Stefanie Brook Trout

Author Page with Resources for Writers

Tag: writing

2017 Goals

Each year, I set new reading and writing goals. Most years, I fail to meet them. How did I do this year? Let’s reflect and set new goals accordingly…

Read at least 36 Goodreads-countable books, plus as many non-countable texts as I want.

I technically failed this goal, only having read 30 Goodreads-countable books, but I read a lot that doesn’t count, and I finally read House of Leaves, so I’m happy with how I did. Now that I’m not in grad school anymore, I don’t have nearly as much reading built into my work week, so I need to recalibrate.

My Goodreads goal for 2017 is to read at least 32 countable books. Why 32? Because, as of today, that’s my age. Can I increase my books-read by one book each year? Only time will tell. Follow me on Goodreads at goodreads.com/stefbt, and check out my Books to Read in 2017 board on Pinterest here.

Write something new and/or edit something old daily. Set deadlines for each project, and prioritize meeting them.

Epic fail. I knew I would fail this goal because I’m not a write-every-day kind of writer, but I should always be writing (and revising!) more than I am, so I’m going to carry this goal over to 2017 as-is.

Submit pieces that are ready at least once each week. Create a new submission schedule, and actually use it this time.

Another failure. I didn’t submit much this year, but this goal was a little unrealistic to start with. In 2017, I’m going to shoot for submitting at least once each month. It’s a little more my speed.

Develop new content for this website, especially resources for fellow writers.

Great success! I redesigned my blog this year and developed a resources for writers section. I haven’t added to it since the April launch, but the infrastructure is there, and I plan to increase how often I put out new “issues” gradually. In 2017, I plan to put out at least two.

Post on blog at least once each week, and share content on Twitter at least once per day.

Ha! I really didn’t do this one. While the Fracture tour was in full swing, I was pretty good about sharing the news both here and on Twitter, but by the time the tour was wrapping up, I was a little burnt out on the self-promotion. I’m going to be realistic in recalibrating this goal for 2017 and say that if I can post on the blog at least once each month, I’ll be happy. As for social medias, I haven’t been on Facebook or Twitter very much in the past six months, so I think a once-a-week goal is much more realistic. Follow me on Twitter @brooktrouting.

Attend at least a dozen events that support my writing life, whether conferences, readings, or field research opportunities.

I think I met this goal. Most of the events were Fracture-related, but I’ve also had a lot of experiences that would count as field research. I’m going to carry this goal into 2017, but without a book release, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to meet. Also, I recently moved from Grand Rapids (population: about 200,000) to Ithaca, Michigan (population: about 3,000), so it’s not like there are a lot of readings or other literary events happening in the community (yet!).

In 2017, I will probably primarily meet this goal through field research opportunities, but I’d also like to start building a literary community in the heart of Central Michigan. Get in touch if you’re in the area and would like to be a part of it.

*

I have a lot of non-reading-or-writing goals for 2017 too. Many of them relate to food: cook six days a week, put in a garden, learn to can (and ferment!), get up early enough for the Farmer’s Market every week once it opens for the season, get ready for chickens in 2018 – I could go on, but I won’t. I think you get the idea: lots to accomplish in 2017.

Happy (belated) New Year, and good luck achieving your own goals this year!

Fracture on Michigan Radio

Yesterday, Michigan Radio featured an interview with me and Fracture contributor Maryann Lesert on their Stateside program. We discussed fracking, the book, and our upcoming events in northern Lower Michigan. Listen here.

More Michigan Fracture Events

IMG_0495Here are a couple photos from our April event at Lansing’s Everybody Reads. Sorry about the quality; we did have a professional photographer attend our Creston Wellness Center event, and I hope to share the photos from that soon.

Here also are a few more dates for upcoming Fracture readings in Michigan. As always, they are free and open to the public!

Saturday, August 6 – Traverse City, Michigan

Join us at the Horizon Books for a reading and book signing with contributors Stephanie Mills and Maryann Lesert as well as yours truly.

Details on the Horizon’s event page.IMG_0498

Tuesday, August 9 – Pellston, Michigan

The University of Michigan Biological Station will host a reading and discussion with me as well as contributors Maryann Lesert and Stephanie Mills.

