Anyone who talks to me for two seconds can usually tell how important art is to me. I have tried basically every kind of art: fiction, poetry, playwriting, screenwriting, making videos, graphic design, painting, acting, directing, dancing, singing, playing guitar/keyboard/ukulele, and writing songs. And I even did a podcast for over a year where I talked about art and creativity with artists. When I'm not creating art, I'm usually doing something creative like crocheting, decoupaging, coloring in adult coloring books, etc.
I've taken some forms of art more seriously than others. But the common theme in my life has been the importance of storytelling (through books, plays, films, TV) and the importance of music. Ever since I sang in a little version of Little Red Riding Hood in fourth grade, I have tried actively to be a singer and writer of songs. I was an acoustic singer/songwriter for 15 years or so, and I was in bands off and on from 2000 to 2012.
But around 2012 or 2013, I started to sense my window of time to be a singer or musician was closing, especially as a woman nearing her thirties. I had just graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing, and I decided to essentially give up my dream of ever being a “successful” singer to 100% pursue being a “successful” writer. (My idea of success has since shifted a lot - which is why I put quotation marks around the word.)
My love for music has never gone anywhere. I still have almost 300 playlists on Spotify, I also use Apple Music (because it sounds better on my headphones), I ask everyone I meet to name their favorite bands and albums so I can get to know them better, I often say “making playlists is my love language,” and I listen to music literally all the time - throughout the work day, in the shower, while sleeping, etc. You can also see my love for music clearly in anything I write--especially The Muse Chroniclestrilogy, my play The Spins, and it's definitely there in my work in progress (which I actually finished the first draft of a few nights ago)!
But aside from an acoustic show I streamed online from my living room in the summer of 2020 and some goofy songs I've written for friends and family on their birthdays with my ukulele, my instruments have basically collected dust in the corner, and I've barely sung since my last official show at Smith's Olde Bar in 2014. There was something painful about it. Every time I picked up the guitar or even sang in the shower, I had the inner critic reminding me that I had failed at music.
One of my favorite places to sing along to my favorite songs used to be in the car when I was driving. It probably didn't help that I sold my car in September 2021 and rarely drove. Over the past few months, though, my boyfriend and I have been sharing a car. We both work from home so we rarely need it, but I do go to church, and I also drive up to see my parents (who live about 20 minutes from me).
Recently, I was in the car, and I was having such a moment to “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It” by Stars that I realized I was singing along. Did it sound as good as it used to when I sang every single day? No. But I wasn't even thinking about that. I was just singing along for the sheer joy of it.
Since then, I have found some vocal coaches on YouTube, and I have been doing some vocal exercises with them to try to recondition my voice. Not really because I think I'm going to be singing at open mic nights again or putting acoustic songs on my YouTube channel, but just because I want to bring back singing and creating music for myself. For the joy of music.
So no, I'm not saying I am actively going to start performing as a singer again (although I'm open to it), but singing and making music can hopefully go back on my list of creative activities that bring me joy.
So I've been trying to make my website more accessible, and I'm slowly adding image descriptions to the alt tags in all the images. But when I saw my last blog post was called “Six Things I Learned in 2021," I thought, “oh, maybe I should write a blog post.”
I sort of disappeared last year because I was unemployed and depressed for the last half of it. Just when I learned to accept the fact that having a day job didn't make me any less of a writer, my contract at AT&T ended two years earlier than it was supposed to. I got through the rest of the year by freelancing and borrowing money from my parents or my boyfriend.
But then! In December, I got seriously the best job I could ever even imagine.
I've been a member of Unity North Atlanta Church since January 2013, and the Unity movement is something I'm deeply passionate about. I've volunteered at my church as a worship team/ensemble/choir singer, I edited an anthology of poems and short stories about Unity North by the congregation, I've performed in several plays, I've done some random things like helping out with painting the Holy Grounds Cafe, and most recently, I've been volunteering in the booth to run the cameras for the stream. So it's safe to say I'm on board with Unity.
So one day, I was on Indeed, browsing the digital content/copywriting jobs, and I saw that Unity World Headquarters up in Unity Village, Missouri is hiring a remote digital content writing specialist. I made a loud, excited sound and scared my cat, Julian. I ended up getting the job. I've been working for Unity World Headquarters for just over three months, and it is (no joke) hands down the best job I've ever had. I get to spend my days creating positive content including a piece about some amazing women writers in the Unity movement as well as the spiritual meaning of tattoos and helping to “transform the world, one heart at a time” (as we would say at Unity North).
(Yes, I also think it's kind of hilarious that I just stumbled on this job on Indeed.)
