Thinking, processing, pondering, planning

“Nobody who says, ‘I told you so’ has ever been, or will ever be, a hero.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Language of the Night

“And then.
“The great connective, the thread that binds the patchwork fabric of stories. And then this happen. And then that. One thing after another, until the end of the story. And then it stops. And then everything stays the same forever and ever, because a story once told is unchanging, everlasting. Imprisoned in amber.
“As if like was like that …”
― Richard Grant, Rumors of Spring

“What exactly are you here for?”
“To see with eyes unclouded by hate.”
― Hayao Miyazaki, Princess Mononoke

“Well, what is it?” I cried. “What is his crime?”
“Cruelty,” whispered Snout.
I felt my stomach tighten. “Cruelty?” I asked, wondering if I had heard right.
“In the civilized galaxy, cruelty is the greatest of all crimes,” said Madame Pong. “Of course, life always involves some suffering, and there are times when painful things must be done for life to continue. But an intelligent being who takes pleasure in causing pain to others–well, such an individual is considered dangerously bent.”
“You must understand,” said Tar Gibbons, “that empathy is the heart of civilization.”
“Empathy?”
“The ability to understand what another feels,” said Snout. “It is the trait that lifts us above the animals.”
― Bruce Coville, Aliens Ate My Homework


Wednesday morning inspiration and comfort

“Into the woods,
It’s always when
You think at last
You’re through, and then
Into the woods you go again
To take another journey.”
―Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods

“And for adults, the world of fantasy books returns to us the great words of power which, in order to be tamed, we have excised from our adult vocabularies. These words are the pornography of innocence, words which adults no longer use with other adults, and so we laugh at them and consign them to the nursery, fear masking as cynicism. These are the words that were forged in the earth, air, fire, and water of human existence, and the words are:
Love. Hate. Good. Evil. Courage. Honor. Truth.”
―Jane Yolen, Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood

“This is. And thou art. There is no safety. There is no end. The word must be heard in silence. There must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore

“Now you’re on your own
Only me beside you
Still, you’re not alone
No one is alone
Truly
No one is alone …
You move just a finger,
Say the slightest word,
Something’s bound to linger
Be heard
No one acts alone.”
―Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods

“There’s lots of kinds of chains. You can’t see most of them, the ones that bind folks together. But people build them, link by link. Sometimes the links are weak, snap like this one did. That’s another funny thing, now that I think of it. Sometimes when you mend a chain, the place where you fix it is strongest of all.”
― Bruce Coville, Into the Land of the Unicorns

“This is our world. Aye, there’s more than enough of darkness in it. But over everything there’s all this joy, Kit. There’s all this lovely, lovely light.”
― David Almond, Kit’s Wilderness


The antidote to despair is doing something

I can’t remember when I decided I couldn’t handle being politically engaged anymore.

Maybe it was around the time I watched the 2000 presidential election be decided by a Supreme Court decision because the nation simply wasn’t patient enough to wait for a recount to happen. Maybe it was in 2001 when I watched the winner of that election squander the sympathy and goodwill our nation had after 9/11 and turn it into an excuse to attack and kill the citizens of a country that had nothing to do with those attacks. Maybe it was more personal, the result of various personal challenges in the years that followed that left me feeling overwhelmed and unable to deal with hard news in the larger world.

Whatever the reason, I tuned out a lot in those years, focusing on my writing and on a few hours a week of local volunteer work in my own community, ignoring the helpless feeling I felt in the face of larger events. I figured I was at least doing something to make the world a little better, which was true enough. It would have to be enough.

That helpless feeling felt pretty familiar by the current presidential election. I hunkered down, listened to only as much news as I could bear, and prepared to cast my vote, locally and nationally, even as I grew more and more anxious–anxious about the level of hate and anger I was seeing; anxious about the way the republican presidential candidate’s policies would hurt loved ones who were part of the many groups that candidate attacked; anxious at the thought of someone who didn’t seem to understand basic constitutional protections, who lacked the impulse control to avoid angry tweeting at 3 a.m., gaining access to nuclear codes.

