Friday, December 31, 2010

We Create

Creativity is key for a writer. For anyone, really, artist or not, who has vision, long-term goals, who desires purpose and beauty.

But what begets creativity? It's different for everyone.

I've been thinking about what makes me feel creative. Here's what I've come up with:

(1) Being understood. It's a powerful thing when someone listens and identifies with and validates. It makes me feel justified, and capable.

(2) Quiet. When there is time and space to be still and alone with my thoughts, I reap creative benefits. I am able to explore those parts of me that thrive through words and expression, and, what's more, I'm able to act on them.

(3) New ideas. No matter their extent or durability, new ideas spark excitement and good intention, with some sort of direction. That's key, I think.

What makes you feel creative?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Look out, 2011!

My motivation for the new year is ready to go, and so why wait? My focus starts today.
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While in years past I've "resolved" to change just one or two things, I want this year to be big. I want to be proactive in life, in making it what it should be. My goals include taking care of my body, learning how to let go of my preconceived notions and having fun, and writing significantly.`
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Last July, on a friend's birthday, I declared that I'd be agented by the time her next birthday comes along. It's bold. (At that point, I was editing my second novel.) That's what, seven months away? I'm going to shoot for it. My current WIP isn't far yet, but I want to tackle it ferociously, and finish it in record time. If I tell myself I can, then I should prove it. I want to prove to myself that I can do anything. It's part of my big 2011.
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Have you put any thought into your New Year yet?
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Photo from lifeslittlemysteries.com.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

This Christmas is shaken. The carols don't reach me, decorations don't excite me, there is no happy nostalgia to be mine.
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If you've been a reader for a while, you can guess that this is because my dad died in May, and this is the first stretch of holidays without him. It defines difficult.
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That said, I'm trying. We're going through the motions, and I've baked, bought, wrapped, decorated, sung, sat at the school program and helped with the church one. I'm trying to shake up the happiness.
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This is the only song that fills me for Christmas. It reminds me there is a Spirit to behold, and love to spread.
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Wishing you the best of blessings.
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Love,
Janna

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

RQ #16

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Santa's in my living room,
sneakin' 'round the tree.
His velvet sack is heavy with
Something for you, something for me.
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What do you wish, hope, pray is (or could be, as long as we're dreamin') in Santa's sack?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Could Be Your Writer

I'm not sure what the etiquette is for this thing I'm going to do, or even if there is one. But I'm going to do it anyway, because, you know, I've got this blog here at my fingertips, it's sort of decently established, and so why not tell you what I'm thinking?

I'm thinking you know me. You know people. People know people. We have all these great connections, and supportive friends, and folks who just happen to stop by our internet places.

What's to say my blog won't be visited by the person(s) who holds the key to my literary future?

Elizabeth Berg was a freelance writer when someone contacted her, an agent, I think it was, or maybe an editor, and said, "I've this proposal for a book, and I want you to be its writer." Someone contacted her, just sort of slid the folder of opportunity across her desk. She took the job, wrote the non-fiction book, which springboarded her into the fiction career she wanted. Now, two-dozen highly-successful novels later...

So I'm thinking maybe there's someone out there looking for a writer. Maybe they're looking for me, because I could be the one plucked from obscurity. Why not?

I'm a good fiction writer. I can do narrative non-fiction, too. Short stuff, long stuff, articles, books. I do have experience. I relate well to people, understand a variety of topics. And I'm confident in my skills. I'm also fortunate to have people in my life who would vouch for me on this stuff. I consider you all, my readers, among them.

You know what? Some might think this is me begging a lucky break, but it's not. It's me acknowledging my place, my potential, and admitting that I've worked hard for close to ten years. It's me agreeing to work harder yet, because I'm here, and I'm ready.

I could be your writer. Are you looking for me? Do you know someone who could be?

Monday, December 6, 2010

To Write It

"My partner listened quietly, as he always does when I tell him all the details of the things I've seen. He knows I have a need to tell stories. But whenever I say them out loud, there is something missing for me. To really tell a story, I need to write it. It's then that I understand what it is that I'm really trying to say. I find the deeper meaning--and the deeper satisfaction.

The same is true of many others..."
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Elizabeth Berg, a preface to encouragement
in Escaping Into the Open:
the Art of Writing True
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I am one of those others.
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It's why I write. And why I dream of sharing my writing with others, aim for publication, so that I may understand myself, and thus be truly understood by you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

MIA, just for a while

Last week was the holiday; this week my family is on vacation. I've been on the computer so little--I miss connecting with so many fine people and I miss my work-in-progress--but sometimes the distance is a good thing.

I thought to come and explain my absence, since Colorado has my attention right now.

Next week I'll be back and in full swing! Hope all is well.

What news have I missed?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Good Material

Dear Sir,

There's a reason writers say "Be careful or you'll end up in my novel," and here it is: We like to take truth, and real-world experience, and put it to good use. Sometimes we even embellish it. (We like flair, especially in prose.) This means I'll, somewhere, tuck an impolite government-office employee like you into a book I write.

You should know that, to explain this character's consistent and unsettling attitude, I'll build him as such: A 40-year-old and (always) single man who lives with his overbearing mother, finds himself gelled in the center of a mediocre career--wherein he treats his customers as if he's doing them some grand favor, when in actuality it's the whole of his job description--and who leads a sad and unsatisfactory life.

This is the kind of picture you paint. Or, at the very least, it's where you point my imagination.

Sir, would you have guessed you are good fiction fodder?

I do feel for you,
and I wish you the best (even though I cringe when I see it's you at the counter),
might even offer a holiday prayer for you,
Sincerely,

Janna Qualman
writer
and human
who only wants pleasant respect
but also a good story on paper

Monday, November 15, 2010

Little Things

I'm not the superstitious kind. Black cats bother me none. I'll walk beneath a ladder (and in fact did just yesterday), it doesn't worry me. I don't give much weight to horoscopes, either, or any of the rest of that jazz.

But I do enjoy, once in a while, a good fortune from those mild and tasty cookies.

After lunch yesterday, I cracked one of the little things open to read this:

You create your own stage and your audience is waiting!

Every so often a fortune just fits.

Create.
My audience is waiting.

