Interview with Short Story Contest Winner Wendy Lym

Writers and artists are all around us, y’all. In this case, Wendy Lym is a colleague and neighbor (her office is just down the hall from mine) at the community college where I teach. Since we’re also friends on social media, I learned that she won the Texas Observer’s 2017 short story contest with Muriel, and I knew I had to interview her about her off-campus life as a writer. Enjoy!
—Jen Hamilton

Continue Reading →

The 15-Minute Writing Challenge

Making time to write.

This is difficult. Some days it is impossible.

How do I find time to draft ideas, make outlines, develop characters?

Then I remember: I wrote an entire novel in 15-minute increments. I did it in the car, at the Laundromat, while the kids were in the bath. I am not a drafter. I am not an outliner. I have tried time and again to sit down and PLAN what I am going to write. But I know that the stories are all around me and they come out when I least expect it. I want to scoop them up, I want to see the ideas floating in my everyday life and use those to get better. I’ve stopped working on my novel for a bit so I can focus on smaller pieces, short stories that bring together everything I am trying to do in my giant book. They’re small, manageable slices of the larger ultimate goal.

Continue Reading →

Writing While Weird

I’m defective. I can’t figure out if I was born this way or if it was a conscious decision. At five years old, I remember noticing other kids getting super dupes grossed out by spinach and deciding that I would love spinach. Around the time that I reached puberty, I remember deciding that I, absolutely and without a doubt, should not and would not get married (ever) or have children. I remember thinking that I could actually fly before I hit puberty.  At 16, I remember astral projecting across my tiny town. I’ve never worked in an office. I’m a female line cook, in a sea of really really male line cooks. I willfully ignore grammar in favor of rhythm. I try to find the “hard way” and I call it the “scenic route.” I don’t know how I got here. I’m 43 and my mind still works this way.

I’m afraid of this defective nature. I don’t understand why I am “other.” My point of view, my poetry, my ideas, my stand up, my art, my love letters are all defective.

Continue Reading →

My Practice Went A Little Awry

“There is a ruthlessness to the creative act. It often involves a betrayal of the status quo.” ―Alan Watt

I have a few habits that prepare my thoughts for my writing time. I’m lucky to have two weekday mornings every week that I can write until 10 am. I wake up early and get started before the movement of the house begins. I take advantage of being an early riser on the weekends as well and I use that quiet time the same way: meditation and writing, for a total of four days/week. Sometimes I’m pleased with the work, other times it’s words and words of unused drafts. All part of the learning curve of finding and expressing my voice.

Over the summer I noticed I was becoming a little particular with my ritual. What started out as a cup of coffee and a quick meditation became an indecisive time-consuming mess robbing me of words on the page.

Continue Reading →

Where We Write: Claiming, Then Reclaiming My Space

I tried to read Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” years ago while on a spiritual retreat in the San Jacinto Mountains of California. In my early 20s, I believed it was required reading for a good feminist. Sliding that thin book off the shelf among all the other options, I felt like an actual grown-up woman, anticipating the wisdom I was about to receive.

Here’s the thing, though: I could not get into it. And I tried. But it was: (a) boring, and (b) irrelevant to my life. A year post-college, I had recently moved to Chicago and was crashing in a rundown house with a group of my new co-workers. I was years away from beginning to write, and nothing about my sketchy living arrangement indicated the potential for a closet of my own, much less a whole room.

I have yet to gain an appreciation for Woolf’s style, but as I have aged I’ve certainly come to understand the wisdom behind having a room of one’s own.

Continue Reading →

Confessions of a Stalled Writer

I’m feeling like a bit of a fraud.

I am a member of this group of women who write in spite of the unyielding demands of daily life—the jobs and kids and partners and hobbies and chores. All of it. I am working on my first book, a memoir about loss and grief and cultivating resilience. It’s about navigating the death of my mom and the subsequent loss of the daughter I thought I had, and what I’m learning along the way. But for the past few months I’ve had a secret: I haven’t been writing. Reading? Yes. Writing emails, Facebook posts, and text messages? Absolutely. But not much real writing.

Continue Reading →