I’m trying.

It’s never flattering, pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Opening up your chest and letting people see inside and maybe take a swing at your softest parts, if they want.

I happened to see a last-minute call on Facebook for an open slot for love-themed artwork for the February exhibition at the Gordon JCC‘s art gallery. I emailed the curator my balloons-in-the-trash photo from a few years ago and asked if she’d be interested in it, even though it’s not, ah, all that lovey-dovey. She was more into it than I figured and asked me to bring both the black and white and the color versions. Fast forward to me frantically Googling how to frame/mount photos for gallery display.

When I delivered them — an 11×17 and an 8×10, both framed crisply — she seemed to think they were well priced and might actually sell. Stranger things have happened, probably. So, that’s something to look forward to this month. There’s an exhibition opening on Valentine’s Day, with snacks and wine and such. Pretty neat. Can’t wait to see the other works.

I wrote and submitted a poem to Nashville Review. I’ve got a couple other things I’m working on that I don’t feel are polished enough to submit yet. Truthfully, that one might not have been either but it felt right and the submission deadline clock was ticking and I was having an otherwise very productive day so I felt like “submit a poem for publication” was a reasonable things to want to get ticked off the ol’ to-do list so I just did it. Uncritiqued and everything. Yes, I know how silly and brazen that is. And still. I did it and I lived and I will also live if and when I receive a rejection. It’s the doing the thing that matters, right now.

Next month I’m attending a mixed-media collage-making workshop put on by Wayne Brezinka, who makes such beautiful things. I’m hoping to unblock some creativity. Get some things flowing. Think differently. Lose some fear. So forth and so on.

I’m also trying to fit some writing workshops and meet-ups into my schedule, although this part is a little more daunting to me than the actual writing stuff. My introversion wants to take over and tell me that I cannot possibly mix it up with strangers and show them my work or get anything useful from them — or offer anything useful to them — from them in return. But I know this is not true and that I must. And I will. It will get easier.

I’m doing a Project 365, but this one uses one second of video from every day of your year to make an end-of-year 365-second video. There’s an app to help, of course, and yeah yeah I have already missed one day, but who’s counting?

And then the biggie: I’m working on a novel. Two, actually, but the one I started the year working on has taken a back seat to the one based on this horrifying story from my hometown, which I have written about in passing before. I think about that story from time to time and mentioned it to my friend Olivia, who co-hosts a true-crime podcast that specializes in obscure and local true-crime stories. She did some digging in old news clips and put together an episode about the case. She and her co-host Thashana were kind enough to invite me on Something’s Not Right to talk about the murders from my perspective as a then-17-year-old high school senior. (Click here and select episode 33 to listen.) I hope it goes without saying that my contributions are unscientific and purely speculative, based on innuendo and rumor, so don’t @ me.

Anyway, that story has haunted me through my adult life and I’ve always wanted to write something based on it. So I finally am. I am basing my story loosely on the true events but with purely fictional twists. I started out thinking it’s a YA novel but the deeper I get into it, the less sure I am that that is the right fit, based on how depraved and dark it is going to be. It might be NA or maybe just plain old fiction for whatever age wants to dive into this kind of story.

I’m not ruling out some day trying to write a nonfiction retelling of the real story, but that will require taking time off to do proper research on site in Hardin County, and I haven’t been able to commit the time to that. I want to, though. I feel like a sabbatical from work to write a book is a rite of passage that I would like to experience some day.

Career change

How do you reinvent yourself?

I keep thinking of a career change as a moment where you’re riding in a car and the car door opens and you have to lean out of the door and keep rolling as you fall. If you roll just right, you will have minimal injuries and you might just be able to stand up and walk it off.

A few months ago, the career I had been building in visual journalism ended. It was a weird, anticlimactic ending. Some people leave journalism through an ejection seat — SPROING, you’re out! — but my departure was more like my sidecar pin was removed and I just had to spend the last bit of the ride anticipating the separation. It was instigated by the company I worked for and engineered to take a couple of months. My whole department got the boot but we were all encouraged to reapply for some remaining jobs in other divisions of the company.

I had just celebrated my fifth anniversary at the studio, and was about to close out my third year as creative director. A lot was good but a lot was bad, too. I can’t and won’t get into it all here. I’m sad that it had to end — that we couldn’t keep trying to improve on what we were doing — but if I’m being totally honest, I’m glad to be out of the media grind. It’s such a fickle, demanding, cruel master. It took a lot and gave back very little.

I chose not to reapply for a job. I guess I wanted to take a chance on a change of pace and direction in my professional life, even though I had no clue what that might look like at the time. I was fortunate enough to land a new gig that let me roll out of the car and begin walking again with some semblance of grace. I’m grateful for that.

