Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
So when other writers would reference his book On Writing, "a memoir of the craft," I'd think to myself Really? The master of horror? A non-fiction book? But so many raved of its perfection, I thought I'd give it a try. He's successful. Many, many times over. 50+ WORLDWIDE bestsellers. Kinda tells me he might have something worth sayin'.
Boy, does he. He's straightforward, courteous, funny, very personable. I enjoy his approach, and I find inspiration at every page turn. Motivation is oozing from his words into my core. Corny? Yeah. But true.
Here's the first nugget worth sharing. Relish. Digest. Apply.
Let's get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I've been taking it easy in regards to blogging this week, as many have, given the Christmas holiday, during which I hope you all found yourselves among loved ones, overloaded with blessings. But I'm gearing up for a full schedule. Coming this week: Posts about the writing-related stuff I got for Christmas (how fun? SO fun!), a promise I made my mom not too long ago, and my writerly goals for 2009.
Have a great weekend!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
So I sat in the auditorium of my niece's high school, waiting impatiently for her concert to begin. Merry people talked in excited circles around me, trapping me in my stiff third-row seat. Who makes this kind of seating anyway? It's so uncomf--
I felt a dull jab in my side.
"Meggie, what's the deal?" my sister asked.
I shrugged but kept my mouth closed, knowing not to unleash a torrent of complaints.
"Well, perk up! It's a Christmas concert."
Right, I grumbled to myself. Don't get me wrong - I love the vocal concerts; hearing the holiday music, soaking up the youthful talent. It was just a really bad night for me. And I wasn't feeling much Christmas spirit.
I really was heartbroken that Jacob would be traveling to see his family. We'd had plans to be together Christmas Eve - and I'd been hoping, after eight years together, he'd finally propose - but he'd sprung the news he and his siblings were all going home. And no invitation had been extended to me. I had--
The house lights went black, a sure sign things were underway, and a chorus of oohs joined a smattering of gasps.
As all eyes focused on the dark stage, a small boy's voice called out. "Mama! There's somebody back there!"
Heads began to turn to the rear of the auditorium. Choir members, in black robes, were slipping through the doors, and goosebumps rose on my arms as I realized each one held a candlestick. The small dancing flames lit the carriers' faces, the sound of their a capella voices rising with the room's acoustics. As they progressed toward the stage, the pace of their single-file lines matched the unrushed tempo of the first song.
O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant...
I saw my niece, Jem, whose strong alto voice I heard melt into the hymn's harmony. The slightest of smiles appeared in the flicker from her candle, and my heart warmed.
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem...
The rich voices - amazing, they were coming from teenagers - enveloped me, and I felt comforted by the lyrics.
Come and behold Him...
And suddenly my brain, that little part that affects my mood, flipped as a switch, and I felt full of love and contentment. In that small instance, gone were my grumpies. They were replaced by... by... the Spirit.
Who cared about a root beer stain, really? And work was work; I'd no reason to dwell on one day. Jacob? Well, I'd tell him I wanted to go on the trip with him. If he had some problem with that, well, then I'd stay with my own family, and reassess my relationship with him later.
Born the King of angels...
It was Christmas, after all. I should be happy, focused on my many God-given blessings.
I reached for my sister's hand and gave it a squeeze. She smiled and brushed a tear from her eye.
"I feel it, too," I whispered. "I feel it, too."
A post of Ang's got me thinking of my own high school choir experiences at Christmastime (which spawned this piece). Our A Capella Choir (juniors and seniors) did this very thing at winter concerts, encroaching upon the audience with candlelight, our unaccompanied voices filling the auditorium with the words from O Come All Ye Faithful. That was one of my favorite experiences, and I wish I could relive it.
I wish everyone the best of merry and blessed Christmases. May you be spoiled and cared for, with regard to presents and company and family, but yet with so much more. Merry Christmas!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I've been a contributer for a long time. It's just that it's been a long time since I've contributed. Until now.
Dealing With Dawdling Kids has been published, and I'd like you to check it out. And take a looksee around the site, too, if you're a mom with interest.
Thanks for all the support after yesterday's post. I know I didn't go into a lot of detail, but I really appreciate everyone's encouragement. You really are an amazing group of people.
Hope you all have a fabulous weekend. Our Christmas festivities begin, so it's gonna be busy! I'll catch up with you all next week, and will be posting a Christmas-related piece of flash fiction on Monday or Tuesday. Be blessed!
Friday, December 19, 2008
While I know I can't see what this month may hold, I'm determined to make it as amazing as I can...
That sentence sure makes it seem I have a knack for foreshadowing my own life...
When I got the publisher rejection at the beginning of this month, I considered it a minor snafu. I wasn't going to let it shape my month and, really, I was all for putting it behind me and moving on with the next phase. I got a good start on my new WIP, brainstormed on short pieces, and had an all-around satisfied feeling about where I was headed.
But then came more emotional upset.
While I choose not to go into a lot of detail, something happened that made me question my life's happiness. It became clear I had some soul-searching to do, and I wasn't sure what kind of outcome - or huge change, even - might be warranted. My insides were raw with worry, my head was spinning with possibilities, and I feared the unknown.
The crossroads at which I found myself eventually opened onto a foggy path, and I set out with trepidation. But one who appears to have my interests at heart has joined me, making effort to illuminate the way and make the path light.
There are still questions in my mind, but... I'm in a better place now.
What seems too contrived and overdramatic for even me to believe, is that my new WIP focuses on a woman whose 3oth birthday is surrounded by heartbreak and discouragement. I'd gotten the idea after my own 30th (at the beginning of November), when I'd been dealing with all those things myself. What a great idea, I thought. A story of soul searching, finding the good in the bad.
I don't know if it's a case of life creating art (how many times have I posted about experiences and their effect on writing?), or art prefacing life. Either way, it's drawn too parallel for me not to take notice.