Really, this one suits. And I'm keeping it on hand, just as a reminder. For encouragement.
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Come back later in the week - I'll have a video post to share.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Facebook

Think about social media and the way it changes things. Never before has there been a time you could, at the click of a mouse, connect with your best friend from third grade. Your mom. Or your insurance agent. Or your child's grade school teacher.
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So where do you draw the line? With whom do you connect or not connect?
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We all have our own thoughts about this.
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As a writer my guidelines are a bit expansive. Not only do I connect with family and close friends, church family and old acquaintances, but with bloggers, authors, publishers and other industry insiders. People I'm genuinely interested in, and people I need to know, too. It's part marketing for myself and my writing. Networking.
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My daughters' art teacher is also my church sister. Under that latter premise we are connected on Facebook. We are part of each other's lives. What's curious is that I can see she is friends with all her co-workers--the other teachers who fill my daughters' days.
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Sometimes I think I'd like to connect with them, because I'm interested in who they are, in their lives, their comings and goings. We could be friends. You know, real pals. What's to stop us? And then there's the networking benefit, too, the getting my writing out there to as many people as possible.
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I haven't connected with them, because I don't want to cross that line. That professional school-is-school and home-is-home line.
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But is there a line? Even with the way social media has changed things?
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When has it ever before been appropriate for parents to connect with our kids' teachers, outside the school setting?
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Is it appropriate now? Since educators push the idea that parents and instructors really are a team who must work together?
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I'm not asking for advice, I just want to know your thoughts. How do you handle social media, and what's your personal rule for the connections you make?
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Monday, November 8, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

Meet Stan Crader, Author and Family Friend

The place where my parents were raised, and where much of my extended family still lives, is smalltown America. Family-owned businesses, close-knit community, everybody's involved and it-takes-a-whole-village mentality. Sort of a throwback to wholesome, simpler times.
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Stan Crader loves to write about those times, of his boyhood in the country reaches of Missouri. Stan creates characters and pens stories based on a generation gone by, using his own rural experiences as backdrop. His novels, THE BRIDGE and PAPERBOY, were inspired by his growing up years.
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I recently connected with Stan, who grew up with two of my uncles (and considers them friends yet today). He works in management for a large company by day, and reminisces through the power of fiction by night.
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Stan, who is both funny and real as it gets, joins me here today for some Q&A, about working, writing, life, and the balance of it all. You can learn more about Stan and his books by visiting his website.
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Welcome, Stan!
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Tell me how many years you've spent working for a large company. And how do you reconcile or balance that career with your writing?
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SC: I grew up (or at least old) in this business. I first swept floors, then cleaned toilets, delivered farm equipment, worked on equipment, then worked in the shipping department, and eventually moved into management. The change was gradual but once I graduated from Mizzou, my responsibilities ramped up more rapidly. Let’s say I’ve been in management for 35 years. Ouch! As a manager I’ve experienced the introduction of computers into the business and then the internet. I really need a break. I’m not doing the next deal. That’s for the next generation – whatever the next deal is.
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I frequently tell others to strike a balance but I find my own advice difficult to take. I tend to be a workaholic and depend upon friends like your uncle Jack to call and convince me to do something fun. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of fun, it’s just that I can get too intense. I try to discipline and compartmentalize. That is, I try to keep work at work and writing elsewhere. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t autograph books and address envelopes while on a conference call. While at home I try to be mentally there but my wife will tell you that she frequently has to snap me out of it, so to speak. I don’t do balance very well. Sorry. I’m attention deficit and the best way to handle it is to stay busy. I sit down and watch TV but usually read a book and miss the program. We DVR everything so my wife can skip the commercials and playback things I missed but should have seen.
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Tell us how your "mature" age has affected your writing journey. And comment, if you would, on this quote by George Eliot: "It is never too late to be what you might have been."
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SC: Eliot was a goof. You are what you are regardless of how it’s manifested. Some are blessed with fine qualities and just go with it. Others must overcome shortfalls and work hard to overcome them. I’m a lousy speller, so I use a dictionary. Because I use a dictionary doesn’t mean I’m a good speller but that I spell correctly (when I actually use the dictionary). Alcoholics are alcoholics regardless of the consumption. You see what I mean? So, you’re never too old to do what it is God intended you to do, I like that better. I don’t know who said it first, maybe the Apostle Paul.
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My age has caused me to appreciate more. And not just the small things but everything. I appreciate an autumn mist more (small thing) and I certainly appreciate our armed forces more (big thing). I treasure more than ever those who helped this country become the greatest nation on earth. The older one gets the more of their friends they’ve lost. And with each loss grows the intensity with which one appreciates those who remain. (wow, that was deep – maybe pathetic) But years equal experience and seasoning. Think of age as an elevator: With each year you get a little higher and gain a broader perspective. Okay, enough babble.
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Janna: No, not babble. I like that very much.
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How long have you been writing knowing it was more than hobby, but particularly with interest in publication?
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SC: I’ve been doing business writing for a long, long time. And I actually won a couple awards for business writing. Another person here in the office made the application and forced me to go to St. Louis to receive the award. Hooboy. So, I’ve been at it a while. Business writing is easy, it’s simply getting facts down in as few words as possible. Novels are more difficult. It’s somewhat like lying, one must pay attention or the story gets all messed up. Writing is still a hobby, but one day it will define me. I began to take my writing a bit more seriously when people started telling how it touched them. The power of words is incredible. Very little of what I do can I say is work. Productive, yes? But I try to have fun in all that I do. I don’t like washing windows, that is work. And my wife tells me I must do it before our Thanksgiving company arrives. Crap!
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Tell us a little about why you chose self-publication. How might someone determine if it's the best method for their works? And, what are your long-term goals?
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SC: Unless you’re famous or infamous, plan to self-publish. I’ve worked very hard at getting published and it’s so time consuming. I like to write, I don’t like to try and convince others to publish my material. And few things raise my ire like an agent telling me my proposal isn’t in the right format or the pages in the right order. I’m a content person. I’m not so impressed with what someone wears as I am with what they have to say. I’d love to connect with a good agent and I think my work would make a good agent and publishing house some serious money, but I don’t have the tenacity to work the system. So, I’ll self-publish until my break comes. That break will be after one of my books gets seen by the right person. I’ll let God set that course in action.
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PAPERBOY, just out, is your second novel. What was your inspiration for this story? `
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SC: I was a Paperboy and learned so much about my customers. I didn’t realize until later how much I knew about people that few others knew. As a kid you think everyone else knows what you know. That’s not the case. And with PAPERBOY my goal is to make everyone realize that everyone has a redeeming quality and an untold story.
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Janna: Well done! I think that's so important in fiction.
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Do you have any other projects planned, or in the process of creation?
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SC: Yes! Fifteen: The Longest Year. I’ve started an outline for the next installment [in this series]. The boys are fifteen and one by one they’re turning sixteen. Fifteen is the longest year in a boy’s life. The boys are up to their antics but are also taking a high school class on George Washington with an emphasis on decorum.
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What advice might you have for any who've made their life in one career but dream of writing or another creative outlet?
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SC: Read some books and attend a conference on their desired second career. If you want to be an artist, join an artist’s club, go to art shows, read books on art, how to do art, and so on. Learn the fundamentals and then have fun. For example if you want to learn to play the piano, take a few lessons before jumping into Gershwin. The same goes for writing … read some books on how to write…
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Janna: Makes sense. Thanks! And now for a few fun ones...
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What's your favorite down-home meal, and who makes it?
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SC: Favorite meal…roast beef, potatoes, applesauce, asparagus, cherry pie – my wife is the best cook in the world…she really is, others say it too, my sister is a close 2nd.
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Janna: Sound delicious, every bit of it.
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If you could have chosen to live as Opie or the Beave, which would you have been and why?
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SC: Beave – but that’s a tough one. For one thing Beave still has hair. Beave’s house was air conditioned and Opie’s was not. Opie didn’t have a mother. Beave had a dream mom – she died a couple weeks ago... Beave had a neighbor and lots of friends. Opie hung out at the jail too much. But then it would be cool to have a Sheriff or policeman as a father. Actually, I’d rather be Wally.
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Janna: Oh, now there's an aspiration. He was definitely the cutest. ;) And last but, you know, not least...
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Care to share a memory of your childhood friends and my uncles, Bill and Jack?
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SC: I’m short, Bill and Jack are both tall. And for that I don’t like either one of ‘em (joking). It’s not fair that they should get so tall and I’m so short. Your uncle Jack and I both had old cars while in HS. The cool thing to do at the time was to race your car against others in the quarter-mile. Neither of our cars would break the speed limit in the quarter-mile so there was no sport. Interesting, Jack’s car would peel out and get 2nd gear scratch, while my car barely made a peep, we’d cross the marker together. So, to make it a sport we’d race going backwards. Sometimes we’d race until our engines overheated. To this day I can back a car at high speeds around curves and about anywhere thanks to the prowess developed on the Woodland High School flats in a 1962 Chevy Nova with a 190 cubic inch motor.
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Janna: My husband did the quarter-mile races, too! I think it's crucial to a teenage boy's existence.
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SC: That wasn’t the dumbest thing we ever did… don’t ask.
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Okay, promise. At least until the next time I'm with Uncle Jack...
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Stan, thank you so much for the time and answers you've given here. I enjoy your insight (and sense of humor), and I wish you much success with writing and all your endeavors.
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Something else worth mentioning is that Stan and his wife, Debbie, have chosen a charity to receive the net proceeds from sales of PAPERBOY: Melaina's Magical Playland. Very cool.
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You can learn more at Stan's beautiful site, StanCrader.com.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thirty-Two

