Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year - New Goal

There are 14 minutes left in the year 2010. Sadly, I do not feel as if I accomplished all that I desired in terms of writing. As I sit here evaluating the old and looking to the new, I ask myself; what main goal do I wish to achieve when I look to the end of 2011? The answer, I want to finish editing that YA novel I wrote in 2009! So this is my goal.

What are your writing goals for 2011?


Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to you!

My guess is that there will be a lot of holiday wishes on the blogs this week, since most of us are spending extra time with family and friends, so this just a post to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you who have stopped by the blog this year. I appreciate your comments and insights, and it is my prayer for each of you that you have a very blessed 2011.

Monday, December 20, 2010

If no one mentioned it yet today, you're awesome!

I've been shooting through the usual slew of writer and agent blogs, all with awesome info freely shared and loaded with comments from authors. It made me realize that I am so grateful for the writing community. I don't think there is any other group of professionals (or those on the track to becoming professionals) that are so sharing and supportive.

So if you're a writer, agent, or editor, and no one has said this to you lately, I just want to tell you that you're awesome, and that I appreciate all the long hours spent doing what you do!

Have a great Christmas and New Year!!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Now that Nano is over, now what?

You may be saying this to yourself right now. I know I am. I realized last week that thanks to Nanowrimo, I have almost completed three rough drafts for novels in the last year. Wow. For a picture book writer, that's a ton. But now it's time to give each of these projects a good hard look and begin the rewrite process if they are worthy of it. Let's assess.

Deep Secrets—This was last year's Nanonovel, a dystopian thriller. I finally printed it out so I'd have a hard copy of the rough draft, and my kids immediately picked it up and read it. I was surprised at their reactions. They said it had them on the edge of their seats. It didn't have me on the edge of my seat while I was writing it, but maybe that's just the way it is for authors. You know too much about what's going on for it to be a surprise. Also, made it to the 50k mark for Nano, but too bad I didn't write an ending for it. There was a little grumbling on that score.

Assignment for 2011—Finish Deep Secrets and do a rewrite to see how it comes out. I think it's worth it, and my kids are going to nag me to provide an ending if I don't.

Pirates of Time and the Navigator's Watch—Still in progress, but hubby is bugging me to get it done. Started it in March and took off November for Nano, but I've been working on it steadily, so we're past the midpoint, I think. Time to get back to it and finish it. Think I'll try to make 1k a day my goal, because I'll do it better if I work faster. The problem is, my mind keeps on mulling over the plot line of a possible sequel, which sounds like a nail-biting winner to the critique group.

Assignment for 2011—Finish Pirates of Time in a timely fashion. (Pun intended.) Work on the next draft.

The Girl from Left Foot Lake—This year's Nanonovel. Working on the next draft, believe it or not. It's a Christmas gift for someone, and I'd like to work out some of the main problems before I put a bow on it. May never go all the way with it, but it was worth it anyway.

Assignment for 2010—DEADLINE DECEMBER 24TH!!!!

Also, I've joined an online critique group for picture book writers. So far getting helpful feedback on ms that got interest of at least one publisher. Hope to sell it this year.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Do you ever feel like you are the only one writing for a blog that is supposed to be written by four people. Do you ever feel as if you want to take certain members of your writing group and shake them until they agree to be more committed to the cause of writing meaningful words that the world is waiting with unflinching anticipation to consume. Do you ever feel like you have just read a run-on sentence that you wish would have ended sooner. Do you ever feel that a writer should put a question mark at the end of a sentence with a question in it. You are not alone!!!

Elizabeth MacKinney, you are a shining example to us all. You are practically one-handedly maintaining this blog. A blog that I confess I haven't read in weeks. A blog which at one point others were more committed to contributing to in a meaningful way. Please forgive these blameworthy comrades and know they still love you and have not abandoned you forever!

THE END, or is this a BEGINNING.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The calm after the storm

December might not feel like that to you, but it does to me. For the most part, this is because Nanowrimo is over, and I put in my 50k like thousands of other writers all over the world. We did it, and now we can sit back, put up our feet, and relax, right?


In fact, that's oh, so wrong. Kicking back is exactly what I did last year. I didn't start another novel until March, because I normally dedicate the end of December and all of January to a thorough market research to find matches for the manuscripts I currently have finished. (These are all picture books, which are tough though not impossible to sell right now.) Then I spent February making scene cards for my 2010 novel and the rest of the year writing the book.

The thing is, this year's Nanonovel was written for someone as a Christmas gift, and Christmas comes on December 25th. Therefore, I can't kick back, because I don't plan to give them an entirely rough draft. It won't be the best it can be, of course, but a few of the glaring problems will be addressed. This year, the only kicking back I did was to take a couple of days off to read two of John Flanagan's books, Erak's Ransom and The Kings of Clonmel, because I wanted to put some mental distance between me and the manuscript. That was all I could spare.

So now to rewrite. I'm guessing that if I can polish up a couple of chapters a day, I should finish in time to print, wrap, and hide it under the tree. I didn't have a good ending, so after praying about it for awhile, I came up with a happy solution. (Well, gee, if God could get the entire Bible written, helping me with my books ought to be a piece of cake.) This was good news to the first of the beta readers, who plowed through the manuscript and was none to pleased to find out there were several possible and unfinished endings. This is my bad habit for Nanonovels. I tend to complete the word count but not the story. Very frustrating to readers. Sorry.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Seven gifts from Nanowrimo

1. I can write even when I don't feel like writing (which is most of the time)

The truth is, for most of Nanowrimo, I didn't feel like writing my Nanonovel quota of words each day. Even though I normally write every day, whether it's on articles for, curriculum for church, picture books, or novels, focusing my attention on one project and keeping up with it for an entire month containing a major holiday was hard. Most days I just didn't feel like doing it. Had I the choice, I would have bopped between projects like I usually do, and I wouldn't have completed my rough draft in a month.

2. Small snippets of time are valuable

I did better on the days where I took advantage of small pieces of time early in the day so I didn't have much to do at the end of the day rather than the days where I wrote late and fell into bed exhausted.

3. It's better for me to write early in the day rather than wait until the end of the day

The days it was easiest to write were the ones where I put in a few hundred words earlier in the day. I think this was partially because it got my mind turned in the direction of the novel, so my mind could work on it while I was doing other things, and also because it made me feel like I had gotten ahead. I felt motivated and rather than overwhelmed. Normally I'm a late night writer, because that's when our house is quiet and I can work uninterrupted. I'm hoping to revise this.

4. It's easier to write when I'm not tired

This was a grueling month. Not only did we have Thanksgiving, but we had a conference at church for which I was responsible to find staffing for my department. I was away more in the evenings than I normally would be, and trying to achieve my word quota on days that were literally jammed with necessary activities from beginning to end made it almost impossible to find enough time to write unless I took it out of sleep time, and you always pay for that the following day.

But even on those late nights with early mornings the next day, it was easier to write if I did it early, because I knew by afternoon and evening I'd be running on fumes and walking around in a fog.

5. Support groups are very helpful

I'm not quite done with my Nanonovel, but I'm getting close to the finish line, and I'm only behind by 632 words right now. Last year I had completed it by this time, so even though I'm not way behind, I didn't get it done as quickly. I had virtually no support group at all, and only did one writing contest with a friend instead of several through the month. Friday night I wanted to give the whole thing up in the worst way, but instead I sat down and knocked out 2000 words, chipping away at the loss I took during the conference last week. Why was it easier last year? I had more external support.