Next week, I'm going up to Unity Village for the first time for some onsite training, which I'm excited about!
As far as the writing goes, it may seem like I haven't had any news since I published my three books of poems in March 2021. (And that's… well, true.) But that's not because I haven't been writing. I just haven't been publishing.
I've been working on an adult contemporary novel about my disability, SCA (and really, just disability in general), for what seems like forever although I am actually almost done. (I have about 85k words--I think it will end up being 95k or 100k words, maybe less?). I am going to pursue the traditional publishing route for this (I'm not so great with indie author marketing--especially for a book that's general fiction as opposed to a fantasy or science fiction novel) so who knows how long it will take me to get it out there in the world, but eventually, it should be out there. And maybe I'll get back to my vampires after that?
I am no longer doing the Find Creative Expression podcast (which is still available on Spotify, Apple, YouTube, and other podcasting platforms although the actual site is no more) but I do really miss talking about art I like so I'm going to close out with some recommendations for you!
Movie: This is old news at this point but if any of you have not seen Everything Everywhere All At Once, GO SEE IT. What are you waiting for?? It won seven Oscars (including three acting categories, Best Director, and Best Picture. I'm not always a fan of movies that win a lot of Oscars, but this one definitely deserved all of those. It was just a heartwarming film.
Music: If you never heard Once Twice Melodyby Beach House (which came out last year), WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE? Okay, well, Beach House is not for everyone. So if you're not into super mellow melodic dream pop with a lot of organs, guitars, and layers of sound, here's a Spotify playlist I recently made that's completely upbeat. (On the other hand, if you want to hear me obsess about Beach House and describe them with the perfect made-up word--mellow + emotional=mellotional--check out this old classic.)
TV: Lately, I've really been enjoying Poker Faceon Peacock. The premise is basically a woman who has a supernatural ability to always know when someone is lying, and throughout the show, she has to solve many murders. But it's a fun spin on the murder mystery, the acting is really good, and it's just a fun show. Check it out!
Other: Anyone who knows me knows I love Beauty and the Beast. So naturally, I was pretty excited to check out the 30th-anniversary special. The whole program was pretty cool, but this performance of “Evermore” by Josh Groban is amazing, y'all. (Ironically, it's the only song they did that wasn't in the original animated movie but in the 2017 live-action remake.) I legit gave him a standing ovation in my living room (again scaring Julian).
It’s the end of another year. Typically, around this time, I reflect on the previous year and set intentions for the upcoming year. I told myself I should do that today, but I really wasn’t feeling it. Last year, at this time, I was thinking, “The vaccine is coming! Everything’s going to be back to normal in 2021!”
And there were times when it did feel that way, but there was also a lot of up and down. 2021 was definitely a better year for most people I know than 2020 was, but it still wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
But in spite of the weirdness the year brought for the world, there was quite a bit of personal growth for me. Here are a few things I learned.
1. Sometimes the point of creation is just to create.
Okay, this is something I’ve always said, but I don’t think I really learned it for myself until this year. Whether I was having conversations with artists about the creative process on the Find Creative Expression podcast or painting random paintings or crocheting a rainbow blanket, I was able to fully be present and enjoy creating–not with the expectation of sharing my work with others or receiving validation–just for the act of creation.
2. Live music and theatre make life magical.
Okay, this is also something that I’ve always known, but after going so long with no live music or live theatre, I really, really appreciated the three plays I was able to see this year (Hamilton at the Fox and both Calming the Man and Raising the Dead in the Essential Theatre Festival) as well as the band I was able to see (Wolf Alice at Terminal West). Living without live performances for so long made me really appreciate them more than I ever have before, even if we were all wearing masks, even if it wasn’t at full capacity and was a little different than usual. I hope I’m able to continue to see live performances in 2022. (I already have three music shows on the agenda!)
3. It’s important to appreciate the ones you love and to tell them/show them as often as you can.
This is also something I’ve always known, but it really hit home for me this year. In February, I had to put my cat, Frank, to sleep, which may not seem like a huge deal to some, but I had Frank for nearly 14 years. That was by far way longer (almost five times longer!) than any romantic relationship I have had. Anyone who knows me knows how important my kitties are to me, and losing Frank really reinforced the fragility of life for me.
I’ve had so many great times this year with my loved ones–family, friends, my boyfriend, my other cat, Julian–and I made it a point to try to express my appreciation for them more than I have before.
4. It’s okay to carve out your own path for your life.
I made the decision to sell my car this year–which isn’t actually a conventional thing for a person in suburban Atlanta to do. I still get a lot of questions about it. People just don’t get it. They’ll look at me and ask, “So you just don’t have a car??”