It's a lesson for me, I'm certain. What's happened to me was not of my own fault, but yet I've gained from it. And stand to gain more. My hope is that as I trod along this path, picking my way, that I buffer the bad with the good... and use it to my advantage with concern to my writing.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Aside from chancing a win for one of Barbara's giveaways, I love visiting her place (The Serenity Gate), just for the sake of a visit. It's warm and cozy, and she reminds me of a favorite aunt. (Shout out to Aunt Bernia!)
Thanks for creating such a nice place, Barbara.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
If you don't mind, I have some rambling thoughts to share today. And here we go...
Yesterday's snow was so gorgeous! And the temperature has dipped so low for the last three days, the entire lake (600 acres!) froze over. It's so early for that to have happened! But talk about beauty. I'll try to get a picture sometime soon...
Misterwrites brought a surprise home for me yesterday. "The best kind of 'flowers' to get in a December snow storm," he said.
Aren't they beautiful? He never surprises me with that sort of thing, so it was an extra-special treat. And I've never had a poinsettia! Speaking of, my friend Kelly recently posted the story behind poinsettias. If you'd like to read a good Christmas story, see here.
My throat has been sore for the last few days. It's more than sinus drainage, but not as bad as strep. I've been taking tylenol and gargling salt water. Anything else I should be doing? I'd really like to avoid the doctor...
And for what I think is last on my mind... I'm curious to know what you think makes a compelling blog post. Is it a relatable voice? A drawing topic? We all know some posts are more inspiring, thought-provoking, or touching than others, but what makes you return to any given blog?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A snow storm, expected to be day-long, began in the morning hours today, and it's coming down steadily. I suspect school will let out early, and we'll hole up in our warm home while watching the flakes descend and accumulate. (Actually, I could guarantee my girls will want to be out in the snow...)
This day and these views bring out so many feelings in me - warmth, nostalgia, thanksgiving, potential, determination.
What about you?
Monday, December 15, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
I'm excited to open this one; it looks to have some good stuff, by good writers. Yippee!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Or, one could be self-taught.
Though I have a couple years of community college under my belt, I never earned a degree. And even if I had, it would have been in Occupational Therapy or psychology - nothing writing-related. So I've gotten where I am (wherever that may be) by teaching myself.
I've always been incredibly detail-oriented. I've had a knack for grammar and spelling. I've paid close attention to how others write, their voices, formats, markets, what works, what trends call for or reject, etc., and, as a result, I've honed my writing over the course of several years. I have to say the self-taught route has worked just fine for me so far.
Was your knowledge gained through higher-education or osmosis? A little of both?
While there are certain benefits to specialized courses (and I'm not against them), are they necessary to be a success?
Tell me what you think.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
There once was girl who wrote,
Sometimes this or that or a note.
She found poetry hard,
Certain she was no Bard,
Such skills were, for her, remote.
How 'bout you? Can you offer something fun for Witty Wednesday? Try a limerick!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
My kindergardner, who is learning how to read and write, finds no excitement in my role as a writer. While she impresses the teacher with her desire to fill out journal entries (with sounded-out words and pictures) and the like, she doesn't yet get that writing can be a whole lot more.
Just last night she said to me, in her Little-Girl Big-Drama Voice, "Mommy, writing is not anything special."
Well! She told me.
Thankfully, all you faithful readers and bloggers and buddies feel differently, and prove it with your support. After yesterday's post about my publisher rejection (I'll be okay. I only cried myself to sleep thrice last night...), many of you left amazing thoughts and encouragements. What an incredible group of people I hang with, truly. You know what summed it up? celestialwolf's words: Janna, we believe in you. Thank you, cel. And everyone!
Okay, I totally feel like I'm giving in to peer pressure. Because all my friends are doing it. And because I want to be popular... So I've added the Follow Me widget or doohickey or thingamabob. Whatever it's called. It would make me ever so happy to see your little face smiling at me over yonder. Won't you follow me?
Have a fantabulous Tuesday!
Monday, December 8, 2008
“I hope if Avalon doesn’t accept my book, they at least offer some constructive criticism.”
I hadn’t spoken with him about my manuscript in awhile...
Fast-forward to our road, when I said, “Let’s stop at the mailbox. I didn’t get yesterday’s mail.”
The second the flap came down, I gasped. One lonely letter lay inside, post-marked from New York. And I knew.
“It’s too thin to be good news.” I clutched it in my hands, not ready for its message.
“So open it,” my husband pressed.
The second of grasping hope, when I thought Maybe it's a letter asking me to call them, didn't last long.
It was short and to-the-point: Bliss Lake isn't right for them. They felt pacing was slow at times, and that the "religious undertones" weren't in line with their more secular preferences. (Terri, this answers a question you and I had once...) For anyone curious about what they consider religious, characters in Bliss Lake attend church a few times (with brushed-over details of a particular sermon's message), God is mentioned, and the main character prays in thought, though no overt Christianity is presented. I myself thought it was all indirect and minor to plot. So now we know.
The editors also had concerns over the presence of a stalker. While he created an ambience that didn't fit with their "family-friendly guidelines," his existence didn't present the right kind of tension between the hero and heroine, either.
So what does all this mean to me? I don't know yet.
I know I'm really disappointed. Really. I feel like my sails have lost their wind. Now - instead of a writer being considered - I'm just a writer. I feel less validated. I have to start all over again. And I have some decisions to make. Do I try to tweak pacing (if I end up agreeing) and find Christian markets, to see what they think of Bliss Lake? Or do I chalk the whole thing up to practice and experience? Many do that. It is my first novel, after all. And I tried the agent route, too. No takers.
I don't want to say I give up. Because I won't. Not on this dream of writing and being published at the novel level, anyway. The first thing I said to my husband was, "I'll keep trudgin'." So I'll strap on my boots and push myself onward.
Here I go.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
The award is given to bloggers who write about real life. Barbara, I so appreciate your recognition of my efforts!
