Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Burning the Midnight Oil Revisited: A look at how writing parents are still burning that midnight oil

Many years ago, when I was working as a freelance writer, I hit upon an idea: Why not interview other writing parents to see how they manage to balance a writing career with the demands of parenting? I got that idea sometime after my first child was born and I read in an author’s acknowledgments about how he’d spend time working on his novel while his children took naps. Having been in the trenches myself, I got to experience just what it was like to be a writing parent! Gone were the days I could sit at a table and blissfully write for hours without interruption. Meeting my deadlines was starting to get tricky as I battled exhaustion and/or sick days (either me or my baby being sick), and I really had to learn how to manage my time better in order to keep up with my assignments. So I really wanted to know how other writers out there were managing it.

Fortunately, I was able to write – and sell – these interviews to the Write From Home website. I eventually interviewed many other writing parents (including Kim Wilson, who owned Write From Home) and included those interviews in my book, BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL: How We Survive as Writing Parents. This book was published by Booklocker – and I even interviewed Angela Hoy (who co-owns Booklocker) for the book!

As I worked on that book, though, I got to see just how many writing parents there are out there. I decided to do a second volume – though my journey there wasn’t an easy one!

Sometime after I started interviewing writing parents for the second book, we had major computer problems. Somehow or another, the entire folder containing ALL of my interviews for Book 2 was lost. I was devastated! I had all of those interviews and had all of the contacts in that folder and it was all gone! Getting that information from the email account I used for this purpose wasn’t possible, either – because that account had been deleted by the email account provider! (I don’t use that email provider anymore. Gmail all the way!)

I was forced to accept this disaster and move on. I wasn’t happy about it, but there was nothing I could do to fix it. My plans to get this second book put together were finished.

Fast forward several months down the road. I was poking around on the computer’s hard drive one day, getting files sorted and everything organized. I came upon a mysterious folder and decided to open it.

Lo and behold, there were all of my interviews for Book 2! Not only this, but I also found my list of contacts for the interviewees, as well. Yay!

I contacted everyone I had not been in touch with for so long (I think it was 2 years, at this point!) and let them know what had happened. Almost all of them were excited about this book being a go again – one of them, however, ended up backing up so I had to remove her from my list. I also contacted some NEW people to include in this book and was excited that they agreed to be in this book, too. Everything was coming together again! Hurray!

I got back to work on this book and, eventually, finished it up.

The next thing I did was work on getting it to a publisher. My publisher Gypsy Shadow was interested in the book and so I sent it to them. They accepted the book – and suggested I give it a title change so that it would not be confused with the first book. So BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL: How We survive as Writing Parents, Volume 2, became Burning the Midnight Oil Revisited.

Burning the Midnight Oil Revisited was published at the end of October. I was so thrilled to finally see this book get published! Yay! The book contains interviews with 27 writing parents as well as 9 essays I wrote about being a writing parent that were published in the BTMO Book Zine. There are also resources for writing parents included at the back of the book. 

I was really happy to finally reach the end of that journey and also that all of those people who invested their time to be interviewed by me for this book had not wasted their time for this after all. I was also happy to get the word out about these writers in the book.

Many thanks to the following writing parents for agreeing to be interviewed in Burning the Midnight Oil Revisited:

Maggie Ball
Frank Baron
Bettina Jenkins Bathe
Linda Carlson
Cheryl Dellasega
Michelle Dunn
Shanta Everington
Judith Fitzsimmons
Julie Fletcher
Lee-Ann Graff-Vinson
Jenn Greenleaf
Shanna Groves
Bill Jelen
M.L. John
Marie D. Jones
Mary Potter Kenyon
Tim Leffel
Mysti Linne
Steven Manchester
Dellani Oakes
Cathe Olson
Karen Putz
Mridu Khullar Relph
Gregory J. Rummo
Laya Saul
Kate Tenbeth
Tim Warneka

Thank you also to Denise Bartlett and Charlotte Holley of Gypsy Shadow Publishing.

I am very thrilled about this book being published and learned some good tips from some of the writing parents included in this book. My first child is a teenager now and I also have a young child and so I am still dividing my time between writing and parenting. These days, my writing career has taken a major shift, as I no longer have deadlines hovering over me and I will also soon be more active in publishing books instead of writing them, but I am still writing here and there so I can still relate to trying to find time to write while also being a good parent for my child. I hope this book will help other writing parents out there struggling to find balance, or perhaps they will be inspired to keep going just as these parents interviewed in this book have inspired me.

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

The joy of getting an acceptance after months of rejection

“You should submit your short stories.”

This particular suggestion from a writer friend caught my attention. At the beginning of the year, I challenged myself to write a short story every week of this year. When I decided to do this, I didn’t have any plans for the stories. I was just going to write them this year and then edit and revise them next year. Maybe send them out or maybe put a bunch of them into a short story collection – a book I have wanted to do for years. I never really decided on anything, though, and just kept writing them. (At this writing, I have 45 stories.) Then my friend made this suggestion and I seriously began to rethink just what I was going to do with these stories.

