Happy Summer! At least I hope it was. I  hardly can believe it is the middle of September. I am still catching up with Back to School.  Though I have been in absentia here, I am staying in my writing flow, and I am returning to the blog *soon* (Who knows? This could be the day!). I know this has been said before, but it’s true! I have been channeling my writing time and energy elsewhere this summer because my “spare” time was rare. Most of my summer was a blur of work, kids and heatwaves. I did do some good reading and, yes, tweeted away a few hours of my life. Well, more than a few. Some of those hours were my most productive though. I’ve found fabulous information and inspiration from people I have connected with on Twitter, including the community at YAlitchat. I even attended a virtual writing conference (which was “Fab-u-lous!”) which I learned about on writer chats. WriteOnCon was an amazing whirlwind of activity and information, mostly from pros in children’s publishing, but with plenty of publishing insight that most writers can use.  All for free! Next year’s conference is being planned already, and I highly recommend interested writers check out the archived information and forums.

I am almost done with this WIP and looking forward to going to a Real Live writing conference next month. I registered for the James River Writers Conference in Richmond, VA. I’m really excited and, of course, anxious at the same time. Fortunately, I feel well prepared from everything I’ve been learning online and in my own studying. The writing community here, there and everywhere is one of the most amazing facets of the entire vast Interwebs that I have discovered. I never cease to be amazed at the resources, outlets and support that I find.

This Fall, I plan to revive this blog and focus on sharing what I have found, and learned, as well as connect more with the networks I have online. This blog is going to go through more changes, just as I am. I remember when I started blogging, I thought of it as a learning process, starting in order to learn more about Blogging, in general. I liked reading other blogs, and as a writer, I wanted to understand more about the medium and try my hand at it. Like many writers, I turn to books and articles to learn about any topic at hand. I also like to practice new skills and improve my writing as much as I can. So, I jumped into blogging and learned even more about myself and my goals as a writer.

I have seen some chatter around town about what the term “writer” actually signifies. Apparently, the question is whether one must be published in order to actually call oneself a real writer. Personally, I don’t think so. And that’s not just the non-book-published writer in me speaking. I can’t really speak for non-writers, but I venture to guess that they truly feel a different way about writing than people who choose to write, no matter what the reward. I know that I will always be some form of writer, because I always have been. I have turned to writing as my most comfortable form of expression, since I learned how.There are people I know who scoff (or shudder) at the idea of writing for anything other than a grade or payment. Even if they were capable of stringing the standard 5 paragraph essay together in school, they feel they have done their time and they do not write much more than business proposals and emails. Or not. Isn’t there something to be said for those of us who want to write, not just for the results, but for the act itself? The closet poets, daily journal-keepers, aspiring novelists, and, yes, bloggers? We are definitely writers~aka, people who write.

Well, all that being said, there is still the fact that one cannot call oneself a blogger and not actually blog. I saw my “Last Post” listed under a comment on someone else’s blog and I was embarrassed. I also realized how much I miss it when I visit some of my favorite blogs and see what they are up to, and what I am missing. I considered throwing in the towel, but I hate throwing anything perfectly good away before I have done all I can with it.

I have found that I put my writing into different focus depending on what is happening in my life, which projects are most important, the changing seasons, etc. Hence, my struggle to finish a simple coherent post tonight, when I know I really should be writing the climactic scene of my YA. I admire writers who can write several different types of projects at a time. I’ve been able to juggle better before, but I do have extra baggage and duties these days that don’t involve books or words. And they keep getting bigger.

I do tend to work on several projects at a time, but they usually complement one another. I am currently in my KidLit phase. I cannot stop thinking of  ideas and writing opening pages or sketches for future projects. I am working on a Young Adult novel now and I have several more in various stages, as well as the picture books I have written and am  currently submitting. Sadly, other channels of my writing flow are stagnating these days, including this blog, other sites I supposedly write for and my poetry. I can comfort myself with the knowledge that those words will return to me someday.

I will always be a writer, but now I am on the path to becoming an Author. For that is what I truly want to be. Authors have always been some of my favorite people. When I was young I felt like I truly knew and understood who Laura Ingalls Wilder was. Authors seem to be our extended friends because they tell such great stories. I always imagined that I would get along famously with my favorite writers. We would be able to talk and laugh and regale each other with witticisms and tales for many hours, if not days spent on dream literary vacations. In reality, I would probably get tongue-tied and go into a secret panic attack; I am so much more verbal in writing 😉

I did get a glorious opportunity to meet Margaret Atwood last Spring (which I meant to blog about, natch) and despite my desire to tell her how much her writing has meant to me (particularly CAT’S EYE and her poetry), I ended up blurting out that I follow her on Twitter. As trite as it sounded, this at least brought a smile to her face and we did have a mini-chat about the wonders of that social network. I will never be a writer of her magnitude, but she and other writers I love inspire me to use my ability, and desire to write, to improve the world, whether providing information or entertainment.