Today is my birthday, and I am thirty-two.

The number does not sink in for me, because how is this turning of numbers possible? Three decades and two years, a good husband, two kids (really? my very own?), a house with a dog (and a Madagascar hissing cockroach, which I have not told you about before), the best friends and connections a girl could ask for, a whole amazing childhood plus some adulthood tacked on, gobs of mistakes, and accomplishments. This worth of life just doesn't seem plausible.

But I like getting older. I like what time has done to my face, making it more womanly, I see. And I like that time helps me learn myself, to understand my personality and my purpose and come to accept it all. I feel the bud of that little bit of wisdom that comes with life under your belt.

I also don't like getting older. Not so much because of the wrinkles, the easier aches and the greater intention with things like exercise (those things I just sort of allow to enter the door with me), but because everything and everyone around me gets older, too. It's hard to see things dilapidate; the things and places that have defined me. It is hard, too, to see loved ones, well, dilapidate.

It's my first birthday since my dad died. Today he won't call first chance he gets to say, "Happy Birthday, JD." It is better this way. He is safe and he is comfortable now, and I don't wish his pain back just so he could call me. But I miss him, it's been five and a half months, and the missing grows stronger. It has me so sensitive, especially today.

I didn't plan on its sadness when I sat with this post in mind. Really, I was going to write it hopeful and with pride. It is a day to be happy, a day to celebrate, this I know, because I am blessed and my life is filled with love and meaning. But the sad gets me, too. I try not to let it overwhelm me, but sometimes I've no say in that matter. Such is (my) life, this is one of those things I've learned.

And so now how do I end this big long thing? I have no jokes, no fancy quotes today. A summary of my feelings would be lame. Sometimes I think my laying everything out for you to read just so must be exhausting.

How about I smile at you. That's all.

Thanks for listening. And thanks for being a part of this life of mine.

Thirty-two.

Friday, October 29, 2010

5 Words into Fiction (repost)

The idea of taking five words and creating a post with them [was] floating the internet.

My words, from Wendy Miller of All In a Day's Thought, were contentment, water, childhood, grasp, and art. I wanted to create fiction with them, and I hope you'll enjoy this vignette I wrote.

*** originally posted October of 2009 ***

People ask about my inspiration. Much like the attention of artist-hungry women, I’ve come to expect the question. What inspires you? And I have to steel myself before every show, bite the inside of my lip before I answer.

Of course, they pick up on the water theme woven throughout; it’s plain in every painting. But they assume it’s all borne of contentment, a man’s life spent on the lake. And they want to hear tell of creation spurred by deep, happy memory.

They’re right. That’s part of it, because I grew up at the water’s edge, and in its depths. It defined my childhood, my activity, the cool, smooth personality friends have long insisted is mine. It explains the fluid peace of my outer world. Fuels my art, too.

But what they don’t see, what I ensure is impossible for my audience to grasp, is the loss each piece represents. They’d never guess my work isn’t just from memory; it’s also in memoriam.

My brother’s initials are forever tucked away, whether carved into the fluff of a cloud, hidden beneath a boat stern, along the bushy tail of a treed squirrel. And in the twists and twirls of current, in the blue wisps of slight wave, I again and again feel the emotion of the day he died on the water we both loved.

Sometimes it’s too much. Other times, not enough. And I can’t stop, either way, because I’m driven. It is what inspires me.

It's what I can’t tell them, those people who ask.

**My latest humor post is up at An Army of Ermas.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Giveaway Results

Up for grabs was an assortment of journals and notebooks, and today I have results!
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(I should quit touting Giveaway Guy's help, because this time and last I haven't used it.)
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Introducing Giveaway Girl! She's smart, she's sassy, and she's seven (close to eight). She helped me draw before her peanut butter waffles this morning. And the winner is...
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I kid. Now who's sassy?
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The real winner is...
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Congratulations, LA! (If you don't know LA, you can meet her at Unabridged and Annotated.) Please contact me with your mailing information, and I'll send your gift this week.
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Thanks to all those who played! A post like this is fun once in a while, don't you think?
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What's in store for you this last week of October?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nomlicious Recipe

I bought a People Country Special magazine off the newsstand this week, and the best (read: most delicious) part inside was a recipe shared by Trisha Yearwood. This treat is called Sweet and Saltines, and it is so good. So good. So good I have to say it twice (or, um, three times).
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You need:
40 saltines * 1 cup (2 sticks) butter * 1 cup brown sugar *
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
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1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a large jellyroll pan with aluminum foil and then the saltine crackers.
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2. In a medium saucepan melt the butter and brown sugar together and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over the crackers, covering them evenly. Put the jellyroll pan into the oven and watch closely. Bake for 4-5 minutes, or until just bubbly. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the crackers. When the chips melt a bit, spread them over the crackers with a knife. Transfer the pan to the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until completely cold. The crackers will form one big sheet. Break up into pieces. Store in airtight container.
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Trisha says: Substitute graham crackers for the saltines for a sweeter snack. Use 1 stick of butter instead of 2 for a crunchier snack.
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Janna says: I love the little bit of salt with the whole lotta sweet. The butter/brown sugar mixture, once cooled, tastes just like chewy toffee (a personal favorite). I've been keeping the airtight container in the refrigerator so the treat stays cold. (And since my freezer isn't big enough to accomodate a jellyroll pan, the fridge was what I used to cool them originally, too.) I made this while my kids were at school, but plan to make it with their help the next time; they'll love how simple it is. Also, been thinking this would be a perfect dessert to take along to church potluck or a baby shower. Hope you enjoy as much as I did!
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*picture is of my first effort (a reward, if you ask me)
**recipe excerpted from the book HOME COOKING WITH TRISHA YEARWOOD
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Don't forget to see my last post to enter the giveaway for an assortment of notebooks and journals!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Gift

I'd like to give something away. No strings attached. Just for the sake of giving, because I feel full today, and what better way to celebrate life and happiness than to host a giveaway?