The idea is to pass the award on to seven others, and I'd like to tell you why I've chosen who I have.
First, Kimmi, who shares exciting news about her upcoming debut (The Unbreakable Child) and living that dream, and also enlightens readers with tales of her work with Habitat for Humanity. Great job, Kimmi!
Kelly, who so well expresses what it's like to be a farmer's wife. Even if I didn't know her personally, I'd find her musings interesting.
Melanie - Living in Mexico isn't easy for her, but she shares awesome stories and a great attitude, both which make it seem like such an adventure!
Terri, who writes about real life as a writer, which many of us can relate to and/or draw inspiration from. Thanks for all the encouragement, Terri!
Fringegirl, whose posts prove a pastor's wife can be fun and sassy!
Jewel, at Pink Ink, who tells us of everyday things in such touching and relatable ways.
And Joanne, whose pursuit of a choice life makes us all sit up and take note. Thanks for your beautiful posts!
And now, if each of you accept the honor and wouldn't mind following the guidelines, you're supposed to link to me (show me some love!), and link to the 7 seven to whom you choose to pass the award. Make sure to post the award picture somewhere on your own blog, too!
I also want to take the opportunity to thank every one of my readers, as well as all those whose blogs I read. Each of your posts give me something to ponder, and touch me in some way. You all make Bloggerland such a great place to be, and I thank you for the connection, the support, and the endless benefits of networking. Your friendship is awesome.
Friday, December 5, 2008
So I considered my options carefully. Writing needed to take precedence, because I'm determined to make a huge effort with it this month. But man, I really wanted to watch The Office (so ridiculously hilarious!) and ER (sucked me in this season). It's such a massive decision. Will my world slow to a crawl if I miss an episode? Will my mind implode if I don't write the next section of chapter two?
During my gut-turning deliberation, I remembered how my husband always asks why I watch "crap shows." (Just for the record, it's the hour-long dramas he refers to.) This question is usually preceded by my distress over a fictional storyline (or that Law & Order sound: dng dng). He doesn't understand the draw. And, for awhile, I didn't either. But then an episode of ER hit home. The plot was so wrenching, the characters so riveting, that as I blubbered for breath and blew my nose, it dawned on me. It's the emotional ride.
And what's a writer if not one who enjoys an emotional ride?
I like it when shows (movies, what have you) make me feel: Elation over a victorious moment, indignation over circumstance, a tickle down to my funny bone. Just like a good book. And allowing myself that ride opens up possibility, shows me potential. It all comes down to, as I've mentioned before, what goes into our reserve of thoughts and feelings, for our writing. So, in essence, I could treat watching ER as research. Or, I could forego the new episodes, draw on my previously-acquired reserve, and write.
What did I do? What anyone this day and age would do, of course.
I plopped in front of the tv with my laptop on, WIP open. It was the best of both worlds.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I carry them in my purse for shopping lists. I tuck them around the house, for easy access when a great thought bursts onto the scene. And, of course, I keep 'em at the ready near my computer. (I should also say they always - ALWAYS - end up with at least a few pages of preschooler doodles.)
Here's my current collection:
Some you see are filled with miscellaneous scribbles and jots. The two upper-right ones are the journals I fill with tidbits about my daughters' childhoods. The floral in the middle, top row, is the one someone personalized as a gift for me. And then the celery green and mauve-y books, together in the middle, along with the light blue (sandwiched in the corner between the two beefier blues), came as a packaged set from a hobby store. They're thin and smooth, with beautifully blank pages.
I am going somewhere with this.
The sandwiched blue one is the new home to some very crucial notes for my WIP. After yesterday's post about whether or not I should outline, I decided I'd make an effort. Especially after Jenna suggested maybe I was turned off by the word "outline," and the connotation it came to have through years of school papers and reports, not the actual output of one. Call it a blueprint! she said.
And so I am. The little notebook is perfect. Thus far I'm designating one page for each chapter, for key points. (Those will be written along with the book, as I see where each chapter will take me. So it's kind of outlining, kind of not.) The margins are already being stuffed with things I'll need to keep in mind down the line. And I started writing a character sketch for the main character, as well.
It pleases me. And not just because I'm using an adorable notebook.
Do you have a (healthy) fetish?
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Outline, that is.
I never want to outline. I'm the kind who likes to sit in front of the computer, a few notes here or there beside me, and just let it flow. I like the culmination of words and story to build with few set confines. Plus, starting with an outline is like starting with a piddly appetizer, when you're hungry for the whole meal!
Chapter 1 of my new WIP came out great. (That's not to say there won't be lots of tweakage, because, for now, I'm writing without editing as I go. But that's another post for another day...) And I know the general meanderings, the guts, of the whole book. But what about the minor details? What about the sub-plots? How will the rest come out?
My first novel (Bliss Lake, for any new readers, is currently under publisher consideration) unfolded page by page in front of me without an outline. I couldn't believe how well everything tied in, how much it all flowed, without having strategically planned it in advance. (It was a huge blessing for me; a reassurance I was on the right path with my writing. Also another day's post...) But could it happen again? Do I test it, supposing I could fail? Part of me feels I should at least jot down some kind of informal outline. I mean really, there's no one way to outline a project.
I think it's just such a question in my mind right now because the task of jumping into a new full-length novel - from scratch! - is daunting. Am I right? And anything serving to point me in the right direction can't be bad. Right?
So do I or don't I?*
Do you or don't you?