At the same time, I came to respect the democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, more and more, not agreeing with her on everything, but respecting much of the work she’d done domestically and abroad; respecting her extensive experience, knowledge, and willingness to do her homework, to listen and learn and change; respecting the restraint in the face of attack that meant that while I still disagreed with much of her approach to foreign policy, she would be someone I could trust with those nuclear codes, because she wouldn’t be making decisions on a whim when someone insulted her, or in a fit of anger in the middle of the night.

I found myself feeling actively excited about her candidacy, but as the polls tightened, my feelings of concern and anxiety and outright fear for what the future might look like grew. I alternately tried to ignore the news and read it obsessively online.

Then one day last week while I was trying to set that anxiety aside and focus on my writing, it hit me: if I really believed the fate of my country and the world was at stake, why was I being so passive about it? A few not-writing days wouldn’t destroy my career–and I lived in Arizona, which for once was a swing state. There had to be something I could do, even in these last few days. Everything else could wait.

I spent a couple mornings making phone calls. Then this weekend I joined the Get Out the Vote effort and began knocking on doors. I did both these things with some trepidation. Talking to complete strangers was a bit outside my comfort zone, and I feared I would only become more anxious and scared if I did it.

That didn’t happen.

Not only was talking to people easier than I feared, not only did I have some great conversations with would-be voters, but the more I did, the more my anxiety went down. I no longer felt depressed and hopeless. I felt actively hopeful. I was doing something.

Maybe that would make a small difference. Lots of people were doing something. Maybe all those small differences would add up to a big difference.

After a while, I was even having fun. I felt … optimistic. It’d been a long time since I’d felt this way.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, though I know what I’m hoping for–hoping so hard for, for the sake of us all.

But whatever happens, I no longer feel despair. I do feel like after tomorrow, I’ll know the shape of the next fight I need to play my own small part in.

I’m feel like I’m ready to start fighting again, and I’m hopeful I can hold on to that feeling this time.

I can’t do everything. I can’t change everything. But I can do something.

Doing What You Love: An Ebook

I’m thrilled to announce the release of the second book in my Writing Life series, Doing What You Love. Based on one of my most popular talks, this inspiring ebook takes a look at the things I’ve learned through the years about living a creative life. While the focus is writing, it also applies to other creative fields. Here are the details!


Write More and Worry Less

Write more and worry less! Move your writing and your passion from the edges to the center of your life as you discover:

• Why writing isn’t all about “talent”

• The value of taking creative risks

• How to embrace imperfection

• Ways to manage doubts and put setbacks in perspective

• Reasons to let your fear—and your joy—take the lead

• The myth of that one big break

• How to choose which advice to listen to—and which to discard

• The power of writing without apologies

• Why following your creative passion may be the most practical thing you can do

Acclaimed author Janni Lee Simner has spent the past quarter century writing books, short stories, interactive fiction, and nonfiction for teens, children, and adults. In Doing What You Love she shares down-to-earth strategies for how to get started—and how to keep going—living a creative life.

Doing What You Love is available wherever ebooks are sold! Order your copy now from:

Kobo and their independent bookstore partners
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Apple
Smashwords


New to the Writing Life Series? Order Doing What You Love and Finding Your Sense of Place together and I’ll send you a free e-copy of my creepy short story “Drawing the Moon!” Just forward a screenshot or copy of your receipt to janni@simner.com before the end of July.

A Creative Conversation about Career Cycles

I had an amazing Creative Conversation with Janet Lee Carey about Career Cycles this week, where we talked about many of the things we often hesitate to discuss as writers:

At some point, it also hit me that there were no guarantees as a writer and that success wasn’t as simple as just being intense enough or doing any other one right thing. Anything I wrote could ultimately sell or not sell, find its audience or not find it. I had less control than I’d thought—and that was oddly freeing. If there were no guarantees anyway, I realized I might as well just write what I loved.