I'm thinking an assortment of notebooks and journals. I'd show a picture, but since I've just decided this on whim I haven't purchased them yet.

If you'd like a chance to win, leave a comment here on this post. And spread the word!

I'll take entries until 9 p.m. CST this Friday, October 22nd. Over the weekend I'll enlist Giveaway Guy's help, and we'll draw the lucky name from a hat. I'll announce the winner next Monday.

Sound good? Have at it. And good luck!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

In the Aftermath

How 'bout a meme that's making the rounds?

1. If you could have any superpower, what would you have? Why?
The ability to communicate with angels. There are some important ones I'd want to keep up with.

2. Who is your style icon?
My friend Marie, in personal appearance and home decorating. She seems just ahead of the curve most of the time, and she's brilliant with both.

Writing-wise, Elizabeth Berg is the author whose (women's fiction) work I remember first identifying with so strongly (it was her novel THE PULL OF THE MOON).

3. What is your favorite quote?
Oh, this is tough, I've been collecting so many. I think I'll share this now:

When you understand yourself, you open yourself to a better understanding of others.

That's my own observation, and I think it's an important one. It is the crux of self-discovery.

4. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
That someone has been thankful or proud I'm their friend. Can I share another thought here?

I went out to find a friend and could not find one there. I went out to be a friend, and friends were everywhere. (MLL)

5. What playlist/CD is in your CD player/iPod right now?
I'm sure I'd find Adam Lambert's debut CD in my car's player. I love the song called Aftermath, which has a strong message about being true to yourself, being strong, even if it means going against the grain; that in the end you'll be alright despite having done so. The line I like most is this:

Tell a stranger they're beautiful, so all you feel is love, love...

6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?
I'm awake early for the sake of my kids, but am most productive mid-morning. Like to go to bed by 9 or so of an evening.

7. Do you prefer dogs or cats?
Dogs. It's always been dogs. Nothing against cats, though.

8. What is the meaning behind your blog name?
Back when I first started writing seriously, I wanted to have a name to associate my self-employed freelance work with. My mind kept playing aroung with the phrase murder, she wrote (from the Angela Lansbury show), and I thought, it needs to be something she wrote. But what's the something? Wait, that is it! Something She Wrote. And it carried over to my blog nicely, I thought.

How would you answer these questions?

If you missed the video I posted earlier this week, please check it out. It's so worth watching.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

RQ #14

These boys are amazing, and I am infinitely inspired by their purpose.



What do you want to do before you die?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What I Do Know

Even if I don't know where my path is taking me, how fast or how far, I know two things for sure:

I love connecting with and relating to people. That gives me satisfaction, makes me feel sincere and honest and open, and full of love and acceptance.

And my creative passion tends to weave around the discovery of self. Mine, yours, friends', my characters'. Like a niche, like it's my specialty.

I've decided that as long as I'm mindful of these two ideas--I think they're part of my calling--no matter what I'm doing, my journey will be perfect for me.

What about you? What do you know for sure?

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund

The poor quality of this picture may leave something desired, but the book I'm holding, Jody Hedlund's THE PREACHER'S BRIDE, certainly doesn't.
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THE PREACHER'S BRIDE, Hedlund's first release from Bethany House Publishers, is a beautiful book on the outside, and the content within its covers is a perfect match. Jody Hedlund gives us a heroine of strength alongside a hero of substance, wrapped together in a phenomenal story of intention and inspiration. I can think of no better package for this novel's message of standing up for what you believe.
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From the back cover:
No matter the sacrifice, Elizabeth Whitbread would serve a wounded family.
No matter the danger, John Costin was determined to speak God's word.
Neither expected to fall in love.
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As enemies threaten to silence Costin--and those close to him--will following their hearts cost John and Elizabeth everything?
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THE PREACHER'S BRIDE is historical, taking place in the mid-1600's England. It's a romance, bringing together two unlikely characters with--as all great romances have--sizable obstacles to overcome. And, full of faith and strength, it's a moving story for its readers.
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THE PREACHER'S BRIDE, an incredible debut by this writer, is brilliant and it's perfect. Don't miss your chance to read it.
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Visit author Jody Hedlund today, and go to Jill Kemerer's site for a book party, too!

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Confess

My goals are clear. I want agent representation. And I want to be published. But those two goals, they're not so easy.

I've been writing with books in mind for something like five years. Since the beginning I've been honest with those around me about the feat that it is. It takes time, time, time, to write and rewrite and ready a book. And then it takes time to prepare for agents, and seek them, and get the right kind of attention from them. And then to compete against other writers, and carve your way. And then do it all over again with editors and publishing houses. So many steps, and not a one is flawless.

It takes practice, lots and lots of practice, and hard work and growth.

I've wanted my friends and family to understand all this--it's like I'm saying, See what I have to go through?--so that they're prepared. So that when months and years have passed and I'm no closer to novel publication they know why. So they don't see it as failure, that I simply wasn't good enough, or that I wasn't doing my best and trying my hardest, but so they knew it came down to more than my own accountability. Because it was merely the way of the literary world.

Somewhere along the way, I've stopped being honest with myself.

Somewhere in my head I've shoved that reality and accountability away. Inside I've thought haughtier thoughts. Secretly I've somehow thought it wouldn't be that long and arduous for me, that my path wouldn't follow the rut of so many others. I'm ashamed to admit it, but here. I'm admitting it.

Even at this early stage of my journey--so so early, friends--I've already begun looking past the practice, the learning, the writing, and I've projected myself to the next level, and I think it's been without fully realizing the work that's due. I might have a chip on my shoulder. Like somehow my writing is already where it needs to be. Like, somehow, I've just happened upon a marketable storyline, or that I've captured an awesomely awesome character, or a print-worthy written voice. Like maybe I could skip through all that work I've told everyone else to expect, because my writing's that good.

I've lost sight of so much. (I think it's why I connected to what India Arie had to say.)

My efforts first need to be about the writing. Because I love words and the things they mean and the messages they relay. I love the stories and themes and life that can be drawn from them, and because I can write. And shouldn't that be enough?

I've made myself believe it's about the end of the race, and claiming the gold medal. Saying I won, instead of focusing on the conditioning, and endurance.