Atlanta is not really a city with great public transportation, and if I wasn’t able to work remotely, it probably wouldn’t work as well for me, but I’ve been without a car for three months now, and it really works for my life. I work from home, I live close to my boyfriend, and I have created routines that make the most of weekly Lyft trips to church and to see my parents. I’m saving money and I don’t have to deal with the constant anxiety of oil changes and maintenance and what if I break down and what if I get in a wreck and all of that.
You have to make decisions that work for you and feel right for your life, in spite of what anyone else thinks.
5. Facing things head on is always better than denial.
This year was the first year I faced my genetic condition. There is a progressive genetic condition that runs in my family called spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA). It’s caused my balance to become horrible, and it’s why my father uses a walker and my grandfather used a wheelchair for the last decade of his life. I’ve known I probably had SCA for a few years now–ever since I entered my thirties and started having balance issues–but it was always just something to be dealt with later.
Well, this year, I saw a neurologist to begin the process of being officially diagnosed and treated. (There’s no real treatment right now, but now I can participate in drug trials and studies and it’s good for me to just see a medical professional about it.) Furthermore, I found a great YouTube channel called Little Steps, Big Gains from an occupational therapist who specializes in workouts particularly for people with ataxia and Parkinson’s.
And I’ve been doing exercises on her channel at least three to four times a week most weeks. You can’t stop SCA from progressing, but you can slow the progression and get yourself in better shape to deal with symptoms. So that’s what I’m trying to do.
I’m also in the middle of writing a novel about SCA, which feels important and cathartic for me.
6. Having a day job doesn’t make me any less of a writer.
I spent the first half of the year trying to make ends meet. I’ve always been trying to be a “writer.” But I never thought I was a real writer because I’m not making enough money on my books to make a living.
This has been a conflict in my life ever since I graduated from grad school. And I put so much pressure on myself. I have to be writing books that are going to sell, and I have to be creating content every day to create more of a following online.
But this year, I just took all of the pressure off myself. I just looked at my writing, and I thought, you know, I don’t really need to write my vampire sequel right now. I need to write a book of poems about loss. And that’s what I did. It wasn’t a huge seller, and I’m sure I would have made more money if I put out my vampire sequel, but it wasn’t what I needed as a person and as a writer.
And now I only post on Instagram or Twitter or even TikTok if I have something to say. There isn't this constant pressure to be creating a following online.
(I still intend to get back to my vampire trilogy someday, but it will be because it’s the story I want to tell and not because I think it will sell.)
And eventually, I was able to land an amazing day job, writing web content for AT&T. And I learned how easier it is to write when you’re not stressing about how you’re going to pay the bills.
Everyone who writes is a writer. This is something I’ve always said, but never let apply to myself. But this year, I finally felt and believed this about myself.
I’m not trying to go into the new year with a lot of expectations. I do have some goals though:
To finish my novel
To read at least 25 books
To not spend as much time on social media
To express love and appreciation for my loved ones as much as possible
To do my best to put out positivity and love in the world
To be in the moment as much as possible and respond to whatever happens with grace
But really, though, is any year quite what anyone expects? You can never predict what’s going to happen. All we can really do is try to respond to unexpected events in ways that are authentic to who we are, to who we want to be. That’s all I can hope for 2022. And I’m wishing the same for all of you.
Hey everyone! It's been a long time since I've written anything here, but things have been going really well for me!
I got a job writing web content for AT&T, which I absolutely love. And it's interesting how creative you can be when you're not stressed about paying bills. So I've slowly but surely been making my way through the first draft of FINDING BALANCE. This is my #ownvoices novel about a Broadway dancer whose spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) causes her to not be able to dance anymore, and she has to move back to Atlanta in with her parents that she's barely had a relationship with for the past five or so years.
I am really enjoying the writing process. I'm allowing myself to go a little slower this time. I've been writing at least 300 words a day and documenting my experience on Twitter.
And next weekend, I'll be participating in Multiverse as an author. I'm really excited about geeking out with other science fiction and fantasy fans, connecting with other authors, and discovering new artists and stories. If you are a fan of science fiction or fantasy, check it out! (They are requiring proof of full vaccination.)
I've been taking a small break from the podcast since my retrospective show in August, but I will be back with new episodes starting October 28th. And I am continuing to crochet a rainbow blanket (which is coming along!) and paint for fun and volunteering to operate cameras for the stream at my church (Unity North Atlanta Church).
So that's what's going on with me. I hope everything is good in your world.
I remember when my mom took me to see The Nutcracker when I was five years old. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and from that moment on, I knew the purpose of my life was art.