This post is in serious danger of becoming too long and full of personal drivel, which I have promised to avoid, but I did want to check in and do some dusting. I am going to be focusing more on what I call Writer’s Flow, as well as the condition of Writer’s Block. There are a ka-jillion great writing blogs out there that can guide you to better characters and query letters. I will surely link to some of the ones I find helpful, but I am still a virtual student too, so all I can really share is my own experience and what has helped me. I did attempt to start a separate Book Blog about an eon ago, which did not go far, but I will be using that to share non-writing books and literacy info I find.

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me and I hope you will return to see the next phase of my Writer’s Flow 😀

(Subtitled: Let’s Just Say I was Hibernating and Leave It at That)

Yes, I have been neglecting my blogging duties, and I really have no excuse, except for the plethora of ones that arise daily. But, I refuse to delve into the personal griping that nobody really wants to read. I did mentally compose, at one point, a post entitled “Why I Will Never Be Super Mom” and it was hilarious, at least in my own mind, but nope, that never was completed either. C’est la vie…

However, I have not given up on the WIP and have been researching Everything You Need to Know About Agents But Are Afraid to Ask in order to be as well-prepared as possible for the day I have the (fully revised) final draft completed and ready to go. Meanwhile, I am really here to celebrate National Grammar Day and share their new anthem with anyone else who loves the English language.

I also want to recommend a lovely book I am reading which is perfect for us word nerds and fellow philosophers. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery was originally written in French and, fortunately, translated by Alison Anderson for those, like myself, who have neglected to keep up with the “language of love” since high school. I have not completed the novel, so cannot properly review it, but it has rave reviews all over the Web. (Why I only heard about it because of a Glue recommendation I cannot answer.) It is not a light read, but it is humorous, thought-provoking, and gosh darnit, deep. I think it should be required reading in Grammar 101 courses. Seriously, I was in stitches while reading a passage on the misuse of a comma (“I was not prepared for such an underhanded attack.”). The two female narrators (one young, one older) both have appreciation for the simple beauty of life, particularly the nuance of language. They also have a hard time hiding their disdain for the crowds around them who fail to see what they see. I can imagine that the author had some of these thoughts herself long before she put them in her characters’ voices. Par example:

The gifts of fate come with price. For those who have been favored by life’s indulgence, rigorous respect in matters of beauty is a non-negotiable requirement. Language is a bountiful gift and its usage, an elaboration of  community and society, is a sacred work….Society’s elect, those whom fate has spared from the servitude that is the lot of the poor, must, consequently, shoulder the double burden of worshipping and respecting the splendors of language. Finally, Sabine Palliere’s misuse of punctuation constitutes an instance of blasphemy that is all the more insidious when one considers that there are marvelous poets born in stinking caravans or high-rise slums who do have for beauty the sacred respect that is so rightfully owed.

To the rich, therefore falls the burden of Beauty. And if they cannot assume it, then they deserve to die.

Now, I do not necessarily want to encourage grammar snobs to take up arms and riot against the abuse of the comma, but she does have a point. I confess that I have a similar opinion reserved for those “pundits” who claim to speak for the masses, yet cannot speak clearly or correctly (and refuse to learn when to shut up), as well as certain political leaders (turned pundit and/or author) whose speeches are merely a string of colloquial phrases that together make no sense. But, I digress… 😉

No, the entire novel is not an ode to grammar. There are plenty of other topics covered including philosophy, Russian literature, French and Japanese culture, film and cats. So, really, there is something for almost everyone to appreciate, especially the story of an unlikely friendship, which is the true gem offered. I am eager to read more now, so I will stop here and wish you (all three of you 🙂 ) a Happy Grammar Day and a good writing and/or reading weekend. I will return soon, I promise.

