintain ones of my own.
  2. Creativity
    1. “Storytelling”. That’s the focus of the class. It just happens to be digital. ds106 offers an untold number of different ways to put your creativity into practice. Writing prompts about fanfic characters? Check. Conversations with celebrities using soundboards and audio editing software? Check. Photography exercises focusing on colors? Check. Creation of old-school, 50’s style educational videos in favor of a topic of choice? Check. The possibilities here are nearly limitless. There are even assignments focused around creating animated GIF images, and if that’s not outrageous enough, there are 3D Printing based assignments. Holy hell.

The applications for this class, to me, transcend the bounds of education. Teachers who are passion-focused or looking for ways to hack education: this is it. Students learn practical / new skills, students learn (and tell us) about themselves, and students are allowed to be creative and kept from doing needless busywork. Hell yes. For others, it’s a great crash-course in Internet-ing. For others still, it’s a good chance to experiment with different forms of creative expression.

So, it’s a free, open-source, do-as-you-please class where all the material is available online, the assignments are all open to tweaking, and you’re heavily encouraged to share your work with others and network with people about what you’re doing and what you’re learning?

Sounds like digital literacy 101 to me.

Ex nihilo

One glaring issue with the Internet is the complete and total lack of quality control. It’s a true double edged sword: we’re allowed to express ourselves in almost any way we see fit, connect with any and everyone about infinite potential topics. That being said, that also leaves infinite potential for the toxic. The boundless range of the Internet is how we get trolls, keyboard critics, and spammers.

So how do we combat this? How do we keep the riff-raff out of our newly built networks?

Turns out, there are a few ways.

Scott McLeod Photo CC – by Scott McLeod

Step by Step

It’s a multi-step process. You’ve got to explore, search, follow, fine-tune, and feed.

When building your own network, post-exploration, there’s going to be a big sudden influx of information taken in. It’ll get overwhelming, and it’s going to need some filtering.

A common method of finding people to add to a PLN (personal learning network) is a Google search, but that’s definitely narrowing one’s scope. Certain classmates (*cough* tristen *cough*)  had the genius / obvious idea I overlooked of searching for particular hashtags on Twitter, finding posters that were interesting, and checking to see if they would be the right fit for their PLN. I did not do that thing.

I did, however, network off of followers I did find. I followed a lot of suggestion lists after following new people, leading me to discover a lot of my new followers also follow each other. This network is already established, and I’m the new blood in it. This is where one of my biggest issues is with maintaining my PLN: feeding.

I’m a sponge. Sedentary by nature, and always intaking. I take in what those around me have to say – I absorb, and I gather. I collect my thoughts in a vault in my brain and lock them away in case I may need them one day. When I’m in the ring with successful publishers, literary agents, and authors, my brain goes “pfffffft, these people don’t need my input!” I feel as though my input will go unappreciated, my questions will go scoffed at (or ignored altogether!), and there is no feeding done. That’s an issue, because what you get out of a network is what you put into it.

Andy Morffew Photo CC-by Andy Morffew, also feeding

Quality Control

This is why fine tuning is an extremely crucial step in the PLN process. Let me put it this way: as I said, I followed tons of writers, agents, editors, publishers, etc. and attracted the attention of a few writing pages.

One page I followed claimed to be for writers, but upon inspection, contained only shallow, empty quotes like “Today’s writing isn’t going to do itself” once every few days. No articles from experts were shared, no publishers listed, nothing. Just these weak inspirational posts and some fans raving about how good the page was.

The page messaged me offering me a job as a writer. Sketchy, eh? I did some digging and found out it was one of those “get paid by companies for your opinion” scams. Yikes.

How can you ensure that your questions go answered and your opinions go considered? Evaluate your network. What types of people are you following? Certain classmates accidentally followed a few Erotica authors in their attempts to build a writing network. It’s easy to plow through and mash the “follow” button, expecting vast riches of information. Doing that is an easy way to get vast amounts of absolute crap.