This has taken on many forms throughout my life: dancing in ballet recitals, singing in the school chorus and church choir, writing little plays and having the neighborhood kids perform them on the driveway, taking acting classes, going to drama club, making student films, going to a performing arts high school for singing and then transferring back to my regular high school to start an all-girl rock band, performing in musicals like Peter Pan and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, getting a BA in English and then an MFA in Creative Writing, filling so many journals and notebooks with poems and stories and diary entries that I literally have boxes and boxes in my closet, going to see a production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Actor's Express over 30 times, jumping from band to band and performing at my favorite Atlanta venues and even some venues in Chicago and Asheville and Charleston, playing guitar in bars in Edinburgh and San Miguel de Allende, producing and directing my own plays, writing a short screenplay and doing everything from holding the boom mic to picking up pizza for the cast and crew to performing a cameo as the stoner guitar player, hosting open mic nights at Unity North Atlanta Church and Cool Beans, seeing my plays on professional stages like Horizon Theatre and Out of Box Theatre, booking bands and putting together benefit shows, writing books and pursuing traditional publishing, getting a literary agent, self-publishing, publishing with a small press, singing in trios and quartets and ensembles at church, decoupaging a table with my favorite albums, running through the Tabernacle crying as Morrissey sang "Now My Heart is Full", studying writing with New York Times Bestselling authors, and hosting a podcast about art and creativity.
I have had so many amazing experiences creating my own art, sharing other people's art, encouraging other artists, and teaching other artists what I know. I have collaborated with, bonded with, shared a stage with, and connected with so many other artists--from warming up backstage with other singers from other bands to being blown away by original songs at open mic nights to hanging out on the rooftops with other writers in Mexico to road trips crammed into small cars with other musicians to a telepathic form of communication that happens when jamming out with other musicians to making people laugh on stage when you're not supposed to and now interviewing so many thoughtful and inspiring creative people on the Find Creative Expression podcast.
And yet, I have not considered myself to be "successful" because while I have made some money on my books, plays, music, etc., I have never made enough money to not have to do other work to pay my bills. I have always thought of my "day job"--whether it's as an actual employee or a freelance writer and marketer--as something I was temporarily doing until I "made it" as an artist. Now, don't get me wrong, I never expected to be Stephen King or Taylor Swift. But there are tons of midlist authors, indie musicians, independent artists making a living on their art, and I always thought I would eventually be one of them.
Recently, though, I've realized the number of artists that can actually make enough to pay their bills strictly on books, music, theatre, or art and don't have to also do some kind of "day job"--even if it's something related like teaching, writing books in a popular genre that you wouldn't normally write, speaking, etc.--are few and far between.
But why is it that there are so many artists who I consider to be successful that also have to do other work? I realized this last week when I interviewed musician, Kim Ware, on the podcast. Here is a songwriter and musician that I have always considered to be successful. She's had five albums, she ran an indie record label for ten years, and she opened for the freaking Indigo Girls. It never really even mattered to me if she worked a day job or did other work. I realized I never actually knew if she did or not until I interviewed her last week. (She did manage to do all of that while working a day job!)
So I'm letting go of the idea that my art will ever be the only thing that pays my bills.
This might sound like giving up, but it's not. I have zero intentions of stopping writing, creating, playing music, encouraging other artists, continuing the podcast and other content, etc. If anything, this gives me more freedom. I won't have to pressure myself to write in popular genres or create a ton of content every week to create a successful brand. I can create what I want and release it when I want to. Which means if I want to write a book of poems about loss, I can!
I have also realized lately that the ability to create and be artistic assumes a certain amount of privilege. I know I am extremely privileged but over the past few months as I've been trying to freelance, there have been phases where I've had a lot of work and phases where I haven't. When I haven't had a lot of work, I've also been Doordashing, which is fine, but doesn't pay nearly enough for my current lifestyle (which isn't even extravagant at all, but just living a "normal" American existence is expensive). I've realized that I've had to use so much creative energy to budget, juggle bills, figure out who I can delay paying, figure out who I can borrow money from, etc. that I haven't had much left over for my writing, creativity, or art.
So my heart goes out to everyone who is so busy struggling financially that they aren't able to be creative, and I hope eventually, I can get involved in outreach or helping somehow. I have dreams of opening up an artist colony where I could pay artists to come and create for a short period of time. Or if nothing else, I hope I can continue to offer my services to people for cheap or free as I have always done as much as I can. (I always try to take time to answer questions people have for me, I have always created a lot of free content for other artists, and I help people out with editing and graphic design and video editing and whatever else I can for affordable prices or bartering or whatever I can make work.)