And:

Support, just knowing we’re not alone with the ups and downs, that we’re not the only ones to invent and reinvent ourselves, is huge. We’re so afraid of admitting to struggles, of being seen as less than perfect. Again, it’s like if others detect weakness, they’ll realize we don’t belong, and somehow magically kick us out of this writing world. But no one can make us stop writing, and no one person controls the whole writing-verse anyway. It doesn’t work that way.

There’s a lot more–check out the conversation here! (And, along the way, enter to win a copy of the Bones of Faerie trilogy.)


Want to talk about writing in person? I’ll be at the Pima County Public Library’s Megamania event Saturday, July 9.

Kidlit for Kidlits panel
With Aprilynne Pike, Adam Rex, and Janni Lee Simner

When: Saturday, July 9, 3:45-4:45 p.m.
Where: Pima Community College Downtown Campus,
1255 North Stone Avenue
Tucson, Arizona

Megamania is essentially a mini-comicon run by the library. The full event runs from 1-6 p.m. and is completely free

Catch me at the Tucson Eastside Barnes and Noble Saturday, plus Library and Huntsman game news

Hope you’re all having a good summer!

I finished my residency at the Pima County Public Library at the end of May. Before leaving entirely, I blogged about my time there: Libraries remain a place of refuge.

Some writers came to me nervous about sharing their work and writing hopes. Others brimmed over with enthusiasm and the desire to discuss their projects. But every writer who came to me felt they had something precious inside them that they wanted to share …

If you missed me at the library, this Saturday (June 11) I’ll be at the B-Fest Teen Book Festival at Tucson’s eastside Barnes and Noble. Catch me there for a signing at 4:30 and a panel discussion on getting your book published at 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, the final two chapters of The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse are out, and the game has been getting good reviews. Here’s an article about the game in the Arizona Daily Star: ‘Huntsman’ tie-in a hit for Tucson game studio.

“I enjoyed how we were all working at the same time. I’d be there writing the story as the art is being created and the game design is being worked on and the programing is happening, and all those pieces would influence each other,” she [Simner] said.

Until next time, stay cool, keep writing, keep reading, and keep dreaming!

You don’t have to

You don’t have to write fast
You don’t have to write slow
You don’t have to go in with a plan
You don’t have to outline
You don’t have to wait
     for the story to say where it wants to go

You don’t have to write what they tell you to write
You don’t have to learn all the rules
You don’t have to be commercial
You don’t have to be literary
You don’t have to get five star reviews

You don’t need a platform
You don’t need a brand
You don’t need a social media presence
You don’t need to be silent
     or keep your opinions to yourself

You don’t have to be like everyone else
You don’t have to be like that bestselling, award-winning author you admire
You don’t have to write short
You don’t have to write long
You don’t have to write blog posts
     that claim to claim to have all the answers

You don’t have to be perfect
You don’t have to do all the things
You don’t have to do any one thing

You just have to tell your stories
     your stories
     your stories
The ones no else can
The way no one else can
That’s all
That’s all
That’s all

Two Free Things–a Game and a Workshop

The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse

The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse is now available on PC and Mac–and the first chapter is free! I worked as scriptwriter on this game with Desert Owl Games. Download your copy of Book 1 here and give it a try.

The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse is set in the universe of NBCUniversal’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War, which hit theaters this week.


Finding Your Sense of Place–Bringing Your Characters to Life

When: Saturday, May 14, 1-3 p.m.
Where: Children’s Meeting Room, Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Tucson
(Although this workshop meets in the children’s room, it is aimed at adults and teens.)

Use setting and description to bring your characters to life and increase the emotional impact of your stories! Setting is about much more than providing a few scene-setting details and moving on. Discover why the descriptions that seem to get in the way of your stories are actually the most powerful tools you have to bring characters to life and make readers care about their stories.

This workshop is available free for the first time thanks to the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records’ Writer-in-Residence program and the Pima County Public Library.