Friday, January 30, 2009

Something She Got Excited About

It's a cheesy post title. But I'm really chipper today! And my cheesiness can't be helped.

After school we'll be headed out of town for a weekend in Minneapolis. Traveling with my family always gets me excited, and here are some reasons:

*I love setting out on an adventure, knowing we'll build great new memories with our daughters
*Staying in a hotel peels my banana
*Eating out every meal? I am so.there.
*I get to load my totebag full of books and notebooks and pens and neat office supply fetish stuff (and the laptop), with lofty (and unattainable) goals of both reading and writing 'til I've had my fill
*I eagerly anticipate snapshots I can stow away for later use
*We get a break from it all

So I'll be back Monday. In the meantime, tell us what you like about traveling.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Who I Am

My current WIP has me thinking a lot about who we want to be, as individuals, versus who we really are. And how sometimes the two have to be reconciled.

Let me give you some examples.

I want to be a selfless mom, with endless amounts of patience, one who always sits down to play a game at a moment's notice, or never fails to make her girls giggle when they really feel like crying. That's the way I sometimes think it should be. But who am I? I'm a mom who can only take so much before she needs a break. I'm one who can't always drop what she's doing, or who feels like maybe a good cry would feel better than a giggle. Does this mean I'm a selfish mom? Not at all. It means I've discovered who I really am within the context of motherhood, and that I choose to be realistic about what I can expect from myself.

I also, at times, wish I could fit the "ideal" of a successful writer. I want to be one who carries the needed amount of discipline wherever she goes, who fights the negative thoughts, who sets time aside each day no.matter.what. And yet... Discipline is the hardest thing about writing. Sometimes sitting myself down to the task (or chapter) at hand, to really work at it, proves incredibly difficult. I fear rejection and judgment and failure. And I haven't yet come to terms with routine. Do I wish I could sit down and write for a solid chunk of time, every day from 8-10 am? Absolutely. Does my current life situation allow for it? Nope. But none of this means I can't be successful. It's coming to terms with who I really am as a writer, of that which I'm capable of at this time in my life. And making it work for me, instead of cursing it.

Being honest with ourselves, about who we really are, opens us up to our potential. Because if we're realistic about that potential, we won't fail. When we entertain thoughts of if only I had more time or if I could be better at [insert here], we set ourselves up for disappointment.

Don't think about what you could do, if. Think about what you can do, because you are.

And do it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Weren't My Wish"

Kathryn Magendie, whose debut novel Tender Graces will be released this spring, is hosting a contest over on her blog. The idea is to write a 200 word (or less) short, based on a photo she provided.

I love exercises like this (even when there's not a prize available!), because it's fun to shift my perspective and try on different characters' hats.

So, here we go! The photo and where it led me...

It weren’t what I wisht fer my wife. I wanted ‘er taked care of. But I got sick, ya know. And things, theys happened so fast. I lost my job at th’ mill. And the insurance done run out ‘fore th’ medical bills finished comin’. An’ then I’s gone.

Suri got left wit’ a lot when I died. Left wit’ too much. Our’n son, th’ no good bugger, God love ‘im, said he’d help ‘er. But all he did was help ‘er clean out th’ bank account. Only he didn’t give ‘er nothin’. She ain’t seen 'im since.

An’ now, when I looks down from th’ Great Glory Above, I sees ‘er. She huddles on th’ walk, lookin’ old ‘n’ frail. My Suri. She’s wore down, I knows. But she keeps tryin’ to sell them newspape’s o’ hers. It’s all she got. Th’ only way to earn ‘n’ eat.

I pray she join me soon. I wait fer ‘er here in Paradise.

(162 words)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes

This weekend my oldest is staying with my parents, and Little One has been puttering around on her own. (She misses Big Sister.) This afternoon she decided to settle in for a rest and Disney's Cinderella.

I can hear snatches of dialogue and music as I move about the house, readying it for this evening's company. Just a bit ago, I heard the mice singing Cinderella's mantra ...if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true... from A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.

And I had the thought to hop on here and share the lyrics with all of you. I think they're important words; ones we should all keep in mind, writers or not.