I'm tired of doing the freelance hustle. I am looking for a new job. I'm looking for a long-term opportunity. I know I have a lot to offer in terms of marketing, creativity, and content creation, and I am open to whatever may come my way. In an ideal world, I would have a "day job" for an artistic organization or an organization that helps others in some way, but honestly, my main motivation right now is to cover all of my bills so that I have enough time and energy left over to do my real creative work.
This also got me thinking about identity. In America, there is this tendency to define ourselves solely based on what we do to make money. We go to a party, and people ask us what we do. "I'm an accountant." "I work in sales." "I manage a restaurant." But might the more honest answer to that question be "I'm a father," "I'm a birdwatcher," "I'm a baker," or "I'm a hiker"?
So the next time someone asks me what I do at a party, I can say confidently, I am a writer. I am an artist. I am a creator. And why does it matter what I get paid to do?
Now, a lot of people would probably tell me this is not something I should be admitting. This is not what people want to hear at job interviews.
"Why do you want to work here?"
"To pay my bills so I can do my real work."
But ironically, I think by finally being honest about what I am looking for in a job, I can actually honor the "day job" more than I have in the past. By admitting that my day job is not my identity, I can actually pursue a day job that means something to me. I feel that if I take the pressure off the "day job" to be my identity, I can actually find more meaningful work.
I don't know what the next chapter of my life is going to look like. I don't know what opportunities will present themselves to me. And that's kind of exciting.
My first memory of a piece of art moving me is The Nutcracker. My mom took me to see it when I was five. Since then, I’ve known with my entire being that my purpose in this life is to be an artist. Unfortunately, I’ve had a hard time since then deciding what kind of artist I was going to be. I have been a singer, a dancer, an actress, a director, a playwright, a screenwriter, a spotlight operator, an author, a poet, a keyboardist, a guitarist, and a songwriter.
Two of these things have been more consistent throughout my life, though: my love of music and my love of stories. Even when I was a ballet, tap, and jazz dancer as a kid, I always loved the music more than anything. I remember being in a school play of Little Red Riding Hood in fourth grade, and I played Red’s mother. I got to sing a solo, and that was the first time that I really thought that maybe I could actually be a singer and make some of the music I loved so much.
In middle school, I was a dorky kid, a loner. But in 8th grade, I got to be in chorus. I shyly tried out for the solo at the beginning of “White Christmas,” and from that moment on, I had an identity. I was “the girl who could sing.” I thought I was headed down the Broadway/choral singing path, and I was even accepted into the performing arts magnet high school as a vocal major. But after about a month, I decided it wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to sing choral songs and Broadway songs; I wanted to write my own songs. So I went back to the high school where all my friends from middle school were, worked at Schlotzsky’s for months to save up to buy my first guitar, and started an all-girl band with my friends. We called ourselves Population 2 even though there were four of us. It didn’t really matter that we didn’t entirely know how to play our instruments or write songs. We figured it out together.
The four of us with our friend, Brandon, wearing a "Pop 2 Crew" t-shirt at our first gig
I remember watching Hole perform on a concert series they used to do on HBO with my bandmates, and we dreamed of the day that we could be on stage with our guitars, playing to thousands of people. And from about 2001 to 2013, that’s what I tried to do. Although I did continue to sing and perform in choral groups and musical theatre throughout the years, I mostly played solo singer/songwriter gigs and band gigs. After Population 2, I sang, played guitar, and played keyboard in the bands, Ruby, Novo Luna, Long Absent Friends, Sara Crawford and the Cult Following, and Pocket the Moon.
Ruby - I'm serious here, y'all. I'm in a graveyard.
I went through a lot of ups and downs with each of these bands, and each of these bands taught me something about who I was. I can remember so many great times playing with every single one of the people I played with. I remember the months Geoff, Brian, Adrian, and I tossed around ridiculous ideas for band names until we finally settled on Sara Crawford and the Cult Following. I remember Kylei, Michael, and I driving through ice and snow to play a Long Absent Friends acoustic show at Red Light Cafe. I remember playing at a gym with Novo Luna where we were followed by a belly dancer. I remember all of the conversations on porches during breaks at band practice. I remember all of the moments in each band when we communicated with each other without saying anything. You look at each other, and you just psychically know to play the last chorus or to go into the bridge or to switch to a G chord. I remember all of the songs we covered. To this day, any time any song I ever covered with any band comes on, I have to tell someone, “hey, I used to cover this song!”
Novo Luna playing at a pizza place that I'm pretty sure no longer exists
During these years, I got to play so many great local Atlanta venues. Smith’s Olde Bar, The Earl, The Star Bar, The Drunken Unicorn, The Five Spot, Lenny’s. I got to release albums and EPs. I got to play in Nashville, Tennessee and Augusta, Georgia. I got to play a tequila bar in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and an open mic night at a bar in Edinburgh called Lebowski’s after I flew my guitar all the way to Scotland. I was voted Best Local Songwriter in the Best of Atlanta issue of Creative Loafing into 2010.
