2015 is Slipping Away . . . Getting Ready for 2016

Dec 15, 2015 by

I just checked the calendar and noticed that it is a mere ten days until Christmas.

And a week after that is New Year’s Eve . . . that time of year to begin making resolutions and goals for 2016.

Fortunately for me, I had an early nudge from my instructor, Kristen Fulton of Nonfiction Archaeology, who asked each of her students to set up goals for 2016. read more

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Immediate Reset for a Bad Day

Nov 11, 2014 by

OK, I didn’t really have a bad day, but I know that when I do have a bad day, what happened tonight would have immediately reset everything.

My daughter said, “I need to make vegan chile for the pot-luck at work tomorrow.”

“Let’s start the beans in the crockpot.”

“We need a smaller crockpot.”

I headed into the other room to get a smaller crockpot.

My daughter screamed at the top of her lungs:

 

“MOM! GET BACK!”

 

I don’t have to be told twice. My daughter isn’t one to sound an unnecessary alarm. I backed up immediately.

Truth be told, I jumped back about nine or ten feet. (She wasn’t specific about the danger, I wasn’t taking any chances.)

“What is it?”

“SCORPION!”

I had to see for myself. Please don’t blame me, but I shrieked when I saw it. I’ve been in Arizona for six years and while I’ve seen them outside, this is the first one we’ve had in the house. I will admit to a certain amount of disappointment that neither of our nearby fire-fighter neighbors came over to see what we were screaming about…though we did limit ourselves to one full volume scream/shriek apiece.

“What do we do?”

“Kill it!”

“How?”

“We have to trap it first.”

I was good with that. I managed to toss a bowl over the scorpion…but once it was out of sight, I think it grew exponentially.

“I’m getting my hiking boots on and I’ll STOMP on it!”

I approved of this plan.

I stayed behind, wearing sandals…it’s 80 degrees here, of course I’m wearing open-toed sandals.

My daughter returned, wearing her hiking boots.

“OK. Now what?”

“We have to put a perimeter of water around it, they won’t go fast through water.”

I have no idea if my daughter had any idea what she was talking about, but I was proud that she used the word ‘perimeter’ correctly.  As I preened, she grabbed the tea kettle and made a very nice moat around the upside down bowl.

“NOW, what?”

Really…how were we going to pick up the bowl? How did we know the scorpion hadn’t suddenly developed super-spidey powers and is now clinging to the inside of the bowl?

There was a real risk of getting stung.

A nice long grill spatula did the trick. And surprisingly, the prehistoric little brain of our scorpion guest didn’t perceive that the sudden change from darkness to bright light was a sign of impending doom.

Now, I knew what was next and only cringed a little when my daughter stomped on the scorpion with great enthusiasm. But then when she lifted her foot, no scorpion!

“Where is it?”

“It’s got to be on your foot.”  I grabbed a piece of paper towel, and had her wipe her boot on it. There, in exquisite squished glory, was the scorpion.

“BOO-YAH!”

We’d triumphed.  Then as my daughter said, “We need to call an exterminator,” I found on the internet that in certain tests that kill just about everything, cockroaches, lizards, and yes, you guessed it, scorpions survive.

It’s a warning. I’d forgotten anything that had been difficult earlier in the day…and…no more sandals for a little while.

Now I’m eyeing anything lying on the floor.

The blanket that slipped off the chair last night.

The pile of towels waiting for the wash.

My shoes.

Really, where IS it safe from a scorpion?

Truth be told, unless I begin to see one a day, it’s not going to really make me lose sleep, but I might keep slippers on my nightstand and no longer walk around barefoot at night.

Really…it wasn’t a bad day.

It IS nice to know that we do have concerned friends…they are sending us real estate listings.  One even suggested, “MOVE NOW! Don’t even pack!”

I appreciate our friends…very much!

Scorpion isolated on white background

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NaNoWriMo

Nov 7, 2014 by

Yes, it’s November.

Usually November means the holidays are coming, that means cleaning, decorating, food preparation, family, friends, parties, and gatherings.

Unless, that is, you are a writer.

When you’re a writer, you have developed a rather unusual malady…

It’s called OVERLOAD!

Almost all writers I know want to get some things done before the end of the year. Maybe a poem. A short story. A picture book. What about a novel? Sure, that’s totally doable isn’t it?

Before I heard of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writer’s Month – I would have put off starting a novel until January at least. And we all know what happens in January, right? We make resolutions, we intend to keep them, but without a plan, most of those resolutions end up being recycled and repurposed next January first.

So NaNoWriMo came along and I thought, “Why not?”

It’s all on me.

I have a daily word count of 1,667 words to write for the 30 days in November to finish a 50,000 word novel.

So I did it.

Call me crazy.

I did. My husband did. My family did.

But I had 50,000 more words written for a project that I’d not have done if I hadn’t started NaNoWriMo.

Oh, and along the way, I learned a lot of lessons on how to stay motivated, how to “free write” how to meet a daily goal even when I didn’t want to. (Usually, if I didn’t write those 1,667 words a day, the number the next day was even more intimidating, so I learned to fear that “snowball” effect and got my writing done.)

I’d never before produced so many words.

Were all the words good?

Nope. Not at all.

But what it did do was give me a draft…and it’s that first draft, from beginning to end that sets you up to finishing a real book.

