ESSAY — Balls

Image: leftofurban

To write, you gotta have balls.

And to write a lot, and thusly write well, you gotta have really big ones; balls so preposterously enormous they virtually drag on the ground

You gotta have balls big enough to say, “I’m gonna put my damned life on hold, and the lives of those around me, and do little more than write.”

You need balls to say this kind of thing. Of course, I’m talking about metaphoric balls, fictitious testicles; the kind that, if you have them, mean you have heart. Or guts. Or sheer determination. Or even, a reckless nerve of sorts, the kind that leads you to chase the bull out of the field; or to punch that bad guy right in the face; to leap before you look, to do something with little regard for the consequences. In short, balls.

I would argue that to write, you gotta have all these things – heart, guts, and determination. And yeah, you need the short-sightedness to jump in head first and worry about the consequences later.

Writing itself is pretty simple; its requirements are few. A clear head, a device to write with (a laptop in my case), and time to think.

And I see that’s why female writers have historically been in short supply; even today women face tremendous challenges in writing, or heck, really doing anything in a traditionally male-dominated field.

Not always for a lack (of fictitious) balls; but for other reasons. Like time to think. Time to develop their craft.

Good ol’ Virginia Woolf would advocate for a room of one’s own and a comfortable trust fund; but she did not anticipate (in the Victorian ages of servants and cooks) that today’s woman must really do everything. Herself.

The modern woman with a family – I’m talking to you (and, me as well) – is under tremendous pressure. Sure, your spouse or partner might step in, or you might be able to hire someone, but the organizing and scheduling remains your own.

And if you have children, you are pulled in a million little pieces throughout the day, trying to put out fires and take care of everyone else. By the time your allocated writing block comes along, you have nothing left. You’ve given it all away.

I think of “Gone with the Wind”, where Mrs. Tarleton, a renowned horse breeder and rider, spends her days with her mare saddled and waiting while she herself goes about overseeing the plantation, directing servants and family members all while wearing her riding habit. For, she originally intended to go riding.

But her day, and many like that, got away from her. She was busy taking care of others, and lost the opportunity to put herself first.

And that’s a damned shame.

So let’s go back to the notion of balls; phantom testicles so gigantic they require your pants to be three sizes larger, or you simply don’t wear pants at all and hide them under a skirt.

If Mrs. Tarleton had enormous balls (I’m not saying she didn’t have any, just that they weren’t big enough) she would’ve told all the servants and family members to take a flying leap, that they had care of themselves, for at that very minute she was going out riding. And they could deal with life without her for a while.

For a woman to truly excel in anything (writing, the Arts, hockey, dentistry – whatever) balls are the underlying issue. Or a lack thereof. Or having balls enough to say screw all you people, I’m doing the things I want to do (in the writer’s case, shutting the door and actually writing) while the rest of the world carries on without me.

And for many women, it can be hard to put themselves first; I guess it really all does come down to having big enough balls.


NOTE: This essay originally appeared in Twisted Sister lit mag and was written in about 2015 with a sleeping toddler on my lap after I got into a fight with my husband over his need to step up around the house so I could get some writing done. So, yeah, it’s real. And honestly, not much has changed. But what carries me through is the fact that I have fucking huge balls.

For more on Women and Writing check out the very fantastic Facebook group Moms Who Write, or any Instagram #momswhowrite and you’ll see women cleaning toilets, changing diapers, and writing novels — because honey, it’s real af. For another essay about women and writing on this blog, check out the soon to be released Balls, Revisited. Again.

EXCERPT — Sleeping Beauty and True Love’s Kiss

This is part of one of my Fractured Fairy Tales (a series of short stories available on Channillo) I describe the series on this site over here.

Sleeping Beauty and True Love’s Kiss

Once upon a time, in a land far away, a baby girl was born, and not just any baby girl, but a princess to a loving king and queen. They named her Aurora.

So proud they were of their new daughter, that at her christening, the king and queen invited all folk in the land, including a contingent of fairies. The fairies happily bestowed charming gifts upon her, things deemed important to all princesses such as grace, beauty, and a pleasant voice, not actually anything a baby could actually use such as a teething ring or rattle, or a trust fund for her continued pursuit in higher education.

Now one fairy, considered to be slightly on the evil side, thought outside the box for gift giving ideas, and gave the princess a truly one of a kind present – a spell proclaiming that upon her sixteenth birthday, Aurora would prick her finger on a spinning wheel, and fall asleep until her true love’s kiss might awaken her.

And, in a nod to the highly paternalist culture and repressive society she lived in, rather than exploring the local dating scene when she might experience true love’s kiss, Aurora would remain asleep in a locked-up tower, high above the world and entombed in an enormous phallic shape, where her true love would have no chance in hell to find her.

End of excerpt — for more, be sure to check out Fractured Fairy Tales on Channillo

And my paranormal novella Lot 149 is still featured on Channillo a great, late night read. (Click here for more on Lot 149 on this site.)

Check out Lot 149 and other great reads on Channillo

Check out Lot 149 and other great reads on Channillo

Writers and Social Media


Image - leftofurban

Image – leftofurban

Writers and Social Media

This is a contentious topic – all the social media gurus out there are telling you to promote yourself, to network, and keep sending your message out there, ‘cuz it helps develop your brand identity and sooner or later somebody’s gonna listen.

And, as a writer, you are a brand, and the work you create is a product.

Which is fine, but how do you make sure it gets read by somebody?

Personally, I like WordPress for the internal promotion through using tags and categories, it helps my posts reach a targeted audience – you folks out there who are at least interested in the same things as me, unlike sending stuff into the abyss of verbiage that is Twitter, or me spending years cultivating relationships on Facebook.

