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Writer Life

Working Girl: My First Month of Self-Employment + an Office Tour

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I mentioned in my February wrap-up that at the beginning of last month I took my last day at the copy shop and started working from home. Over the past month or so since then, I’ve managed to put out three new zines (two minis and a perzine), plus a newsletter for Nine Lives to go out with all orders and to offer as a freebie at the upcoming Pioneer Valley Zine Fest. On top of that, I’ve been keeping up with my Patreon rewards–and I am so, so thankful to everyone who’s pledged so far!–working on a novel, working on various essays for more perzines, making a neverending list of mini zine topics, and taking care of the house. I have been one busy bee.

When I started, I was splitting my days into two parts: In the morning, I would work on my novel either until I’d hit my word count for the day or until lunchtime came. Then I’d have lunch, and in the afternoon, I’d work on just about anything else I needed to that hadn’t been done in the morning: Patreon, Facebook posts, blog work, zine orders, whatever. I kept that up for about two weeks, but then the routine started to feel stale. My approach now is to simply do what I’m in the mood for. This means I’ve been doing a lot more zine work than novel work for the past couple of weeks, but I’m enjoying it, and I’ve gotten so much done, so I have no complaints.

As part of the agreement for me to stay home, Dan and I decided that I’m in charge of keeping the house relatively clean and also working on some of the renovations (although I have to admit I haven’t done any of that yet because I’m really picky about my renovation activities). To be honest, it was mostly my idea because I would much rather be home listening to podcasts and making the house presentable than out in the world dealing with people, and it’s working quite well so far. The house feels much cleaner than it ever really has been, and it helps me to feel productive on days when I can’t get myself to write as much as I’d like.Dan has especially been helpful and supportive in the transition: he’s agreed to do so many building projects to make my office the perfect work space for me, making me a brand new desk (which I love) and some corner shelves to help organize the space; he listens to all of my crazy ideas and is always enthusiastic about them; and he’s been the most supportive voice when I’m freaking out thinking this is a horrible idea and will ruin my life. I swear, he’s not even human. It’s amazing. It’s something that I really need right now because as much as I needed the change, it was scary to leave a job I’d been at for nearly three years.

As much as I liked my job and the people I worked with, the overall environment was stressing me out far too much to justify staying any longer. One of my coworkers on my last day asked if I was excited and I just shrugged and tried not to cry because it was scary and sad. I don’t like change. I don’t like not getting a regular paycheck every two weeks. But it was a necessary big step for me to take right now.

I’m not opposed to going back to a “normal job” at some point, but for now I think things are working out well for Dan and me. I’m feeling better than I have in a long time and get to do exactly what I’ve dreamed of for years. Is it a little harder in some ways? Well, yeah. Of course. But I’m just thinking of it as, “I’m now as uncool as I was in high school,” because I could never afford the things that I thought would make me cool, which is kind of okay since I never really cared about that anyway–and I still don’t. (I’m rambling. Sorry.)

Ultimately, the worry and the fear are worth it because I’m kind of living my dream right now, and I realize how incredibly lucky that is. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this productive with my writing before, and it feels like my life has aligned in the perfect way, at least for the moment, to be everything I really need it to be.

Photos: A detail shot of my desk; my built-in bookcase and wedding bouquet; my corner shelves, which include some plants, mini zines, washi tape, and other miscellaneous decorations; my art + postcard collection above my desk as seen from the dining room; one of my favorite and most photographed corners, with my first couple of plants and my record player; and a wide shot of my built-ins, which were the main reason I wanted this house.

If you’re at all interested in helping me keep up this work-from-home habit, please consider buying some zines or pledging to my Patreon. You’re also welcome to just send a small donation to my paypal (sonyaeatszombies[at]gmail[dot]com), but it seems more fun to get something out of it, if you ask me. Remember that writing is work, so both emotional and monetary support are necessary to help me keep going.

