Monday, November 6, 2017

New Web Site and Publication


I don't remember if I posted here, but I have a new website. I used to be a software developer and probably can do better than this if I had some extra minutes to devote to it, but I did a simple Wix site for now. 

TonjaMatneyReynolds.com

My last post got corrupted with huge blocks of white space between each paragraph. Not sure how that happened, but I deleted it.

I was notified today that one of my short stories, "Life is Now," was accepted for publication by Literary Orphans. I am so happy. This story won 2nd place at a local contest that paid big money and received an Honorable Mention by Glimmer Train in one of their very short fiction contests. I was starting to feel like my style of quirky, humorous writing was not going to survive the current political climate.

I am literally out of stories to submit. I have committed to finishing my novel by the end of the calendar year, so I don't have time to work on short fiction until I finish drafting the next 23,000 words. It's just me and the dog today, and she is being very chill. Definitely a good day to write.

First, I need to research iodine.

Tonja

Friday, October 13, 2017

Women Speak at Ohio University Southern


This evening, I am participating again in a Women of Appalachia Project's Women Speak event. This time it's at Ohio University's Southern Campus in Ironton, Ohio. This event will be different than the one two weeks ago at West Virginia University. Tonight, visual artists will also be there (pretty sure) with their work on display. Musicians will also be performing with the poets and storytellers.

I'm reading my story, "Invisible Girls." If you can't make the event (I'm guessing most of you reading this do not live in the vicinity of Ironton), my story is available on Streetlight Magazine in print and in audio. (The voice in the audio is not mine - it's an actress.)

Tonja

Monday, October 2, 2017

Women of Appalachia Project - Women Speak Events and Urban Appalachians


I have lots going on lately.

First off, I am thrilled to have been selected to read my short story, "Invisible Girls," this past weekend at West Virginia University as part of Women of Appalachia Project - Women Speak events.

"Invisible Girls," published online and in audio at Streetlight Magazine, is not explicitly Appalachian, but speaks to the otherness and need to create community that's common among Urban Appalachian children.

I was literally labeled as Urban Appalachian at a diversity training at my workplace about twenty years go with a Hello My Name Is sticker. I had never heard the term. I'm a Matney girl, so I argued with the facilitator. He said the term is for people raised in Appalachia who moved to the city - or for people who live in the city but have a parent or grandparent raised in Appalachia.

When I recently used the term with my great aunt who grew up in the hills of eastern Kentucky and southwest Virginia, she scoffed at me and said that wasn't a thing. But I think it is - kind of a big thing for young people especially.

In the 1960s, there was an Appalachian diaspora. Mountain people moved to the cities after the mines became so mechanized that there wasn't enough work. Cincinnati had automotive factories. One of my great uncles set out to Cincinnati first, got hired at the General Motors factory in Norwood, and the rest of my mom's side of the family followed, all but one of my mom's siblings.

Here's the thing. I went to college and could have gone to grad school in my twenties if I had the money or support to do that. I went to work in a suit and carried a new leather briefcase and a Franklin planner. Who I was had nothing to do with who my parents and grandparents were, I thought. But everyone in that diversity training conference room could smell it on me - I'm pretty sure it smelled like biscuits.

It's likely that the feeling I had all my life of not quite fitting in and of not quite being good enough wasn't just me. Now, I think part of it was the fact that other people could see I was ethnically different even if I couldn't. It's probably a good thing I didn't know.

This past weekend at the reading, I fit right in with this group of lovely, talented women I had never met before. I am happy to be reading with them over the next several months at various locations. The next one up is Ohio University Southern, in Ironton, Ohio.




I have much more than this going on and am planning on writing some reviews of some amazing books and short story collections. If any of you are near Ironton, Ohio (pretty sure it's near the point where Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia meet), please stop in. I am told there will be visual artists and musicians in addition to story-tellers and poets.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Strategy for Publishing Short Fiction

I didn't write much short fiction before I attended the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop last summer (which I cannot recommend enough). I took Nancy Zafris' short fiction class after attending her novel workshop the previous summer. She said the short fiction class would help me with line-level things that would be beneficial to my novel-writing. She was right (she always is).

For the first assignment that was given before the workshop, she asked us to write a 300-word story based on a picture of a gel character smashed onto the sidewalk. It was the kid of gel creature that my kids get at fairs or from tickets at Dave and Busters. They end up on my ceiling, and the red ones leave a stain behind - my dining room table was forever marked with a red starfish.

My response to Nancy's request for us to write a 300-word story was that this isn't a thing. That is the length of a cover letter. It is three paragraphs. Stories cannot be 300 words long. I was proven wrong.

That week, I learned how to write tiny stories and how to be incredibly concise in service to a limited word count.

The week-long workshop was generative - we were given a new prompt every day and struggled to write a new story every afternoon (until 1:00 a.m. for me most nights). 

In the end, I completed two stories that I loved and had a few that were kind of so-so that I have since abandoned. I left Kenyon sorely wishing I could completely rewrite my one story that had already been accepted for publication, "Hostess of the Dead," which is forever in print as is in Best of Ohio Short Stories: Volume II.

As soon as I got home, I used one of the more complicated prompts to write a story for a local contest. I won some (relatively) good money for it and later received Honorable Mention when I entered that same story in Glimmer Train's March/April 2017 Very Short Fiction contest.

I wrote another story this April that was recently published at Four Ties Lit Review. It's 1200 words, which has become the sweet spot for me with short fiction. You can read it here if you like:

"Creamed Corn and Ninja Stars" at Four Ties Lit Review

What I lacked last summer when the conference was over (and quickly figured out) was a strategy to get the stories published. That's where Nancy and Geeta Kothari helped. They said to put myself on a submission schedule. I should submit two times a week (and it's okay if it is the same story that I submit in the same week). I believe they said to avoid contests, but I think I've heard that from professors also.