Details on the UMBS event page.

Tuesday, September 20 – Lansing, Michigan

In partnership with Lansing Community College’s Science Department, Schuler Books (Eastwood) hosts the monthly discussion group Cafe Scientifique, an outreach program to promote public interest in science. This September, the group will discuss fracking and Fracture with contributor Maryann Lesert as their honored guest.

Find a list of Cafe Scientifique’s past events here.


There are still more events in the works, and on Thursday, I’m going into the studio with Maryann Lesert to talk to Lester Graham, host of Michigan Radio’s Stateside program. I’ll post those dates and a link to the interview when I have them!

A frequently updated list of past and upcoming readings can be found at the bottom of  our page on the publisher’s (newly redesigned!) website. Be sure to follow both the book and the press on Facebook to keep up with the latest news, and tweet at us @icecubepress, @fractureanth, and @brooktrouting.

The Fracture Tour Continues

UWy

Photo by Taylor Brorby at our U Wyoming event

Here’s an update on our Michigan Fracture events, all of which are free and open to the public.

There are a couple more in the works—I’ll let you know when we have the details for you!

 

Tuesday, May 10 – Grand Haven, Michigan

Join us at the Bookman for a reading and book signing with contributors Stephanie Mills and Maryann Lesert as well as yours truly.

Details on the Bookman’s event page.

Tuesday, May 24 – Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Creston Wellness Center will host an evening of music by Sarah Barker and Max Lockwood as well as readings by contributor Maryann Lesert and myself. With just one week left to gather enough signatures to put fracking on Michigan’s 2016 ballot, the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan will be on site with petitions.

Find details about this event here.

Tuesday, August 9 – Pellston, Michigan

The University of Michigan Biological Station will host a reading and discussion with me as well as contributors Maryann Lesert and Stephanie Mills.

Details on the UMBS event page.


A frequently updated list of past and upcoming readings can be found at the bottom of  our page on the publisher’s website.

FAQ: MFA or nay?

Part of my Resources for Writers is an FAQ page, and one of the questions I get most often from aspiring writers is whether or not they need to get an MFA. (Spoiler: No.) But should they? That depends.

This topic is far too complicated to adequately address in a few sentences, so here’s a lengthier response that will hopefully help potential MFA applicants decide if that particular brand of torture is the right path for them:

Do I need an MFA?

No.

Should I get one?

Maybe! Getting an MFA was an essential step in my progression as a writer due to the path by which I came to writer—tangentially, that is. I thought that I needed one for different reasons: to learn more about craft, to develop my technique, and to have deadlines that forced me to make writing a priority. All of those things happened, but they weren’t what I expected.

The deadlines were helpful, but ultimately, a writer has to be able to prioritize writing without external incentives. The MFA gave me time to develop that habit of writing, but you have to be careful not to rely too much other people’s deadlines.

As for the craft and technique, I learned a lot in the classroom, but I’ve developed a lot more by nurturing relationships with mentors and colleagues. For me, the MFA was the perfect place to go from zero-to-tons of connections, but it’s certainly not the only way to get them. (Other ways generally require a lot of either luck or proactivity. Most writers aren’t lucky enough to fall into great connections, and often writers tend to be uncomfortable with putting themselves out there in person to strangers. But not everyone—if you love that part, go to AWP before applying to an MFA. (Post on AWP forthcoming in Networking Resources.))

Applying to MFA programs is a stressful, rigorous, expensive process, but it’s worth it for the right person and program. Here are some factors to consider before subjecting yourself to application season:

How much formal training do you have in creative writing?

If you’ve spent most of your life being an expert in another field and writing is relatively new to you, then it might really be helpful to go for the MFA. Admission is highly competitive, but if you’ve got the chops, most programs love the diversity an outsider offers. Do your research to find out which programs would welcome your experience. Look at the bios of their recent graduates—were they all 22-year-old BFAs when they were admitted? Maybe not the best fit if you don’t fit that description. (There’s nothing wrong with 22-year-old BFAs, mind you; I’ve learned a lot from them!)

How much time has it been since you finished undergrad?