Make sure those in your network share your interests, or at the very least, your passion. Make sure they’re educated on what they’re interested in, or at the very least, eager to learn. A self-proclaimed “expert” can have merit – but if they’re toe to toe with a professional in a field, it’d probably be safer to bet on the professional. This is not a sports movie, the underdog here is not the winning bet.

As I’ve always said, don’t narrow your scope. Try to explore all facets of your network. I chose writing, therefore I sought out those in the industry, those in the indie scene, and all levels of possible professions. And I still didn’t even begin to cover all that I could.

Sherl Edwards Photo CC-by Sherl Edwards – and also my doctrine 

In and Out

Of course, none of this means a damn thing if you don’t put the effort in. Here’s another big problem with my personal motivations: making time. As much as I can try and deny it, senioritis is creeping into my bones.

A network isn’t a one-way street. It’s a constant flow of feedback from all components, and if you aren’t one of the sources of feedback, you’re deadening the network. Taking in with no giving out is called leeching. With proper quality control of your sources and your information, it ensures that when you do decide to feed your PLN, you will have something worth sharing.

The bottom line of PLN maintenance is effort, and knowledge. If you educate yourself and fight ignorance in your field of study, you’ll have questions worth asking and points worth making. If you put the effort in to share these things with others, you will become a focal point in the network. Don’t wait for time, make the time. Clearly, I need work in this department.


If there’s one thing my time in education has taught me, it’s that regardless of what you plan on doing with your life, there’s one underlying goal to shoot for that will nearly almost guarantee your success.

Like it or not, no matter how good you are, it’s only partially what you do – it’s a lot of who you know!

networkingPhoto CC-by bflshadow, and I can’t imagine the nightmare of cords


Last January, I took a trip to Anaheim, California to attend the annual NAMM Show (National Association of Music Merchants), a convention where over 100,000 performers, merchants, vendors, executives, and every other facet of the music business industry go to peddle their wares. The convention consisted of a lot of panels from successful record executives, audio engineers, and other people who’ve carved a successful path in life.

There were two common elements in each of these panels. #1: Market yourself, what can you do to make someone else money? #2: Get to know everyone. This is the important bit. You never know who you’re going to run into, and you never know if that person will be your foot in the door. I had the guts to head right up to the President of NAMM, Joe Lamond, and ask him for a business card. A few weeks later, he had read my entire portfolio online. Needless to say, I was equal parts excited as well as surprised.

No matter your skills, no matter your ability, they’ll do you no good (in a professional environment, that is) if no one notices. How better to get people to notice you than to increase your surface area of people known?

anne davis Photo CC-by Anne Davis, didn’t bother checking the validity of this quote. But damn, it looks inspirational.

Personalization + Networks = Learning 

In what is potentially the worst instance of “using a word to define itself” ever, Wikipedia’s definition of a PLN (personal learning network) is “A personal learning network is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from in a personal learning environment.”

…Well. That’s literally useless. Let me take a crack at it:

A personal learning network is a series of connections you create with others based on a common interest or profession, primarily Internet or social media-driven. There is perhaps no better way to learn about a subject than seeking out those who have found success in that field. This is another instance of the power of the Internet being used for good: with the right Facebook groups or Twitter feeds, your access to information is literally limitless. 

I resolved to make my PLN about writing. I would love to be a professional novelist or short story writer. The issue here is that to me, that doesn’t seem very realistic. I think what’ll wind up happening is I’ll be a columnist for a newspaper or a website, and moonlight as a horror author. Which would also be awesome. No matter which facet of my would-be profession I approach, the theme of writing remains constant, so that’s where I decided to look.

If you didn’t laugh, we can’t be friends.

A few things I learned about building PLNs:

  • Quantity > Quality
    • At least when it comes to social media resources like Twitter feeds, you want reliable information over numbers. Information is good. Good information is great.
  • Participation is Key
    • A network means a series of exchanges. You’re doing your network no good if you aren’t giving your own ideas and asking your own questions. Active participation will do a lot more in the way of you learning.
  • All Angles
    • Think of all facets of whatever subject you’ve chosen for your network. Part of my network consists of finding publishers, authors, editors, magazines, columnists – don’t narrow your scope.