6. You can always do more than you think you can

I am reminded of Bree in C.S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy. In case you haven't read the book, Bree was one of the two talking horses escaping with two children to Narnia. He had lived in slavery so long he had lost the ability to force himself to tap into his inner strength, but he wasn't aware of it. He needed external motivation to truly do his best, and he wasn't able to do that until he had a lion on his tail. Then he turned on speed that he didn't know he possessed and made it to safety. Nanowrimo will be the lion on your tail if you'll let it. If it wasn't for Nano this year, I'd have given up on this book long ago.

7. Being overwhelmed is a state of mind rather than a state of being

Occasionally I run into people who tell me they can't fulfill their obligations because they are so overwhelmed by life in general or a specific problem. They are sure that letting one thing go will make them feel less overwhelmed, and then life will be good again. I'm sure when they do this, they probably do feel a measure of relief for a time, but only for a time.

Yes, be careful about becoming overcommitted. You have to consider your family and your self when you get involved in anything. But once you've given your word, see it through. You can do more than you think you can, and it's usually not the way of integrity to try to get out of what you said you would do. Why can you compare two people with similar schedules and find one is overwhelmed and the other is not? It is not because of the schedule. It is because of the state of mind of the person.

That's it for now. In advance I'm going to ask you to forgive the typos in this post. One of the gifts of Nanowrimo is not careful proofreading! (Later on Monday: I can't believe I used "tale" instead of "tail." I have corrected the mistake.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Uh oh

This is just a post to say that I missed my post on Monday. For some reason I feel the need to purge my soul by admitting this obvious fact. I suppose there are good excuses I could use, such as Nanowrimo, Thanksgiving guest arriving, and the normal challenges I face every Monday, but I won't.

Bottom line? I just forgot.

So for those of you who are Nanoing this year, keep up the good work. Don't get discouraged. You can make it, and you'll have a complete rough draft to show for your toil. It's totally worth it, in my view.

To those of you who are not Nanoing, enjoy your leisurely Thanksgiving. You won't have a manuscript at the end of the month, but you'll still have some happy memories, I hope, of time spent with family and friends as you were thankful for all the good God has done for you this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Revised novel and revised cover

Hi all,

Fixed up my novel cover and gave it a few final tweaks. What I notice primarily with nanocovers is that people tend to choose really odd fonts and leave them the way they are. I believe this one works.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Laura Progress

24,024 - Word Count Sunday evening. It is the 14th. I have a little over 2 weeks to go and about 26,000 words to go.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I am doing my own version of NANOWRIMO this year. I want to finish re-writing a novel that has been poking along for a couple of years now. I have mercilessly chopped off the last half of what I had written and ended up with 20,401 words. My goal is to write an additional 30,000 words and finish this thing up by November 30. I will post my word count here! As of last evening, my word count was up to 22,109 so I have a long ways to go - but I have set my mind to it. If I could do it last year with my slow start then, I can do it this year too! Write on!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Interview with editor Chuck Sambuchino on his latest book

Chuck Sambuchino is an editor and a writer. He works for Writer's Digest Books and edits GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS ( as well as CHILDREN'S WRITER'S & ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK (, was released in Sept. 2010 and has been featured by Reader's Digest and AOL News. Besides that, he is a produced playwright, magazine freelancer, husband, cover band guitarist, chocolate chip cookie fiend, and owner of a flabby-yet-lovable dog named Graham.

1. Have you noticed any unusual gnome activity since your book came out in September?

Not yet. Methinks the garden gnomes are mounting a large offensive of some kind. I think the world needs to be at Def Con 3 right now (alert color: Orange). 90 percent of surveyed gnome defense experts think that a dangerous and grand attack is coming in the next 12 months.

2. Have any gnomes shown up at your book events?

Just the heavily sedated ones I bring with me from time to time. They are harmless and just for show. Mostly, gnomes know better than to mess with me, because they realize that I pulverize little garden warriors for fun and then eat my dinner.

3. Where did you get the idea for your gnome book?

I was thinking about the movie THE FULL MONTY when I recalled a scene with a garden gnome. I started to get creeped out. Then I thought: If gnomes creep me out, certainly they creep out others, as well. That was the beginning.

4. There are rumors that the gnomes have signed a contract with a Scandinavian publisher for a book entitled, Taking Back the Garden: Strike First, Strike Hard. Any comments on this?

I shall double my efforts. Gnomes and gnome allies seem to have infiltrated everywhere! Stop coddling these peddlers of death and instead pick up a sledgehammer!

5. I read in one interview that your family and friends were dubious about the project at first. Are they believers now?

I think the general reaction at first was, "I dunno...That sounds pretty weird." People tend to have short memories, though. I mentioned to a friend the other day that he thought, at first, that the idea was wackadoo. He had no recollection of ever giving that feedback. But nowadays, everyone's excited and onboard the Gnome Book Train.

6. You also wrote 2011 Guide to Literary Agents. Has traveling through the publishing process as a writer influenced you as an editor? If so, how?

GNOMES is actually my eighth book to come out, total, but my first one independent of Writer's Digest Books, done through an agent. After seeing everything I've seen, I've really tried to impart some things to writers, such as 1) Do not put all your eggs in one basket; 2) Keep moving forward through all the rejections and setbacks; and 3) This is a tough business, but the reward is super sweet for those with the patience and determination to forge ahead.

7. What upcoming promotional events should your fans be aware of?

I travel and speak quite frequently, so people should just follow my blog to see all my events: I also Tweet a lot: @chucksambuchino. My first big event in 2011 is actually WD's own huge writing conference in Manhattan, where we have about 60 literary agents taking pitches during a huge pitch slam. If you're looking for a good conference and want to get an agent, come out to the event:

8. I heard that you're working on a new project. Any hints about what we might have to look forward to?

Mwahahahaha. I cannot reveal anything yet, but I am submitting new humor book ideas and working on some screenplays. Who knows what may come of all this?

Nano Day 10

Need I say more?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nanoreflections: The power of Nanowrimo

There is great benefit in Nanowrimo. Its charm (or curse) is that it forces you to do all the right things that help you become a better writer. In case you're feeling like quitting already, let's review.

1. Nanowrimo forces you to keep going rather than to give in to writer's block.

Writers love to throw their hands up and proclaim they're stuck by writer's block. It's a great reason not to write for awhile. The only bad thing is, it's a bunch of baloney. You rarely see accountants who say, "Honey, I just can't go to work today because I have accountant's block." Here's another one. "I couldn't hammer a nail if I tried today; I have carpenter's block." No, let's face it. If you're stuck, write something until you aren't. Get over it. Professional writers don't give in. Nanowrimo won't let you, either.

2. Nanowrimo causes you to continually produce.

Like it or not, tomorrow will dawn bright and early, with a new word quota to be filled. You have to do it or fulfill one of the unpleasant bets you made with your neighbor or spouse in order to keep you motivated this month. It's not going to go away. You just have to keep on doing it.