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you're fast asleep
In dreams you will lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true

...the dreams that you wish will come true

No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true

Here's to our dreams coming true.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Writing vs. Reading

We've all heard reading is as crucial to writing as sitting down at one's computer. And we know it's because we learn a whole lot about voice, style, flow, [insert something to be gained here], etc., when we dive into others' words.

But the two don't often overlap for me, like you'd think. Instead, I go through heavy phases of writing, whereas I read next to nothing. And then the flip side is, I'll become so entrenched in reading, I'll find myself a little distant from my writing.

I think maybe it's because I can get so slogged down in my writing, find myself stuck, and making the natural leap over to reading renews me. It's a way to rejuvenate my creativity, to spark my desire to produce something grand. By reading another book, I'm reminded Hey, I want to do that! And then... Hey, I CAN do that! leads to Now let me do it! It makes me better.

What about you? How does reading vs. writing work for you?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Have This Clock, See

It was part of my Christmas loot. It's nothing fancy. It requires manual winding every couple days. Its tick tock is incredibly loud; the hollow sound echoes through the air between my desk and the rest of the house.

Still, I've decided there's something I really like about this clock. I could explain it in some profound way, like that it's a reminder that my time is what I make it. Or that time stands still for no one.

I think it's something simpler.

The clock makes me think of my maternal grandpa. He was a man I hardly knew; an alcoholic with whom I shared no bond. My most prominent memory is of trying to sit on his knee and, because he was snockered, wobbling to the hard concrete floor of his garage.

But when I hear the ticking of my clock, a vision of his bedroom, blanketed in beige and warm with sunlight, comes to mind. And I hear his clock, there on the headboard. It's a clock just like mine.

And I feel an ever-so-slight connection. It's not overwhelming, it's not tangible. But it's there.

I think it's why I like my clock so much.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Shall Not Abandon You

For months now, I've been posting daily (except Sundays or when sick). Why? Because I'm addicted to blogging. I'm addicted to the readership and feedback. And I think it's a great way to keep at my craft, even if in such small doses.

Sometimes I struggle with content, or just feel plain unenthused. But despite that, I've felt a pressure - no one's fault but my own - to keep at it.

Until now.

I've decided to cut back on posts; I'm thinkin' to every other day (ish). This means less blog-related stress and (I hope) more time and creative energy spent on my WIP and other projects. You know?

I guess I felt like I needed a formal announcement because I have such faithful, encouraging readers. I owe it to ya. But whether it makes you sad (dream a little dream, why don't I?), or you rejoice because it's fewer paragraphs to skim, this is my decision for now.

See you Wednesday (ish)?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Migraines: GAH!

I get migraines. And they ain't no fun a'tall.

Though I remember a "more-than-headache" a time or two during my childhood, they started with frequency and severity at 19. I can say with confidence that, for me, they're largely caused by hormones. I do have other triggers, though, as do most: bright light (if you see me out in the sun for any length of time, it will be with both sunglasses and a hat), strong smells (concentrated candles or heavy colognes are the worst), constant sound (an ongoing radio), too much or not enough caffeine (this is sad news for the iced mocha gal)...

Aren't I just a sack of fun?

When a migraine first comes on, it's as pain across my hairline. If it progresses it becomes localized, feeling like an icepick was jammed through the crown of my head. If it worsens yet, the icepick completes its course, coming back out at the nape of my neck.

Pain that bad is a curse, because there's nothing to do but lay in a dark and quiet room. [Past attempts with prescriptions have given mixed results, OTC stuff rarely works. It's time to visit the doctor again.] But wheras my family always assumes I fall into a deep slumber, napping the day away, it's beneath the pillow I lay, awake and in misery. There's this hypersensitivity to any noise or movement, and my thoughts.

My thoughts won't slow up. I might figure out what to do for my best friend's birthday, or remember a bill was due yesterday. And of course thoughts turn to what I could be doing: Writing. Plot ideas and perfect phrases tease me. Blog posts write themselves in my mind. But what a joke! I can't move, let alone sit in front of the bright computer monitor, clackity-clacking away.