*I guarantee many of you are thinking Janna, it's up to you, girlie, because every writer is different and has to choose their own way. I know this. But I figure myself out better when I share my thoughts and absorb everyone's feedback. Thank you, thank you.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I got a great start on my new WIP yesterday! I'm very excited about this idea, but am hesitant to share anything just yet... we're still in the early stage of our relationship, you see, and I don't want to jinx it. But if things continue to progress and it looks like we may last long-term, I'll give you the goods then. ;)
I have another author to add to my favorites list! Her name is Anna Maxted. I mentioned her sometime recently, when I told you about reading her book A Tale of Two Sisters. The book was phenomenal, and I absolutely recommend it. Here's a small excerpt from the back... Forced apart by mistakes not their own, enticed by new loves, and confronted by challenges they never asked for, Cassie and Lizbet [who live in England] struggle to rediscover the simple goodness of their sisterhood, even as their lives take them on a collision course of heartache and new beginnings. The book, alternating between Cassie's and Lizbet's first-person points of view, is written with plucky humor and deep-hitting truths. Loved the author and her voice!
And... well... I guess I don't really have any things to share.
What's up for you today?
Monday, December 1, 2008
Today I welcome December with flourish. And maybe fanfare. Seriously, I may break out the sparkling grape juice; I've never been so glad to see the calendar page turn.
While I know I can't see what this month may hold, I'm determined to make it as amazing as I can. I'm going to love my family and friends with my whole heart, make my home a warm and welcoming place, offer smiles to strangers, help whomever I can, and fling myself head first into writing.
A good springboard from which I'll jump into my writing was news of acceptance for one of my flash fiction pieces. Surprise at the Salon will be published at The Chicklit Review this week or next. It feels really great. I'll post more details and the link when the time is write. Erm, right.
And I've made a big decision. Life After Death, my WIP, is going to be scrapped. Put in a file, is more like it, for another time maybe. And after giving myself permission to make such an executive decision, to change my mind, I feel good. Instead, I'm going to start something totally new. A new month, a new space, a new WIP. It's an novel idea (har, har) that came to me a couple weeks ago, and I'm just gonna let it fly, see where it takes me.
I'm looking so forward to it.
What will you do this December?
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
My fingers began to shake. My heart began to thunder. I couldn't breathe. I panicked.
My internet wasn't working.
I was gone the majority of yesterday* and, upon returning home in the evening, discovered our internet service was down. I tried the whole rigamarole: Resetting the modem. Shutting down and restarting the computer. Launching a sharp pen at the monitor. Nothing worked. NOTHING WORKED.
I was frustrated, as I always am when I can't get online the instant I want to. But I took it as a sign that I didn't need to be occupying myself in such a way, and moved on to other things. And I figured my computer-genius husband could make it all better when he got home.
Not quite. So much for his genius.
The same happened this morning, and it took a call to our internet service provider (which I really, really dislike) to sort it out. After confirming my phone number eight times (Yes! That's my number!) and being told our access password was "Q... U... A...--" (Yes. That's my name, and I do know how to spell it. Thankyouverymuch.), the problem was targeted.
I followed their directions, and now we're back up! Whew. I couldn't have gone all day without internet.
Well, maybe if I chose to do so. Really. I could have.
But it wasn't my choice today.
I hope everyone has a warm and blessed Thanksgiving. May you feel the love of your family and friends, even if you're far from home, and be aware of all for which you can give thanks.
*Some friends lost their son last week, and yesterday was the funeral. I will remain steadfast in my prayers for his family as they continue on after this tragedy. In his honor...
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
They're instances that touch my writer's sensibility; snapshots taken by my mind's eye to pull out and review, possibly write about, at a later date.
One such moment happened yesterday, while sitting in church for the special Thanksgiving service. One man, a dear family friend and brother in Christ, put his heart and voice into a choir song. As I watched tears stream from his eyes, I filed away the vision he created: Love, humility, reverence. Perhaps I'll use it someday.
Tell me about one of your recent snapshots.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
In the meantime...
Sally found an affinity for baking and cooking and the like, and last month she left home for enrollment at The Culinary Institute of America. By all reports (including her mentor, Sony Vaio) she's flourishing in her new surroundings and, since I promised our readers I'd update occasionally, I thought I'd share her most recent letter. Here's what Sally had to say:
i'm having such a good time here at cia. every day we learn some new cooking technique, practice using a kitchen gadget, or create an amazing dessert (i've mastered a chocolate ganosh torte with your name on it). it's fabulous! seriously, i think i've found my calling. (now, janna, don't let that news upset you. i know you think i was meant to be a writer, like you, but i've found my niche. it's my destiny. this is who i'm supposed to be.)
just yesterday we studied shrimp. did you know there are countless ways to prepare shrimp? you can boil it, broil it, saute it, fry it, filet it, grill it, bake it, toss it... bubba was right! it's one of my new favorite things, especially when served with a sweet jalapeno-pepper and pineapple tartar sauce. simply to die for, janna. to.die.for.
anyway, that's all the time i have right now. my kitchen buddy (kind of like a lab partner) and i have to perfect our mesquite barbecue sauce by tomorrow, or we lose certain kitchen privileges.
give my love to the fam. and can you tell paco [misterwrites' laptop] i said what's up?
So, as you can see, Sally's enjoying herself. Makes me proud. *sniff*
I plan to pen a response letter over the weekend. But I'm unsure about one thing... Do I tell her misterwrites sold Paco?
Friday, November 21, 2008
*brain lurches ... grinds to halt as false start becomes apparent*
So maybe without further ado, here are some (mostly) unknown facts about me. Of course, that's not to say they aren't trivial facts you'll have nothing with which to do. But maybe it'll be fun anyway...
*squirts a little WD-40 on gears*
Five Things I Was Doing 5 Years Ago:
*living in a duplex we loved, but were quickly outgrowing
*raising an almost-one-year-old
*giving thought to when a second baby would be nice
*kicking off my writing career, by completing a children's picture book manuscript (6 rejections, haven't sent out in a long while, have since "moved on") and getting first check ever for publication (in Western New York Family Magazine - Social Motherfly, one of my best pieces, which I can find nowhere, on disk or paper copy...)