3. Nanowrimo causes you to write intensely

This is a good one. Intense writing is where the fire is. You can tone it back later, but now is the time to duct tape your inner editor's mouth shut and type your heart out. Since you're driven to get your word quota out, it's necessary to plunge ahead rather than wonder if you should have used word choice A or word choice B.

So I hope you're enjoying Nanowrimo. If you don't like what you've written, you're in good company. It's happening to virtually every writer who is with you this month. Just understand that it's a common symptom of writing and keep on.

See you next week.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Part (continued)


“Are you two tourists?”

“Well, we’re actually visiting our friends’ church here in Elgin and we want to reach out to the community.”

The booklet was actually a track.

“Oh, really. That’s so great. Praise God.”

Recognizing each other as brother and sisters in Christ, we began to just chat. Turns out Nancy and John were teachers from a bible college in Baltimore. Together they had done missionary work in Ecuador for six years.

For Nancy, after she got saved, it was as if God had taken her by the hand and before she knew it she found herself in Baltimore asking herself, how she had actually gotten there.

Their church is connected to the bible school and has a branch in Germany.

Was this God taking me by the hand now? Nancy asked to share some of my own background and before I knew it we were talking about the gifts I believe the Lord has entrusted me with.

The biggest project being the book I started writing several years ago. What had started out as a self-therapeutic journal had evolved from intercultural travel memoirs into an inspired testimony of God’s supernatural intervention in my life. How he turned a bitter past into sweet rewards and a glorious future, free from depression, wrong addictions and dependencies, debt, abuse, self-destructive tendencies...He literally turned darkness into light, gave me a new heart filled with faith, hope, love and purpose to pursue.

Meeting Nancy after having thought about bible college and missions I was tempted to give way to an old habit of looking for direction through outward circumstances- to maybe just pack my bags and go to Baltimore. This time wisdom would restrain me. All that’s left is an echo of the still, small things that were uttered when Nancy reminded me, of my righteousness in Christ.

“It is just so evident that God has your life in His hands. Always remember, that you are already perfect.” My flesh wanted to yell out “No, I’m not!” But then I remembered what God had been speaking to me about in our private time of late, just as I had heard in church so many times. And yet I can’t imagine ever hearing too much of it. When the Father looks at me, He sees His Son, who is blameless, spotless and perfect. His grace towards me abounds and He’s pleased with me just the way I am. He loves me unconditionally.

God knows how I will decide, he’s not surprised. I make plans but He orders my steps.

He knew I was going to make that choice to follow His leading to go to the lake.

That same morning, God had told Nancy’s friend, who was the pastor of this group to go down to the river. Out of our obedience our paths crossed by divine appointment.

Nancy and I exchanged numbers, said our good-byes and as I was leaving I noticed a big bronze sign further along he path, closer to the Fox River’s dam. When I got closer I saw the portraits of two firemen, who had given their lives in an attempt to save another man. Fire Capt. Stanley Balsis and firefighter Michael Whalen. On a warm and sunny day in 1974, in the wake of a dare a man decided to cross the dam by Kimball Street with a rubber boat and got caught in the current right beneath it. Dramatic hours passed, both firemen lost their lives, one after the other. The man despite His act of folly survived.

The tribute ends with John 15:13:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

It made me wonder how many times firefighters or policemen would have to endanger their own life, because of something that stupid. Leave their families behind, their children, their future. How many times does a guardian sacrifice what’s most precious so that another might have life? And who of those answers the call out of duty to a stranger and who was the one responding to love?

Then I think about that one man, who unleashed unfathomable guilt over having birthed death out of human error.

What if the hero, who died to save is alive? Does this one act not change your heart forever? Does this not shed abroad a love so deep that all you want to do is shower your Savior with thankfulness and love? Knowing that Jesus laid down his life for me, is it not the reasonable response that I would do the same and lay down my own? Leave all of it behind at an instance if he asked me to?

And so, as the leaves are turning and falling to the ground summer parts and I, too, do part from a life that is not my own, but to be a living sacrifice of gratitude responding to love.

Revelation 2:7-8 (NLT): 7Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God. 8 Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive.

John 5:21(NLT): 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nanostruggle continues

Seems like the Nanostruggle has begun a few days early for me. Somewhere about the second week, most authors feel like the book is a mess and they can't possibly go on. This is due largely to the input of the inner editor who hates all your first drafts. When you know in advance that you're going to feel that way, you can prepare yourself mentally to ignore your inner editor and push through.

It is imperative that you push through.

Right now, we're only on day five, and I feel like I could walk away from this project and not look back. I knew I was going to feel that way, so I'm okay with it. There are other responsibilities I could walk away from too if I didn't feel obligated to do them, such as organizing my desktop, washing the salt off my car in the winter, or having a wisdom tooth removed. This is the week during which writers who are doing this for the first time are going to find out that writing isn't all fun and games. (If you're a writer year round, you probably know this already.) Pretty much, writing is blood, sweat, and tears. You put your lifeblood into the book, you sweat profusely when you feel stuck, and you cry buckets when not even you like the end results.

So for those of you beginning to feel like this isn't the fun you thought it would be, hang in there. There are going to be days that writing your Nanobook doesn't feel like anything even resembling fun, but when you hold that manuscript in your hands at the end of thirty days and know that you did it along with hundreds of fellow Nanowriters, you'll be more than glad that you didn't give up.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nanoprocratingating, are we?

I'm Nanoprocrastinating right now, with my idea revolving in my mind. The truth is, it's harder to write for Nanowrimo this year. There is very little support, because almost no one I know is doing this. In fact, the only friend who is doing it is in another state hundreds of miles away. It's easy to procrastinate when there's no one typing away next to you trying to get the higher word count.

But in some ways, Nanowrimo is also easier this year. Since last year's Nano-event, I've become a much more disciplined writer. As of the end of this November, I will have finished two entire novels, and almost completed a third. Looking back over the year, that's not such a bad thing for a busy mom who home schools and does other stuff. I'm become a semi-regular writer, and it was quite a buzz to have a publisher actually look at one of my picture books for a few months. It made me feel like I could take this whole thing a little more seriously this year.

So just consider this a snippet of what's new as I Nanoprocrastinate (although I won't for too long since I'm due to produce 2200 words today). Hope you're all having fun not writing, but I think you're missing out on one of the most fun ways there is to force some writing productivity.

By the way, I'm also doing PiBoIdMo this year, since I'm a picture book writer at heart. You can sign up for that until November 7th, so if you haven't and you're a picture book writer, give it a whirl. It's a lot easier than Nanowrimo, and quite possibly more fun.

See you on the other side!

Friday, October 29, 2010

A picture book nanowrimo? No, really?

Yes, really. I'd say, why didn't someone think of that long ago, but they did. Well, at least about three years or so ago, which is when PiBoIdMo was started by Tara Lazar. She gave it a dry run in 2008, and introduced it to other writers in 2009. Now it's firmly established as the picture book equivalent of the better known Nanowrimo.

The general idea of the Picture Book Idea Month is not quite the same as National Novel Writing Month. Instead of writing a first draft of 50,000 words as is done in Nanowrimo, writers are supposed to come up with thirty picture book ideas, one per day, through the month of November. The goal is to become a veritable idea generating machine, creating plenty of material for you to work with when the month is over. Also, there is no upload (like Nanowrimo) or post of the ideas you come up with. This means you'll be operating on the honor system in that you actually did come up with the 30 ideas.

