Creative Life: Say Yes

Sometimes I feel as if writing is about a whole lot of little steps – like swinging from one monkey bar to the next on a kindergarten playground. You concentrate on one rung and then use the momentum to propel you to the next one. Except in the case of writing, something you did months or years ago pays off and you never know if something you do today will pay off or how.

It’s frustrating.

So many opportunities came from the simple act of submitting a story to the Baltimore Science Fiction Society– speaking at a Washington Science Fiction Society meeting, serving on panels at Balticon and Capclave and meeting up with some really cool people in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia).

I didn’t think about everything that would come out it when I hit the “submit” button. I was eligible and so I applied.

All of that is just to say – say yes to what you can. You never know where it could lead.

Copyright © 2022 Irette Y. Patterson

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Stay Ready – Library Cards

Sometimes we have access to so many benefits that we don’t use Let’s take a library card. The digital version of my library cards allows me access to language learning sites, newspapers, and a movie site. I don’t call it free, because I pay taxes. I call it being efficient. Check out what you’re already paying for. Libraries have extended well beyond physical books these days.

Copyright © 2022 Irette Y. Patterson

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Story Analysis- Legally Blonde The Musical

I love Legally Blonde the Musical. It’s fun. It’s boppy and it’s structure is tight y’all. Like, it squeaks when it walks.

The Broadway pro-shot as my comfort musical. For those who don’t know the premise of Legally Blonde it is Malibu Barbie goes to Harvard Law School. Cue the fish out of water scenes. But it’s so much more. Legally Blonde is for everyone who was ever told you’re not smart enough, you don’t belong.

I view the story as a series of plans that Elle views to reach her goal. Each time her plans changes, the location changes and so does Elle’s costume. Inside the overarching plans are try-fail cycles.

Our story begins in the oridinary world of our protagnist Elle Woods. The opening musical number is “Omigod You Guys” and that number does a lot of work. It sets up Elle’s world, expectations of that world (to marry) and how Elle’s sorority sisters love her. A theme throughout Legally Blonde is sisterhood. It is also establishes that Elle is smart. When a sales lady tries to overcharge Elle for a dress, Elle cross examines her. Elle. Cross examines her.

The last scene of the musical is a direct call back to the first musical number.

What most writing books call “inciting incident”, I’m trying out the phrase “disruption” or when things go sideways. Elle thinks her boyfriend is going to propose. He instead dumps her because he’s going off to Harvard Law and wants someone “Serious.”

So. Elle’s plan is to convince Warner that she’s serious and worthy of being proposed to by getting into Harvard Law School. And now, we’re off to the races.

Here’s the breakdown:

  1. The Plan- Try-Fail Cycle – Push and Pull
    1. Plan – Marry Warner – Setting College
      1. Establishing Scene – Sorority sisters wishing Elle well on her date. She assume she’s going to be proposed to.
      2. Disruption- He dumps her instead of proposing because she’s not serious. – The Jolt out of her normal life.
    2. Plan – Convince Warner she’s worthy of being engaged by geting into Harvard Law. Cue Elle’s “I Want” song which is literally called “What You Want.” Writing books will tell you your protagnoist needs a plan to achieve their goals. Elle sings her plan in the song. As in – Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3. Let us pause for a moment how they were able to get away with that…
      1. Failure – LSAT score is not initially high enough so she sacrifices her senior spring to study with Kate.
      2. Win – She gets a 175.
      3. Failure – The committee doesn’t want to allow her in.
      4. New Plan – She shows up with a marching band and the admission committee accepts her.
    3. Plan -Impress Warner at Harvard that she’s serious. – Setting Harvard. She’s still in pink, but it’s pink in a classic Chanel inspired blazer.
      1. Failure. He has a girlfriend named Vivian and she gets kicked out her first day of class for being unprepared.
      2. New Plan – Become a brunette, change to get the attention of Warner.
      3. Failure – Paulette the hairdresser says no Paulette has her introductory song “Ireland” about her being unlucky in love and how her ex took her dog. Paulette .and tells Elle to fight for Warner.
        1. “Ireland” is Paulette’s “I Want” song. It’s one of my favorite songs in a musical because it’s sad and funny. It, like the rest of the songs in this musical, does a lot of work. But, I know that Paulette is going to get everything she’s yearning for in her song because…well…this is a musical and that’s how it works.
      4. New plan – Go to the party Vivian invited her to. (Even Ray Charles can see that Elle is being set up.)
      5. Failure – She’s in a Playboy Bunny costume. Everyone else is wearing normal clothes. She’s leaves, heartbroken. Emmett (love interest) finds her upset on a bench and wants to help her because he’s from a working class background and his Harvard peers laughed at him too when he was in school “Chip on My Shoulder.” (Okay. Emmett is helping Elle not because she’s beautiful and that is the first time that has ever happened.that’s when she picks up Emmett.
      6. New plan. Succeed at law school. Study with Emmett. She gives up vacations to study. This is a callback to her giving up her senior spring to study for the LSAT. It is established that Elle is a hardworker. This is where I start to like Emmett because he gives her a combination shampoo/conditioner so she can save time in the shower to study. It’s such a sweet, nerdy thing to do.
      7. Win. She does well in class. She helps Paulette get her dog back. She’s starting to see that the law can help people and that’s something she’s interested in. Earlier it’s played for a joke that Elle started a charity called “Shop for a Cause,” but let’s sit on this for a minute – Elle started a non-profit and was president of a majority sorirty which means she possibily oversaw hundreds of thousands of dollars. Strip what it’s tied to – like her 4.0 in fashion merchandising and you start to see how capable she is:
        1. President of a major student organization (sorority)
        2. Founder of a non-profit (Shop for a Cause)
        3. 4.0 GPA (fashion merchanising)
      8. Fail. Warner proposes to Vivian. This is the big one. She’s only at Harvard for Warner and now he’s engaged to someone else, but…
      9. Win. She gets the coveted internship and it’s “So Much Better” than what she had with Warner.
    4. New Goal – Succeed on internship. Impress Callahan – the lawyer in charge. New Setting – Law Firm. Elle is in navy blue with pink pinstripes.
      1. Fail. She changes the way she dresses, but no one listens to her.
      2. Win. The client, Brooke, confides in her because they belong to the same sorority and makes a breakthrough contribution to the team.
      3. Fail. Callahan hits on her. She thought she was selected because she was smart, but it was only because she was a “dumb blonde.”
      4. Dark Moment. Elle is going to leave and she sings about going back home to the person she was before. When she tells Emmett that some girls are just meant to smile andshe’s describing herself? Heartbreaking, y’all. She goes to tell Paulette she’s leaving.
      5. Vivian follows her to the hair salon – the same place she initially set Elle up with the lie about the costume party – to tell her that Vivian was wrong about Elle. This is a difference from the movie and I like it. It also plays into the sisterhood theme. Vivian has Elle’s navy suit.
    5. New plan. Be true to herself .
      1. Before, she was trying to impress other people. Now she’s confident and is back in her signature pink. – Court room.
      2. Win – She’s got her Harvard friends. Her sorority sisters come from California to support Elle in her trial. Turns out the UPS guy is of Irish heritage and there’s a Riverdance segment. Repeat. There’s a Riverdance segment. Elle wins the trial.
      3. She graduates top of her class and proposes to Emmett who promptly goes into a reprise of Omigod.

Fluffy perfection. You can try to argue with me. You would be wrong.

Copyright © 2022 Irette Y. Patterson

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Creative Life – Defining The Goal

The idea about this article sprung from something I read about language learning. A man had set a Duolingo goal to reach diamond league (the highest you can go on the app) when actually the real goal was being able to talk with his German girlfriend’s parents. You can reach your goal, but if it’s not tied into your vision, it won’t give you what you want.

I’ve been thinking a lot about goal setting and its importance. In the past, a good deal of my job was figuring out the actual question someone wanted an answer to.

The question and the answer may seem obvious at first, but then when you get the person on the phone to ask for clarification, it’s something totally different or the person will open up with the why – the real reason they’re asking and how important this question is. It was important to figure that out because I could waste a whole lot of time researching to find the right answer to the wrong question.

And this is what I’ve done with writing. I focused on the tactics as the end goal instead of as simply a way to get to my vision. I’ve learned to work in inches, to work in dribbles and drabs and as long as I’m moving forward, that is success. My vision is my compass. Guideposts, may be leading the way, but if they aren’t taking me closer to the vision, then it really doesn’t matter.

Okay. If you’ve known me for any period of time, you’ll know I have 6 rejections from application-only SFF workshops. I thought attending one of those workshops was a necessary part of my career.

In my brain, this was what success looked like:

Application-only prestigious workshp acceptance

Publication in one of the Big 3 SFF magazines.