How about I just write? And then I decide how good it is, and whether I can make plans to finish the race. Instead of at the outset saying, It's lap 1, Janna. See that finish line way out there? It's yours.

I made a brave claim in September that I'd have the current draft of my novel-in-progress finished by November, so I could send it to beta readers and research agents. I believed it for a time, that I could make it happen, but it won't happen.

Now I see I'm not ready. I love my main character in this novel, and I love the story, but I've got to set it aside. I need a healthy distance, and I'm starting to see that maybe I've gotten out of it all I was meant to. It was more practice, you see? I really found my style with this book. I learned a lot more about the craft through it, and because of the other things I wrote and read simultaneously.

But I had myself convinced of perfection, or near-perfection, anyway, and I shouldn't have. I'm not ready.

I still believe in myself. My goals are still the same, and I will keep at this until I make it happen, because I know it is in me. It's just I have to peel back those assumptions I've allowed myself, and see the real work beneath. With humility, and a big pile of elbow grease. And really good running shoes.

Maybe this explains the questions and struggles some of you have seen in me of late. It's starting to make sense.

I've a long journey ahead. That's my confession.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Debuts and a Query Call!

Today is the official release of my friend (and birthday buddy!) Jody Hedlund's debut novel, THE PREACHER'S BRIDE. It's historical Christian romance (Bethany House), and it's wonderfully written with a strong and relevant message--STAND UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE.
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This is the first of Jody's three-book contract from Bethany House, and it's only the beginning of her success!
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Go to any major bookstore (or visit Amazon) and buy your copy today. I know I'll treasure mine.
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Also released today is Christine Fonseca's EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS. I'll be buying it not just as a writer friend and supporter, but as the mom of a gifted child. What an important resource this will be! Christine is an expert, a warm soul, and a champion of gifted kids everywhere.
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For anyone who bristles at the term "gifted"--because aren't all children special?--know that I do, too. I use it sparingly, especially with my daughter, but it's the term recognized by educators and organizations in our country. It's a term used for children who may excel wonderfully in some areas but not all, and whose minds need creative and alternative methods of learning. Emotional Intensity is a spot-on topic to cover, and I was thrilled when news of Christine's book came out, because it's something my husband and I deal with in our daughter. (And it's something my husband has to deal with in me. Poor guy...)
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So there you have it, both a fiction and non-fiction title to seek. Aren't they both just beautiful covers? Go! Buy! Read!
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Also, regarding that QUERY CALL I mentioned... I've a friend who is soon launching the first issue of his brand new high school sports-themed magazine, and is looking for future content! He'd like articles with general content, ie. Is Cheerleading a Sport?; Drugs in High School Sports; Injuries in Our Players, etc... If you're interested in writing for this upstart, contact me for more info, and I can put you in touch with the publisher. Send an inquiry e-mail to jannawritesATyahooDOTcom. Thanks!
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And last, but maybe not least, I've a book review and author feature up at ROSE & THORN LITERARY JOURNAL blog. Check it out!
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And have a fantastic weekend.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Authenticity

She signed with a major record label when she was a teenager. Her debut album climbed the Billboard charts, went certified platinum within months, and she earned more than half-a-dozen Grammy nominations.
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As her success grew, she became "known for the love in her music that has inspired and motivated people worldwide."*
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But then she virtually disappeared from the music scene. Why?
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Singer/songwriter India Arie looked back recently, saying that she had "gone so far off the path of my own vision, I didn't even know what that was anymore . . . [but] I've been rebuilding. I prayed my power back into my body. And ... I started just making the music I love, following the guidance of spirit to a tee. I didn't censor or second-guess...
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"And while I've never said anything I didn't want to say [in my music], I've never said some of the most important things I do want to say. About acceptance versus tolerance, and the oneness of all people... But now I have.
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"I finally reached the fork in the road, and I chose the path of authenticity. I don't know what's going to happen. But I feel good!"**
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This woman inspires me. With her philosophy, her love, and spirituality, with her authenticity.
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India Arie's story stirs my faith. It tells me that we can refine our intentions and our wants, we can seize authenticity, and we can be all the better for it--even when we don't know our fate.
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Watch one of India Arie's lovely videos.
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Career stats found at Wikipedia; photo from examiner.com.
*India Arie on MySpace
**O Magazine, October 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

RQ #13

What do you do when you believed your path was laid and lit-up for you, and you embraced it with everything, but suddenly a new one appears--and it captures all your excitement, attention and desire?

Which path do you take?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Set Out On Foot

We live at a lake. A big, beautiful, wet and peaceful lake. It is nestled by rural things; acreage and farms, gravel roads and cow-dotted fields.
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If you walk up the field behind our house, away from the water, you pass a couple small cabins, vacation cabins. You follow a path, beaten down by so many feet, and tires, to one of our big towers of gray metal, rising high, marking our cove.
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Last Friday I journeyed that direction, my dog my only companion. The day was beautiful, and I wanted to be in it.
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The wind blew around me, soft and friendly. I heard a mower off on one hill; a tractor on another. I lay down beneath the tower, looking at its belly before closing my eyes. A fly buzzed, bzzzzzz; something small and jumpy landed on my arm. And my head topsy-turvied, because I laid with my upside pointing down the incline.
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It was the most peace I've felt in months, and I kept myself there a long while listening, thinking, open.
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Neat to think it awaits me, just up the hill, anytime I seek it.
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What will you find when you leave your house on foot?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Smile For the Camera

Today is school picture day for my girls.

We spent extra time matching the pieces of their outfits, and smoothing their hair, practicing smiles. I know their photos will turn out perfect, with their growing-up faces and excited little bodies.

And, too, the pictures will be perfect because they're about capturing an essence, and holding it for posterity.

This was the year, those little still shots will say to me.

The year my oldest wanted, more than anything, to be around other people. It's when she learned she could be friends with the kids she didn't understand before. When she discovered hey, she was really great at lots of things, a quick-learner, and that she could practice and progress without growing discouraged. It's when she loved her teacher, again, and her class, and wanted to go back five minutes after she'd returned home. When she first gathered friends' numbers, and made habit of long giggly phone calls. It's when she started taking seriously the role of big sister, guiding and loving and helping. It was the year she was even more beautiful, more free-spirited, than the last.

And it's the year my youngest had enthusiasm seeping from her bones, so excited about everything, especially school. The year she always came home filthy from this thing called recess, and ravenous for this thing called snack. When she was exhausted by Thursday of each week, because all-day kindergarten was something to get used to. When she decided Dora the Explorer wasn't so cool anymore, but she sure liked Littlest Pet Shop and LIV Girls and cowgirl boots and the idea of a diary. It was the year she discovered independence and art and music and really good friends. It was the year she was even more beautiful, more entertaining, than the last.

I'll look at today's pictures and remember, it was a really good year.

*Photo courtesy mikebudden.co.uk. The antique camera makes me think of my cousin Amy. Love you, girl.
*As always, you all are wonderful. Thanks for your comments on my last post.
*I've a new article up at Rose & Thorn Literary Journal. You can find it here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Need Your Thoughts

I'm curious.