{Prompt:Your character is determined to do something they know to be a mistake.}

The bells hanging on the door sound almost like church bells tolling doom instead of the cheap leftover christmas bells thta they are, hanging on frayed green and gold yarn. I swear the door slammed behind me and I expected everyone in the place to turn and stare at me. I paused, waiting, but they were all looking at the glittering jewel tones, trying not to acatch anyone’s eye themselves. It was only when the clerk asked if i needed anything that I realized I was standing in the middle of the entrance still, so I slunk over to the side, shaking my hand at him, denying, denying.
I hid behind a display of collectible sets for five minutes before I heard him speaking to a customer. Part of me was thinking I could make a bolt for the door and just get out of here. Should get out of here, but I felt stuck. I was here, I made it this far, and I was not sitting in the corner licking a bottle yet. Maybe I could make it through a simple purchase. Maybe.
I was walking down an aisle, tripping through a flashback slideshow of memories, linked to each different silhouette on the shelves. I couldn’t stop myself, I remember when I had that one in Vegas, I remmeber when Joe bought that one to the wedding, I remember…
Why I am here. Not for me, but now I can’t remember why not Those are good memories. Where are the bad ones? when DO they come floating in? Maybe it has been long enough as they say, or maybe not long enough, because it has taken me this long to walk down one asile of memories, and I still have not gotten what I came for.

So i literally take a big breath and start all over agin. Not at teh front door, but at least in my own mind. Noone here knows that I should not be here. In fact, maybe they should not be here. That thought at least carries me over to teh other aisle, where I should find what aI need. I mean, what I am here to purchase. Can;t believe it I am actually berating myself for doing a simple errand.

But it is not that smple, really, is it? I have been adding complex levels to teh entire chore ever since the PTA meeting last week when what’s her face said, “You can pick taht up for us, right? It should make a nice retirement gift.” I could have said no. Should have, but then I may have had to say why, and that was just not happening in front of her and the other moms. So I’m here. And it only took me twenty minutes to get from the car to the store, and now at least twenty to do the lap around.

[That was “at least five minutes” just to keep myself going, and now the teen’s home and I must run all over town again…have a good weekend all.]

As the air starts to tease me with an early autumnal breeze, I find myself looking forward to all things Fall, including the writing blitz known as NaNoWriMo. Technically, it is still summer though and I know that we can expect at least two more stifling heat waves here in south-eastern Virginia before November arrives. Labor Day weekend is here, which many consider the unofficial end of the summer season and an excuse for one more mini-vaca. Personally, I will actually be laboring on Monday, but if you have a free weekend (and 50 bucks) you may want to try your hand at the 3-Day Novel Contest which essentially makes NaNo’s challenge look simple. The premise is the same, but there is no word count, only a restriction to three days of fast-paced, no editing writing. It is a contest too and the winner does get publication, so it may be worth the investment (and exhaustion). You must register by Friday, but this is the 32nd year, so you can always plan for 2010.

Just a quickie because I want to share this link with the world. I recently discovered a group on WordPress called ReadWritePoem (see sidebar) and I just jumped at the chance to join yet another network. Seriously, it seems to be a  good network for poets and poetry lovers to gather. I am still checking it out and setting up camp, but I love what I see so far. I may even get the gumption up to submit some poetry 🙂  So, then I followed a link to a blog because the name “I Was Born Doing Reference in Sin” made me literally LOL, and I was fortunate to read the newest post called Why Do I Write from a poet named Arisa White, which is what I want to share. Definitely some very good reasons there i.e:

It is truly, the times when I feel safe. Free to take risk, to emote, and to be led by imagination without fear.

I believe we all have our own reasons, and some are more personal than others, but she has definitely summed up some of my own feelings. Hope you enjoy!

One of the wonderful things I have found in my wanderings is  a site called Write Anything right here on WordPress. I am actually surprised I have not seen them before.  Six writers from different genres, styles and countries take turns blogging about all things writing, including their own experiences and advice. I definitely recommend new writers check it out. I was drawn there on Wednesday by the catchy-titled post “Handling Rejection and Criticism” by Annie Evett. Each writer blogs a certain day, but Fridays are for us! As a creative writing exercise, Fiction Fridays offer readers a prompt and a place to share your results. This is my first participation, with the prompt being:

Start your story with a game of hide and seek.

They recommend writing for at least five minutes, without editing. As soon as I began, my daughter started a pots-and pans-band and then my mother called, and then…well, everything I do takes longer. And apparently my environment does contribute to my writing. Also, I still have that nagging constant editing thing going on. So, I already broke the “rules”…oh well. I know it is awkward to read, but I am trying to practice the second-person voice for a character in the incomplete NaNoNovel. So, please bear with me. It’s a quickie 🙂

Fiction Friday: Hide and Seek

You know in a way that you are taking advantage of the situation, but you cannot help mentally reveling in your own genius. You even give yourself extra points for insisting on adding the one-way film to the windows during last summer’s renovation. Brilliant. You can see them taking turns passing by, calling the only name they know you by, but they still have not found you. It has already found the others and now they’ve ganged up to find you. You’ve got five minutes, tops.