I was especially inconvenienced by this migraine, the one that surprised me early yesterday morning and is just now making a pathetic escape out the back door. See, I did really well on my WIP this week - 2000+ words and lots of direction, a newfound feel for my character's voice, in two days. I was going to keep up the pace, too. And then BOOM! The Migraine Fairy mocked me. She said, I'll show you progress. And my efforts were thwarted.

There's always something, doesn't it seem? A distraction, a "cross to bear."

Do you have one?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How Much Do You Share?

For those of my readers who are also writers, I have a question. I know how I operate, but I'm curious to see what others do...

When it comes to a big project, I'm thinking particularly of novel-length, how many of the details do you share with others? Are you one who keeps mum about everything from the storyline to the progress you're making, choosing not to relinquish updates to anyone? Or do you talk things through with one person or more, because you like to share, or feel you work better through your project that way?

For me, I'm hesitant to give too much detail, either because I'll "jinx" myself, or look silly before my idea has fully developed. But I can't keep everything in. I have to give the basic rundown to my parents and a friend or two. I have to have that initial feedback to kick myself into drive. And I periodically update my husband ("I hit 1000 words and a new chapter today!"), or run a scene by him, ask for input.

How do you work? What do you share?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Art of Racing In the Rain by Garth Stein

At just a few pages in, I knew this book would be special. It could have been the hook, the voice, the flawless mechanics or easy flow. Maybe it was all those things, because Stein is an amazing storyteller.

What I know without a doubt is, I finally have an answer to the question What's your favorite book? It's this, a story about the human condition... told from a dog's point of view.

Enzo is a mix-breed with a penchant for race cars. He's also a deep-thinking wannabe man. He's self-taught (with "a degree of literacy"), observant, intuitive. And he fiercely loves his master, Denny.

It's Denny, a semi-professional car racer, who teaches Enzo the rules of the track: It's Enzo who, while watching his human family struggle through heartbreak and more, turns those rules into life lessons for us.

I laughed out loud. I worried. I wept. I shared excerpts with my husband. But best of all? I found it.


My favorite book.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Wendy, who Writes in the City, tagged me for a meme about happiness. What are six things that fulfill me, make me happy? Well, while raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens are fine and dandy, they don't top my list. Instead, these favorite things make me happy...

My family. My girls first, and the hubs, of course. My immediate and extendeds, my friends and church family. They're all crucial to my happiness.

My space. Many of you have been here for the occasional chronicling of our remodeling process (which is still in progress, since it's a "whole house" remodel)... What was once a small and dingy unused balcony off the master loft was enlarged and improved, and it's now home to my desk, my crafty stuff, my books, and my reading chair. This place makes me incredibly happy.

Reading. I love holding a book in my hands, snuggling up with it, letting sleep overtake me mid-paragraph because I'm so warm and comfortable, learning something, finding a connection or common ground, getting so involved I can't go to sleep. H - A - P - P - Y.

Writing. Many facets of writing make me happy. There's the point of inspiration, the snapshot. There's the anticipation of the story, the thrill of getting the words out, the joy and accomplishment associated with a finished piece. It makes me happy.

Shopping. But I don't necessarily mean buying. The process of perusing (especially antiques) is cathartic for me. I can lose myself in my thoughts and focus on no one but me. If I need a good dose of happiness (and peace), I take off on my own and visit my favorite stores. (Just wish I could do it more often.)

Food and beverage. Simple, right? It's amazing how happy a favorite meal or beloved drink (iced mocha) can make me. Especially if I can enjoy it in conjunction with one of the things above. Perfection!
So while the idea is for me to tag six others, this meme is quickly making the rounds. If you've not already been tagged, consider yourself such and tell us what makes you happy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Caption Results!

Thanks, everyone, for participating in the caption contest! I also appreciate all the birthday wishes for my daughter. We had a really great day.

It was a difficult choice... one we narrowed down to three before making a final decision. They were:

spyscribbler with "Where'd that brownie go?" [Girl, you know no one better hide my brownie.]

