Conversations with… NaterXander

NaterXander

CT: Nate, thank you so much for joining in this ongoing conversation on SimLit. I’m so excited about your new project, Simmer Review. Will you tell us a little about it?

NaterXander

N: Of course, but first I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with me.

Simmer Review is going to be a literary journal for all things Sims. Short stories, episodic journeys, thought-provoking screenshots, master artwork; it’s going to have it all.

NaterXander

N: The Sims community has some publications already with various blogs and magazines, but those focus mostly on news, in-game screenshots, and the creators themselves. Simmer Review is going to focus mostly on the amazing stories The Sims has allowed us to create.

CT: How did you get the idea for this, and what’s your vision for the project?

NaterXander

N: The foundation for the idea came from working on my college’s literary journal. It was an amazing experience that I never thought I’d get to be a part of again. The idea for the Sims-centric journal itself came from pure observation of the community. There’s a lack of support for story writers compared to other sectors like CC creators, movie makers, stylebookers, etc.

Our community needs a way to spotlight these amazing stories in one easy-to-find location. I’m hoping Simmer Review is able to do that.

NaterXander

CT: What a great idea! It’ll be so fun to read, too. You mentioned in one of your posts that you had a writing degree. Will you tell us about it? Who did you study with that inspired you?

N: About halfway through the program I almost switched majors. Writing is a tricky subject. The rules are mostly grey area. Even though you’re told not to, you’re always comparing your work to others. I’m horrible about beating myself up and having doubts about everything I do. The major itself wasn’t hard. Frequently reading masterpieces my classmates were working on in comparison to mine – that was hard.

NaterXander

CT: Yup. I can relate. It’s so important to keep the focus on one’s own work, while still celebrating the gifts and voices of others. We each make unique contributions.

I think this is a point that bloggers need to remember, too. It’s not about the number of comments, views, and likes–or who is or isn’t reading your work. If you say what it is that you want to say, that’s the contribution right there.

NaterXander

N: Exactly, but it’s always going to be a struggle, at least for me personally. As writers we crave feedback, no matter if it’s comments, criticism, a simple like, anything. Otherwise it feels like we’re taking these amazing ideas and shouting them into an empty room. It takes a lot of self-motivation and inside validation to keep going because quite often there isn’t a two-way communication in writing.

But thankfully my academic advisor was able to mentally slap me out of my slump by pointing out my two biggest flaws. Firstly, I wasn’t celebrating myself. I was ignoring all my successes and obsessing over my failures. Secondly, I was comparing myself to the wrong people and in the wrong way. I needed to find writers with a similar focus to mine, but all  I could find were technical writers. It was like a biology major comparing their weaknesses to a chemistry major’s strengths. It just doesn’t work. And instead of learning something from my comparisons, all I wanted to do was walk away. But my advisor wasn’t going to let me go that easily. And thankfully he didn’t.

NaterXander

CT: That’s such fantastic advice! You were fortunate to have someone who helped you develop the strength needed to stay with it.

I’ve found through my blog that the readers who tend to be attracted to my work are also often the ones whose work I most enjoy. And so with that mutual appreciation, it’s easy for us to relish each other’s stories, rather than compete.

Aside from SimLit, what other type of reading do you do? How does your nonSimLit reading contribute to your writing and even your reading of SimLit?

NaterXander

N: I read tons of screenplays as it’s my focus and I can glean so much from them in terms of style and structure. I’m a chronic unfinisher when it comes to novels. I read a lot, but I frequently stop a book halfway, put it away, and then months later find and finish it. I’m currently reading Yes Please by Amy Pohler because I’m also a comedic writer and I aspire to reach her levels of hilarity.

CT: Oh, that’s interesting. Does the SimLit you write tend to be comedic?

NaterXander

N: I actually haven’t written any SimLit in a long time because of my course load and now the professional projects I’m working on, scripts and such, but yes they were. I love to laugh. I love to make others laugh. And I feel like comedic writing is under-appreciated and not taken seriously. Comedy not taken seriously, what am I even saying?

But it’s true. And that was one of the struggles in college. In my classes everyone was always writing about such serious topics, and there I was writing these absurd comedies to get people laughing. I find too many people think they have to write about serious topics to be taken seriously as a writer and that’s not true at all.

NaterXander

CT: I’m always looking for new SimLit (it’s sort of a maniacal obsession of mine). What are some of your current favorites?

N: To be completely honest, I’m not currently reading any SimLit. That was one of my biggest drives in creating Simmer Review, so I would stop slacking off and actually give the writing community the appreciation it deserves. These people are spending hours upon hours of their time crafting these amazing stories and that in itself deserves celebration.

