Good Enough

“Good enough,” is what I tell myself right before submitting a tricky paper, clicking send on a delicate email, filing my taxes, or sending a short story out to a publisher. It’s always a cheerfully deviant moment where I’ve given myself permission to just stop worrying about something and boldly send it out in the world. It’s a moment followed by a long shower, a stiff drink, a bowl of mac n cheese, or whatever my comfort activity of the era is.

Then about fifteen minutes later there’s usually a total panic in which I bemoan my actions and frantically try to think of a way to recall whatever word bullet I just fired. But by then it’s too late and after tearing through the whole Kübler-Ross framework, I repeat my comfort action of choice and eventually, finally go to bed.

I just can’t get there with my current project. It was supposed to be a short story. Then I found myself googling “novelette publishing markets.” Then I blew through that length and got really into the idea of writing a novella. The word count range 20-40K felt roomy enough to accommodate the story without being a stressor. And now here I am at 48K, which according to my “short novel okay?” “lowest word count publishable” and “query 50000 words” searches is unacceptable. I need to find at least another 12,000 words in this story.

I know they’re there. This narrative spans about twenty years, so it’s not like I can’t find some spots to dig deeper. Every time I get to the end (and, weirdly for something I’m having this much trouble finishing, it does have a complete plot!), I can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to the story and I need just one more developmental round to coax it out onto the page.

That’s fine, it’s just driving me bonkers. I’ve spent about three quarters of a year truly believing that it’s one final spit-and-polish edit away from being cheerfully good enough. It’s starting to feel like I’m approaching some sort of event horizon where I’m infinitely one more edit away from finishing the thing.

And of course my protagonist’s Achilles heel and internal motivation is a persistent feeling that she’s just not good enough. So at least that’s easy to write?

At least I can blithely click Publish on this subpar post without too much handwringing.

2018: The First Year of the Rest of My Life (or Something)

2018 was a big year for me. I went from having zero publication credits to three in a really short space of time – one for a first chapter contest I’d made the short list for in 2016, one hand-to-god pro sale, and one hand-to-god invitation to contribute. Spring 2018 felt like a lifechanging moment for me.

It was. I’m incredibly proud of those three stories of mine out there for total strangers’ eyeballs. Buuuuuuuuuuuut I made the mistake of thinking that I Had Arrived and had somehow cut to the front of the line, skipping all that rejection business.

Ha. Haha. Ha.



This is part of an assignment I wrote for Gemma Files’ Litreactor course, also known as Installment 3 of “Anne Picks Horror Writers Who Are Dedicated and Wildly Supportive Teachers and Also Wonderful Humans,” after Brad Carter and Stephen Graham Jones – two other professional writers I greatly admire who gave me some kickass guidance.

We were asked to really drill down into three to five moments in our lives in which we were genuinely afraid. This was the fear that I wound up working with for my story, which has since jumped right on over the reasonable word count of a short story and is barreling toward being a full-on novella. 

It’s been an odd couple of months in which I’ve spent most of my free time either working on the story or watching Youtube videos of ballet dancers and tornadoes (both for story purposes). I hope I’ll be able to point you toward that finished piece soon, and that I’m not jinxing it by sharing its seed.

Anyway, here’s the fear.

I spent a good chunk of elementary school convinced I would die in a tornado. It seemed impossible that those things could exist in the world and not destroy me, or at the very least my house. I also have a very specific memory of being confused by the closed captioning icon that would flash in the upper right corner of the TV screen when a show came back from commercial, which I’d somehow convinced myself was a symbol for “tornado watch.” 

This wasn’t exactly a rational fear – the climate I grew up in did occasionally produce tornadoes, but I was in a mountain town tucked up in the Ozarks (in a house with a perfectly sound finished basement, no less), not a farmhouse out in the middle of the Kansas or Oklahoma prairie. We did get lots of thunderstorms, though, and when the Weather Channel told me to watch for tornadoes, I was on. the. case.  

I remember Mom packing us all downstairs – my brother and sister, the dog, and whatever cats we could round up. I also remember the sirens going off once or twice. That sound and the feeling it gave me are what jumped into my mind at the third blast of the Night’s Watch horn in A Song of Ice and Fire – the thing I always knew was lurking out there had finally arrived, and this was not a drill. 

A few years ago, I saw the aftermath of the 2014 Vilonia tornado in central Arkansas where it had crossed I-40. It looked like a giant monster had stomped through the area. Crazy angles in the metal guiderails, trees stripped, crumpled like toothpicks, thrown all around the place, billboards and heaps of sheet metal lying around liked used Kleenexes. But the thing that was somehow even more upsetting about it was that it was such a short diameter of destruction. Maybe a half mile or so. Its path was so incredibly well-defined – a strip of the world torn off revealing absolute chaos underneath.  

When my reptile brain tries to conceive of something touching the cloud-level sky and the ground at the same time, it feels like grabbing some kind of mental third rail. It’s just so cosmically awful. Lightning bolts trip that wire too, but at least lightning is brief. Tornadoes hang out and move around, in unpredictable directions. And they’re not really made of anything except motion. They’re such a perfect kinetic symbol of how completely out-of-control the world is, and how little bargaining power we have with our own fates.   

I don’t panic about tornadoes anymore, but it doesn’t take much climate change science reading at all to make me sick to my stomach.  

Here’s my favorite Youtube tornado (no one gets hurt). 

How I ‘Became a Writer,’ or alternatively, Buckets of Unicorns

How I ‘Became a Writer,’ or alternatively, Buckets of Unicorns

I decided to be a professional writer in kindergarten. Inspired by the Whisper the Winged Unicorn series, my best buddy and I made a pact to produce books of interest to both kids and adults. I would be responsible for the words and she for the illustrations. At the time, the pictures were the much more salient portion, and I remember feeling grumpy about being stuck on serif duty. But you couldn’t have a book without words, and she was the better artist, so I went along with it.

Whisper the Winged Unicorn combined the two most desirable traits of my My Little Ponies (favorites here and here and here and here). Who knew what other worlds could be imagined in a universe of such infinite possibility?

So, yeah, writer, speculative fiction, early on. Settled.