Journaling: Notebooks

So, how is everyone doing? February feels like it’s three-months long, doesn’t it?

True to my decision to start posting here more often, here I am again after a month with a very interesting update about notebooks! Because why not discuss things that are pleasant, right? I am slowly realizing that our obsession to dwell on the trauma and unhappiness in order to heal it is not really working out for most people. I think the way forward is to continue to bury our feelings. Not to bury them, actually, just hit Ignore. Just choose not to allow them to take space in our minds. Don’t give them fuel to become larger than they need to be.

I read somewhere that the secret to happiness is simply choosing one thought over the other. Isn’t that amazing? Because it is as simple as that. What do we choose to dwell on? Life is hard and imperfect. We cannot solve everything or everyone. We cannot fix ourselves oftentimes. What we have to do is go on and for that we need to stay functional. Have you noticed that many people who “bury their feelings” remain very functional? Why not choose the good, happy thought over the dark, paralyzing one? Why not always imagine the happy ending? Might not turn out happy, but leading up to it we’re good. And afterwards? I don’t know. It’s not like I have all the answers. Afterwards I guess we choose to forget it as soon as we can. Because we can’t go back and change anything, so what’s the point? Just look up ahead again, to something else bright and shiny. That’s all. Life’s secrets unlocked. You’re welcome!

Accuracy Note: The correct quote is actually “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another,” and it belongs to William James, considered the father of American psychology.

And now, notebooks, as promised. Because that’s our happy place.

This is actually an update to my journal system described earlier.

Notebook Paper

I think I have reached perfection when it comes to my writing/journaling supplies. This is where I declare myself happy and content and no longer looking at all the pens and all the inks and notebooks out there. Well, kind of, because of course I already have my eye on a new type of paper that I’d like to try. (The Onion Skin Journal! I mean, come on, how good does that sound?)

But I am good with notebooks. last year, everyone in the fountain pen community went a little berserk because the Tomoe River paper manufacturer in Japan said there won’t be any more such paper being made. Over and done. The machine broke and they could not fix it. Tried replacing it but that didn’t give the same results so they were just halting production. Oh, that was a sad moment. (Of course now there are rumors that someone else bought the machine and they might be coming out with more paper soon? Who knows?)

What I know is that I really liked my new notebook, so after a while I bought another one online, just to have a backup. And then, when the news came that the paper would be discontinued, I went ahead and bought two more. And another one when I got a coupon in the main. Here I have to stop and mention that it takes me about two years to fill out one of these monster journals (about 400 pages each). So I might be set for the next 8 years, you know? But onion skin paper, people! Who can resist the thought of that!

Notebook Cover

I do have to say that the cover I got for my journal is amazing and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s from JoyToken and was a splurge for my birthday two years ago. I removed the long cord that was tying the journal as a closure, because I really don’t need to use that, but the extra long flap keeps it nicely closed and protected in a bag. It’s lasted amazingly well after two years of constant use. I have been moisturizing the leather regularly, which probably helps. It’s very huggable. Really. I feel like hugging my journal every time I pick it up. Do you do that? Anyway, I expect to be using this cover for many many years to come.

Well, this was fun. I’ll be telling you all about my pens and inks in a future post, I guess. Something to look forward to. (For me, if not so much for you.) In the meantime, choose the happy thought over the other!

The Very Bad Writer

In 2018 I submitted short stories 78 times. Out of these I got exactly one story accepted for publication. I am a bad writer.

Eleven submissions are still out, but all the rest are rejections. So yeah, I find it hard now in January of the new 2019 to start the process all over again. Very hard.

I stopped submitting in November because Nanowrimo didn’t really leave me time for anything else. Then I kind of took December off from the writing, because of accumulated family responsibilities and holidays.

January is supposed to be a more balanced time: I plan to finish the first draft of the novel started in November and get it to about 88,000 words, while also taking one day of the week for short story rewrites and submissions.

Every story submission is a lot of work (usually one to two hours, after finding the market) to craft a pointed cover letter and complete all the other requirements (they can be wildly different from one publication to another and quite involved).

But the emotional work is the most taxing: with every submission I have to build myself up in my own head, make myself believe that I can do it, that my work is suitable, if not perfect for publication, that in spite of that last rejection, I am not a subpar writer, only one still looking for a break. Sometimes, when self-confidence is beyond my reach, I just go for numbness: Yeah, it’s a bad story but there are many bad stories out there. I’ll submit and get it done with. They’ll reject me and that is fine, because all I need is to do my work and submit, the rest is beyond my control. I don’t even want to be published in their elitist little magazine, so what do I care. I tell myself that I don’t.

