The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Still Into It

(Beware. This topic/title was chosen so I would have a reason to include my favorite Paramore song. Sorry.)

     Okay, these are the things I am still "into":

  • Sons of Anarchy (a show on FX that I love and is in its final will take its final breaths this summer or fall, I believe. Think "The Sopranos" on motorcycles.)
  • teaching (I still enjoy my job.)
  • Crocs (however, one of my pairs--"Blackie"--is going to be autopsied soon, on April 24. Bring your own flower petals.)
  • honesty (I got some initial feedback on my NaNo/manu, and even though no one has gotten to the end yet, they are suggesting segues. Are those really necessary?  They also say I probably need to change my point of view, which will result in more snark. No one has ever asked for more snark from me. I love it.)
  • a great writing critique group  (Just about every piece of writing I submit has been critiqued by four gifted writers. They each bring a different perspective, they each have their unique strengths, but they're all strong and fierce.)
     What are you "into" these days?  (And now what I've been waiting for. I'm sorry if it's not what you have been waiting for...)

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Positive Spin On Poop

         When can a pile of poop be something valuable? When can a bunch of waste material be considered worthwhile? When can something that would normally be flushed away become something that is elevated into the realm of precious?

     Check out my guest post on The Muffin to find out...  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Who Ain't Crazy About Free?

(Yes, I know. The title is not grammatically correct. It was deliberate. But really, as a teacher, I am all about anything free, and I figure most folks are right with me. For example, in my school, if they announce there is a partial box/tray/Tupperware container of Krispy Kremes/almost-stale brownies/left-over brussel sprout popovers (from a party two nights ago), well...let's just say the students are left unattended as teachers race down the hall so they can get at least a taste. Free white-out. Free tape. Free pencils--we love it all.)

        Right now, I'm reading Jodi Picoult's Picture Perfect. I'm finding it harder to get into than most of her work, but we'll see.

        I'm also reading a bio on Harper Lee called Mockingbird. I almost immediately started frothing at the mouth over Lee, my hatred making me rabid, since Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird (revised and everything, I think) in just 2 1/2 years. (I worked for almost that long on a WIP and when I dropped it off with my writing friends, it self-destructed. Yikes.)

         But those two books I had to buy. Okay, I "borrowed" the bio from a retreat center I recently went to, and--oops--I was not supposed to take the book out of the library, but it had only been checked out twice in the last ten years. Don't you think it needed to get the cobwebs dusted off of it? Besides, although I liberated books from my high school library and never returned them (they deserved a far, far better life) I will send this book back by mail without a return address (to protect the guilty). Here is an offering for a free book.

        Sean McLachlan is serving up The Scavenger, a novelette, for free. It's a limited until April 8. If you're tempted to dip your toes into his Radio Hope book (the first in a series) and are not sure or haven't had the time yet, check out this stand-along shortie. To get more information on what Sean's up to, along with the link for the free book, go to his post.

      And I also wanted to tell you about--What? They said on the intercom there's some week-old birthday cake in the teachers' lounge? Gotta go...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Barefoot and Brave

      Last night, I went to the first rehearsal for the St. Louis Listen to Your Mother show. This is how I envisioned it:

                 Each of us would get on stage, one by one, in front of the microphone, and read our piece, while the rest of the group sat in  the auditorium and served as the audience. When it was my turn, I would keep my fingers crossed that I didn't trip across the floor or knock over the music stand. We'd get some feedback. We'd get to know each other a little. And then we'd get headed home...

      That is not quite how it went. All of us sat on the floor on the stage--in a circle--while we took turns reading our stories. Some made me tear up. Some made me chuckle. They all moved me. While we passed a box of tissue around--several times--we all thanked god for waterproof mascara.

      The women I was sandwiched between both took their shoes off. As I listened to each tale, I occasionally glanced down at their toes. Those two women had beautiful feet. Their toes didn't resemble a desert scene.  They were healthy-looking. Their toenails looked perky. (Since these ladies are both decades younger than I am, their toenails haven't gotten thick and yellow, to the point that they look more like hooves than nails.)

          (I did everyone a favor and kept my shoes and my socks on.)

      Sharing your story takes courage. Baring your soul takes bravery. For the next month or so, I'm going to bask in the camaraderie and courage that swirl around these women.

     And if you are in the St. Louis area and would like to hear some incredible stories on May 10, get your tickets soon. (They sold out last year.)