Joanne with "Shh. Mommy's on the phone with her agent!" []

Jen with "Oh noes! She's wearing the same dress! Quick, under the table!" [Makes me giggle wildly.]

[I was going to post the photo for one last look, but my husband already turned his computer off. I can't retrieve the photo from the network - without traipsing down two long flights of stairs into the dark and cold basement to turn his machine back on. So please refer to Saturday's post for the picture... Really, all you need do is scroll down a hair...]

And the winner is... JEN! Love the scene it creates in my mind, and how well it matches Emma's "surroundings." Well done, Jen.

For you, a limerick.

Jen's a nice gal from the Midwest,
She writes and cracks jokes with zest.
Her days filled with noise,
She's outnumbered by boys,
Now if someone'd just give her a rest!

Meh. Not my best of limericks, but you get the idea. And at least I didn't have you escaping sharks... with lasers. ;)

Thanks again, everybody! 'Twas fun.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sweetpea!

Today is my firstborn's sixth birthday and, to celebrate, here's one of my all-time favorite pictures of her.

For fun, I'd like you guys to provide its caption. As of Sunday evening, I'll pick my favorite (with misterwrites's input), to be announced in Monday's post. The winner will "win" a limerick or ode written (by me, not misterwrites, unless of course you'd like the inclusion of sharks with lasers) in their honor. Let the captioning begin!
PS. "Sweetpea" is not her given name.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Travis Erwin, The Big Hairy Texan*

I would be remiss not to take part in the Bloggerland call to help.

Travis Erwin, a fellow blogger and writer (of women's fiction, no less!), lost his home last Sunday. Not only did the whole thing burn to the ground, very few personal items were saved in the meantime. While he, his wife and their kids are all safe (thank God his young boys weren't home at the time), they find themselves in need.

I can't, without panic striking my chest, imagine what they're going through.

If you feel led to do so, please visit a site set up to benefit the Erwin family. Many have given donations, but prayers and well wishes are just as apt. All I ask is that you do what you can.

Still thinking of you, Travis.

*I did not bestow him with this lovely title. It is of his own doing.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Slow Start, Gaining Speed

It's been tough, getting this new WIP off the ground. Lots of things have distracted me and, on top of that, I struggle with all the feelings one faces at the get-go, when the entirety of a full-length novel stretches before you. Can I do it? (Again? What if I'm a one-timer?) Will everything I hope for it mesh? What if this is a poopy idea? Etc., yada yada.

I've been happy with the first chapter. It sort of reads like a prologue might, because it's a look at the main character (MC)'s childhood. I love the background it gives, and it sets the tone for her adulthood.

Chapter two was where the trouble began. I was having issues transitioning into her "here and now," her adulthood, and had a couple false starts. Yesterday I deleted what I'd written (for the second time), and sat here at my desk, staring at the blank screen. And I waited. (Which isn't what King would have suggested...)

I wanted to "watch" what would happen in the story. I wanted to see it; then I would know it was right. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait too long; a scene came to mind, and I ran with it. I hashed out 990 words (about 6 pages), and completed the chapter! Not my biggest lump in one run, but it felt like major progress. Heck, it was! And, one of the best parts, I know where to head with chapter three.

I feel like I've jumped that first hurdle. It's behind me now, and I can better set my sights on the next one.

They get easier as we go along, don't you think?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More From Steven King

Since I seem to be on the roll with encouraging posts this week (and why not? you guys are forever giving me phenomenal encouragement), I thought I'd give another good chunk from Steven King's On Writing.

He says:

You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair--the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick &$! and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.

I'm not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I'm not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor... This isn't a popularity contest, it's not the moral Olympics, and it's not church. But it's writing... not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can't or won't, it's time for you to close the book and do something else.

Wash the car, maybe.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Just Like That

I don't watch much t.v. - both because it's rarely my choice, and because who has the time when one tries to write on top of having a young family? But last night I watched a couple mindless, entertaining shows with some friends. Through the course of dozens of commercial breaks, we saw lots of movie previews.