Establishing a series through my short fiction to build a fanbase and then moving on to writing a novel…which of course would be published by one of my two target publishers.

Yea. Uh. None of that happened. And guess what? Those were tactics. It wasn’t my vision. My vision – writing my stories for my readers and letting them know about it so my readers can support me and my work – needed to be at the front of my mind. And maybe if I didn’t get into the workshop or published by my target publishers, just maybe my readers aren’t there and those were not good tactics for me.

Maybe I needed to try to reach my readers in a different way.

I confused the goal with tactics. Never a good thing and it can have you wasting a lot of time answering the wrong question and being miserable while at it.

So, I ask myself – Am I defining my goal correctly? Am I being honest? It’s so easy to fool yourself into saying what sounds right. Before I would say that money isn’t important, but it is. I want my readers to value my work enough to buy it. That means they have to know about it.

Am I ready to put out a big marketing push? No. Because I feel my shoulders cringing.  I just want to get to the point where I like writing again. And concentrating on tactics took that feeling away from me.

As long as I get an inch closer toward my vision, which in some ways include what I want to avoid, I’ll be fine.

Copyright © 2022 Irette Y. Patterson

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Stay Ready – Check for Fees

I know. It seems so simple. But I lost money for years for not comparing fees that were being charged on a retirement account. Once I started paying attention, I transferred the account to a different custodian. So. Pull up your financial statements and check for any fees. Then act accordingly.

Copyright © 2022 Irette Y. Patterson

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Creative Life – Junk Miles

The Creative Life – Junk Miles

Note: Here’s something I wrote for my newsletter in 2018. Why am I mentioning when I wrote it? Because if you write something that you’re proud of, you can use it again and again and again… Interested in reprinting this article in your newsletter? Reach out. Let’s talk terms.

Years ago I walked a half-marathon. I was working with a long-distance runner at the time and I figured it would be a good challenge because it was a goal that I could not do at the moment. While researching my big goal I subscribed to Runners’ World magazine. I spent my extra moments reading article after article on line. I visualized me smiling as I crossed the finish line.

During this time I ran across the concept of junk miles. As someone training for a long-distance event, you have a day where you put in your miles which you steadily increase to train for the event. Junk miles are miles that you run (or in my case walk) because it’s on the schedule. You are not really in tune with the work out. You look at the schedule – the training schedule says 5 miles, you just put in your 5 miles without consciously working on your form or paying attention. It’s sleepwalking but getting the credit for being at the job.

What has this got to do with writing? First, a disclaimer: I love National Novel Writing Month. It was the month that eased me back into writing in a wonderful low-pressure way. Yes, I wound up sending in zombies for my first couple of years to meet the 50,000-word monthly goal. I did, however, find a writing group, learn I could write 50,000 words in a month if I needed to and nailed down some of the processes that I use today.

That said, I also learned to write junk words. The insistence on words with word wars and the reliance of word counts has not served me well. I noticed this because I have published enough stories to start to see a pattern. Not one of my published stories was written with the stream-of-conscious, just-get-the-thing-down advice of NaNoWriMo. The first drafts of the stories that eventually sold were intentional. I was fully in the story, immersed in it. I received feedback from first readers about what worked and what didn’t and made changes, but none of the stories came from a place of just getting an arbitrary word count done that day.

I have to state again, this is just what I’ve noticed for me. Your process may be different. When I put my full attention on writing, however, I have noticed the first drafts are cleaner and clearer. I may not get as many words in a writing session, but I have to edit less going on.

The consensus on junk miles, unsurprisingly, is that they’re a waste of time. When you show up to do the work, show up to do the doggone work. 

Copyright © 2022 Irette Y. Patterson

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Stay Ready – Emergency Fund or Emergency Plan

I was going along, checking my LinkedIn profile when I came across advice regarding the age old question – where to keep an emergency fund. An emergency fund in personal finance land is to make sure you have enough money stored safely in the case of an emergency. The typical suggestion is 3 – 6 months of expenses.

The certified financial planner made the argument that cash money sitting in a savings account is a waste because you’re losing the value of money to inflation.


I was an adult with a mortgage when the recession of 2008 hit. Certain pieces of financial advice make me itchy and that is one of them. There is no way one piece of advice would work for everyone because everyone’s circumstances is different. And circumstances change. For example, the me of today has more resources than the me of three years ago.