      By the way, a writing friend and one of the founding members of the notorious WWWP writing critique group, Tammy, just got some fabulous news. (Tammy writes the kind of prose that makes some writers in her critique group hate to follow her. Sometimes we scratch each other and pull each other's hair, vying for a spot before Tammy, so we won't have to paddle behind in her wake...)  She is one of the six (count 'em--6) finalists in the Reader's Digest 100 word essay contest. This is a competition I didn't even contemplate entering, because I can't imagine (me) writing anything of substance in just a few words.

      If you're from the typewriter era, read Tammy's post and travel back in time.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Honesty...Such a Gift

         My daughter is honest about how she feels about my shoes. They're atrocious. She has tried to get me to buy some cute(r) Crocs--ones that are fleece-lined--but I stand firm. Crocs--the basic ones--are perfect because if they get muddy, you just hose 'em off and they're good to go...over and over and over again.

      My dog is honest about anything that falls onto the floor. It's delicious (and is gone instantly).

      My husband is honest about my hair. He'd like me to get it styled like Olivia Wilde--and then we'd look exactly alike...                   

         Almost a year ago, I dragged what I thought was a manuscript to Conception, Missouri. The occasion? A writing retreat, led by Britton Gildersleeve. (I know--what a fabulous name, right?) Britton is not only a director of a National Writing Project in Oklahoma, she is also a voracious reader, can talk faster than a speeding bullet and knows exactly what questions to ask in order to get a writer onto the right track.

     What I learned quickly from Britton was that my story lacked meat. Or rather, it lacked a thread--a thread that would connect the "layers."

        (Why couldn't I have just written a straight-forward story? It's my first--and perhaps my last--novel. Why did I have to complicate things?)

     By Wednesday evening, five people will have my manuscript. (Whether they read it or not is a different story.) I'm incredibly curious and will have trouble reining in my pestering questions. Dothelayersmakesense? Doyoucareaboutthecharacters? Isitanicemixofhumorandseriousness? Doesitflowsmoothly? 

      Why do you have ants in your pants these days? or  When did you have trouble either delivering honesty of receiving it?


Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Retreat from Routine

        Earlier this week I went on a writing retreat. It was held at an abbey. A monk-ery. With most people, it would have been a 6-hour car trip, but we managed to make it in 13 hours. (I picked up two writing friends, then swung by and picked up my daughter and granddaughter. Using a shoehorn, everyone was wedged into the car, and in Kansas City we stopped and had lunch. Then, we met up with my son, and my daughter and grandbaby left with him. The three of us who remained headed to a grocery store in St. Joseph--a town that was on the way to Conception, Missouri. It was the stinkiest store I've ever encountered. After quickly exiting, we found a different (and better-smelling) store. We then made our way to Conception.

      Some time to write. Some time in a different place, with a different routine, which often makes a big impact on writing. Some time that's full of nothing but quiet and blank pages (or a blank screen).

      As I wrote, I took occasional breaks to read. I also went on some short walks. As the time passed, I thought about what makes--for me--a productive writing retreat.

      Begin the day with something bright. I did some reading (a John Irving novel) that jumpstarted my creative juices.

       Don't bring too much baggage with you. (I only brought this small bag because it was five people--and one was in a booster seat--in a Prius. Since we were wedged in like Europeans, I also packed like a European--lightly--and everyone smoked thin French cigarettes on the way to keep with the theme...even my seven-year old granddaughter.) Leave your self-doubts  and your destructive inner critic at home.

       Be aware of the "extra" things you need. Research material. Post-its. Hand-written first drafts. Be sure to bring what you require in order to keep the writing flowing. (I only ate half of the box of Cheezits. I swear. The rest I gave to a grateful son, who has two hollow legs.)

       Surround yourself with inspiration. Bring something great to read, so you can take an occasional break from writing. (The abbey has a huge library--three floors of books--and although most are academic-type books, I did find a good-sized section of novels and poetry books.)

       Be prepared for changes. You may go on the retreat with certain goals in mind, but things might change, and you have to be flexible. (There are lots of farms in the area that "grow" electricity instead of corn. If you've never stood right under one of these giant windmills and embraced it, you should. It's quite an experience.)

        Stay grounded. Don't set goals that are too lofty and also avoid setting goals that are unattainable. (I originally planned on revising a manuscript, but that wasn't possible, so I worked on a couple of submissions for an anthology. This is the front of the church at the abbey.)

     The trip back only took ten hours--a record-breaking time. (We stopped at Half-Price Books in Kansas City--a huge used book store--and shopped for a couple of hours, and then had a late lunch before heading back to St. Louis.) 

         What are some of your favorite places to write--or some of your favorite retreat spots--and why are they ideal for you as a writer?