How Starbucks Just Changed My Life

I know I’ve talked about education on this blog before. Hell, when I first created this thing I was in my final year at Chandler Gilbert Community College. This blog has followed me through classes, graduation, and every idea I’ve had about my intellectual future since then.

I considered going to Western Oregon University, or even OSU, but when I crunched the numbers, I just couldn’t do it.

We all have our stories. Our reasons why going to college just isn’t possible. For me, it just didn’t seem worth the debt. Almost every person I know who graduated with their bachelor’s is now crippled by student loan debt.

That’s not how I want to start my life. I want to get married, by a house, and write my fiction. And I’d convinced myself that I could do all that without a college education.

And, yes, I could.

But, thanks to this amazing company that I work for, I don’t have to.

Starbucks announced late last night that it has partnered with ASU to provide full tuition reimbursement to Juniors and Seniors. There’s even more awesome details and benefits, but this is the part that applies to me.

I graduated from CGCC with my Associate’s, and had always intended to finish my Bachelor’s. I even applied and was accepted to ASU once upon a time. But, through some wonky credits and an Astrology class from Hell, I never truly enrolled.

A decision that changed the course of my life.

If I’d taken a science class over the summer, I would have graduated from CGCC in 2010. I would never have completed the Creative Writing Certificate, and I wouldn’t have met so many wonderful writers and Instructors. I would have missed out on so much learning.

And I probably wouldn’t have moved to Oregon when I did.

My life would have followed a similar, yet truly different path.

But now, four years later, I have re-applied to ASU for their online English degree program. And Starbucks is going to pay for it. All.

That’s right. Starbucks is going to completely reimburse me for the cost of tuition and any fees associated with my courses. The only thing I pay for out of pocket are the required textbooks.

Can we just take a moment to understand that?

The Online Degree Programs are valued at about $10,000 a year. Starbucks is going to give me a scholarship, I’m going to fill out FAFSA, and hopefully get more money, and then Starbucks pays the rest.

That’s a huge chunk of money. A huge investment in me, from the Company with a Heart.

Like I said before, I convinced myself that an education wasn’t important to me. That I could live my life and follow my passions without it. And I can. But, finishing this degree is for me. I don’t want to do it so I can get a better job. I love my job, and Starbucks gives me the flexibility to work on my fiction.

I have said this time and again. And it’s still true. But, as I watched the announcement video, and the Partner Open Forum, I couldn’t keep the tears in check. Because, ultimately, finishing my degree IS important.

It’s not about getting a better job, it’s about my self-worth.

I’m done telling myself it isn’t. I’m done pretending that I’m not disappointed in myself for never completing my Bachelor’s. I’m done settling. Because that’s what I’ve done.

I worked hard for four years to get my Associate’s in Arts, and my Certificate in Creative Writing, both with Distinction. I worked two jobs, and went to school full time. I paid for my education out of pocket, and looking back, I’m not really sure how I did it. But, when I look at my Diploma, sitting on top of my bookshelves, I feel an unparalleled sense of pride.

And for two years I’ve languished. Sure, I’ve worked hard on my fiction, and I’ve completed two novels. I’ve had four short stories published. I’ve been working full time at the Bux, and have been promoted.

But, I haven’t really worked on myself. Pursuing this degree is what I’ve been avoiding. I let fear, and doubt, and financial insecurity convince me that I didn’t need it.

Today Starbucks reminded me that, if I wanted it, I could achieve it. The life lesson I’ve always touted. How did I let myself forget?

My dad told me when I was very young, “If you want something bad enough, and you’re willing to work hard enough, there’s nothing that can keep you from it.”

I’ve applied this life philosophy to my Starbucks life. I’ve applied it to my fiction. I’ve applied it in my personal life.

And it’s time I stopped hiding it from my Intellectual Life.

This fall, I start classes online at ASU. I’ll be completing my Bachelor’s in English. There’s no concentration option, but I basically already have that, thanks to my Certificate in Creative Writing.

I’m not letting anything hold me back. Not money. Not distance. Not me.

Not anymore.




To read more about this incredible program, and the company and university that are making it possible, click here.

The Letter of Intent

I think I’m going to postpone Week 10 Summary pt. 2 until Monday. I want to post something a bit more philosophical, and not so regimented.

I read a blog post today, which I probably should post a link to. It’s from a writer I follow. Not anyone big. Not someone you would know if I dropped his name. Just a struggling young writer trying to self-publish his creative dreams.

Usually he has some poetic views and opinions, and then wraps it up by asking for donations. You see, he quit his day job in order to follow his dreams and make them a reality. So, he asks for money from his readers in order to stay afloat.

It’s weird to me.

I would never quit my day job before writing could sustain me. And I would never ask for money from my readers. But, I don’t want to vilify this guy. It’s not my goal. He made his decisions, and people do donate money. I’m just not one of them.