*cultivating a new friendship with two women from church, who have become like sisters in the years since
Five Things on My To Do List:
*finish touch-ups around newly painted areas in our home
*rid self of headache
Five Things I Like to Snack on:
*pretzels with mozzarella cheese
*crackers (think Chicken-in-a-Biscuit)
Five Things I Would Do If I was a Millionaire:
*give to our church (to then help others)
*put into accounts that will accumulate over the years
*buy my husband a pinball machine
*shop without making a beeline to clearance, perhaps without even looking at the price tags *gasp!*
*fly a group of girlfriends to a house in Maine for a long weekend getaway, sans hubbies and kids
Five Places I Have Lived:
Missouri x 5
Five Jobs I Have Had:
*Geoffrey Giraffe, mascot for Toys R Us, for charity events and store promotions
*server at Paradise Grill
*front desk at the Hilton (I was not meant for hospitality)
*Mental Health Technician (junior counselor) on adolescent psych unit
*Account Executive for a publishing company (I know what you're thinking... but it was a commercial print and yearbook publisher)
Five People I Am Tagging:
My bloggy buddies exceed the number 5 so, like Angie, I'll leave it open to whomever's interested. Have fun!
And have a great weekend!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Maybe, just maybe, it's in the trunk of my car. It's possible I moved it back there when I shifted some of the girls' toys and books and things from the floorboard. It's certainly worth a look.
But wherever it is, I hope it's not lost forever. Because I really need it. Not only have I been unable to work on Novel #2 for WEEKS, but I'm having trouble coming up with good and thoughtful blog post ideas. This does not bode well for a writer. Or rather, Girl Who Calls Herself a Writer. Can't rightly claim the title if I can't do it.
I blame it (just a bit) on the fact that not only am I still recuperating from all those things I've been dealing with (I whine not - I know we all have such things shaping our existence day to day), but the fact that my house is in such disarray. Sure, we're making progress (HUGE!) with our remodel, but all the "normal" stuff - laundry, dishes, plain ol' organization - falls to the wayside in the meantime. And when all that stuff backs up, my brain gets frazzled. Discombobulated, even. ('Tis a great word I just had to throw in the mix.) I'm not in control, I feel no balance. Who can sit down and pound out a great novel when that's the case? Not me.
So my hope is that, while we work to get the last of our Before The Holidays Projects done, I can get all the other things reined in, too. And then maybe when I get my new office area put together, where I can spread my things over my desk and get a feel for my new space - without the threat of so many other things looming over me - I'll find my motivation sitting right in front of me. Like a beautifully wrapped present, waiting to be opened with flourish by yours truly.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
But today I want to know about your stuff and things.
Do you have a random thought you want share? Or a thought weighing heavy on your mind?
What's up with you this Tuesday?
Monday, November 17, 2008
What are you reading now? What do you recommend? Help create a list to keep nearby for the cold winter months ahead.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
MommaSaid also holds regular Housewife Awards ceremonies, consideration for which follows submission of a story about life as a mom and housewife. Jen and her crew look for "a funny story or situation that sums up the occasional craziness of at-home motherhood." (You can also nominate friends or family members.) At the end of each entry period one candidate is chosen, and a deserving (albeit harried) mom wins a fabulous certificate for display among her most prized possessions, as well as a shiny new book, title chosen courtesy MommaSaid.
Guess who just won? Betcha don't need a hint. Er. Especially because I told you in the post title...
Me! And I feel honored.
My submission was an anecdote about one particularly stressful Sunday. To read Jen's write-up of my Slapdash Sunday, visit MommaSaid. (You'll need to scroll down just a bit. When you see my face, you'll know you've found the right spot!)
While you're there, enter with your own story - remember you can nominate others - and see if you can snag the special honor.
And remember: If the housewife is happy, the whole family is happy!
Friday, November 14, 2008
I didn't give it much further thought, though; there was plenty to keep me busy at home. So something like 3 business days (and a weekend) later, a letter in the mail took me by complete surprise. Avalon liked what they saw, and wanted to read the whole thing! So in a similar haze, I packaged my full ms, and made another unremarkable drive to the USPS. I think I remember my heart hammering as I placed the thicker, more significant envelope atop the counter and told the clerk, "Send it priority, please." Did I want delivery confirmation? Absoflippin'lutely.
I still felt so fuzzy and detached. It was surreal, taking that step. Because I knew that, even if the outcome wasn't my ultimate dream of landing a publisher, it was, at the very least, a step in the right direction. To even be considered by a major house? My 5 year-old was helping me think of people to call and tell, that's how big it was. Is. To me.
My ms arrived at Avalon's offices on October 1st. I haven't heard anything, though I expect it will take several months more. And it's been okay, because that haze had settled, kind of keeping my brain from expecting too much. What with kids to raise, a house to remodel, new writing projects to work on, I didn't have to think about Bliss Lake and its ultimate place.
And then yesterday something changed. I had the thought, Could it really be that a publisher is looking at my book? How did that happen? It may have been sparked by my friend Jen, who said, "...you've got a novel completed and being considered by a publisher..." Holy heck, I do? I do!
And now, for the first time, I'm letting myself think of all the implications. About how badly I want to be published, so others can read my words, hear my stories. How much I want to hold a paperback in my hands, one with my name emblazoned across the front. About the fact that a huge decision regarding my life, my passion, lies in "The Editors" hands at Avalon.
I think I need to lie down.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Your heart breaks for this little boy we'll call Dallas. You're sensitive to his story, whatever it may be.
And then you hear the story, at least part of it, from the lips of your innocent, unassuming daughter. She's in his kindergarten class.
"His daddy died. Do you know what happened?"
You feel your warm core begin to wither.
"His daddy was sleeping. Dallas wanted to wake him up, but he wasn't breathing. He wouldn't wake up. And the cops and firemen came to help, but he died."
Suddenly it all makes sense. And your heart is broken.
To read such a story in a book would make us feel a gamut of things. Sadness, distress, worry, because we know things like that really happen, but also relief, because we know what we're reading is fictional, conjured by the author's imagination.