Since I determined to make my PLN about writing, I Googled “Best twitter feeds to follow for writers,” and found a handy list of literary feeds that gave me a great head-start. Maintaining and building a network takes determination, but 24/7 access to varying levels of expertise, experience, ideas, and stories is literally priceless. Besides, who knows? What if someone in your network is a future employer or job reference of yours? The bottom line is that you’ve got to want to learn. Show everyone what you can do, don’t be embarrassed, don’t be shy, and don’t be humble. You belong here. Act like it.


You know how simple it is to draw a box? You don’t even think about it. You just kinda do it, and it’s on the page. It’s the same way with the English language. By now, it’s so common to you, letters just kind of spew out. If you had to describe to someone how you make the characters, you’d have to slow down, and you’d probably draw it wrong at least once. Isn’t that strange?

When tackling a lot of other languages, like German, French, Spanish, etc., they’re greatly Latin based, and use the same if not a mostly similar alphabet to ours.

Chinese does not give a fuuuuuuck about your predispositions to drawing characters.

fuuuuck God whyyyyyyyyy

For my homework this week, I had to copy down a set of Chinese characters five times each, and practice their pronunciations with each copy. I learned two things here:

1) Stroke order matters. Not ultimately, no, but if you don’t want to look like a child or a bumbling foreigner, it’s best to get the right order of mystery lines.

2) Keeping a monotone syllable in a word is hard. Seriously, try to say something with no inflections. You practically sing it. Shit is difficult.

If you can make anything out from this image, right around the 4th to 5th character in each line, they start looking a little better. Kind of. Stillllll pretty sketchy.

I already found myself asking about grammatical order of words and how to ask certain questions, though. My teacher was pleased with my curiosity, but I also jumped myself ahead several steps and had to slow her down when she got excited about grammar in Mandarin. Though, I have noticed similarities to the grammatical set up of Chinese with other languages. In French, when describing words, the adjective comes after the subject. The blue car isn’t the blue car, it’s car blue. Chinese is somewhat similar. alex bellink

Photo CC-by Alex Bellink, pertinent ’cause frustration, and also I need to fold my laundry

I learned something about myself as a learner. I, rather than be corrected and shown the correct way to do something, would rather have it explained to me, attempt to emulate it, and then be shown when I fail miserably. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Even to me, that seems kind of silly. Wouldn’t it just be easier to be shown the first time how to do it properly, then repeat?

I also discovered (spoilers: already knew) that I bitch and moan the entire way through a painful process. I’ll see it out to the end every time, I’m not a quitter, but jeezus will I kick and scream the entire way. I’m like the troubled student from a TV show with a heart of gold: angry, scary, stand-offish exterior, but you’re getting through to him somehow.

For now, I’m just doing the necessary woodshed work. Repetition is key. I can try my hand at sentence structure and grammar all I want, but if I can’t write the words, that doesn’t mean a damn thing!


Was that title profound enough? I sure hope so. It is an attention getter, after all.

If you haven’t gathered yet, there’s no real rhyme or reason to when I post. I’m trying to make it at least weekly. Hey, I never said I was perfect. I’m an artist (ugh, did I really just say that?), I’m allowed to be wishy-washy and unreliable. It comes with the territory. I have to wait for my “muse” to visit, even though that’s the perfect way to not get shit done. Also, something interesting that was pointed out to me last time I posted: my blogs take the format of articles. Seriously. Go back and look at all of them. I never even kind of realized this. Now I’m self-conscious.

But I’m gonna keep doing it.

Wikipedia “creative insomnia.” It’s a thing. It’s also scary.

So, publication number seven is in the pipes. The lovely ladies at The Siren’s Call have accepted my newest tale to be featured in their Halloween issue. That’s great! What’s not great is that my tale for Demonic Visions #5 is stuck in my brain and refuses to come out onto the page. What’s also not great is that I still haven’t reached out to any other publishers besides DV or The Sirens Call save one, and I haven’t heard back from that one since August, so I’ve no idea whether to be expecting an acceptance or rejection letter. The realist in me says to expect a rejection one, that way when/if it does come, I’m not disappointed. Sad, right?