Long Absent Friends - the shortest-lived of all my bands. We really did become long-absent friends.
There were also a lot of disappointments. There were the shows I played for three people. There was the show I played on a tiny plywood stage at a festival in Piedmont Park where literally not one person listened to my set. There were dramatic arguments and encounters that only sensitive musicians can have with each other. There were all of the misogynistic assholes only female musicians have to deal with. And every time a band I was in broke up, it felt like a romantic break up. (And sometimes, they literally were romantic breakups.) And every night on stage, there was a vulnerable feeling that only comes with singing your heart out. Sometimes it was magical. Sometimes it was heartbreaking.
Sara Crawford and the Cult Following
Pocket the Moon - and look there's an actual moon behind us, y'all!
And then there was Pocket the Moon. Geoff Goodwin had a real talent for taking these raw songs I wrote and making them into something special. He really understood what I was trying to do musically, and he helped me achieve the exact sound I was going for. To this day, our self-titled album is still one of my proudest artistic accomplishments, and I know I wouldn’t be anywhere near as proud of it if he hadn’t arranged, co-written, played, recorded, and mixed it. (It's so hard to believe that album will be ten years old in June!)
And for a moment there, I really thought we could make it. I finally could see myself on that stage we used to dream about when we watched Courtney Love covered in glitter, her guitar attached to her like another limb on her body.
We even went on a little tour of sorts, piling an entire drum kit, a keyboard, two guitars, a bass, and maybe a PA (I can’t remember, but it was a lot) into Geoff’s Honda and playing actual gigs in Asheville, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Charleston, South Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; and open mic nights in as many cities as we could along the way.
I remember so many nights when we had a gig, during the guitar solo of “Rooftops,”–a song about the healing power of art and coming together with other artists–I would just close my eyes, listen to the ethereal sounds of Geoff’s guitar solo that he used the electronic bow on, strum my simple A and E chords on my acoustic, and just feel like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
One of the best things about my time in Pocket the Moon, though, was how involved I got in the Atlanta music scene. I met so many amazing musicians that became good friends. We would all go see each other’s bands and support each other. I met touring musicians from all over. I traded CDs with so many people that to this day, there are still CDs scattered all over my house.
But eventually, we stopped playing, too. I played a couple more solo gigs in 2013, and on my 29th birthday in 2014, I played what I called “my last gig in that context” at Smith’s Olde Bar. I had Geoff and my friend, Noah, back me up on bass and drums, and I booked my friends, singer/songwriter, Juliana Finch, and indie band, Finster, to play with me.
At the end of my set, I covered an obscure Spiritualized song and got Geoff, Noah, Juliana, and Finster to sing the last chorus with me. “So long you pretty thing, God save your little soul/The music that you played so hard ain’t on your radio/And all your dreams and diamond rings and all that rock and roll can bring you/Sail on, so long.” I remember singing that verse and looking over at all of them and feeling so grateful for my time in the Atlanta music scene. And that obscure Spiritualized song that no one knew was a way for me to say goodbye.
And that was it. I thought I was done with singing, with being a musician, with being in bands. I sang a little bit off and on at church, but I even stopped that eventually. And my keyboard and guitar collected dust in my room.
There was one day I was driving with my music on shuffle. “Tangled” by Pocket the Moon came on, and I heard myself singing, “you’ll miss them when they’re gone.” And then I started the album over, listened to the entire thing, drove around Marietta, and had one of the biggest emotional breakdowns I’ve ever had. I was mourning for a part of me I thought I had lost. I was mourning for a dream I thought I lost. (This moment later became the inspiration for a scene I wrote in the book, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.)
I didn’t think I could do it anymore. I didn’t think I would ever be able to play on that stage like Courtney Love so I didn’t see the point in trying. I thought I was getting too old to be in bands. All of my friends who used to come to my gigs were moving to other states, getting married, having kids, growing up. I didn’t think anyone would come see me sing anyway. And so I stopped singing.
I did still sing off and on at my church, but then life got complicated. I got married to someone with severe mental health and addiction issues, and during those years, I was just trying to get through each day. Eventually, I left him and after staying with my parents for the summer, I moved into my own apartment.
Shortly after I moved in, I became obsessed with the song "Pink Rabbits" by The National. One day I just decided to learn how to play it on guitar. And eventually, I expanded my daily guitar playing to include some of my old songs.
And then the pandemic hit. And we all had to readjust.