If you submit twice a week for a year, you will have submitted about 100 times. Chances are, the stories will be published. This has been true for me and others from that workshop that followed the same strategy. The lovely part is that I have had four stories published in a year and now completely accept the idea that rejection is part of the job. (I honestly did not submit 100 - I got to about 50 including academic papers - and withdrew many of the submissions after the stories were accepted.)

The bottom line is that if we aren't writing, we have nothing to submit. If we aren't submitting, we aren't doing our jobs.

Do you have any tips for finding journals to submit to for short fiction (many journals seem to be closed in the summer) or strategies for publishing short fiction?

Tonja

Friday, May 26, 2017

Publication -- Postcards from Clockworld

I have great news to start off the weekend. One of my short stories, "Postcards from Clockworld," is going to be published online at The Bookends Review on Monday, May 29!

I wrote this story at Kenyon Review Writers Workshop last summer in Nancy Zafris' class. The prompt was to write a story based on a random postcard handed to me and to write it as a series of five consecutive postcards. "That's a good one," Nancy said (or something close to that) as she handed a postcard to me. It obviously was a reference to something, and I had no idea what. It was an image of a young woman sitting in the grass trying to pry open the face of a clock. It turned out to be the Nancy Drew book cover for The Secret of the Old Clock, but I didn't get the reference. Not even close. I was a Little House on the Prairie kind of girl.

It turned out I also got the assignment wrong. In my first draft, I wrote a series of notes between two characters, a back and forth argument between a woman and her spouse who were not travelling together. When I met with Nancy, she said the draft was great, but no. I didn't do the assignment.

That evening, I worked until 1:00 a.m. alone at the kitchen table in my dorm/apartment and rewrote it. I love how the story was transformed by the revision and how my initial mistake in giving the other person a voice allowed me to respond to that voice in the final version, even though his words are not on the page. Sometimes mistakes are fabulous.

I received three or four rejection letters for this story that were near-acceptances, each stating the virtues of the story, but also saying it was not for them. One journal stated what I had suspected -- that the letter format bothered them. They asked me to rewrite it as a straight narrative and resubmit. I decided to do that, but the very next day, the story was accepted by The Bookends Review. I am incredibly grateful to The Bookends Review for publishing the story as is with no changes.

How do you all feel about reading epistolary stories? For my writing friends, have you written one? Have you had lovely rejections or ones that have prompted you to rewrite a story?

Tonja

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Novel Writing Workshop

I heard yesterday that the Zafris-Kothari Novel Workshop has some openings for the week-long workshop in July. If you are struggling at all with your novel, I highly recommend this workshop. It was previously held at Kenyon College, but has moved this year to The Ohio State University campus. The dates are July 19 to 25.

This workshop is unlike any other that I've attended or seen advertised. Usually, workshops have about ten writers and one facilitator who go around the circle and give their opinion about twenty pages of each writer's novel. This is all good and fine and useful in its own way, but getting feedback from other writers who are struggling isn't always helpful (especially in those workshops where egos and personalities muck things up) because new writers aren't experts. People attend workshops because they aren't experienced writers and they want to learn. The other downside to typical workshops is that each participant is tasked with critiquing nine other manuscripts - and the majority of the effort is in giving thoughtful and useful critiques to others.

The difference with the Zafris-Kothari Novel Workshop and the thing that made it so worth the money for me was the fact that 100 pages of my novel was critiqued by professionals. Now there's an option to submit 200 pages. Craft lessons are also a huge part of the workshop. When I was there, Karin Lin-Greenberg gave an excellent lecture on how to balance the internal and external, which I have found to be incredibly helpful in both my novel and my short fiction.

Because a huge chunk of my novel was critiqued, I was able to get solid feedback on what was working and what wasn't working across my entire novel. The fact I didn't need to critique other peoples' pages made the workshop feel like it was focused on me and my writing and not on my ability to give feedback.

For me, this workshop was life-changing as a writer. I really hope some of you can attend. If you have any questions about my experience at the workshop, please post in the comments.

Tonja

UPDATE: The workshop was cancelled for this year.

Monday, February 6, 2017

To Tweet or Not to Tweet


I set up a Twitter account in 2012, retweeted something just to test it out, and abandoned it completely. It seemed like trying to parse through a million text messages. Not my thing.

But today one of my stories was published online at Streetlight Magazine. And another story is included in Best of Ohio Short Stories: Volume II. And yet another just got picked up by The Bookends Review. (I am having a good year.)

I was asked for a Twitter handle today so Streetlight Magazine can tweet about my story - they called my story "fabulous" in the email, so how could I pass on that?

So I set one up. It's @TonjaMReynolds. I'm not really sure what to do with it. I am actually very computer-savvy and used to develop really complicated software and backend components (stuff that does magic in the background).

This week, I will try to find some of you and somehow attach myself to you.

I am going to use Twitter in a minimal way. I find social media to be a distraction from the writing. The novel is nearly done. I would be writing the ending chapters today, but my kids are sick and I'm doing this instead of that.

If you have a Twitter account, leave me a comment here and I will follow you (or like you or whatever the tweeting lingo is).

If you are here because of Best of Ohio Short Stories:Volume II or Streetlight Magazine, please leave a comment. I think I am open to anonymous comments - pretty sure.

And if you have any suggestions for adding a Twitter account to everything else without getting sucked into the black hole of politics and cute kittens, please speak up. :)