Though taking the time off to do an MFA after starting your career might be more difficult, it’s generally beneficial to wait some time to process all you’ve learned and mature before heading into the MFA. I know plenty of writers who did go straight from undergrad to MFA (see 22-year-old BFAs above), but the vast majority of writers would benefit from waiting, even just a year before applying.

How able are you to relocate for a program?

MFA programs are notoriously selective, and as a director of a prestigious program recently told me, at a certain point, there really is no rhyme or reason to who gets an offer and who doesn’t. Obviously, they are selecting the best, but they get so many REALLY good applicants that the difference in ability between the person who fills the final slot and the next best person is virtually nothing. All this is to say that you might have to relocate if you want a fully funded program.

(Which brings me to an awkward question, hence the parentheses: Do you have lots o’ money? If you can’t afford to pay for your MFA with cash, you should only accept an offer for a fully funded program. Even “full-funding” might require the financially strapped to take out student loans, so while it’s incredibly helpful, it’s not the glorious free ride you might imagine. If you don’t get full funding the first time you apply, try again next year. I know so many talented writers who inexplicably didn’t get funding on their first round but had very lucrative offers the following year)

What are your career goals?

Many people go for the MFA in order to teach college afterwards, not realizing that tenure-track positions are a thousand times more competitive than MFA slots (which are already super competitive)—and now with Creative Writing PhDs being offered, your MFA is less terminal of a degree than it used to be. And unless you have zero student debt and zero dependents, one can’t live off of adjuncting full time. Of course, the dream of being able to live off writing alone is even more difficult to realize.

I teach in public schools and find it an ideal balance for my writing life—I have less time to write during the school year, but then I have all the time in the summer. Check out The New Teacher Project for one way to get into K-12 teaching.

But beyond teaching, there are a number of ways to keep the lights on as a writer. Think about all of the non-contemporary writers you admire—did they make their living at the university? Most of them didn’t and their experiences working outside of academia gave them inspiration for their stories that they wouldn’t have found on campus. You can be a Writer-with-a-capital-W while having a career doing something that has nothing to do with writing. It’s all about whatever balance works best for you.


Head back to the main FAQ page or check out other Resources for Writers.

Website Redesign with Resources for Writers

I’ve been wanting to move things around on my website for a while now to create space for me to share resources with other writers, and even though it’s still a work-in-progress, I’ve gone ahead and launched the redesign.

My new  Resources for Writers page will feature recommended websites, books, authors, literary journals, and other resources that I have found useful to my own professional writing practice.

I’ll add to the resource library gradually in the weeks/months/years to come. It’s designed grow and change over time. Here’s what I have so far:


 

Resources for Writers

April 8, 2016

 

FAQ | Current Features: Advice for aspiring writers & dealing with writer’s block

Coming soon: Do I need an MFA? Should I get one anyway? Should I give my writing away for free? How do I build a writing community? How do I find places to publish my work? At what point do I need an agent? Are conferences, workshops, and contest fees all worth it? What should I be reading? How should I be reading?

Reading | Current Feature: Goodreads

More forthcoming on recommended books, websites, podcasts, and literary journals and how to read like a writer.

Writing | Current Feature: Writing Excuses

More to come, including writing prompts, craft book recommendations, and great places to find author interviews.

PublishingCurrent Feature: Poets & Writers

More forthcoming on publishing your work, including submissions.

NetworkingCurrent Feature: Wordpress

More forthcoming on using social media, conferences, and other platforms to market your work and build connections with readers, publishers, and other writers.

Teaching | Current Feature: Assay

More forthcoming on teaching, in general, and writing, in particular.

Writers to Follow | Current Feature: Tony Quick

More soon, including friends, colleagues, and other writers whose websites share additional resources.

Environment | Current Feature: Orion

To be honest, I’m not quite sure what all will come in this section. At the very least, expect writing prompts, teaching resources, reading lists, and book reviews with an environmental focus, including place-based and food writing.

Fracture on Tour

Since early February, my co-editor, Taylor Brorby, and many of our contributors have been sharing Fracture with audiences across America–from Pennsylvania to Colorado, from Wisconsin and Minnesota to Texas, and all across Ice Cube Press’s home state of Iowa and Taylor’s home state of North Dakota. Though Ice Cube Press is a “Midwest Book Publisher,” fracking and its impacts know no such geographical distinctions.