When you come to Something She Wrote, what is it you expect? From me, from this place?

I've been struggling of late, with content and topics and whatever my voice has become or should be through this vehicle, and I thought if I asked you--bloggers and not, writers and not, old readers and new--what content you most like or come to see, it would point me in the right direction.

Do you like anecdotes? The fiction? Random questions, pictures of steak?

What doesn't seem to fit?

I've been so focused on novel revisions--that's good--and life, that blogging has fallen to what feels a chore--not good.

See, the more energy I put in here, the less I have for writing books--and vice versa--and those others articles and projects. I understand, I do, and my novel-writing has to take a certain priority. But SSW is still important to me, and I want it to be important to you, all my readers and supporters. I want it to be good for you.

This is me sorta laying it all on the table.

I feel like I need to revamp things, redefine my intention. Give this place a lift (not in look but in feel), and assess all that's working or not. And I just wanted to pick your brains, because I blog for you as much as I blog for me.

Until I find my way, decide what's what and find my stride, I may relax my M-W-F posting schedule. Because quality once- or twice-a-week posts are better than regular semi-satisfying ones, don't you think?

Talk to me, wise ones. I need your thoughts.

**Zoe C. Courtman, in a timely gifting, has awarded me the One Lovely Blog Award. (This makes me feel good, not quite so aimless or out-of-sorts.) Thank you, Zoe!

Friday, September 10, 2010

This One's For the Boys

Dear Manly Men,
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I've noticed you. Oh yes, I have noticed you.
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I see your thumbnail faces, strong-jawed and masculine in the follow me box, where I used to see only the flowing manes and bow lips of women.
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Your presence surprises and pleases me all at once.
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Usually I write about life and feelings and stuff. And not to say that those sorts of things don't reach you, but I've been most popular among the estrogen set.
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Your presence surprises and pleases me all at once. Thank you.
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Today, a post dedicated to you, the men of Something She Wrote.
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*ahem*
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And I think that about covers it.
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Welcome, men!
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Steak picture, How to Roll. Off-roading Jeep, my own picture. Football picture, sixthman.net. 50 Greatest Action movies, complex.com. Blocks picture, dailymail.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

RQ #12



What life lesson(s) have you recently learned?





Photo from flickr. All rights reserved by William Follett.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Three Things You Might Want to Know

(1) Last week's intruder (see Friday's post) has since come back and apologized.

(2) Mailmen and stalkers beware: I do have a hand gun, and I know how to use it.

and

(3) I'll be laboring through revisions today. How are you spending the holiday?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Scary? You Tell Me

This happened just yesterday, while no one was home but me...

The dye had been on my hair for nearly thirty minutes. Time to hop in the shower, time to rinse. I hope it's dark enough, I thought. I hope it's not too dark, I thought next.

As I pushed my head under the faucet, darkness splattered around me.

Lather lather.

Was pulled from that moment of concentration by KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. Someone at the door.

I turned off my bathroom's light/fan combo, so loud that thing is, and the shower, too. Listened. KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK came again.

Over the thudthud of my heart, I heard the front door swing open. "Hello!" called a male voice.

My whole chest was beating then, because this just doesn't happen every day. I listened harder, heard the door close. No footsteps. No, nothing.

I had a suspicion, though. And after a few quiet, uneventful moments...

Like a dumb teenager from a horror movie, I flipped on the light. Turned the water back on, cranked it wide. Yeah, yeah, call me vain (stupid, even), but my hair had to be rinsed. And I wasn't going to go investigate. Duh.

THUMP

Light/fan off. Water off.

THUMP

I know what that is.

I won't lie. I hesitated. But I told myself to be calm and--while listening for anyone or anything on the staircase, because my hunch could be wrong--finished my shower.

THUMP

And when I was done I listened again. Wrapped myself in a towel, tiptoed to my balcony to look down on the living room, and the front door. There was my proof.

Nine cases of postal shipping supplies my husband ordered, delivered courtesy USPS. The intruder had been our mailman, threatening as a puny grandpa, who'd thought to put everything indoors, away from the rain.

Kind of a nice consideration, actually.

Next time I lock the doors.

What would you have done?

ETA: I feel like I should add: We live in a small, private community, where everyone's friendly, and we've seen no crime in the 4.5 years we've been here. Changes the factors just a bit, I think.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Just Some Things

A fused and cohesive post they do not make, but here are the random thoughts on my mind today.

Ready?

Go.

* It's dreary here this morning, and after I do today's WIP revisions, I may have to take a nap.

* Speaking of revisions, I found my stride again. I'm learning: It's about trusting myself and the process of writing.

* I just finished reading a grand book by Elizabeth Flock. Her writing is wonderful, and I found it inspiring! She's been added to my sidebar of favorite authors.

* I passed my business card to a complete stranger yesterday. She's just opened a new business, and I told her I'm a writer, that I could maybe help with such-and-such, and she could contact me if she wanted. My friends (who were witnesses) said it wasn't awkward, though it felt like my insides were exploding with awkwardness. Next time, I'll pull it off even better.

* There are two pieces of chicken bacon ranch pizza leftover, and they may have to be my lunch. Might steam some broccoli, for some added nutrients.

* I bought an old wood-framed screen door thing at an antiques store yesterday, and hung it on my living room wall. Sounds odd, but I actually like it a lot. (Maybe I'll work a blog picture in somewhere down the line.)

* I keep getting side-swiped by humility. I think it's a good thing.

* Why is it that the more balanced I feel, the more Things To Do I have waiting in the wings?

* I checked out the Sony eReaders at a store display yesterday, and the screens were much smaller than that of my Kindle. Made me glad for the Kindle.

* Today I MUST scrub both my shower and my girls' tub. MUST. And maybe make an apple pie.

What are your random thoughts today?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Little Life Moments

I woke them Friday morning, my two little girls, with mommy kisses and soft calls. It was the last day of their first full week of school.

I fed them, helped them with their clothes, reminded them (once and then again) to brush their teeth, their hair, clean their faces and gather their things.

Those were all little bits of our life that morning; they're becoming the usual of our routine. But one thing stuck out, a favorite moment, one I doubt I'll see often.

We stood outside, waiting for the yellow bus to break free from the tree line. We heard it first, and I said, "Here it comes." We traded hugs; my husband and I wished them a good day, and they started down our driveway to meet their ride.

They weren't but ten feet from us when my littlest, no announcement, no request, floated her tiny hand toward her sister. Biggest may have seen that hand, peripherally, or maybe she just sensed it, for she grabbed it with her own. They held fast to the bus.

And my husband and I, already sappy with sweet love for our daughters, watched with our hearts hopping down the drive behind them.

It was just a little life moment.

Tell me about one of yours.