And yet, I have to submit in 2019. Somehow I have to find the inner resources for that ounce of self-confidence that pushes me forward until I sign that cover letter, attach that Word document, and press Send. Over and over and over again.

Send Us Your Best Work

Demoralizing, exasperating, demotivating, patronizing, simply soul crushing calls for submissions:

Please send us your best work. Do not sent us stories that have been rejected by other publications.

Edit thoroughly and send us only your cleanest work.

Format according to these particular requirements: (a list of ten seemingly arbitrary rules follows).

Write a good, clean and well-formatted cover letter. Your story will automatically be rejected if the cover letter does not look professional. We appreciate seeing that you’ve put in some effort.

Address the letter to the right editor even if we don’t list the names of our editorial staff on our web page. Make it look like you are taking this job seriously.

Write a short summary of the story. Hard word limit: 250 words.

Also, write a long summary of the story. Not more that 350 words.

Include a bio for us. List all your publication credits.

Include a third person bio for publication. Leave out the credits but write something that is interesting about yourself.

We do not accept simultaneous submissions: please to not send us stories that you have submitted to other publications.

Our response time is six months. We try our hardest to respond within this period of time, but editing a magazine/anthology is a lot of work, and our staff is limited, so please allow some delay.

We cannot extend our regrets to all the writers who have not been accepted, due to very large submission volume. If you don’t receive any communication from us in six months, you can consider that your work has been rejected.

Do not write to us to ask about the status of your submission. We do not have the manpower to answer.

We’ll pay $0.01 per word, if our campaign gets funded. The authors will also receive an electronic copy of the publication. (The publication will also come in print, but the authors will have to buy a print copy for themselves if they want one.)

Thank you for reading the submission guidelines carefully. You have a better chance of having your story accepted if you read our past three issues, the editor’s interview about the theme of this anthology, and this eight-page essay about the vision of our magazine. Happy writing!

Sure, uh-huh.

Feminizing the canon, are we?

The Paris Review has started this new column they call “Feminize Your Canon,” which looks like the best idea I’ve seen lately in support of women’s writing. There is a but, though.

It depressed me like nothing else. If you are an unsuccessful women writer, it will depress you too. I honestly didn’t need help in this direction. My personal desk drawer (just an expression, although I could rename my computer folder where I collect all the finished work) is filled to bursting with little malformed, rejected monsters who do a good enough job of reminding me that I am crap at what I do. So now I don’t know if I need, on top of that, to read these biographies and start identifying with all the unappreciated women who ever dared to follow a literary career.

The first article of this series is on Olivia Manning, written by Emma Garman. Now I don’t recall having read anything of Olivia Manning’s, but this piece makes her sound like a very hopeful, confident writer who never got, and here is the thing, what “she thought she deserved.” Emma Garman doesn’t really make it clear if she personally believes Manning deserves a place in the canon, but only that Manning herself was very confident that she merited recognition. Which obviously never really came.

So, yeah, abandon all hope ye who enter.

The smallness


It’s something that the human brain cannot really process: our own smallness.

I have been having to deal with a lot of rejection coming my way lately. Since January I haven’t had any story accepted for publication, although I have been submitting regularly, up to ten stories per month. Every time I open a response e-mail from a publication where I’ve submitted, I feel this crevice opening under my feet and for a few seconds while I read the e-mail I am floating on top of the abyss, completely detached from the rest of the world. And I am so scared. But then I fall back on the ground, barely a bruise or a scratch, as if I was not standing at the edge of the living universe just a few moments before. And I don’t know what to do with myself for a while: who am I again? I find it harder and harder to start writing and submitting again.

That’s a lot of words and too much imagery to say that rejection is soul crushing. I heard someone say somewhere that when encouraged, when praised, people perform much better than they would otherwise. I am assuming the reverse it also true. It’s like our brain putting the brakes at exactly the worst moment. When we should persevere and try harder, we feel so demoralized that we can’t lift a finger to help ourselves. Because we don’t do well feeling small. we need that superiority bias to succeed. But that doesn’t come easily, especially to some of us, especially when so many external factors push you in the opposite direction.

Depression has been negatively correlated with the superiority bias, we need to feel like we’re better than others just to feel okay. I am not feeling okay right now.

Stationery: bullet journaling

Since late last year I fell victim to the bullet journal craze. I am easily swayed by trends, as we all know, but this time I was actively looking for a system that would bring back pens and notebooks into daily use.

Before the bullet journal I used to have a scattered system all centered around the regular journal (a classic hard cover Moleskine) where I wrote very infrequently in the past few years, when I needed to know what I thought and felt about something, or tried to deal with a situation. Besides that, I had a special notebook for each novel (a Moleskine Cahier) where I drew diagrams and explained characters, inspirations, etc.