So, yes, I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year…because of all the positive lessons I learned by putting myself in front of the computer and getting something done for the day.

Even on days when my other writing suffers, I know that I have 1,667 words to work with later. And that makes me feel pretty productive.

 

Participant-2014-NaNoWriMo

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Brainstorming – Using a Bad Day

Nov 7, 2014 by

When the phone rang last evening around 5, I wasn’t quite prepared to hear my daughter saying, “Mommy,” in a voice that sounded like she was five again and afraid of the dark.

Immediately my heart plummeted, I sat up straight and said, “Are you OK?”

“Everything’s fine, I’m OK. OK, no, everything’s not fine, but I am OK.”

I taught my kids a long time ago to not keep me in suspense, so letting me know she was fine allowed me to focus on her words than on watching my anxiety skyrocket to the point I would be of little help to her.

The right front axle of her truck broke, the vehicle lurched, lights flashed on the dashboard, but she was able to get to a place of safety. It didn’t happen when she was driving 65 mph (as she had been just moments before on the freeway) and she was right, everything was fine.

Things can be fixed, but people can’t be replaced.

It’s going to be interesting to see how we handle transportation for her. She is in college, living at home, working two jobs to pay for tuition and books. There’s not a lot of give in that kind of budget, but she’s OK.

That’s when I realized we sometimes need these bad days, the kind that hit you hard, cause you to have a real, true emotional reaction that socks you in the gut.

We need them because that’s how we put markers on our life.

“Remember when the tire blew out on the way home from the Christmas tree lot, and Ralph went out to help Dad change the tire and he lost the bolts, leaving Dad searching through the snow, in the dark to find them?”

Oh wait, that’s from the movie, A Christmas Story.

But you get the idea.

Stories that stay with us are the ones with conflict, tears, anger, frustration, rage, sadness, grief.

Having emotions is what makes us know we’re awake and alive in this world.

So it is with brainstorming for your next writing idea.

If you have no conflict, everything’s just happy and joyous and perfect, then your story’s going to be really short. Sure, being happy feels great. But our memory of such happiness fades unless there was conflict prior to that happiness. Think about weddings. Such a happy day, right? How much of that happiness is relief that all the pressures from both families and all your friends are finally over? 

When writing your story, think back to the times when you didn’t get what you want, when life threw you a curve ball, when the axle broke on your truck.

That’s a better place to start writing a story than at then end when everything is resolved. Write about the conflict, the jagged emotions that resulted, the many ways you zigged and zagged as you worked to find  solution.

That’s what people want to know about.

The happy ending is exactly that…The End.

 

3471 Broken down car

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The Art of Brainstorming

Nov 3, 2014 by

November seems to be a favorite month for writers to challenge themselves in some way.

NaNoWriMo was the first one I was aware of and I have participated in that challenge more years than not ever since it started. I haven’t done much with the manuscripts created, but the very act of writing daily, developing characters, story, back story, arc for both story and characters will never, EVER hurt your writing career!

This year I discovered a new challenge, PiBoIdMo (I know, these become a little funny in trying to determine what they mean…) which stands for Picture Book Idea Month. The idea here is to come up with a new idea every day for a picture book.

It can be fiction.

Nonfiction.

Your choice.

And Tara Lazar has people writing posts daily to inspire us to be able to do just that…come up with new ideas.  Today’s guest blogger is Kelly Bingham and she shares with us her techniques on brainstorming ideas.  Her post: Kelly Bingham Makes Time and Makes it Count today is brilliant.

Stop by, read it, see if it might not help you get past those blocks that always pop up the instant you come up with a viable idea.

What’s your plan to improve your writing this November?

Nov02

 

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Being Truthful When Writing

Nov 17, 2013 by

Writing our truth is both easy and yet the most difficult thing in the world for us to do! The idea of writing “truth” changes depending on our purpose.

If we’re writing “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…so help you…” well, then, it’s going to be sometimes interesting, but most of the time boring.

When we write about our memories and the remembrances of things that were important to us, we’re writing OUR truth, the truth that resonated with us at the time, the truth that helped us to see the world in a different light, the truth that helped us to know ourselves.

I’ve been a researcher for far more years than I’d care to admit…and when I get into that mode, I find myself struggling to take even one more damn step, because I’ve found so many facts and figures to either support or deny my purpose that I find I can no longer breathe.

If I’m writing a medical piece that not only insists on the absolute truth, but the lives of people depend on it…I have to continue.

But when you’re looking to understand yourself, your life, your world…then skipping over the boring parts is not only how to continue on your quest, but absolutely necessary!

People today don’t stay connected as long as they used to unless you can retain their interest…and trust me, they only want to know the INTERESTING parts!

I work with memoir clients all the time, and sometimes they get bogged down in the minutiae of their lives, but my job is to make sure they don’t lose their reader.

So here’s my two cents:

If what you’re writing is boring to you…

…IT WILL BE BORING TO YOUR READER!!!!

So, find the interesting parts, the sad parts, the happy parts, the very humorous parts and include those, because that is what will keep your reader reading. To exclude boring parts is part of writing and editing. It’s not being untruthful. If someone were to contact you and say, “So tell me the WHOLE story, you would.”

But they’re not going to do that. People have a very limited amount of time to spend and if you can keep them connected during the time they allow you…you’ve made a connection that you don’t want to ruin.

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