**Thank you for the encouragement after Friday's post. I'm learning I overthink the whole process, instead of trusting it, and that I need to stop making this harder on myself. I appreciate you all!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lost: One Voice

WANTED:
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The safe return of my written voice.
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Where can it be, do you know?
Is there a place the lost voices go?
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It's been intermittent for so long now.
But I'd swear I had it just two days ago. Was I mistaken?
Have I done something wrong, did I drive it away again?
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Maybe I've been fooled. Tricked. Led to think I can do this, but
maybe I can't.
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It's just so unfortunate, so sad, and maddening, too,
because we had a good thing going, my voice and me. I was so sure.
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And now, without it, blogging isn't the same.
Special projects are hard; inspiration is far.
My novel-writing is lame, flat, horrible. It's like
I can't
continue--though I've tried, oh, I've tried--because
nothing is cohesive without it.
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I'm lost without my voice.
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Still, I guess I won't give up hope.
Please, if you see it, won't you send it home to me?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Random Question #11

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What makes you happy?
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I am unsure of this picture's original source. Have you seen it before?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Business Cards: Marketing You

Do you have business cards?
Do you carry them with you?
Do you actively pass them out?
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So far I've only been good at giving them to some family and close friends.
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When and to whom do you think it's a good idea to pass one along? And how do you go about doing so, without feeling schmoozy and horn-tooting?
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The upper-left insignia is not truly crooked; it just came out funny in this recreation. And the dark lines are where I marked through my address and phone number for today's purposes. 'Cause not just everyone needs those, you see.
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What do your business cards look like?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Creative Brainstorming and Contest Details

I recently purchased a couple writerly kits. The Writer's Digest Writing Kit: Everything You Need to Get Creative, Start Writing, and Get Published and The Writer's Toolbox: Creative Games for Inspiring the "Write" Side of Your Brain.
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Seem redundant? Mayhaps. But the first is more a box of how-to; the second, like a get-you-thinking game. I saw I could get them both (brand new!) for less than $10 (plus shipping) on Amazon, and figured one can never have too many ways to brainstorm, right?
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Anyway, I've opened and lingered over each set. (Who else geeks out over stuff like this?) There are booklets with craft points and reminders, and super-fun things like idea cards. This, from the Writer's Digest kit:
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Write a new story using the first sentence and the last sentence of your favorite novel or short story as your starting and ending lines.
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There are minute-timers and wheels of inspiration, and more. With The Writer's Toolbox, I can choose my protagonist's action (takes up dancing), an obstacle (fear of heights), goal (to know God), or get a jumpstart on the protagonist himself (Devin, with a gift for comedy), or expound upon plot twists and dramatic turns.
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I have yet to really use them, just been so busy. Except now, there's a perfect opportunity to try out my new toys:
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Zoetrope is holding its 14th Annual All-Story Short Fiction Contest. Follow the link for all the details, but it's worth mentioning here that three prizewinners and seven honorable mentions will be considered for representation by some of the most reputable literary agencies.
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This news makes me squee just a little bit. 10 people!
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I'm gonna do it. I have to enter. I just need to brainstorm a little first...
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Do you have either of these kits, or anything like them?
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If you're a fiction writer, will you enter the contest?
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**My newest article is up at the Rose and Thorn Literary Journal blog. Please check it out!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Milestone, Time to Shine

I feel rusty with this blog thing. And it's only been two weeks.

Funny how easily it becomes a way of life, this medium, this expression, and the second you step away is like the second you lose part of yourself.

Well, I'm back, and the timing is perfect. Today is my kids' first day of school. This day has been building--though hazy, and bittersweet--in my mind and dreams for seven years, since my first daughter was born. It comes to fruition now that my baby begins kindergarten. It means they'll be away, all day, both of them. Entrusted to others, my duties suspended several hours at a time.

It means more bits of time will once again be my own, and I've a new routine to develop and follow. My daytime responsibilities will shift; I will devote myself to writing like I couldn't before. I will buckle down, get things done. Finish manuscripts, seek a willing agent, pursue publication.

It's time for growth, theirs and mine.

It's time to shine.

PS. I'm missing you all! Will start making my way around the blogging community, too.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Last Vestiges of Summer Vacation

Two weeks. It's all we have left, before school starts.

We've an out-of-town wedding to attend (and family to see). A float trip, riding and rowing, sweltering and splashing. Vacation church school, which my husband and I are spearheading (ack!). And, hopefully, a day we can squeeze in the state fair, which has become a tradition with our kids.

There are dinners at which to gather, and things to bake and prepare, shopping to do. Swims in the pool before it's too late, lake waters to float upon, games to play, books to read, before summertime sets.

Two weeks.

I'll be back August 18th or so...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

My Philosophy Evolves

The more I study, observe, reflect, pray, live, the surer I am that there's this greater understanding of people.
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It transcends organized religion, judgment, morals, values, opinions, beliefs, lifestyles, choices, circumstance. It has more to do with broad spirituality, a certain awareness. A kind heart, and open mind.
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It's an understanding that will beget acceptance and love, regardless of our differences, yours and mine.
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I'm not saying I've attained this understanding. Or that I fully grasp it, even. It's bigger than you, bigger than me. But I feel like I've seen glimpses.
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When one I loved was dying, and his hereafter was imminent.
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When I met someone who was different from me, in most outward, conceivable ways, and I enjoyed being with him anyway. Because I saw that there was no right to wrong, no bad to good, no my way to his.
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When I accepted that another woman is no better than me, no worse than me, though we spend our time in such opposite worlds, with opposing morals and pastimes. I will love and celebrate her anyway.
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It comes down to more than I can take in with my own eyes. You know? Because not everything can be explained away in black and white, categorized as yes or no, placed in my treasure box or yours. Who am I to imagine otherwise? To think I'm privileged with belief, or that I have an advantage through my lifestyle?
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When I embrace it, this way of thinking and trust, I feel most right in my heart. With God. In the world.
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What do you think? What's your philosophy?
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picture by p.j. mcadie at flickr.com

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Random Question #10

We all have something we keep hidden, downplay, try to overlook, whether it's physical or emotional. A method of life, a secret, a hurt.
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For me, it's a scarred ear.
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What do you hide?
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Photo by Dalla* at flickr.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Just Everyday Stuff

It was an odd spot, sitting smack on the floor between the couch and coffee table.
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The things before me were the stuff I've seen everyday. But from the new vantage point, I was forced to think on the items individually. It all has story, I realized.
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What catches your eye first?
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For me, it's the Dr Pepper crate. It's my favorite bubbly drink, for starters, and it just happened that this crate was in a pile of things a family member--Hi, Cousin Jean!--gave to me.
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The crate rests on a quilted doll blanket. It was my husband's grandmother's when she was a girl, growing up in the '30's. Very cool. And the end table it covers belonged to my parents. I adopted the table, painted it white, and it lived in my girls' room for a time, before I repainted it brown and it found this home between couch and loveseat.
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In the crate are books. Really, no surprise there. They're mostly coffee-table books; home decor and trivia, some were gifts, the rest I've picked up in hodge-podge places. I love the look of the many grouped together. That front book, The Trellis and the Seed, is a book for all ages, about faith and growth. It's written by one of my favorite authors, Jan Karon. (You'll find a link to her website in my sidebar.)
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The lamp base was my uncle's. (If you were around a year ago, you may have read my post about him.) The shade--it took me months to find one big enough--came from a church rummage sale, a quarter.
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Can you see the globe in the back? It was another thing I waited months to find. Globes are aplenty in antiques and thrift stores, but they're also expensive. This one is from FAO Schwartz, had a high original price, but I found it at the DAV thrift for $8.98. I love that patience is my friend with these sorts of things.
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And there's that stick at the left. It might be the most important piece. It was my dad's walking stick, and I love that it's in my living room.
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Have you ever just looked, and considered the things that occupy your everyday world? What stories do they tell?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Fiction

Today I've a guest post and flash* piece at Linda Hoye's blog, My Own Velvet Room.