For several years I’ve also had my Filofax for daily tasks and lists, but it has been a little frustrating with its small size (I think in Filofax terminology it is “personal” size) and the rings making writing a bit cumbersome. I always felt restricted by the Filofax, although enjoyed the feel of its soft leather cover in my hand, its paper bulkiness and the ease of leafing through. I still keep it permanently next to me on my table, even though I rarely touch it. Another, larger ring planner I own (the red one here), gets very little use because those rings are just uncomfortable.

My new system combines the journal and the organizer in one notebook. I started using a Markings by CR Gibson notebook. which is kind of a classic Moleskine dupe, for everything from daily tasks, ideas, story developments, random personal thoughts, dinner party planning, trip packing, everything. At the end I keep lists of books read, thrift store purchases, story ideas, sewing projects and so on. I call this a bullet journal, but I don’t follow any bullet journal notations or anything. I do embellish it by drawing flora and using special lettering for parts of it. I expect it to last me about a year, maybe slightly less. I still keep a separate notebook for the novel I am working on and a separate dream journal.

It is really a joy to have everything in one place, and treat it less seriously than I used to with my regular journal (which I wanted to be the container of only very deep and universal thoughts—I know, I’m rolling my eyes too!). This is just life with everything it carries. It’s a much more relaxed approach and fits my style well.

Because the cover of my inferior notebook was peeling off and looking unsightly, I made a removable leather cover for it. Very excited about that feat! I had actually thrifted this cover some time ago, but it was brown and way too big, so I had to modify it. I cut it down and sewed it back on, dyed it black and in the process I also added two pen loops, which are visible in that first picture. Never want to let it out of my hand now. The thought of being able to use this cover for years, with different notebooks, is particularly comforting too.

Speaking of pen loops, I have discovered that I need at least two pens to use concomitantly: one for writing and one for drawing. For writing I use now 0.4 or even finer point gel pens. My favorites are the capped ones, not the retractable. Most often I’ll pick up the Muji 0.38 gel ink ball point and the Pilot High Tech-C Maica 0.4 point. I can’t express in words the pleasure of writing with these pens: my brain feeds on it like it’s sugar. I now even flesh out stories on paper, and my writing is often better than on the computer, although I sometimes feel the frustration of not being able to write fast enough to keep the pace of my thoughts. In the end, probably a good thing, because by the time it hits the paper, the idea had time to be edited and become more clear.

For doodling right now I am using a Pentel Sign pen, which has a somewhat flexible felt tip that can create variation of line thickness. It works fine. In the future I am planning to get a Tombow Dual Brush Pen so that I have more options in just one pen loop. I know!

I know a lot of people find stationary irresistible. An article I read recently talked about how humans have found ways and tools to extend their brains—maybe this is why pens and paper have such wide appeal, who of us cannot use a few extensions to our brains? I know I can (and badly need it too).

A dreadpunk, gaslamp, and dark steampunk anthology: DeadSteam

One of my short stories, “A Visitor at Sultana’s Castle,” is set to appear in the upcoming DeadSteam anthology, edited by Bryce Raffle, to be published by Grimmer & Grimmer Books in October 2018.

The dreadpunk, gaslamp, and dark steampunk anthology will include seventeen chilling stories of the monsters lurking around every corner, the ghosts haunting the darkest streets of Victorian London, and the dead things crawling out of their graves to consume the flesh of the living. These are tales of the ghoulish and the gothic, chilling stories of haunted streets, of vampires and demons stalking the city from fog-drenched alleyways lit only by gas lamps.

Featuring stories by David Lee Summers (Owl Dance, The Brazen Shark), Jen Ponce (The Bazaar, Demon’s Cradle), Wendy Nikel (The Continuum), Karen J Carlisle (The Adventures of Viola Stewart), Jonah Buck (Carrion Safari), DJ Tyrer, Jay Seate, Lawrence Salani, James Dorr, Lori Tiron-Pandit, Rob Francis, Ross Smeltzer, CC Adams, Alice E Keyes, Steve Carr, E Seneca, and Bryce Raffle (The Complications of Avery Vane).

Women keepers of ritual and the Caloian

CaloianI have an article up on Feminism and Religion today about the Caloian, a rain ritual that I learned and practiced as a child. It spooked me then and it still does now (there is a dead mud-child in this picture, if you can’t tell).

I’ve always been fascinated by ancient, pre-Christian traditions and rituals and how they perpetuated throughout the years in Romania, where I grew up. They can be weird and beautiful and intricately meaningful.