As writers we hope to touch readers so; to affect them with our words, so they feel all those raw emotions. And it's stories like the one above, the things we feel about it, whether it's something in our own lives or something we've heard about second-hand, that we draw from. It's things like this that build our human experience, our store of reactions and thoughts and feelings that make our writing so full and real.
It's part of what makes a good writer.
What else makes a good writer?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
My grandma has returned home from the hospital, as has my dad, who was the "person of great importance" I mentioned in my last post. [I kept his identity quiet because we didn't want to alarm family, given it wasn't a life or death circumstance, and what with everyone already mourning my uncle's death]. A minor procedure was done on my grandma, so she recuperates, as my dad still struggles with pain and neuropathy related to his multiple sclerosis. My prayers are still heavy for him. And though we weren't able to attend my uncle's funeral, which was several hours' drive away, I'm told it was a beautiful military service in his honor.
It was a rough week, both physically and emotionally, and parts of me are still numb. I've had a nice break from certain aspects of life, whereas others have been highlighted. I've a greater appreciation for my family, all of whom I love so much. I've also been able to assess my role as a writer, and I can't wait until things have found a semblance of normalcy, so I can get back with it. Life After Death calls to me.
Thanks so much for all your kind comments and prayers. I was incredibly touched by the warm thoughts and support, and I couldn't ask for a better network of friends and bloggie buddies.
Best to you all. Perhaps by end of week I can get back to a regular post schedule.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Today I got word that my grandmother is in the hospital with a potentially serious condition, and one of my uncles passed away this morning. All this follows closely on the heels of a hospital stay for someone of great importance in my life. Combined with everything mentioned in today's earlier post, I'm a bit overwhelmed.
I'm going to take a break from all things intrawebs. I've got to regroup and wrap my head around the things that have been happening. I'll miss our online connection and your feedback, and I'll miss reading your blog posts, too.
But I won't be gone indefinitely; just for a few days or so. I wish you all the best with your writing, and everything else, in the meantime. I'll be back soon.
And thanks for your support and prayers.
PS. Don't forget to VOTE!
Monday, November 3, 2008
There are so many things to be thankful for, and I'll list 30 of them here. In no particular order. Except numbered.
*curses mess just made with confetti*
2) sound mind, sound body (which could technically count as two, but they sound good together)
4) God's blessings
5) a nice and safe-from-the-elements house
7) iced mocha
8) sandalwood candles
9) lavender body wash
10) hot showers
11) good books
12) time to myself
13) dear friends
14) PEOPLE magazine
16) the ability to write and share my words
17) conversations with one who understands me
19) clearance sales
20) flip flops
21) finished projects
22) Mexican food from El Maguey (Melanie - what does that translate to?)
23) iced mocha (so good, I'm counting it again!)
24) online networking
25) thoughtful friends
26) family reunions
27) my babies
28) eating out and not having to clean up
29) migraine-free days
30) my sister's "old fart" jokes, now that I've reached the big 3-0. But I'll have you know, she's almost thirty-four. And she's older and fartier than I am. (Just don't tell her I said that.)
Friday, October 31, 2008
I love to go trick-or-treating,
My family calls it a meeting.
We all gather 'round,
Sit down on the ground,
And suddenly we all are eating.
Oy. I wonder if way back then I had any suspicion of the journey I'd one day take as a writer. I've come a long way, baby.
So Happy Halloween! Wherever this evening takes you, be safe and have fun.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
What do you see in this picture?
Sure, its outward appearance is overwhelming. It stirs, if I'm to be honest, a little bit of pity and a whole lot of sorrow in me.
But you know what else I see?
I see, perhaps, a young boy who lives inside. And his circumstance does not define his potential. He is one who, despite the start he's been given, will persevere. He'll understand what hard work and determination mean. He'll learn to respect others and their situations, he'll seek humility, and he'll strive to make his dreams happen. He'll succeed.
He'll break the cycle.
Can you take a harrowing picture and make it, with mere words, into something uplifting? Consider it a challenge. If you accept, post a picture and your vision on your own blog, and let me know you've done so.
PS. I still have half-dozen or so prompts I've not used. If no one cares either way, I'll only do them if/when a stirring comes. But if you were particularly fond of yours and would really like to see me write a piece of flash fiction with it, let me know in today's comments. Thanks!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Does writing beget laziness, or does laziness beget writing?
It was yesterday (see previous post) that, when I was over-extending some under-used muscles and excreting a fair amount of elbow grease, this question came to mind. It was because I couldn't stop the internal whining...
Oh, why is this my job?
Does anyone understand how difficult this is?
I just want to be downstairs with my computer!
And then I thought...
What the heck is wrong with me?
I should be grateful for the chance to do such work. I should be thankful I'm physically capable of putting such effort into a project, and that I'll be able to reap the rewards later. I should welcome the chance to do something different, to make a change. Instead of complain about the energy I have to expend.
Really, I do projects like this so very infrequently. I can't remember the last time I worked so hard (motherhood aside). Am I lazy? Perhaps in some ways.
But writing calls for stillness. For sitting and being sedentary. It's what I'm used to; it's the level of energy I'm comfortable putting out. It's not draining or difficult - in a physical way - to write, other than your average sore tushie or crick in the neck.
So that made me wonder... Have I become lazy and sedentary because I'm drawn to the writer's life... or does the writer's life appeal to me because I'm lazy and sedentary? How do you think it works? Is it different for everyone?
*BIG thanks to my sister-in-law, who spent a good part of the day looking after the kidlets. I so appreciate it, Sara. Singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to entertain the girls is possible from a 16-foot scaffolding... but it gets old... Thanks for playing with the girls while I worked. You rock!
Monday, October 27, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
This last week has been amazing, full of beauty and nostalgia. The cool, crisp days combined with changing leaves and rich aromas make for a warm existence. I want to bustle around and make my home clean and cozy, where the air is filled with potential.