Leaning back with a sigh, you wash off the nagging guilt with a reminder, “It was their idea in the first place, I am doing nothing wrong.” It works as a mantra, echoing back from the tiles as if your conscience has its own public address system.

With eyes closed, you watch the colors dancing and try to focus on the sound of bubbles popping. The tenth cry of “Ready or not, here we come!” snaps you back to attention less than a minute later. That one was pretty close. Peeking again through the window, you are startled when you see It peering suspiciously in your direction. The tell-tale sloshing sounds louder than possible when you slide out of view. It echoes back, ominous in the sudden silence which you break with a laugh. Now you are just being ridiculous.

“But I may as well enjoy it while I can,” you tell the tiles, leaning back into the warmth again. Half a minute of bubbles is all you get to hear before the feet start thumping down the hallway. And you smirk, eyes still closed when they pound on the door.

“Mom, we know you are in there!” the nine-year-old is starting to sound just like you.

“Ready or not! Ready or not!” the other two are chanting. You can picture them jumping up and down behind her.

“Not!” you say, stretching your legs out and watching the suds slide trough the stubble. Maybe next time.

“Come on, Mother,” says the darling on the other side of the door. With another sigh, you lean forward and pull out the plug.

When you open the door, she is shaking her head, arms crossed, looking more like your mother and the twins are wrestling on the floor.

“We found you!” one of them squeals when he sees you standing in the doorway in your robe.

“What took you so long?” you ask with a smile, pulling your daughter into a big hug, while her brothers grab onto your legs.

“You’re It! You’re It!”

“Okay, then,” you say with another smirk, “You hide somewhere in the house, and I’ll go in my room and count to a million.” That should give you time to dress.

I’m struggling. I admit it. The only thing flowing out of me these days are low-paying online articles and that’s more like a trickle. I keep making deals with myself, that when I finish the income-producing work, then I can get creative. More often than not, though, I’m sapped after a day of kid rearin’ and service workin’. And I let myself get sucked into the online pleasure dome of social networks and blogs, etc. I admit I would rather read someone else’s great post than write my own mediocre one. Fortunately, I do find something worth seeing, and even learn a thing or two in my virtual escapades. I have been playing on Twitter more often, and definitely finding as many inspirations as distractions. And you know I like to share, because what is better than an excuse to procrastinate more? A: a reason to write, of  course 🙂

  • This link came across through someone’s tweet a few weeks ago and for some crazy reason appealed to me, so I saved it in my quick post sidebar (which has become something of a catchall for links and blog ideas.)…A post called 6 Tricks for Writing when You Don’t Feel Like It on Writer Unboxed which is a great collaborate blog for “genre” writers (btw, no offense, but I thought everyone wrote in some genre, but apparently that term has become common now for mystery/sci-fi/fantasy/etc writers)
  • One of the coolest developments born on Twitter are the tweet chats that are occurring regularly. Anyone can contribute or follow just by using the #(hashtag-yes, just like on the trending list, but better)… there are topics for just about everyone, including book chats (i.e. #followreader is mainly book bloggers and Tuesdays @ 7pm EasternTime is #TuesBookTalk) and writing chats like #writechat (Sundays 12-3pm PT), which is hosted by Writing Spirit who also has a very helpful and inspiring blog.
  • Speaking of hashtags, there are several writers can use, both to keep up with other writers and to keep oneself on track, including #writegoal, #amwriting and #writetip. I have found several new resources and blogs to read by checking out these lists. Warning, though, Twitter has been discovered by spammers, and they know how to use the tags too. I suggest going to interesting tweeters, then checking their actual blog/website link before adding them to your list. And do not hesitate to block obvious spammers. They deserve it.
  • If all else fails, I can ensure my place in literary culture simply by submitting a piece to the National Gallery of Writing. In conjunction with the National Day of Writing (October 20, 2009) this project is open for groups and individuals to contribute any form of writing (within specific limitations of course, this is sponsored by English teachers). Schools and classes are forming their own “exhibits” but submissions range from scientific essays and memoirs, to stories and poems. Frankly, some of the best pieces I have ever written were for English class, so maybe I should dust off one of those. 🙂 Write on y’all!