Oh, and did I mention that there will be prizes? For PiBoIdMo participants who hang in there to the end of the month, Tara has lined up some pretty great prizes to win. I don't know about you, but next to picture books, I love prizes.

So if you've never been there, take a quick trip to Tara's website and find out more about her and the PiBpIdMo event, but don't wait too long. November is almost here, and to be eligible for those great prizes, you need to participate every day.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

To Nano or not to Nano?

That is the question, and you might be surprised to hear it coming from me. After all, I've been pressing everyone around me to Nanowrimo with me this year, just like last year. But at this point, I have misgivings about whether it is the best course for me.

My personality leans toward the kind which hones in on an objective, finds a way to make it happen, and hits it like William Tell puts a shaft through an apple. Sometimes at an unfortunate cost to my family, since I am the mom. This said, it is also true that I am careful about what I commit myself to, since I don't like to back out of what I've said that I would do. A man's (or woman's) word in this day and age is not seen as binding as it once was. Still, a man swears to his own hurt.

So I have become cautious in these last few days before Nanowrimo, since I'm not sure it is the right course for me this year. I am pleased with the progress on my work in progress, but it is not entirely finished, which is where I hoped to have it before November. Since I do not intend to set it aside for a month while I churn out a novel which I may not pursue later, I must make a decision.

Also, last year every person in our family of six wrote a novel. This year, only a few of us plan to, which means there is less support or sympathy from those not involved. Hmm. Food for thought.

What do I do?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Book review of Chuck Sambuchino's 'How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack'

Do you have a garden gnome or know anyone who does? Believe it or not, those innocent little lawn statuary you've trustingly placed around your yard are, in fact, nefarious pretenders who are waiting for you to turn your back so they can carry out their devious plans. If you've let them into your house, you're really in trouble, but knowledge is the first step toward saving you and your family from impending doom.

Chuck Sambuchino's How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack reveals the true intent of the common garden gnome, in addition to providing important strategies for protection, eradication, and disposal of these troublesome, dangerous creatures. From constructing your own moat or quicksand pit for local gnome entrapment to disposing of unwanted gnomes in remote locations such as the Laurentian Abyss, 3,000 fathoms beneath the ocean floor, Chuck's book has many creative ideas to insure the safety of your family. If you're looking for a gift that's sure to entertain and protect the garden gnome fan among your friends and family this Christmas, this book is the one for you.

(If you're safe from gnomes but have a writer in the family, check out Chuck's book 2011 Guide to Literary Agents in order to aid him or her in finding the right literary representation going into the new year.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

I forgot it was Monday: Nanowrimo alert

How can a person be totally aware that it's Monday, yet forget that it's Monday? I'm not really sure, but I think I did it. Somewhere along the way, my mind began to think that it was really Thursday. The upshot is, I didn't even bother to write anything for today's post. Since I don't know if anyone reads it, I feel somewhat comforted by the fact that I can be human and fallible to a limited number of people.

But now that I have realized, with two hours to go, what day it is and what that means, here I am.

It's time once again to begin the subliminal message service that I provide this time of year to make sure you all get involved in writing the novel you always wanted to write for National Novel Writing Month, better known as Nanowrimo. You have an overwhelming desire to write a book. The nice thing about subliminal messages is that they're conveniently painless. You don't have to do anything but read my blog, and they hurt way less than, say, shutting your finger in a door or getting a paper cut. Your mind is filled with plot ideas for a novel of 50,000 words.

In fact, subliminal messages are a great way to get yourself motivated for the next month, because you're going to need it. About halfway through week 2, you're going to think you're nothing less than a raving lunatic for signing up. Sign up on the Nanowrimo site today. This is when it's a good thing that you've told all your friends and family what you're doing so that you are obligated to finish in order to save face, thus avoiding the need to skulk away and end your days in Tahiti, where no one knows you. Warm climates are loaded with enormous unpleasant bugs—you will write 50,000 words by midnight November 30th.

With that in mind, I just want to wish you all well and encourage you to join in the Nanowrimo fun in November. Get motivated by making a bet with your neighbor to walk his dog every day for the next year if you don't finish.

Now take a deep breath and get ready, because when you're finished, you can have the immense satisfaction of knowing that you really, really, really did it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A silent time to write

I've read so many books about writing that after awhile, they all bleed together like watercolors in a painting so that I can't tell where one piece of advice begins and the other ends. But maybe that's not so surprising since successful writers often repeat much of the same information. Most will tell you to write daily, to study to increase your craft, and to read a ton of books in your genre, etc. One thing they also mention is writing time. It seems like the writing time of preference is early in the morning before life gets moving, and there are lots of writers who got up at 5 A.M. to churn out their quotas before their families are up for the day.

This doesn't work for me, but I think I'm in the minority. I usually write late at night, after all the kids are in bed. This is a silent time in our house, and I'm able to let myself go and have some fun with my characters. In the morning, I have kind of a daydreaming time where I work on plot ideas. They percolate in my brain during the day and I put them down solidly in the eleventh hour, so to speak.

Now I know that real writers should be able to shut out life at will and write like the wind with ten kids in the house, loads of laundry awaiting their tender mercies, and dinner cooking on the stove. I can write under those conditions, and I sometimes do. In fact, you really have to train yourself to do this if you're a mom, because you'll never see any progress if you don't. But my preference, having grown up in a very quiet home in the remote countryside, often spending many hours alone, is to write during the silent time.

I'm curious. When is your favorite writing time? Is your silent time physical, or is it a mental state in which you don't allow yourself to be impacted by surrounding activity?

Saturday, October 9, 2010


How many things do we part from on a continually basis? Everyday things, good or bad?

Most of us experience a time where a loved one has to part. Some of us encounter a day, where we have to find the supernatural strength hidden within us to take our faithful dog to the vet and allow it to part.

Seasons part. A beautiful October day in Elgin, Illinois I felt lead to disregard the plans I had made and follow the leading to walk past the Fox River to the library. I was hoping to meet someone there. As I was walking down the drive way I noticed that the big tree right outside the house was the exact same tree and probably had the exact same height as the one in front of my house in Germany. I had been staying with these dear friends here in Elgin for maybe 2 months already. That tree was right outside my bed room window, too. How come I hadn’t noticed it? It’s not that this kind of tree would just grow anywhere. In Germany I had never seen another one of its kind.

Strolling down the street I delighted in the surprisingly warm sun. It must have been almost 80 degrees. Shorts and t-shirt in October? In Elgin, Illinois? Suited me just fine. The bright red and yellow of the turning leaves made me wish for a constant Fall, everything would just be suspended between Summer and Winter, combining the irresistible beauty of a strangely mesmerizing decay and comforting warmth. I knew that I, too, had to get ready to part. I began to think about the many places I had passed by through out my life, carrying a purse and a laptop. I thought about college days in the city of Chicago, thought about the street of Wellington, New Zealand. I remembered the confidence and purpose that I had sensed during that time, as well. Just as I did today.