But, today he posted about how you can’t put your dreams off. Can’t keep telling yourself that you’ll have time to make them a reality later. Which, yes I understand. And he said that, he’s not suggesting everyone give up their jobs in order to start writing and painting.

But, that’s how it made me feel.

He made me feel like I don’t take writing as seriously as he does. Obviously, his post wasn’t directed at me personally, and he swears that he doesn’t feel this way. But the tone was different. The tone said, “I am a suffering writer, my cause is better than yours.”

Excuse me, Mr. Writer Man. I work fulltime, and I’m writing about 20 hours week on top of that. I still maintain what small social life I have, and I’m planning a wedding. Add to it a serious consideration of going back to school, and suddenly my suffering seems pretty damn legit.

But, that’s not why I write this blog.

I write this blog to empty my brain of any excess writerly thoughts. I write this blog for a small sense of community. I write this blog to keep myself, and other suffering writers upbeat.

I don’t need your Woe-Is-Me schtick. I have only once ever considered giving up writing. That was 2 years into college, when I realized that I would probably never make a living off of it. I panicked. I grasped for any major that could lead to a lucrative career. Two months into those classes, I panicked again.

My creative mind felt stagnant. It was begging for something to do, to focus on. And I realized that, when I don’t write, I slowly lose my mind.

I applied for the Creative Writing Certificate Program the day after that. My Letter of Intent was probably one the best, and most honest things I’ve ever written. I keep it, and consider it every now and then. It helps me remember the rushing clarity of that moment. In that panic induced moment, suddenly everything was startlingly clear.

I Am A Writer. No matter where that takes me, for better or for worse.

And nothing some blogger, or the Jimmy John’s Delivery Guy, or some uneducated customer who is compelled to share their opinion, can convince me otherwise.

I tried to give up writing once; I almost lost my mind. Since I’ve had this realization, I’ve never looked back.



Week 6 Summary

As promised, I have come to tell you about this week’s Write About Dragons lecture.

This week we had ANOTHER guest lecturer, Nebula award winner Eric James Stone. Google him, he seems like a cool cat.

So, this week we talked about short fiction, because that’s what Eric James Stone writes. He’s never published a novel, yet makes a living writing. That’s pretty awesome in my opinion.

Ok, so the notes look something like this:


The What and the Why of the Short Fiction Market

And then there are just tips and tidbits littered all over the page. I actually really enjoyed this guest lecture. I’ve had modest success in the short fiction world, and have been a bit sad imagining that I’d never write a short story again. I’m not quite sure why I thought I wouldn’t, but I just imagined that if I wrote novels, there was no way I could write short stories too.

And then there’s the first tidbit:
Submit short fiction while you’re working on your novel.

Wait. What?

And it was as if the proverbial lightbulb exploded from a sudden surge of realization. My mind immediately started racing through my current short stories I’ve shelved in order to commit to this novel. And I don’t think that was a poor decision. I’ve yet to actually finish a novel, and I need to really focus and commit to this story to see it through to the end. Which has worked. The end is in sight, and I actually have an understanding of how I’m going to get there. And so, once the first draft is done, I’ll return to this short works and get them ready for spring submissions. And once that’s done I’ll start the rough draft of the next novel, and then the revision process of Vessels will begin.

So, more excitement on my part about writing. It’s a different kind of excitement than I’ve ever felt in relation to anything else, and I truly don’t know how to explain it. Hit me up in ten years. Maybe I’ll know how then.

Below this genius idea given me by Eric James Stone is a disclaimer. You don’t have to write short fiction if you don’t want to. There’s a misconception, especially in creative writing classes, that the best way to start writing is by starting small. It’s what I did. And I don’t regret it. I learned how to write well and to lay out scenarios and plots quickly, which is a major hurdle for most new writers. But, if you don’t like to read short fiction, and you don’t want to write short fiction, you’re going to hate writing if you try to write short fiction. I’ve found that I really just like writing. It doesn’t much matter how long it’s going to be. If the characters are alive and have a tale to tell, I’ll follow them until they’re done.

Stone follows this disclaimer with a rule. If you want to write short fiction, READ short fiction. Which is exactly what Brandon said earlier on in the course. Although he said it in the reverse: Why are you writing short fiction if you’re reading novels? Same concept. Read what you want to write. It’s the best way to learn.

And so, to help us read more short fiction, Stone lists some Sci-Fi/Fantasy magazines in circulation. I’ll do that for you here, for those who’d like to check it out.

  • Analog Science Fiction and Fact
  • Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine
  • The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Daily Science Fiction
  • Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show
  • Clarke’s World Magazine
  • Strange Horizons

This is also brilliant because it gives us a place to send submissions. Do I think for a minute that Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show will publish me? Not really. But, it can’t hurt to try. Also, Eric James Stone is an editor there, so that’s cool too.