March 6, 2017

the trunk. | a flash fiction piece

Posted in Writer Life, Writing by

She didn’t know where she was when she woke to a world of blackness, no sound but her own breath. She sat up, gravity telling her she was on her back, and her skull collided with metal, a dull, ringing thud. Pressing a hand to her forehead, she heard the scrape of a chair’s legs across tile. “Are you awake?” A shock of light burst through a square above her face. A wince, a gasp, and she saw him. Bone white skin with oily black hair and gray eyes like slate in winter peered at her through the opening. “Good evening. You’ve slept long.” She thought he smiled, but the look was wolfish; she turned away. “No! Look at me!” His hand slammed against the top of the trunk. She refused. “Fine. Be that way you little bitch. Be that way!” The slat banged shut. She didn’t scream, didn’t beat against the top of the steel trunk. Instead, she let her hands wander across every surface as she listened and waited for her moment: If she didn’t leave alive, neither of them would.


If you enjoyed this piece, please consider becoming a Patreon sponsor, checking out my zine shop, or just buying me a cup of coffee to help support my writing. Every dollar makes a difference and allows me to keep plugging along at my work.

March 3, 2017

eulogy. | a poem

Posted in Writer Life, Writing by

I see stars
and lightning bugs flying higher
until I can’t tell
which is which
in the humid dark of a July sky.
It’s true; there is beauty
still, but
I am not ready for it


If you enjoyed this piece, please consider becoming a Patreon sponsor, checking out my zine shop, or just buying me a cup of coffee to help support my writing. Every dollar makes a difference and allows me to keep plugging along at my work.

February 3, 2017

It’s Launch Day!

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You guys! It’s official! My Patreon is now live and ready to go. I don’t expect everyone to jump on board right away, if at all, but I will ask that you share the news with anyone who you think might be interested in supporting my work.

In an effort to make my writing accessible to as many readers as possible, starting in February, I’ll be posting pieces of poetry and flash fiction here on my blog twice a month. Much of my fiction and poetry is currently available only by paying for it, either through my zines on Etsy or through Patreon. While I write in the hope that I’ll be able to make my living from it in the future, I also write simply because I love it, and I want to share it.

Sometimes you need to show people what you’re doing before they can trust you enough to, you know, spend money on you, so for me it makes sense to share what I can. Kind of like those free samples of cheeses and dips in the grocery store, y’know?

You can head on over to the Patreon campaign page to check it out, see what I have for rewards, and maybe share the link on a couple of sites if you have a moment because I’d be indescribably grateful for it.

If you’ve got any questions, feedback, or general comments, please let me know. I’d love to hear what anyone has to say.

January 16, 2017

To Ask or Not to Ask: Considering Patreon and Other Options

Posted in Personal, Writer Life by

I’ve been trying to set a writing routine for myself over the past few days; I fell off the wagon sometime in September, and I fell hard. The only upside to this is that I finally started reading again, but not creating is a steep price to pay for Netflix binges that have no foreseeable endpoint. The past several months, though, have been difficult. A lot of days took the life out of me, and it was all I could do to pick up a book and make a good meal for dinner.

For even longer than that, though, I’ve been eyeing Patreon as an option for my work. I learned about it shortly before I read Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, and it’s intriguing. My biggest fear isn’t that people won’t use it, though. It’s not taking that step to ask with the potential of “no” as the answer. It’s the concern that I won’t be able to keep up with rewards. When I’m feeling crushed, I don’t know for how long or how hard it is until I’m in the thick of it. It’s hard to even know that it’s coming, so I’m afraid I’ll shirk my responsibilities, especially when people are paying real money for me to fulfill them.

I try to tell myself that it’ll be motivation, that creating a Patreon page for my writing will help keep me from falling apart and hold me accountable. I try to believe that it’ll be helpful in, well, all of my goals. It’ll be a good thing. It’s something I can handle. But being my habitually pessimistic self, I’m very skeptical about all of these declarations. I have a hard time believing in myself, which is rather tragic, isn’t it?

I do have a couple of rewards in mind for various pledge points, including flash fiction stories, which I’ve just started incorporating into my hourly writing sessions, in which I bounce from project to project based on what’s floating around in my brain at any given moment, and I’m considering a free option, as well, such as a newsletter-style monthly story. It’d only be one small piece per month, or maybe part of a serial (shit, that’s an awesome idea), rather than say, three stories for $5 a month or something like that, but I think I like that as an option because it could get people exposed to my writing without having to pay anything in the beginning, and then if they chose to pay for more, they could.