I felt lead to sing in tongues as I walked, just enjoying the knowledge of not being alone. To everyone else I probably appeared as such, but I saw myself walking down the street with the light and the Greater One inside of me and small army of angels surrounding me as shining orbs around me. I felt such gratitude for a God who created such beauty even in something that would soon be passed away. I could feel a thankful heart ministering unto me, even as I walked. I thanked God to be able to take the time to just be, knowing that He is God without having to go on a retreat, but right here, in what seemed like every day life to those looking on from the outside.

I continued to pray in tongues softly as I approached the river and let it flow into song. I took a moment to record the parts that I could interpret on my MP3 player. I felt such peace and purpose and embraced it with bliss and gratitude. Walking alongside the river I noticed the stones of the pavement, listing names of dozens of people whose significance I did not know. As one of them caught my eye and I stopped to ponder on it, I noticed a couple holding little booklets and looking around. “I wonder what these names are for!?” The woman asked me. “This one talks about Hiawatha?” I said, not sure what that even means, but I had heard the name before…

To be continued.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Driving 45 on the Interstate

That's what it feels like sometimes.

I don't know if you ever listen to the tales of Garrison Keeler about Lake Woebegon on the radio when you were a kid. I did. Every story had a thread of truth tucked into it, plus a wide load of humor. One story that sticks with me was of an elderly resident. For some reason, he was supposed to drive his nagging wife to the city on an interstate highway. Not having had much experience on the highway, he managed to survive by driving half on the shoulder at about 45 miles per hour while trucks and cars roared past.

The whole experience rattled him so much that he forgot his wife at a truck stop and didn't remember her until hours later. Then he had to figure out how to turn around.

Anyway, that's how I feel as a writer some days. I get up early and lurch into real time, working my way through the day. When things finally wind down about 10:15 P.M. and most of the kids are in bed, I get my brain back to use without interruption, but its shelf-life has almost expired and there's not much creative juice left. The result is that as a writer, I feel a little like the old bird on the highway with the traffic zipping by. I'm moving, but definitely not in the fast lane, and plenty of people are getting there so much faster that it's discouraging.

I hate that.

The problem is, no matter how many self-help writing books I read, it doesn't change the fact that I have x amount of hours in the day which are largely consumed by tasks which are necessary and cannot be set aside. Plus, after weeks of chiseling away at sleep time in order to buy writing time, I feel a little ragged and my husband gets concerned.

I have no easy solution to this problem. I don't believe there is one. But I am working on strategies to minimize the problem. Take a look, and if you have some to add, please share with us all.

Beth's Sanity in Writing Strategies:

1. Delegate.

I figured out early on that if I didn't split the chores between the inhabitants of our house, I would drop from exhaustion trying to keep up. Everyone child has a main chore for the week. They are required to do it or face the consequences, usually of extra jobs. In this way, the house is staying moderately clean and the laundry moderately kept up on. I can live with that.

2. Don't say yes

But what if it's really important? It doesn't matter. See if you can redirect the task to some other piece of humanity first. It's not that I'm trying to get out of things. I just have learned to stick to the things only I can do. Very hard for mom-types.

3. Don't say no

What? Now you're confused. This time I'm talking about writing. Don't tell yourself that you're too tired to write, that you don't have time, that you're too distracted, etc. Say yes to writing a specific word quota or for a specific time each day. I'm still working on this one, but at least once a day, I'm saying yes to writing.

4. Let it go

I have come to grips with the fact that my house is never going to look like Martha Stewart's, and I'm okay with that. When it comes to decorating, I go for functional and keep decorations to a minimum that fit most seasons. In December, I hang up my pencil for a couple of weeks and make cookies and decorate trees. Otherwise, I let it go.

5. Organize

What? That requires time, you say. True, but in the long run it saves time. I got this one from Jim Denney's Quit Your Day Job. Thanks to him, my desk is a little less cluttered, and I think it's helping me to be more productive. Also, the more I organize my time, the more time I have to use at the end of the day, which is when I like to write anyway.

In the meantime, it helps me to remember that although I may be in the slow lane, at least I'm going somewhere.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Reflecting on one of the best things God has given me to write all week:

September 29th will always be a special day: no longer will it be marked by dread of remembrance of evil but a celebration of my Father's goodness. Deepest gratitude floods my heart for the work He's begun in me and the progress I experience. Thank you for comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding, for delivering me from bottomless hurt. Thank you for breaking my heart from the grief that would brake yours!

My prayer is that I may be a light to those that are still in the dark and wrongly accuse you of the loss that I learned to count as gain. Thank you for having blessed me with a mom that loved those around her! That I am the friend, the sister, the spouse that fights with the heart of a lioness just like she did and be the strong pillar I was created to be, extending comfort and encouragement to those that still suffer. Happy Homecoming Mom!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just Write It

It has been way too long since my voice has been heard. I make no excuses. I am done with that. I am re-organizing my life and getting my priorities in order. Good, bad, or ugly, I chose to WRITE! JUST DO IT! Stop saying, "I'm busy. I'll get to it later." Procrastination is my enemy.

The important thing is writing something each day. Not anything life-changing, deep, or brilliant, only keeping the wheels of creativity going by putting something down on paper.

Some of us out there thrive on competition. I am one of those people. If you, like me, are having problems staying on the straight and narrow of writing consistency. Find someone to run with. Someone who will say, "Ha, Ha, I'm way ahead of you. Eat my dust turkey!" (hint, hint, Beth)

That's it. Plain, simple. Take the plunge. Jump off that cliff. Write!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Make habits work for you

Christine and I were talking this week about employing personal strategies which would lead to greater consistency as writers. When you're a mom, consistency can be tough to achieve, but the more people I talk to, the more I think that if you're alive and breathing at all, becoming consistent is hard work. On the mom side, there are a lot of little things to stay on top of, and some of them keep moving around, making messes for you to find an inconvenient moments.

Anyway, we decided that support in the form of other writers (namely the power of peer pressure used for good) is a strategic tool we can use to hit our weekly writing goals. That's what we did during Nanowrimo, for example, and it worked great. Somehow, in less than 26 days last November, I wrote a 50,000 word novel. So did Laura and Christine. I looked back, totally amazed. How did we do that? Consistency! Okay, so there were also chocolate, coffee, and other perks involved, but the important thing is, we did it.

There was one testimonial that I read last year that made such an impression on me that I actually remember it even now. One gal had participated in the previous 2008 Nanowrimo, and had just decided not to quit writing after it was over. She didn't want to lose her momentum. By the time 2009 rolled around, she had several completed manuscripts under her belt, and had been contracted to publish one of them. Her skill was developing as she continued to write consistently, and it was getting her somewhere.

True, she was stuck with her husband in a foreign country where he was stationed, and I don't think she knew the language, so she probably didn't have anything better to do. However, she was typing her word quota faithfully, and I think she would have done it even in the States. The point is, if it worked for her, it will work for anyone.

So Christine and I decided it would be good to pick a doable goal for a basement word quota, which we as busy moms think any writer would be able to commit to. We chose 5000 words a week. It's not as ambitious as Nano, which is about 12,000 to 14,000 words a week, but it is a nice round non-threatening number. Plus, we know that if we do just that, we'll be able to make steady progress which will in turn produce a rough draft in about two and a half months, minimum.

So here's to overcoming those excuses for not writing. If you want to come on board for this minimum challenge, you can post a comment. Many of you writers are doing more than 5000 words a week, and that's okay. The idea is to just create a minimum accountability that will cause you to keep moving forward even when life gets hectic and challenging.