Instead of an Emergency Fund, consider drawing up an Emergency Plan that you review on a regular basis. This idea was born of my Furlough Plan. When I was furloughed for one too many times, I drew up a Furlough Plan because I knew that I would be too upset in the moment of getting a furlough notice to think rationally. So I made all the decisions ahead of time to answer the question – If I was out of work for an unspecified amount of time what would I do?

In order to formulate my plan, I conducted an analysis of my current situation. Ever hear of a SWOT analysis? Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Here are some of the questions I asked:

1. How did you get your last job? And how long did it take from the time you submitted your resume to the time you received your first paycheck?

This seems like a simple question, but it can really say a lot. Basically, this tells you where you are in your career. Are you at the point where your network is serving you up opportunities or are you in the building phase where you have to apply for every job, submit for every publication or are you somewhere in between? If you have to go through a slush pile – be it submitting a resume for a position or a story to a publication – that’s a weakness. What is something that you can do now to shore up your network?

2. What is your emergency budget?

Will you need to budget higher costs for health care? Will your commuting or grooming expenses decrease? It’s easy to say that you won’t go out as much, but is cutting the eating out budget to the bone reasonable?

3. How will you bring money in?

Do you know the process for filing unemployment? One thing I learned is that applying for unemployment is a process…a process that takes time. It took a month from the time that I applied for unemployment to the time the funds were in my account. I would have never known that. Let’s say that unemployment would have covered my expenses, I still would have needed a month of expenses somewhere easily accessible.

Research how much you’re eligible to receive for unemployment. You don’t have to guess. This information is online for your area.

Do you have anything in your possession that you can easily sell on eBay for some quick cash?

What are your sources of income?

If you’re thinking of joining the gig economy as a stop gap measure, it may be worth it to try it out now to see if you would really like it. Everything has a learning curve. Best to do it now when you’re not stressed out.

4. How will you reduce expenses?

What will it take to break your lease if you are a renter? That fee needs to go as part of your emergency budget. Can you move in with someone? Can you take in a boarder? How is your pantry looking? In times of inflation, one of the best places you can put your money is in non-perishables. Do you know what a good price is for what you buy?

What subscription service (or two) gets canceled?

If you have debt, can it be renegotiated? Can your payments be put on hold?

5. What’s your emergency schedule?

This is the one I added because here is where I made my mistake. Draft a schedule of what you will do with your time. We all say that we would do BLAH if we were laid off or furloughed, but it’s too easy to let that time slip away. Get a new routine. Your new job is getting a job and keeping your financial house afloat.

6. How will you treat yourself?

You know what’s good about having all that time? It’s possible you can take advantage of some free arts events in your area. Life still goes on. And it’s fun trying to see how much you could do for the least amount of money. Look up what’s going on in your local community or rec center.

7. Write this up.

It won’t be perfect. It will need to be revised. But it’s a good start.

Once you’ve answered these questions, now you have a better idea of how much you need in your emergency fund and what you can do today to shore up your resources.

Copyright © 2022 Irette Y. Patterson

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Honey Rock Melon Update

Honey Rock Melon grown from Seed – Day 32. 80 Days to Maturity.

The honey rock melon plants have flowers! I made a mistake and chose this variety because I thought it was a cantaloupe. Still, it’s an heirloom variety which means it’s been around a long time and I can save the seeds for next year if I want to.

I started off with four plants that I grew from seed and now only 3 are left. One is flowering. I’m happy to see flowers, but I just checked the seed packagea nd it’s a reminder that I have a ways to go until maturity – 80 days.

We haven’t had much luck in the family growing melons. Hopefully, that will change this year. Plenty of bees in the garden so we’ll see.

Copyright © 2022 Irette Y. Patterson

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Creative Life- How Rights Can Work for Emerging Writers

Rights can work for  you, but marketing those rights takes time away from creating new work…unless you have an agent, but that’s another topic.

Disclaimer: Not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. You make your own decisions regarding your own contracts.

Note: This article contains affiliate links. ‘Kay? We good? Let’s go.

At a conference that I attended once, we got into the discussion of rights and licensing copyright over oatmeal and sheep yogurt. By the end of the conversation one of the people at the table called me “Prince.”

She said it as a joke. I took it as a compliment.

If you are a writer, you need to be aware of your rights to your property. Your goal, as is the goal to whoever you are licensing the copyright to your work, to retain as much ownership as possible.

Now, you might be saying that it’s not all that serious, why should it matter, right? You only want to be published. It does matter, though, because you don’t know if you’re writing the next “A Christmas Carol.”