One of the things I started doing was writing little songs for my friends for their birthdays on my ukulele. As silly as they were, they made me want to keep writing songs. So in July of last year, I wrote my first song in seven years.
I never would have tried to play a gig at this point, but with everyone in quarantine, tons of musicians were doing live streams. I decided to play a set in my living room and live stream it.
Most of the people who watched were my friends and family, and I was definitely rusty, but I had a blast. And for possibly the first time, I wasn't playing my music with the idea of achieving some goal--"making it" as a musician--but I was just playing my songs for the sheer joy of it. I was just expressing myself, expecting nothing in return.
I was re-reading the first two books in my trilogy, The Muse Chronicles recently, and I realized that this trilogy is a bit of a love letter to music and musicians. In the acknowledgments of We Own the Sky, I wrote, “Thank you to all the musicians I have played with over the years, especially Geoff Goodwin, the other half of my former indie band, Pocket the Moon. Thank you to all of the Atlanta musicians who inspire me. I would never have been able to write this book if I hadn’t had all the experiences playing music with you all.”
And I realized there has been a reason for all of it, for every single up and down, for every single song I wrote, every single show I played, every single musician I played with or met or saw, even if I only interacted with them for one moment, one song. Because these musicians have been my inspiration, my Muses. And maybe it hasn’t been that I ended up singing on a stage with a band like I thought I would, and maybe I did stop singing for a time, but I never stopped creating. And even though I wasn’t singing, the music was coming out in other ways–in stories or in plays or even in the way I worked with other writers or artists. Sometimes even in the way I write blog posts on here, I think.
I've barely picked up my guitar since my living room set last August, but I’ve realized something important. Music is a part of me as much as breathing is or walking. And whether I’m singing at church, writing a story or play about music, or maybe eventually even venturing into an open mic night again, I can’t give singing up. And if you’re an artist or a creative person, you can’t give up your art either. The music inside you never dies. And it doesn’t matter if your audience is a thousand people, a hundred people, one person, or two cats, if there are songs inside of you, you have to sing them. If there are stories inside of you, you have to write them. If there are paintings inside of you, you have to paint them.
Because if art or creation is part of who you are–whether it’s singing karaoke or coloring in an adult coloring book or taking an improv class or writing poetry–you owe it to yourself and to the world to create. You won’t feel entirely right until you do.
I'd like to announce that on March 23, 2021, I will be releasing Slip Away, my new book of poems.
At the same time, I will also be re-releasing my book of poems, Coiled and Swallowed (2010) as well as my book of poems, Driving Downtown to the Show (2012) with these new covers.
All three books will be available in ebook and print on all book retailers. I will also be recording audiobooks though those won't come out until later this year.
A few weeks ago, I had to put my cat, Frank, to sleep. I was devastated, and the only thing that helped was writing poetry. The idea for Slip Away was born. It is a collection of poems about loss. Actual loss through death, yes, but also the loss of relationships, the loss of childhood, the loss of dreams.
I've been writing like crazy since then, and now I have a first draft of the entire collection.
I know what you're thinking. "Wow, that sounds depressing, Sara." But actually, if you stick with me until the end of the collection, it has an uplifting message by the end.
These poems are all very personal to me, and sharing them is giving everyone a peek into my soul, more so than my fiction or plays have.
For those of you wondering what's going on with my vampire trilogy, I've decided to shelf Until the Night Falls for the time being. I will definitely return to the trilogy at a later date, but my heart just isn't in it right now. Right now is not the time for me to write about vampires.
The ebook versions of my poetry books will all be $1.99, or there will be a $2.99 bundle with all three books. (The print versions will be $4.99.)
I am so excited to share these poems--both the old and the new--with you.
Well, it's that time again. The last day of the year.
In normal times, I love New Year's Eve. I love reflecting back over the previous year and looking forward to the new one. But if 2020 was anything, it was definitely not normal. I'm cautiously optimistic about 2021: hoping for live performances to return, hoping to be able to hang out with my friends and family normally again, hoping to get a lot of writing done.
I usually set reading and writing goals. I usually try to read 50 books a year and I set some ambitious goal about writing 300 words a day or publishing four books. I'm not doing that this year. I was going to set my Goodreads Reading Challenge to 25 books and just put it out there that I will finish my Shadow Vampires trilogy in 2021. Anything above that will be a bonus.
2020 has definitely been difficult on a national (or even global) scale. There's been a lot of struggle. The pandemic, amplifying the fight for racial justice, the election. My heart goes out to anyone who has been sick or lost a loved one.
