Guest Post by Erin Zarro: Opening a New Window

Erin Zarro author photoThis week I’m on a blog hiatus, so my fellow Turtleduck Press author, dark SFF and horror writer Erin Zarro, is here to fill in. Please give her a warm welcome!

They say that when a door closes, a window opens.  And that has never been more true than it is right now.  Long story short: in February (8 months ago to the day), I began having severe, excruciating pain in my left eye.  I was checked out, poked, prodded, and tortured by 3 MRIs (hello, claustrophobia!) and as of right now, no one can conclusively say what precisely it is.  The closest thing is optic neuritis, a painful inflammation of the optic nerve.

I’m not a wimp about pain of any kind, and I usually write through everything (including migraines and recovery from surgeries), so that was my first instinct.  Problem was, I had severe vertigo that made it impossible to stay focused on the screen.  After that went away, it was just too painful to work on the computer.  (I do have a day job, and I *have* to look at a computer screen most of my day).  Soooo I took three months off writing, and that nearly drove me insane and made me wish I were dead.  Not writing was like not breathing to me.

At some point, I determined that maybe I *could* do a little bit of writing, just not the novel revision I’d planned to do.  (Revision is tough, even under the best of circumstances).  So I thought, hey, I’ll just write 100 words a day.  When it’s flowing, and I can bear the pain, I’ll roll with it.  But surely I can crank out at least 100 words, right?

So I did.  And it felt amazing.  It was like coming home after a long time away.  It was sunshine and autumn leaves and Christmas all at once.  It was just what I needed.  But something was missing.

I’d done this for about a month or so when I discovered Holly Lisle’s How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck class (yes, that’s the actual name).  It was free and short-term, just 3 weeks.  I’ve always been curious about flash fiction, but never considered it because I’m a novel writer, and I write long.  How could I write a story that feels like writing haiku? I figured I’d give it a whirl.  Worst case, I suck and no harm done.  Best case, I learn something new and can use it in the future to write flash fiction.

So I signed up and waited for lesson 1 with trepidation.

Long story short: Holly Lisle is a genius.  Seriously.  She has an actual methodology for determining what to write about, what to throw at the character (s), and how to end it, usually with some type of twist.  It was broken down so easily and went so smoothly that it felt like a dream.  But most importantly, I really, really enjoyed it.  And writing 500 words in the span of 2 or 3 days was just enough to get me back to writing with purpose.  It felt amazing, and I discovered that I’m actually pretty good at those twist endings.

There was also a board set up where students can talk, mingle, and critique each other.  I met some wonderful people, and learned a lot from the critiques. My stories are so much better for it.

One of the things Holly talks about is self-publishing, and getting people to start the process — just dipping their toes in, starting small, nothing too intimidating.  And she suggested we take the flash stories we wrote in class (I wrote 7) and put them into an anthology.  I decided to put mine up for 99 cents as a gateway into my writing.  I figured no one will turn down 99 cents.  But hopefully they will enjoy it, and maybe I’ll get some sales of my other stuff, too.

Cover of In Flames by Erin ZarroIt took me about a month to get my anthology, In Flames, put together and up at Smashwords.  It was a learning experience.  I’m very happy with it, and I did everything myself, even the cover!  I feel good.  I feel like the months I spent not revising were put to good use.  But even more importantly, it kept my hand in it even when I wasn’t feeling up to anything intricate.  It saved my sanity, too.

So, if you’re curious, you can download In Flames at Smashwords at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/349458.

I’m still in pain, but I’m back to writing fully again.  I still don’t have a diagnosis, either, but that really doesn’t matter.  I was able to come back to writing, opening a window I never knew existed.  And that’s enough for now.

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6 responses to “Guest Post by Erin Zarro: Opening a New Window

  1. Great to hear your story, Erin. And sorry about your eye! I like the sound of Holly Lisle’s flash fiction course. Good luck with your In Flames collection!

  2. Thank you so much, Ellen! It’s been a tough road, but I’ve turned it into something positive. 😀

  3. …now I just feel bad for never really doing anything with Holy Lisle’s stuff. *sigh*

    OCTOBER, HERE I COME.

  4. Her methods aren’t for everyone. I think there’s a lot of good in them, but if that’s just not the way you work, you may not get much out of them…and that’s okay. But I’ll cheer you on in October all the way.

  5. Part of it has been time. Moving and all. Mostly it’s just laziness. *sigh*

  6. Dianna – It’s okay. Like Siri said, it’s not for everyone. Give it a shot and see how it goes. I’ll cheer you on, too!

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