Friday, July 31, 2009

I have a writing hierarchy in terms of how I'd like to some day earn a living with this writing business:

1. Writing fiction and poetry.

2. Writing commercial non-fiction.

3. Writing copy for advertising.

I've spent most of my time so far focusing on my fiction. But lately I've been thinking a lot about what happens when I transition out of my current day job (in a few years). Handsome and I would like to work out a way for me to stay home with our kids without completely leaving the job market. I'm working on a second day job, but finally it occurred to me that the most logical thing would be to do what I want the most -- to write.

But getting to a point where I could make this into a day job... oy. I feel so overwhelmed by the idea of trying to pursue this seriously... not just the dream of selling my novels, but the idea of writing historical articles and women's health shorts and even, if it pays the mortgage, ad copy. Man, I am really struggling just to refine the query for that piece on the Rabbits of Ravensbruck that I described in the post below. This is hard frickin' work!

But then, I guess even the dream job ends up being work, in the end. :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's time to switch it up and start writing non-fiction queries.

I've decided to try and branch out to write about some of my non-fiction interests as well. I have been reading books and thinking about all three for a few years now, and tried two years ago to start my own ad-writing business, but that quickly went onto the back burner when I decided to start graduate school instead. But what the heck... you can always find some extra time to write. Right? That's our theme around here.

So today, since I was organizing files anyway, I flipped through my non-fiction writing from college. I did my undergrad in History, and my special interest was the plight of Polish Catholic women during WW2 (an interest that stems from the fact that the Polish side of my family all disappeared in WW2... the American emigrant side was never able to contact them again). I am currently struggling with a proposal on the "Rabbits of Ravensbruck" for a WW2 history magazine. Does this sound interesting to you?

When Wanda Poltawska regained consciousness in the Ravensbruck hospital after her first operation in 1942, her leg was in a cast. Written on the plaster was the Roman numeral “II”. She and the other five women in the room compared their casts; two of them had “I”, two “II”, and two “III”. They were mystified. They were relatively healthy (except for malnutrition) and had no need for surgery. They hadn’t been told why or how their operations were being conducted. They had no way of knowing that the numerals signified what material had been introduced into incisions in their legs to bring about infection: I was fragments of wood, II glass splinters, and III a combination of both.

These women were all Polish-Catholic political prisoners held in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Without trial, they had been sentenced to long and painful deaths as the victims of Nazi medical experiments, on treating battlefield wounds with sulfanilamide medications. Some would succumb to their wounds and some would be executed; some survived to tell their story at the Nuremberg trials of the medical staff. These women refused to be willing victims of the Nazis and struggled to protect each other and to expose their miseries at the camp hospital to the world. But have the “rabbits” (their joking way of referring to themselves as guinea pigs) of Ravensbruck been forgotten?

I am prepared to write a short article of 2500-3000 words on the 74 women who resisted medical victimization at the hands of the Nazis. Although this is a small group, they have an intriguing story. These women protested their treatment to the camp leadership, knowing it would be futile but hoping to take a stand; they passed information about their condition outside the camp, where word of medical abuses eventually reached the Allies; and they were dedicated to ensuring there was at least one survivor to tell their story after the war. Their spokeswoman told the camp commandant that, “as political prisoners they all preferred execution to operations”.

The other members of the Ravensbruck concentration camp did their best to shelter the “rabbits” and to hide them in the final days, as the war came to a close and the doctors sought to destroy the evidence of their inhumanity. These efforts included a female Russian electrician cutting the power in the midst of roll call so that the injured prisoners could be relocated and hidden. Finally, in 1946, four survivors testified against the three members of their medical staff held responsible: Doctors Gebhard and Fischer, and the female Doctor Oberheuser. The two male doctors were both condemned to death by hanging; Gebhart claimed his sentence was unjust, but Fischer, visibly shaken by the testimony against him, said at the end of his trial, ““I would have liked to stand up and say, hang me immediately. I am finished.”

Man, I feel like this should be shorter, but I have so much to say about these women! They truly took a heroic stand in the face of terrible mistreatment and death.

But then again, that's why I'm struggling with this query.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It is poetry!

I'm excited right now and I just had to share with you guys. I'm on a layover right now (enjoying the free wi-fi in the very nice Denver airport), and I just had a very successful cross-country flight: I finished the Jodi Picoult novel I was reading (not my favorite), outlined the solution for a group project for my class, and... wrote some poetry!

This might not sound too exciting, but I haven't written poetry in years. Seriously. Since 2006 -- I've had poems published more recently than I've written one. I just have not felt poetically inspired and, when I tried anyway, it was TERRIBLE. Really, is there anything worse than a bad poem? I blamed it on my current state of happiness, since most of my poetry came from a well of adolescent angst and unrequited love (yes, it was that kind of poetry).

I'm not saying anything I wrote today is genius, but... it's definitely a start. And I'm happy - with my life and with having some poetry in it again... if not with domestic airline travel (it's for business, nothing exciting... and they're making me fly on a Sunday. Poop).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I've never been a big fan of e-publishing. In fact, I've traditionally shied away from publishing in electronic magazines, preferring the respectability a printed and bound document seems to convey.

But the magic of the iPhone is changing my mind.

It all started when I first browsed through free applications. And - oh, look, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I'd like to read the Fitzgerald original, having seen the movie. And a Children's Books app, free to download - Peter Pan and the Jungle Book at my fingertips? I had to have that one.

From there, I was on a crusade to find all the free books I could. I downloaded Stanza to my iPhone, and from there accessed the online catalog. And there were many books by established authors, and also new works by emerging artists. I read P.J. Lyon's short story, I Burn Today, and I was hooked on discovering new authors who had released free books.

And I am starting to change my mind. Because here's the thing -- I've always believed in the somewhat hackneyed saying that "Information wants to be free". Watching the music industry fail to adjust to changing technology, trying instead to haul us back into the dark ages so they can keep selling CDs at $18 a pop, I've been convinced that the answer was to make tracks available for free and allow people to choose to support the artists. I know I'll happily pay for tracks off iTunes or buy CDs or concert tickets to support a musician once I've fallen in love with him or her (which only happens if I try it for free, one way or another).

So maybe writing is the same thing. Maybe what matters most is getting the story out there that needs to be told. And then all the other stuff - the money part - will work itself out in the long run.

Maybe that's naieve. But I have stories I want to tell.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day to my fellow American blog-followers. :)

This is a busy weekend for me -- we put an offer in on a house yesterday (we'll see what happens-- cross your fingers for us!), we have big plans for tonight, watching the D.C. fireworks from a cute rooftop restaurant, and Monday is my birthday. But while I am excited for everything going on this weekend, I find I'm also excited for my quiet Sunday plans. Handsome needs to do some work on a project for work, so I'm going to get my nails done, then try out a new indie coffee shop (love the non-chains) and do some writing. In the midst of all this craziness, this seems like quite a treat!

Anyway, I'm out... I have a cookout to prepare for. Have a great weekend! And make some time to write! :)