Category: | The Writing Life

Happy Anniversary to the Unfolding Tale

I feel like a forgetful spouse.

Last Tuesday marked the one year anniversary of my first post on the Unfolding Tale. Last year at this time I was a little skeptical about blogging, but it’s been a great year. I finished a first draft of my novel, completed my Month Without Monsanto project, graduated with honors from USC’s Master of Professional Writing program, found an agent, wrote my first non-fiction proposal and blogged about it all right here.

I used to think of blogging as journal writing for the public, but it has become more to me over the year. Blogging keeps me thinking about writing. Twice a week I have to think about the act and art of putting words down and find something (hopefully) interesting to say about it. It also keeps me writing. Yes, a few hundred words twice a week isn’t much, but it’s something. Lastly, it’s a fun record to have of my adventures in writing. In this way it is kind of like a journal – one devoted to my writing.

Thank you to my readers. I know a lot of you are writers too, and your thoughts and feedback have meant a lot to me over this first year.

May it be the first of many.

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Day 9 of 100 Days of Writing

Yesterday I sat down to do my writing and I felt downright resentful. I was so cranky that I had to marvel at myself. I love writing. I crave it. So why does actually sitting down to get started feel like pulling teeth sometimes?

Well, I don’t actually have the answer to that question, but I do know that if I don’t write those pages, no one will. Nine days in and my commitment to write every day for 100 days is feeling a lot more like a marathon than I had expected. Either I’m struggling with some tough story issues, or I’m really out of practice. Probably a little of both.

So let’s hear it for discipline, and inventive ways to hold yourself accountable. (If you’re new to the discussion check out the 100 Day Writing Challenge here).

Now back to work.

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Day 7 of 100 Days of Writing

I don’t know if it was the heat here yesterday (LA saw record highs, up to 113!), or what, but yesterday was one of those days where everything went awry.

First the internet went down (which is why I’m posting a day late), then the then the AC, and lastly, as I lay sprawled on the bed, too hot to do anything, the TV just stopped working. Oh, man…

Well, today is a new day. My amazing husband made quick work of all the household woes. Twenty minutes after he got home I was checking emails, while watching a 30 Rock rerun, and basking in the miracle that is air conditioning.

Today I’m back on track. I’m on day day 7 of my 100 days of writing challenge, and I’m struck by how much writing is all about baby steps. Each day I write for at least one hour, and it doesn’t seem like much, but when I look at my little score card I see hours of work that I wouldn’t have motivated to do otherwise.

Then I look at the work and see how far the project has come in a few short hours. I’ve officially broken through the section that was holding me up and am on to a new chapter. It feels really good.

Though I probably won’t make it to the end of this challenge – it was pointed out to me that my 100 days will be up on December 30th and my baby is due on the 15th – I know that every day I commit to sitting down and writing is a day I can feel good about.

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100 Days Of Writing

Now and then, we all need a kick in the pants.

Writers in particular sometimes need a way to get back into the practice of writing regularly. It’s like exercise – when you do it regularly you don’t think much about it, but when you stop for a while, getting back to the gym seems like an incredible challenge.

Well I strayed away from my novel for a while (to work on other projects), and I’m having trouble getting back to it, so I’ve decided to participate in the 100 Days of Writing challenge, presented by WritingSpirit.com.

The thing that caught my attention was her pitch to “finish 2010 strong.” Whaaaa? Finish 2010? 100 days? How did the end of the year sneak up like that?

As some of you know, I’m expecting a little baby boy on December 15th. After seeing the WritingSpirit web challenge I pulled up my calendar and realized that 100 days of writing would land me at December 8th. Perfect. I had been looking for a way to motivate myself to get some good writing in before I degenerate into a sleep deprived, diaper changing, nursing machine. So I printed out the handy 100 Days of Writing challenge chart and started yesterday.

Only 99 days to go. Anyone want to join me?

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Great Uncle Art

I recently read Liz Gilbert’s “Committed,” and just loved it. It’s full of insight, humor and honesty. Though I adored “Eat, Pray, Love,” it appealed much more to my girly sensibilities, while “Committed” is a book I think my husband would enjoy as much as I did.

Anyway, there’s a short section in the book that has me thinking. She talks about how people live on in the stories we tell about them. Take for instance, my Great Uncle Art, who I talk about with some regularity. He came to California in the dust bowl and became a migrant fruit picker. At six foot four, with a giant wing span, he excelled at this profession, traveling up and down the coast with the harvest, and visiting different girlfriends in every city. My memory of him (he died when I was fairly young) was of a gruff, hard-smoking, hard-drinking tower of a man, who loved to knit.

Every time I saw my Uncle Art he had some new little doll he had knitted for me. I was always fascinated by how his giant, rough hands ever managed to make something so delicate. After reading “Committed” I got to thinking about how, in a small way, Uncle Art lives on every time I tell someone about him, and the realization I had this morning was that he will live on in the same way even if I turn him into a fictional character.

The thing about fiction is that we read it assuming that it’s entirely made up, but every detail had to come from somewhere, and where else could it come from but the writer’s life? And so I come again to the idea that fiction and non-fiction are divided by such a blurry line. I think that is why we read fiction, for great stories that ultimately tell great truths.

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You Are Not Your URL

I was talking with a friend last week about good resources for writers. I directed her toward my usual go-to sites, like Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, and for those of us looking to submit shorter works for publication: NewPages.com.