One in particular, Last Chance Harvey, with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, struck my fancy. Something in that one-minute clip spoke to me and said, That looks like a really good story.

And it kinda made sense in a new way, this writing of mine.

I want to be the one behind the story. I want to be the one who makes someone say Wow, that's gonna be good. Or Wow, that was so good.

You know what I mean?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Rejection: It Happens

Even the most famous of writers - and their most famous of books - got rejected now and again. I found it encouraging to read through a list found at Famous Rejections and spy blurbs like:

Dr. Seuss got rejection letters, too. Here is one:"too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling."

Mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark recently received a $60 plus million dollar advance on her next five books, but this is what happened when she was sending out her manuscript "Journey Back to Love" in the early 1960s: "We found the heroine as boring as her husband did."


H.G. Wells had to endure the indignity of a rejection when he submitted his manuscript, "The War of the Worlds" that said, "An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would 'take'...I think the verdict would be 'Oh don't read that horrid book'."

Click on the link above to read more examples. And remember, we can persevere, too.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Is Starbucks For Me?

Last Sunday I had some rare time to myself. The day started with friends and brunch at First Watch (amazing food! If there's one near you, you have to go!). I did some shopping and browsing at a few favorite places, and then, because there was nothing to stop me, I carried my copy of On Writing and a notebook into Starbucks, ordered, and claimed a table.

You know what I learned?

I'm too distractable to spend any lengthy amount of time in Starbucks. Sure, I love the idea of losing myself in a book, or crafting a handwritten masterpiece. Taking a break to sip my delicious coffee and then losing myself all over again.

But other people are there. There's a part of me that wonders what will they order? (And then the inevitable, Mmm, that sounds gooood, why didn't I order that?) What are they doing today? What's their name? Do I look ridiculously obvious, sitting here with my writing stuff?

There are windows to look out from, decor to weigh in on, interactions to soak up. And then, when a few young girls who haven't seen each other in months swoop into the store, giggly and high-pitched and loud, talking about someone's engagement, well? How am I supposed to concentrate?

I guess I enjoy the experience of my space at home best. Settling in at my desk or reading chair, into that familiar comfort.

Oh, I'll go back to Starbucks. I know I will. (I still have a balance on my gift card.) And if I'm sans kidlets, I'll grab a table. But next time I'll take just a notebook, with the intention of jotting blurbs about what I see around me. People-watching - "researching" - is one of the things I do best, after all. Maybe I just have to fine-tune what I do when I'm in a coffeehouse.

What are your experiences at Starbucks (or that local coffeehouse) like?

Friday, January 2, 2009

I've Been Banished

From book stores, book aisles, and online booksellers. It had to be done. I banned myself. Because I've been buying so much, and haven't been able to make myself stop. I've ordered four new ones online in the last week!

My stack of books to read is large. Some are novels, some are non-fiction that spoke to me on some level. Others are books I've started but need a fresh crack at.

Dare I anytime soon utter the words, There's nothing to read.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!

Many among the blog circuit have been sharing their goals and resolutions for the new year, and I guess I'm no exception. For the last week or so, I've been thinking about those things I'd like to attain in 2009.

There are, of course, "life goals." Being a better mom, friend, person, enhancing my spiritual life and being the kind of Christian I need to be, etc. Those things are all crucial to who I am, but when the calendar flips for me, I mostly think about my writing goals.

This year I want to:

*Increase my creation and submission of flash fiction (which is defined as fiction of 1000 words or less) and non-fiction pieces.
*Publish new parenting articles at least once a month (but shoot for twice or more) on Type-A Mom.
*Pursue more publishers (or agents) with Bliss Lake. [For those new to Something She Wrote, it was recently considered and turned down by Avalon Books.]
*Continue submitting my narrative non-fiction proposal for a humorous take on motherhood.
*Complete first draft of my current WIP, working title of which is When I Turned 30.

I think that's it. Most seem, at first glance, broad and general. And yet others seem more difficult to accomplish. But if I focus on each one seriously, amazing things could happen. I'm sure of it.

Here's to 2009!

Have you had a chance to share your aspirations for the new year?