How does fall make you feel?
Friday, October 24, 2008
Rachel pointed me to the paraphrase of a great C.S. Lewis quote: "We don’t need more Christian writers. We need more great writers who are Christian." (An online article related to this can be found here. And find Lewis' full explanation of this thought here - scroll down to the second content box.)
I have to say that as a writer who has struggled with how much faith-related content to include in fiction, this quote really resounds with me.
I've sometimes second-guessed myself - with my writing, that is. My faith is a large part of who I am, and it's not something I want to leave by the wayside in my writing. But if I were to include it, how would I do so? My way is not to push myself or my beliefs on anyone else, and I certainly don't want to be caught sermonizing. I struggle with knowing how much such content is smooth and warm and digestible, as opposed to forced and off-putting.
So the comments my readers posted the other day, put together with Lewis' quote, have helped me put my thoughts into better perspective. I think that, while it's important what we write (for instance, I write wholesome stuff, not horror or erotic, etc.), it's more important who we are as authors behind the writing. It's important how we represent ourselves to the platform and readership we build, don't you think?
Just as God has given everyone a talent - some sing, some sew, some work with wood, some heal with medicine - shouldn't it apply that He's made a place for all those talents? And to dissect it further, wouldn't it stand to reason there are varying places for all writing Christians? That He wants us to fill as many niches as we can?
So tell me what you think? I'm eager to get some feedback!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Both my first and last names are pretty easy, I've always thought, though I've had awhile to get used to them. Especially my first...
I've been called John-uh. Jane-uh. And even Yawna. But it's just plain ol' Jan-uh. Like Jana, just not as naked. It's Scandinavian, which I bet my parents didn't know when they picked it. Story has it (at least at one point, I'll have to ask if it was a fib), I was to be named Valerie until some friends of my parents "took" it for their newborn. So in looking for a new moniker they stumbled upon Jan, whom my big sister liked from the Brady Bunch, but gave it a twist. I'm glad they did, because I sure don't look like a Jan. Janna (even with my spelling variation) is the female form of John, which means "God is gracious." Indeed He is. And I think that's pretty cool.
My last name, Qualman, is a bit trickier. It's German and, though misterwrites may be pulling my finger, I'm told it means Dungeonmaster. Neat, eh? Even if not, there aren't too many around whose name starts with that funny lookin' Q... Many struggle over pronunciation, but it's easy - there's no bird, no quail. It's pronounced Kwallman, simply put.
What about you? Do people mess up your name? And is there any special meaning behind your moniker?
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
For awhile there I was discouraged; I wasn't sure I liked the direction the story was heading. It just didn't feel right. You see, I thought the main character's wife was going to abandon him, leading to issues and events that would severely test his Christian faith. But I was struggling with writing her character. I couldn't see her playing out in my head, or figure out how to make her scenario believable.
And then it hit me I was handling the plot wrong. Abandonment isn't the way to go, because it delves into issues I don't want to handle. I just can't wrap my head around them, explore them deeply enough to write about them well.
But what I can do is create a "perfect" marriage and family life between the main character and his wife (and their young daughter) . . . and then alter it drastically by an accidental death. Now we're talking. I can write this with emotion and articulation. I'm excited about the challenge of endearing the reader to the wife... and causing them to feel the same heartbreak my main character will after her death, helping them understand the test of faith when his life is in shambles...
I've decided on the working title Life After Death.
Such a shift in plot meant I had to scrap the work I'd done previously, though it only accumulated to three chapters. I did save the good stuff in another file, should the characterizations come in handy another time... but I started rewriting from the beginning last week, and I'm pleased with my progress. The picture is clearer, the way seems to be paved. Here I go!
How about your WIP? What are you working on right now, this week?
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
My desk will go in the corner, straight ahead. It'll face the pitched ceiling (it's an A-frame house), but I'll have a view over the balcony into the living room below. You can see it's still unpainted drywall out past the balcony; it will be painted the same colors (the ceiling is a few shades lighter), so the brown flows consistently throughout the house.
And here's my reading space! (Incidentally, my chair has already been placed because the truth came out... misterwrites is not a fan and wanted it out of his sight...) I have an antique floor lamp I'll work in somewhere, and need to find an ottoman. I plan to run a short-in-height but long-in-length bookshelf along the balcony wall, which will keep all my beloved books and some decor.
I have to explain, it's not that I'm merely excited to have my own space, it's that we've waited for more than two years for our serious overhauls to come to fruition...
We bought this house in April '06. At that point, though the house was forty years old, it was in dire need of not only updates, but fundamental renovations. See, it was a kit house, built in the '60s as a vacation home here at the lake. The basic structure was put up, but without any insulation. And though many interior walls were constructed with solid redwood paneling (it was overkill, really), other walls were never finished - meaning that when we moved in there were exposed studs here and there. Permanent carpeting was never installed, rather, the previous owners had tossed several swatches of remnants throughout the house. All those were removed when we bought the house, and we've since lived with subfloor in much of the house.
Our renovations began with our daughters' shared room, because we knew we needed to get them into a place and routine of their own. We had to tear down the paneling, put in insulation and drywall (ceiling included), then paint and carpet. Here it is before...
Here it is after (though this pic is right at two years old)...
Next we tackled the basement, which was an unfinished space before. We decided we could finish that entire level, thus making it family space, an office, and a guest room - which hubby and I would sleep in as work was done on the main level and loft/master bedroom. Basement before...
Basement after, from different angle (it's been finished out even more since this pic was taken, like there's now a built-in bookshelf where you see the vacuum to the left, etc.)...
The loft with master bedroom and balcony was a space we've yet to occupy, save for storage. It was the same as the girls' room: paneled walls, no insulation, subfloor, and completely exposed to the very peak of the roof (above the cross beams). We've made massive improvements and are so close to moving in! Here it is before...