I feel like I’m going to go back and forth on this because it feels like such a good idea, but it’s such a scary one at the same time. I guess I’m what I’m really looking for is some feedback, so if you’ve got any thoughts, let me have ’em.

December 19, 2016

On Skipping NaNoWriMo 2016

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On November 1, I was in a three-room cottage near the east coast of Ireland on my honeymoon. My heart broke a little bit that day because I knew I wouldn’t be home for almost a week, and as much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t find it in me to try NaNoWriMo this year when I would be struggling through five whole days at the very beginning. I hadn’t even brought my computer with me. Sure, I could have started writing by hand, but I think we all know it’s so much easier when the word processor can keep a word count for you.

Now it’s we’re almost through November, and I’m still disappointed. I’ve been seeing so many people working on their own NaNoWriMo projects this year, and I’m both excited for and jealous of them all. I love hearing people’s updates–and struggles–as they put their heart into something that might grow bigger come December or might not. Either way, they’re committed for at least these thirty days, and it’s wonderful and inspiring.

It is also ZineWriMo, so I am using that as inspiration to get through a new issue of Whatsername, but to an extent, it’s just not the same: it’s a smaller commitment overall, with not real word count requirement, nothing except, “Make a zine!” to push me through the month. The payoff just doesn’t feel equivalent, even if I’m excited for this issue.

It has always been a dream of mine to write a book, as I know it has been for so many people, and it’s so frustrating to feel like the past few years have been a complete struggle in this goal. Especially since publishing my chapbook, my writing has fallen by the wayside. I don’t know if it’s a result of being further and further removed from a school environment or just the fact that 2016 overall has been, let’s just say it, a shitty year. The irony is that given all the personal things I’ve dealt with this year on top of the public issues we’ve all gone through, you would think I might want to write more, might want to use it as a therapeutic tool–and I do want to. I just can’t seem to find it in myself to do that.

So I’m heartbroken to be missing out on NaNoWriMo this year, even if it’s of my own choosing. There’s not much I love more than the glide of a favorite pen on paper or hearing the quick clicking of my keyboard, and it’s something I really need right now, but it was something I just couldn’t do. Committing myself would have lead to nothing but frustration and disappointment–which I guess isn’t a whole lot different from how I’m feeling now.

The best solace I can find is in the fact that there’s no rule NaNoWriMo has to be done in November. I mean, it does to actually be NaNoWriMo, but I can commit myself to writing 1,500 words a day for thirty days any month I choose, except maybe February.

I’d like to say I have big writing goals for next year after how slow 2016 has gone for me, but I don’t. At best I have some vague ideas I would like to accomplish, but there’s nothing concrete in mind right now.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? How’s it going for you?

November 23, 2016

I Wrote a Chapbook

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reflections in a dirty mirror by sonya cheney
Guys! Guys! I did a thing!

About a year ago I talked about writing a chapbook being one of my goals for the year, and while it originally started out (in my head) as a forty-piece collection to be released in the spring, as you can see, it didn’t exactly turn out that way; instead, it’s about half that, six months later. And you know what? I’m okay with that. I’m really proud of my poems, and I’m perfectly content with what it’s turned out to be.

The collection, Reflections in a Dirty Mirror, contains pieces mostly about girlhood, identity, and personal survival. It has beautiful cover art by a friend of mine from high school, Kagey Illustration, and I don’t know how I could be any happier with how it all turned out. Sure, maybe I could have kept revising (I mean, really, we can always keep revising), but it got to the point when I couldn’t see a point to keep picking apart what I’d written. I got feedback from friends, edited accordingly, and I’m so happy with how it reads.

You can pick up a copy from my Etsy shop or Nine Lives.

October 14, 2015

A Poetry Collection Status Update

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1.19.2015 / working on poetry
I’ve got eighteen poems for my collection so far, with the minimum goal being about forty (maximum, about sixty), and I’m feeling good: enthusiastic, confident, and just overall excited. I think this first half was easy, though; a lot of the pieces in this half were already written and included in my Small Parts zines and written for college courses. Since I’m starting this second half almost from scratch, I anticipate a bit more of a haul to get through it, which is fine as long as I can keep myself on track and motivated while working on other projects at the same time.