Just like Nano, don't allow yourself to stop. Don't care when it's lousy. I'll tell you in advance that it will be. Pay no attention. Just keep writing. Everything can be fixed, so fix it later. For now, write! Are you with us?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Freedom vs. Fear of Failure

In a day and age where people scramble to maintain their space within the macro- and microcosms of their daily experience of life we are prepped to fight for our freedom. That seems to include everything reaching from profound things like religious freedom, freedom of speech all the way to silly things where people feel offended if somebody dares to cut in front of them at the water cooler. Nonetheless many seem ready to oppose this breach of an invisible boundary of personal space with just as much tenacity as an attempt to silence a confession of faith.

But what happens when people are taken out of their usual boundaries and are being told to just "Do whatever you want. No boundaries!" My initial response is to tense up. What does that mean? I can do what ever? What does that include and where does it stop? More specifically: What do you mean I can write and blog about whatever?! "No boundaries" seems like a trick answer, a bait luring you into something....lethal. Having gone through college and countless classes, papers, lectures and tests aiming for specificity (I like this word....spe-ci-fi-ci-ty...spe-ci-fity) the permission to roam, type and publish without opposition is just...outrageous! It's scary! And yet, I decided that addressing the problem is often the first step towards enjoying the moment and changing, commanding your circumstances. Freedom is what you decide to do with what you've been given. Freedom is not defined by the existence or absence of mental blocks or actual, sometimes physical limitations. On the same note, hearing and DOING what God tells you to do? Now that's wisdom :)

So today is the day that I declare breakthrough! Freedom from fears of "no boundaries" opportunities! Freedom to obey and step up towards your calling! Freedom to trust, let go and let God! My first blog entry. Ever.

God bless :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

The doctor is in

The doctor ushered me into his office and offered me a chair or the couch. I took the couch. When you're a mom, you have to rest whenever you get the chance. He settled himself behind a desk in his distinguished leather chair and picked up a notepad and paper.

"Now, I'd like you to relax and tell me what's troubling you."

I frowned in concentration. "It's hard to put my finger on it, but it has to do with writing."

"Ah, you're a writer. Very interesting. Go on."

"There are days that I feel frustration while I'm at the computer. I push through and get my quota out, but all the time there is this nagging feeling that my story isn't any good, or that no one is going to like it. It's hard to be productive when you're grappling with thoughts like that."

The doctor scribbled furiously in on his notepad. "That is very interesting. Are there any other symptoms?"

"I find myself strangely drawn to hang out on Facebook, read blogs, and do housework." I stared up in the corner of the ceiling. "You know, speaking of housework, you've got some cobwebs up there. Do you want me to take care of that for you?"

"What?" The doctor looked up, startled, and waved me toward a closet door next to the filing cabinet. "I think there's a broom in there. You know, this is really fascinating." The doctor made a couple quick notes, then stood up and started to pace. "It seems to me that what we have here are some early stages of atychiphobia."

"Is that a virus, or can you fix it with antibiotics?" My voice was muffled, coming out of the depths of the closet.

"Neither, actually." He dropped onto the couch to avoid my expert swishes with the broom which made history out of the cobwebs. "It's fear of failure."

"You don't say." I pounced on some Lemon Pledge and a dust cloth on the shelf as I replaced the broom. "Do you mind if I clean the top of these cabinets? I have a dust allergy."

"Go ahead." The doctor stretched out on the couch, putting up his feet. "I'd like to confide to you that I suffer from the same malady."

"Dust allergies?"

"Oh, no. Atychiphobia."

"Oh, right. What is that, again?" I finished up the edge of the filing cabinet and headed for the main desk.

"It's fear of failure."

"Right." I paused. "I don't think that's what I've got. It's more like a bad case of inner editor. My writing group says I need to quit listening to her."

The doctor snorted in bitter irony. "As it turns out, I am well acquainted with atychiphobia. I've been working on a novel of my own. I'm thinking about quitting, though, because I'm sure it's no good. Of course, I'm still in the first draft phase, but you'd think I'd see something great in it. I mean, if I don't like it, will anyone else?"

I dropped into the chair behind the desk. "The truth is, doc, you need to push through that first draft. Even without looking at it, I can tell you it's awful. All first drafts are awful. Doesn't matter who you are. But until you throw that clay on the wheel, you won't have anything to mold into a real story. Give yourself a daily quota and stick to it. And don't listen to a word that your inner editor tells you. Just those two things will do wonders."

The doctor stood up and gave me a hearty handshake. "Do you really think so?"


He sighed with relief. "Thank you so much. You've given me hope."

"No problem, doc. If you keep writing, you'll get past it. I'm glad I could help." I stood up and glanced at my watch. "If you'll excuse me, I have to run. I've got an appointment with my protagonist. When you finish that first draft, give me a call if you're feeling that attic-whatever-stuff hitting you. I'll talk you through the next step."

"I'll do that."

I watched his enthusiastic wave in my rearview mirror as I drove away. Hmmm, I thought. I wonder how it would affect chapter ten if I added a doctor character with strange phobias...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

If you're looking for a gnomish gift this Christmas...

Special congratulations to Chuck Sambuchino, whose latest book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, is now available through Amazon. You can also check out his other two books, 2011 Guide to Literary Agents and Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, for writing guidance and wisdom. (The gnome book is just for fun.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Carpe Diem!

Every once in awhile you run across a book on writing that is so tremendous and informative that you have to tell every other writer about it. I've found such a book in Quit Your Day Job! by Jim Denney. The book has been around for awhile, but I found out about it on Kristi Holl's blog, Writer's First Aid. Since I was at loose ends for a book for the time being, I decided to check it out and read it. I love it.

Jim Denney approaches writing as a cut and dried business, which is what a writer needs to do if he or she is not simply a hobby writer. I thought of myself as a working writer of sorts, mainly because I'm consistently (albeit slowly) creating new material and shucking it out the door to publishers and agents. But Jim says that if you want to call yourself a writer, you really have to be writing every day.

I'll admit right now that I don't do that. I know it's possible, because I wrote an entire 50,000 word novel in about 25 days during Nanowrimo last year. I think I missed one or possibly two days of writing, but I know I can do it. But normally I don't write like that every day. During the school year I have a tremendous amount of studying and reading to do, in addition to grading, etc. I have to prioritize, because as a home schooler, it's a lifestyle choice that I'm not willing to give up my personal day job in order to write. Also, in real life, most writers have other jobs. Jim Denney's point is not that every writer should give up his or her day job. His point is that if you want to, and you're motivated, it can be done successfully. In my personal season, there is one thing that I believe I could handle that would enable me to classify myself as a writer.

Grab 15

The truth is, people have time for what they choose to have time for. Let me qualify this by saying rare is the individual who truly doesn't have time for any particular activity. Of course, every person has to make choices about his or her time use, but let's be honest about it. Generally, it's not that you don't have time; it's that you choose to use your time for other purposes. That's okay.

