Thursday, July 11, 2019

There's More than One Way to Skin Your Craft; Or, The Many Facets of Storytelling
The other day, I was watching a Youtube interview from 2017 with Brad Pitt and Shahrukh Khan--an unlikely duo, perhaps, until you understand they were brought together not so much for their perspective as actors but for their outlook on movie-making as producers. Particularly as a pair of "early-adopter" producers who utilized Netflix as a tool to express and expand their passion for storytelling. The interviewer asked a question, that I'll paraphrase, to which Pitt and Khan responded similarly with an answer that I'll also paraphrase.

Here's the whole interview if you're curious. It's a little long but pretty interesting:

The question was basically this: Over the years, you've both evolved to become more active on the production side of movie-making. Why?

Putting aside the issue of fewer roles being available for aging actors (yes, men too) that writers don't have to contend with as much, Pitt and Khan's answers came down to them still having a passion and desire for storytelling. For them, producing is simply another means of propagating those stories. When they said that, I wanted to jump up and cheer because I felt such a connection to those sentiments--it was like they'd spoken words straight from my heart rather than their own.

My feelings and thoughts may not be representative of all writers, but I think many of us can agree that we write because, yes, we love words and language, but predominately because we love stories. For me, above all, I love story crafting, and that has manifested in so many ways.

When I first got serious about writing, my goal was to compose a complete novel. Once I proved I could do that, I wrote another one. And another. And another. Yes, I wanted to get published, but I also wanted to improve my skills, so I turned my focus to short-story writing because, let me tell you, learning to write a good short story is like putting yourself through writing boot camp. It took a while, but I saw some moderate success. I published in a few professional venues. My confidence grew. I tackled writing another novel and managed to get a contract with Red Adept Publishing, a dynamic small press dear to my heart.

Since then, I've published 7 novels (that doesn't include all the ones I wrote that will *never* be published) and countless more short stories that have appeared in anthologies and speculative fiction magazines. Over the years my passion has never waned, but my hunger for storytelling has evolved similar to the way, perhaps, it had for Brad Pitt and Shahrukh Khan. My realm of story-crafting has taken on new shapes and dimensions

Once I'd developed a community of writer-friends, I became a regular "beta" reader for a few trusted authors. In that role, it's my job to read, analyze, and constructively (emphasis on "constructively") critique their manuscript and provide feedback. Although I'm careful about projects I'll accept and people I'll work with, beta-reading is one my favorite ways to participate in the storytelling process.

About five years ago, I started reading short-story submissions for a now defunct but high-quality speculative fiction venue called Goldfish Grimm's Spicy Fiction Sushi. At the time I thought being a submissions reader ("slush" reader) would help me develop better critical skills for my own writing. Maybe it did, but more than anything it sparked a new flame, and I realized I enjoyed cultivating and disseminating fantastic stories at least as much as writing them myself.

From there I moved on to reading submissions for Daily Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and my current home: Cast of Wonders--a young adult speculative fiction podcast. Cast of Wonders, more than anywhere else, provided community and mentorship. They offered me  opportunities to gain experience and expand my love for storytelling. Earlier this year, I was blessed with the chance to co-edit the 5th edition of Cast of Wonders' special Artemis Rising series. In a cooperative effort with a small group of talented women, I selected, edited, published, and produced five fabulous short story pod casts.

That experience hooked me. Going forward, I hope to participate in more forms of storytelling, either as the one putting literal pen to paper, or as the one finding great stories and helping to build the path that brings those tales into the world for others to enjoy.  Behind the scenes or on the page, either way it's all storytelling to me, and I'm looking forward to discovering ever more ways to skin my craft.


Elizabeth Seckman said...

Once I stopped linking money to the dream, I realized that I am in the same boat. I simply love the process. I decided if all else fails, I'd just do it as a hobby. No one asks someone how much they earned golfing or says you have no right on the golf course if you're not Tiger Woods? Why can't I do story stuff without worrying about hitting the best seller list?

Karissa Laurel said...

Elizabeth, you and I have very similar sentiments about this. I guess this current post is actually an expansion on one I wrote not to long ago called "Not Quitting my Day Job" ( that is exactly on par with what you're saying. Writing is a joy for me and trying to make a living out it sucks out all the joy. Like you, I love the process whether I make a dime or not.

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