At the same time, artistically and creatively, it was a pretty good year for me. I started the Find Creative Expression podcast, which I actually really enjoy doing. I have had so much fun having conversations about art and creativity with artists of all kinds. I started playing music again. I wrote tons of "joke songs" and even a real song, and I played an acoustic set that I live streamed from my living room. I "went wide" with my indie books--making them available on book retailers like Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Google Play. I had a Bookbub Featured Deal, which led to a lot more readers of We Own the Sky and The Muse Chronicles Trilogy. I had my first book traditionally published with Parliament House Press, and I had my first audiobook. I quit my day job and started freelancing full-time.
Everything I was actually able to accomplish was due to your support. Whether you are a friend, family member, reader, podcast listener, or collaborator, thank you so much. Without you, I don't know that I would have made it through the year. Thank you so much for reading my work, for listening to my podcasts, for supporting my return to music, for every comment or like or share, for every review, for all of your support. It means the world to me.
And so I look forward to 2021. But I don't have any expectations. I don't know what's going to happen this year. I don't know what it will look like. But I do know your support will continue to mean everything to me.
Well, it's the last day of November, which means lots of people are celebrating winning National Novel Writing Month - writing 50,000 words in 30 days. To all of those writers, I'd like to say congratulations!
I started out the month working on NaNoWriMo, but then I was so distracted by the election, I didn't get much done. I also committed to more freelance work than I actually should have and had to spend a lot of time doing that. And then I got to the point where I was desperately trying to finish my novel, Until the Night Falls, the sequel to Into the Shadows, my YA vampire paranormal romance. Revising everything I had already written became more important than writing and tracking new words, and I had the novel up for pre-order to be released on 12/29/2020. So I needed to send it to my editor, revise based on her feedback, and then have it proofread all by Christmas. So I ironically had to quit NaNoWriMo to finish my novel.
I spent most of the weekend trying to shape everything I had written into a somewhat cohesive novel, but at some point on Saturday, I realized it wasn't working, and I had to start completely over with a new document. (This isn't quite as dramatic as it sounds as I end up copy/pasting a lot of stuff I've already written but still.) I really wanted to avoid canceling my pre-order and postponing the release of the book as usually if you do that, Amazon won't let you use the pre-order feature for one year. It also felt like failing for me somehow.
That got me thinking. Why did it feel like a failure? Was it because I had been comparing myself to indie writers who release five or ten or even twelve novels in a year? Was it because I was getting emails from writing coaches and successful authors talking about everything you HAVE to do to be a successful writer?
All throughout my studies of creative writing, I have heard so many "rules." Write every day. Don't start a novel with dialogue. Don't have a prologue. You have to create an outline first and plan everything out. But I have discovered that these rules are crap.
Don't get me wrong, there are definitely rules for writing - the structure of storytelling, how to develop characters, how to show and not tell, etc. - just as there are for every art form. But every rule in writing can be broken. Sure, it means a lot more when you break the rules if you have a good understanding of them first, but when it comes to process, there are no rules.
Maybe I'm just never going to be like those indie authors who write ten books a year. Maybe some years, I will write five books, and some years, I will write none. Maybe I go through phases where I write every day, and then I go weeks without writing. (Well, creative writing. I absolutely do write something every day - whether it's a journal entry or web content about metal roofing equipment or a blog post about writing process.)
Maybe it's okay that I will have four or five different drafts before I even figure out the shape of the entire plot. Maybe it's okay that I always start with something that won't end up in the final version. Maybe that's just my process.
As it turns out, Amazon has temporarily suspended the rules about canceling pre-orders so I won't even suffer any consequences for canceling my pre-order, except of course the refunds Amazon will give to the people who have already ordered the book. And it has been so long since the first book came out (February 2019) that a few more months won't make a difference I think. I still plan to do some promotions with Into the Shadows right before I release Until the Night Falls that will hopefully get readers excited, but I was going to do that anyway.
So I just wanted to say to all the writers -- whether you won NaNoWriMo or didn't finish or didn't even do it at all this year -- whether you write every day or sometimes go entire months or even years without writing -- whether you are someone who flies by the seat of your pants and discovers the plot as you write or someone who meticulously plans and outlines beforehand -- whether you need silence to write or you have to write to music or the noise of crowds chattering (well, not during a pandemic, but in normal times) -- there is no right way to be a writer. Whatever works for you is what works for you.
Does that mean you should never try anything different or try to use a different writing process? No. Does that mean your process won't evolve and change? Of course not. But you also first need to accept where you are. Cut yourself some slack. Don't try to fit into someone else's box. Someone else's process is entirely theirs, and every writer is different.
Sometimes, life is going to get in the way of writing, too. So have some self-compassion, and give yourself permission to be the kind of writer you are.