My first course of action is to schedule the crap out of things. I need to make a list of what needs to be done over the next few months (short list: poetry collection, Wonderlust issue 002, Pioneer Valley Zine Fest preparation), then break those items down even further because there are so many little pieces that go into everything. I honestly already have a bunch more ideas, but I promise they’re not worth listing for you right now.

With the collection, at least, I do know I need to think about cover art and printing, layout and order. I’m doing the majority of the work myself, with a few people in mind to call in for help if they’re willing, so I want to make sure I stay on top of everything. I feel like the process has moved very quickly so far, so I want to keep in mind that there’s still plenty left to do and that the most reasonable timeline for the moment is publishing in June, just as I had planned.

One detail, which is both big and small and has been weighing on my brain pretty much since the idea first blossomed, is the title. I’ve tossed a few possibilities around, but nothing feels right yet. I’m hoping that something will come to me in time, maybe not even until I’ve finished all the pieces and laid them out. Maybe I’ll come up with something in the bath some Friday night. I don’t know–but it is fun to think about because as much as I hate coming up with titles (I really do), I’m hopeful that I’ll think of something that turns out to be so obviously perfect that it won’t even be a question of whether or not I should use it. I’ll think of it, and my heart will look at my brain with a swift nod, and everyone will be happy.

But before all else, I need to finish all the pieces. Then I can move onward to the next step, whatever that turns out to be.

January 19, 2015

Writing Goals for 2015

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12.14.14 / notebooks
Last week I was struck with the sudden need to plan–and plan big. I was curled up on the couch watching Food Network when I snapped up an old, beaten notebook from the coffee table and a purple pen and went to town, coming up with three main goals for the coming year and then breaking those down.

Release a poetry collection. / I’ve loved putting together Small Parts (and will continue to do so), but I want to move on a bit to something a little bigger, a little better, a little fancier. I’ll probably do it as a nice booklet at work (much like how Wonderlust is going to be printed). For this, I’m going to need to start organizing what I have, writing new pieces, and revising, revising, revising like mad–and I can’t wait to get started. The plan is to have it out sometime in June and to include 30-60 pieces (a wide margin, I know), and while I definitely plan to have some pieces from Small Parts in the collection, I also have a whole slew of new pieces to make up the bulk.

Get (at least) 2-3 more pieces published. / I’m actually having another piece included in the next issue of Paper & Ink Literary Zine, but that came out just before I started making this list, so I’m not going to count it, just to push myself more. I started this year off strong with submissions, but really fell apart when I started having to get in the new groove of having a job and working on the house and all that jazz. Now, I’m ready to throw myself back into it. I have my submissions tracker still set up from sending pieces out this year, so it should be a cinch to get started. I plan to submit to at least two places a week and just keep my head up each time an email goes out.

Make 2015 the year of the novel. / This year I am determined to, at the very least, write a completed novel with a beginning, middle, and end. I didn’t complete NaNoWriMo this year because about halfway through I decided to work on my library instead, and that’s okay. I need a good workspace anyway. But ideally this goal would include not only writing a draft, but editing it at least once. I’m trying to keep this plan manageable by including that caveat of “at least,” but inside I really want to do even more. I’ve already begun to plot out the novel, figuring out character motivations and the general idea of the story. For this, I plan to write at least one thousand words a day, knowing that this will make it easier to fit into my schedule without wearing myself out.

In addition to these, I also plan to

  • publish Wonderlust seasonally, with this first issue being the winter 2015 edition, so three more issues can be expected throughout the year.
  • work on building my writer site even more (the new zine shop being the first part of that).

I’m not sure what else I’ll throw myself into yet as far as writing projects go, but I’m excited to see where the next year takes me. I’ve felt this huge push lately to accomplish so many writing goals and projects, and I’m eager to see how it all turns out and evolves as the year goes on. I know blogging has taken a backseat lately, and that’s okay; blogging may not be my biggest writing asset at the moment, and I just see no point in forcing it. But maybe that will change throughout next year, as I come up with new goals and ideas as times goes on.

December 15, 2014