The 52/25 Challenge: Interview with Lizanne Herd

Absolute Blank

By Stephanie Lenz (Baker)

In December 2010 I joined a brand new writing challenge group: 52/25. The idea is to write twenty-five stories over the course of fifty-two weeks. I joined in order to get into the habit of writing more short fiction and to meet new writers. For this month’s Absolute Blank article, I sat down (virtually) with group founder, fellow writer, and friend Lizanne Herd to ask her about her passion for 52/25.

Background Image: Steve Bowbrick/Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa) + Duncan C/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Toasted Cheese: Where, when, how did you get the idea for 52/25?

Lizanne Herd: I’ve been participating in NaNoWrimo off and on for six years. I tried to get going on it this past November, but I became stymied almost before I started. I had big ambitions: I wanted to go untraditional by writing 50,000 words in short stories rather than a novella. I even had a list of story ideas and a plan. By Day Two I was done. I could not carve out the time I needed and frustration made it all fall apart. I had also attempted a NaNoWriMo mini-podcast, which I did for about four days before discouragement and embarrassment made me file that away as a “fail.” So, I had to think of a way to salvage my plan.

I still liked the idea of a portfolio of shorts. I’m not much of a novel writer as it is, so I got to thinking: maybe something that functions like NaNoWriMo but caters to the heart of the short story writer.

Once the wheels in my head started turning on this, the pieces fell together pretty quickly. I posed the idea to a few people who liked it and I decided to Just Make It Happen. I made the Facebook page, grabbed a little blog room and invited people. The guys at Dunesteef Audiofiction Magazine liked the idea and offered me ad space, so I threw together a fifty-second pod-ad and people started dribbling in. Here in the second week of February we now have nineteen people. Which isn’t too bad, considering NaNoWriMo’s first year was twelve.

TC: How do you use social networking, blogging, etc. as part of the 52/25 Project?

LH: Facebook is such a natural for this kind of interface. It is so immediate. Even solitary and secluded writers will take the time to share on Facebook. Plus, most writers look for excuses to stop writing for a moment and see what’s going on Out There. Irony: Writers are notorious loners, so getting them together on a social networking site makes me happy. It encourages a feeling of community and shared identity. For such a solitary activity, writers don’t really want to be that alone. Which is the whole reason I created 52/25.

I have the 52/25 blog mostly to post the podcasts. I was a bit nervous about doing the podcast, since I know so many people who are really good at it and I’m just some mook with a nice microphone and mixing board. But it seems to be working! Hopefully I can expand on the blog as the year goes on. Right now it’s just a placeholder. Any ideas?

TC: I dig the podcasts. I’m lucky to find time to sit and listen for those 10 minutes. I think people have thrown over traditional blogging for Facebook, Twitter, and podcasting anyway so you’re ahead of the curve. Tell us about the 52/25 podcast (technically, schedule, content, etc.).

LH: [Dunesteef Audiofiction Magazine co-creator] Rish [Outfield] encouraged me to do the podcast. The audience is limited, but I hope it is well-received within that circle. I have a fairly slim structure, where I talk about member progress, my own progress, some (hopefully) words of encouragement and either an interview or a contributed recording by one of the members. I have only recorded two episodes, but my plan is to record every two weeks to correspond to the story production rate. The episodes run from about ten to twenty minutes, depending on contributed material.

TC: I love that we’re all invited to participate in the podcast. It tightens that sense of community. Besides the two of us, who are some of the writers involved in 52/25 so far? What are some of their projects, that you know about?

LH: We have some amazing participants that don’t always wave their flags. So let me.

  • Big Anklevich and Rish Outfield: These are the creators of the Dunesteef Audiofiction Magazine. They’ve run this spec-fic fullcast production for over two years. Along with the stories they produce, they include abundant discussions after each story. In addition to fun stories, their discussions are well worth listening to, especially if you like to listen to funny, bawdy, sometimes edgy banter. They joined 52/25 to force themselves into better writing habits and to write more of their own material.
  • Nathaniel Lee: Nate is a very prolific writer. He writes a 100-word drabble every day on top of everything else. You can find a lot of his work at his site Mirrorshards. He’s had short fiction published all over.
  • R.E. Chambliss: She’s a novelist, not a short story writer per se. She joined 52/25 to beef up her writing time. She does podcasting, voicework and she writes writes writes! Her blog can introduce you to her work.
  • Most of the people I don’t know too much about. A few of them have their own podcasts, but since they didn’t join 52/25 for publicity, they’ve been somewhat reticent about giving me links.

TC: What have you written so far as part of 52/25?

LH: I have this enormous binder of story ideas. I took on as my first story an idea that’s been rattling around in my brain for a good long time, close to three years. It is a more scientific take on the Jekyll and Hyde story. It is a very long story coming in at just over 12,000 words. I think it could be fleshed out into a novel if I ever get the desire.

I then moved on to a story that I actually wrote three years ago for a contest. I am rather fond of the story and I always wanted to work on it until it was publishable. So, I took all the constructive crit I received on it and finally polished the thing. You can find an early draft of “The Marble of Notness” posted on the boards at Toasted Cheese.

I am currently trying to put butt on chair and fingers on keyboard for story three, but I’ve only gone so far as research and branch-outline. Sigh.

TC: That’s further than I’ve gotten. I haven’t done a new short story yet but the project is so flexible, I can catch up if I want to. It seems I have a thousand things to do and a lot of them are creative projects. What creative work have you done that doesn’t relate to 52/25, particularly since the new year?

LH: I am so glad you asked! I do a lot of pencil art. You can find some of my work posted on the art page of my personal website. I am in the regular artist rotation for The Drabblecast, which if you aren’t listening to it, shame on you! It is one of the best spec-fic podcasts out there.

I have been working on art pieces to send to Illustrators of the Future, which is a high-profile contest, both for writers and artists.

My friends and I just started a new trivia podcast called Guru Showdown. Each week a contestant challenges trivia gurus for fame and notoriety and hopefully prizes in the future. Want to be a contestant? I am the Animal Guru. I am undefeated. Hear me roar. Seriously—I roar.

Speaking of roaring, Lizanne has roared three times as the “Gold” winner of our Three Cheers and a Tiger 48-hour short fiction contest: “The Ships Come Tomorrow,” “In Memory of Maggie,” and “Dante’s Grid.” Her entry “Picasso’s Guitar” received an honorable mention in our 2007 A Midsummer Tale creative non-fiction contest, her poem “Ideas” was our Best of the Boards in September 2007, and her story “Offal” was our Best of the Boards in December 2010.

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