With that said, commit yourself to grabbing 15 minutes (preferably at the beginning of the day when you're fresh and ideas are often flowing freely) to write. Everyone can commit just 15 minutes. Carry a notebook with you. Don't rely on the laptop or computer hooked to the wall. That simple 15 minutes will translate into 91.25 hours over the space of a year. That's over two weeks of full time writing. It's almost enough to write an entire novel, in fact, looking back at the time I spent during Nanowrimo. The whole first draft of that November novel took between 50 to 70 hours to write.

Your reward for those daily 15 minutes? You can say the words, "I am a writer," with a clear conscience, because you are no longer a hobbyist who waits for inspiration. You're a staple-your-rear-end-to-the-chair-whether-I-feel-like-it-or-not-writer. The best part is that you'll see the fruit of your commitment in time.

In closing (sounds ominous) I'd like to say that accountability is very nice when it comes to keeping yourself motivated to produce that daily 15. I found that out during Nanowrimo. Chris Baty, the Executive Director of Nanowrimo, suggests you do things such as promise to wash someone's car if you don't meet your daily quota or ask your spouse and kids to find new and embarrassing penalties if you don't make yourself do the daily work. In Quit Your Day Job!, Jim Denney sites one writer who would belt himself to his chair, guzzle a 2-liter of Diet Coke, and not allow himself bathroom breaks until he had hit his quota. That's creative self-motivation, but it would be a little extreme for me. I don't think I could type with that much caffeine coursing through my veins, either, but feel free to get creative. You can do this.

So, is anyone out there willing to take their writing to a daily 15/365? No matter what? Let's hear what you have to say about it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Laboring on Labor Day

I don't have anything spectacular to tell you today. It's just one of those days, which I think should be allowed to everyone once in awhile, especially on a holiday weekend.

Right now I'm reading Quit Your Day Job. In it, Jim Denney has caused me to do a little deep thinking (which is probably part of the reason why I feel so tired) by asking his readers why they write.

After reading this, I considered it for a time.

It can't be that I write for the money, because I haven't made any. (Well, not for a long time.) It can't be that I write for fame, because nobody knows who I am. It can't even be that I write because I have something deep to say, because nothing that I write is ever deep, unless it's by accident.

My conclusion is that I don't know why I write. I just write.

So this very short post (short because I deleted the deep part—it just wasn't me) is to ask, does anyone else out there even know why they write? Personally, I don't know why. I'm just compelled to, even though I've been a little road-killish this last month. (You'll have to check August's post if you want to know what I mean.) But the vultures don't have me yet, and I'm hoping that Jim Denney's book will help me get back in the game as a consistent writer before they do.

So happy Labor Day. May your labors in the world of writing be profitable ones.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How do the leaves know when to fall?

I was sweeping the sidewalk today, and I noticed some unnerving evidence of fall coming. There were leaves on the ground. I'd been hearing the acorns hit the roof for some time, but leaves are a lot sneakier. They don't announce their fall with a loud rap you can hear from below. They just...flutter.

Thinking of the end of summer with a pang reminded me about endings in general, especially since I've been struggling with one on a picture book. A good ending is like the leaves falling from the trees. Even though you may not want the story to end, it feels right to end it at that point.

What are your favorite book endings? Do you find that it's a bittersweet time that you want to go on, but know that it's over? Do you ever feel cheated at the end, like the author missed her timing somehow and ended in the wrong place?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The hare, the tortoise, and the roadkill

I have to make a confession. Since we also had an out of town wedding last weekend, I didn't give writing a lot of thought in the hustle of packing, traveling, doing weddingish stuff, and finally heading home to celebrate the weekend by doing mounds of laundry. I brought my computer, but I admit we only used it to mapquest for directions and to watch SG-1 episodes in the hotel room after the festivities were over.

But here we are in the second week of school, and things have calmed down a bit. The wedding is a memory, the kids and I have our printed schedules, and I'm taking a deep breath and remembering that even I can extract small amounts of spare time if I'm careful with my schedule. It's not a lot, but it's something.

You see, some writers are hares. They turn out a lot of copy daily. That's the best, of course. I'm not a hare, but I admire their ability to kick it out. Some writers are tortoises. This is the usual me. A tortoise turns out a little copy daily, but consistently. It's better than nothing, especially if you have very little extra time. I also try to use time fragments by carrying a notebook around with me. Hares are okay, and tortoises are okay. When it comes down to it, there's only one thing you must avoid becoming if you're a writer.


Roadkill is the writer who gets run over by life, meaning she didn't keep on writing. This past two weeks, I was in danger of becoming roadkill as I was overwhelmed by school preparation in combination with a trip. Let's contemplate what it means to become roadkill.

1. Roadkill doesn't move

Well, not unless you pick it up and throw it. It has lost the ability to move itself. As a writer, you might as well face the truth now. If you let yourself get run down by life, you have to be the one who cares, because no one else will. You have to keep yourself moving, word by word, draft by draft.

2. Roadkill stinks

The unfortunate truth is that first drafts always stink, even when you write all the time. But at least they can be fixed if you work on them. Happily, everything can be fixed. However, if you stop writing entirely, or are very sporadic, you will definitely stink, because you'll stop growing and learning as a writer.

3. Roadkill doesn't get a headstone or an epitaph

No one remembers the writers who never got around to writing down those great novels they had ideas for. Whenever I read about the number of rejections writers like Madeleine L'Engle got, I get a little gaspy. What if she had given up? We would have missed out on so many great books. I also find myself annoyed by early deaths of favorite writers like Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. Who knows what awesome ideas these ladies had, but didn't have time to explore on paper? Alas, we just have to be content with the treasures they left us.

So let's recap.

• Being a hare is okay. You get a lot done over time. I'm not one at this time of my life, but my hat's off to you if you're a hare.

• Being a tortoise is okay. You are consistent and you don't quit. Someday, if you work hard, I believe you will succeed.

• Being roadkill is not okay. The turkey buzzards are watching for you from telephone poles and drooling. Don't give them the satisfaction of seeing you get run down. Keep moving.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Creativity and Heaven

Yesterday I saw a man walking from the train who distinctly stood out from the crowd. He wore a broad-brimmed straw hat, a white hat and a knotted green neckerchief. He had a small bit of white/gray beard and walked with a jaunty step. His appearance delighted my heart.

I love that God gave each one of us such creativity. Each one of us human beings has the ability to express our personality in an almost infinite number of ways. It occurred to me that once again, this delightful ability is just one more way of seeing God's infinity. The creative ability inside each person comes directly from the source of creation.

In heaven, when all the impurities have been left behind, I believe we will know and see each other as the children of God that we are - with His divine nature as expressed in and through us in endlessly creative ways. Won't that be wonderful?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why does life have an accelerator but no brakes?

At least, that's the way it seems. Yes, I knew that we were starting school this week. Yes, I did my fair share of procrastinating this summer, although some of it was for exceptionally good personal reasons that I cannot detail for you. Yes, I knew it would be trickier than ever before since we were coming off a big family wedding weekend, and I would have to corral and moralize the troops to begin Monday morning. But I can pretty much say without compare, that the difficulty of starting school on August 16th this year absolutely defied my wildest dreams. For once, I do not feel ready.

Not that readiness is everything. There was the year that I was perfectly ready and nervously started school on time, every pencil sharpened, every paper in place, only to be blasted out of the water as my kids rush into the house in tears because some creature had traumatically chomped one of their chickens. So much for a smooth morning. No one could concentrate worth beans, and I think something of the sort happened the next year, too. I began to wonder if a chicken must always die the first day of school. This year, one of their pets expired on Saturday, two days too early. Frankly, I do not mourn her early passing.