If you don't mind the hop over, I'd like to know what you think! And say hello to Linda while you're there. She's a wonderful gal, with some great insights into life, and memoir writing.

*Flash fiction is a short piece of fiction, 1000 words or less.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An Explorer's View of Life... and Death

Did you know Barry?

He was a blogger, a connection, friend to many. He shared his life journey, stories about his beloved dog Lindsay, and, more recently, his experiences with cancer. He was honest, warm, realistic, hopeful.

I'm heartbroken by that word, was. I've learned that Barry died yesterday.

He was my dad's age. The same sweet kind of man, with a parallel story of cancer.

Barry had been a voice of comfort as I dealt with my dad's struggle; even as he struggled on his own, Barry offered me support and hope.

News of his loss has me snuffling and crying and heaving. Because Barry's gone, so sad on its own, and it reminds me so sharply that my dad is gone. That hurts.

My thoughts and prayers are with Barry's family. He will be missed.

I hope Barry and my dad are in the same wing of the same place, that they might cross paths. They'd be friends, I know, and that would just be really cool.

To see a bit of Barry's legacy, visit his blog.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rose & Thorn Literary Journal

Rose & Thorn seeks to bring the voices of emerging and established writers to a discerning audience. We strive to reflect a diversity of style, content, and perspective in the short-fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry showcased each quarter in Rose & Thorn Journal.
from the R&T website
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Sound like a fit for your writing? Rose & Thorn is now taking submissions for the Fall issue. Visit their website to get a feel for the publication, and to find out more.
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While you're there, see my post at the R&T Blog.
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Last month I accepted a staff writing position! I'm so excited about this new endeavor, and hope you'll like my first article, It's Like a Game, about characterization.

Friday, July 16, 2010

One Story, Many Authors

Here's our story, written as it grew snippet by snippet, through comments on this blog. (See contributors here and here.) You might see a shift in voice, a shift in style... but that's the fun of a progressive tale...

She opened the door with anticipation more than strength; she'd been looking forward to this all week. Placing her hand over her middle in a futile attempt to still her anxious stomach, she muttered, "Butterflies, eh, feel more like raging ants."

Claire stood at the end of the dull hallway, with two long braids stretching down to her waist and a small, pale hand clutching his. Their eyes met over her little head, his cold and calculating, hers, wide and a little scared. Claire's musical little voice broke the contact.

"Are you sure we're ready for this, Jason?"

Jason's head slowly turned away from her. Claire saw his shoulders raise as he took a deep breath. She knew what that meant, she had seen it before.

So unlike [their] Dad, Jason was going to let her take the lead again.

The door swung away from Claire's hand, as though grabbed from the other side. The fragrance of lavender and old age filled their heads and quickened their pulses. It was the last time they'd see home. At least home as they'd ever remember it to be.

Gram sat on the davenport, elegant as ever, but moved her hand slowly as she pointed to the keepsake box high the top of the buffet. "It's time you knew the truth before it's too late," she rasped.

Her small hand formed a trembling fist. "Rap on the top of the box three times, quickly now."

Inside the box was a small butterfly broach that laid on top of several small torn pages and a few pictures turned upside down. Her hand still trembling as she went to turn them over.

Who were these people in the pictures? They looked familiar somehow.

"Gram, I don't understand. What am I looking at here?" she asked, voice shaking.



The old woman looked at Jason, her face hawk-like, her eyes full of accusation. "Ask him. He knows."

or

"Your destiny," Gram said. One lone tear followed the crease the smile line on her face.

continuing…

Gram was being vague again, yet truth rang in her words. Frowning, Claire tugged on a braid and studied Jason. What did he know of destiny? Of dust-lined pictures hidden in a box?

He didn't meet her pointed look, choosing instead to pluck the pictures from Gram's box and hold them up to the light.

Shock wrapped around his mind as he stared at this haunting image. "How is this possible?" he whispered to himself.

"Look," his voice barely a whisper. "Claire, it's us."

He held out the picture, and she snatched at it.

"When we were... oh, but it can't be." Claire turned to Gram.

...And that's it. I've added nothing. (My only contribution was the very first line.) I just want to leave it hang here, because I like the way we can form our own conclusions.

What scenario comes to your mind?

Well done, everyone! Thanks for adding your own bits. I think it's a great experience, and I appreciate your participation.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Journey

As you begin to tell your story, the first thing you'll find is that story telling is not about giving away information but about withholding it; the information itself is never as important as the path you take in disseminating it.

Noah Lukeman, literary agent and author
The Plot Thickens
chapter 4, pages 81-82

Monday, July 12, 2010

Random Question #9

Do you remember your school's alma mater?

Really think, now. If so, post it in comments.


*Thanks to everyone who participated in our progressive story. I'll be posting the finished piece on Wednesday or Friday. Be sure to come back!

*Soon my first article will be available online at Rose & Thorn Literary Journal, with whom I accepted a staff position last month. Exciting! I'll share a link when it's up.

*I'll also have a guest post at Linda Hoye's place, My Own Velvet Room. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 9, 2010

About Doubt

I doubt myself. As a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a believer. But mostly, as a writer.

Sometimes the words fail me. Their chemistry, their composition, their themes, they elude me. And I think, how am I supposed to be a writer this way? How am I to write a novel? How do I make it deep and shimmering and worthy and good, with all the quality fiction is supposed to have?

It's a tough place to be, because here I have this dream, and this story to tell (a book to write), and an effort I wish into existence.

Yesterday I was reading Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel. I don't know if I can articulate what I read--it was a breakdown of one author's plot, for just one of her titles, in how she made it work. And what I needed to be doing--no, what I was doing wrong--just sort of lighted on me. I knew what I wasn't doing, but more, what I needed to be doing.

And then I took a close look at my work-in-progress. At where it sits now, starting at the very beginning. Because you know, you can't see what you have unless you start at the very beginning. Then I took it from there, and started to implement this new what-I-should-be-doing thing.

It sounds so simple. It's not, not in the long run, but for that moment, it was as simple as simple could be.

I saw my WIP as it could be, that maybe it will work.

And it made me think, I can do this. I can be a writer. I am a writer. Look at me go.

It feels like anything--even publication--is possible.


**I'll leave our progressive story "live" through the weekend. I'll reassess next week, and we'll wrap it up then. See two previous posts for more details.