And you saw balcony pictures at the beginning of this post. It was a small, rickety, virtually unusable space before. We extended it by 4-feet (from one beam to the next), doubling the size, and reinforcing it in the meantime. Now it's usable space (yay!) that looks down into our new living room. It's going to be fabulous!
Our living room has undergone quite a transformation, too. Just as we extended the balcony by four feet, so we did with the entire front wall. The original was - this should come as no surprise - not insulated, very flexible, and had a bad door and windows. By shifting the wall further outside to the next beam, we created more living space, and were able to start over with a sound, efficient wall, and pick new windows and doors. Before, from the balcony...
And now... though we're not done entirely, our progress is a lot further along than this picture shows...
The bathrooms (3 total) are being completely gutted and reconfigured, as will the kitchen, which will be our very last project.
Wow, I'm exhausted just telling you about it all. (Changes to the OUTSIDE of the house will have to be another post, another time.) But it's been on my mind for awhile now, and I wanted to share our story.
We were blessed with this house. Around the time we decided to buy, we drove around this lake, looking for land to build on. This "For Sale Buy Owner," an obvious fixer-upper, appealed to us; we saw its amazing potential, loved its lay and land. We called the listed number... and of all things heard our pastor's wife's voice on the machine! We found out she was helping family friends with the sale of the house. Many blessings and months later, the house - an amazing bargain - became ours, and we've not looked back since. What a journey it's been.
Thanks for following along. It's been fun sharing the pictures and details. And here's to an almost done house!
Monday, October 20, 2008
It was, simply put, the worst day of my life. But then the mailman came in the late afternoon and...
…lo and behold, he had chocolate. Chocolate! Who doesn’t love chocolate? Maybe my cursed day would turn around yet.
“Heh’s some fudgy brahnies mah mam made. He’p yo’self,” he said.
Really, it was exciting. How many mail carriers barrel around with sweets in tow? And how had he known I’d need a pick-me-up at three p.m.? It was too good to be true, I thought. But when I eyed his weathered and wrinkled face, I saw goodness and honesty. He really was sharing his treat with me.
I hesitated in the doorway for what seemed minutes, suspended between a sudden ravenous hunger and ladylike decorum. Before I could stop it, my hand involuntarily reached for the daisy-patterned, chipped plate, my fingers closing around a square of yummy goodness. Heaven in my mouth!
It was as I eyed a second brownie that my throat began to feel funny, tight. And then the dizziness came, at which point I braced myself against the door jamb.
Looking to the man for help, I saw his kind face distort into an evil grimace.
“It’s really too bad, lady,” he said, all traces of his endearing accent gone, “ ‘cuz you shouldn’t’a ate a brownie.”
He pushed passed me, lurching for the table in my foyer. I tried to scream, to claw at his back, but he snatched my purse from its home before bounding back across the threshold.
He took off down my front path, throwing one last comment over his shoulder.
“It really was too bad.”
And the world went black.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
It began as the descent of eight sassy, giggly women upon Texas Roadhouse. Salads, steaks, onion blossoms and baked sweet potatoes soon covered the table. Easy conversation was traded much like the food; satisfaction came with divulgence and indulgence.
After eating, we decided against a movie: You can't very easily gab and trade secrets at the theater. So, up for social ambience and adventure, we took our party to a country line-dancing bar. After all, what says fun like the Boot Scootin' Boogie? (Shh... don't tell anybody... but I can think of a few things...)
We danced very little, instead telling stories and people-watching. We staved off the friendly advances of a middle-aged cowboy and the barmaids offering shots, and watched a man whip himself silly with elaborate turns. We found ourselves endeared by two "grannies," one of whom may someday make it into my fiction, who scooted as well as the rest of 'em. (I couldn't help conjuring the one woman's "story": to my mind she was a one-time heart patient who discovered line-dancing to be great and fun exercise; something to keep her heart healthy and joyful.)
As I watched a few women dance with no inhibitions - totally caught up in the music and movement of their bodies, not caring about anything but the happiness dancing gave them - I realized we all have our element. I'm completely out of mine in places like that; I'm too shy and self-conscious to enjoy myself in an open and social way. But I could liken what those women were feeling, how at ease they were, with my experiences in the writing world. That's my element, the one that beckons to me. Writing is a solitary world, an immediate world I so crave, but one that allows networking through the filter of the internet. I can be my true self with words and creation, socializing through an online shield that bolsters my confidence. While I occasionally enjoy a bar setting for a change of pace and scene (and that people-watching thing), it's nice to, at the end of the night, know where I best fit.
What's your element? Where do you best fit?
Friday, October 17, 2008
Do you have anything exciting going on today or tonight?
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Other days I think, Wow! I've got twenty-four hours! Look at all this time! And I spend it wisely. It unfolds smoothly, with one task leading into the next, and I get so much done. I'm balanced. And at peace, when nothing ruffles my feathers.
Productive days like that lead me to wonder if I'm just lazy on the unproductive days. Is it a mindset? Is it related to mood and hormones? Is it lack of motivation?
Sure, my routine is set, and I try to follow it. But so many factors go into a day and its progress, from things I control (like pushing the snooze button one too many times) to things I don't (a last minute request from a friend or family member, or a problem with a service or product). Some days I can fly by the seat of my pants to take it as it comes [too many clichés there?], other days I feel so dogged and discouraged, like I'm inadequate and incapable.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
For today, I'm keeping it simple.
I read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird a few months ago. Most of it, anyway. I actually read the last couple chapters the other night - non-fiction is like that for me; I read it in spurts. Though silly me didn't pull out a highlighter until the last chapter, she said a lot that resounded with me. One of the best things was this, and I'll let it speak for itself...
Don't underestimate this gift of finding a place in the writing world: if you really work at describing creatively on paper the truth as you understand it, as you have experienced it, with the people or material who are in you, who are asking that you help them get written, you will come to a secret feeling of honor...