But who am I now that I am no longer doing, no, living the thing I always assumed was central to my identity?

Turns out I’m free.

I’ve realized that the thing I thought I was passionate about was siphoning time and energy from my own creativity, leaving me feeling a bit empty and resentful.

There are lots of upsides to the change.

Now I can be a news junkie without having to log in or haul ass to the office anytime major news breaks. The holidays feel much less frantic and it is expected that I will take some time off. I can speak freely about political issues and participate in activism.

The big thing I’m confronted with here at this crossroads is what do I want to do, long-term, with myself? With my time?

The other day Holden asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t hesitate. “A writer and an artist.”

In some ways, saying that feels like a kind of revelation. A career coming out. It’s something I’ve always flirted with, always loved, but never actually believed could be a career. That’s in part because I’ve never given it serious time and attention. And in part because I’m terrified of failing.

So, this year I am writing. Here, but also not here. Part of the key to writing for a living is not giving away every little morsel for free on your own website, apparently! This year I am going to submit my work in earnest. I plan to start small — magazines, journals — and work my way up from there.

I’ve got ideas kicking around for picture books and YA/NA series mostly. I’m reading everything I can get my hands on about writing and publishing. I’ve got to reach out and get critique groups and beta readers. Attend workshops and conferences. Put the time in. Rewrite and revise. Rethink and reframe everything I’ve experienced in my life and use it.

It’s exciting and scary. But the thought of going for it feels more comfortable and exciting than any other grand ideas I’ve had about who I am and what I’m meant to do.

One-word stories

One-sentence and six-word stories used to be the hot shit. That was a digital lifetime ago, when the average consumer still had time to oh my god I am boring myself with this intro. Too long, don’t read, let’s get to it!

Here we have one-word stories, fully optimized for your tiny attention span.

» Swindled!

» Fuuuu-

» Demilitarization…ish?

» Yellowing.

» Turnt.

» Quack?

» Bleeble-borp.

» Gravity!!!

The Wolf’s Bane

I am so excited to see the finished product!

Betsy crafted this incredible story and was kind enough to ask me to do the book’s layout. I adore her writing so I was happy to do whatever I could to be involved. Check out this mini documentary on the project as a whole.

COMING 2015: The Wolf’s Bane from Emily Beard on Vimeo.

I am super proud to be a part of this project and cannot wait to get my hands on a finished piece. I just want to smell it. Is that weird?

Mid-year resolution

Write more, even when it is inconvenient. Even when it feels redundant, superfluous.

Put it all down and crystallize it in pixels. You will be dead some day and there will be nothing of you to inherit except some irreverent crap on the web.


Food words


Wednesday night a group of us from work went to the first of two Nashville Nights events hosted by 12th and Broad, a newish group in town seeking to bring together local creative types for events and collaborations that celebrate Nashville.

The Nashville Nights event was a two-night celebration of food writing, held at Arnold’s (where I’ve still never been for lunch). We listened to some local writers read excerpts of top-notch food writing while sampling some of Vivek Surti‘s cuisine, which was a delicious mashup of Indian and Southern flavors. Some nice young man handed me a bourbon cocktail that was tasty, and there was a plate of salted ham and some tiny unleavened biscuits to snack on, and some sort of lemony chess pie got involved there at the end.

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Our hosts prompted us during the dinner to think about what emotions and memories the flavors and dishes evoked, and to write that stuff down and share it. It got a little easier to write as the bourbon disappeared, but I still wasn’t up to sharing anything. I feel rusty as a writer, and way too self-conscious in general. (I thought that would go away in my 30s. What gives?!)

We were asked to write a six-word story about a memory of Brussels sprouts. Here’s mine:

Wouldn’t eat them. Got spanking. Barfed.

It occurred to me later that that’s actually not entirely true. My faulty bourbon-addled memory got the events out of order. What really happened is more like Choked them down. Barfed. Got spanking.

Speaking of bourbon, we were supposed to write a little about an experience with bourbon we’d had over the years. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of my experiences with bourbon ended in ways that I couldn’t write about in front of strangers and co-workers. Bourbon, in my life, has traditionally led to questionable decisions. Everything I write about bourbon turns into smut.

We were then asked to come up with a metaphor for the pie. It was a bright pie, with hints of ginger and lemon. I’m normally not all that into pie, but I decided it was a little lick of sunshine.

It was a fun few hours and got me out of my comfort zone in lots of different ways. Looking forward to the next event!

I wrote a tiny story

You can read it here. I wrote it using an app called Spine. It’s for writing tiny stories.