My new goal as of late has been to convince my friends around me to give writing a try. If not writing, than some other creative medium. After talking with a lot of them, I find that they’ve got some pretty incredible ideas (that they inevitably claim as suckish), but they’re in the stage that I’m all too familiar with: being afraid of the transfer from mind to medium. It’s painful when you have an idea that glimmers in your head, but upon its placement into a tangible form, it’s nothing like you thought it would be. It’s pretty lackluster, you think. Why did you even bother? I have advice for those of you stuck in this part of the process.

relevant, and awesome

Do it anyway. I don’t care. I don’t care what your reasoning is. I don’t care that you aren’t a good writer, you can’t draw, you can’t sing, I don’t give a single shit – because until you try and fail, you don’t know. You have no right to say these things. After you put your neck on the line and have it mercilessly split, then you can say you “can’t” – but you can’t.
Wait, what? Yeah, paradoxically, by trying and failing, you still completed something, which means you can. So boom. You literally can not can’t. Seriously though, I understand the frustration. It’s scary as hell to try and breathe life into an idea you hold so dear. But hey, as soon as you tell someone else about the idea, it’s already began to grow. It’s already taking a life of its own, so why not help it along? It’s way too strangled in your head. You’ve got too much shit going on in there, anyway. Let it out! Even if it sucks something awful (which it won’t, and if it does, can be revised), it’s still something you made. I feel 3000 times better about myself for writing a shitty thousand word story than I do after sitting and playing Super Smash Bros for the 3DS for two hours.

but guys it’s so awesome holy shit there are so many characters and it’s so cool and and and

I feel like everyone needs a medium of creation. Maybe that’s because I’m a writer and a performer, and it still feels strange to write that sentence. To call myself a writer or a performer, I feel like I’m that guy. Would-be writers, music or otherwise, are constantly updating everyone on their “work” that never seems to appear in a public medium. I’ve written pieces that people have read in newspapers, books, and online. I’ve gotten up on stages and made an ass out of myself. By definition of the words, I’m a writer and a performer. The thing with artsy types is that they don’t like giving themselves those titles. They feel unworthy. Stephen King is a writer, okay? Not you. But that isn’t true. The first step to being a writer, performer, artist, esteemed lord of the mimes, etc. is to admit that you do that thing. At this point, me saying “I’m not a writer” is stupid. “Commercial” success aside, I’ve proven that.

There are some that contend there are just some people that aren’t cut out for self expression. I call bullshit. There are so many infinite mediums to put yourself into that it’s literally impossible to be unable to express yourself. You can make old-school 1930’s style film posters. You can make sculptures out of shit you find at a scrap yard. You could sneeze onto a blank canvas with a bloody nose. I think to claim anyone isn’t cut out for self-expression is a pretty fucking ignorant thing to say. You know what makes people feel insignificant? Elitist assholes telling them to give it up. Life isn’t a movie. Not everyone gets a fire lit under their belly by discouraging remarks. Some people take them to heart, and actually give it up.


gettin’ a little inspirational in here, don’t you think?

nunquam sing Imp

Hello? Is this thing on? Whew, that was dusty.

I’ve been doing a lot of struggling with my status as a ‘writer’ as of late. When it comes to fiction, it seems I’ve finally encountered the ever-trendy Writer’s Block. I have a tale for Demonic Visions #5 due by mid-October, would like to get something in to The Sirens Call for their Halloween e-zine, and am trying to convince others among me to take up writing for themselves. I’m still churning out opinion pieces for the college’s newspaper (The Eagle, that is), so I can at least say I’m still writing, but I’m not doing so nearly enough. I don’t have a daily required word count on myself. I don’t blog or keep a journal regularly. I know I need to, but carving out this routine is harder than I suspected. When I get home after all day in class or at work, I just wanna be a vegetable. Excuses, excuses, I know. Where I go next is problematic to me. I’m 21 years old with 5 publications under my belt (not counting the newspaper), so the sky should be the limit. But I don’t feel like the sky’s the limit. I feel like I bumped my head on the ceiling.