Also, you want control over your work especially if you are a marginalized writer. If you get to keep your film rights then you can negotiate how you want your property used. If not, you might find your Korean-American grandpa character played by a Scottish white woman.

Below is an example of how this could work:

Example 1

Let’s take a short story. You send it off for publication and they want it. Yeah! Let’s do the happy dance. You enjoy the moment. Then you get the contract and it’s for all rights. An all rights contract is almost the same as work for hire. The folks retain all rights to your work. Just like your employer retains all rights to work done on company time and for the company.

But, because you have already decided that you will never sign an all rights contract, you go back and say that to the editor. Editor magically comes up with a standard contract that asks for first rights – which are rights to publish the story first and 6-month exclusivity which means that you can’t submit the work as a reprint somewhere else and you can’t publish it yourself anywhere for six months.

That seems fair to you and  you sign the contract.

You get the publication, you get payment and in six months you get your story back to do whatever you want to with it. You decide you want to self-publish it. So you do and it just sits there selling a copy now and then.

The story catches the attention of an editor who is compiling a bundle of the same topic. The bundle goes on sale and you get a check again for a story that you wrote three years ago.

And you can sell it again.

Example 2:

You license a story for a short story anthology. Yeah, paycheck! As part of the contract, the publisher has a clause that sets the terms if they want to compile your story with other stories as a sort of best of anthology or special themed anthology. Exclusivity is 3 months. Seems fair. So you sign the contract.

After 3 months you self publish the story. It sells a couple of copies, but the short story anthology is still in print, still getting your name out there and you go on and write other stories set in the same world.

A couple of years later, you receive notification that your story is being compiled in a themed anthology with other writers. You get another check per your contract.

Meanwhile, you’re sending this story out for reprint markets. It might sell again or it might not. If it does, that’s another check.

Are you starting to see how this would work for, not a big name author, but someone just starting out?

This is the magic of negotiating your contract. I was taught that all professionals negotiate contracts and it is something that is expected. When one of my mentors told me that editors want you to negotiate your contracts, I thought she was kidding…. Until I experienced it myself.

Your stories and poems are intellectual property. You know that poetry can wind up on posters, mugs, greeting cards, right? Those are licensing deals. Those folks, if they kept their rights, are getting paid. Repeat. Poetry can be lucrative if you keep your rights.

The first thing to do is to get educated and also to know what you’re willing to do and not to do. I Make the decision before the contract came whirling into my inbox.

That’s the first step. Figure out what you will and will not negotiate before you sit down. Be able to walk away.

Prince originally was not the Prince of the I will sue you if you even think of using my music without my permission. He had to lose his rights and then buy them all back. If, and I will repeat, if we as marginalized people want to control our images, we must control our intellectual property.

Here are some resources for you to get you started:

Article on Prince’s Control of his music

Dean Wesley Smith on the magic bakery – a good overview of copyright

The Business Rusch

Every Thursday award-winning author and editor Kristin Kathryn Rusch posts an article about the business of writing. It’s free. It’s consistent. You may not agree with everything that she says, but you will learn something.

Michael Jackson, Inc.: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of a Billion-Dollar Empire

by Zack O’Malley Greenburg

Amazon Link:

This book first came to my attention though Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog. It is an excellent book and easy to read discussion of Michael Jackson’s business dealings. Basically, he sought to own the rights to music. Because he was so knowledgeable about music, he knew what was valuable and sought to purchase the rights to those songs. If publishers are sharks, music companies are barracudas. It can be helpful to know how others have navigated these waters.

Playing the Short Game: How to Market and Sell Short Fiction

by Douglas Smith


My favorite, favorite, favorite book on the business of short story writing. The primer on contract clauses in short story contracts is worth the price of the book. Very accessible.

Copyright Handbook, The: What Every Writer Needs to Know

by Stephen Fishman

He who has the most information in a negotiation, wins. Bottom line. So, it’s time to get serious about learning about copyright. It’s a dry subject, yes, but this is your business. I have a friend who has in her contract she has rights to select the audiobook narrator. Because her main character is a Native American, she wants, if possible, to have a Native American narrator. She can do that because she negotiated for it.

People will let you give up your rights, if you let them. Don’t. We’re the creators. We have the power. As long we don’t sign it away.

Looking for content for your newsletter? This article is available for reprint. Send me an email through my contact page to discuss –

Copyright © 2022 Irette Y. Patterson

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