She in turn introduced me to a few writer websites that are pretty awesome. My favorites right now are “Sage Said So,” the site for Sage Cohen, and Rosetta Thurman’s self titled website. I like to look at these two sites side by side. Sage is a poet with an impressive publication list, and Rosetta is a blogger writing about social change. I’m fascinated by how their websites seem to totally match their personas.

At the New York Summer Writer’s Institute I met a young man who engages in none of this kind of self promotion. He’s not even on Facebook. While I admire that sort of literary homesteading, I personally hope to give myself every advantage in growing my career as a writer, and so I need a kick ass site. Every time I look at Sage and Rosetta’s sites I get to thinking.

Is it time to revamp my site? What kind of site design says “April Dávila”? Right about then I hear a Brad-Pitt-In-Fight-Club like voice in my head laughing and saying something along the lines of “you are not your URL.”

Still, I can’t help but click over to my site and think about what colors would better represent me, what fonts would more adequately help people know who I am. Silly? Yes. A necessary part of being a creative individual in the modern age? Also yes.

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The Balancing Act Continues

I considered writing out my to-do list as this week’s post. Ultimately I decided against it, because really – how boring would that be?

In a few weeks I move in to the Skidmore dorms for their Summer Writing Retreat, and I am so excited. Sure, getting ready to check out of my life for two weeks is partly what has my to-do list growing like a colony of bacteria on nutrient-rich agar, but once I’m there – it’s all about my fiction.

Just me and Talulah. Ahhhh….

Right now I feel like a neglectful parent. I only wrote six pages last week, and the worst part is, I know exactly what I want to be writing, I just can’t seem to find the time to get it down. In order to get the non-fiction proposal ready to go out I’ve been prioritizing that work to the top of my list, and Talulah keeps getting bumped. I wish I could tell her to hang in there. “I’m not abandoning you, I swear.”

Anyhow, I’m keeping the post short and sweet today. I’ve got s**t to do….

ps – I know the photo for this post has nothing to do with its content, but I’m feeling stressed and it always makes me giggle, so I thought I’d share.

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On My Own

In the seven month history of this blog I’ve never missed a week of posting. Please accept my apologies, dear readers, for leaving you hanging last week.

In my defense it was a big week. I finally graduated! Yes, I am now officially a Master of Professional Writing (so says USC). In addition to being a master, which is fun to say, I am also now totally on my own – which is a lot scarier.

No more professors giving me their wise guidance, no more weekly classes to force me to change out of my pajamas and go somewhere to hold a conversation, and no more blaming my complete lack of income on the fact that I’m a student.

Yipes.

Luckily I have a small group of writers (former classmates) who get together once every other week, but I wonder if this will be enough to keep me sane. As much as I love working alone, I need to interact with people. I am a social creature at heart.

I also tend to over-plan things. I’ve had to crush the urge to start up another five writing groups so I have something to do every night of the week. I do have one other group I’m hoping to get rolling – to fill in the holes on my current group’s off weeks, but I have to stop myself there and see how things develop before I go crazy with more writing circles than I can handle.

It’s exciting and scary being out on my own now. I’ve had my training, now I have to make good on it and keep writing. As always, that’s really all I can do.

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AWP

I just got back from the AWP writer’s conference, which was held this year in Denver. For three full days I went to panel after panel about publishing, writing, and making a living as a creative professional. At night I went with my friends to the AWP sponsored reception where folks let loose. If you’ve never seen a room full of writers dance their asses off, you’ve missed out on one the worlds most ridiculous and fun occurrences.

As much as I learned about the practical elements of writing (grant writing, cover letters, etc.) what I took away from the experience was how much I love the writing community, and how we as writers have to actively nurture it.

What we do is a solitary endeavor. We sit at our keyboards, typing furiously day after day, hoping to pay the bills while creating art, but with our heads down and our fingers tapping away, it’s easy to forget that there are so many of us out there doing the exact same thing.

What I come away from this conference really cherishing is the community that I am so privileged to be a part of. I am seriously lucky to work on the staff of a literary journal, have a kick ass writing group, and know other fun-loving writers who will not only give occasional feedback, but also celebrate with me when there is cause to.

I may not be any closer to finishing my novel then I was five days ago, but I’m loving being a writer, and somehow that makes the journey all the more fun.

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The San Francisco Writers Conference

If I learned one thing this week at the SFWC, it’s that there are a million things a writer can do besides write.

In two and a half days I sat in on eleven seminars and three key note speeches, and every one at least touched on how to utilize Twitter, Facebook, blogs, websites, LinkedIn, internet radio, you name it. It’s very exciting, and very distracting.

Ultimately the thing that matters the most (and this came up many times over the weekend as well), is that your writing be good. No, not good – excellent. You can tweet your heart out, and gather thousands of followers, but if your novel sucks, all the networking in the world simply won’t matter.

This brings up a swell of anxiety in me that only the Maverick surfers would dare ride, because I did very little writing this weekend. True, I wrote a few posts for my other blog (if you haven’t seen it yet check out www.monthwithoutmonsanto.com), but after going three days without touching my fiction work, I’m surprised how distant it feels. I guess it was a busy three days, but still, I’m having trouble even remembering where I left off.

So I need to exercise a little time management today. I can blog, and tweet and book my face off, but I also need time to turn off all those distractions and sit quietly with Talulah Jones, because really, it’s all about her.

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