NaterXander

CT: I agree completely. One of my favorite things is to find Sim blogs that are just starting out, and then watch as they blossom and fruit in this riot of creativity. What starts as “Oh, maybe I’ll blog my Sim story” quickly turns into “I’m so excited about this story! I’ve never felt so creative before in my life!”

There’s something about Sims and writing their stories–or the stories we tell through them–that spurs creativity, as well as reflection.

What do you think it is about Sims that elicits the type of reflection that’s needed to write significantly about life and our life experiences?

NaterXander

N: Writing tends to be a scary process. We put every piece of ourselves out there for others to see. You can’t be guarded, and The Sims helps with that. We project ourselves and our experiences onto them so it feels like it’s not about us anymore. We’re free of our fears. Our inhibitions. Our doubts. We can write whatever we want because it’s their lives, not ours.

But the truth is, it’s always about us. Even the characters that are most unlike us contain a pieces of ourselves. Their emotions are molded from our emotions. When you’re writing, you don’t realize it. It just flows out of you and breathes life into them. That’s why we get attached to our sims – and story characters in general. Because we see pieces of ourselves in them.

CT: Yeah, I think so. For me, it’s a recursive project. I pour myself out, then I withdraw, over and again. It helps me to build a bit of distance with the work. I do this with the fiction I write, too. Often, a few months after I’ve written something, I’ve moved on to such an extent that I don’t even remember writing it, and it doesn’t even seem like it’s reflecting me anymore, though at the time I wrote it, it very much did.

NaterXander

N: And that’s what you need to do. Distance is important with writing. You need to see what needs cut, what needs changed, what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes that’s a hard thing to do. Especially when you’re still completely attached to the work personally. I’ve talked about so many different struggles with writing, but editing will forever be the biggest one for me. No one wants to spend hours upon hours working on a story only to realize whole chunks of it aren’t working and need to be cut. But that’s something you’ll always need to do. The only way it gets any easier is to distance yourself from the work. That’s one of the reasons I bounce between multiple projects at once.

CT: Speaking of multiple projects, let’s circle back to Simmer Review. You have a deadline for submission for the first issue coming up at the end of June. What sorts of submissions are you looking for, and what words of encouragement do you have for writers who might be a little shy about submitting something?

NaterXander

N: Yes, the deadline for the first issue is June 30th. I’m hoping to receive lots and lots of short stories mainly. If someone wants to submit a series they’ll need to submit every piece together so I know the story has an ending and readers won’t be left in the dark, say if the writer gives up halfway through. For picture submissions, I’m generally looking for something that elicits an emotion in the readers, something that makes them feel, or think. I’m not really looking for, say, a scenic shot that just anyone could hop in game and take, but hey, if it’s amazing, go ahead and submit it anyway, you never know.

As for being shy, don’t be. I know it’s easier said than done. I’ve been there personally. Heck, I’m still there a lot of times. But you just have to go for it. The worst that can happen is rejection, but even then it’s not a bad thing. Everyone gets rejected at times. The woman that wrote the Princess Diaries series had mailbags full of rejection letters so heavy she couldn’t even lift them. Now look at her, she has an entire series published and two movie adaptations. Rejection is a learning experience, it’s necessary.

If you worry your submission isn’t perfect, don’t. Nothing is perfect, not even published work. And that’s what the editing process is for.

NaterXander

CT: What other ways can people help with the production of this journal?

N: There are two ways people can help, and both are after the submission deadline. I’ll need a team of readers to aid me in accepting submissions as I don’t want it based on only my opinion. After that’s done, I’ll need a ton of help with editing and proofreading as there’s no way I’ll be able to do it all myself. So if anyone would be interested in helping with either of those, please contact me because I’d love the help.

The Simmer Review will be a publication for simmers by simmers, so make sure to take part in every way possible.

NaterXander

CT: What’s the best way to contact you?

N: All submissions should be sent by email to nbarnes1@ycp.edu. You can also contact me there with any questions you might have. You can also contact me at my simblr, simscompletecollection.tumblr.com.

CT: Nate, thanks so much. I greatly appreciate your honest and thoughtful insights about writing. I hope we can talk more about that in the future, too. And I’m excited about Simmer Review and grateful to you that you’ve started it!

N: Thank you so much for chatting with me. Your excitement for the project gives me great hope that it will succeed and become as wonderful as I imagined it to be.

CT: I encourage everyone reading this to submit work! See the submission guidelines for details.

Thanks again, Nate! And let’s hope we’ll be reading Simmer Review for years to come!

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