So tomorrow we begin, whether I feel ready or not. It will be a good year. I'd like to step a little further from the traditional this year (I'm a terribly traditional learner and teacher, in many cases) and have a little more fun with our learning techniques in school. I hope to learn a lot this year myself, while I continue to write. I hope we'll not only survive, but flourish.

I think the best thing, though, is that, no matter what, we'll be in it together.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Framed by the inner editor

I don't entirely believe in writer's block. I know you hear about it all the time, and to be honest, I've been stuck on chapter seven for a couple of weeks now, but I still don't believe in writer's block.

What I do believe in is inner editor block. Perhaps a better term for it would be creative constipation. I figured it out late last night as I finally got past the problem I was having with chapter seven.

The writer in me was knocking out the story in a pages document. She was excited because she had finally gotten past awful chapter seven and was in the zone, happy and oblivious. Then she heard a knock at the door. Not knowing better—the writer never seems to learn—she innocently opened the door with a smile on her face.

Standing before her was the inner editor in disguise, wearing one of those fake Groucho Marx glasses-nose-and-mustache numbers to hide her true identity. The writer recognized her anyway. Her hair was pulled back into a tight bun like it always is, and she had twelve yellow number two pencils sticking out of it like an academic porcupine. She peered over the reading glasses sitting on the tip of her nose and tapped a carefully manicured fire-engine red finger nail on her cold curving smile.

"I can't believe you wrote this," she said with an unpleasant snicker.

The writer looked confused. She had to pull herself out of the story-world she had been in and back to reality. "What do you mean?"

The inner editor sashayed over to the computer and pointed a long accusing finger. "This! I mean, apart from the obvious grammatical mistakes, it just doesn't flow. What were you thinking?"

The writer shriveled under the inner editor's mesmerizing gaze and harsh words. The inner editor pressed her advantage.

"There's no way you can go any further until you get this thing fixed. Furthermore, as penance, you're going to have to go back and rewrite every chapter so far at least ten times until I'm satisfied." She leaned against the desk, shaking her head sorrowfully. "Don't think you can get any substandard writing past me. I saw the notes you made about chapters eight and nine. The plot is implausible, the characters shallow, and the dialogue ridiculous. I doubt it's worth putting it down on paper. I'm thinking we need to junk this whole project and start over from scratch."

The writer's eyes glazed over. She was almost completely paralyzed, caught in the evil clutches of the inner editor.

"And don't think you can blame me for any of this drivel. It's all your fault. You're the writer, after all." The inner editor smirked.

The writer shook herself, a spark appearing in her eyes. "Hey," she said. "That's right. I am the writer."

The inner editor flinched. Maybe she had gone a tad too far. "Now, now. I didn't mean you were in charge, or anything like that. You need me or you wouldn't ever produce a polished manuscript." She edged toward the door, but she wasn't quick enough. The writer grabbed her by the collar and gave her a quick shove into the hallway. The editor stumbled away, trying to regain her footing. "Hey! That is no way to treat an editor!"

"Too late." The writer was back in control. "When human resources sends you to Acapulco because you're a pest, you need to stay there until I ask for your help during rewrites." The writer began to shut the door, but paused for a moment. "Oh, and by the way. No one is going to pin writer's block on me when you're really the culprit. Scram!"

The inner editor scurried down the hallway, picking up number two pencils that had worked loose from her bun. The writer shut the door firmly. She dusted her hands and took a deep breath. It felt good to be free of the inner editor once again. She sat down at the keyboard, fingers poised for only a moment before they began to tap the keys.

"As I shook water droplets off my arms, I ran into Mom, who had stopped in front of me. She gave a strangled cry..."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

One word at a time

This week has been a rough one, for different reasons. For the first time in a long time, I didn't post on Monday. Well, I did post, but then I erased it because I didn't like it. (Blame the inner editor, but the outer one was in agreement.) I've been working through The Writer's Portable Mentor and following Kristi Holl's advice to actually do the assignments. That's perhaps why I'm still stuck on chapter one. It's much easier to zip through a book on writing and not do the actual assignments, but as Kristi pointed out on her blog, that doesn't produce the results that you want as a writer. So I'm bound and determined not to venture past chapter one until I'm done with the assignments that go with it.

Also, while I was knocking out Examiner articles for the past ten days (and no, I didn't win the ipad that went with the incentive), I let the other writing in my life go. Unfortunately, that means that I didn't make much progress on my novel and lost a lot of momentum. I have had to re-evaluate this week, and kick back into a regular word quota. Even though I feel intimidated by writing a novel (as opposed to a picture book), I just need to stick to it and get it done the same way I do any other kind of writing: one word at a time.

So hopefully you've all been more productive than I have lately, but condemning yourself doesn't do any good. You just have to learn from the past, sit down, and get back to writing. One word at a time.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mentor book and retreat ideas

Just started reading The Writer's Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long. I think this is one of those life-changing writer's books, so I'm going to knock out a plug for it. I'll honestly admit that I haven't actually read the whole book yet. I just started it, but I'm very excited to have started it. I'm very thankful for the writers who have gone before so we don't have to muddle through quite as many problems as we otherwise would.

Also want to remind the group about collecting activity ideas for our upcoming retreat. Here are three:

1. Rewrite a fairy tale or fable from the villain's POV.
2. Draw a first line out of a hat and write for ten minutes straight, then read what you come up with. (No critiques allowed. This is just for the sake of inspiring creativity.)
3. Round robin stories. (We did this last time and laughed hysterically at the results, remember?)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Make room for life so you can write real

I got so busy this summer that I would spend hours and hours over the computer keyboard researching markets, blogging, facebooking, and writing. But at the end of the day, it was like waking up from a fog. What had happened during the day? I felt that, except for brief glimpses, I had missed my kids and everything that was going on in real time.

Then recently I read Rachelle Gardners's July 6th post, and it was a wake-up call. You need to live life and not just write about it. You have to get out there and do things. It's okay. Even if and especially if you're a writer, you have permission to live.

Someone recently told me that all successful writers had to be workaholics to become successful. This freely voiced opinion, spoken by a non-writing accountant, was based on experience that to get ahead in business, you had to be willing to set aside family, friends, and life in order to inject massive amounts of your daily time into whatever occupation you desire to succeed in.

At first I was irritated by this view point, but later I was simply amused. Not being a writer, this person didn't understand some simple truths of the writing lifestyle. You have to live life in some capacity in order to write about it. The human connection is as important to a writer as water is to a fish. If you don't immerse yourself in life on some level and continually connect with people and the world around you, there won't be a realness to your writing.

Perhaps an accountant can sit in front of a computer screen for 13 hours a day, but a writer cannot. Not and be able to produce the kind of writing she has to for her readers. This is why it's a good choice not to quit your day job as a writer. Your job provides interaction with life that allows you to write real.

So don't buy into the workaholic mentality. A writer needs to write daily and consistently, no doubt, but not 24/7. The nature of writing requires an ebb and flow like the tides of the ocean. It must come in; it must go out. Like breathing.

So take a deep breath today. And live. And then write about it. Write real.