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Photo by Wayne Lee-Sing on Unsplash

“Hey, ain’t you Jesse’s sister?” Jesse’s sister, that name should have been on my birth certificate. Not one of my brother’s friends ever called me by my first name. Did they know it? Even Kevin, who always found his way into my room when my brother was in the bathroom. Slobbering all over my face, in what I guess was his attempt at kissing. I was 10 or 11, I didn’t know how to kiss, and if I did, I didn’t want to kiss him. Only one of his friends knew my name and always used it. …


A Personal Journey

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

I stare at the page wondering when it’s going to fill itself up with words. I knew that having an MFA wouldn’t suddenly make me Ms. Prolific Writer, but I did think it would give me more confidence when confronted with the blank page. Sometimes the nonsense that flows from my pen scares me, other times, my breath catches in my throat at the brilliance. I’d be satisfied with somewhere in between.

Imposter syndrome hovers around me like a mosquito, but when I started submitting my work and having it rejected, it was a constant reminder that I suck. If former first lady of the United States Michelle Obama suffers from this, then of course my insignificant self would too. Mrs. Obama said in a speech she gave in North London, “…we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.” …


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Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

The benefits and irritations of submitting my work through Submittable

There are a lot of writers out in the world and it seems like we’re all vying for the same precious spots in literary journals. Of course, this most likely isn’t true, it just seems like it when you’re the one submitting.

Thirty years ago, the only way to submit to literary journals was through snail mail. I would look for opportunities, usually in a writing magazine and send my finished product through the mail. Then I’d wait, and wait, and wait. Sometimes I’d actually get a rejection letter, once in a while an acceptance. …


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“black typewriter” by Da Kraplak on Unsplash

I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo since 2012. Why? Because in 2013 I went back to school. I finished up my BA and then I went for the MFA. Five years later, I am done. November is mine once again. I had not anticipated doing NaNoWriMo this year, but I thought, why not? I write all the time anyway, I might as well challenge myself.

Grad school changed me

It actually changed the way I approach writing. I find I no longer put needless words on the page that I’ll just have to edit later. I learned this the hard way. It’s fun to think you can write whatever you want and editing will fix it, but it is another thing to have to do it. I had to do it for grad school and it was as un-fun as a root canal. Daily word counts are important, but I can now get there using the words I want as opposed to fillers. …


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“person reading book” by Tbel Abuseridze on Unsplash

And how I overcame the misconception that adult books are boring

I developed an allergy to all things book. From the age of 14 to 18, I would break out with a severe case of boredom. The only thing that eased my suffering were boys and — more boys.

I started with the standard fare of Curious George and Clifford. By the age of twelve I had progressed to queen of tweens Miss Judy Blume. Then it happened. I’m not sure which came first, the tragedy that is Macbeth or Hester Prynne and her A. My eyes rolled back in my head as Old English pronouns rolled around in my brain. Where was J.K. …


Why I can’t write a Sonnet until I learn everything

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

My poems once vacillated between the egocentric “I” and the finger pointing “you”. “I” was used while in pain from what “you” did. This isn’t as cathartic as one might think. My feelings weren’t adequately expressed because I was locked in the mindset that poetry had to rhyme. If it wasn’t a hardcore rhyme, it wasn’t poetry. A line ending with head had to find a way to rhyme with its mate dead. But never bed or god forbid, instead. I was suffocating inside a rhyme scheme coffin. ABAB or AABB. Quatrains only. No deviation, no exceptions. …


and you should too

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Photo by Vale Zmeykov on Unsplash

People often wonder where I get the ideas for my stories. The answer is, different places. I used to write about myself exclusively and change the name of the main character, but that got old. I’m not that exciting. As I grew as a writer, I realized there were stories all around me. Every day, I come across one thing that would make a great story.

But what are these inspirations and how does the germ of an idea become a full-fledged story? Everyone has a different road they take to find ideas, these are mine.

1. Real Life
I use people from my own life. They could be relatives or friends. They could be ex-lovers, former friends, former co-workers, current neighbors or anyone from my daily life (or former daily life). …


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Photo by Lonely Planet on Unsplash

Remember learning about the Brontë sisters and how they would scratch out words on paper? It sounds glamorous and tedious. Today we wonder why anyone would want to write anything by hand. We have a multitude of distractions. Everything is vying for our attention: kids, partners, work, social media, bingeable programming. Typing in a white square seems so much faster and easier. I can get my thoughts out faster and be done with it. Why would I take the time to open a notebook, click a pen, and loop letters into words? Why would anyone?

My preference for the notebook goes back to my first one in 1986. This coincided with me entering the workforce. Though computers were around with their mammoth floppy disks, my first office job was sitting in front of an electric typewriter. Clicking away like Hemmingway was not going to happen. Enter the notebook. I could write and no one would know. …


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Photo Credit: Liz Kelso

I don’t take notice when I walk by a group of African-American men. I might if they are rowdy, but passing them doesn’t cause beads of sweat to drip down my spine. There is only a small chance that I will be accosted. This is not because I am also African-American, but because these men don’t notice me. I’m part of the scenery, a blur in their background as most people passing them are. Everyone except for an attractive young woman who gets the annoying cat call. Aside from something truly out of the ordinary, this is all these young men notice. …

About

Liz Kelso

Essayist, Poet, and Fiction writer from New York City. Unglamorous superhero by day. Part-time English Professor by night.

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