I’m looking forward to joining the tour in April, traveling throughout my own home state of Michigan and even all the way to Laramie, Wyoming. All events are free and open to the public.

Stay tuned for additional Michigan events (including Harmony Brewing and Creston Wellness Center in Grand Rapids, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and Schuler Books in Lansing) as we finalize dates, but for now, you can plan on the following opportunities:

Tuesday, April 12 – Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids Community College‘s School of Arts and Sciences and English Department will host an evening of music by Sarah Barker and readings by contributors Maryann Lesert and Stephanie Mills as well as me. Details on our Facebook event page.

Saturday, April 16 – Laramie, Wyoming

The University of Wyoming Creative Writing Program will present an all-day event devoted to Fracture, including readings, presentations, and book signings with contributors Kathleen Dean Moore, Rick Bass, and Antonia Felix as well as both editors. Find details about this event here.

Saturday, April 23 – Lansing, Michigan

Everybody Reads will host a reading with contributors Maryann Lesert and Stephanie Mills as well as me. I’ll update this post with a link to the event page soon.

Tuesday, August 9 – Pellston, Michigan

The University of Michigan Biological Station will host a reading and discussion with contributors Maryann Lesert and Stephanie Mills as well as me. Details forthcoming on their event page.


A frequently updated list of past and upcoming readings can be found at the bottom of  our page on the publisher’s website.

Fracture in the News

Fracture officially released February 14, and there has been a lot of great media coverage of the book since then, including a review in Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, an interview in Orion Magazine, and conversations with public radio.

One recent article we’re excited about is an online review by Thomas Fate for the Chicago Tribune. Here’s an excerpt:

Fracture includes a wide variety of voices and thinking, which is what keeps the book from slipping into what anthologies of social critique can become — cycles of guilt-laden lament, where the language of the activist overwhelms the language of the artist. In Fracture these two viewpoints somehow converge rather than compete, resulting in an innovative and compelling weave of writers who both educate and inspire.

Fracture will also be featured in their Sunday edition.

Another recent article worth calling out is by Adam Burke for Little Village magazine. In addition to promoting tomorrow’s reading at Prairie Lights, Burke sought to understand the significance of the book through the experiences of the editors and contributors. He interviewed both Taylor and me, plus three of our contributors, beautifully illustrating the range of perspectives and motivations you’ll find in Fracture.

“Bringing a book like Fracture into the world is important because our society needs to cultivate healthy, productive ways to talk about big contentious issues like hydraulic fracturing,” Trout said, adding, “We have not attempted to represent every side of the issue, but we have aimed to provide context for conversations about fracking and to illustrate just how complicated the issue is.”

Ice Cube Press frequently updates this page with links to reviews and local and national media reporting on the book.

Fracture Trailer: The Sequel

Fracture features the voices of more than fifty writers. Preview two of them—Debra Marquart and Frederick L. Kirschenmann—in our second book trailer.

 

Fracture Trailer

 

We are less than two weeks from our official release date, and those of us who have had the privilege of working on the book are thrilled to share Fracture with the rest of the world.

Enjoy this trailer by videographer extraordinaire Ana Hurtado and my co-editor, Taylor Brorby:

 

And now get yourself over to Ice Cube Press to order yourself a copy!

New Year, New Hope

Each year, I set new reading and writing goals. Most years, I fail to meet them. Last year, I did something radical and set abstract goals: read more, write more, polish/submit more, and hustle more.

This went against everything I’d been taught about goal-setting. Goals should be SMART—that is, specific, measurable, achievable, rigorous, and time-bound.

It’s impossible to judge whether or not I met my 2015 goals, which was kind of the point.

Overall, I think I did read and write more. The abstract nature of the goals gave me the freedom to read and write what and when I wanted. If I felt like starting a 700-page book, I did, regardless of what impact it might have on my tally of annual number of books read. (Enter House of Leaves.)