Stone also recommends that we buy a book titled Year’s Best SF, or Year’s Best Fantasy. They are anthologies of what editors have decided is the best in Science Fiction or Fantasy for that year. Think Best American Short Stories, but with a fun genre twist.

Then Stone goes on to give Tips on Keeping Short Stories Short. 

This was mostly stuff that I already know, either from previous classes, or have directly experienced in my work. For instance, enter scenes late and leave them early. I literally wrote beneath that, with an arrow, “I’ve heard this from Patrick a million times.” Patrick being my creative writing instructor and department chair at Chandler Gilbert Community College, Patrick Michael Finn. You should google him too, because I know for a fact that he’s a cool cat.

If you really want more details from this section of the notes, leave me a comment and I will either reply with the details, or edit them in later for you.

Tips on Submitting Short Stories and Category Length

Here Stone mentions something I’ve not heard. He recommends the Writers of the Future contest. I guess he won it, having never been published before, and it launched his professional writing career. Basically, if you win, you get prize money, published, a trophy, and flown out for a week long workshop with professional writers.

I haven’t looked into all the details yet, but it’s definitely piqued my interest. Food for thought.

Then he mentions a website with a pretty painful URL. Basically, it acts like Duotrope, but for free. You can search for magazines with calls for submission based off all kinds of criteria.

And then Stone reminds us that we WILL get rejected. Don’t let it get you down.

After that, he lists Category Length. Which is basically the lengths for categories in award competitions, etc. I posted this a long time ago but it’s nice to hear it from a pro.

Novel = 40,000 words +
Novella = 17,500-40,000 words
Novelette = 7,500-17,500 words
Short Story = 1,000-7,500 words
Flash Fiction = <1,000 words
Micro Fiction = <100 words
Nano Fiction = Ridiculously Small

Q&A opened up after that. My favorite answer was to the following question:
Q: How do you know when a story’s ready for submission?
A: When I can’t think of a way to make it better.

     Q: Where do you submit Novellas?
A: Intergalactic Medicine Show, Analog, and Asimov’s will publish on occasion, usually as a serial.
He then admits that novellas are really hard to sell.

     Q: Self Publishing?
A: Also hard to sell, though novellas have a better chance. Short fiction has a really hard time selling as ebooks. You could bundle them and sell as your own collection.
He doesn’t recommend self publishing as a first attempt. He reminds us that, once you get published conventionally you can always go back and re-release work in ebook format. Which is not a bad idea.

The last note I have is a pretty important one. It reads: Stop putting work on the blog! This one makes me a little sad, but it has to happen. Anything I post here, because it is public, counts as first time publishing. Most magazines, upon deciding to publish your piece, ask for first time publishing rights, which I wouldn’t be able to give them if the work had appeared here. So, from now on, no more original fiction will appear in this blog, at least not anything I intend to publish.

It hurts me a little, but I think it’s important, and so I will stick to it. I’ll just be here talking about my works a lot more!

Anyway, this blog is long enough now. I need to stop avoiding chapter 16 and get on over to it. Thanks for your time and patience Blogland!


You Define Your Writing

It’s late. Nearly 1 am here. I’ve been home from work for about 30 minutes, and I’m trying to wind down. Also, I’m trying really hard to ignore the existence of the left over pizza in the refrigerator downstairs.

Anyway, the wee wakeful hours find me scanning the interwebs in an attempt to satiate this restlessness. So much happens tomorrow.

Sure, sure. All the same old stuff. Sleep, shower, eat, work. But tomorrow my short story will be released by Torrid Literature, which has me beyond pumped. And of course, tomorrow is the start of the Write About Dragons summer course.

I’ve been snooping around the site, critiquing chapters here and there to get a feel for the format and community. But tomorrow I watch my first lecture. I know that it’s all available on YouTube now, that I could watch it at any time, but there’s something about class actually starting tomorrow that has me way too excited. It really is just like the first day of any class. Excited to meet new people, get to know their work, and to get new feedback on my own work. To learn something new from someone so incredibly talented, and be able to utilize it.

It’s made me think about my past instructors, and how much I’ve learned.

Patrick, who is so unbelievably patient. I will always remember his kindness and his genuine enthusiasm. He honestly thinks that everyone can, and should, write. Or at least he’s damn good at sounding like it. The first short story I ever wrote was for his intro to creative writing class, and it was baaaaaaad. But not to Patrick. To Patrick it showed attention to detail and great description and tastefulness. Now, five years later, that short story is a scene waiting to be reborn in a fantasy trilogy I’m outlining.

And Patrick taught me that too. That not every scene or moment or story will end up like you thought. That maybe what you’re writing now doesn’t make sense once the piece is done. Don’t throw it away. Don’t discard it as some failed attempt. Store it. Save it. Keep it in the back of your mind, waiting for its moment. You’ll be surprised to find that, usually, with a few tweaks, that discarded scene will find a home later down the road.

