Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Quarterly Report: 2016 Q2

On my writing:

This was a tough quarter, but then summer always is. It started decent enough with April's writing, with only two days that I didn't accomplish either writing, typing the manuscript, or submitting short stories to journals. I came out with 8878 words written, exclusively in the Two Loves of Ugly Doug novel, the story cresting 100,000 words on the week of the 17th-23rd.

The momentum carried over to May, with the first three weeks seeing 2,328, 4,376, and 3,192 word-counts. Then realizing how much story I still had to write when I was already at 112,844 words, I decided that I would need to split the novel into 2 parts, and so all of a sudden I found myself with a finished novel first draft. So then I finished May by powering on with 1714 words in Volume 2.

Then there was June. First my laptop died; since I write longhand this shouldn't have been a problem, only setting up my new laptop took a lot of the time where I could be writing away. Second, the end of the school year asserted itself as a vortex on my time, so I didn't have any of the afterschool time where I've been accustomed to write available. And Third, the day after my last day of school we got on the road for an Epic 4 week road trip, that took a big chunk out of July. The rest of that month saw no new writing, as I took some much-needed physical and mental recuperation time from school and the road. The only writing tasks I have accomplished have been getting reorganized, submitting a few short stories, and prepping to revise the first volume of Ugly Doug. My plan is to split my time between writing volume 2 and revising volume 1, so that by the end of the year I have one finished manuscript ready to agonize over whether to self-publish or subject myself to the process of getting an agent/publisher, and another manuscript ready to revise.

So Quarter 2 ended with a 18,163 wordcount - below what I had hoped - but I did accomplish the goal of finishing volume 1. I think in future years I will have to lower my expectations for Quarter 2, and consider anything accomplished in June or July as a bonus.

On my reading:

Continuing my year's pledge to read works outside of my white, male, straight, cis demographic, I started the quarter reading two LGBT books: David Wojnarowicz's collection of short memoirs Close to the Knives, which was often incredible, but suffered by too many repetitive, dated rants against 80's era anti-gay; and Bernard Cooper's A Year of Rhymes, which was very good, only I felt unsatisfied by the ending. How the three LGBT books I read this year most affected me was by highlighting an assumption I didn't know I had: I had assumed that LGBT works would be solely involved in LGBT issues and characters, which was initially enforced in the nonfiction Close to the Knives, but wasn't true in fiction: one novel (Hugo SF, read in Q1) only had gay secondary characters, and while the adolescent main character of A Year of Rhymes is discovering his homosexuality, the narrative is much more concerned with him dealing with his older brother's deterioration from cancer. This served to be enlightening to this ignorant white male straight cis reader.

Next I read four books from African-American authors, starting with three classics that I had been meaning to read for years: Octavia Butler's Kindred, Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing, and Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Then, to compare another modern zombie novel to the one I am writing, I read Colson Whitehead's Zone One. What struck me most from these books was their distinct voices. What a treasure we had in Maya Angelou!

Then we got to summer, and the aforementioned Epic Road Trip: four weeks, 31 states @ two Canadian provinces. Since I didn't want to impose my reading pledge on my wife, we began the trip with the audiobook reading of Stephen King's 11/22/63 (which was rereading for me), and when that was over we read Veronica Roth's Divergent, and Insurgent - which was great, because it fit my pledge and added on to my Q1 readings of Dystopian Novels. But then some scoundrel had a hold on Allegiant, so we had to pause that series and look for another book to listen to, and we ended up following my daughter's recommendation and listened to James Dashmore's The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials which we just finished this week, after our trip.

Now there is this debacle: waiting for Allegiant to become available I began Emma Donague's Room, but then my check-out expired before I could finish, at which time Allegiant came up, so I started that; but then Room came back, so I went back to that, all while trying to finish Scorch Trials when my wife and I were driving around, so I had three audiobooks going, two of which were the second books in trilogies. Too.Many.Plots/Stories!

On physical books, I used one of my reading cheats to read Joe Clifford's December Boys - beginning it, appropriately, in the book's setting of New Hampshire, and finishing it when we got home. That always seems to happen on vacations: I expect to have lots of time to relax and read, and then we get so caught up with sightseeing/activities/shore excursions/etc. that I only get a couple of chapters read. Now at home, amid getting through our summer projects and responsibilities, I've been trying to get on track with my yearly goal of reading 40 books, which Goodreads is constantly reminding me that I'm behind on. I started with Anonymous 9's sequel to Hard Bite, Bite Harder, and now my next reading theme is to read the rest of the Atelier 26 catalogue. For those of you that don't know, Atelier 26 is a small press out of Portland, Oregon founded by my cousin-in-law and brilliant writer M. Allen Cunningham. I've been a supporter from the start, helping out on all of the crowd-funding campaigns, so I have every book they have published so far, which, with the exception of Cunningham's four books, are all from women authors. After I have read these four books, I might cheat again on my pledge and read Cunningham's latest novel Partisans. We'll see.

So, to recap, this year I have added the following diversity to my aggregate reading:

- 10 books from 9 women authors
- 3 books from LGBT authors (all by men)
- 4 books from African-American authors
- 1 book from an Afghan-American author

After my Atelier 26 reading, I haven't decided on a theme to continue for my reading. I'll either go for more classic literature from women authors, or try to acquire some more books from non-white-straight-cis-male authors I know, or both.

I'll let you know sometime in the fall how it's going.

[final disclaimer: lest my ignorant white male straight cis self incur any unearned ire, let me ensure you that I understand that the small number of novels I read from a particular group of writers does not constitute an overview of these groups. I now have a better understanding of LGBT writing, African-American Writing, and the female Dystopian novel genre, but groups are always really a collection of individual minds, and I do not consider any of my revelations while reading conclusive of their groups.]

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