I am sorry that I have been absent for so long (if anyone was looking)…Let’s just say that I hit a speed bump, not a block 🙂 But I do know that the first rule of writing is: Sit Down and Start! and that if at first we don’t succeed, try, try…you get it. So, here I am tired, humbled and maybe a bit more determined. Today is the first day of the rest of my yadayada…
normal_book1jkrfanAnd what a great day in literary history it is! Joanne (K) Rowling was born today, July 31st and she also gave her famous protagonist the same birthday, so some people call this Harry Potter Day. I don’t know if they need their own holiday (?) but it is a good day to apply pen to paper and get back into the flow.
Personally, she is one of my inspirations as far as success stories and admiration of style and skill, as well as, darn it, personality. When I first discovered the Harry Potter books, I was a single mother, struggling through a bad separation and divorce, temporarily living at my parents and waiting tables while also trying to finish my degree and maintain a healthy relationship with my 5-year old son. My British, reading-teacher mother actually bought the books to read to him while I worked dinner shifts, but reading at bedtime was one of our Favorite Things, so one night I read a chapter to him, then could not stop after he fell asleep. I had to go back and start the wondrous journey all over. Despite being tired, stressed and a literature major for goodness sakes, I was enthralled. That was in 2001, the boy is 13 now, and we love all things Harry Potter.
I admit to being a bit of a fan, as in fanatic, when it comes to Rowling and her amazing Wizard World. Hearing her own story only cemented my obsession. {btw: if you have not yet seen the documentary A Year in the Life with JK Rowling, you can view it on the ABC site.  i cried. } She was at a low point in her life, divorced with a young child who depended completely on her and an idea for a story that apparently would not leave her head (a feeling I know well). I think that millions of people would agree with me when I say, “Thank God, she wrote it down.”
I believe that her story, both the fictional and the biographical one, epitomize the answer to the struggling writer’s question “Why write?”  A: You never know, it may just change the world.

ADDED Aug 7: Since I have been in a Potter mood this summer and the books are always fun to read, I am definitely signing up for this challenge at Galleysmith. If you haven’t read the series yet, well, of course I recommend it! And if you have, then you may want to listen to the audiobooks, which is accepted for  the challenge. You have almost a year to complete it and yes, there are prizes. But, of course the biggest reward is the joy of reading, right? 😉  Sign up by August 15th to be entered for the prize drawings!

Obama book I have to admit I was happy to get an opportunity to participate in a blog tour through MotherTalk for the New York Times‘ Young Reader’s Edition of Obama: The Historic Journey. This book is definitely going to be a staple in libraries across the country, but it is also a great addition to home libraries. All of my kids were surprisingly interested in it, though they mostly wanted to see the pictures of the President when he was a baby [always a fascinating image for kids]. They are all here, the snapshots of a young unknown collected together, some of which have become familiar after being shown during the campaign. Though there is a bit more text than the preschoolers are used to listening to, it is an easy to follow mini-bio and narrative of his life, career and campaign written by NYT managing editor Jill Abramson.  My middle-schooler also browsed the pictures more than anything, but I would not be surprised if he turns to this book as a reference in the future. Above all, it is a collection of photographs taken by NYT staff of Obama’s rise to the public eye, from before the campaign all the way up to the Inauguration, many of which are stunning and inspiring. The layouts include highlighted quotations and a few charts. Some of the controverisal topics are discussed, including his absent father and his “father figure” Rev. J. Wright, but the facts are told simply and, I think, offer parents a chance to discuss such topics with children if curiosity arises. There is also an “Adult edition” available which includes texts of some of the Times’ columns and editorials focused on President Barack Obama’s journey. Personally, the junior edition is enough for me, because a lot of the info is old news at this point, and because it skips a lot of the politics and gets to the heart of the story: an American boy, with odds stacked against him, worked hard and dreamed big [with all that audacity] and achieved great things with support from his family and country.

Thank you to Danielle over at Calliope’s Pen for bringing me back from my down swing. I guess i was burnt out after all of that forced creativity in April. I did finish the Poem-A-Day Challenge, writing several obviously rushed pieces in the last few days. Then I volunteered to read through not one, but two days worth of poems for Poetic Asides’ blogger Robert Brewer, who was under enough stress. It was a lot of poems. And a good lesson in itself. I feel more confident in my poetry writing now, but also know I still have a lot to learn and improve. Just when I was thinking I should give up on the novel writing and concentrate on other things, I was struck by another idea for yet another story, the kind where you wake up from a dream anxious to write it all down before it is gone again. That always feels good 🙂 So, even though I have not been on here, I have not been totally slacking, and I am working on getting back in the flow again. I still do not have  a job though. I guess we can’t really have it all…

PS: I am planning on doing a bunch of reviews in June, because I have also been reading [natch!].

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