File:Ceiling cat no text.gif


One thing I don’t tell people very often is that I constantly worry about the validity of my current publications. Don’t get me wrong, The Sirens Call is definitely a major name in the horror biz, and Chris Robertson has compiled quite the star-studded cast for Demonic Visions (including RAMSEY CAMPBELL. I was in a book with Ramsey Campbell!) But I wonder if by not branching out a bit more I’m making myself look too much like an amateur. Granted, I don’t have the infamous pile of rejection letters aspiring writers do… but that’s because I haven’t submitted my work to enough places to amass those rejection letters. For that, I am ashamed. I really need to renew my Duotrope account so I can get back to publisher-shopping. This blog is an attempt to begin writing again. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate when writers have to update you every time they achieve a minor accomplishment? Author Facebook pages that consist of nothing but statuses similar to “guess who got 1000 words today?” give me a resounding case of “WHO GIVES A FUUUUUUUUUUCK.” Don’t try to sell me something that’s not finished, okay? This isn’t Kickstarter, I’m not investing in an idea. I want results.

Above: me when someone posts a status about being a writer

I’m also beginning to try and step into the ring of true literary criticism of my work. I’ve began to shop it around to professors and ask them to critique it – did I mention that I’m a sensitive guy and that despite my mild taste of success my ego is still about as durable as stained glass? There’s definitely been instances of professors essentially saying to me, “It’s good, but…” and then handing me back a page riddled with highlights. Yet at the end of it, they’ve said “But you’re the published one, so…” Does that really make a difference? Does that make me immune to criticism? I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all. I’ve still got a-lot to learn. One common criticism or comment I get is that my style is super wordy. Very King-esque. I enjoy it, that’s my voice in there, but others see it as needless words. I’m just saying, Tolkien is a famous author, and he had some god damn needless words in his work. I’m not gonna go all Hemmingway on everyone and use 3 word sentences in my work because someone else is too impatient to read 1500 words.

Charles Dickens 

One final demon I’ve been grappling with is the novel vs. short fiction idea. Friends and family alike ask me when I’m going to write a novel, and the truth is I have no fucking idea. I’m with my man Edgar Allan on this one, I love novels, but I’ve always been in love with pieces that I can sit down and read in one sitting. Anthologies and short stories are like the potato chips of reading to me. Sometimes I prefer them to a full meal, you get me? I have no big novel plans right now, but I do aspire to have my own anthology somewhere down the road. I don’t think I’m incapable of writing a novel, I just haven’t gotten an idea that, to me, held enough merit for 300 pages and blank-hundred-thousand words. I feel like I operate effectively in short fiction, in and out before they know what hit them. I love the quick set up, and I’m a sucker for the open-ended or twist endings. My writing reflects that, for better or worse. At the end of the day, I still feel I should identify as a writer, which is a sentiment that was echoed today by a rather successful author.

Today, NY Times Bestselling Author Margaret Coel came and spoke to us aspiring writers about, well, writing. Mrs. Coel is a wonderful woman, a fun personality, and a successful author. While it was valuable to hear her perspectives, I’m unsure if the write (see what I did there?) questions weren’t asked, or if I’m just a closed-minded asshole, but she really didn’t say anything I didn’t already hear somewhere else. The rules of the game are read a lot, write a lot, and be persistent. End game. If you want to be taken seriously, either find an agent, or market yourself well via digital publishing. Having recently read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and having picked up a few tricks during my short time in the trade, none of this information was new. Just from a different mouthpiece. This is something I want to do, but I want to be taken seriously. I’m not some casual horror flunkie dipping his toes in the water. I’m playing for keeps. And as far as I’m concerned, I’ve got a long life ahead of me to get good at it.

The future looks as bright as the lights of a freight train