In the end, I decided, Why not? It’s better than letting them sit on the hard drive, collecting dust.

My friend sent a link to a newsletter that sends out calls for submissions to various anthologies and magazines, so I immediately signed up. I also signed up with other websites putting out calls for stories similar to the kind I was writing. Soon the submissions started going out … and soon the rejections started coming in. I sent out story after story, but none of them were accepted! Well, all except one – I had yet to receive a response on one particular short story I sent out. But I didn’t let it bother me. I figured they would get back to me about it when they were ready.

Still, I was getting rejections from left to right. “Not right for us,” said one rejection. “It doesn’t fit the guidelines for speculative fiction,” said another. It started to make me feel very depressed. Even when I submitted a short story that I was so certain would fit with a magazine or anthology, it was rejected. I began feeling very disheartened. This was especially true after one story was rejected four times!

This kind of experience was very different from the last round of short story submissions I sent out years ago. I submitted 7 stories to 7 different anthologies, and ALL of them were accepted on the first try. That was a pretty awesome experience. I have also submitted a couple of stories to two short story magazines and those were both accepted as well. So to go through this particular episode where my short stories were all being rejected, even more than once, was something very new for me.

It was also something I knew was a challenge to me as a writer.

Sure, it was a moment of humility when an editor rejected my submission because I have had so many other types of work – articles, essays, poems and books – accepted when I submitted them. I knew this was Life’s way of teaching me to be humble as a writer – even though I was not exactly going around saying “I’m the best writer in the world!” (Ha! Even Newsweek has rejected me.) But I also knew this experience was trying to teach me something else, although I could not figure out what that “something else” was.

After receiving yet another rejection on a short story, I had to ask myself if I was willing to continue with the submissions. Should I throw in the towel and give up? Was I no longer able to write a good short story? I had to think long and hard on what I wanted to do, and in the end, I knew exactly what I could not do. I couldn’t give up. It’s not in me to give up! I had to keep trying. I had to keep knocking on doors until one editor’s “no” finally became another editor’s “yes.”

So I buckled up and kept sending stories out.

In all, I submitted eight short stories. And of those, I STILL wasn’t getting a response on one particular submission! Did they have a “no response, no acceptance” kind of policy? Or did they lose my contact info?

I soon got my answer.

Today, I received a large envelope in the mail. When I pulled the papers inside of it out, it said “Book contract” at the top.

I was confused. I hadn’t submitted any book manuscripts lately. Where did this come from? My name wasn’t on the contract; had they sent it to me by mistake? I hadn’t submitted to this particular publisher, so I wasn’t sure what this was about.
I looked the contract over but it didn’t give any details in the body of the contract. Then I read the top again, where I found more information. It was an ANTHOLOGY contract, and I recognized the anthology title, too. It was an anthology I had submitted one of my short stories too! The same anthology I hadn’t heard from via email.


I was soo excited and exhilarated over this news. I have FINALLY received an acceptance! One of my short stories was FINALLY accepted for publication! YAY!!

And the best part is, it was the one and only place I had submitted this particular short story to. How cool is that??

I started running around the house, crying out excitedly as I clutched the contract to me. I was SO happy! I hugged my kids, who cheered right along with me, and I just fell on my knees and gave thanks. I was so very thrilled to finally receive an acceptance on my short story submission after months of getting rejections.

My short story is a horror story titled “The Writing on the Walls.” I was inspired to write this story when I was touring South Eugene High School with my daughter and I noticed various quotes on the walls. This inspired me to write a story about a school that is haunted by the former principal, who was a strict disciplinarian. In the story, my main character, a troubled teen, is transferred to this school after being expelled at another school. This school has a reputation for being strict and having tougher rules for students. My character has a hard time fitting in and following the rules so the ghostly principal sends his minions – former students who are now his ghost slaves – to go after him. He starts seeing writing on the walls and he learns just what happens to students who don’t follow the rules.

As I celebrated getting this story accepted for publication, I started to realize what this experience had been trying to teach me as a writer: Despite rejection, NEVER GIVE UP! Don’t ever, ever lose hope or give up when you are facing constant rejection. There is a home somewhere for your writing. You just have to keep sending your work out there to find it. Keep writing, keep submitting. And if you get rejections, submit some more! Don’t ever stop believing in yourself and your ability to write something that someone wants to publish. That someone is out there. I promise you they are out there. You just have to keep going and keep submitting. Don’t ever stop sending your writing out for publication. You WILL find a home for it.

I am so very grateful that I never gave up on my writing. I am grateful that I kept sending stories out, even when it looked like nobody wanted them. I am so glad I didn’t stop submitting my writing. To finally have an acceptance after so much rejection made it all worth it in the end. It was worth it to wait and it was worth it to keep trying. I am glad I didn’t give up! And to the other writers out there dealing with rejection: Don’t give up! Keep writing, keep submitting – and keep on believing that you will get an acceptance at some point. It WILL happen. Keep going!

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