Which brings us back to patience. Patrick is synonymous with patience, and calm, in my mind.

And just a touch of lovable dorkiness. You’d think so too if you’d seen him walk around campus in his bright green-striped shoes.

Then there’s Malik.

Malik took the lofty literary aspirations engraved in me by Patrick, and showed me that they could find a home in more popular fiction. All the concepts and skills involved with the craft of writing didn’t exclude me from the world of science fiction or fantasy. Malik showed me that I’m not constrained to just literary journals and small presses. I don’t have to spend all my future free time at pretentious Writing Conferences. I can write the books that I would want to read, and write them well.

If that’s what I want.

Malik taught me that I can be a normal person and write books too. Who shops at WalMart at 2 in the morning because nothing else is open. Who drinks too much and rarely cooks at home. Who listens to her music too loud and simply doesn’t care. My image of what “good” writers are, was unattainable for me. I was starting to feel as if I didn’t fit into the world I thought I belonged in. But Malik showed me that you don’t let writing define you, you define your writing.

I’m not sure if he knows all this, seeing as I didn’t until about 30 seconds ago, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Also, Malik can teach the shit out of that 3 Act Structure and Hero’s Journey!

Now, I’m not saying one is better than the other. That’s not what it’s about. They are both great teachers, men, and fathers. What makes them so great is their juxtaposition. Patrick woos you in with his calm tone and overall friendliness. He shows you that writing isn’t the scary thing your high school English teacher taught you. And he sets you loose. A year or so later, you find yourself far more invested than you thought you’d ever be, and a much better writer for it.

And then you take Malik’s class. And if you’re me, you miss the first day.

Suddenly “Planning and Structuring the Novel” has turned into “You’re Writing  a Novel This Term” and you’re in over your head. But Malik is laid back, non-pressuring, and horrible at returning papers. So as the course continues it becomes less about actually completing a novel, and more about learning how to complete a novel. And about making some great friends along the way.

And so I wonder what I’ll come away with this time. I won’t actually be communicating with Sanderson, and let’s be honest, that’s for the best. I’d be liable to drool myself stupid. I will learn amazing things from him nonetheless, and I will learn even more from the 1,000+ peers in the Write About Dragons community. That’s why I’m so excited.

And who wouldn’t be?


And now, for that pizza!


Success at Last!


The time has come. The email arrived. And not only one but two stories have been published this season in the Fall 2012 edition of the Gila River Review! This is amazing news, and makes for a very Merry Christmas indeed! Both ‘Wild Turkeys’ and ‘You’ve Always Been Good at Crazy’ are now forever posted on the Review’s website, emblazoned with my name.

Please, click here to view this edition of the Review. Enjoy my stories, as well as the other works, especially those of my friends Audra and Lynne; congratulation ladies!


And along with this fabulous news comes a new responsibility. I must get to writing! I’ve only one finished story left that hasn’t been published, and if I want to submit next season, I’d best have more than one story! So the ‘Ghost Story’, as it’s so poorly called for now, is in full swing, with a longer “short” story being outlined for after, as well as a sci-fi comedy told in three parts for after that. Busy lady from here on out, that’s me!


Thanks to everyone who follows this blog and helps keep my pen to paper, wouldn’t be here without you.



Recognize What Keeps You Going


I’m usually on here rambling off tips and advise for writers. But, where do I get all this information? Let me assure you that I am not a fountain of knowledge, merely a student attempting to take the wisdom imparted to her and make it her own.

I cannot stress enough the importance of teachers and classmates. Of course there’s something to be said for the writers without formal education. They have a natural talent that is to be admired. But don’t forget that schooling can only enhance and refine what comes naturally. I absolutely recommend that writers at least take a class at their local community college since most offer at least a basic creative writing course. Chandler Gilbert Community College offers a more in depth course listing that can lead to an Academic Certificate in Creative Writing, and Chemeketa Community College here in Salem offers a series of Workshop courses.

It’s through these courses that you build your network, people who become more than just teachers and classmates. They transform into friends, colleagues, and mentors. It’s these people who are most vital to your success. They inspire, coach, share, and coax. When you’re stuck, and absolutely positive that you’re the worst writer, that you’ve made a major mistake in thinking you’d ever make money doing this, these people are there to remind you why you’re writing at all.

And I can say, now that I’m so far from my network, 1,310 miles to be exact, I can say that I miss them, and all the wisdom we shared. 

But, we’re still in contact. We maintain a GoogleGroup where class documents are uploaded and chapters are shared. So, even this far away, I’m still going to be a part of class conversations. I can’t wait for the fall semester to get my writing back on track with everyone else’s.

Because I miss it more than I can say…