That’s my real problem with the Goodreads goal: literary journals and magazines don’t count, reading one book (like one I’m editing) multiple times doesn’t count, nothing read online counts, reading a friend’s unpublished work—or rereading my own work for that matter—doesn’t count. The incentive created by the Goodreads goal doesn’t match my own reading objectives. (I went into this more last year, if you’re interested.)

I’d rather read 35 books I really want to read plus all of the above texts than read 50 books chosen simply because I could get through them all in a single calendar year.

But at the same time, I did find myself frequently counting my Goodreads tally even if I wasn’t aiming toward a specific goal. (For the record, I read eight more Goodreads-countable books in 2015 than in 2014 when I had a goal.) I do plan on setting a Goodreads goal this year, but I’ll make it far smaller than I have before so I don’t feel limited by book length or non-countability.

Writing is different, however. I simply can’t abide bean counting when it comes to writing. Many of my writer friends love word count goals, but it takes all the pleasure out of writing for me. Rather than set numerical goals for my writing, I’m going to focus on what I’d like to produce and set deadlines for accomplishing those objectives.

Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure I polished/submitted less. I “hustled” less in the way I meant it—maintaining an active web presence—but perhaps more in other ways: speaking at conferences, giving readings, and other important networking that goes beyond a Tweet here and a blog post there.

I like to share my goals publicly because it holds me more accountable for meeting them, or at least sincerely working toward them. So without further ado, here they are:

Read at least 36 Goodreads-countable books, plus as many non-countable texts as I want.

Follow me on Goodreads at goodreads.com/stefbt.

Write something new and/or edit something old daily. Set deadlines for each project, and prioritize meeting them.

Submit pieces that are ready at least once each week. Create a new submission schedule, and actually use it this time.

Develop new content for this website, especially resources for fellow writers.

Post on blog at least once each week, and share content on Twitter at least once per day.

Follow me on Twitter @brooktrouting.

Attend at least a dozen events that support my writing life, whether conferences, readings, or field research opportunities.


 

I think that’s enough to keep me busy for the next 366 days. (That’s right—we get an extra day. 2016 is going to be awesome.)

Happy New Year, and good luck achieving your own goals!

Ten November

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank forty years ago today. Here’s a poem about it.

This Week in Poetry

by Stefanie Brook Trout

“Remember, remember, the 10th of November”-Adam de Pencier, National Post

There is no James Cameron blockbuster, no
Jack and Rose, no never-let-go scene to cement this ship-
wreck into our collective Hollywood consciousness.

What commemorates Big Fitz: an elegy crooned
to a melody Lightfoot cribbed from old Irish folk
songs, a stage play reprised each fall at the local
high school, watercolor likenesses on canvas,
reprints on postcards, throw pillows, etc.

I once saw my sister act in the play. “Saw” is a stretch—
I remember more the map-drawing book that held my
attention during the show: I admired the variety of compass
rose designs, steadied my hands so my contour lines didn’t run
together, asked my mom, in a stage whisper, if we had any tea
bags at home so I could give my map a quasi-authentic stain—
but so is “act” since my…

View original post 65 more words

Fracture Galleys

Galley BoxThe Fracture galleys are in!

My co-editor Taylor Brorby, our publisher Steve Semken, and I are hard at work proofing these advanced copies, and we can’t wait to share this powerful book with you. But we’ll have to wait because we want it to be perfect for you. Ice Cube Press will release Fracture on February 14, 2016.

In the meantime, follow us on Facebook and Twitter @fractureanth.

And while you’re at it, here are some more great pages to follow for Fracture updates:

And, of course, you can find me Tweeting (or sometimes not Tweeting) @brooktrouting.

Fracture Contributor List

Taylor Brorby and I received so many wonderful submissions to Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America and are very thankful to everyone who sent us their work! We are pleased to release our list of talented contributors:

Plus, the anthology will include work by the editors, Taylor Brorby and yours truly, and an introduction by Pam Houston.

Learn more on the Ice Cube Press website.

Follow us on Facebook for the latest news.

I prefer to get fat on honey

How cool is this? A visual artist created this collage etagami featuring a quotation from “Letters After Achilles,” my essay in Prairie Gold.

fatonhoneyLARGE

Here’s a post about it on the artist’s website.