But you get superficial followers, the kind of ‘you like me, so I like you back, but you don’t engage with my work’ kind of thing. Before you get offended, don’t worry, I don’t take this stuff personally. Nobody has time to deal with the avalanche of text that is produced daily online. Everyone has to be selective.

The problem is the market is glutted – everyone lives in a time of too busy, too much to do, so reading stray fictitious pieces tends to fall by the wayside. So how do you ‘sell’ your work? (I use that term loosely — even giving it away is hard enough, how do you get any kind of readership?)

As a copywriter (someone who writes content for advertisements or the web) I know the importance of writing for your audience. Great copy reads like a personal letter to the person, maybe not the ‘Dear Jane’ pretentiousness, but you walk through your reader’s mind, understand their fears, their worries, their hang ups, and you write for them. As a unique person.

Not as a demographic.

Seriously, in a failed ad campaign, I’ve had clients describe their prospective customers as ‘wears an iWatch and drives a BMW’ without a sense of the person behind the product. So what problems does their product solve for this customer? How the heck can you sell it to them?

This is the fundamental problem of advertising – how can your product solve a need (either real or socially created) that your prospective customer faces? You figure this out, and communicate it in a way that the customer understands, and BLAMO! you have a sale. (Or, at least are that much closer to selling.)

Which is fine for copywriting, but what about fiction?

Well, I’m sure you could find a hot market (*cough* gay male erotica *cough*) but what if you just want to write what you want, and push things the way you believe they should be pushed and tell the story in the best way you know how?

You just do it. (To borrow an advertising slogan 😉

Great, but what if nobody’s reading it?

You could shelve it, and say, fine, then I’m going to write some gay male erotica for South Asian markets (seriously). Or, you could send stuff out to various lit mags (hello, Twisted Sister) and hope for the best. At least, you might connect with like minded people.

Which brings me back to this whole premise of writers and social media. What is the point of being on social media (aka the great time waster) if you’re not cultivating relationships?’

(Note: a relationship is more than just a ‘follow’ or a ‘like,’ a relationship is something that friends or coworkers have, where two people are interconnected and have ongoing discussions, and the time spent together is seen as mutually beneficial.)

This leaves your ‘please RT’ requests falling flat.

So why the heck are you on social media?

To connect with people who might read your work, or share your work, but –

Due to the nature of the glutted market, any sharing or interaction is minimal. So, you are engaging in relatively superficial interactions, with no return on investment (ROI); which means you’re working hard, but not getting anywhere.

Now, the internet does make the world a small place, but –

I suggest you start smaller. Like right in your own backyard.

Go to your local literacy festivals, library events, book launches, and writing workshops. Heck, hang out at your local indie bookstore for a while, you’re bound to meet someone, and when they ask what you do, you can say, ‘I’m a writer…” and all kinds of doors will open.

In my tiny backwoods corner of the universe, there’s been a literacy festival within driving distance for three weekends in a row. That’s one every weekend, in case you missed the math.

What do you do at these events?

Talk to people. (Yes, walk up to them and talk in real life.) Ask them what they read (or write). Ask about real-life writing groups. You’d be surprised at the points of connections. I now own a stack of books by local authors (some indie, some conventionally published) that I’m dying to get into. I’ve discovered new tiny publishing houses, fantastic authors, and some great writing.

But guess what? Those authors (and the publishing houses) benefit too. I buy their stuff (they get my money, as opposed to a big box store that doesn’t need it), and I’ll probably buy from those folks again in the future, or figure out a way to connect online, and keep the relationship going.

This my friends, is what social networking is about – establishing connections, mutual benefits, and brand loyalty. (When I want noire from Northern Ontario, I need look no further than Latitude 46 Publishing. Truly. They have great stuff there.)

OK, so what else do you do at these events?

Listen. Listen to authors read, listen to them talk about the craft of writing. Listen to other people talk about their favorite books and writers, it may open a whole new door for you.

In the case of workshops, it’s even better, because you usually get to read each other’s work, and grow from a critique standpoint, so again, it’s win-win. I often leave these workshops with various emails and contacts for other writers and we might swap manuscripts and continue to critique each other’s work; or, at least I have another friend in the field, someone to tell me about upcoming events and items of interest.

You need to join. Join in conversations, in discussions, even if someone’s great-grandmother’s memoir project doesn’t turn your post-apocalyptic dystopian crank, you can learn from them, as they will learn from you. Relationships are, about being mutually beneficial. It’s win-win.

Before you get all up in arms, let me explain. Go back to the basics of copywriting – know your potential customer. In the writer’s case, it’s folks who read and enjoy books. (The literary festival, library or bookstore in their natural habitat.) Added bonus if they are writers as well. So, go where these #amwriting peeps hang out in real life, to cultivate real relationships.

And (hopefully) through these relationships, your work will find an audience, a critical eye,, and you both will grow through the process.

Which brings us to the final point of this – the craft of writing in itself. (Or did you forget about that as we’re talking social networking?)

The time spent on social media (and promoting your product) is far less valuable then the time spent actually writing (and creating great products).

Think about it – time on Twitter or Facebook means time lost for writing, with no real benefit to interaction.

(It might be fun, but there’s little to no ROI – you’re in the hole, mathematically speaking.)

Now, I’m not saying be a social media hermit (although I know many writers who are, and simply focus on writing instead, arguing that 500 words on a blog post could have easily been 500 words on a draft); but, be selective. Yes, you’ll find signs of me over on Facebook and traces of me on Twitter @lizmcadams753), but I’d rather spend my time actually writing, not tweeting about writing.

So that leads me to practice. This means turn off all distractions (especially social media) and write.

And that’s what I’m doing.

~ Liz